....The FARC began in the 1960s as a rural guerrilla group linked to the Stalinist Communist Party of Colombia. Its perspective was to exert pressure and win concessions from the landlords and government through bombings, assassinations and kidnappings as part of a "prolonged war." At best, this relegated working people to the role of spectators.
This course gave the government and landlords a pretext for assaults on unionists and farmers and to clamp down on political rights. The regime mobilized thousands of paramilitaries to terrorize the population. As the FARC gained territory in the 1990s, Washington sent Bogotá troops, arms and funds, claiming to wage war on drugs and terrorism. Plan Colombia, signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000, allocated $10 billion to this.
Following the election of President Álvaro Uribe in 2002, a military offensive dealt major blows to the FARC and its leadership. Faced with these setbacks, and growing international discussion, including Castro's contributions, on what way forward for working people in Colombia, the FARC entered peace talks with the Santos government, which took office in 2010.
The Cuban government was instrumental in facilitating the negotiations, which opened in Havana in 2012. A peace accord was signed in September and put to a referendum Oct. 2. Polls had projected it would pass with a big majority, but 50.2 percent voted against.
An Oct. 4 statement by the Communist Youth of Colombia reflected a common response on the left. It described the vote as a victory for "ultra-right, conservative and religious sectors," saying the "voter population" had been "confused with the lying and hatred of the far right campaign." Similar explanations appeared in much of the capitalist media.
The Oct. 24 Militant article "Colombia 'No' Vote Reflects Discontent with Gov't, FARC," didn't answer this line. It referred to classless "discontent" and stressed the "vote no" campaign led by Uribe and the low 37 percent turnout, suggesting the vote showed a shift to the right and working-class apathy.
But the reason many working people voted "no" or abstained was because of deep hostility toward the FARC. Many felt the terms were too generous toward FARC leaders responsible for death and destruction, including guaranteed seats in Congress and amnesty for leaders accused of major crimes.
In the territories it occupied, the FARC used violence to impose its rule over working people. It extorted taxes, including on the production and transport of illegal drugs, and carried out thousands of kidnappings for ransom. It imposed curfews and strict social controls on residents, expelling violators from their homes and land. Thousands of peasants were killed or maimed by land mines laid by the FARC.
Opposite of Cuban Revolution
When a raid by the Colombian military in 2008 freed 15 hostages held by the FARC, Fidel Castro took the opportunity to speak out. Those released included Ingrid Betancourt, who had been kidnapped six years earlier while campaigning for president, 11 soldiers and three U.S. citizens.
"We rejoiced at the news" that the "captives had been released," Castro said. "The civilians should have never been kidnapped, nor should the soldiers have been kept as prisoners in jungle conditions. These were objectively cruel actions. No revolutionary aim could justify them."
From its very beginning, Castro said, the course followed by the FARC was the opposite of that followed by the revolutionary movement that led workers and farmers to power in Cuba. The Communist Party of Colombia "was under the influence of the Communist Party of the USSR, not of Cuba," he said. It "never planned to conquer power."
In Cuba the Rebel Army led by Castro looked to the working class and exploited farmers as the agents of revolutionary change. They organized land reform, literacy campaigns and other revolutionary measures in areas under rebel control.
When they fought battles with the dictatorship's troops, they sought to keep civilians from harms way. Soldiers they captured were treated with dignity and released at the first opportunity. This course and conduct reflected the working-class morality of Cuba's revolutionary leaders.
Havana is now hosting a new round of talks between Colombian officials and the FARC leadership. A cease-fire has been extended through the end of the year. The Cuban and Ecuadoran governments are also facilitating peace talks between Bogotá and the National Liberation Army (ELN), a smaller Colombian guerrilla organization.
....Unlike Cuba, where the Rebel Army led by Fidel Castro began organizing land reform, literacy
campaigns and other revolutionary measures in areas under rebel control even before it succeeded in
overthrowing the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, the FARC and other guerrilla groups left capitalist economic
and social relations intact in the areas they controlled.
While guerrilla groups denied U.S. and Colombian government charges that they were involved in drug trafficking, they defended the collection of a tax on those involved in the drug trade, like they did on other capitalist enterprises.
The guerrilla leaders never saw the armed struggle as a road to increasing the self-confidence, class-
consciousness and discipline of workers and farmers to rapidly take political power. Instead, Marulanda "conceived a lengthy and prolonged struggle," Castro explained in the book La paz en Colombia (Peace in Colombia), published in 2008. Castro also criticized the methods of the Colombian guerrillas of taking both civilians and soldiers hostage. (See page 7.)
The Armando Rios First Front, the 200-strong FARC unit famous for holding presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt hostage for six years, announced July 6 it doesn't intend to disarm. The National Liberation Army (ELN), another guerrilla group, has said it is willing to negotiate with the government.