Civilizations 37e: Yankee Imperialism pt5 – the theft of Panama out of Colombia

Panama was carved out of Colombia

A complex multinational megaproject with layers of government corruption and massive government funds. A separatist movement created and sponsored by the US. A chunk of territory carved out of an existing country for imperialist use. Workers exploited to death. And a shining imperialist possession at the end. We talk about the creation of Panama and the Panama Canal, another prototypical imperialist operation that offers many warnings for the next 120 years.

Is Colombia’s Military Displacing Peasants to Protect the Environment or Sell Off Natural Resources?

Colombia witnessed a series of mass protests at the end of April following a call for a national strike in the city of Cali. Still ongoing, the protests have many causes: an apparent “tax reform” that was going to transfer even more wealth to the 1 percent in Colombia; the failure of the most recent peace accords; and the inability of Colombia’s privatized health care system to contain the COVID-19 crisis. In response to these ongoing protests, the government has killed dozens, disappeared hundreds, imposed curfews on multiple cities, and called in the army. But the protests continue—because they are, at least in part, a repudiation of the militarization of everything in the country.

In the background of the uprising in Colombia is the question of land. A multi-decade civil war has led to millions of peasants being thrown off of their land, which ended up in the hands of large landowners or was used for corporate megaprojects. In the ongoing corporate land grab that has been taking place in Colombia for the last few years, there is a new and frightening weapon: the militarization of environmental conservation. In a countrywide series of military operations beginning in February, involving a large number of soldiers and police, the army captured 40 people, whom the attorney general accused of deforestation and illegal mining, in six different locations in the country. In an earlier operation, the army captured four people for crimes against the environment, who have been labeled as “dissidents of the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)” by Colombia’s President Iván Duque, according to an article in Mongabay. In another operation in March 2020, soldiers trying to capture illegal ranchers in national parks picked up 20 people, 16 of whom turned out to be peasants who did not own land or cattle, according to Mongabay. According to the Colombian military, eight operations were carried out in 2020, through which it had “recovered more than 9,000 hectares of forest,” while capturing 68 people, 20 of whom were minors, stated the article in Mongabay.

What the military calls “recovered” forest is a territory emptied of its people. The overall initiative, which began in 2019, is labeled “Operation Artemis.” It deploys what one article in the City Paper (Bogotá) calls “Colombia’s full-metal eco-warriors” in an effort to reduce deforestation by 50 percent, as President Duque told Reuters.

With so much military defense of the forest taking place, the question that arises is, is deforestation a problem that can be solved with the use of weapons? Can the forest be saved through mass arrests? Can the same military that killed thousands of innocent people, including peasants, in an attempt to inflate their body count statistics, be trusted to protect the environment?

The Amazon Threatened

The deforestation of the Amazon is a real problem. The Colombian Amazon comprises about 42 percent of Colombia’s land area and 6 percent of the total area of the Amazon, with Bolivia and Venezuela each making up another 6 percent, Peru 9 percent, and Brazil 66 percent of the total Amazon area.

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil campaigned on the promise to “develop” the Amazon and has taken rapid steps toward doing so. In Colombia too, deforestation has taken place rapidly, at a rate of between about 100,000 and 200,000 hectares per year as of 2018. The biggest motors of deforestation are ranching, burning, cultivation of coca and poppy, and road and mining expansion. If the “recovery” rate—which is defined as clearing people out of the area by military force—follows 2020’s pattern of 9,000 hectares in a year, the army’s “full-metal eco-warriors” are working at least 11 times too slow to stop deforestation. This raises questions about what is really happening in Colombia and why.

The Amazon is protected under the Colombian constitution, as are the territorial rights of Indigenous peoples. Among these rights is the right to free, prior, and informed consent in the event of any development scheme. A number of forums exist through which Indigenous people are theoretically able to exercise these rights. These include the mesa permanente, the comisión nacional and the Mesa Regional Amazónica. A very important portion of the Colombian Amazon—more than half—is, by law, under Indigenous jurisdiction.

These lands are coveted by corporate interests.

Investor Rights Challenged in Courts

The most powerful tool of the corporate land grab makes no pretense of protecting the environment: it is the framework of “free trade,” enshrined in international agreements, which noted linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky has argued would be better termed as “investor rights agreements.” But this framework is always under challenge by Indigenous people and by courts that have even a modicum of independence.

There are many examples of when Indigenous people have taken to court to uphold their rights over their land. When Canadian mining company Cosigo Resources Ltd. was discovered carrying out illegal activities in an Amazon national park and was investigated by Colombia’s Constitutional Court, the company took Colombia to arbitration in Texas, where the matter is to be conducted as per the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITL) rules. Cosigo Resources Ltd. claimed that the Colombian constitutional protections in the Yaigojé-Apaporis National Natural Park violate Colombia’s obligations to protect investor rights under the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement. That battle is ongoing.

Another Canadian mining company, Auxico Resources, is trying to extract the gold and coltan (a key ingredient in cell phones) under the Amazon. Auxico Resources signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the governor of Guainía, Javier Zapata, for the “production of minerals,” according to Minería Pan-Americana. In 2018, Zapata announced that 80 percent of the land had been conceded to Auxico Resources. Zapata is now in prison for corruption. But Auxico is still working in the area. In 2019, President Duque announced the creation of the new municipality of Barrancominas in Guainía, pre-empting an initiative by Indigenous communities (85 percent of the people in Guainía are Indigenous) in the region to establish their land rights.

A third company, Amerisur Resources (now GeoPark), won a license to conduct petroleum exploration in Siona Indigenous territory in Putumayo in southern Colombia (on its borders with Ecuador and Peru), a community of 2,600 people who have been under attack by paramilitaries and narcotraffickers for decades—police records show 23 separate massacres in Putumayo between 1993 and 2014. The community swore in 2014 not to allow petroleum exploitation in their territory. In 2018, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights “ordered precautionary measures to protect” the Siona, and a Colombian judge also declared that this “sent a clear message” and ordered that Amerisur Resources cease their project of oil exploration there, according to an article in El Espectador. The judge ordered a suspension of licenses for exploration in one of the reserves. Amerisur Resources quickly announced that it would continue mining because “prior consultation,” a right under Colombia’s constitution, had apparently been completed. The battle continues to this day, with the company continuing to insist that it had fulfilled the constitutional requirement for prior consent sometime in the past.

In 2010 in Ecuador, the military proposed creating an army-controlled “protected” forest on Siona territory—the Siona refused. In July 2020, Siona Governor Sandro Piaguaje announced to GeoPark that “[Y]ou are going to lose, because you will not be able to get a drop of oil from our territory.” But now deforestation alerts are popping up all over Siona land along with reports of narcotrafficking. The Siona fear that these alerts will provide a pretext for the military to enter the zone and will start a process that will culminate in handing over the territory to GeoPark.

When discussing corporate interests in the Amazon, the case of Steven Donziger and Chevron in Ecuador shouldn’t be forgotten. In 1993, Donziger took on a historic claim against oil giant Chevron, which had polluted the Amazon in Ecuador and devastated the Indigenous communities there. In 2011, a court in Ecuador ordered that Chevron pay $9.5 billion in damages. Chevron didn’t pay—and then proceeded to use the U.S. court system to persecute Donziger, who is currently living in his second year of house arrest in New York.

Environmental Bubbles Deployed Against Peasants

However high the cost of court battles, Indigenous people have proven that their struggle inside and outside the courts to protect the environment can often succeed. To land-hungry corporations, militarized conservation has emerged as a strategic alternative to risky court battles. Along with Operation Artemis, Colombia has rolled out a strategy of “Environmental Bubbles,” which started in 2016. In 2017, the Colombian military participated in a series of military exercises in the Amazon called “Operation United America,” jointly with the governments of Peru, Brazil, Canada, Panama, Argentina and, of course, the United States—but not Bolivia (then-president Evo Morales refused).

The Environmental Bubbles are surprise operations, which are made public knowledge after the military has carried out an operation to protect some area against illegal activity. Each state (department) in Colombia gets a “rapid reaction force to carry out monitoring, prevention, control and surveillance tasks against the causes of deforestation.”

In 2018, campesino (peasant) organizations testified before the #JuicioALaDeforestación (deforestation trial) tribunal about what the authorities have done to them in the name of conservation. In the La Paya National Natural Park, a peasant delegate from the Leguízamo Peasant Workers Association while reporting on the “alleged abuses against the civilian population by the authorities in the areas” said, “All their belongings, houses and animals were burned during the intervention.” He continued, “We peasants are not the reason for deforestation. The big landowner, who seized one thousand hectares from the park, is walking around freely with no trouble.” Four other military operations of the same type were conducted throughout 2018-19.

The case of Labarce, in the Colombian department of Sucre, is also instructive. Afro-Colombians, some of whose families had arrived in the area as early as 1916, saw their lands become part of a national park—the Santuario de Flora y Fauna el Corchal—in 2002. Their territories suddenly became “terra nullius,” “empty” lands—the same doctrine used to usurp Indigenous people from their lands throughout the Americas, including the United States and Canada where mining corporations are headquartered. The peasants came forward in good faith to cooperate with the process and had rights under the law. In their decades living there, they had protected the biodiversity of the area and maintained a circumscribed territory without expanding further into the forest. All the same, they were classified as illegal occupants of their own land. There are many other cases of peasants being suddenly declared interlopers, generations after their ancestors were encouraged to “colonize” lands.

Environmentalism Must Be Demilitarized

The takeover of conservation by military forces is not unique to Colombia—Kenyan scholar Mordecai Ogada has written about the same dynamics in many countries in Africa. He writes on his website, “A foreigner’s love for our wildlife is usually a measure of their hatred for Indigenous people.” If “conservation” can be appropriated as a slogan for displacing Indigenous people, it is time to rethink the concept. It is time to discard Malthusianism, the fantasy of “empty lands,” and the apocalypticism that underlies too much environmental thinking.

The Amazon is estimated to be 13,000 years old, and the region has been inhabited for 19,000 years or more—there is a reason, in other words, to consider the possibility that the wildest rainforest imaginable is in fact a cultural landscape co-created by human beings and other species working together. In the book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, author Charles Mann gives several estimates as to what fraction of the Amazon was created by Indigenous people; one cautious estimate is that “about 12 percent of the nonflooded Amazon forest was of anthropogenic origin—directly or indirectly created by human beings”; another researcher tells him “it’s all human-created”; and according to another researcher, “The phrase ‘built environment… applies to most, if not all, Neotropical landscapes.”

With the authority of the National Natural Parks of Colombia being used to displace peasants, one proposal for a breakthrough in this conflict is the “Parques con Campesinos” (Parks with Peasants) concept—which would make peasants partners in conservation, rather than setting them up as enemies of the environment.

The greatest weapon against deforestation is no weapon at all. It is to give peasants security of land tenure, to resume the sustainable practices that have preserved the vast and glorious Amazon. The current National Development Plan under Operation Artemis purporting to serve “conservation” goals would see it reduced to a set of disconnected protected areas, cut by roads, surrounded by petroleum blocs, hydroelectric dams, fumigated zones, and mines, as maps presented by the activists at the Amazon Forest Protection Program show. The presence of communities and caretakers on the land—not “full-metal eco-warriors”—is the only reliable way to stop deforestation.The way to save the planet is not to have the world’s most destructive institution—the modern military—create “bubbles” empty of humans, only to then reassign that land to oil and mineral companies. The way to save the planet is to give the land back to the people whose practices assured the astounding biodiversity we have enjoyed for millennia.

This article was produced by Globetrotter on May 20, 2021.

AEP 83: Update on #ColombiaResiste with Manuel Rozental

Colombia Resiste!

An urgent update on the massive protests in Colombia andAn urgent update on the massive protests in Colombia and the criminal response by the regime, which has massacred dozens of protesters and disappeared hundreds of people.

Nonetheless, protesters have returned to the streets day after day in spite of every attempt to terrorize them into silence. Why are they protesting? Who called the protest? Where are things at now? Frequent guest, sometimes host, Manuel Rozental joins me from Colombia to talk about it. the criminal response by the regime, which has massacred dozens of protests, disappeared hundreds, who have nonetheless returned to the streets day after day. Why are they protesting? Who called the protest? Where are things at now? Frequent guest, sometimes host, Manuel Rozental joins me from Colombia to talk about it.

AEP 63: Coffee, Tourism, and Lithium imperialism in Latin America with Yanis Iqbal

Commodity imperialism in Latin America

Independent journalist Yanis Iqbal, based in India, has written a series of articles about commodities and imperialism in Latin America. He presents some of his findings on coffee in Colombia, tourism and the displacement of Indigenous people in Honduras, and lithium imperialism in Chile and Bolivia.

AEP 60: Colombian ex-president Alvaro Uribe Velez under house arrest

Alvaro Uribe Velez under house arrest

With Manuel Rozental. On August 4 2020, the Supreme Court of Colombia ordered ex-president Alvaro Uribe Velez, now a senator, under house arrest pending an investigation that he suborned witnesses in a case about paramilitarism.

Mayor of Medellin in 1982, governor of Antioquia from 1995-1998, and president of Colombia from 2002-2010, Alvaro Uribe Velez has been implicated in the “para-politica” scandal in which politicians from his party signed pacts with paramilitary organizations to commit crimes in their jurisdictions; in the “false positives” scandal in which the Colombian military killed perhaps 10,000 completely innocent people and dressed their corpses up as rebel fighters to inflate death counts; the “wiretapping” scandal in which he used Colombia’s intelligence agency to spy on his political opponents; and now the accusation that he has suborned witnesses on these and other cases.

What is behind this turn against such an all-powerful and seemingly untouchable politician? And what will he do next? Submit quietly? Agitate for a constitutional change to the judiciary? How much fight does this 68-year old politician have in him yet? We tackle these questions after a highly compressed timeline of Uribe’s career as one of the principal architects of Colombia’s endless war.

AEP 58: Mafiosity, the current stage of Colombian capitalism

Mafiosity may not be the highest stage, but it is definitely the current stage

Manuel is back on the show for this one. How does an Indigenous community that has recovered land and autonomy end up back under state authority? How does a territory go from winning a life and death struggle for food sovereignty to growing a hemp monoculture? And how do mafias and ultra-rightwing (fascist) political movements work together to destroy everything?

GUEST POST: 21st Century Fascism? I’m afraid so.

by Hector Mondragon, November 12 2018. Translated from Spanish by Justin Podur.

Facing the wave of growth and success of political and social movements of the ultra-right, it is necessary to ask: are we witnessing the rise of a series of fascist movements in many parts of the world as occurred in the 1930s? Or is fascism an unrepeatable historical phenomenon limited to the period between the two world wars?

Some consider that fascism only arose to prevent the victory of socialist revolutions or to stop the communists, but “fascism did not triumph when the bourgeois was threatened with proletarian revolution, but rather when the working class was weakened and put on the defensive.” The role of fascism was not to overcome the socialist revolution but to “erase the conquests of reformist socialism.”i

In Germany it was the social democrats that liquidated Rosa Luxemberg and Karl Liebnecht and stopped the communists fifteen years before the Nazi triumph. The Soviet Republic in Hungary was stopped by the invasion of the Rumanian army sent by the Liberal party. In Italy the occupations of the factories and the workers’ councils were stopped by the Liberal Party two years before the triumph of the fascists. Fascist propaganda insisted and insists always on a “communist threat” but for the past 90 years, capitalism has used the fascist “solution” to destroy reforms and human rights after the “communist threat” has been defeated.

What then is the difference between the Italian blackshirts, the German brownshirts, the Rumanian iron guards, the Ukrainian flagmen, the Hungarian arrow cross, the Spanish falange or the Croation Ustache – and today’s ultra-right parties?

All of the protagonists of European fascism of the last century professed a visceral hatred of Jews, expressed in extreme form in Germany, Ukraine, Romania and Croatia and culminating in the Holocaust. Today, by contrast, with the exception of Ukraine’s Svoboda, Hungary’s Jobbik, Greece’s Golden Dawn, the KKK and a few small neonazi groups, the majority of the global right is pro-Israel and supports the extermination of the Palestinians.

In general, on the xenophobic right, anti-Semitism has been replaced by Islamophobiaii, hatred of refugees, and particular racisms, like that expressed on the US right against Mexicansiii. In other aspects, however, despite its diversity, the 21st century ultra-right bears a growing resemblance to the European fascism of the 1930

. This is not coincidence. Fascism is a phenomenon specific to the crises of certain phases of the imperialist and capitalist order.iv v vi

Those who believe in the “end of history” – that colonialism is a thing of the past and capitalism is the final historical order – incorrectly discard the notion of a rebirth of fascism. The reality is very different. In this century so far, imperialist wars have destroyed Iraq, Libya, and Syria, all as a way of resolving the cyclical crises of capitalism. The recolonization of the Middle East is a fact. Colonialism was in retreat during the period that began with the fall of Nazism and ended with the US loss in Vietnam. It has returned with force in the past three decades.

To understand how fascism arises from the necessities of internal and external imperial wars, Hitler’s January 27 1932 speech to the industrialists at Dusseldorf is instructive. This speech convinced big business to support the Nazi solution.vii

Hitler explained that the defense of private property required a dictatorship like that of the Fuhrer. Because private property is the result of economic inequality and different classes of citizens, to defend private property it would be necessary to impose political inequality, hierarchy, and authoritarianism. Hitler explained that England did not just go to India sell its wares; it obliged India to buy them by invading the country. If the businessmen wanted the success of their enterprises, they had to support Nazism to conquer new markets and resources in the wider world and destroy the “Bolshevism” that was damaging the racial and national unity needed for victory.

In this speech, unusually light on Hitler’s characteristic constant attacks against the Jews, Hitler focused on “Bolshevism”: not just the need to stop it, but also to stop it from dividing the people and spreading a mentality opposed to the singular national interest. The businessmen applauded loudly for several minutes. Hitler’s program for big German business included a wave of privatizationsviii ix – and was only stopped by the fall of Nazism itself.

For Milton Friedman and the Chicago School to impose neoliberalism on Chile, it was not just necessary to prepare an elite of Chilean economists. It was also necessary to install Pinochet’s “Patria y Libertad” to impose the laws of the market.

Vilfredo Pareto, the economist considered by neoliberals as the precursor of their “libertarian” ideas, raged against strikes as the enemies of an economic optimum. He hated the worker’s movement’s taking over factories. He celebrated the ascent of Mussolini to power. Even though Pareto himself was not a fascist, the fascists made him a senator-for-life. In the first few years of his government, Mussolini followed Pareto’s prescriptions to the letter, destroying political liberalism, reducing state administration in favor of private enterprise, reducing property taxes, favoring industry, and imposing religious education.x The capitalists and neoliberal economists would prefer not to associate with fascists and repudiate their ideology, but they acclaim it when it is time to smash “Bolshevism” and go to war with other countries.

As it did 90 years ago, fascism today liquidates the gains of workers and collective rights, cleanses universities and schools, and promotes war. When the domination of transnational capital is not maintained merely by the laws of the market, it is maintained by direct violence. When institutional solutions are insufficient, the mass mobilization of one part of civil society is used against the rest.

Colonialism has strengthened. What is today called “extractivism” was once called “accumulation by dispossession”. It reigns throughout multiple parts of the world, an expression of the strength of colonial enterprises that have existed for centuries. It is the exact same primitive accumulation that occurred in the original phase of colonialism.xi xii

In the 20th century, war was integrated with colonial enterprise and the destruction of competitor capital (as we saw in Iraq, Libya, and earlier in Yugoslavia) in a way that foreshadowed the destruction of local capital, the conquest of new markets, new investment zones and sources of land, minerals, gas and petroleum.

But imperialism, colonialism and war are not in themselves fascism, which is a mass movement based in the middle class and the unemployed, mobilized in diverse forms – including armed militias – to destroy workers’ rights and organizations and perpetuate war in the interests of transnational capital and landowners. In Latin America, the landowners always have their paramilitary bands at the readyxiii.

In contrast to other forms of authoritarianism, the success of fascism is guaranteed by the mass mobilization of the middle class against the “enemies of the nation”, be they Jews, Communists, Africans, refugees, Muslims, or Mexicans.

As the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger said, “ …it can accordingly seem that there is no enemy. It is then a fundamental requirement that the enemy be found, brought to light, or even created so that this stand against the enemy may take place… with the goal of complete extermination.”xiv

The state that persecutes the enemy, according to the theorists of nazism, is not merely the judicial institution, but the people’s Being intrinsically united with its leader (Heidegger). It’s not a state machinery, but the people organized by the nazi party organized through its Fuhrer that is the source of law (Rosemberg). It is not the law that establishes order, but the “movement” that imposes an order, from which the law springs(Schmitt).xv

This is why Gramsci, in his Prison Notebooks, presented the thesis that civil society is itself a form of the state. This makes the problem of emancipation more complicated and more dramatic. “Civil society could very well express violence and oppression not inferior to that of the state, and very unscrupulous besides, and it will tend to exercise this violence without obstructions since it has no concern with even the pretense of impartiality.”xvi

The idea of needing to attack an enemy was and is a part of an ultra-right wing strategy, with false information used to agitate about the fantasy of the enemy. The great theorist of what is now called “fake news” was the publicist of Siemens and the Reemtsma tobacco company, Hans Domizlaff, who began his application of marketing techniques to politics in 1932.xvii

According to Domizlaff, “people can believe in gross lies or, in any case, there can be found freedom for action if lies are openly told and obstinately maintained…xviii the masses cannot be educated, only domesticated, led, and voided.”xix

In the 21st century the role of enemy is assigned in Europe and the US to migrants, especially refugees or to “terrorist” Muslims. In Latin America it continues to be “communists”, the political left, as it was in the time of the Doctrine of National Security.

But more and more, in the north and in Latin America, LGBTQ communities are targeted, called the “gender ideology”, with propaganda about apparent “scientific” research into gender. This is not new.

Homophobia was one of the hooks the Nazis used to win over religious sectors. Magnus Hirschfield’s theory of the “third sex” and his books on homosexuality and transgender were attacked. Hirschfield’s Institute for Sexual Research was the target of homphobic attack. Its administrator Kurt Hiller was sent to a concentration camp in March 1933 and on May 6 the building was occupied and its archives, photos, and library were confiscated to be burned in the famous book-burning of May 10, 1933.xx

The bonfire linked the “judeo-bolshevik conspiracy” and the third sex. Homophobia played a mobilizing role in the bonfire and in the concentration camps. The annihilation of the third sex occurred alongside the extermination of communists, unionists, Jews and Roma – the extermination of the enemy. The state apparatus, from its perch in the universities to its gas chambers, was rooted in the “people’s Being” directed by its leader.

The ultra-right of the 21st century, especially in Latin America, has rediscovered the role of homophobia. The struggle against “gender ideology” was embedded in the “No” vote against the Colombian peace accords and has moved millions of votes from Brazil to the US, including Costa Rica, where an important group of churches joined these homophobic manipulations with enthusiasm.

The manipulation of religion by the ultra-right is not limited to homophobia. For more than one hundred years the right has developed a theology of war. The spread of Wahhabism in the Muslim world has served as the basis for Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and the “dispensationalism” of Cyrus Scofield has played a role in the West in creating a war theology, nourishing militarism on the evangelical right-wing.

The Islamic State is apocalyptic: it is preparing for the final battle of history, in which Jesus and the Mahdi will fight alongside them. “Dispensationalism” also views war in the Middle East as anticipation of Armageddon and considers US support for Israel part of a divine plan. The faithful expect to be transported directly to heaven before seven years of great disasters, at the end of which will occur the great battle of Armageddon, when Jesus will return to defend Israel.xxi

As the Nazis struggled against the conspiracy outlined in the “protocols of the elders of Zion”, the Latin American ultra-right struggles against the conspiracy of the Forum of Sao Paolo, which they believe wishes to impose communism and homosexualism. Bolshevism, however, has changed: it is no longer a Jewish conspiracy but the source of conspiracy, since Israel is now an ally and the Palestinians the enemy.

The ultra-right of the Americas is diverse, but its common symbols and leaders are always anti-communist, loyal to the US, and loyal to the transnational corporations. Under these three principles, religious fundamentalism can easily co-exist with the debauched life of Donald Trump. The white supremacists of the US are not in agreement among themselves about anti-Semitism. But the Klan and the neo-Nazis continue to co-exist and to coordinate on common projects like the wall on the border with Mexico.

The ultra-right in Europe is more divided. There are anti-EU and pro-EU ultra-rightists. There is one anti-Semitic right and another Islamophobic right. In Israel, the extermination of Palestinians signals fascism; in Islamic countries it’s Wahhabism; in India it is Hindu supermacy and there is even a Buddhist right-wing in Thailand and Burma. All of the ultra-rights deny our common humanity, are xenophobic and racist, homophobic and enemies of human rights and of international law.

Not every ultra-right is fascist. Several have given rise to diverse Bonapartes,xxii xxiii whether by electoral movements or by military-parliamentary-or judicial coups. Laws and repressive means strengthen state oppression, but fascism is not simply the repression of the system towards its enemies. The triumph of fascism is a qualitative change. xxiv xxv

For fascist regimes to establish themselves it is not sufficient for there to be a fascist party, nor is it sufficient that the president be a fascist. Fascism requires a mass movement that is capable of smashing the organizations of workers and of minorities, and capable of supporting perpetual wars. Fascism in the 21st century is reaching that point.

It is time to resist.

i BAUER, Otto (1936) Zwischen zwei Weltkriegen?. Bratislava: Eugen Prager Verlag, p. 136.

ii HUNTINGTON, Samuel 1997 O Choque das Civilizações e a recomposição da ordem mundial. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Objetiva.

iii HUNTINGTON, Samuel 2004. ¿Quiénes somos?: los desafíos a la identidad nacional estadounidense. Barcelona: Paidós Ibérica.

iv MANDEL, Ernest (1969) El Fascismo. Revolta Global, p.10.

v POULANTZAS, Nicos (1970) Fascismo e Ditadura. Porto: Portucalense, 1972, p. 13.

vi DIMITROV, Jorge (1935) “La ofensiva del fascismo y las tareas de la Internacional Comunista en la lucha por la unidad dela clase obrera contra el fascismo”; Informe ante en VII Congreso Mundial de la Internacional Comunista, 2 de agosto de 1935. Selección de trabajos. Buenos Aires: Estudio, 1972.

vii HITLER, Adolf (1932) “The Dusseldorf Speech of 1932”; C N Trueman editor. The History Learning Site, 22 May 2015.

viii BUCHHEIM, Christoph and Jonas SCHERNER (2006).”The Role of Private Property in the Nazi Economy: The Case of Industry”. The Journal of Economic History 66(2) 390-416 (406). Cambridge University Press.

ix BEL, Germà (13 de noviembre de 2004). “Against the mainstream: Nazi privatization in 1930s Germany”. Universitat de Barcelona i ppre-IREA.

x BORKENAU, Franz (1936) Pareto. New York: John Wiley & Sons, p.40.

xi HARVEY, David (2004) “El ‘nuevo imperialismo’: acumulación por desposesión”; Leo Pantich & Colin Leys (Ed.) El nuevo desafío imperial, p.p. 99-129. Merlin Press-Clacso.

xii MARX, Karl (1867) El Capital, v. I, c. XXIV-XXV. Fondo de Cultura Económica, México, 1974, p.p. 607-650.

xiii See the character Attila in the film Novecento, by Bernardo BERTOLUCCI (1976).

xiv HEIDEGGER, Martin. Gesamtausgabe, 36/37, Sein und Wahrheit. 1. Die Grundfrage der Philosophie. 2. Vom Wesen der Wahrheit, Frankfurt am Main, Klostermann, 2001, éd. por Hartmut Tietjen, [GA 36/37], 90-91.

xv FAYE, Emmanuel (2005) “El derecho y la raza: Erik Wolf entre Heidegger, Schmitt y Rosenberg”. Heidegger: La introducción del nazismo en filosofía. Madrid: Akal, 2009, 2018, capítulo7.

xvi LOSURDO, Doménico 1997. “Com Gramsci, para além de Marx e Gramsci”; Crítica Marxista 3-4. Roma.

xvii DOMIZLAFF, Hans (1932) Propagandamittel der Staatsidee. Altona-Othmarschen.

xviii DOMIZLAFF, Hans (1952) Brevier für Könige. Massenpsychologisches Praktikum. Hamburg, Institut für Markentechnik, p. 208.

xix Ibidem, p. 288.

xx BAUER, Heike (2017). The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture. Temple University Press, p. 92.

xxi SIZER, Stephen (2006) Sionismo cristiano ¿hoja de ruta a Armagedón? Bósforo libros, 2009.

xxii THALHEIMER, August (1928) “Über den Faschismus”; internes Dokument der Komintern, 1928 ; Gegen den Strom, theoretischer Zeitschrift der KPD(O), 1930.

xxiii TROTSKY, Leon (1934) “Bonapartism and Fascism”; New International, 1(2): 37-38.

xxiv Ibid.

xxv DIMITROV, Jorge; op. cit.

translated by Justin Podur

The people of Colombia are cracking up the walls of war and authoritarianism

“Sorry if my protest has cause a traffic collapse, but your indifference has caused our country’s collapse.”

The protests that started with the national strike called by Colombia’s central union on November 21 to protest pension reforms and the broken promises of the peace accords have persisted for two months and grown into a protest against the whole establishment. And the protests have continued into the new year and show no signs of stopping.

The end of the decade has seemed to bring an unstoppable march of the right wing in Latin America as elsewhere. The 2016 coup in Brazil that ended with fascist Jair Bolsonaro in power, the 2019 coup in Bolivia, the continuously rolling coup in Venezuela, all showcased the ruthlessness of the U.S. in disposing of left-wing governments in the region. Right-wing victories at the ballot box occurred in Chile in 2017 and in Colombia in 2018, where the electorate rejected the left-wing Gustavo Petro and embraced Iván Duque, a protege of the infamous former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez. But with the new wave of protests, the unstoppable right-wing juggernaut is facing many challenges.

In Chile, three months of protests, still going, are demanding the resignation of President Sebastián Piñera and the reversal of a range of neoliberal policies. Even in the face of the police and army using live fire against protesters, they have not let up.

Ecuador is another peculiar case, in which Lenín Moreno ran as a candidate who would continue left-wing policies, but who promptly reversed course upon reaching power in 2017, including revoking the asylum of Julian Assange, who is now in a UK prison. Reopening drilling in the Amazon, opening a new U.S. airbase in the Galapagos, getting rid of taxes on the wealthy, and doing a new package of International Monetary Fund austerity measures was enough to spark a sustained protest. Moreno’s government was forced to negotiate with the protesters and has withdrawn some of the austerity measures.

In Haiti, protests have gone on for over a year. Sparked in July 2018 by a sharp increase in fuel prices (the same spark as for the Ecuador protests), they have expanded to call for the president’s resignation. In Haiti, as the protests have dragged on, some of the country’s elite families have joined the call for the president’s resignation, which will make it even more difficult to find a constitutional exit from the crisis.

In Colombia, after winning the runoff in 2018, President Duque may have felt that he had a mandate to enact right-wing policies, which in Colombia have usually included new war measures in addition to the usual austerity. But combining pension cuts with betraying the peace process was simply stealing too much from the future: Young people joined the November 21 protests in huge numbers (the lowest estimates are 250,000).

The sustained nature of the protests is striking. Rather than one-offs, the protests have been committed to staying on until change is won. We may hear more this year from post-coup Brazil and Bolivia as well.

At the heart of Colombia’s protest is the issue of war and peace. To say Colombians are war-weary is an understatement. The war there that began (depending on how you date it) in 1948 or 1964 has provided the pretext for an unending assault on people’s rights and dignities by the state. Afro-Colombians were displaced from their lands under cover of the war. Indigenous people were dispossessed. Unions were smeared as guerrilla fronts and their leaders assassinated. Peasants and their lands were fumigated with chemical warfare. Narcotraffickers set themselves up inside the military and intelligence organizations, creating the continent’s most extensive paramilitary apparatus. Politicians signed pacts with these paramilitary death squads. The war gave the establishment an excuse for the most depraved acts, notably the “false positives” in which the military murdered completely innocent people and dressed their corpses up as guerrillas to inflate their kill statistics. Even though the guerrillas, with their kidnapping and too-frequent accidental killings of innocents, were never popular with the majority, Colombians have backed peace processes when given the chance. And Colombians didn’t look kindly at the major betrayals of peace processes in the past, like the one in the 1980s, when ex-guerrillas entering politics were assassinated by the thousand. From 2016, when the new peace accords were affirmed, until mid-2019, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) tallied 138 of their ex-guerrillas murdered; more than 700 other activists were killed in the same period, including more than 100 Indigenous people since Duque came to power in 2018.

At the end of August, a group of FARC members led by their former chief negotiator, Iván Márquez, announced that they were returning to the jungle and to the fight. They argued that the assassination of their members and the refusal of the government to comply with the other aspects of the accords demonstrated that there was no will for peace on the side of the government. Those FARCs who announced they were giving up on the accords were treated as having gone rogue: The government labeled them as criminal groups. Aerial bombardment (a war measure not normally the first recourse in dealing with “criminals”) quickly followed. When a bombing (also in August) by the Colombian air force of one of these rogue groups in Caquetá killed eight children and Duque labeled it “strategic, meticulous, impeccable, and rigorous,” he was greeted with much-deserved public revulsion. Duque was shaping up to deliver the same kind of war as always, only now under the flag of peace, its victims labeled criminals instead of guerrillas.

Eternal war does benefit some: those in the arms and security business especially, and those who want to commit crimes under the cover of war. But despite the many benefits of eternal war for the elite, normalcy also exerts a powerful draw. When Duque’s mentor Álvaro Uribe Vélez was elected president in 2002 and 2006, it was with the promise of normalcy—of peace—through decisive victory over the guerrillas. Instead, he delivered narco-paramilitarism, false positives, and, very nearly, regional wars with Ecuador and Venezuela.

One of Uribe’s early acts was to negotiate a peace agreement with the paramilitaries. Since the paramilitaries were state-backed, organized, and armed, this was a farcical negotiation of the government with itself. But when some of the paramilitary commanders began to speak publicly about their relationships with the state and multinational corporations, they found themselves deported to the U.S. At the time, the scandal was given a name—“para-política.” But to some of the investigators, it was better-termed “para-Uribismo.” Paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso—who had the temerity to talk about the Chiquita banana corporation and who is apparently going to return to Colombia sometime soon—is just the best-known name. Many others have found that being a paramilitary leads to a considerably shortened lifespan. Uribe, mayor of Medellín and governor of Antioquia during the heyday of the cartels, is named in numerous official documents as being close to both the narcotraffickers and the paramilitaries. The evidence keeps coming, as courts, now trying Uribe’s brotherkeep getting closer to the man himself.

After the first round of “Uribismo,” it was time to try a peace process. The betrayal of that process, initiated in 2012, and the new president Duque’s promise of yet another decade of “Uribismo,” has been a motivating force of the recent protests.

Uribismo entangles endless war with austerity and inequality. In a recent Gallup poll, 52 percent of Colombians surveyed said the gap between rich and poor had increased in the past five years; 45 percent struggled to afford food in the previous 12 months; and 43 percent lacked money for shelter. The social forces that typically fight for social progress and equality—unions and left-wing political parties—have traditionally been demonized as proto-guerrillas. With the government declaring the war over—and with great fanfare—people want the freedom to make economic demands without being treated as civil war belligerents.

But when faced with the November 21 protests, the government went straight to the dirty war toolkit, murdering 18-year-old protester Dilan Cruz on November 25, imposing curfew, detaining more than 1,000 people, and creating “montajes,” the time-tested use of agents provocateurs to commit unpopular and illegal acts to provide a pretext for state repression. Government officials have also tried to claim that Venezuela and Russia (of course) were behind the protests.

Part of the dirty war toolkit is to negotiate, and the government has been doing so with the National Strike Committee. No doubt hoping that the protests will exhaust themselves and any agreements can be quietly dropped as numbers dwindle, the government is dangling the possibility of dropping some austerity demands. Meanwhile, the negotiators are being threatened by paramilitary groups, and another mass grave of those murdered as military “false positives” has been unearthed. Uribismo has wormed its way into every structure of the state: Real change will have to be deep. By not giving up easily, the protesters have shown the way. These protests could be a crack in the walls of fascism that seem to have sprung up everywhere in the past decade.

Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer and a writing fellow at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. You can find him on his website at podur.org and on Twitter @justinpodur. He teaches at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies. He is the author of the novel Siegebreakers.

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.