A Balance Sheet of the Elections in Peru and Colombia

The recent election results in Peru and Colombia were hailed by the Latin American bourgeoisie and their imperialist backers as “anti-Chavez” victories. But if one looks more closely at the figures one sees that in these two countries there is a growing radicalisation to the left. Although a little delayed, they are part of the same process.

Alan Garcia in Peru and Uribe in Colombia agree to form an “Anti-Chavista” front, but the workers and peasants will take the path of the Venezuelan and Bolivian revolutions

The results of the presidential elections in Peru and Colombia were celebrated by the Latin American bourgeoisie and United States and European imperialism as a victory against the “Chavista” expansion on the continent. With unreserved joy the main bourgeois newspapers in Latin America drew attention to the fact that Colombia and Peru had been transformed into a “cordon sanitaire” that would prevent the Venezuelan revolution having any impact beyond its own national borders.

Nevertheless, any serious analysis of these results will show that far from staving off the threat of revolution, they have simply brought forward the processes that are on the horizon. The bourgeois governments of Alan Garcia and Uribe start from a much weaker position than any previous bourgeois governments in their countries and with a stronger social and political left opposition than there was a few months ago.

Instead of warding off the revolution, the social and political situation in both countries indicates that they are beginning to go down the path of the Venezuelan and Bolivian revolutions.

A Balance Sheet of the Colombian Elections

In Colombia it may be surprising to some that the reactionary swine and puppet of US imperialism, Alvaro Uribe, got 62% of the vote in the presidential elections on May 27th. But this is perhaps a little less surprising if we take into account the fact that the rate of abstention was almost 60% of the registered voters. What was really outstanding was the performance of the left coalition, the Polo Democratico (based on the old Communist Party) which came second with 22% of the vote, relegating the traditional Liberal party into third place with hardly 10%. What must also be noted is that the Polo Democratico (PD), which had already won the the mayoral elections in Bogotá three years ago, had been in practice absent from the national political scene for years, a scene that had been monopolised by the traditional Liberal and Conservative parties and the electoral front of Uribe. The Liberal and Conservative parties have practically disappeared from the Colombian political scene after being in existence for 158 years, something that is food for thought in the political situation. It is no accident therefore that many Colombian workers celebrated with genuine enthusiasm the electoral performance of the PD.

It must also be borne in mind that Colombia is a country that has a semi-dictatorial government which in the last few years has become a military outpost of the USA with the excuse of waging war on drug traffickers. Therefore the possibility of electoral fraud in some areas is ever present. Moreover, the government is exploiting the presence of the FARC guerrillas to carry out a policy of terror and repression, and to justify removing democratic rights. In the annual report of Amnesty International, which was published in May, they listed 2,750 cases of political assassinations in the last few years at the hands of right-wing paramilitaries, and many of these deaths were trade union leaders or leaders of popular movements.

Despite all of this repression however, during the last three years there has been growing evidence that there is a revitalisation of workers’ and popular struggles in Colombia. There have been some general strikes and massive mobilisations against the signing of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) with the USA, and these activities have been organised and called by the trade unions. More recently there have been important workers’ struggles such as that of the banana plantations in Uraba, as well as that of workers employed in the judiciary. There have also been marches of indigenous peoples and peasants, and student demonstrations in the main universities in Colombia.

In can clearly be seen in Colombia that in the last few years the leading role in the struggle for social justice has passed out of the hands of the peasant guerrilla campaign of the FARC and into the hands of the working class in the cities. This is a very positive development. The experience in Colombia has shown with sufficient clarity that the best way of standing up to capitalist governments and giving a lead to all the oppressed and exploited masses is with the method of the class struggle: strikes, mobilisations and popular uprisings.

The activities of the FARC are isolated and disconnected from the workers in the cities and the countryside and at times involve the erroneous methods of the armed struggle of individuals with counterproductive results for the guerrillas themselves and for popular movements, and these actions are used by the Uribe government and reactionary forces to divide the working class and peasants and to justify the government’s policy of state terrorism against working class and popular fighters.

The FARC could play a useful role if it were to act as an adjunct to the struggle in the cities, putting itself at the disposal of workers in struggle and peasant communities, helping them to form Workers’ and Peasants’ Self Defence Committees in the cities and the countryside in order to stand up to the hired assassins of the bosses and the landlords, committees that would be under the leadership of the working class and its organisations.

Colombia is entering a new phase of the class struggle. The effects of the FTAA on the Colombian economy in the coming years, together with the programme of privatisations already underway and cuts in social spending, will only worsen social problems and make popular protests more widespread.

The working class and poor peasantry of Colombia, on the basis of their own experiences and the effects of the revolutionary movements in Venezuela, Ecuador and soon in Peru knocking at the door of the frontiers of the country, will rise to their historic tasks in the struggle for socialism.

The Peruvian Elections

We have already made an analysis of the first round of the Peruvian elections. What happened in reality in Peru was a rejection of the capitalist policies of the Toledo government and a turn to the left in the political consciousness of the masses. The candidate in the first round with the most votes was Ollanta Humala with 31%. A large part of the masses associated him with radical reforms in favour of the working class and peasantry and with the governments of Chavez and Morales. It is important to point out that according to the polls that were carried out in September 2005, Humala’s support was then a mere 7%. The candidate of the bourgeoisie and of imperialism, Lourdes Flores, suffered a humiliating defeat coming in third with 23% of the vote, when only a few months ago the polls were predicting an outright victory. Alan Garcia’s APRA party came in second place with 24% because of the demagogic campaign he waged with inflammatory speeches against “the rich” and “the right”, concentrating all his criticisms on Lourdes Flores.

Alan Garcia also benefitted from the campaign of lies and slanders which the mass media of the bourgeoisie launched against Humala, accusing him of militarist and dictatorial tendencies, of maintaining links with the regime of the ex president Fujimoro, as well as having carried out acts of state terrorism in the 1990s, a period that is especially hated in the minds of the workers and peasants in Peru. Although a large part of the people who voted for Alan Garcia would have sympathised with Humala’s promises of social justice and his speeches against “neo-liberalism”, they chose to support a “left”Garcia when faced with the doubts and uncertainties that the candidacy of Humala produced, as during the election campaign he persisted in progressively moderating his speeches with the intention of “not frightening away” the middle layers and the bourgeoisie.

Finally, it is interesting to note that in the first round of voting some 15% of the ballot papers were spoiled, despite the fact that from a bourgeois point of view there was on offer a whole number of policies. These spoiled papers showed that there exists a great deal of distrust for the parties of the regime, a distrust that is also extended to Humala for the reasons that have been outlined above.

A vote that appealed to fear and uncertainty

It was no accident that the Peruvian oligarchy as well as imperialism were in a state of panic when they saw the results of the first round. For this reason they used all the means within their reach to help Alan Garcia in the second round on June 4th, a candidate who did not deserve to be trusted given his widespread unpopularity among the masses after their experience of his pernicious government between 1985 and 1990. But for the oligarchy and imperialism there was no alternative.

Of course they weren’t afraid of Humala who was moderating his speeches with the passing of each day in order to reassure the ruling class of the fact that he wasn’t a dangerous adventurer. But the capitalists, landlords and imperialists knew that if Humala were to win the presidential elections, the masses would see things in a different light and this could have unleashed an uncontrollable movement from below. The recent events in Bolivia with the measures undertaken by the Evo Morales’ government of partially nationalising the hydrocarbons and beginning a limited land reform programme would have reinforced the fears of the ruling class in Peru.

Under these circumstances, if Humala wanted to win these elections, the only alternative he had was to radicalise his speeches, announcing socialist measures of expropriating the land, the banks, the privately owned companies and the natural resources, not paying the foreign debt, rejecting the FTAA, etc. If this had been done, it would have stirred up an enormous enthusiasm amongst the masses and thus would have ensured a successful election result in his favour.. Instead of this however he outlined a defensive electoral campaign with ambiguous speeches against the “neo-liberal model”, about the need for a new Political Constitution and a new Republic; about “revising” the privatisations that have taken place without questioning them, and about “building a Medium and Long Term Development Plan” and “restrengthening” the economy, and other banalities of this type.

Alan Garcia however, with all the media and economic resources of the bourgeoisie behind him, very intelligently went on the offensive with a campaign that exploited all the demagogic speeches from the first round of voting, saying that his government would be “centre left”, appealing to national chauvinism against Hugo Chavez saying that he was meddling in the Peruvian election campaign, all this with the aim of mobilising in his favour the social base of the petty bourgeoisie and the most backward sections of the workers and peasants, with the classic bonapartist speech of “me or chaos”.

Humala, however, instead of going on a counteroffensive by underlining the need to follow the road of the Venezuelan and Bolivian revolutions, which have without doubt awoken tremendous sympathy in the mass of working people, did all he could to distance himself from Chavez and Morales, displaying a vacillating and inconsistent image. Faced with the ambiguity of his programme and his speeches, the vacillating and doubting sections of the masses, who could have swung the balance in his favour, could not discern any appreciable difference in the programme of either candidate and therefore decided to vote for Garcia as he appeared to be the most “dependable” candidate.

Despite all of this however, Alan Garcia only managed to gain 53%, which was a long way from the overwhelming victory that the falsified opinion poll had been claiming for him; and Humala managed 47%.

It must also be pointed out that of the 24 departments that Peru is divided into, Humala won in 14 of them (the poorest ones in the interior of the country) and Alan Garcia only won in 10, among them the capital Lima and the main departments along the coast.

Peru is moving towards a social explosion

The government of Alan Garcia will be like a man sitting on the back of a tiger. Given his past and his political evolution in the last 20 years, in general amongst the masses there is a feeling of scepticism and distrust towards him. We are no longer in the year 1985 when the first victory of APRA took place in a situation of general euphoria. Today the masses have been blackmailed: “If you don’t vote for Garcia, there will be chaos”. It is therefore a vote that does not invoke enthusiasm, but rather fear and uncertainty, something very similar to the vote for Bush in the presidential elections of 2004. And now we can see how once the masses in the USA saw all the lies and falsehoods on which they felt obliged to vote, their support for Bush turned into its opposite and now Bush’s popularity is only 29% and falling. We now have a situation in the USA where the majority of the population is against the war in Iraq, and a magnificent movement of millions of immigrant workers has been sweeping across the country. This marks a profound change in the objective situation in the USA, despite the fact that there is still no economic downturn there.

In Peru the process will be much quicker and more convulsive because of the absence of the material resources that US imperialism has.  There is no doubt that great events are on the horizon in Peru. The ruling class and imperialism cannot hide their panic as regards the sleeping giant that is the Peruvian working class and poor peasantry.

Among the people there is still the memory of what Alan Garcia really stands for, as well as a general feeling that is growing day by day that things cannot continue as they are now. The support for Humala is an expression of this. For this reason the patience of the masses towards the Garcia government will not last very long. And it is probable that in the very short space of a few months we will begin to see an outbreak of struggles to try and make the government carry out its promises.

And it must be recognised that a large part of the vote that went to Garcia’s APRA party was because of his left speeches and the rejection of what the masses interpret as being “neoliberalism”; that is the politics of hunger and submission to Peruvian capitalism.

But Alan Garcia, a corrupt agent of the bourgeoisie and US imperialism, will have no option but to carry out the dirty work of his bosses in order to safeguard their interests (carrying on with privatisations, signing the FTAA, deepening the misery and poverty that will be extended to more and more sections of the population). And all of this will lead to a rapid rise in his unpopularity amongst the general population.

To the extent that no group will have an absolute majority in the Congress, the only option that Alan Garcia will have will be to agree to a political pact with the other bourgeois parties, rejecting any governing agreement with Humala. Although on the basis of numbers, APRA and the other bourgeois parties will have an assured majority in the Congress, the masses on the streets will just not accept this parliamentary arithmetic. They will demand action to resolve their pressing social problems. Such demands will not be answered by the policies of Alan Garcia. The social instability arising from this will sooner or later produce an enormous political and institutional crisis, which will worsen the longer time passes. It is therefore quite probable that in this situation the Peruvian capitalists and imperialism will have no other alternative than to come to an understanding with Humala as alast resort to stave off a social explosion, negotiating some kind of  participation in the government and in this way diverting the attention of the masses in order to seek a breathing space for a while. And all of this will take place on the basis of “National Unity”. This will in turn open up a new stage in the class struggle in Peru.

But such a government, or one that would result from early elections that would give a majority to Humala, would be faced with the same dilemma. There would be colossal pressure from the working masses but also from the ruling class. Although it is not absolutely clear ‑ given his adventurous character ‑ what political path Humala would take in this situation. Experience says that it is impossible to satisfy equally the rich and the poor, the capitalists and the workers, the landlords and the peasants and rural workers.

In any case without a socialist policy that expropriates the oligarchy and the imperialist multinationals, Humala will in practice act as their agent, which will prepare within his movement an enormous crisis with splits to the left and the right. Sooner or later, the parliamentary game will not be able to stop the inevitable; this is implicit in the whole of the social and political situation in Peru: a revolutionary explosion of the working masses, of the poor peasants and the rest of the oppressed layers in society.

Build a revolutionary tendency

The elections of June 4th will resolve nothing. The working masses in Peru will learn in the school of struggle. Left activists in Peru must be with the masses in this school, marching shoulder to shoulder with them, establishing links with the most active and politically aware sections, both with those who still have illusions in the movement around Humala, and with the discontented rank and file of the Frente Amplio (Broad Front, reformist left based on the CP) and the trade unions.

Peruvian workers have a great revolutionary tradition of struggle. They will be called upon to play a leading role in the coming months and years. Armed with a revolutionary socialist programme they will be invincible. But the lessons of the last few years must be learned. The only alternative for the Peruvian workers and poor peasants is the building of class-based political tendency, armed with a revolutionary socialist programme which raises the issue of the expropriation of the large monopolies, the banks, large land holdings and the multinationals, without compensation and under the control of the workers and the poor people, because the only way to satisfy the demands of the people is by putting at the disposal of the majority of the people the main economic resources, both natural and human, in order to take Peru out of a state of backwardness and imperialist oppression.

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