The following is a most valuable account of the present situation of the revolutionary struggle of the popular masses in Ecuador. On behalf of the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist of Ecuador, the interviewee gives a clear, concise and well structured account of the main objective and subjective factors that determine the present level of development of the revolutionary struggle in Ecuador. The revolutionary struggle in Ecuador is viewed not from the point of view of the particular conditions of this country. It is viewed within the framework of the objective condition of the whole of Latin America.
On the objective situation in Ecuador
First, there is the economic crisis. The economies of these countries are dependent on the dollar; this makes it hard for them to fight against globalization. The GNP is falling in all countries, some more in some than in others. The Economic Commission for Latin America foresees a 2.5 % fall in the Net Internal Product of the region for this year. In any case this worsens the terrible gap between the poor and the rich, between the poor countries and the rich countries. Objectively we are closer to the revolution. The working class have been badly hit, the middle classes, the youth have no future, even those with studies. This leads to emigration to the rich countries. This does not affect only the middle classes but also the poor, the peasants. Emigration is high among the poor. Unemployment is a terrible problem in Latin America. According to official figures Ecuador has 18% unemployment. But the main problem is underemployment; in reality this embraces more than 50% of the working population. This affects all sectors of the economy. Real wages have fallen significantly. As for Ecuador real wages have fallen 40% during the last year, due to dollarization among other factors. But this phenomenon affects other countries of Latin America. The increase of wages is always well below inflation. Teachers have an average wage of $80 US, workers usually get $70 US monthly. The poverty level is $170 monthly for a family (this is the poverty level, the basic level is $240 monthly). Most public employees are not paid their wages on time.
In Ecuador 6 children per thousand die at birth. Life expectancy fell from 70 to 66 years. 1 million families today are homeless, out of a population of 12 millions (with a total of 2.5 million apartments). This problem also exists in the rest of Latin America. The population in large cities is packed in inhuman conditions. Public services have been dismantled. The system of state medical assistance no longer exists. Most of the population lacks health insurance. Diseases that were cured in the 19th century have reappeared and are taking a heavy toll among the working population.
Crime is skyrocketing as a result of the impoverishment of the population. Society is in decomposition (decomposition means crime, drugs, prostitution). All cities have become very insecure. People are forced to resort to crime.
The past years have seen a massive emigration of peasants to the cities. But poverty and misery exist in the cities as well. In the countryside the living conditions are horrible. There is work only during the summer; prices are dictated by the monopolies.
In the 1960s agrarian reform took in Latin America. But the agrarian problem has not been solved by far. The peasants need land - on the other hand capitalist production cannot cope with a growing working force. Pre-capitalist relations of production are preserved and being developed further.
On the Indigenous people of Ecuador
The Indigenous people are the poorest of the poor, the most humiliated of the humiliated; they are mostly peasants. This is the case not only in Ecuador.
We consider the Indigenous people as a nationality (not a nation in the strict sense of the word, since they are integrated into the economic life of the whole country). The Indigenous people as well as the rest of society are divided into classes. More and more the struggle of the Indigenous people for equal rights is developing as a class struggle of the exploited masses. On the other hand explicit forms of racism and racial discrimination still prevail.
In the past, fascist military dictatorships were established in Latin America. In time new bourgeois parties have emerged, such as the Christian Democrats. But domination by the oligarchy in Latin America has not changed at all. Populism has replaced the fascist dictatorships, with ‘existentialist demagogy and pharonic works’. Populism is seen as the solution. Some of these chiefs have adopted nationalist positions. In these cases the leaders try to get the best deal they can from imperialism.
The crisis is profound. The oligarchy is incapable of ruling directly and openly; they have to conceal themselves and avoid confrontation with the popular masses.
The natural resources of Latin America have been sucked up by the imperialists. The national bourgeoisie supports globalization, assisting international capital against national capital. This has resulted in the deindustrialization of Latin America. Free trade, the opening of national markets have ruined the national industry and the economy overall. The national industry has collapsed to been taken over by international monopolies, it has been basically ruined.
On the popular movement in Ecuador
Let us look at the situation of the popular movement. One can be sure that today a popular movement is reviving that will result into new revolutionary waves. Of course, this process is not homogeneous. But overall there is a clear tendency. The movements today are massive, involving the peasantry, the Indigenous people, the poor in the cities, the teachers, the youth in general. The role of the Indigenous people, especially in the Andean countries, Mexico and Guatemala is linked to the 500th anniversary of the ‘Discovery of the Americas’. Chiapas has had a great significance for the Indigenous people in Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil. It is specially relevant to the growth of the Indian movement in Ecuador. The Indigenous people are realizing their real potential in the social and political life of the country. The Indigenous people were always there but now they stand and fight. The development of the productive forces has largely affected the Indigenous people as well. Capitalist production in this countries cannot avoid using the Indian labour force. The market created by the Indigenous people is indispensable. Over the past 10-15 years, Indian intellectuals have emerged, trained in Ecuador and abroad, who today are leading the Indian movement and today have more influence than the elderly. Historically the Indigenous people have been subject to the most severe and ruthless oppression, racial discrimination and capitalist exploitation. The Indigenous people are a nationality, an oppressed nationality, but they cannot be considered a nation.
Let us look at the peasant movement. Most of the Indigenous people are peasants. The Indian problem has become more acute due to the agrarian problem. The movement of the landless peasants expresses the will of the popular masses and the peasants in particular to fight for land and their political rights, in Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil and in the south of Argentina. It should be noted that the Colombian guerrillas are dominated by peasants. In Ecuador the peasantry is one of the best organized social forces. The peasants in Ecuador are active politically: they block roads, set up picket lines, demonstrate and clash with the police.
The industrial working class in Ecuador is very small in relative terms. This is not true in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina.
Teachers, especially elementary and high school teachers, have become a crucial social and political movement. Latin American teachers are organized internationally. Independent unions of teachers are strong and very militant even though the influence of social-democracy was strong in the past. The teachers’ demands include not only wages and working conditions, but also the demand for universal education.
Another important movement is the organization of the poor, mainly in the big cities. They put forward economic demands based on the massive poverty. For a future revolutionary perspective the work in the poor neighbourhoods is of great importance.
Look at the student movement. Only in Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil is the student movement unified. In Havana a Latin American Congress of Students brought together 6000 delegates. The movement of high school students is especially strong. In Peru, Mexico and Chile the student movement is reluctant to join left political parties.
The working class movement is weaker. The anti-communist propaganda has hit badly and it still has influence. The flexibilization of the labour market has also taken a heavy toll on the workers’ movement. Flexibilization of the labour market makes people desperate. However public employees have been very active these last years. Factory workers are today not very active politically. The AFL-CIO, a large U.S. federation of trade unions, has swallowed up a large number of Latin American unions. The AFL-CIO supports the candidates of the Democratic Party in the USA. This movement has played a negative role overall.
Political struggle at a mass scale has become a reality, the struggle in Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia are just examples of the globalization of the struggle. In general these movements are present everywhere.
On the perspective of the revolution in Latin America
Look at the perspective of the revolution in Latin America. The revolutionary movement is facing a long process. It has to confront imperialism, but first of all it has to confront the national bourgeoisie. This national bourgeoisie is a servant and direct agent of imperialism. The Social-Democrats in these countries have illusions about the national bourgeoisie. In Brazil, Lula’s party (Leader of the Labour Party of Brazil. Note of translator.) has a social-democratic influence on the popular movement. The situation in Venezuela is similar, although this is temporary. The anti-imperialist struggle is a central point in the programme of the revolutionaries. Popular power is also a central point of the programme. Popular power is the dictatorship of the working masses under the leadership of the working class. In Ecuador this popular power would have functions of an anti-imperialist front but would also include a socialist transformation. We do not believe in stages of the revolution; the revolution is a continuous process, in which the popular power fulfills various roles and functions. The path to popular power is a central question of discussion today. Revolutionary violence is valid; elections will not bring about popular power. The Latin American Seminar on Problems of the Revolution is held every year in Quito. The goal of this international forum is to pose concrete problems of the revolution in Latin America, making it clear that forces like Lula and Lagos (Present president of Chile. Note of translator) are not left or progressive. In the last seminar 19 organizations participated, mostly from Latin America.
The collapse of the Soviet Union seriously affected not only the revisionist parties, but also the popular movement in general, since the real essence of the Soviet state was never clear to many people. The bourgeoisie tries to convince the popular movement that socialism has collapsed. In Ecuador the revisionist party has collapsed. Almost all revisionist parties have collapsed or are very weak. One example is the Chilean party. In the Dominican Republic the revisionist party renamed itself, etc. The collapse of the Soviet Union has had major effects: there is increased ideological confusion in the popular movement, as well as the dissolution of the revisionist movement. In the long run, 10 years after the collapse, these elements of confusion has been left without ideologists of revisionism, the revolutionaries now have more ways of connecting with the popular masses. On the other hands, there are other forces that foster revisionist ideas; however these forces are not as well organized as the revisionists.
In many countries of Latin America there arises the question of the necessity of the unity of the popular movement. This is a very complex problem. It is a question that is discussed in all countries of Latin America, especially in Ecuador. For instance, one of the main reasons why the uprising in Ecuador in January failed was the lack of unity. Unity is badly needed in Colombia.
On the January events
Let us look at the events of January. January was a climax for the political life of the country. All political forces were active, the popular movement on the one hand and the parties of the bourgeoisie on the other hand. In the past, some sectors of the bourgeoisie supported or at least sympathized with the masses. This time it was not the case; the demands of the masses were very advanced politically, demanding the resignation of the president and calling for new elections. The Patriotic Front proposed a government of national unity made up of all forces of the popular movement, the left political parties, the unions, sectors of the armed forces and the church that sided with the people, also representatives of middle and petty producers in the countryside. The Patriotic Front proposed a programme to fight the crisis: cancellation of the external debt, the monopoly of foreign trade, confiscation of hard currency. The programme proposed by the CONAIE (National Confederation of Indigenous people of Ecuador. Note of translator) also included a three-part government made up of a representative of the Army, the Church and the civil society, a programme for the liquidation of corruption, which would give answers to concrete problems of the poor masses. It was clear from the beginning that the crisis was deep, that it would shake the foundation of capitalist society; however we never believed that it would lead to a social revolution. On the other hand our party used these events for the further accumulation of forces. On the contrary the CONAIE was convinced that the new government would take over. The events of January showed the willingness of the broad popular masses to overthrow the government, they showed very clearly the sentiments of the people against the bourgeois government. Unfortunately the revolutionaries were unable to bring the uprising of January to a higher level of development. There were various factors, so to say, the masses wished to get to heaven but lacked the strength to reach it. One of the main limitations of the January uprising was the lack of revolutionary violence. Even the rebel military demonstrated without their arms. The bourgeoisie and the imperialists managed to dodge the crisis. As a result today we have a bourgeois government that pursues the same policies as Mahuad. However we believe that the popular movement was not defeated, it has taken new steps and learned new lessons. There are three factors in the popular movement that are relevant politically and ideologically. The third attempt will bring victory. One great lesson: unity is required for the victory of the popular forces. Some sectors of the popular movement have understood the necessity for revolutionary violence. This is positive. The crisis has not eased, the economic and political system have not changed, the standard of living worsens day by day, the objective conditions for the revolution are getting stronger. The masses on the other hand are conscious of the necessity for change, they are acquiring political experience. Revolutionary forces should be involved in this process, one of them should be the revolutionary party of the proletariat. The armed forces are divided, this rift may grow deeper in time. The international situation is a very relevant factor here. We believe that Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador make up a weak point in the chain of imperialism. The imperialists refer to this as a hot area. Social and political contradictions are on the rise, so are the popular movements and the political activity of the masses. There exist in these countries revolutionary organizations that are doing their best to fulfill their political programme. Very important political events may happen in this area fairly soon. These events are in fact one more expression of the growth of the political activity of the masses throughout the world.
On the work of the revolutionaries with the masses
Look at the experience of the revolutionaries in work with the masses. One of the basic requirements of all the members of the party is his/her involvement in work with the masses. Every communist has to do something with the masses, with the popular masses within the framework of the correct line of the revolutionary organization for the well-being of the country. It is necessary to secure independent mass media, it is also useful to use the bourgeois mass media. The revolutionaries should participate in the social activity of the country. The revolutionary party strives to concretize these postulates in terms of concrete actions. For instance, the struggle against the ‘dollarization’ of the economy is a concrete problem that has to be solved with concrete actions, the struggle for increased wages, for instance we organize a strike among teachers and other sectors. The revolutionaries should be responsible in the popular organization to which he or she belongs. This way the revolutionary party develops a social base; it is definitely rooted in the masses. There is a revolutionary party and mass organizations controlled by it. The party has to solve practical problems in such a way that thousands or tens of thousand of people may understand and accomplish them. This way the influence of the party will grow. The masses are not necessarily ready for action and change even in the conditions of a deep crisis. It is necessary to organize strikes and demonstrations in order to stir up the masses. After the bourgeoisie secured its government after the January events, the party tried to stir up the popular movement with a series of legal and public activities. It is also most relevant to learn to get broad social forces involved. There is the FUT (Frente Unificado de Trabajadores - United Workers Front) and the Patriotic Front (the Patriotic Front is made up of the FUT and the Frente Popular, the Popular Front). The Patriotic Front is made up of the various organizations of the popular movement. It is necessary to cooperate with various social forces involved in the popular movement. This should be done carefully. The party has cadre that serve as spokespeople. Most of the cadre work without discussing their membership as part of a popular mass organization. The revolutionary party should help the sympathizers and non-party people to participate in activities, give them the opportunity to express themselves, to have them take an active and leading role in the struggle of the masses. There should be some kind of optimal ratio of communists and non-party people in the organizations of the masses. Recruiting activists is central to the politics of the revolutionary party, human resources always lag behind the actual needs of the popular movement.
The revolutionary armed struggle is determined and requires a previous accumulation of social and political forces. Also it is necessary to work within the armed forces of the bourgeoisie. The armed struggle is a result of the accumulation of political work among the masses. The armed struggle corresponds to a certain extent to the development of social and political contradictions. Guerrilla warfare is possible, but not in an isolated way, rather strictly within the framework of the social and political struggle waged throughout the country involving the broad popular masses. Some forces propose the so-called ‘protacted peoples war.’ This is an influence of Maoism. We reject this thesis, although on the other hand it is hard to foresee the duration of the armed struggle, or even of civil war. Such forces have grown under the influence of the experience of Sendero Luminoso (Communist Party of Peru). As of today there is no guerrilla warfare in Ecuador. There exist petty bourgeois groups who propose concrete violent actions without a political programme for the work among the masses.
The interview was taken by a reporter of Proletarskaya Gazeta
Click here to return to the September 2000 index.