The last decade and more has seen the growth of the revolutionary movement in Ecuador, although this is not well known outside of Latin America. This movement, consisting of workers, peasants, indigenous peoples and other forces, has fought against the oligarchic governments that were trying to push through the neo-liberal measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund and U.S. imperialism.
This movement overthrew the government of Bucaram in February of 1997, and that of Mahuad in January of 2000. The overthrow of Mahuad led to the formation of a ‘Junta of National Salvation’, headed by Colonel Lucio Gutierrez and supported by the left. The Junta was quickly defeated, and Gutierrez and other rebel military officers were jailed.
In the presidential elections of 2002, Gutierrez ran for president supported by the mass movement, including the organisations of the indigenous people. Although the left was not formally included in the electoral alliance, it supported the campaign from the outside. Gutierrez won in a run-off election against Noboa, the wealthiest man in the country. For the first months, Gutierrez headed a government which, though making some reforms under the pressure of the mass movement, increasingly compromised with imperialism and the oligarchy. After 6 months, it became clear that the government had become another neo-liberal administration. The left, represented by the MPD, a revolutionary party that participates in the elections, withdrew its support from the government, including the resignation of the one cabinet minister that they had been allotted. Much of the leadership of the indigenous movement was also expelled from the government, while a few leaders stayed in support what was now clearly a reactionary government. The revolutionary struggle of the people against Gutierrez, the oligarchy and imperialism continues.
During this whole period, the leading political force of the proletariat in Ecuador, the PCMLE, has striven for unity of all the popular forces, while maintaining its political independence. It has shown its Marxist-Leninist political understanding of how to combine mass organising with the electoral struggle under complex political conditions. In particular, it has always made clear that even if a popular government took office through bourgeois elections, this would not mean the overthrow of the oligarchy and imperialism, which can only take place through the revolutionary violence of the masses.
In this article, a leading revolutionary comrade from Ecuador has provided a detailed description of the history of the ongoing struggle and the role of the proletarian vanguard in the varying political conditions in his country. This is of great importance for Marxist-Leninists and all revolutionary forces in different parts of the world. We are pleased to be able to present this analysis here for English-speaking readers.
The Strategy of Imperialism and the Oligarchies
Until the 1970s, U.S. imperialism and the various governments in office were compelled to promote some so-called policies of development that stressed the processes of industrialisation of agricultural products and raw materials and the formation and development of an internal market.
Starting with the foreign debt crisis on the international level, the great difficulties of finance capital and the relative successes in the fight against socialism and the revolutionary processes, neo-liberalism gained strength in Latin America and thus also in Ecuador.
This meant a group of economic and political features leading to the greatest accumulation and concentration of capital, mainly monopoly capital and capital of the imperialist countries, to control the crisis of finance capital by monetary policies.
An ideological campaign demonising the so-called state ownership and advocating ‘individual freedom’ was launched in our countries. According to those assumptions, the concepts of national sovereignty and independent development are not practicable, obsolete, and no longer have a place in the world of today. Globalisation, the scientific technical revolution, the development of computers, communications and genetic engineering demand the optimisation of production.
The development of production to new levels demands the relocation of industry to the places and countries where productivity is greatest, where production can be carried out with maximum profit. This policy leads to the deindustrialisation of the dependent countries. It demands the opening of markets, the application of free trade, and this means the decrease and later elimination of tariffs on the products of the imperialist countries and the monopolies.
Neo-liberalism expands speculative capital to all the ends of the earth; it subordinates countries to the iron rule of foreign debt and as a result draws wealth, production and capital out of all regions and the workers of the five continents. The national States are forced to subordinate themselves to the designs of the international usurers.
For neo-liberalism the national States are no longer useful for the development and integration of countries and economies in the interdependent world of our day. They are ‘obese States’ that are obstructing the market economy, occupying areas destined for free enterprise, assuming paternalist positions. That situation must end; the regulations that arise from them should be directed toward promoting private, foreign and national investment. The states should be freed from social responsibilities: health, education, social security and public transportation are not rights but services that should be paid for by those who utilise them.
The so-called processes of economic integration of countries and regions are stressed. On our continent a commercial bloc under the aegis of the United States is being promoted that will later become the FTAA [Free Trade Agreement of the Americas].
The labour market should be deregulated. The growth of free trade and productivity occur because they maximise the profits of the capitalists, because they restrict and even eliminate trade union rights, stability and freedom to organise and to strike.
These economic policies have great social implications. They lead to an accumulation and concentration of capital and greater impoverishment of the workers and other popular sectors, an increase in unemployment, lack of nutrition and health.
In order to apply these policies to our country, since the 1980s they have tried to amend the Constitution and the laws, to restrict democratic liberties and trade union rights, to carry out resolutions on privatisation, to sell off the oil, telephone, electric companies, etc.
All the governments in this period have tried to carry out these measures, but they have not been able to carry them through to the end, due to the resistance of the workers and the peoples, and also on account of the contradictions within the bourgeoisie expressed as disputes between the various sectors that are the main beneficiaries of this robbery.
In the last decades of the 20th century and in the new millennium, imperialism and the ruling classes are taking pains to apply these neo-liberal measures, while the workers and peoples are struggling for their immediate interests, creating alternative proposals that are being transformed little by little into the creation and support of a programme for their emancipation.
In this period in Ecuador, bourgeois governments of various kinds have followed one after the other. The military dictatorships of the 1970s and the government of Roldós were the last expressions of the policy of development. Beginning with the administration of Oswaldo Hurtado, neo-liberalism policies were initiated.
The Social Christians and Febres Cordero, the conservatives and Sixto Duran, Bucaram, Alarcón, Mahuad and Noboa openly proclaimed the formation of neo-liberal governments. The Democratic Left under the disguise of reformist rhetoric was the architect of the labour reforms that restricted union rights. Gutiérrez now is committed to continue applying those anti-popular and anti-national policies.
The Ebb, Revival and Growth of the Social Struggle
In the last years of the 1980s, the revolutionary movement of the workers and peoples were struck by harsh blows of a political and ideological nature.
The fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the ex-USSR, the debacle of so-called ‘real socialism’, the defeat of socialism in Albania and of various revolutionary developments in Latin America and Asia, the destruction of the revolutionary union movement, the ideological confusion, political dispersion, desertion, discouragement and demoralisation of the left and the proletarian revolutionaries were the most important signs of an ebb in the revolutionary and progressive forces, which had international dimensions.
This situation was a consequence of the weaknesses and errors of the revolutionary forces. It was also the result of ideological and political pressure by imperialism and reaction; it made possible a great anti-communist onslaught which affected the whole workers and peoples liberation movements, the youths and the revolutionary political organisations, their members and leaders.
The reactionaries applauded, they proclaimed the ‘end of history’, the ‘end of ideology,’ the absolute triumph of capitalism, the collapse of socialism, the bankruptcy of the social revolution, the uselessness of the popular struggle. They brought us the ‘new world order,’ ‘globalisation,’ ‘the interdependence of countries,’ the ‘end of the cold war,’ the world of peace and order, of democracy and individual liberty.
The popular forces, the working class and peasantry, the youths, the left political formations in our country, even the revolutionary party of the proletariat, also suffered from the impact of that ebb. Here, as in other places, the superiority of capitalism and the collapse of socialism, the obsolescence of Marxism-Leninism were also proclaimed; it was branded as a worn-out theory and revolutionaries were ridiculed as dinosaurs.
The winds of change and the revolution changed course, and not a few leftists and revolutionaries, even some communists, succumbed to the counter-revolutionary broadside.
But things were not so good for the reactionaries.
Under the equatorial sun, in the peaks of the Andes and in the tropical forest, in the fields and factories, the classrooms and neighbourhoods, the ideas of liberation were renewed, the Indian and peasant masses, the youths of the cities, the teachers continued their struggle under new conditions.
Very early, in 1990, suddenly as if from nowhere there emerged a great uprising of the indigenous peoples that rapidly became general and shook the country. Tens of thousands of Indians of the Sierra and the Amazon angrily demanded land and territory, their national and cultural rights.
Five hundred years of oppression and exploitation, of cultural aggression could not wipe out the Indian peoples. For centuries they were subjugated, decimated by repression and disease, isolated in the wilderness and forest. These were years of resistance, of intermittent battles, of partial uprisings, the majority of which were defeated by force, first by the Spaniards and later by the Mestizos; they were times of learning and accumulation. And suddenly they burst forth.
Two years later, at the time of the commemoration of five centuries of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, once again the Ecuadorian Indians showed the vitality of their organisation and struggle. They carried out a second great uprising.
Ecuador seemed to be an atypical country. While in the great majority of countries the social and national movement was in retreat, at an ebb, here there were important political and social events which had a general significance that impacted on the whole of society.
There were many bourgeois and ‘leftist’ analysts, particularly the latter, who spoke of the special circumstances of the indigenous movement and who took this question absolutely out of context, separated from the revolutionary struggle, which could stand on its own, but was self-contained. That it was not part of the revolutionary social forces.
Life, however, is an enlightening teacher.
The popular social forces, and particularly the workers movement, certainly felt the ebb that we discussed above. But, although they suffered reverses and the impact of the anti-communist offensive, they were not wiped out, nor even isolated.
1991 was the scene of a combative strike by the UNE [National Union of Teachers– translator’s note] which confronted the arrogance of social-democracy in the government. The teachers developed important forms of struggle, in conjunction with the parents and students. Above all, what was new were the force, development and projection of the debate, the participation of the rank and file of the teachers in making decisions and in carrying them out. The victory of the teachers together with the actions of the Indian peoples was a new component in the revival of the popular movement.
In 1993, once again the teachers, unionised in the UNE, were leaders of a new national strike of indefinite duration, this time against the government of Sixto Duran Ballén. These were 63 days of struggle, which showed the initiative of the ranks of the teachers together with the parents and the students, with solidarity from the trade union and peasants’ movement; they broke out onto the highways, the towns and cities. This time the repression went beyond tear gas bombs thrown by the police, the firing of leaders, the imprisonment of teachers and the murder of two teachers; the government resorted to using the armed forces and it militarised the schools. The UNE by its unity, fighting spirit and correct leadership won a resounding victory. The struggle of the teachers was of such magnitude that the streets of the cities were painted with the slogan ‘Unite, the struggle continues’ by organisations and people who felt admiration for the force, vitality, heroism and victories of the UNE. These new struggles of the teachers contributed significantly to the revival and recovery of the popular and revolutionary movement.
In 1994 and 1995, the peasants organised in the National Unitary Federation of the Peasant’s Social Security (FEUNASC) organised fighting actions that mobilised tens of thousands of people. The high school students and to a certain degree the university students actively took part in the struggle in the streets in opposition to the anti-popular and anti-national measures, in defence of secularism and in opposition to religious instruction. In the last quarter of 1994 and the first months of 1995 the student youths took to the streets of the cities and developed new forms of struggle. Gradually slogans limited to opposition to the increase in fares and other anti-popular measures were superceded by the fighters who put forward the struggle for the revolution. The courage of the youths grew, as did their boldness. They confronted the armoured personnel carriers, seizing them and taking them over. They pulled down the police horses. They threw back the tear gas bombs of the police. At various times and places they took the initiative and changed from being pursued by the gendarmes to becoming their pursuers. To an observer, it was clear that the popular struggle had reached high levels and had developed. We can say that the ebb had passed and that the popular movement was on the rise.
This important period in the social struggle was drastically interrupted. In February of 1995 the War of the Cenepa took place in which local units of the armed forces of Ecuador and Peru confronted each other. This situation moved the focus from the social struggle, diverting it toward the struggle for the defence of territorial integrity.
Curiously in Peru, this same circumstance eliminated contradictions among groups of high officers in the Armed Forces.
The government of Duran Ballén tried to get the Ecuadorians to legalise the main neo-liberal measures, decentralisation and privatisation of social security and strategic areas of the economy, by means of a referendum. The social organisations, the political parties of the left faced this with unity. By way of debate and propaganda leaflets distributed by hand we defeated a broadly televised campaign. The popular masses said ‘eleven times no’ to neo-liberalism.
The social struggle that took place in the country was also expressed in the electoral arena.
In the legislative and municipal elections of 1994 the revolutionary left through the MPD [Popular Democratic Movement – translator’s note] elected 7 representatives and formed the third largest force in the bourgeois parliament. That situation was the result and reflection of the struggle of the masses, of the political action of the revolutionaries.
In 1996, Pachakutik, proposing Elheres as candidate, achieved an extraordinary vote, also taking third place in the presidential elections and forming an important parliamentary group.
We have briefly analysed the conduct of the popular social movement in the first half of the 1990s.
In Ecuador, the ebb mainly affected the workers movement, the leadership and membership of the organisations of the left and the revisionists (the CP had dissolved itself and merged with the socialist party; later a small group tried to reconstitute it). The movement of the masses was affected but it was quickly able to recover, a group of parties and people of the left and the revolutionaries persisted in their convictions and continued the struggle. We Marxist-Leninists communists took our places in these ranks, as did other revolutionaries.
The main popular forces responsible for the revival were the indigenous movement that united an important group of the Indian peoples, the teachers’ organisation, the student youths and the public workers. Among the political forces Pachakutik and the MPD, PCMLE [Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador – translator’s note] and JRE [Revolutionary Youth of Ecuador – translator’s note] clearly stand out. These social forces and political organisations would constitute the axes of the popular and national movement, the main columns in the process of emancipation of the workers and peoples. These forces would become the main protagonists of all the political events of the country. They would coincide and act together and also diverge and follow different paths.
Beginning with these events but with roots in the previous years, the Ecuadorian popular movement began a period of ascent that is continuing today and which will develop much more in the near future.
The Popular Movement Changes Qualitatively and Makes a Leap in Development
The popular masses, driven by the crisis, struck by repression, dispersed among several trade union organisations, affected by the anti-communist offensive are evolving into the protagonists of important class battles. They are opposed to exploitation and labour flexibility. They are coming out in the streets and plazas, the fields and cities against the measures of the International Monetary Fund [IMF]. They are struggling for better conditions of life, higher wages, stability, the right to education and health, land and water, credits and just prices for their products. These are intermittent battles which are growing in size and perspective. Some of the confrontations are taking on political characteristics, confronting the government in office, and in some of them, the most advanced sectors aim at the seizure of power.
Recently those actions of the popular masses have begun with protests against anti-popular measures of various governments; they are manifestations of the struggle for life, of opposition to the economic policies and they quickly become general actions that target the government. They are growing in the process of development and have sometimes become important popular uprisings.
The protests against the measures of Bucaram, before he was in office for six months, were quickly transformed into rejection of his arrogant and authoritarian manner, his corruption and ineptitude. Tens of thousands of workers, peasants, youths and teachers, poor community residents and housewives; masses of Indians, Mestizos and Blacks; the parties and organisations of the left swelled into a popular current that called for the overthrow of Bucaram and became a great uprising that removed him from power in February of 1997. Interestingly the Socialist Party was part of Bucaram’s government. A part of the bourgeoisie also came out in favour of the overthrow of Bucaram. The popular struggle played an outstanding role, it took advantage of the differences between the bourgeois groups; however, the end results were usurped by another sector of the ruling classes.
From the restoration of representative democracy in 1979 until this moment, imperialism and the ruling classes have been protecting their legitimacy; they took pains to present themselves as champions of democracy. At this point the crisis reached such a breadth and depth that they were forced to break with institutional stability in order to divert the popular struggle and to temporarily resolve their inter-group contradictions. This was a qualitative change in the strategy of imperialism and the oligarchies.
The popular movement debated their views in collectives of various sizes, in factory and peasant assemblies, in forums and workshops; they united in the streets and plazas, in the countryside and the cities. They advanced qualitatively in understanding the need to overthrow the corrupt government in office. This event took place in the country for the first time in more than thirty years, since 1966 when the military dictatorship of the colonels was overthrown. The revolutionary left put forward the perspective of a popular government. This was a correct slogan, but the mass movement did not understand it. They called for a Popular Mandate for the new government and decided to keep an eye on it. The crisis was resolved in the bourgeois parliament and the revolutionary representatives contributed in that direction. The struggle in the streets registered a qualitative advance in all forms of the popular movement.
The indigenous movement, brought together in the CONAIE and Pachakutik, formed one of the columns of the popular uprising. The revolutionary left headed another column, it was tested and hardened in battle, it grew. A good part of the masses who took part in the uprising were called out by the struggle itself, by the subjective conditions generated by the process.
The Popular Uprising of January 2000
The government of Mahuad tried to carry through the neo-liberal policies to the end. In the beginning of his term he set himself up as a bourgeois alternative to fragment the popular movement. He subjected the country to the demands of Yankee imperialism and, with the endorsement of all the ruling classes he signed a peace treaty with Peru and once again harmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
The deepening of the economic crisis, the closing of banks and the freezing of deposits, the fiscal deficit and above all the embezzlement of and profiteering in public funds as well as the IMF measures soon showed Mahuad as being corrupt and inept; this armed the masses with the decisiveness and courage to oppose him and struggle against his policies. By means of two popular uprisings, in March and July of 1999, he was forced to withdraw the imposition of his economic measures.
By the end of 1999 the social and national mass movement in the cities and the countryside changed its aim toward the overthrow of the government. Through struggle it understood Mahuad’s weakness and the strength of the movement of those at the bottom. The political crisis deepened significantly. Even the Armed Forces, the High Command conspired openly.
Once again politics shifted to the streets and the plazas, the trade unions; the popular movement, the indigenous peoples, the parties and organizations of left assumed the responsibility of overthrowing the government. At this moment the mass movement as a whole advanced to the point of demanding the overthrow of the Executive, the replacement of Congress and the dismissal of the Courts of Justice and thus the formation of an alternative government. The CONAIE and its allies proposed a Junta of National Salvation, while the trade unions, associations, peasants and youths united around the Patriotic Front raised the demand for a Patriotic Government.
The movement in that direction grew in force and intensity in January of 2000. The forces of the Patriotic Front showed themselves in combat in much of the country; the indigenous people rallied in a plaza in Quito and formed a general focal point. Society as a whole was affected. Mahuad called on the Armed Forces to indiscriminately repress the actions of the masses. The bourgeois forces outside of the government defended institutional stability and demanded that Mahuad rectify his actions; some even demanded his resignation. U.S. imperialism, President Clinton himself and also the U.S. embassy supported the President. The troops were immersed in the crisis; the High Command was prepared to take power. On January 21 the situation changed. A group of army officers headed by Colonel Gutiérrez took the side of the indigenous people. They took over Congress and formed a ‘Junta of National Salvation,’ excluding the forces of the Patriotic Front.
Despite this, the revolutionary left and the popular movement supported that Junta and generalised the social struggle to the whole country. January 21 became a day of political struggle throughout the country. The masses, in the great majority of provinces, put aside the differences expressed on the national level, united in action and formed municipal and provincial governments.
The workers and peoples of Ecuador, the great majority of the parties and organisations of the left and a group of rebel official were the main actors of this great political event. They advanced to the point of forming an alternative government but they did not have the determination and strength to control the situation. Gutiérrez and the rest of the military subjected themselves to military discipline, gave up their posts and went to prison. The leadership of the CONAIE and Pachakutik capitulated and ordered their forces to withdraw. The Patriotic Front did not have the strength to continue the struggle, although it tried to; the masses were disarmed ideologically by the actions of the top ranks of the native peoples and the soldiers who had rebelled.
In evaluating these events at that time, the revolutionary left, our Party, correctly saw that a great political battle for the seizure of power had been waged. The popular and national movement had made great strides in understanding their role and aims; they were the protagonists of great actions of the masses, directed toward their realisation. But they were not able to make unity concrete to the extent necessary; they could not maintain their positions. ‘They tried to seize heaven and advanced significantly in that aim.’
The unity and struggle of those at the bottom, the role of the political parties and organisations of the left, the inclusion of a group of officers who had a good deal of influence among the middle-ranking officers and the soldiers of the Armed Forces signified a qualitative advance in the revolutionary movement. They did not achieve their maximum objectives, but despite that we were fighters in victorious battles. We won a partial victory and learned many lessons, among them the need to wage the social and political struggle in all fields, to fight for unity not just in actions, but also in proposals and objectives, to act and grow in the great struggles of millions of workers of the city and countryside, among all the peoples of Ecuador.
The Struggle of the Masses Continues
The struggle of the popular masses continued in a recurrent manner. It showed itself in opposition to the economic measures and it presented proposals and initiatives in pursuit of its medium-range objectives. In circles that went beyond the political environment there was talk of the perspective and struggle for the government.
In January of 2001 the student youths, workers and teachers took to the streets and demonstrated their opposition to the new economic measures. Moreover, the Indian movement was involved in the struggle and waged a political uprising that was ended by its leadership in exchange for some immediate demands. Overall, January and February of 2001 saw a continuation of the actions of January 2000, with the perspective of developing the mass movement.
The Indian Movement, the Workers and the Left Continue the Struggle by means of Elections
In the regional elections of 2000 the popular sectors were able to forge an important level of unity. The left, the popular movement and the indigenous peoples established agreements of a local character that let them win important partial victories in several provinces and municipalities.
Looking to the presidential, legislative and municipal elections of 2002, the various groups within the popular forces decided to work for a broad electoral front that would let them confront the ruling classes.
This was a long and winding process. Group interests weighed more than general ones, more than the interests of the movement as a whole and of the country.
The revolutionary left, the PCMLE, MPD, JRE and the social forces grouped in the Popular Front tried to forge the broadest possible unity: of the popular social organisations, the trade unions and associations, the Indian movement, the rebel military forces, the parties and political organisations of the left; that is, of all those who took part in the popular uprising of January 2000, of all those of us who had fought on the barricades, of all who fought for change.
Colonel Gutiérrez decided to organise his own political party. He counted on the enthusiastic support of a good part of the rebel officers, on the sympathy and hopes generated among the popular sectors by their participation in the popular uprising of January 21, and on the financial contributions of certain businessmen and bankers. The Patriotic Society Party [PSP] and the presidential candidacy of Gutiérrez arose as representatives of the soldiers and became the axis of the alternative electoral front, as a candidacy on the rise.
The Socialist Party [PSE] participated actively in the debates and acted as if they were ‘very interested’ in general unity, without excluding anyone. In reality they worked for their own plan of unity with Gutiérrez, excluding the other forces. With that objective they managed to sign an agreement to merge the PSP and the PSE and they divided up the electoral map, isolating the other forces of the left, the Indians and the popular movement, trying to get them to join that political Project.
Things were not that easy for the socialists. Roldós decided to launch his own candidacy outside of the left, making agreements with oligarchic sectors and warning the socialists to either follow him or he would leave the party. Wrapped in pragmatism, the Socialist Party broke its agreement with the Patriotic Society and hitched itself to the centre-right cart of Roldós.
Pachakutik and the CONAIE also took part in the discussions to form an alternative electoral front. Representing the majority of the Indian peoples and thus an important force but afraid of ‘being counted’ in the elections, they thus sought at all costs a general alliance that would accommodate them. Therefore they pragmatically sought an understanding with Roldós and the Democratic Left and but failed in those attempts. Finally, by imposing conditions, mainly, according to what they themselves said publicly, of excluding the MPD, they formed an electoral alliance with Gutiérrez and the Patriotic Society.
The revolutionary left, at the same time as it made proposals for unity: the development of a programme to overcome the crisis, the participation of all the popular forces and of the left and, putting aside some of its own aspirations, it strengthened its own forces and, in case agreements were not reached, organised its own presidential candidacy and lists.
The popular masses had great hopes that an electoral accord would be reached. The aspirations for unity, to confront the oligarchy together, ran through the assemblies and debates of the various sectors of the workers and peoples. The struggles of the recent past, the partial victories won, the perspective to advance, was forming a current, a political project that came from below, of opposition, of the trade union and national organisation. That political project grew.
It was an objective fact that the country and the mass movement had entered a new, qualitatively different, situation. That circumstance was evaluated by the forces of the revolutionary Left, the PCMLE, MPD, JRE and the forces of the Popular Front.
A historic crossroad had been reached.
The process of accumulation of forces in the electoral arena had traditionally led, by way of the participation of the revolutionary left in alliance with important social sectors, to electoral accords of a local character with like-minded political formations. At this moment an alliance at the presidential level failed. The MPD was explicitly excluded from the accords between the Patriotic Society and Pachakutik. Everything indicated that, once again, the forces of the left would participate individually.
The party of the proletariat and the other forces of the revolutionary left correctly understood the course of events; they evaluated the development of the popular tendency and of the left, the crisis and the divisions among the parties of the ruling classes, the possibilities of growth and development of an alternative project.
The events were one of the decisive moments for the popular movement. We summed up the forces and recognised that either the democratic and popular tendency would grow and make a leap forward or, we would follow the path of each accumulating its own forces and making partial advances but a great opportunity for the whole movement would be lost.
Understanding that this was a historic stage, the forces of the revolutionary left grouped in List 15 of the MPD and Popular Unity decided to withdraw their presidential candidacy and to support Colonel Gutiérrez from outside and to run their own candidates for representatives, for local and regional offices, without discounting the possibility of reaching local agreements.
This was a historic decision, the first time a situation like this occurred. The reasons for this line of action have to be seen in the context of the will to advance the process of the accumulation of forces:
to support a popular and left-wing current that originated in the popular barricades and that decided to take part in the elections, which grew in the imagination of those at the bottom; to strengthen the unity of the workers and peoples that was a necessity and that was already under way, in development, with the incorporation of large sectors of the masses; to wage an electoral political battle that showed the development of the popular and indigenous forces, of the parties and organizations of the left; to be involved in a general project without losing our political and organisational identity and to struggle, within that process, to show the proposals of the left and the revolutionaries to confront the bourgeoisie and imperialism and to differentiate them from the alternatives of the petty bourgeoisie and social-democracy that existed in the electoral project of Gutiérrez and Pachakutik; to participate in order to strengthen and develop the popular and left-wing tendency, but also to consolidate and strengthen our own forces.
In this situation, the decision was understood by the great majority of the forces making up the Popular Unity and the MPD and we took an active part in the electoral campaign. Moreover, our decision was accepted by sectors of the masses beyond our own forces and areas of influence; they understood it as an attitude of principles, without demanding anything in exchange, facilitating unity in deed and not just in words.
For their part, the various sectors of the ruling classes prepared to make known their positions in the general elections. The most important bourgeois political parties were immersed in the general crisis of society. Their central aim was to support representative democracy, to thus assure the continuity of the bourgeois institutions. They feared the movement of the masses but counted on their ideological, political, and material resources to take part in the struggle to win victory.
The discrediting of Congress, the Government, the Courts of Justice and all the institutions went hand in hand with the growth of consciousness of the masses, the affirmation of their social organisations and the dynamism of the left. Under these conditions, the elections clearly became a confrontation between the popular forces and the oligarchy.
The various political camps of the bourgeoisie, the Social Christian Party, the Democratic Left, the Ecuadorian Party of Roldós [PRE], the recently formed Party of Renewal of National Integration [PRIAN] of Álvaro Noboa, Christian Democracy, etc., decided on a strategy of participating separately, trying to reach the second round in the elections and to confront the left, the Indians and the soldiers, and to defeat them with the whole apparatus of the system.
The magnitude of the crisis and their desire to benefit from it prevented the political right wing and centre from establishing alliances and solid fronts. Various electoral options of the ruling classes were presented. The Social Christian Party and the PRE ran second-rank presidential candidates, since their main leaders were not able to participate with any hope of winning and they preferred to avoid having them lose. The Democratic Left ran its historic leader (the only one of importance) as candidate. Álvaro Noboa and his party, PRIAN, participated with millions of dollars and the hope that he only been defeated by fraud four years ago. León Roldós, after breaking the unity of the left, built a multi-tendency electoral platform that included the weakened Socialist Party, the right-wing party of Christian Democracy, Ecuadorian Force (pro-fascist), Conservative Party, the CFP and a series of ‘independents.’ There were also other, marginal candidates.
The electoral campaign was intense. The various candidates of the ruling classes were involved to the hilt. They spent huge sums of money that surpassed the limits imposed by the electoral law. Demagogy and promises of all sorts were made on television, radio and through direct contacts.
The results of the first round of the elections were something new. Colonel Gutiérrez came in first with 20% and Álvaro Noboa came in second with 17%. Four other bourgeois candidates: Roldós, Bucaram, Borja and Neira had votes between 16% and 12%. For the first time in the history of the country, the second round of the elections was not between two bourgeois camps. Now it was between the candidate supported by the popular sectors and the left, and the candidate with the greatest fortune in the country, who nevertheless did not have the confidence of all the power groups. All this showed a great fragmentation of the candidates of the bourgeoisie and a good degree of unity of the popular forces.
The vote for Gutiérrez represented the dissatisfaction, the yearning for change, the strength of those at the bottom, the hope of millions. Personally the Colonel won 20% of the electorate. In the multi-person elections his party, the Patriotic Society, won 4.16%, Pachakutik, 5.22% and the MPD, which supported him from the outside, won 5.08%.
If we leave out the support of the MPD, the vote for Gutiérrez would have been reduced to 15% and he would thus not have made it to the second round. This means that the vote of the revolutionary left was a determining factor in his first round victory.
On the other hand the decision of the revolutionary left to support Gutiérrez also meant the consolidation and development of its electorate. We reached one of our objectives, to exceed the 5% required by the electoral law. Therefore the banner of unity, of support for the tendency, reverted in favour of the lists of the MPD; a good part of the masses saw in that position a just and correct policy and they supported it.
The vote for the lists of Pachakutik, the Patriotic Society and the MPD were not significantly different. The MPD came within 0.15% of Pachakutik and exceeded that of the Patriotic Society by almost one percent (0.92%). The Socialist Party barely got more than 1%. However the PK [Pachakutik] has 10 representatives; the SP [Patriotic Society] 5; the MPD 3 and the PS [Socialist Party] also 3. This is a result of the electoral distribution established by Law and, because the forces of the revolutionary left ran on a national scale and therefore in all the provinces; they thus did not achieve the votes necessary to elect representatives in the majority of provinces. This has to be resolved in theory and practice. It is necessary to work to strengthen ourselves in the localities but also to grow on the national level. For this we must consolidate a national leadership based in the organisation and the provincial representatives.
The course of the turbulent electoral campaign developed by our forces, in confrontation with the oligarchy and the right wing, against imperialism; of the masses and for unity, once again showed the nature of the left, it reached important social sectors; it reaffirmed our social base and expanded to other popular sectors. The political and organisational objectives proposed, the strengthening of the tendency and the growth of the forces of the left itself were fulfilled, to a great degree, in this electoral process.
A characteristic feature of the electoral campaign was the participation of the masses. A good portion of the workers and peoples made the alternative proposal their own, they felt that they were represented by Gutiérrez and they resisted the whole propagandistic offensive of the big news media.
At that time Colonel Gutiérrez projected himself as a representative of the popular tendency and the left, as an expression of rebellion and of the military rebels, as a new politician who represented the battle against corruption and who promised transcendental changes, as an alternative to the past and the present; he also represented the weakness of the left and of the Indian movement.
This tendency was of a revolutionary nature, just and timely as facts and social practice proved. The process of the campaign itself and its results also showed this.
The second round of the elections was a political battle defined by the nature of the protagonists: Lucio Gutiérrez and Álvaro Noboa. The first represented the emergence of the popular masses, of the Indian movement and of the left; the second represented an economic group of a monopoly character. The fight was bitter. The anti-communist and racist campaign of Noboa, who harshly attacked the MPD and our Party, was not enough to stop the support of the majority in favour of the Colonel. The victory was relatively comfortable.
This victory was also part of a current in Latin America that produced results different from the usual in the electoral processes. Alternatives forces and candidates of the left opened new paths against the plans of the right. Chávez won in Venezuela and has been upheld on several occasions in new elections and, supported by the impoverished masses, formed a different government that has confronted imperialism and the corrupt right in his country. In Brazil, Lula’s candidacy won victory after more than thirty years of electoral struggle which augured a new situation in the giant of South America. Shortly before, the Farabundo Martí Front won victory in the municipal elections in El Salvador and became the largest force in that country. In Bolivia, the peasant candidacy of Evo Morales, on becoming the second largest force, put the institutional stability in danger and showed an important advance of the popular forces. In Uruguay the growth of the Broad Front projects its victory in the next elections.
All this, in spite of the many difficulties and weaknesses, signifies a change in the balance of forces. The period when the political right was omnipresent has come to an end; there is an opening for popular, indigenous, democratic and left-wing alternatives.
This situation is a result of the development of the struggle of the workers, of the fact that the ebb has been left behind. The popular uprisings in Ecuador, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia; the political struggle against corruption in Peru and Nicaragua; the workers’ strikes in Argentina, Chile and Mexico; the mobilisations of the youths in almost all the countries; the advance in the mass and guerrilla movements in Colombia; these are the main signs that the movement of the workers and peoples against oppression and capitalist exploitation, for their social and national liberation is moving from the initial stage of recovery to the level of a sustained ascent in Latin America in general.
This does not in any way deny the temporary reversals that can hold back the struggle of the masses, the movement of the left. There are zigzags in the process. The fundamental thing, in our opinion, is to understand that in the whole region a period of struggle of the masses has begun that will definitely turn, unevenly, into a new revolutionary wave.
The Electoral Results and Their Political Consequences
The presidential victory of Gutiérrez raised great expectations among the popular masses of the city and the countryside. The Indian peoples believed that they had achieved leadership of the government, while the illusion that the broadly desired change would come about seemed a probability to the great majority of Ecuadorians.
Imperialism and the oligarchies understood the message of those at the bottom and tried to tame Gutiérrez; to transform the victory of the peoples into an affirmation of their rule.
The new Government was at a historic crossroads: either to be true to its electoral proposal, to the social base that elected it, to the Indian peoples and the trade union movement of the workers and youths, to its recent past, the rebellion against the ineptitude and corruption of Mahuad, to the months in prison imposed by the vindictiveness of the armed forces. Or, he could prostrate himself before the designs of the U.S. embassy, the impositions of the International Monetary Fund, the interests of the ruling classes, the businessmen and bankers, the corrupt ones whom he had promised to fight against.
In the first case, he could count on the great mass movement which was willing to support the measures of transformation which had shown proof of its strength, its willingness to struggle, and which had been strengthened by hundreds of thousands more poor people who joined the project; he had a base of political support with the authority and strength of the masses, the CONAIE and Pachakutik, the movement of workers and youths, the revolutionary left, its parties and organisations; he could count on the sympathy of the workers and peoples of the continent. That is, the objective and subjective conditions existed to deepen and develop the process of action and struggle of the masses, so that they would advance, not without obstacles, toward the objectives of change that were promised during the electoral campaign and that were the aspiration of the majority of Ecuadorians.
The second alternative meant rejecting his own proposals, surrendering to the same classes that had governed the country, to the designs of U.S. imperialism, of the businessmen and foreign banks, of the International Monetary Fund; that is, to become one more bourgeois government that had devastated the country.
The pressure from below was important, but it was not sufficiently unified (although that could have occurred); it represented a historic opportunity for the workers, the peoples and the country. But, evidently the force of the popular sectors had limits that could be seen in the first six months of government.
The pressure of those above, of imperialism and its servants, counted and still counts on powerful ideological, political and material resources; on the armed forces and the whole weight of bourgeois institutions, on the legislative majority, on the support of the top layers of the Catholic Church; on the economic sanctions of the international agencies, on threats and blackmail; in short, on the whole weight of tradition.
The government of Gutiérrez was at the centre of the dispute. Given his class nature he vacillated. The historic crossroads of which we spoke earlier found in Gutiérrez an indecisive personality who could not take sides, or rather who tried to please everyone.
The Political and Social Forces in the First Six Months of the Government of Gutiérrez
The great majority of the organized workers, the various tendencies in the union movement; the Mestizo, Indian and Black peasants; the social sectors in the unions of public service workers and teachers; the poor community residents in the cities and the small merchants; the broad unorganised popular sectors; the retired lower-ranking soldiers and the relatives of soldiers on active duty; the progressive intelligentsia; the great majority of the Indian peoples, formed the social base that worked actively for the electoral victory of Gutiérrez.
The organisations and legalised political parties that worked in that direction were:
The Patriotic Society Party of January 21 (PSP), the Pachakutik Movement (PK) and the Democratic Popular Movement (MPD).
Other parties and political organisations of the left that were not registered to take part in elections were actively involved in the process: the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador (PCMLE), the Revolutionary Youth of Ecuador (JRE) and the Communist Party of Ecuador (PCE).
Fundamentally, there were three political trends actively involved in the campaign and later in the government.
The PSP was formed to take part in the elections around the activity and leadership of Gutiérrez. It is a political organisation originating from the petty bourgeoisie, mainly formed, in its national and provincial leading cadres, by the officers who rose up on January 21, other officers of the armed forces and retired police, some former leftists and other such politicians who had left the various bourgeois parties. The social base of the PSP is made up of a considerable sector of the popular masses, mainly those who do not belong to trade unions and workers’ associations, retired soldiers and police of low rank, the relatives of soldiers and police.
The PSP is a party formed in the shadow of a political chieftain; it serves the interests and purposes of that figure. It is a top-down party, in which the decisions are made by a small circle and then have to be supported and confirmed by Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez. From the beginning it adopted that nature and style of work. The PSP is tailor-made for Gutiérrez.
As a result of the historic circumstance in which it arose, the PSP brought together various ideological and political currents: patriotic and nationalist, democratic and progressive positions, including the left (moderate and national, as its spokespersons say); centrist, eclectic positions that tried to become the unifying axis for all, pragmatists and opportunists; right-wing and reactionary, anti-communist positions that tried to bask in the charisma of Gutiérrez and gain positions in the PSP. Objectively, the cohabitation in a single organisation of those different political positions was and is impossible. One of them has to gain hegemony and subordinate and/or expel the other. In reality, the petty bourgeois ideology of opportunism, of subordination to the interests and ideology of imperialism became dominant in the PSP. From its beginning various groups were formed that worked to defend their own interests. These are circles obsessed with benefiting from the power and the material privileges of public office. The country witnessed heated controversies among different groups in the PSP, which have not stopped and are continuing, although now they are under the control of Gutiérrez and his most intimate circle, his relatives and friends.
We proletarian revolutionaries had fundamental clarity on these questions. We said: ‘An organisation of this nature, by itself alone cannot lead the country toward its transformation. Even if the proposals and policies of the Patriotic Society and Gutiérrez continue dominating the process, this would conciliate, would once again frustrate the masses,’ and further on: ‘The possibility that the Patriotic Society has inserted itself in the process of change has occurred because the mass movement, its struggle and the political positions of the left have sufficient strength to push them forward.’1
Pachakutik is a political movement of a social and national character. Its main base is the great majority of the Indian peoples, mainly those who are part of the CONAIE. Also important sectors of the workers and public employees, youths and intelligentsia are included in it. It was formed several decades ago, as a result of the work of the Catholic Church, the NGOs and the foundations; the revival of a national proposal that went beyond the struggle for land that has been waged by the indigenous peoples for centuries. Pachakutik always included a considerable number of members of organisations and political parties of the revolutionary left, as well as reformists and social-democrats.
The formation of Pachakutik included the indigenous groups, the community, its problems and aspirations; the communal leadership that stood out in the struggle for land and was promoted and created by the left, but also by reformist representatives of the Catholic Church. It also included a group of Indian intellectuals trained in national and foreign universities, in Europe and Canada, making use of scholarships provided by the church and the NGOs. This intelligentsia took up positions in defence of the national interests of the Indian peoples; they joined in the social struggle and formed the CONAIE years ago, together with the communal leaders.
By its social composition, the class origin of its leadership, its conceptions and practice, Pachakutik is a political organization of the petty bourgeoisie. It is trying to form a ‘movement’ in which various groups and political and ideological currents coexist. In reality its dominant ideology and politics are social-democratic. It defines itself as a political movement of the centre left but in fact, within the PK some other currents exist, ethnocentric positions have a great weight, as do reactionary and right-wing positions and also revolutionary left positions.
The PK is an organisation forged in the social and political struggle; together with other popular sectors and the forces of the left it has led the most important political battles of the workers and peoples in the last 14-15 years. It had and still has, to a large degree, the sympathy of the Mestizos, the workers and youths, the respect and hopes of public opinion for its political and administrative achievements. For the great majority of Ecuadorians it represents the Indian peoples, their re-incorporation into the life of the country after 500 years of oppression and servitude.
The PK’s political proposals are for the reconstruction of the country. They understand this to mean the incorporation of the Indian peoples into the present-day Ecuadorian State, the defence of their national and economic rights. This programme of change does not involve the overthrow of capitalism as a social system and its replacement by socialism. The social revolution, the unity with the workers of town and country, the convergence of the national interests of all the peoples of Ecuador and the overthrow of imperialist exploitation are not part of its programme. In essence, it is a reformist political organization.
‘In order for the process (the government of Gutiérrez) to develop toward its objectives of transformation, for Pachakutik to be integrally included in it, the positions of the left and the revolutionaries within it must be consolidated and advance and eventually have leadership in it.’2 The mass movement, the fortress of the left and the party of the proletariat must be of such force that they can strengthen and push forward the project of emancipation of the workers and peoples of Ecuador.
The revolutionary left, the social and political forces led by the working class and its party, form an important wing of the social and political movement of the country; they exist throughout the length and breadth of the homeland, they take part in a significant way in the life of society. They are forces in development, but still weak and small. They propose to organise and make the revolution, to overthrow the power of imperialism and the capitalists and establish popular power and socialism.
Keeping in mind their strategic objectives, to accumulate revolutionary forces to seize power, they are taking an active part in the organisation and struggle of the workers and peasants, teachers, poor community residents and small merchants, the school youths and the progressive intelligentsia for their immediate rights, against capitalist oppression and exploitation; they are doing this now and will continue to do this in all class battles. Of course, also in the electoral struggle to accumulate forces and to contend with the bourgeoisie and opportunism for the masses.
The revolutionary left by itself is not able to lead the revolutionary process to victory; it must unite with the mass of the popular and national movement which is forming in the country. It is historically correct, it has a basically correct political line and therefore it has the conditions to participate positively in the alternative project.
‘It has the responsibility of growing to assume positions of leadership, it must make itself clear and contribute to developing the consciousness of other sectors, it must work more dynamically and skillfully to win the leadership of the workers and peoples of Ecuador.’
‘The political hegemony of the working class is the indispensable condition for advancing in whatever circumstances the popular movement finds itself. If it does not win hegemony, then what will happen is that another political line, another conception, another proposal will be the determining one. Another social class will win hegemony.’3
All this means that the condition for the alternative project to develop along its original lines depends on whether the working class and its party have sufficient clarity of vision, whether they develop a correct policy adapted to the strategy of the seizure of power and flexible in tactics whether they keep in mind the social problematic and the balance of forces and whether they fundamentally count on the sufficient force of the masses, who will support and carry forward those orientations. This political line arises from the interests of the working class and should be confronted with life, with the struggle of the masses, with the changing and complex political situation.
The Military Rebels
The armed forces have always been the base of support of the domination of the feudal and bourgeois classes. At certain times they exercised power directly. They were always guarantors of institutional stability. The history of the republic has always been one of cycles of military dictatorships and civilian governments. The last twenty and more years of representative democracy have been the longest period without a military dictatorship.
In fact, within the armed forces the interests of various groups of the ruling classes are represented; one can also see the class differences in society, the privileges and rewards, the discrimination and abusive treatment.
After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, U.S. imperialism multiplied its efforts to assure itself of control of the Armed Forces in all countries of the continent. It reformulated the doctrine of National Security, it indoctrinated them with anti-communism, in actuality it turned them into forces of occupation at the service of the Pentagon which reserved for itself the exclusive right to train them and supply them with technical equipment. Officially, the armed forces are impartial; they are subordinate to the Constitution and civilian authority. In reality they have always been politicised, at the service of the system, as guardians of ‘order.’
For a serious analysis, it is clear that the armed forces are not enclosed in a glass, completely immune from the economic, social, and political ups and downs that affect society. If the crisis shakes the foundation of the capitalist system it is logical that it will show itself in the Armed Forces. If reactionary and anti-communist ideas are legitimised within them based on imposition and ‘education,’ then the ideas of those at the bottom, the proposals for liberation that have developed and have strength in the mass movement, will find echoes within the military. It is possible that patriotism and certain nationalist positions can gain a foothold within certain circles of the armed forces. This means that we revolutionaries should propagate our ideas among the armed forces as well.
As Marxism emphasises, the armed forces have a class character. As an institution they are the expression of the violence of the ruling classes to exploit and subjugate the subordinate classes. Despite this, Marxism maintains the necessity and possibility of breaking down the armed forces, based on the class contradictions that develop within them. The history of all victorious revolutionary processes as well as of important struggles for freedom which did not win, shows that some sector of the armed forces take the side of the people, of the nation and the country.
Within the Ecuadorian Armed Forces, from time to time there have been small groups of officers and soldiers who have identified with the democratic and patriotic interests of the masses. Generally those positions are ephemeral; they are soon institutionalised. Even some (very few) military governments have shown some democratic postures. Such is the case of General Alberto Enríquez and some of the measures of General Rodríguez Lara.
These are objective questions; we proletarian revolutionaries must keep them in mind when analysing and working out our policies.
The colonels who rebelled on January 21, 2000 and who were involved in the great popular uprising were inspired by ethical positions, by their opposition to corruption, by democratic positions of sensitivity to the suffering of the Indians. In the process they took up more advanced positions. The decision of Gutiérrez to accede to the presidency hand in hand with the popular forces, the Indians and the left is evidence of those positions. He could also have united with the right or the centre and also have had the possibility of winning the elections. Clearly the rise of the mass movement formed the external condition for the decision of the Colonel. That is exactly what happens in the periods of upsurge of the mass struggle. A part of the forces and people who take part jump on the bandwagon as it moves forward towards the goal; they are not always opportunists, they have the legitimate right to achieve victory and can prove themselves in the struggle. Gutiérrez was a product of history, of the popular and indigenous movement, of the actions of the left. As we said before, he expressed the sentiment of those at the bottom, but he also showed the weakness of the left and of the Indian and popular movement.
Various people, based on the bad experiences of the military dictatorships, of the sad role of General Vargas Pazos and Colonel Gutiérrez, maintain that it is wrong to trust, to believe in the military and much less to think that they will make the social change that the people and the country demand. These views are correct. No Messiah, neither civilian nor military, will be the one to carry out the social transformation. ‘The liberation of the workers must be the task of the workers themselves’ and ‘only the people can save the people’ are forceful expressions, proved by the history of humanity. However, this does not mean that the struggle for liberation can ignore the possibility of some group of military people from the repressive armies taking part in this struggle. We revolutionaries should be clear on this question and not make a mistake. We must analyse each case concretely from our position of principles, in the political and historical conditions that produce it.
The Characterisation of the First Government of Gutiérrez
By its origin, its political proposals, the social base that supported it, the presence of various political parties and organisations of the left, the government of Gutiérrez was different, at the beginning, from all previous governments.
In the first six months, in a relatively short period, the government changed its nature; it became one more neo-liberal administration, at the unconditional service of imperialism, the businessmen and bankers.
This means that in its politics there are two governments of Colonel Gutiérrez. In this section we would like to analyse the characteristics of the first one.
The broad masses of workers, the Mestizos, Indians, and Blacks saw in the government of Lucio Gutiérrez the possibility that he would begin to make the social and economic changes that they had been demanding for a long time. A great majority of poor Ecuadorians hoped that their urgent problems and needs for health, education and jobs would be met.
The government was formed after a popular uprising, after the struggle of the Indians and peasants, of the workers and youths; it had confronted the right wing and the oligarchy in a harsh electoral combat, and it had made proposals of a democratic and popular character. In reality, the perception of the masses had an objective basis; it was based in reality.
From the class point of view (of the proletariat), from a Marxist-Leninist viewpoint, the government of the Colonel was the result of an alliance of the working classes and the peoples, expressed in the confluence of the most important social and trade union organisations, the youths, the various national organisations of the Indians and Blacks, the soldiers who rebelled on January 21, 2000, a significant wing of the progressive intelligentsia and the majority of the parties and organisations of the left.
That social and political alliance was formed around the presidential candidacy of Colonel Gutiérrez; therefore, it was led by him and his party. This meant that the hegemony in that front was in the hands of a sector of the petty bourgeoisie.
The petty bourgeoisie is one of the working classes of Ecuadorian society today. It is a working class in its own right, it has a limited share in the ownership of the means of production; it makes use, in all its layers and sectors, of the surplus value created by the workers and peasants.
The petty bourgeoisie has its own political project, to become the ruling class, climbing up the economic and political ladder, trying to become part of the bourgeoisie. Generally the petty bourgeoisie takes centrist and right-wing positions; its radicalised sectors can take progressive, democratic, left and even revolutionary positions. Fundamentally, the petty bourgeoisie goes whichever way the wind blows; if the strength of those at the bottom is asserted and grows, it can be part of the process; if the pressures of those above, of the right wing, are great enough, it can prostrate itself before them and even renounce its class aspirations, to become a cog in the institutional gears.
Lucio Gutiérrez personally is part of the petty bourgeoisie. He is someone who overrates himself. He considers himself the ‘first,’ in sports, mathematics, in military technique; he is an engineer, professor and university dean. He wants to be the ‘best president.’ These characteristics of the Colonel, the uprising, jail, the electoral campaign gave him a great degree of egocentrism. He believed himself to be the axis of the country and his military buddies formed a chorus of courtiers around him.
Conceptually Lucio Gutiérrez never proposed change, he said that he was neither of the left nor of the right and he refused to uphold important aspects of his programme since the second round of the elections. The revolutionary left was always clear about that and joined the project to advance in the process of accumulation of forces.
All this means that although the social and political alliance which won in the elections included the working classes, because it was led by the petty bourgeoisie, by a person such as Colonel Gutiérrez, it did not form a government that fully represented the interests of the workers and the peoples. Therefore it was not a popular government much less a revolutionary one.
We considered the first government of Colonel Gutiérrez to have been a democratic government with patriotic manifestations due to the nature of the social forces that led it to victory; because it originated in the struggle, in the actions of the popular movement and the Indians; because it included in its platform a good part of the parties and organisations of the left; because it raised and defended a governmental proposal which preserved and defended the interests of the working masses, of the Indian peoples and of the country; because it stated that it would not take part in Plan Colombia, it would revise the concession of the base at Manta.
The Participation of the Revolutionary Left in the Government of Gutiérrez
Once elected, Lucio Gutiérrez proposed to govern with everyone and for everyone and with this outlook he organised his cabinet.
He divided cabinet responsibilities between the PSP and PK. He gave the Department of Economy and Finance to a well-known official and representative of the International Monetary Fund, and offered the Department of Environment to the MPD, which accepted it.
The revolutionary left understood that it was necessary to take part in the new government; that it was neither correct nor serious to isolate itself, under the pretext of defence of principles. Knowing the dual nature of Lucio Gutiérrez and the risks to the mass movement and the project of emancipation, it was a historic necessity to continue the struggle, now, by being a part of a government that was not ours, neither of the left nor of the people. In order to push forward the principles under concrete conditions, it was revolutionary to assume those responsibilities.
We sketch the main outlines of our policies:
to take part in the government in order to implement the alternative project, towards the fulfillment of the programmatic proposals promoted in the campaign, and which were the ones that determined the victory;
to strengthen the unity of the workers, youths and Indian peoples who were committed to the government;
to oppose the right wing and imperialism which tried to sabotage the alternative project and leave it as an unfulfilled project.
to fight against the anti-popular and anti-national measures they foresaw would be applied by the government pushed for mainly, at that time, by the government’s economic team;
to struggle in all areas, by mobilising the masses to defend the project and make it advance; to wage battles from inside and outside the government, without surrendering or weakening our own social base;
to reaffirm our ideological, political, and organisational relations with our social base, with the rank and file of the mass organisations whom we had the responsibility to lead; to defend their interests and to grow with them;
to advance in the process of accumulation of forces, to strengthen the trade union and social organisations, the political organisation of the masses and above all, to develop the revolutionary party of the proletariat.
We understood above all that a revolutionary policy should take into account the situation of the country and the movement of the masses, the balance of social and political forces; the politics of imperialism, but also the situation of the advance of the forces of the workers and peoples on an international scale; and mainly what should be done with the masses and for the masses.
We undertook to work so that the masses would become the protagonists of the political process that was developing, to prevent and struggle against bureaucracy. We proposed that the social sectors with which we were working form a column with the ability and decisiveness to strengthen the general project, to clarify and above all, strengthen it. All the while that we subordinated the part to the whole; we understood that the whole should integrate the part to it, that is, that the immediate and medium-term interests of the sectors of the masses who form the social base of the revolution should be considered and kept in mind in the Project. We always defend the rights and interests of the workers and peoples, mainly of those sectors where we have responsibilities.
Our experience within the government allowed the revolutionaries to carry out a task led by the political structure, in the view of the masses, expressing our differences with the previous policies and gaining prestige in the country. In spite of our own limitations and those generated by the Government, an imprint was left, both nationally as well as locally, showing many who had believed in the slanders of the mass media against the MPD that the revolutionary left was fully capable of governing, of carrying out and implementing proposals honestly and putting the interests of the workers and peoples of Ecuador in the forefront. This contributed significantly to the accumulation of the revolutionary forces.
The First Six Months of the Government
Since his victory, Lucio Gutiérrez spoke of governing by the rules of the system, of the International Monetary Fund, of the U.S. embassy, of ‘honouring the debts and commitments of the country.’ At the same time, during the first six months he did not in general take back his promises of change, of attention to the poor.
The Colonel was always under pressure from the popular masses on one side and from the oligarchies and imperialism on the other. The workers and peoples demanded the fulfillment of the electoral promises; they wanted answers to their urgent needs. The IMF and the right wing demanded clarity; they wanted a government committed to their interests and they set their objective on changing the course of the project. We, the proletarian revolutionaries reaffirmed the need to strengthen the demands of the masses, to lead the struggle for their fulfillment; we did not resign, while it was possible to advance the project in general.
This contradiction was sharpened during this six months period:
Gutiérrez, his financial team and his party applied, gradually but docilely, the orders of the IMF and President Bush. Thus followed the Letter of Intent and the accords with the IMF; the increase in cost of fuel, fares and prices; the freezing of wages; the decrease in the budget for education and health; the alignment of the country with the U.S. proposal regarding Plan Colombia; the statement regarding handing over the base at Manta. At the same time a group of cronies was formed who did what they did in the government, who imposed nepotism, arbitrariness and ineptitude among public servants and administrative authorities.
The leadership of Pachakutik and the CONAIE was correct in criticising all the anti-popular and anti-national policies and decisions and arbitrariness of the government. For its part the revolutionary left, its leadership, the popular representatives elected to Congress, the Minister of Environment, and the Presidential Advisor, all the spokespersons of the mass movement were forthright in opposition to the measures against the workers.
The social forces making up the Popular Front, the students of the FESE [Federation of Ecuadorian Secondary School Students] and the FEUE [Federation of Ecuadorian University Students], the teachers and peasants organised in the FEUNASC, UCAE [Peasants Union of Ecuador] and Jatarishum [a revolutionary Indian movement – translator’s note] took to the streets, they showed in struggle their opposition to those measures and they demanded that Gutiérrez fulfill his promise; they demanded fulfillment of his proposals. The most important and significant in this situation was the position of the teachers and the UNE in defence of education and the rights of teachers. A national strike of more than one month and a hunger strike of more than 300 teachers were necessary for the Government of Gutiérrez to heed the demand for an increase in the budget for education and teachers’ wages, for him to fulfill the promises made during the campaign, to break with part of the demands of the IMF that were contained in the Letter of Intent, such as freezing wages and decentralising education and health.
The leadership of Pachakutik did not understand the policies of the revolutionary left; they branded us as wrong, as diversionists. Its national spokespersons even accused the UNE and the teachers of being intransigent and ‘corrupt’ for fighting for their rights, for demanding what could not be given, for not understanding the ‘popular nature of the government.’
The right stigmatised us as being mean-spirited, for ‘being part of the government while acting like the opposition.’
This contradiction could not last long. The forces of the masses and the left were not sufficient to maintain and guarantee the Project much less to implement it.
Colonel Gutiérrez yielded completely to the blackmail and pressure of the Yankees and the right wing led by the Social-Christians.
Under those conditions the MPD, PCMLE and JRE, persisting in their positions of principles, of consistency with the popular and national interests, made the decision, in the first days of July, to break with the government and to declare their political independence.
It was a correct, timely and revolutionary decision, made by the more than 3,000 delegates to the National Convention of the MPD. The conditions no longer existed to continue the struggle from within the government; the government had moved to the right, it had changed its nature. We had to continue in the streets and barricades, fighting for the interests and right of the people.
A few weeks later Colonel Gutiérrez broke with Pachakutik and dismissed its ministers. In that situation debates broke out within the PK around leaving the government or staying in it. These and many more facts corroborated the correctness of the decision of the revolutionary left.
In the ranks of the CONAIE and PK there was and continues to be an intense debate about their participation in the government. A good part of the indigenous base demanded a break, other sectors demanded attention to their immediate needs, some of those anointed as ministers and with other representative positions fought to remain, ‘to give the government more time,’ while others showed radical positions of breaking with Gutiérrez. That debate concluded in one phase, with the measures taken by the Colonel to break the alliance, in reality to throw out Pachakutik and its ministers; it is continuing, in a new phase, with the evaluation of the experiences, which has not ended after the Congress of PK at the end of September.
The Democratic Government of Gutiérrez Collapsed
With the breakup of the alliance between the PSP and PK the turnaround of Gutiérrez concluded. He positioned himself completely on the political and economic right; he prostrated himself completely before the designs of the U.S. embassy and concluded an alliance with the Social-Christians.
In a short period, the government elected by the popular and indigenous movement was hijacked by imperialism and the oligarchy. The electoral project which had raised great expectations and hopes among millions of the poor had failed. What were the reasons for this?
In the first place it is necessary to point out, as we did from the beginning, that this was not a popular government, not of the Indians, or much less of the left. It was a democratic government in which we participated in order to win certain immediate and medium-term demands of the workers and peoples, to confront the crisis from the interests of those at the bottom, opening the gates for the development of the popular movement, to learn and to accumulate forces that would bring closer the possibility of the seizure of power.
Thus it was not popular power that failed, nor even a popular government; what collapsed was an alternative, democratic project.
The causes of this reversal are both internal and external. The problems and questions, errors and difficulties are connected with the thoughts and actions of the protagonists, of the political parties, of the social and national organisations, of the leaders and personalities.
Among the internal factors are:
1. The betrayal by Lucio Gutiérrez.
To the degree that the cabinet was organised and left with the great fiscal crisis inherited from the administration of Noboa, the concessions of the government to the IMF and the oligarchy were clear. These policies, that emerged from this situation, in fact, were becoming the line of action of the President, his circle of friends and the PSP.
The Colonel changed his political position, he became the ‘best ally of the United States,’ the most obsequious servant of the oligarchy and the right wing, and the Social Christians became his shamefaced but de facto allies.
There are those who say that Gutiérrez was always the ‘man of the gringos,’ an ‘agent of the CIA,’ a rightist and servant of the oligarchy. They argue that everything that took place on January 21 and in the electoral process was nothing but a part of the U.S. strategy to make use of the masses, to manipulate them, to divert them from the stream of liberation that was developing; to weaken the Indian movement, to divide it and scatter it, above all, to isolate it from the left, from revolutionary positions. According to those prophets, the Indians, the workers, the youths, the left and the proletarian revolutionaries were used, we fell into a trap; some because they were naive, others due to their reformist conceptions; and some consciously, in order to play the game of imperialism.
Such ideas are nothing more, in certain cases, than the feverish speculation of ‘abstract analysts’ who have nothing else to do than to spend the night over coffee or a drink fulfilling their empty theorising of ‘criticism’ of the left. In other cases, it is a reaction to the reactionary and anti-communist offensive that is trying to eliminate the achievements of the Indian, popular and left movement; to stigmatise them; to show their uselessness. In a few cases these can be naïve appraisals that do not take into account reality, the many-sided nature of events, the breadth of revolutionary theory. In any case, these are views that do not correspond with the facts.
An axiom of political analysis is that people are judged by their words and deeds, and especially political parties and organisations.
We already pointed out that on January 21 there occurred a rebellion of a group of officers led by Gutiérrez. This is an incontrovertible fact. The institutional stability of the Armed Forces, at moments of political crisis when it was most necessary, was broken; it was an unplanned action, in regard to the constitutional order. That action resulted in the expulsion of many officers from the military, prison and punishment against important groups of low-ranking officers and soldiers. Under those conditions the language of the Colonel was democratic, anti-corruption, even patriotic. His words corresponded with his deeds.
When it was proposed to organise the PSP he worked with enthusiasm, he was supported by the popular sectors, he spoke out against corruption and the privileges of the right wing. He had many offers from the various bourgeois political camps but he chose to form an alliance with the Indians and other popular sectors.
In the electoral process he presented a democratic proposal, which called for change, and thus he got the support of the masses; he confronted the oligarchy and the right wing.
In government, at first and then later to a decreasing degree, he continued to talk of change, of the fight against corruption, and he put into effect some forms of relation with the masses to attend to their needs.
The metamorphosis of positions by Gutiérrez was accelerated by pressure from the U.S. embassy and the oligarchy, and very soon that change was total.
Gutiérrez betrayed himself, his recent past, the rebellion and the struggle that had led him to the Presidency of the Republic. He betrayed his own electoral proposal. He turned his back on those who had voted for him, on the millions of poor Ecuadorians who believed in him, on the Indians. He betrayed the social base of his party, the PSP, Pachakutik and the CONAIE, and the revolutionary left.
2. The pragmatic policies and those of the leadership of Pachakutik.
Once electoral victory had been won, the leadership of Pachakutik and the CONAIE demanded and received from Gutiérrez Cabinet positions which gave them responsibilities in important areas of the government, agriculture, education, the chancellery and tourism and shared responsibilities in the ministries of government, the economy, energy, social welfare; in Petroecuador [national oil company – translator’s note], the Agency of Solidarity, etc.
They considered government administration as bureaucratic actions and assistance to the indigenous and popular sectors. At no time, in any area or ministry, did they propose significant changes for the democratisation of the State and for the benefit of the Indians and workers.
The arguments among the various groups and leaders of Pachakutik and the CONAIE over various posts in the central government and the provinces were evident to the public. In reality, many of them helped themselves, they profited from positions in the government bureaucracy.
The comrades of the MPD who had responsibilities in the government repeatedly proposed to the leadership of Pachakutik the need to join forces and actions to implement the Project. They always got evasive answers. In reality they looked at the revolutionary left not as allies but as rivals and they preferred to act on their own.
The Indian and popular masses who formed the social base of Pachakutik and the CONAIE remained passive, waiting for a solution to their problems and needs; they showed their dissatisfaction with the leadership and functionaries but the only explanation they received was that changes cannot be made overnight.
The proposal of the left to press on with the struggle of the masses to advance the project came to nothing.
Under these conditions the criticisms by the leadership of the CONAIE and PK of the IMF measures of Gutiérrez were just words, they were not supported by the action and struggle of the masses. The policy of mobilising the masses for their rights and aspirations, to implement the Project, was not taken up by the leadership of Pachakutik; on the contrary they were dedicated to exercising bureaucratic functions and carrying out measures of assistance. In fact, this was an opportunist policy.
3. The weakness of the revolutionary left.
We took part in the government and the few comrades directly involved strived to fulfill their responsibilities. They implemented efficient administration, the ties with the social sectors linked to their performance. In the short period of their administration they showed their ability and solvency; they were recognised for that.
The revolutionary left were the main ones responsible for supporting the alternative Project with the action and struggle of the masses, struggling from outside so that the proposals of the campaign would be fulfilled and to make strides forward in meeting the needs of the masses and in realising some aspects of change; for opposing the attempts of imperialism and the right wing to make the project fail, to make it function within the system. We worked tenaciously towards these ends.
Our activity was well known; we led the opposition of the masses to the neo-liberal measures; we pushed forward the struggle for their interests. All that meant support to the project, to the government that we elected.
Ours was a correct and revolutionary policy, but we did not have sufficient strength to determine the course of events. As this policy was not the expression of the unity of all the popular sectors and the indigenous peoples it was insufficient to advance the project.
In summary, the essential causes for the failure of the alternative project were the betrayal by Gutiérrez, the opportunist politics of the leadership of Pachakutik and the CONAIE and the weakness of the MPD and the revolutionary left to be able to determine the course of the popular, indigenous and left wing movement.
The external causes that acted on the intrinsic conditions of the process were the pressure of the oligarchy, the right wing and imperialism.
The oligarchy, the businessmen and bankers, the right wing in all its manifestations were never happy with the victory of the Colonel for the Presidency of the Republic, since it meant a cancer on the health of the system. Imperialism felt the same way.
They proposed a tactic of pressure and blackmail to tame the President and make him into another one of their allies and servants and, if this did not succeed, to oppose his administration, sabotage it and even overthrow him. With that aim, for example, the PSC refused to assume the Presidency of the National Congress, leaving a vacuum which threatened the constitutional legitimacy of the new government.
With that aim, they also used flattery, entreaties and proposals of economic, material, and political support, but also threats.
His visit to the United States and Europe, his meetings with the most rancid elements of the oligarchy, began to bear fruit. Gradually Gutiérrez, his circle and the PSP, even some of the ministers of Pachakutik, changed their tune in the name of political realism.
Imperialism, the oligarchy, reaction and the right fulfilled their objective; they tamed Gutiérrez and did it in a short time.
The Ideological Offensive of Reaction and Imperialism
As a result of the conclusion of the participation of the Indian movement and the left in the government of Gutiérrez an intense campaign was mounted to discredit the participants in the events. This campaign is taking place through the press and television, in academic and political settings. A good part of the scribblers have gotten into the good graces of their masters by launching accusations, lies and slanders.
They claim that the indigenous peoples are a respectable part of society, that they were subjugated and forgotten for centuries and that it is most just to take their aspirations into account, to attend to their needs. They even recognise their right to take part in governing the country. But that, they maintain, does not mean that they can impose their presence and their interests on the whole country; they should understand that they are a minority. They state that they have chosen the wrong road, methods and allies to achieve their demands.
The Indians, they say, should first educate themselves, know themselves, be conscious of their real abilities and then, in an orderly, democratic way, they should seek attention to their needs and problems.
Violence, paralysing the country, blocking highways, invading cities are irrational methods that only lead to chaos and anarchy.
Facts have shown, according to them, that the Indians do not know how to govern, that they had the opportunity to show their abilities and they did not use it properly.
In regard to the revolutionary left, they say almost the same thing: socialism has failed; it is an obsolete doctrine. The communists, the extremists are something from the past; they do not understand the new times that the country and humanity are living through.
They state that throughout its activity the extreme left has done nothing other than organise strikes and riots. The only thing that they know how to do is to oppose everything. They do not have any realistic proposals. They lack substance in their plans and programmes, and they resort to verbal violence, to stones and bombs to impose them. The country knows them and thus does not give them the chance; it knows that the aim of their participation in elections is to seize power to put an end to institutions and property. The crisis in education is an example of the uselessness of the leftists.
They were thrown out of the government of Gutiérrez, they say, and did not put into practice a single one of their proposals. Just like the Indians they are unable to govern; their role of throwing stones does not let them see further than their noses.
The country has to learn this lesson and not try alternatives put forward by those who cannot fulfill the high responsibilities of governing.
The results of this intense ideological offensive denigrating the Indians and the left have had an effect on the consciousness of considerable sectors of the masses and on some political activists. There was doubt as to whether we at the bottom are able to govern, scepticism about our real ability to produce change, there has been a certain degree of distrust in the political organisations, in politics itself.
This belief is supported by the limitations and errors committed in the governmental administration by the leaders of Pachakutik and the left; but in reality it is an accumulation of lies and slanders, an interpretation far removed from the facts.
This ideological campaign is reactionary, racist and anti-communist; its aim is to discredit the social organisations, the unions and associations, the indigenous people, the political organisations and parties of the left. It claims that politics should continue to be the exclusive right of the ruling classes.
In the previous pages we have expressed our point of view regarding these facts. Reality does not show that we the Indians and the left are unable to assume and carry out the administration of the government. On the contrary, this period in the life of the country has shown that we the workers and Indians, the poor, the ones always left out, those at the bottom, the left, have the boldness to aspire to the government; that we know how to organise ourselves to achieve this; that we defeated a multimillion dollar electoral campaign of the oligarchy and imperialism, in a partial way, since the right wing won the legislative majority; that we began governmental administration without experience, but with the determination to advance and fulfill; that this administration ran into difficulties and sabotage by the President himself and his cronies, faced with the pressure of imperialism and the oligarchies; that we did not have sufficient strength and will to unite under a single leadership; that we made errors (who does not?) and did not have sufficient force to advance in our purposes.
This does not mean that we are incapable, that we do not have objectives; that we only know how to mobilise and applaud. Our plans to get out of the crisis, to guide the progress of the country along the correct path and to take care of the needs of the millions of poor Ecuadorians are elaborated in a scientific way, adapted to reality, and above all they can be applied. In our ranks there are comrades with the sufficient honesty and transparency, with the ability and decisiveness to face up to those responsibilities. The facts, the administration of our comrades in the Ministry of the Environment, in the Congress of the Republic, in the provincial administrative posts and local governments are a demonstrative example of what we have maintained.
One must understand that the political spaces that we achieved in the bourgeois institutions will always have limits, since the political structures continue to be intact, since we are a bureaucratic cog in the State apparatus and the capitalists continue to hold economic and political power. Only by seizing power, exercising it to the fullest extent, will we workers and revolutionaries be able to carry through to the end our revolutionary conceptions; to fulfill the aspirations of the majority for justice, equality, jobs and opportunities; to build a society of the workers and for the workers.
In affirming these revolutionary conceptions we do not deny the need and possibility of taking posts in bourgeois institutions and from there to continue to work to seize power; to affirm ourselves, to grow and have the conditions to do this more rapidly. In the country various experiences have shown how we leftists and revolutionaries make use of those situations, and of course, we have made mistakes and errors; we have even had desertions.
Revolutionary organisation and practice imply the use of all forms of struggle, of all spaces and opportunities of bourgeois legality, but they demand, and this we should always remember, the subordination of all those forms of struggle to the legitimate exercise of the revolutionary violence of the masses, the only road that leads to power and then allows us to maintain and defend it.
In the process of accumulating forces to be able to seize power, it is necessary and indispensable to resort time and again to direct confrontation and electoral struggle, to win positions, to reaffirm ourselves in them and to advance.
The Necessity of Unity
In the process of the class struggle taking place in Ecuador certain social and political focal points are being established.
Any honest person who analyses the development of the mass struggle can see that there are two columns of the popular movement. One is made up of the Indian peoples, a part of the trade union movement of public workers, the democratic and reformist NGOs, a part of the Catholic Church and Christian activists and a wing of the intelligentsia; this column is politically inspired and led by Pachakutik. The second column is made up of a part of the trade union and peasant movement, a sector of the Indian and Black movement, the teachers, high-school and university youths, community organisations and small merchants, a current within the progressive intelligentsia, and various political organisations of the left. The revolutionary party of the proletariat has an important effect and the responsibility to strengthen and guide this column. At certain moments of the struggle this column has included almost the whole trade union movement and the majority of the parties and organisations of the left.
These formations of the peoples of Ecuador have been and are leading the most important actions of the social struggle in the last 15 years.
In the great majority of these struggles these formations have come together in the streets, in blocking highways, in mobilisations and strikes, in the popular uprisings. They have been able to concretise their unity in action and, at particular moments, even in unified programmatic projects on some specific questions.
In the majority of important battles, above all at the conclusion, these two columns of the popular movement were not able to march in unity. Their particular interests took priority over their general aims.
The great majority of those in the ranks of these two currents want unity and demand it; their leaderships proclaim it. The need and conditions for that unity exist but it is has not taken place.
The reasons that this sought after unity of the popular movement has not yet taken place are of a conceptual, ideological and political character, as well as of disposition and will.
The leadership of Pachakutik and the CONAIE are under the hegemony of left Social-Democracy and its objectives are not the social revolution. They are fighting for democracy, for social equality and justice; they demand a space for the Indian peoples. On the other hand they lack political strength, they assume self-isolating and sectarian positions, they want everyone to come over to their side and are not prepared to discuss and come to agreements on the basis of equality. These circumstances have until now been a great obstacle to unity. It is possible and above all necessary for the advanced and unitary currents that exist within them take leadership and change the course so that the forces of liberation flow in a single torrent.
In the popular movement led by the revolutionary left a revolutionary project is being strengthened which puts forward the seizure of power, the overthrow of capitalism and imperialism and the building of a society of the workers, socialism. Those are the strategic objectives and to achieve them it is necessary to actively participate in all the social and political battles being waged in the country, and we are doing this. We understand the need for unity and we work for it; but we are clear that we have the right and obligation to not renounce our final aims and therefore we are not willing to dissolve ourselves in reformist projects, to unconditionally accept other proposals. Certainly, in our ranks there are still manifestations of sectarianism which sometimes conspire against unity. We are conscious of this and we have the will to correct them. We are clear that we have part of the responsibility for the fact that the unity of the popular forces is still an unfulfilled objective.
We are clear that the strategic objectives of the proletariat and its party are different from the proposals of the present leadership of the Indian movement, but at the same time, in the confrontation with imperialism and reaction, we share the great majority of views and demands. This means that the conditions exist to build the unity that the working masses and the peoples need and demand. This unitary process cannot be created by the subordination of one force to the other. We must reach agreements that certainly imply concessions, but in no way imply the renunciation of our strategic objectives. It will be life, struggle, and the response of the enemy that will bring about that unitary current.
In any case, given that unity is a condition to advance and win, the struggle of the masses themselves will propose it, will demand it and will surely achieve it. For our part, we will continue working in that direction.
The Results are Steps Forward in the Process of Growth
Reaction, the right wing and the opportunists loudly proclaim that the Indians, the workers and the leftists failed, that they were defeated; that their historic presence in the country has come to an end.
We recognise that in fact the popular and indigenous movement, the democratic, anti-imperialist and left-wing tendency suffered a reverse in the march toward social transformation, in the task of accumulating forces. But we must analyse these questions in a many-sided way, in their contradictions and development and by their results.
In the first pages of this article we referred to the earlier social and political events that led us to win the presidential elections. We analysed those events on the basis of dialectical materialism, in their contradictions and development.
We, the popular masses organised in trade unions and associations, in communes and associations; the indigenous movement; the parties and political organisations of the left; the democratic and patriotic men and women are becoming the main actors in the process of emancipation of the workers and peoples of Ecuador; we are fighting for social and national liberation and are advancing in a sustained manner toward our objective. Naturally those advances do not proceed in a straight line; they develop in the process of the class struggle, they win small, partial, large, and significant victories, but they also suffer from misconceptions, limitations, weaknesses and defeats.
The desire for change, the aspiration for social and national transformation are growing, millions of people are dreaming of a better world. The organisations of the workers and youths, of the Blacks and Indian peoples are being strengthened. For years, the cities and countryside of the country have seen the daily action of those at the bottom, small and large actions of the masses for their rights and in opposition to the anti-popular policies. Local actions, partial mobilisations, general struggles, national strikes and work stoppages, popular uprisings, the participation in the elections are expressions of our actions.
In 1997 we rose up against the corruption and authoritarianism of Bucaram, we threw him out of power, but he was replaced by another bigwig of the bourgeoisie. We worked, discussed, organised and struggled, we threw out an anti-popular government, but we did not take power. Did this mean that we lost the battle, that we were defeated, that we failed, that the perspective of the struggle was finished?
None of our forces and organisations that took part in the popular uprising hold that view. We were clear and precise. We struggled and won a partial victory. We did not seize power, things basically continued as before, the rich were the owners of the country and the poor and the Indians worked for them.
Our victory taught us several lessons: the organisation and struggle of the workers and peoples took a great fortress, they determined the course of social and political life of the country; the conviction that revolutionary politics belongs to the workers and the left; that exercising it leads to strengthening one’s consciousness, organisation and struggle; that unity in action is a great thing, but it is not enough; events demand programmatic unity.
Later on, in opposition to Mahuad, the popular uprisings of March and July of 1999 did not succeed in ousting the government and even less did they lead to change, but we did manage to defeat some of the IMF measures. At those moments and situations, it did not occur to anybody to speak of a defeat of the indigenous and popular movement, of the left, because clearly we had won partial victories.
With the popular uprising of January 21, 2000, we advanced much further, we had the consciousness and decisiveness to organise a different government, and we formed one for a few hours. We all know that things continued to be the same, the bourgeoisie remained in power, it imposed dollarisation and the plundering and exploitation of the capitalists continued. Despite that all the participants considered those actions as victorious battles of the workers and peoples. It was a partial victory. We learned many lessons; we strengthened ourselves.
This time, we won the presidential elections but the right gained a legislative majority. We won a victory, we were not defeated; the victory was partial. During the first six months of government, due to our inexperience, the difficulties, the errors made, but mainly because of the insufficiency and weakness of our forces and the betrayal of Gutiérrez and the pragmatism of the leadership of Pachakutik, we were prevented from implementing the Project toward the proposed objectives. Thus the workers and peoples, the democrats and patriots, the leftists and revolutionaries, the totality of the popular social and political forces suffered a partial reverse. A reverse in the course of the continuing march toward social and national liberation. In this struggle the revolutionary forces came out, basically, standing firm.
We the popular forces, the youths, the revolutionary left had the ability to make the road by walking [to learn as we go – translator’s note]. We faced an unprecedented situation; we could not count on past experience in these circumstances. The arsenal of Marxism-Leninism does not have recipes and we communists of the PCMLE reject ready-made schemes. We were learning politics under new conditions. On one question we were clear, that our positions are always based on the interests of the working class, they took the concrete situation into account, keeping in mind our strategic objectives.
We took part in the process; we perfected our orientations and methods and strengthened democracy in making decisions within the Party and the mass movement that we led. We grew in theory and practice. Therefore we were able to objectively analyse events and the development of things, and we made the timely decision to withdraw from the government of Gutiérrez, at an opportune moment and in an adequate way.
All the activity, the development of events and the results allow us to unify our forces ideologically and politically, to affirm our revolutionary ideas and to present them as a focal point for the social and political movement of the workers and peoples. Our actions and decisions were accepted as just and correct by our own forces, they were seen with sympathy by other sectors, as expressions of consistency and dignity.
All this means that the forces of the revolutionary left fought consistently and advanced, that they were consolidated and are seen by the whole of society as a focal point of knowledge and firmness.
The Lessons Allow Us to Struggle under Better Conditions
These have been years of intense struggle for change. The workers and peoples have been achieving new heights in their organisation and consciousness; they have been accumulating experiences. They are learning lessons.
The proposed policies, the debate and the participation in it by considerable social sectors, the clarification of the facts and the elaboration of orientation, the unity in action, the various forms of struggle used, the participation in government for a short period have been a learning experience of an extraordinary character for the popular masses.
One lesson is the reaffirmation of struggle as the road to demand and win rights, to oppose and even stop the bosses’ anti-people offensive of reaction and imperialism, to win social and national emancipation. Through street battles, through blocking highways, through mobilisations and strikes, through popular uprisings, through the electoral struggle we are defining ourselves, with revolutionary politics, we are better recognising our enemies and our true friends, we are purifying and strengthening the organisation.
Another lesson is that unity is a great need, a condition to advance and win. The unity of the workers and peoples, of the social organisations of the city and countryside, of the democrats and patriots, of the leftists and revolutionaries, of the revolutionary parties and organisations is an objective and task that cannot be achieved by decree, but has to be worked out in debate and action. Social practice shows that unity of action is only a first step which is insufficient by itself but must be made concrete by political and programmatic unity on a medium term basis. All the political forces call for unity, but in fact there are still serious difficulties to realize it, consolidate it and develop it. The political interests of each organisation and front cannot and should not be eliminated, but neither can they become conditions that prevent unity around objectives and paths of a general character. The masses want unity, they demand unity and we revolutionaries have an obligation to respond to those demands.
A new lesson has to do with the selection of our representatives and standard bearers. It is the historic conditions, the organisation and struggle which push to the fore the popular and revolutionary leaders. We cannot just pick them. But we have the ability and right to select from among the men and women fighters those who should represent us in one or another responsibility. The comrades that assume the responsibility and leadership of the masses have to come from ours own ranks, they have to be tested, consistent, honest and courageous fighters. There are thousands of such people among the masses. The newcomers, the adventurers, the bearers of novelties will not be consistent and firm in struggle. This does not mean that we cannot incorporate new fighters, who will always have a place in the trenches, but it requires that we must all pass the test of struggle, that we must understand that the quality of revolutionary and popular fighters is tested every day, that ideological and political training does not end, that we can advance, but we can also retreat.
Perhaps the most important lesson is to understand that this process led by the workers, the youths, the Indians and the left is one more battle for emancipation. In these battles we had partial but very significant successes, we defeated the right wing in elections, we showed the possibility of forming an alternative government. Certainly we made mistakes and we suffered partial reverses. It has been shown that though the elections are one form of struggle that we should continue to wage, they do not lead to power; they only allow us to accumulate forces, to grow and learn.
The final results, the balance is that we have advanced significantly. The new challenges are to continue the struggle. Liberation will be the sum of several battles, small and large; the use of revolutionary violence by the masses, of all forms of struggle, the ideological, political and organizational accumulation of forces to wage the final battles, to achieve victory, and to win popular power and socialism.
The Second Government of Gutiérrez
Once the betrayal by Gutiérrez was completed, the government changed its colour. It was transformed into a neo-liberal administration, into one more of the governments whose aim has been to preserve, defend and reaffirm the privileges of the ruling classes and to assure the exploitation of the workers and peoples.
Gutiérrez himself did not become an oligarch, a big capitalist businessman. Maybe in the future he will join the group of monopolists.
Now he is an instrument of imperialism, he presides over a government obedient to the designs of the International Monetary Fund; he is trying to fully comply with its orders. The main objective of the Colonel’s administration is to fully apply the neo-liberal measures, that is, to fulfill what no government until now has been able to do. In that the government of Gutiérrez will fail just as his predecessors did. This is because the popular movement, the workers and youths are standing up, resisting, accumulating forces and at a certain moment they will pass to the counter-offensive. Also because the contradictions within the bourgeoisie have not been resolved and they will continue to increase as events development.
This is a government that caters to the interests of the big bourgeoisie, the businessmen and bankers, the oligarchy. It is a reactionary administration of the right wing whose central purpose is to defend the privileges of those on top, all of which means to exploit and oppress the working masses.
The government of Gutiérrez is determined to privatise the electric companies, communications and oil. It is thus seeking a way to hand over the strategic and most profitable sectors of the economy, at ridiculous prices, to foreign private companies. It is seeking a subterfuge such as saying that it will not sell the electric, telephone and oil companies but will lease their management.
It is trying to privatise public health (for now it is making the users pay for it), municipalise education in such a way that the parents will assume the costs, and finally making it serve the elite and favouring private teaching.
It is playing the game of Nebot of bankrupting social security with the creation of the Municipal Social Security, which is nothing but a robbery of the savings of the depositors, retirees and pensioners.
It is trying to impose salary unification and labour flexibility among the workers and public servants, which above all means freezing wages and leaving thousands of public workers unemployed.
It is pushing through the so-called Tributary Reform that tries to expand the numbers of taxpayers, taxing the incomes of the workers, as if they were profits; to increase the percentage of the VAT [value added tax] and of course guaranteeing private investment, reducing taxes on businessmen, the return of capital, etc. etc.
It is trying to include the so-called Political Reform in the constitution; this reform is nothing but a restriction of democracy for the workers and peoples and the reaffirmation of the ability to govern for imperialism and the ruling classes. It seeks to impose electoral districts in which a single representative would be chosen; to affirm a presidential form of government and practically eliminate the role of parliament; to establish autonomous areas which would be turned over to the regional chiefs.
Authoritarianism and prepotency are becoming the forms and methods of government. Every time that he speaks in public, he threatens the trade unionists, the popular and left-wing leaders; he threatens to enforce the National Security Law and the force of arms; he speaks out openly against freedom of expression and declares that he will enforce the gag law; he is determined to organise a paramilitary apparatus, basing himself on the needs and lack of employment of the members of the PSP and establishing ‘private security companies’ that have guaranteed contracts with public enterprises.
These facts show the face of someone working to become an apprentice dictator.
The repeated preaching that he would struggle against corruption has become nothing more than a hollow slogan. His government has begun to show the same corruption as previous governments. Nepotism, the abuse of power, the use of State resources to subsidise the work of the Patriotic Society Party, are the initial shoots that are the first signs that embezzlement and speculation in public funds are growing. To this one must add the Social-Christian trust of the EMELEC [Electric Company] and the continuous holding back the AGD [Agency for the Guarantee of Deposits] from finally beginning to collect from the large debtors, who are still untouched.
On the other hand, the government of Gutiérrez is now allied with the Social Christians; it has become a servant of the designs of Febres Cordero. The PSC has refused to make formal agreements with the government, but in fact, the government is implementing their policies in an obsequious manner. In reality this is a government of Gutiérrez and the Social Christians.
The changes that took place alienated the social base that put the government in office. The movement of the workers, the Indian peoples, the youths in their great majority are becoming aware of the nature of the Colonel and his administration and they are withdrawing their support. The great majority of the population, those who voted for Gutiérrez and those who believed in the possibility of change without voting for him, are disillusioned, regretful. The social sectors that support the government are part of or influenced by the Patriotic Society Party, a good part of them because they are looking for jobs; however there is an appreciable sector that is losing confidence in him.
From the point of view of social support it is an isolated government whose isolation is deepening.
Politically, the government is only endorsed by the Patriotic Society Party. No other group or political party wants to become part of a weak and isolated government. As we have said, the PSC makes use of the government but does not want to form an alliance with it.
From the political point of view the support on which the government counts is weak and shrinking.
The opinion polls of the support and credibility of the President and the government every week show a decrease in popularity, the disillusionment of public opinion and the masses.
Thus it is an isolated administration, without social support, without a solid political base; above all, it is a government without prestige that is being rejected by the masses.
In its attempts to carry out the neo-liberal policies and obsequiously serve the oligarchies, the government of Gutiérrez has declared war on the workers and peoples, on the democrats and patriots, on the revolutionary left.
It is working out a budget in which the percentage dedicated to debt service is increasing from 32% to 38%, at the expense of social services which are being reduced in education, health and public works and it is increasing the amount dedicated to the Armed Forces and Police. It is the old neo-liberal formula of having a State that is weak in social matters, but is very strong in its repressive apparatus.
It is freezing wages and increasing taxes on the masses. In the beginning of 2004 it will certainly propose new economic measures ordered by the IMF which seek to make the workers continue to pay for the crisis, by maintaining the fiscal deficit that will reach $700 million and by maintaining the monetary plan of dollarisation. It is even trying to disavow the agreements, decrees and laws put in place by the same government due to the demands of the masses, such as the increase in teachers’ salaries.
The government is carrying out an aggressive campaign to divide the Indian movement, the CONAIE and Pachakutik. It is buying off middle-rank and national leaders, handing over to them municipalities, institutions and jobs.
It is threatening the union movement and the left with repressive measures, with court judgments, firings and jail.
The popular masses, the consistent trade union and workers’ associations’ leaders and the left are responding by strengthening their organisations, pushing forward protests, mobilisations and struggles. The revival of the Congress of the Peoples is the most important sign of this response, which is being concretised in actions and mobilisations of various degrees and strength. Eventually these actions will grow and build on the discontent of the majority.
The Policy of the Workers, the Peoples and the Left
A period of great mobilisations of the popular masses, the workers, the Indian peoples and the youths has taken place. In these actions the political parties and organizations of the left, the PCMLE played an outstanding role, they fundamentally fulfilled their role, they entrenched themselves in the hearts of the workers, they grew politically, they gained a greater comprehension and consciousness of their responsibilities.
We have come out strengthened ideologically, politically and also organisationally, with new experiences and vigour. New social organisations have been formed and or have been legalised such as CUBE [Unitary Coordinator of the Neighbourhoods of Ecuador] and CUCOMITAE [Unitary Coordinator of Small Merchants and Independent Workers of Ecuador]; the MPD carried out an important campaign of recruitment which led to the growth of its support; the congresses of the JRE, the FEUE and others show higher levels of organization; the public workers are generally retaking the road of struggle.
The struggle for social and national liberation continues to move forward. The reserves of the revolution are fundamentally healthy; they can and must continue their economic and political battles. Above all, they are forces in development with the potential to become leaders of the victorious battles for popular power.
The crisis is deepening, mainly affecting the workers and youths, the development of the country. The need and possibility of organising and making the revolution is becoming part of the consciousness of the workers, the Indians and the youths; this is the historic reason for the existence of the revolutionary party of the proletariat, and the activity of its members and leaders is dedicated to the fulfillment of those responsibilities.
1. Report of the CC to the 6th Congress of the PCMLE
Ecuador, September 2003
Translated from the Spanish by George Gruenthal
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