A brief look at communist parties in the world not holding state power suggests that most fail in their aspirations to play a meaningful role in the political evolution of their respective countries. The Colombian Communist Party (PCC) is otherwise. Its militant course, shaped by violent repression and unfolding now amidst portents of major change, must have required frequent readjustment of bearings. Logically, that experience might be instructive for fraternal parties still marginalized, for whatever reasons.
The communication from the PCC Executive Committee appearing below reflects shifting Colombian realities and the party’s view as to the melding of revolutionary principles with what’s practical now. First, however, a brief review of relevant context is in order.
Electioneering this year plays out amidst rising hopes for peace stimulated by FARC – government negotiations ongoing in Havana since November 2012. To reach overall agreement, negotiators must figure out how to implement peace and also create openings for social and economic abuses of Colombia’s majority to be corrected and for Colombia’s remote and recent history of violence to be accommodated. Dominant right wing political forces, divided on the question of peace negotiations, may run opposing presidential candidates in 2014.
The PCC, founded in 1930 and known for its “combination of all forms of mass struggle,” gradually severed linkages with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) beginning in the mid 1980’s. The PCC, however, sounds a strong voice backing the FARC’s basic negotiating position of peace with social justice and democracy.
Together with FARC insurgents and others, the PCC formed the Patriotic Union (UP by its Spanish initials) electoral coalition in the wake of a government – FARC peace agreement in 1984. Massacre of UP candidates and activists ensued, and by 2002 the UP was no longer a participant in elections.
PCC electoral work has long emphasized coalition building to include other left forces. The PCC had backed the Alternative Democratic Pole from its formation in 2005 until 2012 when the “Polo” expelled the PCC ostensibly for its role in forming the Patriotic March coalition of social movements. Some observers blame anti-communism. “Polo” presidential candidate Carlos Gaviria gained 2.6 million votes in 2006, 22 percent of the total.
PCC leader Gloria Inés Ramírez serves in the Colombian Senate. Carlos Lozano, director of the PCC’s Voz periodical, is a candidate this year for a Senate seat. PCC secretary general Jaime Caycedo is running for the House of Representatives.
In November, 2013 a revived UP held a well-attended Congress and chose veteran PCC and UP activist Aida Abello as its presidential candidate in elections set for May, 2014. Abello, survivor of violent attacks, has lived in exile in Switzerland since 1996. The UP is demanding that the Colombian government provide guarantees for her safety.
Dismissal of left wing Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro on December 9, 2014 informs the discussion below. Some see such action by an unelected official as a provocation directed at the peace process.
January 10, 2014
Political letter to Party Activists
The Colombian Communist Party (PCC) explains the contents of the agreement with the Patriotic Union (UP) directed toward a Broad Front for peace, democracy, and sovereignty
Central Committee Executive, Colombian Communist Party, December 20, 2013
Source: http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=178895&titular=el-pcc-explica-el-contenido-del-acuerdo-con-la-up-hacia-un-frente-amplio-por- — Translated by W. T. Whitney Jr.
Orientation of the 21at Congress of the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) toward promotion of a broad front for peace, democracy, and sovereignty constitutes the PCC’s political guide during this 2014 electoral campaign. The most relevant fact of this political period is unfolding of dialogue between the government and the FARC-EP with preliminary agreements on two agenda items and discussion now on the theme of narco-trafficking. That an atmosphere of political debate is taking shape despite signs of war, government double talk, and skepticism of those in the middle is important.
The idea of unity in social struggle spread and gained strength in the year just ending. Strikes involving small farmers, miners, truck drivers, health workers, and actions by students and others signifying social mobilization have all contributed. Popular mobilizations against the Inspector General’s sanction against the Mayor of Bogota demonstrate growing mass effervescence against authoritarianism serving to repress left options in the Bogota city government and evade the peace process. The intolerance is inquisitional.
The institutional coup carried out by the Inspector General’s office opens up a new scenario for political struggle inasmuch as the offensive by reactionary, authoritarian, and militaristic forces has prompted a necessary regrouping of elements within the democratic spectrum and the Bogota left for defending peace and democracy. There are important repercussions in the national arena. This crisis may create conditions for opening up avenues to unity good for building a broad front. The coalition and popular participation joining in the front would be useful in shaping a democratic government. In that regard, it’s important to pay attention to participation in the National Summit in defense of democracy and peace set for the month of January.
We see UP entry into political life as reinforcing progress toward the broad front. Its activist membership has returned, its 5th Congress was successful, and Aida Abello was named as presidential candidate. The coalescence of fraternal forces promoted by the 5th Congress and the parallel capacity for unity in several departments (of the nation) is already a notable phenomenon in the beginning dynamics of the new electoral process.
Steps toward convergence
It’s within this broad context of developments that the PCC and UP are actively participating in the initiative of an exploratory set of negotiations aimed at forming a broader convergence of diverse alternative political organizations. Eventually there may be negotiations toward supporting a single presidential candidacy, one that differs programmatically from Juan Manuel Santos’ re-election project and from the belligerence of Álvaro Uribe and his presidential candidate Oscar Iván Zuluaga.
From this perspective, the UP and the Green Alliance sought approval from the National Electoral Council (CNE) for the option of implementing these negotiations, or not doing so, but in either case retaining the possibility of other agreements. The PCC and the UP made it clear they would never enter into negotiations or agreement with Enrique Peñalosa, pre-candidate of the right stuck onto the Green Alliance. Others who are allied with us in this political venture agree including elements of the People’s Coalition, Dignity for Colombia, and the alternative presidential candidates Aida Abella, Feliciano Valencia, and Cesar Pachón. We and they do not close the door to dialogue with the Polo and its candidate Clara López Obregón.
Regarding the unified lists: the UP and the Green Alliance initiated a discussion with the CNE about possibly inscribing a single unified list for the Senate to include candidates endorsed by the UP, Green Alliance, Polo, and the ASI (Independent Social Alliance). There would be the option of doing the same in parallel fashion for the House in each department or district. Faced with the CNE’s negative response – that once more demonstrates the tendency of the current election law to obstruct left unity – the PCC and the UP presented a unification proposal that excluded the Polo and Green Alliance. The response to this was affirmative, which led to the final authorized agreement.
Not only did the UP and the PCC agree on this, but Dignity for Colombia, People’s Coalition, Common Country, and several socialist currents did likewise.
What the agreement contains
What does this agreement do? It’s a political agreement, not merely an electoral one. It reaffirms the primary importance of the theme of peace and linkage of peace with democratic changes and reforms that are essential for making and consolidating peace. It signals the absolute requirement for a broad front for constructing an alternative government – as an example for other Latin American countries. It postulates the permanent identity of each force within the convergence, indicating there’s no question of adhesion to or fusion with the Green Alliance. The agreement calls for one list for peace for the Senate of the Republic where each sector will run its candidates, show off its logo and slogans within the framework of a common program, and work with the future [congressional] bench through consensus and agreeing to exercise freedom of conscience. It indicates there is no agreement regarding a presidential candidate, only a search for a common programmatic base and methods for selecting an alternative candidate. It recognizes and backs demands for guarantees [of safety] for the UP. It explicitly supports the negotiations in Havana between the government and the FARC-EP and urges that talks begin with the ELN. It outlines a whole set of political reforms for a democratic opening. It anticipates support for social movements struggling for change to a social and economic model that is in crisis. It joins in widespread indignation against the Inspector General’s arbitrary actions that set aside citizens’ votes.
This agreement is a positive step along the road to a broad front, but does not exhaust possibilities of a broader unity in the people’s struggle for a democratic peace with social justice. It fosters an approach to the left by Progressives and left sectors of the Greens. It opens the road to future close relations with left segments of the Polo and with youth sectors and independents. This is part of an intense shifting of forces characteristic of the current political crisis.
The UP, the PCC, and other sectors inclined toward unity run candidates for the Senate with backing from the Green Alliance. That does not constitute adhesion or fusion in any political sense. But from the legal point of view, whoever is elected stays with that affiliation. It’s not a question of concession, much less “surrender,” but it’s the only way under anti-democratic electoral legislation – which we are fighting to modify and change – by which minority forces can come together and unify. In Arauca, as a case in point, unity of all forces (UP, PCC, POLO, ASI) is registered under the UP aegis. Altogether, UP lists are entered in 17 departments. In several of them there are clear options. Furthermore, the UP endorses a list of Colombians living abroad and a candidacy for the Andean Parliament. That’s clearly at odds with government policies that would close the door to Latin American integration. In doing so, they serve imperialist dictates like pushing for the Alliance of the Pacific.
A creative political campaign
We will carry out our entire political campaign under the UP image and logo and on behalf of the UP battle for guarantees (of protection against violent assaults). The PCC calls for utilizing the broadest and most intense initiatives. It’s a question of working with new methods, retooled discourse, reliance upon real numbers and data, and reality – based proposals aimed at solving people’s problems. We fight for peace with social justice, for a democratic and pluralist government, for a constituent national assembly, for respect for popular sovereignty. We oppose the regime’s violence and corruption. Such is the framework of our platform. We demand agrarian reform, peasant reserve zones, multi-ethnic territories, jobs, and support for youth. Our struggle is for decent housing and decisive state intervention to reverse privatization of health care, education, and public services. Social and citizens’ control must replace corruption and playing favorites. These are our banners, always raised with concrete proposals.
The political campaign of the UP and PCC is carried out under the slogan: “Choose Peace.” We must make special use of social networks and interactive forms. We have to go into the neighborhoods, visit groups of friends, and contact new participants. One priority is to form departmental campaign teams as soon as possible. There should be a broad, unifying approach with the idea of establishing ties with significant numbers of social groupings and political leaders, especially ones that are committed to advancing the project of launching and rebuilding the UP. We want to strengthen the process of multiplying forces and building popular mobilization. We look toward regional elections in 2015 and toward governing and power.
We recommend formation of informational meetings with our adherents in the regions so as to clear up doubts and respond to anxieties. There we will explain steps taken toward this important convergence for peace, and discuss party organizing toward electoral campaigns for the presidency, senate and regional assemblies. We suggest that these assembles take place soon, in the first weeks of January, and that the national leadership be informed beforehand about dates so as to assure their necessary presence.
We endorse all of this with revolutionary greetings and our best wishes for the end of the year holidays.
Central Executive Committee, Bogota, December 20 2013