Lessons of the Popular Unity of Ecuador

Revolucionarni savez rada Srbije

1. What were the historical preconditions to form the Popular Unity front in Ecuador today? What was the role of the Party in this important process of unification of the democratic forces of the peoples?

Our party is a non-legal organization, its internal structure and operation is secret, but its politics and actions are public, we act through different tools (transmission belts), such as mass organizations and political fronts. We also do public work on behalf of the Party, not only with its propaganda (newspaper, web, social networks, etc.), but also with the work of agitation that our members carry out in the work sectors; we also have official Party spokespersons. This allows us to take advantage of bourgeois legality.

Popular Unity is a political movement of the masses, legally registered as a political party. In its programmatic documents, it states that the action and struggle of Popular Unity develop in the fight of the workers and peoples to achieve social emancipation, break with foreign dependency and advance towards socialism. It is defined as a leftist, anti-imperialist political organization that fights against the exploitation and oppression carried out by the ruling classes and imperialism against the workers and peoples of Ecuador; therefore it is aimed at the establishment of a popular, democratic, anti-imperialist government.

Popular Unity was formed as a political movement in September of 2014, but its antecedents go back several years. In the 1970s, our country lived under a military dictatorship that, in 1978, established a plan to return to a constitutional regime. In these circumstances, our Party discussed the need to form a legal political movement (which took the name of the Popular Democratic Movement – MPD), which would become an instrument of the masses for political action, which would bring together all the popular sectors who wanted to fight for a patriotic and anti-oligarchic government that would meet the needs of the workers and the people, that would break with foreign dependence, that would promote the democratic rights and freedoms of the people. At that time, the programmatic documents of the MPD did not point out that its struggle was part of the historical struggle of the peoples for socialism; a statement to that effect was officially incorporated into its Declaration of Principles at a convention held in the 1990s.

The formation of the MPD was not intended to give a legal “cover” to the PCMLE {Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador]; we always proposed that the MPD should have its own organizational structure (National Leadership, provincial leaderships, cantonal leaderships and brigades that were the structure of the base). The Party continued to keep its structure secret. Even a first guideline established that, although party members are active in and from the MPD, only some of them are legally registered in the movement. This is in order to protect the secret character of the Party. The MPD was legally recognized as a political party in 1979, after complying with all the requirements established by law, which, among other things, required a certain number of members.

The MPD was built publicly, openly, in the popular neighborhoods, in the workplaces, universities, schools, communities, associations, etc. Its structure was not conceived as a front that incorporates other organizations, but as a left-wing political movement with individual membership. Members of the MPD could be people who support and vote for its candidates but without an active and permanent work or participating in an active and organized way in the brigades that, as we have said, were their base organizations.

The MPD expanded its organizational structure and political influence throughout the country. Since 1979 we have participated in all national and sectional electoral processes; at certain times we managed to win deputies in the National Assembly, municipal councilors, some mayoralties. It became a political reference point for the left, identified as a fighting party; thus, it was attacked by the bourgeoisie and its governments, which accused it of being “opponents without proposals” and “violent”. In the protest actions of the workers, youth, peasants, women, etc. we ensure that its banners, its members, are always present.

The bourgeoisie insistently tried to show the links between the PCMLE and the MPD, it said that the latter was nothing more than a “cover”, “an instrument” of the PCMLE; against this the MPD leaders always defended its political autonomy, in order to avoid having problems such as being deprived of its legal status. In fact, the most advanced sectors of the masses and the other political forces knew of the links between the two organizations.

Under the government of Rafael Correa, which was characterized by persecuting the popular movement and left-wing organizations (including our party in particular), the MPD was made illegal. There were no legal reasons for this, but the political purpose of Correa and the bourgeoisie was to eliminate us from the political scene.

When the Correa government came to an end, it was shown that the removal of the MPD from the registry of parties was illegal, and legal recognition was restored to us. However, as soon as the MPD was outlawed, our Party made the decision to work towards the formation of a new political movement that would make use of the presence and political influence created by the MPD: this is how Popular Unity (UP) emerged in 2014.

After complying with a new national recruiting campaign, of forming its leadership organizations of the base (which are now called nuclei), UP achieved legal recognition. When legality was restored to the MPD, a National Convention was held in which the MPD and UP were formally merged, leaving Popular Unity as the only party.

Popular Unity is not only what could be considered “the electoral instrument of the PCMLE.” Indeed, we Marxist-Leninist communists participate in the electoral struggle through and with Popular Unity, but UP is a movement of permanent political action; it does not only take part in electoral processes, it constantly speaks out on the most diverse political events in the country and internationally, it supports and is present in the demands raised by the various popular sectors.

In this last electoral process – it still remains to be clarified who will go on to the second round – UP took the initiative of proposing that we would support the candidate who came out of the indigenous movement, we called for the formation of a social and political pole (with the popular organizations and political forces of the left) and then specifically, we proposed an electoral alliance with the Pachacutik movement (identified in the country with the indigenous movement).

As the PCMLE we publicly express our support for the presidential candidacy of Yaku Pérez and the candidates of Popular Unity. We have always acted in that sense, that is, the PCMLE makes public its support for UP›s candidates (before we did the same with respect to the MPD).

The formation of the UP (and of the MPD), as we have already said, has the purpose of providing the workers, youth, women and peoples of Ecuador with a political organization to fight for a government; it is an instrument to expand political influence among the masses, to bring them closer to the ideas of the left and, at the same time, it serves to bring the most advanced sectors closer to the PCMLE; UP is an instrument for the accumulation of revolutionary forces. Ultimately, UP is an instrument that helps our Party to develop political activity in a more open and public way, without neglecting the PCMLE’s own structure.

2. What is the nature of this front; is it simply a “coalition” from “above” of left and democratic parties, or is it a movement of the people, with its political and organizational objectives adapted and necessary? What are its political and organizational goals? More about organization: are there local political bodies and people’s assemblies for the struggle, and does it have a mass character? Or is it the parliamentary strategy that was at the center? Did any original relationships develop between the parliamentary faction and the movement itself?

Several of these concerns have been explained in the previous point. The UP is not a “coalition”, it is not the result of an agglomeration of various political movements or organizations. It is a political movement, and we refer to it as a movement because, if we hold to the class criterion, parties represent the interests of a class, and UP represents the interests of the workers, women and youth of the popular sectors, of the indigenous peoples, etc. Legally it is recognized as a political party; its organizational structure has the proper form of a party: a national Leadership, local leaderships according to the territorial organization of the country and nuclei of the base. Its members join individually. The Party acts through the UP, but not all those who make up the UP are party member; the purpose is precisely to expand the work to other sectors of the masses.

Organizational units function regularly: they discuss political positions, define an approach that makes them public, establish tasks, etc. The nuclei also function regularly; it is not easy to achieve this, but efforts are being made to make it happen.

In the activity that we are developing in the mass movement we act through different fronts: the UP is not the only instrument of the Party for political work. We have our workers’ federation (UGTE – General Union of Workers of Ecuador), we lead the most important teachers union of (UNE – National Union of Educators), we are in the leadership of the student organizations of high schools and universities (FESE – Federation of Secondary Students of Ecuador, FEUE – Federation of University Students of Ecuador), we have a national organization that brings together retail traders (CUCOMITAE), we have organized the artists in the Union of Popular Artists, for neighborhood work we formed CUBE (Unitary Federation of Neighborhoods of Ecuador), we do peasant work mainly through the National Federation of Members of the Peasant Social Security (Feunassc); all of these are natural organizations of the masses. As political fronts, we have the Revolutionary Youth of Ecuador (JRE), the organization Women for Change and in the universities we have specific political fronts.

We point this out in order to explain that in mass action we combine the participation of the different fronts, of the different transmission belts; we do not only do it with the UP. In some cases, also, it is not appropriate for UP to be present (for example in some sectors of the workers’ movement, to avoid retaliation by the bosses) and we act within the union federation or the Popular Front, which is an organization of unity and coordination of the action and struggle of the popular organizations. Through the Popular Front, we have established a unitary policy with other organizations of the trade union and popular movement, such as the FUT (Unitary Workers’ Front – which groups together the trade union federations) and with the main organization of the indigenous movement Conaie (National Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador).

In recent years we have not had representation in the National Assembly; however, our experience in this regard has been to take advantage of these representations to denounce the policy of the bourgeoisie against the workers, to propose laws that reflect the aspirations of the popular sectors, that promote or motivate the mobilization of the masses for their approval. Our deputies have worked alongside the trade unions, communities, etc. We apply that same criterion in relation to the representatives we have on the municipal councils.

The policy of unity in the popular movement is fundamental. The joint action of the Popular Front, FUT and Conaie has been crucial for the development of the struggle of the masses. The most recent example of its power was shown in the popular indigenous uprising of October 2019. The actors in that popular uprising are expressing themselves today together with the candidacy of Yaku Perez.

3. Can you share the experience and results of the Front and its political importance for the struggle of the working class and the peoples of Ecuador? Its weaknesses?

From what has been pointed out in the two previous questions, the experience and importance of this policy can be seen. In general terms, we can point out that it is a positive experience, because it has allowed the party of the proletariat to be politically active, open to the whole of society. The policy of the UP responds to the policy of the party and, therefore, is framed within the strategic objectives of the party. We have been able to advance in the work of politicizing the masses, in their political organization and struggle.

Obviously we have limitations and difficulties. We do not always make enough use of the mass work that we do with the UP (and with the other transmission belts) for the organization and recruitment of new people for the Party, but that is a struggle that we are fighting all the time. There are also problems in the functioning of the base organizations of the UP; they do not always function regularly; there are also problems of nuclei that do not do mass work and become groups of activists – which is not bad – but they do not expand their influence or sphere of action. We believe that with everything we have done in politics through the UP, its organizational structure should be broader, more numerous; this raises the need for us to pay more attention and allocate more efforts to the building of their base nuclei.

4. Are there general conditions for the Democratic Fronts of the Peoples against the crisis, the deepening of capitalist and inter-imperialist contradictions, the dangers of fascism and war, or does it vary from one country to another, and in what way?

The unitary policy is inherent in revolutionary work. The party of the proletariat has the obligation – and the need – to develop a policy in this sense within the labor movement itself, since several forces act within it, and a unitary policy from the workers’ movement towards the rest of the driving forces of the revolution, that is, towards the sectors of the semi-proletariat, the peasants, the youth and working women, public employees, the progressive intelligentsia. If the proletariat with its party is not able to attract the whole of the driving forces of the revolution, the revolution will have many difficulties to break through and emerge victorious.

<>This unitary policy is expressed in particular actions, at specific times, but it must also be expressed or take organizational forms, such as platforms, coordinators of trade unions, popular and political organizations, popular fronts, etc. What determines their composition, political and economic proposals and protest banners? The specific political conditions is the scene in which the party of the proletariat develops its activity; but if we take into account that the vanguard party has to attract the driving forces, it must bear in mind the need to form a long-term unitary body.

In our country, the need to confront the authoritarian government of Rafael Correa paved the way to strengthen the unity of action among the main popular organizations in the country, which led to the formation of an organization to lead the popular struggle against the government. From that leadership organization, the call for and formation of the so-called Congress or Parliament of the Peoples was resumed (a similar experience arose years ago, in the midst of the struggle against the governments of Mahuad and Bucaram who were thrown out by popular uprisings). This Congress of the Peoples also functioned during the popular indigenous uprising of October 2019. The fundamental thing is that the congress, which was also replicated in some provinces, has the function of an assembly, and they are the main national leaders of popular organizations (FUT, Popular Front, Conaie, and others) who carry out or exercise the function of head of the Congress. The Congress of the Peoples discussed an Economic-Political Program of the measures that should be taken by the government to face and solve the problems that afflict the people and the economy of the country; a program with proposals for the popular and sovereign interests of the country.

We think that on the international level the logic must be the same, that is, the policies of unity must respond to the circumstances determined by the correlation of forces on the world level, to the need for the proletariat to be a political actor with its own voice and identity in that context. The international communist movement has experience in this regard; we can study it in the resolutions and tasks of the Communist International to confront fascism, and the guidelines defined for the work within the different mass sectors of the driving forces.

We think we have clarified the question of the class composition in the course of this exchange.

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