[News] Ecuador - Rafael Correa discusses Citizens' Revolution, socialism for the 21st century
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 20 11:12:34 EST 2010
Ecuador Citizens' Revolution
President Rafael Correa discusses Citizens'
Revolution, socialism for the 21st century
January 20, 2010 By Rafael Correa
In April 2009, Rafael Correa was elected to his
second term as president of Ecuador with 51% of
the vote. This gave him a mandate to continue and
deepen the program of reforms and structural
changes initiated since he first became president
in November 2006. In three years Correa's
government has introduced unprecedented social
and economic reforms - known as the Citizens'
Revolution - to reverse the poverty and
exploitation suffered by the majority of the
population in a country which has been ravaged by neoliberalism.
Correa has announced that Ecuador is building
socialism for the 21st century and joined the
Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). In
late October 2009, he made a brief trip to
London, speaking at universities and to over 1000
Ecuadorians living and working in London, en
route to a formal state visit to Russia. On
December 13, 2009, Helen Yaffe had the privilege
of interviewing President Correa during a boat
trip on the River Thames and a translation
appears here. [This interview first appeared in
Racism! Fight Imperialism!, #212, December 2009/January 2010.]
Helen Yaffe: In what way is ALBA distinct from
previous attempts by Latin American countries to
develop mutually beneficial trade and investment strategies?
Rafael Correa: In every way because it is
integration based on fraternal solidarity, not
between competitors, which has been the great
mistake in the past. The integration that we have
sought, above all in recent years, has been
orientated towards trade, to having larger
markets and competing between us. In ALBA we
don't talk about competition, we speak of
coordination in energy, finances and even in
defence, but coordination, not competition.
In 1965, Che Guevara said, "there should be no
more talk about developing mutually beneficial
trade based on prices imposed on the backward
countries by the law of value and the
international relations of unequal exchange that
result from the law of value... We have to
prepare conditions so that our brethren can
directly and consciously take the path of the
complete abolition of exploitation ..." How does
ALBA trade and the formation of supranational
companies achieve this - constraining commercial
exchanges based on profit - particularly given
that, with the exception of Cuba, the means of
production in the ALBA states are predominantly in private hands?
The question of value is perhaps the most
difficult and complex economic problem. It is
clearly very difficult to remove the question of
monetary prices when large parts of the means of
production are in private hands. But with ALBA we
are experimenting with other forms of exchange,
not necessarily based on market prices but on
mutual compensation, collaboration and
bi-national enterprises. For example, since the
beginning of my government I have sent crude oil
[to Venezuela] and they refine it and charge me the cost.
So, Che was right, and you are right, it is
difficult to remove the law of value, basically
monetary prices imposed by the market, when the
means of production are in private hands and are
guided by the logic of capitalism, the logic of
profit. But at the level of countries something
can and is being done. For example, Chavez has a
lot of experience with petrol in the area of the
Caribbean where he gives petrol without
considering the market prices but considering the
costs and the need for help and other
circumstances. We are doing a lot of this. We are
seeking food sovereignty and sovereignty in
health, producing our own medicines, guiding
ourselves by planning and coordination, without
competition and without this relationship to the market.
Let me state something clearly, Marxism has not
overcome this question of value either. It is
very difficult. Sometimes you can remove monetary
prices set by the market, other times you cannot.
You have to try to prevent speculation and the power of the market.
There is the problem of what value is, and the
problem of utility also - the markets try to
respond through supply and demand. Supply
expresses the costs of production and the social
costs of producing; demand expresses preferences,
the usefulness to the consumer, but in practice
with an unequal distribution of income, price
represents anything, not the intensity of
preference. So the problem is there and no-one
has been able to convincingly solve it. In its
trade the Soviet Union also used money prices,
not necessarily set by the market, but not
compensations based on equivalent values either.
There are alternative proposals, like the one for
equivalent values presented by Heinz Dietrich who
works on socialism for the 21st century, but all
these alternatives are insufficient and inapplicable.
This term "socialism for the 21st century" is
sometimes used as a way of rejecting all the
antecedents, all previous struggles ...
There are things which should be superseded - I
have spoken with Raul and Fidel about Cuba - for
example, state ownership of all the means of
production. Of course there should be a certain
space for private property and obviously the
strategic sectors, certain areas which are
fundamental for food sovereignty and so on,
should be controlled by the state. But in the
21st century, it is difficult to sustain state
ownership of all the means of production.
It is also difficult if you permit small private
production. What controls are there to prevent
the accumulation of capital or speculation?
This is easier than directly managing everything.
Announcing the plan for land distribution,
Ecuador's minister of agriculture said that the
land was "not considered to be a commodity, but
for its social function, as a means of
production, a place for settlement and a way of living".
This is important. There are things which are not
commodities - the earth, water - that have to be
under state control - their exchange has to be
controlled. We are introducing a law where the
state has to authorize the sale and purchase of
land to avoid what has occurred in the past -
peasants cheated and left without land. But the
land is going to be theirs and the communes'; it
is not going to belong to the state. Under
control of the state - that's another matter.
It is similar to the new campaign in Cuba to
distribute lands in usufruct. They have to
produce, if they don't produce, the land will be taken back.
Yes. We are also going to distribute 130,000
hectares of state land and we are drawing up an
inventory of all the unproductive private lands
to distribute - around one and a half million
hectares. This is why they are desperate to destabilise us so quickly.
Che Guevara believed in using the technological
advances and managerial methods of capitalism but
with different social objectives... You were
trained in economics in the US and you have
spoken about the poor quality of university
education in Ecuador. How does your government
plan to train skilled workers, while at the same
time forging a political commitment to social
development and the Citizens' Revolution?
What Che did was commonsense. Technology cannot
be the patrimony of capitalism - there is no
capitalist technology, just technology. Of course
it uses the human resources formed by capitalism.
The Cuban Revolution benefited from the human
resources formed by the Soviet Union, China and
so on. For the development of our countries we
have to emphasize technology and this is linked
to human resources. We are not referring to
having technology without the human resources
capable of using and generalizing it, so we are
introducing major reforms in education that have
generated resistance from the groups which have
always appropriated the education system.
Public education in Ecuador is very bad, we need
to make a huge effort to improve it and higher
education is also terribly bad. We have a new law
which, among other things, obliges universities
to carry out research. At present, half of the
universities don't spend 20 centavos on research.
Their argument is that resources are scarce. But
there is Cuba, with few resources, carrying out
research. Resources are always going to be
scarce, but these universities have invested in
expensive extensions instead of funding research.
We have strong programs to improve education, the
law of higher education, scholarship programs, to
train people in other countries, and clear
policies to invest in science and technology despite the scare resources.
The development of revolutionary consciousness
and commitment depends on various factors. I
believe that part of this education is about
social commitment, without it being partisan. I
also believe that when leaders are seen to have
enthusiasm and a real desire to change the
country, people support this desire for change.
The future professionals, who will be trained
because of this change, are going to have this
revolutionary consciousness. With this dynamic
period Ecuadorian society is living through -
along with the opportunities that we are creating
- we believe that all these new professionals who
are receiving scholarships, who go abroad to
train, will develop this revolutionary
consciousness. But you are probably right that we
have to work more directly on this. We are
already training people, but what you said about
revolutionary consciousness is more difficult to
achieve. We have political education schools, but
we lack structure in the Movimiento País [the
political organization which Correa heads], we
lack consolidation and this is perhaps the great challenge that we face.
The next question is about the SUCRE [the common
trading currency among ALBA countries] - how will it function?
It is very easy, we are going to start pilot
operations to test it. It is a system of
compensation. It is for commercial or private
trade. It will not be pegged to the dollar. We
are going to create an electronic currency and we
won't have to use any [US] dollars.
If the aim of the SUCRE is to replace the dollar
in trade between ALBA countries, is the goal
eventually to replace the dollar as the national currency of Ecuador?
No. We are minimizing the need for dollars.
Unfortunately, Ecuador adopted the dollar as the
national currency [in 2000]. It is very difficult
to undo dollarization; it could create a total social cataclysm.
How can the ALBA countries defend themselves
against the kind of reaction seen with the coup in Honduras?
Well, there is no infallible defense, but, for
example, [the media organization] Telesur is a
great assistance - in providing information -
imagine, before that the news came from CNN - as
is having strong relations between countries for
mutual support. But there is nothing that
guarantees that this cannot happen in Ecuador, in
Venezuela, in Bolivia. We must be very well
organized. You know that our governments have
great popular support, but we are not organized
to defend our process from any intent at
destabilization. They tried to do this in Ecuador
a few days ago and unfortunately indigenous
people and teachers collaborated. A small group
of teachers called a totally unjustified
indigenous uprising and the right wing began a
campaign in their newspapers claiming that the
popularity and credibility of the president had
fallen. They are also preparing mobilizations in
Guayaquil. They had everything ready when we
managed to resolve the problems, but perhaps not
next time. Basically every country has to organize its internal structures.
Recently you spoke about socialism for the 21st
century in Ecuador combining elements of
"classical socialism", the socialism of
and liberation theology, and socialism based on
Ecuadorian conditions. Can you expand on these concepts?
Socialism for the 21st century is a process of
construction which tries to take the best of
traditional socialism, but also of other
socialisms that have existed, like Andean
socialism, agrarian socialism and also, at least
in Ecuador, you note the social doctrine of the
church, liberation theology. We are a Christian
continent. In Cuba, they declared the state to be
atheist when the people were believers. This
created big conflicts and impeded, perhaps
pointlessly, significant support because there
were many Catholics committed to the revolution.
They recognized the mistake and rectified it
decades ago. A much better and legitimate
strategy is to guide religion to be revolutionary
also. This is what liberation theology did.
Basically the message was "enough with this
theology that tells us to endure exploitation in
life because after death you are going to have
the Kingdom of Heaven". No, the Kingdom of Heaven
must be made here - it is the kingdom of justice.
You have to struggle against injustice. 21st
century socialism is based on this search for
social justice, and it coincides with the social
doctrine and liberation theology. This project
can be joined by atheists, practicing Catholics -
because I am a practicing Catholic. It doesn't
contradict my faith which, on the contrary,
reinforces the search for social justice.
Socialism for the 21st century seeks this change
through democratic processes and the vote, we
have became accustomed to this in Latin America,
it is no longer through armed struggle. There are
things in traditional socialism which we agree
with; the primacy of human labor above capital,
the need for collective action, the need for
planning, the role of the state in the economy,
the search for justice in all its dimensions,
social justice, gender justice, ethnic justice,
international justice. But we are obliged to
reject some elements of traditional socialism
which are not feasible or desirable; class
struggle, violent change and dialectical
materialism itself. This will grate with you as a
Marxist, but any attempt to explain processes as
complex as the advance of human society with
simple or simplistic laws will fail. Just as it
is simplistic to say that the motor for the
advance of society is individualism, abstracted
from culture, the community, etc, it is also a
simplification to say that it is class struggle,
the opposition of forces within the productive system.
A technological revolution can create more social
changes in the revolutions in production than by
supposed dialectical materialism, the conflict
between oppositional forces. Not only this,
dialectics takes as an infallible law thesis,
anti-thesis and a synthesis which emerges and is
better than what you began with. It doesn't have
to be that way. You can have a thesis that is
true, you present an antithesis that is
erroneous, and the synthesis can be worse than
the thesis. This is the reality we have lived in
Latin America. We propose something that is
correct, we are told some nonsense in the name of
democracy, of dialogue, and we have united the
two proposals and produced a synthesis, but the
synthesis is worse than what we had before. We
have to improve all these things, it is necessary
to be objective, it is not necessary to be romantic.
Doesn't what happened in Honduras, or before that
in Venezuela, demonstrate the importance of class struggle?
We completely agree that the great challenge in
our countries is to change the relation of forces
and pass from a state which is captured by
certain powers to a state that represents popular
power. This is the first step in Latin America,
but to go from that to believing that this change
in the relation of forces will resolve everything
is a mistake in my view. There are many important
things to consider. The technological base,
cultural changes; also be careful about how you
identify the poor. The poor have many values, but
they often make mistakes. It is not certain that
the masses, the proletariat, are always right.
You can convert a bourgeois state into a popular
state, but that does not mean that it is going to take all the right decisions.
For example, Latin America has to make huge
cultural changes. Among the Indigenous people,
who are so mythologized, is where there is most
interfamilial violence, but these things are not
spoken about. So the point is not only about
transforming the structures, it is also about
transforming the family, people, transforming
culture, transforming technology. There are many
factors which generate social advance. It is a
very complex process. This is a difference. We do
not reject dialectical materialism, but neither
do we accept that the idea that it is fundamental
for us, as the motor for society, producing class
struggle which means violent changes.
Perhaps the greatest error that traditional
socialism made was in not disputing the notion of
development proposed by capitalism. They sought
the same, via a faster and supposedly more just
route, but the same, in the Soviet Union -
industrialization, mass consumption, accumulation
- this was a mistake. It is impossible to
generalize the Western development model. If all
the Chinese people achieved the standard of
living of people here in London, the world would
explode. Traditional socialism never presented an
alternative notion of development. Today we are presenting this alternative.
To what extent can we say that the welfare-based
development model of socialist Cuba, and its
global status achieved through its
internationalist health and education programs, was the inspiration to ALBA?
Cuba has great things and obviously ALBA was
started by Chavez and Fidel. A great example
provided by Cuba is that in its poverty it has
known how to share, with all its international
programs. Cuba is the country with the greatest
cooperation in relation to its gross domestic
product and it is an example for all of us. This
doesn't mean that Cuba doesn't have big problems,
but it is also certain that it is impossible to
judge the success or failure of the Cuban model
without considering the [US] blockade, a blockade
that has lasted for 50 years. Ecuador wouldn't
survive for five months with that blockade. Of
course ALBA is largely inspired by the good
things of the Cuban model, like solidarity, trade
between peoples based on solidarity, not for
profit, cooperation for development. Of course
ALBA is inspired by the successes of the Cuban model.
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