Socialists are accustomed to reading nonsense in their newspapers, not least in the so-called 'heavies' or serious papers. A case in point has been the claims that the insurrectionary 'army', the misnamed Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is a Marxist or the contradiction-in-terms, Marxist-Leninist, organisation, and that its leaders are Marxist socialists. One such claim was made by one Phil Gunson in the Guardian (6 March) in his obituary of Raul Reyes (born Luis Edgar Devia Silva), who was killed by Columbian armed forces in a cross-border into Ecuador.
Wrote Gunson: "A committed Marxist from an early age, he joined a communist youth organisation as a teenager". At about the time that Reyes became a 'communist' or so-called Marxist, the Communist Party of Columbia had about 9,000-10,000 members, and the dissident Communist Party of Columbia (Marxist-Leninist), founded in 1964, had about 2,000 members. Although Reyes is said to have spent some time in Eastern Europe, it is not known whether he was pro-Soviet or pro-Maoist. However, although Gunson asserts that Reyes was a Marxist, he also states and claims that he was "a terrorist and drug-trafficker" who wore camouflage fatigues, "with a Kalashnikov across his knees". Gunson adds: "The two dozen or so warrants that were issued for his arrest covered a chilling range of crimes, including murder, kidnap, and drug-trafficking. He was wanted, for instance, for the El Nogal nightclub bombing in Bogotá in 2003".
What then has Reyes, or FARC for that matter, have in common with Marxist socialists who oppose terrorism, individual, group or state, guerrilla 'armies' and so-called national liberation struggles, but who are organised for, and propagate, worldwide common ownership and democratic administration and control of the land, means of production and transportation and the abolition of the wages system? The answer is: none at all. But obituarist Phil Gunson is not likely to know that.