Uprising in Ecuador forces government to overthrow

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1060/29731

From The Socialist, October 16, 2019

  • A revolutionary socialist alternative is needed

Events in Ecuador 2019, photo Voz de America / CC (Click to enlarge)

Tony Saunois, secretary of the Committee for a Workers’ International

Twelve days of mass protests forced the Ecuadorian government to step down and restore the fuel subsidies it cut with Decree 883.

In what was a revolutionary movement, the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, under the banner of their largest organization, the Conaie (Confederation of Nationalities of Ecuador), united in a mass movement uniting all sections of the working class and the middle class.

A massive general strike called by the main trade union federation, the UGTE (General Union of Ecuadorian Workers), was joined by tens of thousands of peasants and rural workers from Conaie.

The role of the working class and indigenous peoples was at the center of the struggle. They united, rejecting separatism. The indigenous peoples of Ecuador represent at least 25% of the population and have played a central role in past struggles.

Savage austerity

The immediate cause of this uprising was the savage austerity plan that Lenin Moreno’s government introduced. An IMF aide, he obediently followed their demands to end fuel subsidies and launched attacks on workers’ rights in return for a $ 4.2 billion “bailout”.

Overnight fuel prices have soared over 150%. State employees have seen their right to thirty days of annual leave reduced from half to fifteen days.

Transport unions responded with a call for a protest strike. This was followed by continuous protests – a real uprising, with the call for a general strike.

This movement had many powerful elements of a pre-revolutionary or classic revolutionary situation: the ruling class was divided and considerably weakened; the working class and the poor have shown a determination to fight; the middle class was not only neutralized but actively participated in the movement; splits and divisions have opened up within the state apparatus, with sections even joining the protests.

However, the crucial factor, the idea of ​​a socialist alternative, of a revolutionary program and party, has yet to develop and build. Without it, the potential victory of the masses in transforming society will be threatened and lost.

The brutal crackdown – which has resulted in more than 500 arrests, hundreds of injuries and a few deaths – has been met with defiance by the masses. In many clashes, workers and indigenous peoples, armed with sticks, stones and, in some cases, improvised rocket launchers pushed back the police and the army.

According to information from TelesurTV (the media channel launched by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela), indigenous organizations have created a “Parlamento de los Pueblos” (People’s Parliament).

The mass movement forced the government to flee the capital Quito. The working class and indigenous peoples stormed the National Assembly and were potentially challenging power.

Elements of dual power have unfolded. However, the masses did not move to seize power and destroy the old regime. Although the regime has been forced to back down on subsidies, only the replacement of capitalism with socialism can offer a future for the Ecuadorian masses.

We must learn the lessons of this struggle. A program of socialist revolution would have involved:

  • The formation of democratic struggle committees in all workplaces and communities with elected and revocable delegates. These commissions to be articulated at municipal, regional and national level with elected and revocable delegates
  • Building on the first steps taken to form “guardia popular” – popular guards – in some of the demonstrations, through the formation of an armed militia of workers and indigenous communities, under the democratic leadership of the struggle committees
  • A call to all base soldiers and police to join the movement and form elected committees and purge all officers supporting the Moreno regime
  • The formation of a government of workers and indigenous peoples. Calling for elections to a revolutionary constituent assembly or to the ‘Parlamento de los Pueblos’
  • Nationalization under democratic workers’ control and management of all large companies and foreign banks. Cancellation of the IMF’s austerity program
  • Equal, linguistic, cultural and territorial rights of all indigenous peoples within the framework of a democratic socialist Ecuador
  • For a party of the working class and indigenous peoples with a revolutionary socialist program
  • A call to the working class in the rest of Latin America and the United States for solidarity and support in a struggle for a socialist alternative breaking with capitalism
  • The creation of a voluntary democratic socialist federation of Latin America

Moreno was previously the country’s vice-president and ally of the radical ex-left Rafael Correa who was president for a decade (2006-17).

Correa came to power as part of the “pink revolution” that swept through Latin America at this point. He was a close ally of Hugo Chvez in Venezuela and promised a “citizen revolution”.

Radical popular reforms have been implemented, including a massive increase in state spending on health and education. Correa also introduced higher taxes on capital and capital controls, and at one point refused to pay the “illegitimate items” of foreign debt.

However, despite these popular measures, Correa, like Chvez, failed to take the necessary steps to break with capitalism. Once the economy entered recession, reforms were rolled back and cuts were introduced.

Reforms gave way to increasingly brutal counter-reforms, especially under Moreno who came to power in 2017. Correa, like Chvez, had unfortunately used top-down, administrative, bureaucratic and repressive measures.

There has not been the construction of real democratic control by the working class and the oppressed. His regime was imprisoned by staying in a capitalist economy and deciding on measures from above.

If the leaders of the movement in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador had taken the necessary steps to break with capitalism and establish democratic socialist policies, they could have united and established a voluntary and democratic socialist federation by calling on the peoples of Cuba to establish a truly democratic socialist system with workers’ control.

The failure of the break with capitalism lost this opportunity. But a working class victory in Ecuador could once again present such a prospect and begin to challenge imperialism.

Financial appeal

The coronavirus crisis has exposed the class character of society in many ways. This clearly shows to many that it is the working class that makes society run, not the CEOs of big companies.

The results of austerity have been shown graphically as utilities struggle to cope with the crisis.

  • The material of the Socialist Party is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report workers fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels etc.
  • We must be prepared for the stormy events to come and the need to arm the labor movements with a socialist program – a program that puts the health and needs of mankind before the profits of the few.

Inevitably, during the crisis, we were not able to sell the socialist and raise funds as we normally would.

We therefore urge all our viewers to donate to our Fight Fund.

In The Socialist of October 16, 2019:

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