Photo credit: El Comunero Prensa
By Jakob Stein
Combative protests across Colombia have captured the attention of the world as the masses have risen furiously against the attempts of Old State to increase taxes in order to push onto the people the burden of the deepening crisis of bureaucratic capitalism, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The protests began on April 28 in response to the government’s fiscal reform plan, which included lowering the income threshold of the income tax as well as raising the value-added tax (VAT), a type of sales tax not used in the United States, both of which primarily affect the working class.
As the uprising enters its second week, an estimated 37 people have been killed, including at least one police officer. Nearly 90 more have been disappeared, and approximately 800 have been injured. The violent police repression, which has taken the form of batons, tear gas, and live rounds fired from police rifles, has only added fuel to the fire. Police stations, government buildings, banks, and toll booths around the country have been attacked, set ablaze, and destroyed, and the people met the riot police with a barrage of stones. The protests have shifted from a narrow focus on the tax reform to a larger political movement against the police and the reactionary state itself.
While Colombian president Ivan Duque claimed, “The reform is not a whim. It’s a necessity to keep the social programs going,” he promptly withdrew the proposed economic measures on Sunday in response to the uprising. It is no surprise that the Colombian government finds itself in financial trouble as the constant crisis of bureaucratic capitalism continues to deepen, only exacerbated by the global economic crisis as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. However, what is clear is that Duque’s government intends to shift the burden of this crisis from the imperialists and their lackeys onto the working people.
Duque and others in the government have turned to the tried-and-true method of separating the supposedly ‘bad,’ ‘violent’ protesters from the ‘good,’ ‘peaceful’ ones, in an attempt to criminalize the righteous rebellion and justify the brutal police tactics employed. He even took it a step further, blaming attacks on police stations and other combative actions on “narco-trafficking mafias” as well as armed revisionist groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The Old State has also used the typical strategy of promising ‘dialogue’ among various political parties, non-governmental organizations, reformist political groups, and the current government as a way of resolving the issues that precipitated the uprisings. While some may fall for this trick, the masses in the streets have shown their position with action, taking up the universal truth that Chairman Mao expressed in the maxim “It is right to rebel against reactionaries.”
While the monopoly media has recently shifted their focus away from the rebellion toward pacifist elements like ‘calmer’ protests, orchestras, and tight-rope walkers, revolutionary Colombian news source El Comunero Prensa was out on the streets of Bogota documenting the reality of the uprising. The publication quoted some of the chants used during the uprising, including, “For our dead, not a minute of silence, a lifetime of combat,” and “The bullets that were fired will return, [for] the blood [of the people] they spilled, [they] will pay.”
This is not the first time in recent memory the Colombian people have risen in rebellion, from the university strike in 2018, to the widespread struggles in November 2019 and the popular rebellion in September 2020, one thing is clear—reform will not solve the problems of the Colombian masses. These problems are endemic to bureaucratic capitalism across the world, and in Latin America these contradictions have sharpened to the point where mass uprisings are the rule rather than the exception.
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