“We will have to establish Socialism in Ecuador”: Interview with MPD
Ecuador is a country of 14 million people located in the western part of South America. It has many nationalities including the dominant nationality of mestizos (mixed). There are 17 other nationalities in Ecuador with the blacks and indigenous people (such as Quechua and Shuar) considered as oppressed people. Due to a long history of colonization and domination, imperialist culture has been imposed on these people. Indigenous people have started to assert themselves with their own political and social organizations. 80% of indigenous people are peasants. The majority of mestizo population is working class. In total 70% of working age population are workers and 14% of them are in unions. More than 60% of population lives in urban areas. Amongst the people living in rural areas, 80% are peasants and the rest are agricultural workers and artisans.
Strategic sectors of the Ecuadorian economy are oil/petroleum and agriculture (palm, banana, sugar, and coffee) with auto assembly and textiles industry playing a minor role. The Spanish (Repsol), Brazilian (Petrobas), Canadian Multinationals (MNCs) dominate the petroleum sector with US MNCs having minimal presence. In the agricultural sector, 2% of Ecuadorians own 40% of land – these are large farmers and some of them work with MNCs e.g. one landowner owns 20, 000 hectares of land which is used to grow African palm for export. Ecuador is now part of ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America). This alliance was initiated by Venezuela and Cuba as an alternative to Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
Communist Party of Ecuador (Marxist-Leninist) (PCMLE) is a revolutionary communist party of Ecuador. It has been organizing workers and peasants for more than 30 years. It has also been working inside indigenous organizations since its founding. PCMLE has significant participation in black struggles, mostly of the black workers. Afro-Ecuadorians came as slaves for plantations or as freed slaves from other regions of the Americas. They are now mostly in the coastal region of Esmeraldas. PCMLE is working to unite all workers and peasants. Cultural differences are recognized but class solidarity is emphasized.
Movement for Popular Democracy (MPD) is the front organisation of Communist Party of Ecuador (Marxist-Leninist) (PCMLE). Excerpts of interview with Luis Villacis Maldonado, the national director of MPD and their last presidential candidate follow. Jittomy served as interpreter. The interview was conducted by Surya and Tamarai at the national headquarters of MPD in Quito.
LB: Could you tell us briefly about the history and current politics of MPD?
MPD: MPD was established 31 years ago on 17th March 1978. Workers and peasants wanted an alternative program of government. The objective was to combine both the economic and political struggles. We are trying to fight the leadership of the bourgeois state and establish popular power and socialism in Ecuador. We participate in elections from the local to presidential elections. Jaime Hurtado was the first elected representative of MPD. It was also the first time that a Black person was elected to parliament.
We are able to address different contradictions in Ecuador. Namely, the interests of the workers against the bourgeoisie; anti-imperialist struggles against US imperialism; national interests against anti-national interests. This struggle of classes has led to the growth of MPD as an organization. It has given MPD the opportunity to discuss socialism in Ecuador. This is another way to represent the people and a basis to organize them.
LB: MPD has 5 seats out of 124 seats in the parliament. How are you able to coordinate work inside parliament with struggles on the streets? Through your parliamentary work have you had any recent victories in Ecuador?
MPD: The relationship between MPD and the workers, peasants, teachers, students etc... is political and ideological. This relationship is a natural one. It is important that people in the parliament come from workers’, peasants’, teachers’ etc. organization. The organizations that work directly with us are UGTE (Workers organisation – 30, 000 members; 2nd largest trade union), UNE (Teachers’ organisation), FEUE (students’ organisation – 350, 000 members), UCAE (peasant organisation), PCMLE etc. We work with and organize in total 15 of these organizations (total membership - 2 million). In the last 20 years we have been working with this structure. All candidates for the elections come from these organizations. This is the principal way in which to obtain victory for the people.
The last constituent assembly and the new constitution got some rights for the people. They prohibited the contract labour and ensured direct payment to workers. It is addressing exploitation of workers, low salary, long working hours, and right to social security. The salary should be able to afford basic necessities of life. Social security should be for everybody. We have also put in our constitution that no imperialist country can have a military base in the country. The other issue that is being addressed is that natural resources should be protected from MNCs. This was a good victory. MPD was the party that enabled this victory. The five parliament members are fighting to implement this new constitution.
LB: What are the workers’ struggles outside the parliament that have had an impact?
MPD: We are mobilizing workers to defend the right to free association and of collective bargaining. We want to implement the labour law, which is part of 1701 presidential decree, that will force corporations to give better wages. We have had several mobilizations of workers that have been supported by the MPD. The leader of UGTE is a militant member of MPD.
There are several other struggles of workers. We have a mobilization of teachers. Evaluation of teachers is being used to fire teachers. There was a mobilization of miners. They are fighting for better wages but also against the pollution of the environment.
LB: In the strategic sectors of the economy, how strong is the MPD?
MPD: In agrarian reform we support the land to the tiller. We are demanding that any land that has been unproductive for more than 2 years should be given to the peasants. We have peasant organizations to check the land. We are also demanding to occupy the vacant land.
We participate in struggles in the oil sector; however, our presence is small. We are fighting for nationalization of the oil sector. The textile sector is small and MPD’s presence is also small. Another important sector is water. 75% of the water is monopolised by the water capitalists. The peasants are struggling against this monopolization of water. The new constitution says that this is public property. We are leading the protests in this area.
LB: Can you tell us about your work among women, indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian people?
MPD: We look at the struggle of women from a class perspective. The system denies them their rights – such as the right of social security for the house wife. They should be getting a salary for household work. We want equality between women and men. Only by destroying the capitalist system and establishing a socialist system will we be able to achieve this right.
We are also fighting for the rights of the Afro-Ecuadorian people. Our member of parliament Rafael is Afro-Ecuadorian and we serve as the main political front for the fight of the rights of these people. We also have several assembly members and mayors from who are fighting against the discrimination of black people. Regarding the indigenous people, we have relationships with indigenous organisations but it is limited. This is not the area where we are strong. MPD is for a multi-ethnic multi-nationality and multi-cultural Ecuador.
LB: Can you elaborate on your work amongst organised and unorganised workers?
MPD: During the years of the social democratic government, from 1988 to 1992 the movement suffered a setback. The neo-liberal policies led to the flexible labour laws. The stability of work was affected and it became difficult to organise workers particularly in the private sector. Earlier the workers of the public sector could organise but today the public sector has also been affected. We are the revolutionary wing within the union movement of Ecuador. The reformist unions are influenced by trade unions in US. We are also trying to politicise the workers to achieve socialism.
LB: What is your analysis of the coup in Honduras and how it relates to anti-imperialism in Latin America?
MPD: We condemn the coup in Honduras. We think that there is the hand of imperialism and probably Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It is not important what Obama says. The nature of imperialism does not change. The government might be taking progressive positions but Obama’s government is not a socialist government. The constitution of ALBA is changing the political equation in Latin America (LA). The inclusion of Cuba in Organisation of American States (OAS) is a reflection of the changing situation in LA. The resolution that was adopted in United Nations (UN) regarding Cuba reflects the changing situation. They are worried that privileges of imperialism are at risk in LA. This coup was a threat to other countries in LA such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. This why we think this is an imperialist plan. The army commanders were trained in US to serve the interests of imperialism.
This is the reason we said to (President Raphael) Correa that the workers, peasants or teachers are not your enemies. It is the bourgeoisie. So, do not stop the project of change in LA.
MPD is playing a significant part to change the situation in Ecuador. Today we have to support the government of Correa in the interests of people of Ecuador. We want this government to go past its reformist positions to revolutionary positions. This is the way we can challenge the bourgeoisie and imperialism. In order to meet the aspirations of all these people we will have to establish socialism in Ecuador.
[ The authors thank Comrades Pablo, Oswaldo, Luis V., Edgar, Luis, Jittomy, Geovanni and Edison for sharing their knowledge and experiences of struggles in Ecuador. Comrade Pablo helped shape the introduction by sharing his profound understanding of Ecuador and Latin America.]