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This coercive means of accumulation can potentially drive the transition to capitalism by generating resources that promote industrialisation and reinvestment and by undermining alternatives means of survival that do not require engaging in wage labour. This creates a class of wage labourers that become dependent on a market for basic consumption goods that capitalists can produce Cramer ; As Harvey has highlighted, the logic behind the process of primitive accumulation is also a trait in contemporary transitions to capitalist development in what he terms 'accumulation by dispossession' ; These processes are often based on predation, violence and fraud; however, they do not necessarily create uniform or progressive outcomes such as those that emerged in Europe.

According to Schlichte, in his study of the effects of contemporary wars on state formation, current global political economy means that strategies used for surplus appropriation and capitalist accumulation by warlords and mafia entrepreneurs in wars such as in the Balkans, Somalia and Lebanon create "a patchwork of appropriated competencies and vested interests … that can hardly be called a coherent form of authority" ; The emergence of political and economic structures similar to those in advanced capitalist countries will depend on the ability of pre-existing institutions or those that are developed through conflict and violence to create new mechanisms of authority and regulation that are able to resolve antagonistic disputes between classes or manage to control the monopoly of force Cramer ; It is the complex interplay between local, regional, national and international forces that determine the outcomes of primitive accumulation in these transitional contexts of development.

Therefore, the concept of primitive accumulation is useful in understanding some of the violent conflict in Colombia, particularly those conflicts related to land ownership, access and use, the creation of wage labour and the appropriation of valuable assets. The following section thus outlines how violence has often played a substantive role in the formation of some capitalist forms of production and in the state building process. Upon independence, Colombia inherited two contradictory modes of production: the hacienda system, consisting of large concentrations of land latifundios and requiring an ample supply of inexpensive labour; and the traditional peasant subsistence economy of smallholdings minifundios.

The former started to predominate over the latter, often through the use of violence, as the large landowning elite sought to further concentrate land, thereby ensuring that a sufficient supply of landless peasants could be assured as labourers Richani ; This transition in rural areas led to societal reorganisation where an increasing amount of displaced peasants were converted into wage-labourers or sharecroppers on the latifundios , and to a process of land colonisation whereby peasants colonos avoided the latifundios by migrating from the central highlands to the peripheries, where they cut down vegetation on public lands to prepare new land for cultivation and thereby expanding the agricultural frontier LeGrand The landowning elite sought to benefit from this process of land colonisation by either acquiring these lands or forcing the colonos to abandon them.

National Identity and Violence: The Case of Colombia

This effectively left many of these now landless peasants with no choice but to become wage-labourers or sharecroppers on the latifundios or meet the increasing demand for labour in the rapidly growing urban centres Fajardo ; This process of asset accumulation and displacement provided the means in which capitalist modes of production started to take shape.

The separation of the peasantry from their means of production served as a mechanism for capitalists to accumulate potential investible funds as well as to create a supply of wage labourers dependent on the market for their livelihoods. Additionally, these effects were furthered by confrontation between the Liberal and Conservative parties during La Violencia , where armed confrontation created further displacement, led to more land concentration, a consequent expansion of the agricultural frontier and the creation of wage labour that supported the development of important sectors of the economy such as coffee, cotton, rice and banana Sanchez The violence that accompanied and promoted these transitional processes of change was in part the result of the institutional failure to resolve and peacefully channel these conflicts Richani The state in Colombia has traditionally been unable to centralise power and as a result many regions in the country have been dominated by powerful elites that control populations through patron-client networks in which they preserve their privileges and autonomy against those of the central state.

This regionalism has been an important factor in impeding the ability of institutions to peacefully resolve these agrarian conflicts and define their development outcomes as regional elites have often opposed the reforms that stemmed from the centre Gutierrez, Viatela, Acevedo ; The Lopez Pumarejo administration passed Law of that sought to modernise the agrarian sector and respond to the growing protests from the peasantry by redistributing non-productive land in the latifundios and compensating colonos for any improvements they had made to the land they had occupied.

However, the implementation of these reform measures was fiercely resisted by landowners and political elites often the same , who used their power to adjudicate land disputes in their favour. Meanwhile, large areas of agricultural land were converted to pasture for less labour-intensive cattle-grazing in order to avoid land claims by tenants and sharecroppers Richani ; Subsequent attempts at agrarian reform also failed to resolve the conflicts between landowners and the peasantry.

Law of is a case in point. At the same time, Law 1a of helped convert latifundia , through the expulsion of tenants and sharecroppers, into large commercial agribusinesses, aimed at meeting the food needs of the growing urban population and generating surplus for industrial expansion Pearce ; The failure of reform led to a further increase in the expansion of the agricultural frontier by the colonos which opened vast amounts of land that were essentially outside of the state's presence.

This emerging dynamic and the closure of the political system through the National Front after La Violencia created the spaces for alternative actors to emerge and thrive. These took the form of diverse guerrilla groups that arose as a means for the peasantry and other social groups i.


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The most notable guerrilla insurgencies are the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia FARC , which had a strong land reform agenda and were initially linked to the Communist party, and the National Liberation Army ELN , composed of urban intellectuals and students which opposed the contractual and labour conditions that emerged through the exploitation of natural resources by foreign capital and were heavily influenced by the Cuban revolution.

The increasing war and state making capacity of the armed insurgency further constrained state formation in Colombia, aggravating what Richani calls the 'state's hegemonic crisis' ; The state's hegemonic crisis led to a substantial change in conflict dynamics in Colombia. Secondly, the absence of the state in many areas of the country, particularly those of colonisation, was an important factor in the emergence and consolidation of the illegal drugs industry in Colombia.

They used their illegally obtained capital, in conjunction with other elites, to support the organisation and professionalisation of the self defence groups. However, they also engaged in direct confrontation with the state when it threatened their interests Restrepo Processes of primitive accumulation can also be identified within these changing conflict dynamics.

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Societal reorganisation in this period created parallel authorities and institutions guerrillas, paramilitaries, drug-traffickers that use violence to maintain and further their interests with regards to the formation, accumulation, redistribution and investment of capital.

These markets of violence do not simply create development in reverse but rather distort and redefine the development process, particularly in certain sectors such as the extractive industry and in export-led agriculture. As Richani has noted, the changing conflict dynamics represent irreconcilable differences between "a rentier-based capitalist mode of production championed by large cattle ranchers, land speculators including narcotraffickers , commercial-coca plantations and mining and oil companies and a subsistence peasant economy supported by the guerrillas During the latter half of the twentieth century, some of the guerrilla groups, most notably the FARC, often operated in the interests of certain segments of the peasantry mainly coca-growers , protecting their interests against the large landowners, cattle ranchers and new emerging class of drug-traffickers ibid; They consolidated their presence across large areas of the country due to weak state presence, particularly in areas of land colonisation.

They were able to secure steady sources of income through extortion from the affluent, which also included kidnapping. Although they support the peasant economy, the means often differ from the end.

According to Rangel, the guerrilla economy is a complex apparatus that on the one hand creates important social safety nets, such as pension schemes and ensuring minimum wage standards yet on the other hand overlaps with the formal economy promoting capitalist development through investments in financial institutions, large commercial businesses and the stock market Rangel The guerrillas have in fact become the de facto authority in terms of both the monopoly of violence and their ability to control populations and raise revenue through taxation.

As noted earlier, in response to the state's inability to curtail the guerrillas' war and state making capacities, landowners, particularly cattle ranchers and drug-traffickers responded to this extortion by forming self-defence groups. These groups, initially legalised by the government and supported by the armed forces, aimed to counter guerrilla influence, protect economic interests and ensure security.

These self-defence groups became progressively more influential across the country as drug-traffickers increasingly supported their organisation and professionalisation by using their financial clout to provide training and better armament. The growth of the paramilitaries deeply changed their nature and they went from protecting the interests of certain segments of society cattle ranchers, military officers and drug-traffickers to acquiring their own, particularly entrepreneurial interests both in legal and illegal markets that conformed to the development of a rentier-based capitalist mode of production.

The entrepreneurial interests in question are strongly tied to the above mentioned agrarian conflicts. The paramilitaries actively sought to expand their territorial control as a means to accumulate capital and political power Cubides ; This further exacerbated agrarian conflicts as they invested their drug money in large agricultural estates. It is estimated that, from the early s until , paramilitaries acquired 4. The expansion of territorial control allowed the paramilitaries to consolidate local and regional power often through penetration of the state , engage in productive economic activities and control strategic areas for their war effort and engagement in the illegal drugs trade.

Furthermore, the territorial control by paramilitary groups is directly linked to the expulsion of peasants from their land. It is estimated that the majority of the internally displaced are the result of paramilitary expansion. These events, coupled with a process of economic liberalisation since the early s has had profound changes in the rural sector. The liberalisation of the economy on the other hand has further reduced competitiveness in the sector as the economy has been subject to the influx of imported goods.

This curtails the means of subsistence for the peasantry forcing their migration to seek other forms of livelihoods and consequently meeting the demand, with those who have been violently displaced, for labour in sectors such as those of commercial exploitation, unskilled labour in urban centres and the construction of infrastructure consequently supporting different development processes in the country Fajardo ; This tendency has led to increasing inequalities with many of the displaced living in poor conditions in urban slums and to an increase in food insecurity due to declines in productivity.

Furthermore, many of the displaced are forced to further expand the agricultural frontier where they engage in cultivating illicit crops in the lack of other sustainable opportunities ibid; The reduction of productivity that has derived from increased land concentration and the liberalisation of the economy has also led to a change in the types of crops cultivated.

There has been a shift from temporary crops, common in small scale peasant economies, to permanent crops that are destined for export in international markets. In , temporary crops accounted for 2.


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  • This had changed and by temporary crops decreased to 1. This indicates an aggressive expansion of agro-industrial crops such as African palm, banana and sugar cane. Furthermore, these industries have been strongly influenced by those supporting rentier capitalist modes of production and using violence against workers and trade unions to ensure competitive labour conditions Amnesty International In fact, the peasantry often become sharecroppers or day labourers without the benefits of negotiated contracted labour Fajardo ; The forced displacement of the peasantry can sometimes serve an important function in the provision of a cheap supply of labour that allows certain industries, particularly agro-exports to compete in international markets with decreasing costs of production.

    As Fajardo notes, there is a cycle of land expropriation, forced displacement of the peasantry, their proletarianisation and the implantation of agro-industry that shapes Colombia's rural development model ; There has been a rapid expansion of the crops since the mid s that has coincided with paramilitary influence in the region. The paramilitaries forged alliances with private investors to invest in the crops for which they received subsidies and incentives from the state as part of its rural development agenda. As one paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso openly admitted, "…we have cultivations of African palm.

    I personally got the entrepreneurs to invest in those projects that are both sustainable and productive" quoted in Palau ; 5.

    Violence in Colombia : the contemporary crisis in historical

    A study by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre IDMC has highlighted how the lands used for cultivation are communal lands belonging to afro-Colombian communities and that many were forced to sell or flee the lands. Furthermore, due to the precarious situation of the displaced many have had to return and work as sharecroppers or day labourers on the plantations ; Therefore, rather than represent irrationality, breakdown and collapse, the violence and conflict outlined above plays an important role in shaping economic relations and structures that can be embedded in the development process.

    This is not to say that the whole development process is based on violence and that all forced displacement is a means to secure wage labour, but rather to indicate that violent conflict can shape the development process, in this case by facilitating the rapid expansion of certain agric-cultural crops such as African palm, which is in line with the government policy to promote commercial agricultural crops for export, with plans to expand the areas cultivated with African palm to , hectares this year ibid; 9.

    Another example that emphasises the often symbiotic nature between conflict and development relates to the extractive industry. The government's national development agenda clearly envisions increasing outputs from the extraction of natural resources such as oil, coal and gold in order to generate resources to foster national development DPN However, both the guerrillas and the paramilitaries also extract resources from companies in order to finance their war efforts Guaqueta Therefore, the surplus gained from these activities funds both violence and increases state resources for developmental purposes.

    Violence in Colombia, 1990-2000: waging war and negotiating peace

    Furthermore, the extraction of these resources has been at the centre of the contradicting modes of productions sought by guerrillas and paramilitaries. For example, paramilitaries have supported the violent expulsion of the peasantry from their lands in order to cede these territories to oil companies for exploration Richani ; On the other hand, guerrillas in some coal mining areas have supported territorial invasions by peasant organisations that have later established themselves as production cooperatives Rangel ; The above analysis has attempted to highlight some of the interconnections between violent conflict and development in the transition to capitalist development and the process of state formation.

    It has shown that a linear model of development on which violence and progress are dialectically opposed is substantially flawed and that violent conflict is sometimes the means in which the terms of accumulation and distribution of wealth are cast in transitional contexts. Societal reorganisation and change are not technical or apolitical processes and this is particularly evident in the Colombian context where amid institutional failure, antagonistic groups have sought to influence modes of accumulation through violence.

    The outcomes of such processes are yet to be determined in the face of ongoing violence, and whilst important productive sectors that spur growth have developed, the country is also characterised by mass displacement, high levels of poverty and inequality and a state that has failed to monopolise the legitimate use of force and revenue extraction. As Gutierrez, Viatela and Acevedo conclude in their study on state building in Colombia, there seems to a "genuine coexistence" between conflict and development in Colombia where "formal order and informal disorder are organically linked" ; 4.

    The implications for international aid policy that seeks to build peace and promote development are the focus of the following section. International aid policy: peace-building or assisting structures of violence? As discussed above, most peace-building and development aid rests on the assumption that there is an inverse relationship between violent conflict and development and that the motivations that cause and perpetuate violence mainly stem from selfish and opportunistic profit seeking and underdevelopment.

    As result, these illegal armed groups need to be dismantled, either through force or negotiation, in order to remove the main obstacles to reasserting the path to development and peace. Therefore, the demobilisation of the paramilitary groups under the Justice and Peace Law JPL in plus important security gains by Alvaro Uribe's democratic security policy that have led to a retreat of the FARC deeper into the jungle and prompted negotiations with the ELN have been received by much enthusiasm by international agencies.

    As a result of these developments, recent aid policy has sought to promote the reintegration of ex-combatants in order to eliminate the threat from potential peace spoilers and support the livelihoods of other vulnerable groups such as the displaced. In order to achieve these objectives, resources are aligned, through the state agency Agencia Presidencial para la Accion Social , with the government's National Development Plan NDP As Colombia is classified as a democratic middle income country, international aid is channelled through the state and aligned with government policy on recovery and development.

    As one OCHA official put it, "Colombia is not a failed state such as in other humanitarian emergencies. The plan specifically seeks to increase growth by increasing the productivity of export-oriented crops such as rubber, African palm, banana and cacao through so-called 'productive projects' that will facilitate Colombia's insertion into international markets and support livelihoods for the displaced and ex-combatants DNP Thus, the peace-building objectives of reintegrating ex-combatants and supporting the displaced are aligned with the government's broader development agenda, emphasising the interrelation between the two - where development leads to peace whilst peace is synonymous with development.

    Therefore violent conflict is a passing anomaly along the development path that once removed provides the enabling environment for development to be resumed. Perceiving this enabling environment as a tabula rasa that requires the implementation of certain technical policies to foster development and peace fails to understand the transformations that are brought about by war Cramer ; As shown in the above analysis of Colombia, the terms of accumulation and wealth distribution and the system in which these are cast have been radically transformed, particularly in certain industries such as in the agricultural sector.

    So although the paramilitaries have demobilised, it is widely understood that the JPL has been inadequate in dismantling the social, economic and political power they have obtained through war.