Hugo Blanco: `No contradiction between my indigenous struggle and dialectical materialism'

Image removed.

Interview with veteran Peruvian Marxist Hugo Blanco, conducted by Yásser Gómez for Mariátegui magazine, September 9, 2008. Translated by Sean Seymour Jones for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

“The Self-organised Legislative Coup of the FTA [Free Trade Agreement], Indigenous Peoples and Social Movements” was the name of the national gathering of originario [indigenous] peoples, peasant communities and social movements that took place in Lima. There Mariátegui magazine interviewed Hugo Blanco, who in the 1970s led land takeovers in La Convención, Cusco, before the agrarian reform of Juan Velasco Alvarado was implemented. Today he continues in political combat from the trenches together with the peasantry, and as director of the newspaper Lucha Indigena (Indigenous Struggle).

What is your analysis of the Peruvian indigenous movement?

Hugo Blanco: I believe that it is on the rise, as it is in Bolivia and Mexico. Although I should admit that in Peru, we are a bit behind, but it isn't because we are cowards, or clumsy. It's just that here we have suffered twenty years of internal war, where close to 70,000 people have been killed, the greater part of them indigenous, including many of their leaders. That is why we are behind, but we are – let’s say -- catching up and this isn't accidental. Because it's due to the fact that two fundamental pillars of our culture that have been attacked over 500 years, have never suffered with such intensity as they are suffering now. These are solidarity and collectivism. Now that they trying to destroy the communities, praising neoliberal individualism. That's why, we feel more attacked than ever. And on the other hand there is also the assault on nature, because across the whole continent our indigenous culture is respectful of Mother Earth, for example Mapuche means Child of the Earth. That's why, the indigenous movement reacts, moreover, in rejection of the latest legislative decrees that destroy the community, with which [the government] wants to hand over the lands to multinational companies, so, it is natural that the indigenous movement responds to that.

Do you think [Bolivian President] Evo Morales is taking the correct road in his conciliatory attitude with the separatist oligarchy of the ``half moon’’ [provinces in eastern Bolivia] or do you think he should be more tough with them?

I believe that he cedes a lot, he says that he wants to avoid bloodshed and that's why he tries to reconcile with the oligarchy, but they don't want to reconcile at all. Then, each act of his, more or less conciliatory, is taken as a triumph by his enemies and in this way they advance further. This has been seen in many cases, for example having the Constituent Assembly have to get two-thirds [majority to approve the draft constitution].

After that, until now, Morales hasn’t convoked the referendum for the Constituent Assembly, when there was the abuse of the indigenous people in Sucre and as a response the indigenous proposed the takeover of highways, and Evo said don't do that. When he called on the people to go to Santa Cruz and impede the referendum, the people were ready and later he said perhaps it’s better not to go.

So, the whole thing of saying something and then easing off afterwards frustrates the people and these frustrated people are dangerous. We have seen that despite this, and the existence of some ultraleft sectors that have called for a vote to remove Evo, such as Pukara magazine and the leadership of the COB [Bolivian Workers Central], Evo Morales obtained more votes than the 53% he won in the presidential elections of 2005.

We have to condemn those ultraleft sectors that stupidly called for a vote to remove Evo. Because if Evo leaves, who will come in? It wasn't the COB that was going to enter into government, or the editors of Pukara, or El Mallku [Felipe Quispe], it was going to be the Santa Cruz oligarchy that would have got in and done the same thing that Pinochet did in Chile.

Do you think the thoughts of José Carlos Mariátegui continue to be valid for the struggle of the originario peoples in Latin America?

In Peru all the left self-defines itself as Mariateguist, but it seems that none of these Mariateguists have read The Seven Interpretive Essays of the Peruvian Reality, Mariátegui’s fundamental work, in which two of his essays are dedicated to the indigenous issue: “The Indian Problem” and “The Problem of Land”. And they completely ignore the indigenous problem, that's why, together with some comrades, we have started to publish the newspaper Lucha Indigena. And with these latest legislative decrees proposed by the APRA (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana -- American Revolutionary Popular Alliance) government, once again we are seeing what Maríategui said, that the problem of the Indian is the problem of land.

How involved are the police authorities with the drug trafficking in the coca-growing zone of La Convención in Cusco?

I have denounced in the pages of Lucha Indigena and on the radio, that in La Convención [the coca-growing zone of Cusco] they are manufacturing cocaine and the producers are the police chiefs of the zone and directors of ENACO (National Coca Company). I said that if that was a slander, that they prosecute me for that reason. And nobody said anything.

I have gone to coca-growing zones like Valle del Río Apurímac y del Ene or Putina Punko (Sandia - Puno) and nobody has bothered me, but in (San Luis) La Convención when one travels by public transport and takes a few coca leaves to chew, they take it from you. In this area there are 18 soaking pools in order to produce cocaine. Nobody from the disinformation media dared to denounce it. Given I worked with the comrades from that district, who are growers of Huyro tea, they informed me about this.

I went to confirm it, but the police didn't let me enter that zone. I said to them: "I just came to see the soaking pools". They replied to me: "The general has prohibited people from seeing those pools." And those from ENACO, together with the police, are the ones that take coca leaves just metres from those pools.

Once again, I want to denounce, through Maríategui magazine, that the heads of ENACO and of the police are the cocaine producers. Moreover, ENACO is a monopoly, the Political Constitution of Peru, in article 61, prohibits monopolies, it doesn't specify any exception, such as if they are state or private. So it's an unconstitutional organisation that buys coca leaves at a low price and sells them for four times as much. When the Andean parliament member and coca-grower leader Elsa Malpartida visited Putina Punko in 2007, the coca growers from the zone asked her for a tractor from the mayor, to destroy a landing strip that was used by drug traffickers. Who had constructed that air field? DEVIDA, the state organisation that supposedly fights against the illegal trafficking of drugs.

What is your analysis of the anti-drugs policy of the Alan García government?

This policy of APRA serves North American interests, who with the justification of fighting the production of cocaine, puts its army in our territory. Because they are interested in political and military control over that big source of hydrocarbons that is the Peruvian Amazon, the biodiversity and above all the water of the Amazon. Just as the pretext in Iraq was weapons of mass destruction, here the pretext is drug trafficking. Although they say that it is a humanitarian plan, that's why they redeployed the US 4th Fleet that patrols the waters of the Caribbean.

Does Marxism have relevance as a tool for the struggles of the Peruvian people?

The fundamental thing that I learned from Marx is dialectical materialism. And I continue to use dialectical materialism, although there are many things with which I disagree with Marx. Because for Marx no human being is perfect, for Marx there were no bibles, reality is worth more than a thousand books, all of this is why I'm a Marxist.

Besides, given that I'm a dialectical materialist, I understand that people suffer from the pressures of their environment and their time. That's why I understand that he also suffered from Eurocentric pressures. For example he said that the conquest of India by the English had been a progressive act and that it brought them closer to capitalism. I don't agree with that.

I don't like to define myself as Marxist, because it isn't a religion. But I have a lot to be grateful for to Marx, because he taught me dialectical materialism. And by being dialectical I know that the American reality is different to Europe. That's why I try to interpret American reality as an American. Therefore, for me, there isn't any contradiction between my indigenous struggle and dialectical materialism.