Date: Sun, 18 Oct 98 00:00:41 CDT
From: "Workers World" <email@example.com>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Colombia Communists hold conference in Bogota
Via Workers World News Service
Communists Hold Conference Right in Bogota
By Andy McInerney, Workers World, 22 October 1998
For the first time in seven years, the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) is holding a national congress. Its 17th congress opened in the capital city of Bogota on Oct. 8.
There couldn't be a better time for communists to meet.
The PCC's opening ceremonies happened on the same day that 800,000 public-sector workers walked off the job on an indefinite strike. Half the country is under the effective control of the two main armed revolutionary groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC- EP) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).
At least 450 delegates from around the country were expected to attend the congress.
In the face of severe repression by the Colombian military and its paramilitary death squads, even convoking a congress is an act of defiance. Plans to hold the congress in 1995 were suspended due to repression.
Since the 16th Congress in 1991, five members of the party's Central Committee have been assassinated. Five others were forced into exile. Paramilitary groups have issued death threats against half the members of the Central Executive Committee.
On the eve of the congress, 25 party leaders in the Urab region were sentenced to a total of over 1,000 years in prison. They were sentenced by "faceless justice," so-called because accusers and judges are hidden from the accused.
`A DEMOCRATIC WAY OUT OF THE CRISIS'
The theme of the 17th Congress was "For a democratic way out of the national crisis." Party General Secretary Jaime Caycedo Turriago described this perspective in an interview with the PCC biweekly Voz.
"We are facing a crisis of the capitalist system and of the privatizing neoliberal model of the World Bank and the U.S. And we face a crisis of the two-party Colombian political regime_.
"We are in favor of a political and institutional reform that opens doors to new relations of power, that democratizes economic and social power, as well as in the means of communication."
A critical issue that the PCC is addressing is the possibility of talks between the government, the armed insurgency and "civil society." Both the FARC and the ELN have expressed willingness to enter such talks, and the new government of President Andres Pastrana campaigned during the elections on a platform of peace. In the days before the PCC congress, representatives of Pastrana's government met with ELN representatives in Colombia to advance talks.
"The causes of injustice and war are today also the causes of crisis in the forms of traditional power," Caycedo said. "For that reason, the struggle for a democratic and popular outcome to the crisis requires putting forward the need for new relations of power."
The revolutionary situation in Colombia is among the most advanced in the world today. The armed revolutionary movement continues to make spectacular gains. The mass movement of workers and peasants is on the rise.
At the same time, right-wing violence is also on the rise, and U.S. intervention is growing with every new advance for the revolutionary movement.
For these reasons, the issues that the PCC's 17th congress is raising--the interaction of the armed and mass struggles, the role of the Communist Party in the mass movement, the possibilities of revolution in the new international situation--are issues that should be watched closely by revolutionaries everywhere.
Due to security problems, there were few international delegations. But many parties and movements sent messages of solidarity to the congress.
The Secretariat of Workers World Party in the United States sent a message of solidarity and greeting. "The tide is turning, and you in Colombia are on the front line," the statement read. "Your struggle is advanced and conscious, and we follow your successes with enormous interest and deepest international solidarity."
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