Protests in Colombia

14 May, 2021

Protests in Colombia
Protests in Colombia

After 12 days and having already suffered 47 deaths, 39 of which as a result of repression, protests in Colombia are entering a new phase.

Table of Contents

A tax reform on the shoulders of the petty bourgeoisie

The protests in Colombia had as first axis Carrasquilla and Duque's tax reform
The protests in Colombia had as first axis Carrasquilla and Duque’s tax reform

On April 5, the Minister of Economy, Carrasquilla, presented his draft of the Sustainable Solidarity Law,

The tax reform at the heart of the Sustainable Solidarity Law featured an income tax for individual incomes above $667 (2.85 times the minimum wage), a wealth tax between 1 and 4% for estates above 110,000 euros and a VAT increase on basic products… which also included consumer durables such as computers and cell phones, while at the same time introducing an increase in the minimum basic income intended for the 17% of unemployed already produced by the economic crisis.

From the very first moment, the assessment of opinion leaders, analysts and universities coincided in the following fundamental points:

While the reform could improve conditions for the poorest population, it will generate significant impacts on the middle strata of society.

That is, the restructuring of the public accounts fell squarely on the petty bourgeoisie, a class particularly hard hit after a year of pandemic in which half a million of their businesses had gone bankrupt.

National strike and withdrawal of the project

National flags became hegemonic on day one in the protests in Colombia
National flags became hegemonic on day one in the protests in Colombia

Before the arrival of the pandemic, in November 2019, Colombian unions called for a national strike with a massive following. Those mobilizations responded to a general development of combativeness among workers… but they were also designed so that they would be unable to go any further or develop a program independent of the conflicting agendas of the various sectors of the Colombian ruling class.

When Carrasquilla’s project was presented, unions saw the opportunity to resume their mobilizations. Now in an even more openly national and popular logic, that is, giving prominence to the demands of the petty bourgeoisie. The demonstrations immediately reflected this in the profusion of national flags, patriotic slogans, student banners…. The response is as massive as it is distant from any class demands. It is in fact, a great mobilization of civic-minded citizens.

After three days of mobilizations Duque withdrew the bill and promised that he would only take a consensus proposal to the Senate. The next day Minister Carrasquilla resigned. The triumph over the executive is celebrated with a big pot-banging protest in Bogotá and Cali, the favorite form of expression of the petty bourgeoisie in Spanish-speaking countries.

Protests and repression

The repression of protests in Colombia left 39 killed by the police
The repression of protests in Colombia left 39 killed by the police

But the protests continued. There are now 47 dead. The mobilization has experienced points, as it happened in Chile, in which the anxieties and needs of the workers seemed to assert themselves. And as in Chile, by failing to develop a minimum of class organization -workplace assemblies, neighborhood assemblies, etc.- the terrain remains that of the petty bourgeoisie: transversality and patriotism, that is, that of the subordination of the most basic human needs to a system that can no longer satisfy them.

On that ground, the mobilization however massive it may be, however courageously and heroically it faces a murderous and classist repression, can only end in legitimization at the ballot box of the same old situation with some discursive flourishes and the best unfulfillable wishes for a more egalitarian economy or a non-repressive police… Patriotic contradictions in terms where what remains is always the substantial part: the economy, that is, the accumulation of capital… and the police firing bare bullets.

It is no accident at all for us to be able to close this article with the same paragraph with which we closed yesterday’s article on the war in Gaza.

Anywhere in the world, following the nation means submitting ourselves to the interests of national capital, and following the people means submission to the political command the petty bourgeoisie would like to provide the nation with. The needs of national capital are the same everywhere: to exploit us more in order to revive its collapsing profits. What the petty bourgeoisie needs is a bigger piece of the profit pie obtained at our expense. For the workers to dissolve in the nation or in the people is to take, in one way or another, the road to the slaughterhouse.