Colombia Popular - Servicio Informativo del Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional

What Is The ELN Fighting For?

There is much disinformation about the aims of the Colombian guerrilla, everything from drug trafficking to Stalinism. The following are only a couple of fundamental positions of the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) which might surprise you.

Power Will Not Be Conquered, It Will Be Built Up!
Since their national assembly in 1983, the ELN has been defending the conviction that power from below cannot simply be militarily conquered but has to be built up for a long period of time. In this sense the revolution is a lengthy process, creating new forms of power. We fight for self-government, replacing the authoritarian, repressive, and pseudo-democratic system existing in Latin America nowadays.

The democracy we are striving for has to be founded on the 'Juntas de Accion Comunal' formed by peasants and neighborhoods, on the assemblies in the neighborhoods and factories, on trade union groups, and on attempts at a solidarity economy shown in cooperatives and soup kitchens. And also on the popular militias that protect the new forms of power.

For us, the power of the people is that and much more. It is a new, participatory, and rebellious culture coming from the bottom, rejecting commercialism and alienation. It is the emergence of new social relationships between human beings, relationships which are built on solidarity and equality between everyone: between men and women, commanders and normal fighters, guerrillas and the people. To establish the power of the people you have to travel a long way that consists of battles, creativity, and countless little changes.

For Justice, Solidarity, And Socialism
For us, justice is something entirely different from what existed in the Eastern Bloc. There, bureaucracy stood for a politics of suppression, paternalism, and control of the people. Our notion of socialism is different: it has to imply self-determination of the people, respect for minorities, humanitarianism, and grassroots democracy. Unlike capitalism, the socialist society stands for the subordination of the economy to the needs of the people and not to profits. Socialism means housing, health, and education for all, social justice, solidarity, and the utilization of a country's wealth in favor of the people (not the elites), and an end to the exploitation of the workers.

The Drug Dealers Are The New Rising Bourgeoisie - No To Drug Trafficking!
For a long time, the Colombian government (yes, the same one that received millions of dollars from the Cali Cartel for its election campaign) has been trying to associate the ELN with drug trafficking. The contrary is true: The ELN fundamentally rejects drug trafficking and cultivation for moral reasons and on principle.

Coca destroys the health of the addicted, adds violence to the culture of the exporting countries, and affects the health of the population in the cultivating regions. Part of that is because of the illegalization of drugs. The mafia, for instance, could never have developed had the export of drugs been legal. There would also not have been the dreadful social decline you can witness in Colombia today. In the drug consuming countries, the illegalization of drugs leads to prosecution of addicts and also supports crime. Therefore we don't believe that the illegalization of addicts and peasants can be a solution to the problem.

At the same time we know that cocaine itself presents a problem. It contains numerous ingredients that are harmful to the producer as well as to the consumer. We therefore reject the cultivation and selling of coca on principle. We are not in favor of repressive measures against peasants, rather what we are working on is that the cultivation disappears in our spheres of influence.

We follow a policy of substitution (food instead of coca), supporting peasants with credits within the bounds of our possibility, and we do not have any, not even indirectly, connections with drug trafficking. In this sense we made a proposal to the governments of the European Union in 1995 suggesting that we would completely stop the cultivation of coca in our zones if the European Union committed itself to supporting the peasants. Without aid programs improving the infrastructure of remote regions, most of the poor peasants cannot switch to other agricultural products.

Armed Struggle Is Legitimate
With or without the guerrilla, violence reigns in the world everyday: hunger, misery, suppression, rape, crime, and so on. The armed struggle in Colombia is the consequence of and not the cause for this reality. It is the attempt of the poor to free ourselves from the repression we suffer everyday. Therefore the ELN will not abandon their arms unless the reasons for our fight have disappeared.

Nevertheless we are ready for negotiations and specific agreements with the government if these will improve the living conditions for the lower classes. We are fighting because we long for a society without violence. Armed struggle for us is not a goal in itself, unlike a common allegation claims. Every day it demands incredible sacrifices from us. It is rather a sad necessity that will disappear the day capitalist injustice ends.

The ELN Is Not Militaristic
Another allegation is that the ELN is a militaristic organization dreaming of an armed coup d'etat. This is wrong: We know very well that only broad movements can change society. It is not enough to militarily defeat the state and take over the presidential palace. Nevertheless, we are preparing for an intensification of the war. What sounds absurd has an explanation. The dirty war in Colombia has been intensifying immensely in the past months. The army and the paramilitary are still killing the leaders of mass movements, slaughtering peasants, kidnapping relatives of the guerrillas, and expanding the areas under direct control of the right-wing paramilitary groups. There are increasingly fewer regions where the paramilitary does not spread terror. Furthermore, the government's repression is intensifying: unionists are arrested and the activities of the mass movements, for instance the latest strikes, are simply declared illegal. There is less and less political room left for the Colombian opposition. In this sense, the clandestine struggle is the only way left to change society.

A Revolution For All By All!
We know that the guerrilla cannot be the only force of change. Social processes need many protagonists and many avant-gardes. In this sense we are talking about a collective avant-garde. Among it we count the guerrilla organizations of the CGSB (Simon Bolivar Guerrilla Coordination), the political left, and the radical social movements that will hopefully emerge. We furthermore are fighting for a revolution which will defend the rights of the marginalized or doubly exploited: women, indigenas, and black people.

The Basis Of Our Thinking
In many respects the ELN is built on Marxist and Leninist principles, but beyond that we have other roots. We have learned a lot from revolutionary Christians such as Camilo Torres Restrepo, from Che, and from other Latin Americans, like for instance the Peruvian Marriategui.

The ELN is fighting for national liberation but is still an internationalist organization. The ELN got its name (National Liberation Army) from the Guevarist guerrillas of the sixties. We are fighting against North American imperialism on our continent and we believe we still have not reached true independence. We are nevertheless not Colombian nationalists. We are Latin Americans who are striving for the liberation of our whole continent. We have good relations with other revolutionary organizations in our "great American home" and consider ourselves as fighters for worldwide change.

(Source: Colombia Popular -

From: Arm The Spirit
22 Oct 1997

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