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Ecuador: Interview -- President Rafael Correa discusses `Citizens' Revolution', socialism for the 21st century
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 Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, #212, December 2009/January 2010. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]
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
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
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
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
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,
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 authorise 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
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
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,
Public education in
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 organisation which Correa heads], we lack consolidation and this is perhaps the great challenge that we face.
The next question is about the
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
If the aim of the
No. We are minimising the need for dollars. Unfortunately,
How can the ALBA countries defend themselves against the kind of reaction seen with the coup in
Well, there is no infallible defence, but, for
example, [the media organisation] 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
Recently you spoke about socialism for the 21st century in
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
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 labour 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
Doesn’t what happened in
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
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
To what extent can we say that the welfare-based development model of socialist