[News] Ecuador - Rafael Correa discusses “Citizens' Revolution,” socialism for the 21st century

Anti-Imperialist News 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 
socialist newspaper 
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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