At the recent Ecosocialist International Network meeting in Brazil, there was considerable discussion about whether the word “ecosocialism” should be used in Latin America. Concerned that translation difficulties may have contributed to some misunderstandings, the Peruvian indigenous peasant leader Hugo Blanco sent this message to clarify his views.
At the meeting, in Belem, I explained the resistance from the indigenous population to the word ‘socialism’, but neither I nor anyone there proposed to change the name. Until now, this is the best word.
We understand that ‘ecosocialism’ is a new idea for the urban population. This is not the case for indigenous people of the Americas (I don’t know about another indigenous groups, but I believe that it is similar in other continents) who have been struggling for ecosocialism for more than 500 years. Ignoring these remarks will show that your eurocentric belief system continues to be central in your understanding, a deficiency that revolutionary people must surpass
I understand that ecosocialism is new among the urban population, but this is not true for many indigenous people. The continental rise up of the indigenous people movement is due to the intensification of neoliberal attacks to two basic pillars of our culture:
- our collectivism (which is another word to design socialism); and
- our love for nature, the Mother Earth (which is another form to express the ecology).
The indigenous struggle in defense of those principles, for more than 5 centuries, is not rhetoric; it has produced partial victory but also lost thousands of lives through massacres.
An Indigenous People framework does not leave out anyone, for instance the First International Meeting Against Neoliberalism organized by Chiapas Indigenous People, before the First World Social Forum, a meeting “For Humanity, Against Neoliberalism’ included more that 70 countries.
In the World Social Forum, for the first time there was an organized Indigenous People’s participation. Thanks to that, we were able to include an accord to celebrate on October 12, the International Day on Defense of the Mother Land, in opposition to October 1492, when “America discovered capitalism,” as the Uruguayan Eduardo Galiano argues.
As fast as urban ecosocialists understand the indigenous people’s frame, it will be better for our closeness and coordination with the indigenous people of this continent, which I repeat, have been struggling for 5 centuries for ecosocialist principles.
Rationale for the Indigenous People’s uneasiness with the word socialism:
Uneasiness, in the Peruvian context, is due to the guerrilla Shining Path (SP) that called itself ‘socialists’ while killing peasants accusing them as traitors or spies when they didn’t support SP struggle. At the same time, the government used the cover up – of being members of SP – to kill, jail, torture and disappeared peasants, particularly their leaders. This war – between SP, Movimiento Revolutionario Tupac Amaru – against the Peruvian state lasted 20 years, and took closer to 70,000 Peruvians lives, most of them Indigenous people.
In Colombia, Indigenous people are between three fires – the army, the paramilitary, and the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). In the beginning, when the FARC occupied indigenous people’s territories, they were governed by FARC members with the exclusion of the local population, that is why when the government took over these lands they didn’t resist. The FARC has been calling itself ‘socialists’. It is now, when the FARC have been weakened that the indigenous people’s mobilization has been strengthened.
In Chile, the government of Bachelet has been called a ‘socialist’ government; instead she is using Pinochet’s methods against Mapuche indigenous people defending their ecology.
In Ecuador, Correa calls his government ‘Socialism of the XXI Century’. Indigenous people support the government, but struggle against it when it allows mining corporations to destroy nature and their land without their consent as is stipulated by the 169 OIT Covenant.
I am explaining the malaise of the indigenous people who have been struggling for centuries for the same principles that ecosocialists are proposing, but I am not suggesting to change the name. The name is the best for the urban population.
However, let me give you my opinion on the urban ecosocialists attitude regarding the indigenous movement?
I can see how deep is the eurocentric belief system in the urban revolutionary movement.
Because of it, the idea that these principles are exhibited for the first time is spread. They are blind to the long struggle of the indigenous people in this continent for the ecosocialist principles; and they are also unable to see the existence of an ecosocialist government that already exists in Chiapas, on the margins of Mexico.
I believe that if the urban ecosocialist movement is able to understand these realities, it would get closer to those who are building ecosocialism through actions, instead of declarations. Urban ecosocialists can make known, among the less versed urban population, the daily struggles of the indigenous people and also organize solidarity activities with them.
Despite of what I say, I agreed with the document that I signed. I am interested in the development of our movement. As I am immersed in the indigenous struggle I can bridge this movement between indigenous people and the urban ecosocialists. Our struggle is the same. Each side needs to overcome its prejudices in order to support a world government that will save humanity from an imminent ecological disaster that will end with our species in less than a century.
Hugo Blanco was a central figure in the peasant uprisings in Cuzco, Peru, in the 1960s, and remains active in those struggles today. He publishes the newspaper Lucha Indigena.