The strategic objectives of a national project that is radical in the sense of getting to the root of problems seem very distant. And for that very reason it is essential to advance as much as is feasible in the short term.
Juan Diego García
The Colombian left’s immediate goal should be overcoming the current neoliberal model, for which deep reforms in the economic and political ambits, of popular participation and, with greater emphasis, cultural and environmental reforms, must be carried out.
It could be that there is only progress in developmentalist-type reforms but in the current conditions such changes would be almost revolutionary.
The evolution of events will dictate whether greater advances are possible involving the consolidation of more radical reforms that establish the bases of a different order in which at the very least a state is reached where the country functions in harmony with a capitalist model more attuned to liberal philosophy. It is a question, above all, of overcoming the current deformities that make its economy a lesser and dispensable element in the international order.
Traditional forms of developmentalism should be recovered as soon as possible, giving the state a decisive role, subordinating the functioning of the market to collective needs, promoting a productive landscape that appropriately values the internal market and sets about overcoming the current disadvantageous relations with the world market by exporting items of greater added value.
All this involves completely resetting the country’s international relations and achieving regional integration to strengthen the country’s negotiating hand.
To go beyond traditional developmentalism (which consists of the local production of consumer items while importing the means of production such as machinery, technology, patents etc) Colombia would have to venture into the manufacture of those means of production, since without them the relationship with the world market is so unfavourable.
Manufacturing some products to add value and ceasing to be a simple exporter of raw materials could be a first step and it is feasible in the short term. The current export of raw narcotics (opium, marijuana and cocaine) which at present constitutes a good part of the country’s foreign currency income could be substituted for finished merchandise for use in medical treatment.
Opium and cocaine can be turned into opioids which are used universally as medication. This is done in India where the government has reached an agreement with the peasant opium producers to sell their produce to the state so that it can be turned into medication and then sold on the world market. A programme with appropriate controls allows the Indian state to convert produce traditionally linked to illegal trafficking and various forms of organised crime into a development factor for its economy.
Colombia could, undoubtedly, do the same.
A similar thing is true of marijuana, a product that has already been legalised in some countries with quite satisfactory results; especially because the violence factor that is always tied to illegal forms of production and marketing largely disappears.
Measures like these would greatly help the new Colombian government to overcome the so-called ‘war on drugs’ which involves forms of foreign intervention that limit the exercise of national sovereignty.
If the state bought the peasants’ produce of these narcotics, the mafia and its violence would be severely weakened; and perhaps such a purchase would be cheaper than the state’s military expenditure on the ‘war on drugs’.
The Covid-19 pandemic showed many things, among others that it is highly dangerous for two or three large pharmaceutical companies to be able to subject the entire world to their conditions, making vast profits when it is clear that many states can make vaccines (in fact, they already do) and even periphery nations like Cuba have achieved outstanding progress in pharmaceuticals.
Cuba manufactures vaccines for COVID-19, lung cancer and other illnesses, demonstrating that even in the harsh conditions imposed on it by the United States’ blockade, progress of this sort is possible.
A step towards the regional integration that Colombia’s new government is aiming for would be the promotion of joint research projects and the manufacture of pharmaceutical products to overcome the current disadvantageous relationship these countries have with the big pharmaceutical firms.
A vital condition of venturing down the route of basic and applied research is a deep educational reform precisely with the objective of being able to manufacture the means of production necessary to produce the means of consumption and go beyond traditional developmentalism.
As well as the classic sectors of industrialism (iron and steel, chemical etc) every advance possible must be undertaken in new technologies (cybernetics, for example) to give the local economic fabric sufficient solvency.
It is about a national effort for an inalienable strategic objective which is based on a modernised and democratic state and a wide range of alliances with the various sectors of Colombian society that are involved.
Overcoming the current neoliberal model could be an attractive target for large sections of the small and medium-sized local business community so affected by the so-called ‘freedom of trade’ which is nothing but a modern version of the free exchange of years gone by (from which only the metropolises benefited).
That big objective involves modern forms of protectionism (the same thing the metropolises have always done) and it is not incompatible with regional integration in any way nor with a link to the planet’s leading economies.
Quite the contrary. A national purpose of this nature – to go beyond simple developmentalism – does not rule out foreign investment at all. It is a matter of foreign investors committing to sharing their technology with the host country. Just as the Chinese government has done, with magnificent results.
Taking a different approach to the problem of illegal drugs will not only change the almost oppressive atmosphere of daily violence, in all its forms, but will imply an enormous saving of resources which the state could then devote to a new type of productive investment.
It is essential to gain the support of the majority of the population for the project; it is essential to advance in the organisation and political conscience of those social majorities and to strengthen the state so that it is modern and democratic and the appropriate instrument for such purposes.
(Translated by Philip Walker – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay