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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 October 2019

Uprising in Ecuador forces government climbdown

Ecuador protests 2019, photo Voz de America/CC

Ecuador protests 2019, photo Voz de America/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Tony Saunois, secretary of the Committee for a Workers' International

Twelve days of mass protests have forced the Ecuadorian government to retreat and restore the fuel subsidies it had removed with Decree 883.

In what was a revolutionary movement, the Indigenas peoples of Ecuador, under the banner of their largest organisation, Conaie (Confederation of Nationalities of Ecuador), came together in a mass movement uniting all sections of the working class and middle class.

A massive general strike called by the main trade union federation, UGTE (General Union of Ecuadorian Workers), was joined by tens of thousands of peasants and rural workers from Conaie.

The role of the working class and the indigenous peoples was central to the struggle. They came together, rejecting separatism. The indigenous peoples of Ecuador comprise at least 25% of the population and have played a central role in the struggles of the past.

Savage austerity

The immediate cause of this uprising was the savage austerity package that the government of Lenin Moreno introduced. A quisling of the IMF, he meekly followed their demands to end subsidies on fuel and introduced attacks on workers' rights in return for a US $4.2 billion "rescue package".

Overnight fuel prices rocketed by more than 150%. State employees saw their holiday entitlement of thirty days annual leave slashed by half to fifteen days.

The transport unions responded with a call for a protest strike. This was then followed by continued protests - a veritable uprising, with the calling of a general strike.

This movement had many powerful elements of a classic pre-revolutionary or revolutionary situation: the ruling class was split and dramatically weakened; the working class and poor showed a determination to struggle; the middle class was not only neutralised but actively participated in the movement; splits and divisions opened up within the state apparatus, with sections even joining the protests.

However, the crucial factor, the idea of a socialist alternative, programme and revolutionary party still needs to develop and be built. Without it, the potential victory of the masses to transform society will be threatened and lost.

The brutal repression - which resulted in over 500 arrests, hundreds of injuries and some deaths - was met with defiance by the masses. In many of the confrontations, the workers and indigenous peoples, armed with staves, stones and, in some cases, improvised rocket launchers have beat back the police and army.

According to reports from TelesurTV (the media channel launched by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela), the indigenous organisations established a "Parlamento de los Pueblos" (Parliament of the Peoples).

The mass movement forced the government to flee the capital Quito. The working class and indigenous peoples stormed the national assembly and were potentially challenging for power.

Elements of dual power unfolded. However, the masses did not move to take power into their own hands and destroy the old regime. Although the regime has been forced to back down on the subsidies, only the replacement of capitalism by socialism can provide a future for the Ecuadorian masses.

The lessons need to be drawn from this struggle. A programme for socialist revolution would have involved:


Moreno was previously vice-president of the country and an ally of the former radical left Rafael Correa who was President for a decade (2006-17).

Correa came to power as part of the 'pink revolution' sweeping Latin America at that stage. He was a close ally of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and promised a "citizens' revolution".

Radical popular reforms were implemented including a massive increase in state expenditure on health and education. Correa also introduced higher taxes on capital and capital controls and, at one stage, refused to pay the "illegitimate elements" of the foreign debt.

However, despite these popular measures, Correa, like Chávez, failed to take the necessary steps to break from capitalism. Once the economy moved into recession the reforms were cancelled out and cuts introduced.

Reforms gave way to counter-reforms which were increasingly brutal, especially under Moreno who came to power in 2017. Correa, like Chávez, had unfortunately used top-down, administrative, bureaucratic and repressive measures.

There was not the building of a genuine democratic control by the working class and oppressed. His regime was imprisoned by remaining within a capitalist economy and deciding measures from above.

Had the leaders of the movement in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador taken the necessary steps to break with capitalism, and establish democratic socialist policies, they could have come together and established a voluntary, democratic socialist federation with an appeal to the peoples of Cuba to establish a genuinely democratic socialist system with workers' control.

The failure to break with capitalism resulted in this opportunity being lost. But a victory of the working class in Ecuador now could once again pose such a prospect and begin to challenge imperialism.

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