Interview with an Ecuadorian Anarchist
- News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
The revolutionary struggle and social reform in Ecuador
Monday October 06, 2008 13:26
by José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
An interview with a comrade from the Grupo Anarco-Comunista "15 de
The following interview was made in July and August 2008 with a member
of the "15th November" Anarchist Communist Group, a recently-formed
libertarian group in Ecuador, which among other things publishes the
magazine "Chasqui Anarquista" with other anarchists, of which two issues
have so far come out. In this interview, we tried to find out a little
about the origins of the libertarian movement in Ecuador and understand
how anarchist communists feel about the social reforms being carried out
by Rafael Correa's government. [http://anarkismo.net/article/9711 ]
The revolutionary struggle and social reform in Ecuador
An interview with a comrade from the Grupo Anarco-Comunista "15 de
To begin with, comrades, can you tell us about the 15th November Group
and how it was formed?
Hi, comrades! The "15th November" Anarchist Communist Group is a
specific organization which was set up about two years ago. It came
about as a result of a process involving groups like RxL (Reincidiendo
por la Libertad), ACL (Autonomía Cultural Libertaria), the Biblioteca
Popular de la Casa del Obrero "Ateneo Libertario", and from a process of
political maturity that went beyond the notion of a synthesis. We have
been strongly influenced by the great work carried on by the comrades of
the Platform of Russian Anarchists, Georges Fontenis' Libertarian
Communist Manifesto and also Mikhail Bakunin. Our vision was of
Revolutionary, Class-Struggle, Materialist and Dialectic Anarchism. But
we also believe that it is essential to study the values and practices
of our ancestors, as much of this had an explicitly libertarian basis.
We seek to bring Anarchism back to the people, who have forgotten it
over the past 60 years or more. We involve ourselves among the
working-class and on various fronts where we can make a difference,
struggle, organize and bring new militants together in some way.
Why did you choose your name?
The name was chosen in honour of all those workers who were killed
during the general strike on 15 November 1922 in the city of Guayaquil,
due to the rise in the dollar and the drop in cacao prices, on which the
country's economy was based at the time. The strike was called by the
FTRE (Federación de Trabajadores Regional del Ecuador), an
anarcho-syndicalist organization whose origins go back to the early
years of the century, with a membership of about 30,000 workers in
Our idea is to rescue this struggle from a large sector of the left,
that denies or hides its revolutionary, anarchist origin. Also because
it was one of greatest demonstrations in history of what the Ecuadorian
working people can do and the best demonstration of anarchist
combativeness. And with that great example and the valour of so many
workers, to continue this wonderful task, so that their lives will not
have been in vain.
Can you tell us a little about anarchism in Ecuador?
Anarchism in Ecuador has a history much like that of most Latin American
countries, where it arrived at the end of the 19th and early 20th
century. The ideas mostly arrived together with European immigration to
the continent and the seeds were fertilized in the country's ports,
though were put into action in an original way, suited to the conditions
of our people.
With the triumph of the Liberal Revolution the power of the church in
the coastal areas was lessened, something that was not so evident in the
mountainous regions, and this was an important factor in the appearance
of socialist tendencies in our country. The first signs of a libertarian
press were among the railway workers of Jamaican origin at the end of
19th century. In the early 20th century our history really begins.
Various groups were founded: Luz y Acción , Verbo y Acción ,
Ricardo Flores Magón, the Centro de Estudios Sociales Libertarios
(linked to the IWA), and others. The newspapers at the time were
"Alba Roja", "Bandera Roja", "El Proletario", "El
Hambriento". And there were trade unions such as the FTRE, the AGA
(Asociación Gremial del Astillero), the Asociación de Cacahueros
"Thomas Briones", etc. After the massacre of 15th November 1922 the
movement retreated, a widespread phenomenon throughout the continent as
a result of rise of populist governments, the rise of Stalinism as the
revolutionary model and the emergence of the fascist-style governments,
up until the 1940s.
From then on, there were attempts at labour organization in 1970s and
in the '80s it became mostly an artistic and literary wave. But by the
'90s, it was another story. Several young people had begun to identify
with punk counter-culture, but by the start of the new century they
understood that it was necessary to go beyond a type of politics
detached from reality and the class problems in the country. That's how
our history developed. It's a history that we will go on building,
winning the hearts of the people and keeping our distance in no
uncertain terms from the dominant structure.
In what way has the movement changed since the fall of Gutiérrez?
Since the last decade of the 20th century, the country has seen
increasing diffidence among the people towards neo-liberal policies and
the various governments that there have been. This diffidence led to the
overthrow of Abdalá Bucaram in 1997, of Jamil Mahuad in 2000 and more
recently in 2005 it manifested itself with the removal from power of
Lucio Gutiérrez, leader of the Patriotic Society Party (PSP). The
discontent was also obvious in the popular opposition to Free Trade Area
of the Americas (FTAA) in our region, and also to the US presence at
Manta Air Base.
The mobilizations against neo-liberalism and its representatives have
been led by the indigenous movement, the workers, students and social
movements. These sectors have often sought to go beyond the established
framework but each time they have fallen into the same trap, that of
accepting the crumbs thrown to them. To this should be added the absence
of an autonomous, revolutionary political project that could enable the
boundaries of protest to be overcome and generate a new way of
Some anarchists, either individually or collectively, have participated
in these protests since 2002, but a basic problem with our activity has
been the absence of an organization that could allow us to leave
spontaneism behind us and also allow us to instigate proposals for
change from within the people.
Nevertheless, the fall of Lucio Gutiérrez and the events that occurred
at the time have served to enable us to see the necessity of an
organization in order to go beyond spontaneism and draw up a strategy,
because in the hurly-burly of the demands for the overthrow of this
corrupt individual, there was no-one to provide guidelines in order to
develop a new, horizontal and assembly-based political praxis with
direct democracy. There wasn't even any analysis of the fact that the
cause for the evils that afflicted - and still afflict - the Ecuadorian
people lie in the practices handed down by the State and the
exploitation with which Capital keeps us in submission. What we mean is
that the people, as an autonomous and revolutionary body, lack any sort
of political tool. Slogans such as "Que se vayan todos!" were
continuing to lose ground to variants like "Que se vayan todos, pero
primero el dictador!" or suchlike.
This experience has taught us two lessons:
a. The need for an organization that can allow us to leave behind the
spontaneism that is inherent in and necessary to the people, and
b. the development of an economic, social and political programme from
within the people, that can be applied at times of social crisis, so
that we do not see a repetition of the opportunism that fills the void
that the popular movement leaves behind itself.
Ecuador is currently in the process of re-writing its Constitution. What
do you think about that?
Since the foundation of the republic in 1830, our country has been under
a totally anti-popular dominant class. Over all this time there have
been an endless stream of constitutions, none of which have reduced the
power of the oligarchic bourgeoisie by an inch. On the contrary, they
have enabled it to survive and adapt to the new difficulties that the
world's economy presents.
The Constitutions drawn up by the Right and the Left have not diminished
political power, or worse still, the economic power of the dominant
classes. In this sense, the current government which declares itself to
be the standard-bearer of 21st-century socialism, is trying in some way
to reduce the political power of the powerful class in this country, but
when it comes to breaking its economic power, it is doing little or nothing.
Let us be clear that the socialism referred to above is only camouflaged
capitalist reformism of a type signalled over a hundred years ago by the
Russian revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin, when he said:
"There is an infallible sign by which workers can recognize a phoney
socialist, a bourgeois socialist; when talking to them about revolution
or social transformation, if he says that the political must precede the
social and economic transformation; if he denies that both must be made
at the same time, or maintains that the political revolution must in a
certain way be separate from a full, immediate and direct social
liquidation, then the workers must turn their backs on him: because he
who is speaking is either an idiot or a hypocritical exploiter."
The constitutional process that the country is going through has been
the product of some channelling of the popular mobilizations. We are
aware that this is not the solution to the needs that the people aspire
to solve, and in this sense the new "Magna Charta", like any
constitution, will be nothing special as it will not make significant
improvements to the level of poverty and widespread exclusion.
Our position goes beyond the current situation and the traps that the
current polarization could lead us into. And it in this sense that we
are continuing to propagandize the people becoming organized and
conscious, through our daily militant work, since we are sure that only
this will allow us to work towards those fundamental changes that
Ecuadorian society is incessantly searching for.
Some people are enthusiastic about the idea of a pluri-national State...
Do you believe that these illusions have any basis?
In some indigenous sectors those who defend the need for a
Pluri-National State are fond of the notion that the creation of such an
institution will enable a high level of social participation,
demonstrating at the same time that the State is open to the inclusion
of sectors that historically have been dominated.
These notions are false insofar as participation cannot be measured by
the levels of access to political power and its institutions, as many
among the Indigenous leadership think.
On the other hand, the process of inclusion that is expected by the
spheres of power and has been one of the demands of the indigenous, is a
limited one since all debate and political practice revolves around
acceptance of the ethnic aspects of the demand for pluri-nationality
without any thought for the political and economic aspects.
Consequently, we have the Ecuadorian State trying to proclaim itself
pluri-national without losing its hierarchy, a fact which has been
noticed by some indigenous sectors.
What it has been impossible to make people aware of it that one of the
premises of the State is its centrality at all levels. Given what
plurinationality implies, proclaiming a pluri-national State would mean
the destruction of one of the basic principles of the State - centralism.
Can you tell us how you, as libertarians, saw the crisis with Colombia?
The constant border violations by the Colombian army demonstrate the
Uribistas plans to expand the conflict to our region, due to the
inability of these forces to defeat the Colombian guerrillas militarily.
We closely watch these and other practices that try to involve the
Ecuadorian people in the civil war that has been causing so much
bloodshed for our Colombian brothers for over forty years.
We must denounce the class character that hides behind this conflict and
the demands of the Colombian government.
Do you believe there is some tangible threat on the part of the
aggressive Colombian military forces, who are undoubtedly acting at the
dictates of the USA?
Uribe's right-wing government is the expression of the imperialist
re-composition of South America. This was seen in the plan to put "Plan
Colombia" into operation at the start of this decade.
Behind the euphemism of combating drug trafficking, the United States is
trying to set up geopolitical control over our lands. This behaviour,
together with the growing arms funding and professionalization of the
Colombian army, demonstrates the interests and influence of Yankee
imperialism over the Colombian government.
The real danger is that the conflict will spread throughout the region,
a policy that guides the Colombian government's relations with its
neighbours, including Ecuador. There have of course been set-ups, like
the cowardly murder of the FARC-EP commander "Raúl Reyes" in this
country, or lies like Ecuador being the home of the guerrillas' rearguard.
We must be careful with the distortions that can easily be given to this
problem, and at least for the moment prevent any direct intervention in
"our America" by the imperialists.
Lastly, could I ask you what chances there are of building a
revolutionary, libertarian alternative in Ecuador?
What possibilities there are, depend not only on the conditions for it.
It would be ironic to say that, as they are already in place; we live in
a class society.
It depends on the conviction and dedication of each member of the
Organization in being a part of the class war, in the neighbourhoods, in
schools and universities, in the workplace. It is interesting to see
that in Ecuador, three consecutive presidents in a row have been swept
away by the "Out, all of them!" movement - and not only these three
parasites, but also the institutions and both private and State bodies.
And one of our most basic weapons in this revolutionary task is to take
advantage of this discontent.
Any last points you would like to make?
We'd like to thank comrade José Antonio for the very kind interview. We
would also like to extend a warm, fraternal greeting to all those
Organizations and militants around the world who work day in day out for
this huge task. It is a task that depends on every single one of us if
we are to achieve it. Unite, Convince, Win to the side of the people.
Because that's where we come from!
One way or another.. we will win!
The hand of friendship to our comrade, the closed fist to the tyrant!
Revive the Class Struggle!
Long life and Revolt!
To contact the Grupo Anarco-Comunista "15 de Noviembre", write to:
Translated by FdCA - International Relations Office
1. Ecuadorian Regional Federation of Workers.
2. Light & Action.
3. Words & Action.
4. Centre for Libertarian Social Studies.
5. Red Dawn.
6. The Red Flag.
7. The Proletarian.
8. The Hungry.
9. Shipyard Trades Association.
10. Association of Cacao Workers "Thomas Briones".
11. "Let's get rid of them all!"
12. "Let's get rid of them all, but first let's get rid of the dictator!"
My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
in charge on this island?
Professor: Why, no one.
Skipper: No one?
Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
-- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"