We are flattered to have received a comment from Ecuador Rebelde, who runs the Ecuador-Rising blog that we often link to and the RSS feed of which we feature in the right-hand side-bar. We have responded to ER’s comment, but it has become such a long-winding comment that it might just deserve its own entry here….
With regards to the Ecuadorian “revolution”, we, in a sense, remain optimistic as well, else we would not even bother writing critically about the processes!
One set of points, however, that we are not missing, but which almost everyone else, as usual, is missing, is the situation of the indigenous peoples who live in the forest.
As an indigenous grass-roots, environmentalist activist said to us recently:
“For us, Correa is a disaster”.
What the government of Correa wants is a new Ecuador in the image of European social-democratic thinking – new roads for all the new cars that the remittances buy, more bridges and in general what is called industrial, entrepeneurial development in the Amazon. As long as the wage-labourers are kept “rightfully” above the wage-slavery threshold. To sustain that trajectory Correa will assign more power to the police and the army to keep under control any dissent from (in particular) indigenous peoples. But what kind of socialism assigns power to the army to keep the people down? What kind of socialist threatens poor, illiterate people with “the rule of law” enforced by the army?
In such an environment it is difficult to remain positive, but we try; it is difficult to be “fully supportive” of Correa’s movement, but we try to be supportive by continuing to be critical. To be critical of something is to lend it a helping hand – it is, to deploy sarcastically an analogy, like surburbanites polishing their car on sunny Sunday afternoons: they do not do it to remove the coat of paint, but to make it shine!?!
Some basic issues remain, however – and Paulina chose not to respond to this – and we have not seen anyone else respond to it either, anywhere; what remains is some constructive engagement with the questions concerning the actual (and indeed intended) power of the constituent assembly, when Correa has already signed major economic convenios (agreements) left and right that will determine the future of the country. What is there left to be decided upon, from the perspective of the indigenous peoples, if it is clear that Brasil will invest billions of dollars in oil exploration in Amazonia, while the army will build roads and bridges through the forest and with militant means keep protestors at bay???
The “corredores inter-oceanico” will help Brasilian urban consumers get cheap plastics from China and the trees and the oil back to China so that they can produce the plastic to come here – but what about the people who live along the Napo river, what should they do when the river becomes an hidrovia – a concrete, river motorway with mega(lomanic) dams and excessive and not very well thought out hydro-electricity installations??
We remain sceptically positive – but perceive an urgent need to remain sceptical as a consequence of working with indigenous peoples and also because there is no shortage of uncritical cheerleaders in the European “socialist” realm. Many individuals, groups, organisations have always been unconditional supporters of Castro’s Cuba – but how can we sit back and let homosexuals and saxophone players be persecuted without a word – simply because it is “part of a socialist project”? How can we sit back and let the forest be destroyed in the name of progress protected by military powers? Therefore, as perhaps one of the very few voices who are not to the right or far-right, we remain critical and sceptical.
When we do not live in Ecuador we live and work with environmentalist groups in Europe, who for a long time have been fighting against the expansion of car culture – more roads, more cars. Are we really expected to cheer for more roads and more cars in Ecuador, simply because it is something like “a human right” to have a car – or two point two – per household? Rush hour in Quito now looks like any other capital city – is that a good thing? For Correa and his supporters it is – the more the people can consume, the better. This is not a viewpoint, an ideology, a cosmovision that we share – we have seen to where it leads.
Take a stroll through MegaMaxi in Quito and you think you’re in California – huge shopping trolleys filled with imported sausages, fine wine from Spain and huge plasma screen TVs to watch Brasilian soap for the (upper?) middle class – all wrapped in excessive amounts of plastic- is that what we should be optimistic about? Is that a future Ecuador worth celebrating?
Mr. Correa speaks of sovereignty all the while the Ecuadorian economy is rushing ahead on imported consumer goods. Why is he not, for example, supporting community-based cooperatives in Amazonia, who could make a sustainable life for themselves and take care of the forest in doing so, and strengthen the Ecuadorian economy from within and from below – instead of either simply forcing them off their lands or into the natural resource extraction industry that kills the forest? The poorest and the most marginalised are not empowered, but threatened?!?!
Ecuador’s socalled democracy and sovereignty remains a colonial construction – the political classes and those with shopping power in Ecuador remain conquistadores, colonos, blancos; and the indigenous peoples remain “backwards” in the view of the invaders who see them as charity cases who need to be helped to understand the world through “proper occidental education”, so that they, too, will appreciate a car, a TV (in each room?), and a Spanish sausage for lunch to be swilled down with a Bud.
Franz Fanon said something insightful and inspiring in the context of anti-colonialist struggles:
“So, comrades, let us not pay tribute to Europe by creating states, institutions and societies which draw their inspiration from her.
Humanity is waiting for something other from us than such an imitation, which would be almost an obscene caricature.
If we want to turn Africa into a new Europe, and America into a new Europe, then let us leave the destiny of our countries to Europeans. They will know how to do it better than the most gifted among us.
But if we want humanity to advance a step farther, if we want to bring it up to a different level than that which Europe has shown it, then we must invent and we must make discoveries.
If we wish to live up to our peoples’ expectations, we must seek the response elsewhere than in Europe.
Moreover, if we wish to reply to the expectations of the people of Europe, it is no good sending them back a reflection, even an ideal reflection, of their society and their thought with which from time to time they feel immeasurably sickened.
For Europe, for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new man [sic].”
The key issue here is to be found in the sentence: “…it is no good sending them back a reflection, even an ideal reflection..” in particular in the words “..even an ideal reflection..”.
Rafael Correa holds a PhD in Economics, the most Euro-American of academic disciplines, the most capitalist of all academic pursuits (management and advertising here ignored as simply not part of academia) – economics is the academic discipline where moral and ethical issues are stripped off and “politics” has become an exercise determined simply by mathematical equations. It shows. Even if it is a very lovely-jubbly social-democratic vision that is applied to the handling of those equations.
There is no way – simply no way at all – that the Euro-American developmentalism can include all people. It is based on exclusion to maintain a ready, cheap labour force. When people are helped to consume imported products, to buy new cars and provided more roads for their Sunday drives, someone, somewhere will suffer – even if not in the immediate surroundings. People will become poor, somewhere, somehow – someone will be marginalised if progress and development is of the industrial kind – for it is simply not a manner in which humanity can progress in global solidarity – it is the opposite of mutual aid, it is, simply, survivial of the fittest and each to their own.
We already live in a world of overproduction – there is even too much food produced all the time, yet people suffer and starve.
So what to do? Well, what is common in Euro-America is to build prisons to get rid of the people who do not conform, who cannot conform and who do not starve to death.
That is how the modern world in Europe began – that is the characteristic aspect of the transition into modern, industrial capitalism – and is that not, in part, what we see reflected in the article “Call to Confront Delinquency in Ecuador”? Where do those “delinquents” come from? Are they genetically disposed to such acts, should they be screened out – or are they simply victims of structural implications that deserves attention other than from prison guards? This kind of system and enforcement is nothing other than the protection of the sacred exclusive, private property of those fortunate enough to have acquired it (at the cost of those now threatening to take it back).
The rule of law is coming to town, but it is not a self-legislative rule of law, it is not a rule of autonomy or self-determination – it is a rule of the state, top down, and always leads to further marginalisation of the weak and the poor.
Nevertheless, the blog entry which gave rise to your comment had a carefully inserted question mark: “?” – to suggest that we remain sceptical and critical, but optimistic: business as usual – nothing more, nothing less?