This is an August 2007 copy of a website maintained by the Center for International Policy. It is posted here for historical purposes. The Center for International Policy no longer maintains this resource.

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Last Updated:6/22/01
ELN Statement of Revolutionary Goals

What is the ELN fighting for?

There is much desinformation about the aims of the colombian guerilla. No absurd reproach - from drug trafficking to stalinism - that couldn't be found. Here only a couple of fundamental positions of the Ejército de Liberación Nacional that might surprise you. The power will not be conquered, it will be built up! Power of the people 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 authoritarean, repressive and pseudo-democratic system existing in Latin America nowadays. The democracy we are striving for has to be funded on the Juntas de Acción Comunal formed by peasants and neighborhoods, on the assemblies in the neighborhoods and factories, on union groups of the basis and on attempts of a solidary economy shown in cooperatives and soup kitchens. And on the 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 rebellios culture coming from the bottom, rejecting commercialism and breaking up schemes. It is the emergence of new social relationships between humans. Relationships which are built on solidarity and equality between everyone: between men and women, commanders and normal fighters, guerilleros and the people. To establish the power of the people you have to go 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 politic of suppression, paternalism and control of the people. Our notion of socialism is different: it has to imply selfdetermination of the people, respect for minorities, humanism and grassroots democracy.Other than 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, exploitation of a countrie's wealth in favor of the people (not the elites) and an end to the exploitation of those working.

The drug dealer 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 watch in Colombia today. In the drug consuming countries, illegalization of drugs leads to prosecution of addicts and also supports crime. Therefore we don't believe that 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 but 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), support peasants with credits within the bounds of our possibility and do not keep 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 not switch to other agricultural produce.

Armed struggle is legitimate

With or without guerilla, violence reigns in this 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 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 no 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 says the ELN is militaristic organisation dreaming of an armed coup d'état. 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 leaders of mass movements, slaughtering peasants, kidnapping relatives of the guerilleros and expanding the areas under direct control of the paramilitary. There are always less regions where the paramilitary does not spread terror. Furthermore the governmental repression is aggravating: unionists are arrested and activities of the mass movements like for instance the latest strikes are simply declared illegal.There is always 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 guerilla 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 guerilla organisations of the CGSB, the political left and radical social movements that will hopefully emerge. We furthermore are fighting for a revolution which will defend the rights of the marginalised or double exploited: women, indígenas 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 alot from revolutionary christians such as Camilo Torres Restrepo, from Che and from other Latin Americans like for instance the Peruvian Marriátegui.

The ELN is fighting for national liberation but is still an internationalist organisation.

The ELN got its name (national liberation army) from the guevarist guerillas of the sixties. We are fighting against the northamerican imperialism on our continent and we belive we still have not reached true independance. We are nevertheless no colombian nationalists. We are Latin Americans and are striving for the liberation of our whole continent. We have good relations with other revolutionary organisations in our "great American home" and consider ourselves as fighters for a worldwide change.

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