The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army, FARC-EP, guerrilla negotiated a peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016. Many were skeptical but supportive as there was hope it could bring about an eventual democratic revolution as witnessed in Venezuela.
Four years later, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Colombian government has no real long-term interest in allowing revolutionary leftist actors to exercise their political rights. On the contrary, the persecution and killings of leftist social and political leaders has increasingly continued.
For this and other reasons, a section of the demobilized FARC, now known as the Fuerza Alternativa del Común (Revolutionary Alternative Force for the Common People) fled back into the jungles and mountains of Colombia to reinitiate the revolutionary war on behalf of the Colombian masses. Rearmed and once again using the name of the historical guerrilla organization, the leaders of the FARC-EP have published a book that outlines their goals moving forward as well as the reasons why they were pushed back into armed struggle.
The book, written by guerrilla leader Iván Márquez, continues the revolutionary ideological legacy of the original guerrilla movement. However, it also introduces a noticeable progressive development in their approach to race, gender, environment and class.
About ‘The Second Marquetalia’
The book is called “La Segunda Marquetalia: La Lucha Sigue” (“The Second Marquetalia: The Struggle Continues”), a nod to the first communist guerrilla camp created by Indigenous and mestizo campesinos in Colombia in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The title of and content within the book goes back to the roots of the communist struggle in the country. It also explores the past and present roles of women and Indigenous people, while giving special consideration to questions around the environment, all of which have not gotten enough attention in the past.
The book, which switches from first to second-person narration, mentions previously unexplored gender relations within the guerrilla. In one such passage, the author gives a glimpse of these relations through an anecdote of a commander who refuses to send women guerrilleras into battles because he did not want them to get killed by Colombian state forces. Manuel Marulanda, the legendary commander of the FARC-EP, scolded the commander and responded that they are trained guerrilleras who are able to fight without being patronized or treated differently from other troops.
In another passage, we are told that Marulanda once organized a rare festivity for the guerrilla fighters and local peasants to celebrate International Women’s Day. This small gesture to uplift the role of women in society should not be overlooked. As the book goes on to mention, typically, the FARC-EP was against these and other types of mass gatherings as these could end up being targeted for bombings by the enemy.
The text, which also includes letters to the government and other international institutions like the United Nations, is littered with passages where the struggle of women in Colombian society is often highlighted and championed. Although this new publication by the FARC-EP does include the experience and demands of women guerrilla fighters, albeit somewhat patronizing at times, a first-person account is still needed.
Similarly, the role of Indigenous troops is prominent throughout the new publication. This should not come as a surprise or be viewed merely as tokenism, though it can also come across as patronizing at times. What we have to keep in mind is that the organization’s roots lie in the struggle of Indigenous communities in the Cauca and Tolima department in the 1950s.
As we have pointed out before, it was the communist Indigenous leader Isauro Yosa who convinced Marulanda to abandon reformist liberalism for communism. This long-standing thread is present in “La Segunda Marquetalia,” where one can read exciting anecdotes of Indigenous guerrilla troops providing essential skills in the navigation of jungle routes as well as heroism and inspiration in times of crisis. We hear fascinating stories like that of an Indigenous guerrilla fighter, José Amalio, who selflessly returns through a treacherous jungle path to locate a lost comrade, Camila.
The respect and high-esteem that the re-organized guerrilla (some of whom are of Indigenous ancestry) have for Indigenous communities and their traditions are observed most concretely in the section of the book titled, “La Muerte del Paye” (“The Death of Paye”). The section relates an event in which the guerrilla fighters, led by Márquez and Jesus Santrich, journeyed through a historically Indigenous area and, putting aside their atheism and skepticism for religion and spirituality, performed an ancient ritual as a mark of respect to the local community. Márquez recalled that the ritual has been a common practice for guerrilla troops in the past, with some even being ordered to walk back to perform it if they neglected to do so.
Hope for a New Colombia?
“La Segunda Marquetalia” is one of the most important communist texts to be published by Latin American revolutionaries in recent years. Its criticism of the peace agreement with the Colombian state and of the guerrilla leaders who have decided to continue down this dangerous path is an exploration of the inherent limits of the social-democratic process. They effectively show that in places like Colombia, a thorough Marxist-Leninist approach is needed to displace the embedded elites who have no interest in giving up their power in a peaceful or passive manner.
The importance of “La Segunda Marquetalia” is that it gives us a detailed examination of the political, economic and social landscape of Colombia. It explores the present deficiencies in providing good governance for the masses and denounces the way capitalism is destroying the environment in the South American country and the world. Simultaneously, with his theoretical and practical anecdotes, Márquez gives us hope for the Nueva Colombia that revolutionaries have envisioned for decades.
Two of ANTICONQUISTA’s co-editors have started an initiative to help provide material support to communists in Colombia in order to achieve this goal. Both are Colombian and are active in serving their community. Please contact us if you want to get involved.
Read “La Segunda Marquetalia” by Iván Márquez for free here.