Jul 262013
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Lessons from El Salvador for the Columbian FARC

In Memory of Manuel Marulanda, Farabundo Marti and Augusto Sandino

Introduction

It is commonly assumed that “peace agreements” between pro-US rightwing regimes and leftwing insurgents lead to peace, justice and greater security.  A number of peace agreements which were signed and implemented in the 1990’s in Central America, South Africa, Philippines and elsewhere provide us with ample data over two decades to confirm or reject this commonplace assumption.

We will examine the case of El Salvador where a powerful guerilla movement (FMLN) signed off on a peace accord in 1992.

Method of Evaluating the Peace Accord

In approaching the analysis of the Peace Accord it is important to begin by focusing on the evolution of the FMLN – the ideological, organizational and political changes that led to the negotiations, the eventual pact with the rightwing regime and the socio-economic and political results.  The second part of the essay compares and contrasts the socio-economic and political results and policies which followed from the pact and how they affected the mass of the people.  This allows us to see who benefited and who lost; what socio-economic class and political structures emerged; what foreign policies were followed.

The third section of the paper will focus on drawing lessons which can be learned from the El Salvador experience which are applicable to the current Colombian peace negotiations between the FARC and the Santos regime.

The FMLN:  From Socialist Revolution to Capitalist Electoralism

In 1980 four major guerilla groups joined forces to form the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).  The leading component, the FPL, envisioned a prolonged struggle, uniting the guerilla and mass movements in a common anti-imperialist and social revolutionary struggle.  The lesser allies, led by the Communist Party envisioned a two stage “democratic to social revolution”.

In a little over two years, the three minority components, the ERP, the Communist Party, the RN shifted FMLN policies, eliminating the struggle for socialism based on workers and peasants in favor of a ‘democratic revolution’, which included the “progressive modern bourgeois”.  As the struggle continued, the internal alignments of the FMLN favored a further turn to the ‘center’.. FMLN leaders emphasized political incorporation into the electoral system, legalization of the FMLN, the opening of negotiations without any prior agreements and a willingness to work within the capitalist-electoral framework.  When negotiations began the FMLN dropped its demand for dismantling of the military, the expropriation of the leading financial, banking, commercial and mining interests and accepted a “truth commission” which would “examine” war crimes – the mass murder of over 75,000 civilians.

By 1992 when the peace agreement was signed, the ex-guerillas, the El Salvadorian regime and the US government hailed it as a “great historical turning point opening the country and people to a new era of peace and prosperity”.  Most leftist academics and journalists joined the chorus hailing the “pragmatism” and “flexibility” of the leaders of the FMLN.  European social democrats, especially the Spanish Socialist regime offered training courses to the ex-guerillas, on the ways and means of acting in government and municipal affairs.

Evaluating the Politics of the FMLN in Opposition and Government

Once the FMLN leaders turned from armed struggle and mass mobilization to electoral politics, they directly benefited:  many were elected to public office and secured middle class living standards.  As Congress people, political advisers, staff assistants and mayors, the FMLN elite received substantial salaries, bought homes in middle class neighborhoods, new automobiles and obtained security guards for protection.

Most FMLN politicos retained a social democratic ideology and mouthed radical rhetoric.  Some, like the former head of the ERP, Joaquin Villalobos allied with the rightwing, denounced the popular movements , received a scholarship to Oxford and became a consultant for murderous death squad regimes in Colombia, Philippines, North Ireland and elsewhere.

The urban and rural mass movements were virtually abandoned by the FMLN turned electoral party.  During the mass uprising between 1980 – 1990, the peasants secured a land reform, public employees’ salaries increased, and popular organizations proliferated as the government and US attempted to undercut the mass base of the insurgency.  Once the FMLN leaders entered the parliament and prioritized electoral politics, the pressure on the ruling classes was relieved, mass struggle declined and land reform ended.  The trade unions received scant support from the FMLN politicos.  The FMLN led by Shafik Handel pursued an alliance with the “modern bourgeoisie” to “isolate” the “traditional” landowning oligarchy”, to stabilize democracy and ensure their position in Congress as a “loyal opposition”.  In 2009 the FMLN won the presidency running a neo-liberal Christian Democrat Mauricio Funes and gained a plurality in Congress.

Salvadorian Society After the Peace Pact

The FMLN signed the so-called peace pact without any democratic dialogue with their members, without consulting the mass social movements; they discarded the major structural reforms which thousands of militants fought for and died.  Instead they ‘consulted’ their own interests in a parliamentary career.  They dictated their settlement to their middle level cadres, expelled critics and directed the masses to acquiesce offering them more phony and broken promises “to continue the struggle”.  They reneged on promises for jobs, income and land redistribution; the ‘reform’ of the military and judicial processes against officials involved in massive human rights violations never took place.

From 1992 to 2013, El Salvador continues as the country with the second worst inequalities in Latin America.  Unemployment especially for young people continues to exceed over 50%.  Over 60% of the “working population” does not have formal employment.  They work without pensions, health plans, vacations or social security, mostly in low paid “services”, i.e. street vendors, domestic servants etc.  Over 2.5 million Salvadorians were forced to migrate to other countries for lack of opportunities.  They young guerilla fighters were abandoned by their guerilla leaders.  Some were offered land, but without training, credit, extension services, they turned to urban and rural drug gangs.  Over 25,000 mostly young people are members of drug gangs.  El Salvador has the second highest rate of violent homicide in the Americas.  In fact more Salvadorians have been murdered in the aftermath of the “Peace Pact” (1992-2012) then were killed during the civil war (1980-91).From March 2012 when the two principle gangs signed a truce the killings have sharply declined.

The Peace Agreement set up a “Truth Commission” to uncover and prosecute war crimes and human rights violations.  Instead the Generals and military elite were granted an amnesty.  The Commission lacked financial and political support and no war criminals, even those identified with the most egregious crimes were ever tried let alone sent to jail.

The main beneficiaries of the Peace Pact were the ‘modern bourgeois’ – the banking, commercial, agro-business, maquiladora elite – who reaped high profits, paid little taxes, received state subsidies and exploited cheap labor in the maquiladoras.  Private security companies prospered as the new rich ruling class – including the “new rich”, FMLN elite-hired an army of private guards armed with automatic rifles and sub-machine guns, to protect their homes, businesses, private clubs and resorts.

El Salvador is a neo-liberal paradise’ before and after the Presidential victory of the FMLN;  free trade agreements, low wages, no-union, low paid maquiladora workers, in the free trade zones are the centerpiece of FMLN economic policy.

The so-called “Democratic Revolution” has been emptied of any socio-economic content. The social distance between the leaders of the FMLN and their business contractor allies on the one hand and the masses is abysmal.  The FMLN leaders live in modern apartments and houses, protected by three meter walls covered with broken glass and barbed wire, with paved streets and flowered gardens.  The majority of poor Salvadorians live in crowded hovels, on unpaved streets, controlled by armed drug gangs and corrupt police officials.

The FMLN regime has supported the US and EU free market agreement in Central America and US military bases.  Their “free trade policies” undermine small and medium producers .Ther military ties to the Pentagon strengthen the US military position against Venezuela and Ecuador.

Political Consequences of Peace Pact

During the civil war, the class struggle raised class consciousness, enhanced independent class organization and forced the ruling class and its US ‘mentors’ to make concessions including a land reform for peasants and wage increases for labor.  In the aftermath of the peace pact, the mass organizations have diminished in size and militancy; leaders have been co-opted by the FMLN elite.  Centralized political control over social movements ensures conformity to neo-liberal policies.  FMLN attempts to legitimize its embrace of the current socio-economic order by citing its “glorious and heroic guerrilla past”.  Corrupt FMLN politicos evoke their past role as “guerilla commanders” to cover up their current corrupt links to the economic elite. Whenever, a trade union goes on strike for higher wages or better working conditions, such as the health, educational or municipal workers, the FMLN leaders accuse them of “politics” or “aiding” the bourgeois opposition.      The FMLN has become a bureaucratic political machine driven by elite factions fighting for positions of power and privilege within the neoliberal state bureaucracy.

In the face of the abject failure of the FMLN and its government to attend to the most elementary needs of the urban poor and peasants, several hundred NGOs, funded by US AID and EU regimes, and set up by middle class professionals have established local self-help projects, that enrich the NGO leaders, undermine local social movements and fail to reduce poverty.

Given the lack of peace, security, and social justice and the decline of social movements, is it any wonder that tens of thousands of Salvadorian flee their country every year? There are over 2.5 million Salvadoreans living abroad, over 90%in the USA.

Conclusion:  Why the Peace Pact Failed

From any objective analysis, it is clear that the peace pact signed by the FMLN has failed to meet the most minimum socio-economic and political demands of its mass supporters.  Despite great sacrifices and untold examples of personal heroism, the great mass of Salvadorians were defrauded of any positive outcome.  The powerful movements were dismantled by decree of the guerilla commanders. The top leaders who dictated policy either because collaborators with the US military (Villalobos) or allies of the so-called “progressive” bourgeoisie.

Various lessons can be drawn.

(1)    A militant military past is no guarantee of progressive socio-economic commitments after a negotiated settlement.

(2)   A peace agreement dictated by an elite is likely to sacrifice mass socio-economic interests in order to secure political respectability.

(3)   Foreign ‘radical’ allies, like Cuba, have their own political interests in securing regional stability and peace, which may not coincide with the socio-economic needs of a revolutionary mass movement.

(4)   Peace agreements must include the direct influence of the representatives of mass popular movements and incorporate their demands.

(5)   Peace agreements which disarm the insurgents and maintain the military, which sustain the economic ruling class and its control over all the strategic sectors of the economy, results in the continuation of neo-liberal policies, US military bases and the incorporation of former guerilla leaders into a corrupt, reactionary political system.

(6)   A peace pact that does not lead to massive public investments in jobs, public works, agrarian reform and other productive activity will result in unemployed armed young people turning to violent crime and drug trafficking.

(7)   Ex-guerilla leaders who promote their electoral careers and work within the system, adopt neo-liberal policies— as numerous examples demonstrate. In Colombia for example Antonio Navarro Wolff formerly of the M-19 became an ally of then President Alvaro Uribe’s death squad regime when he was governor of Nariño.  Teodoro Petkoff, the Venezuelan ex-guerilla, became the architect of the IMF austerity program of President Caldera.  Joaquin Villalobos the former Salvadorian guerilla leader of the ERP became an adviser to the CIA and any murderous regime which paid his lucrative consultation fees.

The people’s movements must establish their socio-economic priorities and presence in any “peace process”.  Incorporation of the guerillas into the electoral system should have the lowest priority.

The vast majority of the workers, peasants and students want peace that is accompanied by structural changes in the socio-economic system. This includes expropriation of fertile, irrigated land; the end of trade union repression and new labor laws protecting large scale unionization; doubling the minimum wage and the formation of workers’  committees to oversee management.

Large scale public program to create employment require new progressive taxes on the rich to provide financing of infrastructures and productive enterprises.  Environmental agencies composed of ecologists, Indian and peasant leaders need to be empowered to regulate mining operations and to enforce an equitable distribution of tax receipts and royalty payments.

Above all a peace agreement requires the democratization of the state:  the dismantling of Special Forces, counter-insurgency programs, advisory missions and foreign military bases.  The abject failure of the FMLN to change Salvadorian society and improve the socio-economic position of the masses was directly linked to their insertion in the capitalist state and subordination to the neo-liberal economy.

The “stage theory” of FMLN guru Shafik Handel argued that “capitalist modernization and democracy” in alliance with the modern bourgeoisie was the ‘immediate goal’ and socialism was for the “distant future”.  This “stage theory” overlooked the fact that the “modern bourgeoisie” was structurally tied to the traditional landowning, banking and imperial elites and was not in any way committed to any so-called “democratic revolution”.  The FMLN, discarded socialism, never achieved a “democratic revolution” and ended up presiding over a crime infested, impoverished country in which the political elite joined the same country clubs as their former class enemies.

It behooves the FARC to carefully study the negative lessons of the past, the disastrous peace agreements of Central America, the MR-19 surrender to the narco-state, in order to pursue a peace agreement that consults and benefits the majority and not simply secures  seats in Congress.

Jul 012013
 

By Nilton Viana, CADTM

João Pedro Stédile Interviewed by Brasil de Fato

arton9257-a407bBrasil de Fato — It is time for the government to ally itself with the people or pay the price in the future. This is one of the evaluations of João Pedro Stedile, national coordinator of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) on the recent mobilisations across the country.

According to Stédile, there is an urban crisis installed in Brazilian cities, provoked by the current stage of financial capitalism. “For people, large cities have becoming a living hell where they lose three or four hours a day in transit, which they could instead be using to spend with their family, studying or participating in cultural activities”, he says. For the MST leader, reducing public transport fare prices was of great interest to all the people and this was what the Free Fare Movement got right by calling for mobilisation on behalf of the interests of the people.

In this exclusive interview with Brasil de Fato, Stédile talks about the character of these mobilisations, and puts a call out: we must be conscious of the nature of these protests and go all out onto the street to fight for hearts and minds and politicise this youth who have no experience of class struggle. “The youth are tired of this way of doing bourgeois and money-driven politics”, he notes. And he issues a warning: the worst thing is that the parties of the institutional left, all of them, have adapted to these methods. Old and bureaucratised. Popular forces and leftist parties need to put all their energies to going out onto the street, because in every city, in every protest, there is now an ongoing ideological dispute between different class interests. “We need to explain to the people who are the main enemies of the people.”

Brasil de Fato: What is your analysis of the protests that have shaken Brazil in the last few weeks? What are the economic roots of these events?

Joao Pedro Stédile: There have been many opinions as to why these protests occurred. I agree with the analysis of Professor Erminia Maricato, who is one of our best specialists in urban issues and has worked in the Ministry of Cities under Olivio Dutra. She defends the thesis that there is an urban crisis in Brazil’s cities, a result of the current stage of financial capitalism. Due to an enormous amount of housing speculation, rent and land prices have increased 150% in the last three years. Without any government control, financial capital has promoted the sales of cars in order to send profits overseas and transformed our traffic into chaos. And in the last 10 years there has been no investment in public transport. The housing program “My home, my life” has driven the poor out to the periphery of the cities, where there is no infrastructure.

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All this has generated a structural crisis where for people, large cities have becoming a living hell where they lose three or four hours a day in transit, which they could instead be using to spend with their family, studying or participating in cultural activities. Added to this is the poor quality of public services, especially health and education, from the primary and secondary level, where children leave without being able to write. And university education has become a business, where of 70% of university students’ diplomas are sold on credit.

And from the political point of view, why did this occur?

Fifteen years of neoliberalism plus the last 10 years of a government of class conciliation has transformed politics into a hostage of capital’s interests. Parties became old in their way of functioning and have been transformed into mere acronyms that mainly bring together opportunists interested in winning public posts or fighting over public resources for their own interests.

All the young people who were born after the right-wing parties were no longer in government have not had the opportunity to participate in politics. Today, to compete for any public post, for example, to become a local councillor, a person needs to have more than 1 million reales; to become a deputy costs around 10 million. The capitalist pay and the politicians obey. The youth are tired of this way of doing bourgeois and money-driven politics.

The worst thing is that the parties of the institutional left, all of them, adapted themselves to these methods. Which is what has generated repulsion towards the way parties behave among the youth. Young people are not apolitical; on the contrary, they are so much so that they took politics to the streets, even if they were not conscious of what this signified. But what they were saying is that they no longer tolerate seeing these political practices on television, seeing peoples’ votes taken hostage by lies and manipulation.

And why did the protests only explode now?

It was probably more a product of diverse factors regarding the psychology of the masses, than the result of some pre-planned political decision. We have the climate created by everything I have talked about, as well as the denunciations of corruption in relation of the stadiums being built, which was a provocation for the people. For example: Red Globo received 20 million reales of public money from the state government of Rio and the mayor’s office to organise a show of barely two hours around the match draw for the Confederations Cup. The stadium in Brasilia cost 1400 million and there are no buses in the city!

It is an explicit dictatorship that FIFA has imposed and all the government have subordinated themselves to.

The reinauguration of the Maracaná was a slap in the face of the Brazilian people. The photos were clear, in the most important temple of world football, there was not a single black or mestizo person!

And the increase in bus fares was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the spark that set alight the generalised sentiment of revolt, of indignation. Finally, the youth have stood up.

Why has the working class still not come out onto the streets?

It’s true; the working class has still not come out onto the streets. Those who have come out onto the streets are the children of the middle class, of the lower middle class and some youth of what Andre Singer calls the sub-proletariat, who study and work in the service sector, who have improved their purchasing power, but who want to be heard.

Reducing the fare was of great interest to all the people, and therein lies the success of the “free fare” movement, which knew how to call protests that were held in the name of the interests of the people. And the people supported the protests, as was expressed in their level of popularity among the youth, above all when they were repressed.

The working class takes it time to mobilise, but once it moves, it directly affects capital. Something that has not happened yet. I believe that the organisations that act as mediators for the working class have still not comprehended the moment we are in and are a bit timid. But I believe that the class, as a class, is also willing to fight. Look at the number of strikes for wage increases which have returned to 1980s level. I think it’s just a question of time, and if the right demands are raised that can motivate the class to mobilise.

In the last few days, we have sensed that in some of the smaller cities and in the periphery of the larger cities, mobilisations with very localised demands have begun to emerge. And that is very important.

And the MST and campesinos also have not mobilised yet …

That’s true. In the capitals where we have settlements and farming families live close by, we are participating. Moreover, I witnessed the warm reception we received when we arrived with our red flag and our demand for land reform and cheap and health food for all. I believe that in the next weeks we could see even bigger numbers joining in, including through staging campesino protests in the streets and municipalities of the interior. Among our activists all of them are going crazy wanting to enter into the fight and mobilise. I hope they are able to move quickly …

What is your opinion as to the origins of the violence that has occurred in some of these demonstrations?

First, we should put this in context. The bourgeoisie, via its television stations, has used the tactic of scaring people by only broadcasting propaganda that shows troublemakers and rioters. They are a minority and insignificant in front of the thousands of people that are mobilising. The right wing has a vested interest in convincing people that all this simply amounts to chaos, and in the end, if there is chaos, put the blame on the government and demand the presence of the armed forces. I hope that the government does not commit the brutish crime of calling on the national guard and the armed forces to repress the protesters. That is exactly what the right is dreaming about!

The scenes of violence are being provoked by the way in which the military police are intervening. There are organised rightist groups that are focused on creating provocations and looting. In Sao Paulo, fascist groups are active in the protests. In Rio de Janeiro, the organised militias that protect conservative politicians are also involved. It is also evident that there is a layer of lumpens that turn up to any popular mobilisation, whether in the stadiums, carnivals, even church parties, and try to make the most of it for themselves.

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So we are faced with a class struggle in the streets or are we simply dealing with a youth that it demonstrating its indignation?

It is evident that there is a class struggle going on in the streets, even if for now it is at the level of an ideological dispute. What is worse is that the mobilised youth themselves, due to their class origins, are not conscious of the fact that they are participating in an ideological struggle.

Look, they are doing politics in the best way possible, in the streets. And they are writing on their placards: we are against parties and politics? That is why the messages on their placards have been so widely disseminated. In every city, in every protest, there is a permanent ideological dispute of struggle between class interests. There is a struggle to see if whether the ideas of the left or right will win over the youth. The ideas of the capitalists or the working class.

What are the objectives of the right and their proposals?

The ruling class, the capitalists and their ideological spokespeople whot appear on television every day have one big objective: wear down as much as possible the support for the Dilma [Rousseff] government, weaken the organisational forms of the working class, weaken the proposals for structural changes to Brazilian society and win the 2014 elections in order to reimpose their total hegemony over the command of the Brazilian state which is currently in dispute.

To achieve these objectives they are still testing, alternating their tactics. Sometimes they provoke violence in order to distract from the objectives of the youth. Sometimes they put messages on the placards of the youth. For example, in the demonstrations on June 22, even if small, in Sao Paulo it was totally manipulated by rightist sectors who put forward a sole focus on the struggle against PEC 37 [a proposal to amend the constitution and remove the power of the public ministry to investigate crimes], with the same placards … the exact same placards. No doubt the majority of the youth did not know what this was about. And it is a secondary issue with the working class, but the right wing is trying to raise the banner of morality, just like the National Democratic Union did in times gone by.

I have seen in the social media networks controlled by the right, that its banners are, as well as PEC 37: Expel Renan from the Senate, CPI [Commission of Parliamentary Inquiry] or transparency in spending on the World Cup; declare corruption to be a grave crime and put an end to the special protections for politicians. The fascist groups are already saying Dilma Out! and raising a number of accusations. Happily, these issues have nothing to do with the living conditions of the masses, even if the corporate media can manipulate them. And objectively, that are a shooting themselves in the foot. In the end, it is the Brazilian bourgeoisie, its business owners and politicians who are the most corrupt and corrupting. Who has appropriated the exaggerated spending on the World Cup? Red Globo and the contractor companies!

What are the challenges facing the working class, popular organisations and left parties?

There are many challenges. First, we must be conscious of the nature of these demonstrations and all go out onto the streets to fight for hearts and minds and politicise this youth that has no experience in the class struggle. Second, the working class needs to mobilise. Come out onto the streets, protest in the factories, farms and construction sites, as Geraldo Vandré would say. Raise their demands in order to resolve concrete problems of the class, from the political and economic viewpoint.

We need to take the initiative and guide public debate towards demanding the approval of laws to reduce the working week to 40 hours; demand that the priorities for public investment be health, education, land reform. But to do this the government must reduce interest rates and reallocate the resources from the primary surplus, those 200,000 million that each year go to only 20,000 rich people, rentiers and creditors of an internal debt that we never contracted, and reallocate them for productive and social investment.

It must approve an emergency decree so that for the next election a progressive political reform has been put in place, one that as a minimum institutes exclusive public funding for campaigns, the right to recall elected officials and the ability for the people to convoke popular referendums.

We need tax reform so that once again ICMS [a state sales tax] is paid on primary exports and the wealth of the rich is penalised while taxes are reduced for poor, who currently are the ones who pay more.

We need the government to suspend the auctioning off our oil and all private concessions for minerals and other public areas. There is no point investing all the royalties from oil in education if those royalties only represent 8% of the oil rent, and the remaining 92% goes to the transnational companies that will get control over the oil in these auctions!

A structural urban reform that once again prioritises quality and free public transport. It has already been proven that it will not be expensive or difficult to introduce free transport for the people in the capitals. And control housing speculation.

And finally, we need to make use of and approve a project for a national conference on media and communication, one that is broadly representative, to discuss democratising the media. To put an end to Globo’s monopoly, and ensure that the people and its popular organisations can have wide access to means for communication, to create their own media with public resources. I have heard from a diversity of youth movements that are organising the marches that perhaps this could be the one issue that unites them all: down with Globo’s monopoly!

But for these issues to reverberate more broadly in society and put pressure on the government and the politicians, we nee to mobilise the working class, this is the only way.

The social movements sent a letter asking to meet with President Dilma and she accepted and responded on television, what issues are you going to take to her?

I have faith that the meeting will happen soon. And there all of the social movements will send their young representatives that where in the streets, and will bring along a platform like the one I outlined. I hope that she has the sensibility to listen to the youth.

What should the government do now?

I hope that the government has the sensibility and intelligence to make use of this support, this clamour that is coming from the streets, which is simply a synthesis of a consciousness that exists more broadly in society that it is time to change. And change to benefit the people. For this, the government needs to confront the dominant class, in all aspects. Confront the rentier bourgeoisie, reallocating interest payments to investment in areas that resolve the problems of the people. Promote as soon as possible political and tax reforms. Sent in motion the approval of a law to democratise the media. Create mechanisms for massive investment in public transport, with the aim of making it free. Speed up land reform and a healthy food production plan for the internal market.

Guarantee the shift application of 10% of GDP towards public resources for education at all levels, from childcare centres in the big cities, quality primary education all the way to the universalisation of access to public university for young people.

Without this, people will feel deceived, and the government will have handed over the initiative over demands to the right, which will lead to new protests aimed at wearing down support for the government up until the 2014 elections. It is time for the government to align itself with the people, or pay the price in the future.

And what perspectives could these mobilisations bring for the country in the next few months?

Everything is still unknown. Because the youth and the masses are in dispute. That is why popular forces and leftist parties have to put all their energies towards coming out onto the streets. Protest, push to raise as banners of struggle demands that are in the interests of the people. Because the right will do the same, raising its conservative, backward demands of criminalisation and stigmatisation of the ideas of social change.

We are in the midst of an ideological battle, one which no one knows what the result will be. In each city, each protest, we need to fight for hearts and minds. And those that remain on the sideline, will be sidelined in history.

Translated for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Federico Fuentes