Ecuador: Finding direction in an insurrection

Raúl Zibechi’s reading of the most recent revolt in ecuador unveils a shift in the radical politics of the americas (and perhaps beyond) – one announced earlier, embryonically, in the movements-insurrections of this century – and which we might wish to call a post-hegemonic politics of revolution; a politics that has greater affinity with tactics of direct action and mutual aid, than with the strategies of more traditional labour and political organisations of the “Left”.

To share, in translation, from the spanish newspaper El Salto

What is the significance of the revolt in Ecuador?

For all of the people who make the collective the center of their lives, the events of Ecuador will be like the polar star for sailors: reference and horizon, guide and guidance in these times of chaos and confusion.

Raúl Zibechi (El Salto 18/10/2019)

Great strategic turns, those that have an influence over decades, always occur below, through the eruption of popular sectors in the political arena, which they transform by changing the relationships between classes, social groups, genders and generations.

This was the case with the Caracazo [the “shaking up” of the city of Caracas] of 1989, which opened a period of popular uprisings and which began to erode the Washington Consensus, creating the conditions to challenge privatising neoliberalism. Similarly, auscultating the beats of collective action, we consider that June 2013 was the beginning of the decline of progressivism, when millions won the streets to question the perpetuation of inequality.

How important, then, is the twelve-day revolt of native peoples, workers and students in Quito?

First, the revolt opens up a gap between conservatism and progressivism, between the right and so-called left. One of the most chanted slogans in the streets was “Neither Correa nor Moreno.” They rejected and blocked the IMF package, the policy of transferring State debt to workers, raising prices and taxes.

But in the same revolt, they recalled that Rafael Correa’s government, for a long decade, repressed indigenous organisations, workers and students. That memory was present and led the protesters to create a guard that pushed out the hooded Correistas from the protest marches, who were only there to overthrow Moreno and facilitate the return of their leader.

We must emphasise that it is the first time, in the whole region, that the peoples open a breach in the existing polarisation between the two sides that claim hegemony. That is why I consider that we are facing a strategic turn, which will either be consolidated or not, depending on how each of the protagonists acts. In this sense, let us recall that the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador [Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador] was not up to the challenge before the the government of Lucio Gutiérrez (2003-2005), agreeing to collaborate with its management.

Secondly, there was a revival and reorganisation of the popular or peoples’ opposition. During the revolt, all sectors, severely punished by the Correa Government, were activated again.

In Loja and Azuay, for example, Autonomous Popular Assemblies were created, “organisational spaces to build popular power, give continuity to the process raised and articulate plans and actions,” as highlighted by anti-mining activist Paúl Jarrín. The students “assembled collection centers, shelters and community kitchens, thus integrating a countryside-city struggle”, and the streets and squares were spaces of education and inter-generational relationships, where it was possible that those born after 2000 lived out their first experience of struggle alongside previous generations.

The analyst Decio Machado emphasises the role of women and students, who build new leaderships, as well as the appearance of young leaders in the CONAIE, so in need of renovating old and worn out cadres. “The movement of students, women and especially indigenous people was led by a new generation of social activists that have nothing to do with Correism and even repudiate it,” he says.

As important as this re-organisation from the bottom up, is the role of “broad sectors of Quito’s society and other localities in the countryside that expressed their solidarity daily with those mobilised by giving them medicines for the sick and injured, blankets, food, shoes, water and food ”.

Third, one should talk about the mark that this irruption will have throughout the region. It will not be an immediate or direct influence. Recall that the Caracazo, the turning point of neoliberalism, only began to have an impact several years later, when the Ya Basta! of Zapatismo appeared five years later, and the revolts of the late 1990s in Peru, Paraguay and Ecuador itself, precursors of the great Bolivian insurrections of 2003 and 2005 and the Argentine revolt of 2001.

The times of history from below are not linear, they will slowly macerate in the heat of the ovens, where the collective decisions that change the directions of the world are debated and taken. For all of the people who make the collective the center of their lives, the events of Ecuador will be like the polar star for sailors: reference and horizon, guide and guidance in these times of chaos and confusion.

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