An interview with Carlos Lozano is no small matter. A top official of the Communist Party of Colombia (PCC) and director since 1991 of the PCC weekly “Voz, the People’s Truth,” Lozano talked with Ignacio Meneses, Oscar Penagos, Manuel Rodriguez, and this writer for two hours on October 23. Meneses had brought a U.S. labor delegation to Colombia. Penagos and Rodriguez are president and past president respectively of Colombia’s telephone workers union Sinalteléfonos.
Presently Lozano is running for the Colombian Chamber of Representatives as candidate for the Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA), an electoral alliance formed by unions and social movements. It is Colombia’s only left electoral political party. Lozano serves on its National Board. The lawyer, university professor, and author of five books has received multiple death threats and recently the French Legion of Honor, for advancing peace in Colombia.
Voz is “the voice of workers and all the people, always without losing a class outlook,” Lozano once observed, adding that “internationalism” is its “unvarying standard.” For 52 years, Voz has remained Colombia’s only leftist newspaper with a mass audience.
Lozano took on leadership within the World Federation of Democratic Youth and studied in Eastern Europe during the Soviet era. We thought that his reflections on a Communist role in contemporary political struggle might be useful. Union leader and Lozano political ally Oscar Penagos arranged the interview.
What about a gap between Marxist – Leninist assumptions and current prescriptions that focus on alliances? How do notions such as class divide, agency of the working class, and vanguard leadership fit with focus on limited goals and collegiality within a united front? Does class matter? These were our questions.
The PDA election fight was on Lozano’s mind. Voting for Congress takes place in March, 2010, and for president, two months later. Unexpectedly, the PDA “consulta” September 27 chose Gustavo Petro as presidential candidate over the PCC preference Carlos Gaviria, candidate in 2006. Lozano objects to Petro’s tolerance of neo-liberal economic solutions, acceptance of the 1991 constitution which props up the Alvaro Uribe regime, and reluctance to take on U.S. imperialism. Petro is seen by Lozano as weak on land reform and a political response to leftist insurgency.
Nevertheless, the PCC supports Petro’s candidacy for the sake of unity, required now to block an unconstitutional third term for Uribe. “If it’s on the left, we have to be there,” Lozano said. The PCC would fight within the PDA, however, for a program centering on agrarian reform, women’s equality, social justice, and defense of national sovereignty and natural resources. The Party’s Central Committee was meeting that afternoon further to define its program.
The Colombian people are up against a corrupt “mafia” and “lumpen bourgeoisie.” Narco-traffickers and paramilitary influence control Congress. Yet Lozano hinted at a tactic of reaching out to Uribe supporters favoring a peaceful settlement to armed conflict.
PCC leaders are taking cues from Senator and party member Gloria Inez Ramirez and Liberal Party Senator Piedad Cordaba who say struggle now is less at the institutional level than in the streets. He called for the PDA and CP to join with social movements – a “revolutionary force.” There is no room, he emphasized, for armed struggle.
Lozano demonstrates faithfulness to left unity, openness to new allies, and fight within the PDA for gains on social and human rights. He was silent on permanent solutions of a socialist nature.
Sounding caution rather than fear, he described the work of Voz as becoming “difficult” because of the “famous computers” of Raul Reyes. The government is investigating Lozano and others for ties to the FARC. Allegations are based on information supposedly taken from computers belonging to the FARC leader killed March 1, 2008 in Ecuador. Lozano’s predecessor as Voz director, Manuel Cepeda Vargas, was murdered in 1994.
Lozano maintained that “socialism of the 21st century” entails Latin American integration manifested by ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of Latin American Peoples), the Bank of the South, and sharing of oil resources. He accepts wide national variations and calls for nationalization of land and natural resources. The national bourgeoisie remain strong.
There would be no celebration of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lozano insisted, but dogma is now off limits. His socialism is “scientific.” Socialism is “under construction,” the result of “social creation of everyday life.”
Lozano handed out the booklet “Marxism, an Ideology under Construction,” reflecting ideas he communicated in 2004 to interviewer Lilia Martelo. There, he attributes the failure of Soviet socialism to lack of democracy and disregard of people’s material needs. He points to bureaucracy, corruption and conspiracy. He lauds Soviet achievements in social justice, education, and cultural enlightenment.
Socialism is a “great ambition, which will be the fruit of a collective effort to transform society.” “More than a political vanguard” will be required to “lead the masses,” he explains. “What is required in the new concept of a party is unity, the broadest possible unity of the forces of left, revolutionary, and democratic forces for advanced changes. Perhaps it’s a collective vanguard.”
Photo: W. T. Whitney