Milestones along the way to "socialism of the 21st Century" Â a home grown expression for a Latin American phenomenon - are worth noting. Some are more obvious than others: left elections victories in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, along with items such as plans for a 5th International, formation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, and celebration of the 51st anniversary of victory of the Cuban revolution.
Some candidates for the list, however, might not survive a cut, due to sectarian divisions plaguing left struggle. Center-left advances in Brazil, Uruguay, El Salvador, Paraguay, and Nicaragua, for example, might not count as socialist success stories. There are those, too, who shy away from reminders of armed struggle.
The newly formed Continental Bolivarian Movement (MCB), accused of supporting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), comes under the latter heading. Yet the fact of 1300 delegates from 30 countries attending its Constitutive Congress December 7-9 in Caracas would, as an "important event" (dictionary definition), seem to qualify as a milestone.
The event gains significance as a step toward amalgamation of socialism with Latin American integration, specifically with "our America." That was Cuban National Hero Jose Marti's label well over a century ago for lands lying south of the Rio Grande River. Marti, as early inspiration for continental integration, attended a memorial meeting for Karl Marx in New York a week after Marx's death on March 14, 1883. While recognizing Marx for "rebellion, the highest ideals, and struggle," Marti reported "sounds of peace" gone silent. Since then boundaries between the two movements represented broadly by Marx and Marti have blurred, particularly in revolutionary Cuba, in Chavez' Bolivarian Venezuela, and perhaps now with the Continental Bolivarian Movement.
Bolivarian News Agency coverage of the MCB Congress is available (in Spanish) at: http://www.abpnoticias.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2277&Itemid=209.
At its Congress in Quito in February, 2008, the Bolivarian Continental Coordinator (CCB) group decided after five years of existence to evolve into the MCB, as a "new pole of alternative power." Coordinator of the MCB collective presidency Narciso Isa Conde outlined a goal of "articulation of revolutionary diversities from a common strategy capable of confronting and defeating the imperialist strategy and definitively emancipating our America."
Or, as new MCB secretary general Carlos Casanueva put it: December 9 is "the date for constituting this new internationalist army for socialism [and] the Great Homeland (Patria Grande)," Simon Bolivar's term for a unified South America. The date also marks the 185th anniversary of the battle of Ayacucho, Bolivar's military victory in Peru marking expulsion of Spanish colonists from South America.
Tribuna Popular, web site and newspaper of the Venezuelan Communist Party, covered the gathering. One report spoke of "consolidating peoples' struggle in general and revolutionary currents in particular" and "strengthening and elevating the anti-imperialist struggle of the peoples with this transcendental step." Carlos Aquino, head of the PCV Political Bureau, lauded the Congress as a "milestone having to be seen as what must be a qualitative advance in the structuring of Latin American and world revolutionary currents." It would be "the seedbed of that broad anti-imperialist, international front, so necessary in our region."
Alleging MCB ties to the FARC and irate at FARC leader Alfonso Cano's video greeting to the Congress, Colombian government spokespersons, Defense Minister Gabriel Silva and armed forces head Freddy Padilla in particular, issued high volume threats against participants, MCB leaders, and the Venezuelan government, a "delirious governmental offensive, according to an observer.
The call for the Congress issued by the CCB has been translated and added below. It outlines historical background, views on dangers from imperialism and the United States, and the case for enriching the continent-wide struggle for independence and integration with socialist theory and practice. Alfonso Cano's remarks have been translated and included below to shed light on current FARC ideological and strategic underpinnings.
Of passing interest was the coincident release of a joint statement by Colombia's two leftist insurgencies, the FARC and the smaller National Army of Liberation (ELN). (http://www.eln-voces.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=649&Itemid=1) Taking note of the capitalist crisis and war as the capitalists' remedy for crises, the message to members of both groups explained that, "Our only enemy is North American imperialism and its oligarchic lackeys." The statement advised civility in contacts and communications between the two insurgencies, protection of civilian populations, and non - collaboration with the "peoples' enemy."
Two documents follow.
January 6, 2009
1) Call for the Constitutive Congress of the Bolivarian Continental Movement
(From Executive Committee of the CCB)
Just as with the heroic internationalist feat of Ayacucho, the peoples of our America again have put in motion the process toward their second independence and their social emancipation, which requires more unity, more coordinated struggles, more integration of their transformative forces, and a revolutionary strategy common to all.
Flourishing and formidable resistance against neo-liberalism and the pseudo democracies, having generated brutal processes of impoverishment and state corruption, has provoked noticeable, although still limited, alterations in continent's political map. It has evolved into an offensive for change.
The turn to the left, with varying degrees, depth, and rhythms, becomes an incontrovertible foundation for the Latino-Caribbean present, certainly encouraging, but still not enough everywhere.
In not a few countries of the region, our peoples are on a war footing, having decided to no longer keep on living under the social and spiritual whip of the dominant governing classes. They are all compromised with re-colonization intentions and responsible for betraying ideals of sovereignty, justice, and liberty of our leaders, heroes, and heroines.
Fighting for liberation has been difficult, complex, and tortuous, because the will for change far exceeds the possibilities for carrying it out to the extent and depth required. Clarity of views has been lacking, also consciousness of the nature of the crisis and its challenges. Organized forces, unified and fully prepared to overcome new threats, are still inadequate. Above all, unity on the national and continental scene has been missing, also consistently alternative proposals.
The Bolivarian Continental Coordinator (CCB) in its six years of existence has made a stubborn effort to arrive at answers to these essential requirements. And on this level we are proud to have dared to challenge deficits in coordination. We have implanted ourselves in an important part of the region in spite of ferocious counterattacks from the right and their protectors based in Washington.
The advances attained have not been enough, however, for an urgent situation characterized by as yet unrealized revolutionary potentials and by the pressing need to carry out revolutionary struggle on a continental level. Besides, that reality is converted into dramatic necessity what with the present world crisis of the capitalist system and growing impact of its ravages throughout the region and on a planetary scale.
Our America has no healthy future through the imperialist centers and their spurious interests. Our Bolivarian Â Guevarist project of a liberated Great Homeland will drown in chaos and barbarism if its national components do not separate themselves definitively from a dark capitalist Â imperialist future and together undertake their own road toward a summation of all their sovereignties, toward also a great multi-national and multiethnic society, one that is profoundly just, self-determining, and interdependent, favoring, in the words of the Liberator, the "greatest sum possible of happiness, social security, and political stability."
Beyond the calamities that befall exploited and impoverished peoples, great capitalist crises present vast opportunities for great changes.
Along that line, because we need to make a transcendent leap both quantitatively and qualitatively, the Bolivarian Continental Coordinator has decided to convert itself into an agency of action by convoking, facilitating, and promoting the Constitutive Congress of the Bolivarian Continental Movement. It has decided to turn over everything accumulated in these six years of struggle and construction, all its influences and sympathies out there, all the political, social, and cultural forces of the revolutionary left beyond its own ranks, and all anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists who are allied so that together we might arrive at meeting the challenge of unity and an alternative presence. The need is clear for a grand continental organization that brings unity to revolutionary diversity, respecting identities but always sharing their collective proposals and drive for transformations on a continental scale.
The present systemic crisis of world capitalism, the deepest in its history, is tending toward creation of a period propitious for finally defeating neo-liberalism as the present capitalist model and opening the way to socialist transitions of a new type.
The governments of the right and the institutions that sustain them will be exposed to strong political and social convulsions, to sharp crises of governability.
The governments of the left and progressives are so placed as to defend gains at whatever costs and to reverse effects of the world crisis by deepening structural changes, socializing economies, properties, incomes, and power. They run the risk otherwise of succumbing to fascist assaults from the right, the oligarchies, and imperialism.
The peoples confront a crossroad, one of life or death. We are at the edge of the "hour of the furnaces", as Jose Marti said, apostle of Cuban Independence.
It is necessary in these circumstances to propose an alternative to capitalism in crisis through a Manifesto revealing causes of the dramatic situations that our peoples suffer under the capitalist lash. The common core of emancipating proposals of a socialist nature would be defined, also a unified organizing line to be implemented under structures and mechanisms of the new Continental Bolivarian Movement. The Movement's charge is to contribute significantly to converting hopeful and accepted words into liberating action.
Therefore, we propose to debate in this next congress both what a Bolivarian manifesto for the Great Homeland and socialism should say and proposals for structure and norms for this new international space of strategic unity. At the same time the valuable programmatic legacy of the Continental Bolivarian Coordinator will be considered.
We propose to do it with an innovating spirit, with an open mind, taking to heart all revolutionary expressions reflecting those demands of a new era and the great challenges the world and Latin America are presently facing.
There are opportunities that must not be lost. We are entering into a singular period in the history of humanity when its very existence is at issue in terms more dramatic than those posed by Rosa Luxemburg at the beginning of the century: "socialism or barbarism." The liberation campaign of Bolivar and great leaders of Our America knocks insistently on the doors of this oppressed continent. So too does the spirit of which Karl Marx and Frederick Engels spoke to us the century before with much scientific ownership and human sensibility. Both wait for welcome and renovation by their real heirs.
The indispensible step toward that end, so that humanity has a present and future in these lands of promise is to gather, full of enthusiasm and wisdom, for the Constitutive Congress of the Continental Bolivarian Movement taking place in Caracas, Venezuela next December 7-9.
We are united with Bolivar, for the Great Homeland and socialism! Bolivar lives, Socialism lives! We embrace socialism, independence, liberty, and the new revolutionary legend of the 21st century. TOWARD VICTORY ALWAYS!
From the general leadership and collective presidency of the CCB to the MCB.
2) Alfonso Cano, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) today greeted the creation in Caracas of a continental political movement of Bolivarian nature. The text reads:
Continental Bolivarian Movement: a political necessity of strategic importance:
Latin American and Caribbean compatriots attending this historic event! Companeros and companeras: Accept the enthusiastic greetings of the Secretariat, the general staff, the command corps, and guerrilla fighters of the FARC-EP, and thus from all members of the Bolivarian militias. Just when the U.S. Empire is showing off its military might in Colombia and, with threats, making available its war and terror apparatus against the Latin American and Caribbean people, it's not only a historical necessity but an urgent duty to constitute a continental political movement of a Bolivarian nature. Before us, therefore, is the horizon of our peoples' combative unity in defense of their dignity, independence, history, values culture, territory, human resources, natural wealth, and their inalienable right to forge their future on their own The Liberator's task remains: formation of a great Latin American homeland structured as a single body of free nations acting to integrate our peoples, defeat of still existing colonialism, and definitive independence for our peoples from the yoke of any power.
As a strategy deriving from the genius, example, and untiring revolutionary commitment of Simon Bolivar, its vigor is undiminished. Bolivar conceived of a great nation as the collective patrimony of all the people and not as spoils of enormous land owners reserved for a privileged minority taking turns kneeling before and submitting to orders from the Empire.
There is justice in such a portentous Bolivarian project that carries over after 200 years, just as does the totality of Bolivar's ideology of equality, liberty, social justice, sovereignty, and independence. That summarizes and is the essence of present day struggles of a major portion of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples. We are fighting oligarchic regimes given over unconditionally to foreign bosses. We rise today as the victims, which we are, of capitalist expansion glossed over as "globalization." We today lift up, with more urgency and legitimacy than ever, the flag of the Great Homeland, before the unconcealed gringo intention of absorbing territories from south of the Rio Grande to Patagonia. They would make their strategy of "manifest destiny" into a reality under their imperial and objectionable slogan of "America for the Americans."
It's clear that a military treaty like the one signed recently between Washington and Bogota is not limited to fighting narcotrafficking and so-called terrorism, but is aimed at destabilizing democratic and independent processes developing in Latin America. It allows the construction of seven U.S. bases in Colombia and unlimited use of air space, the airport network, and all territorial waters sufficient for troops to move warships about and for the massive presence of North Americans designated as contractors.
The war against narcotrafficking is a failed strategy. Today the United States uses it as a pretext for intervening and mounting attacks throughout the world.
The war against terrorism Â a loose political label which includes all kinds of contradictory items Â was decreed by the White House, the same one that ordered the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wrecked Vietnam with chemicals weapons and napalm, attacks the Iraqi and Afghan peoples, and backs the terrorist Israeli state. It's another masquerade for the empire and trans-nationals to justify their infamies. As a consequence of a plan fermenting for a long time and now in progress, they began another invasion of Latin America in that strategic corner of South America occupied by Colombia. This time, there is the acquiescence of a president like Alvaro Uribe from the bowels of criminal paramilitarism who drags along a turbid past like narco-trafficking, a fact well known to Washington. He is unpatriotic and heads the most corrupt government in Colombian history. Precisely on that account the United States uses it to advance a venture aimed at recouping its lost influence in its former "back yard."
The failed coup against President Chavez of April 11, 2002, the coup against president Zaleya they cover up by recognizing spurious elections won by Lobo, systemic provocations for destabilizing the Colombian Â Venezuelan frontier, and the obvious and uninterrupted destabilization projects in several of our countries, all these make up part of this new offensive by the Gringo state. Throughout the continent, it tries to block unstoppable advances toward integration and the growing anti-imperialist sentiment of our continent, framed by the Bolivarian concept of independence, that is to say, frontal combat by oppressed majorities against colonial power and against our own oligarchs. There is, in other words, class struggle for liberation of the oppressed plus social and political democratic confrontation for thorough, incessant, and uninterrupted development of democracy rooted in the best and most advanced of our traditions, identified with our own peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. It's part of an authentically Latin American process on the march to socialism.
Our commitment to this process for national and popular sovereignty, for the Great Homeland and socialism is total and unconditional. Our fixed goals are reason enough for the existence of the FARC-EP. We learned them through our leaders and founders Manuel and Jacobo and we reaffirm them daily, with full and absolute confidence in final victory.
For this exceptional event, we ratify our confidence in what the constitution of the Continental Movement will signify as to marking out the struggles of the Latin American people. It will be nourished by the Bolivarian ideal, and inspired, as we all are, by the exemplary life of the Liberator, who represents an ethical model beyond measure offering permanent encouragement in the hard struggle to reach the objectives we have laid out.
We reiterate our desires for the most enriching interchange, conclusions, and wise proposals from which are generated a mass movement, organization, and struggle against the invader and for construction of the Great Homeland.
For Latin American and Caribbean unity, against imperial invasion by the United States!
Chief, General Staff, FARC-EP
Mountains of Colombia, December, 2009