'Their struggle is not about class'

In what became a very interesting interview, Bill Weinberg at WW4R talks to Hugo Blanco about the state of Peru and the current Amazonian struggle, which erupted this past June. (Follow the latest news from Amazon Watch.)

What interested me most was this passage, quoted below:

Until now, the Amazonian peoples have been very isolated, and have not been involved in the class strugle in Peru. Do you think now, with the process of globalization, they are becoming a part of the broader social struggle in the nation?

Their struggle is not about class. Their struggle is to defend the natural environment where they have lived for millennia. But now this nature—which they regard as their mother—is under attack. The timber companies cutting the trees, the oil companies poisoning the rivers—this is what their uprising is against. They do not understand it as a class struggle. But nonetheless, it is a struggle against the multinational corporations which are defended by the government. So we understand that it is related to the class struggle.

Of course, this is a huge break that is just now occurring, all across Latin America, and indeed, across the world. And because Blanco, a former campesino guerrilla fighter imprisoned and exiled across the continent for forty years, who once believed in the vanguard party and attempted to form his own in war and in peace, and today is the editor of Lucha Indigena, is significant. Today, he admits,

And when I speak of the indigenas of the Amazon as a the vanguard, I do not mean it in the Marxist-Leninist sense, that others should copy their methods. And when I speak to indigenous peoples, I speak of “collectivism,” not “communism.”

To me, this seems to be the last two decades coalescing into a coherent ideology that is still forming: one that accepts multiple definitions of nation and will struggle to effect the outcomes that any government (of any stripe) that attempts to define or suppress it. No longer can one movement be pegged as “communist” or what have you (although “terrorist” is the new shorthand that does not carry as much weight as its predecessor) for resisting. More so, this is a huge break from the past.

No longer are struggles based solely on class. In my research on El Salvador (which can be extended to Central America as a whole), class trumped culture/race/gender/etc. The 1932 insurrection in western Salvador is now a rebellion against institutional racism as well as economic grievances, that it was instituted from the grassroots and had no marking of communist plot, controlled by Moscow or the PCS offices in San Salvador. This had many reasons: the belief in mestizaje, the cultural elitism of some members of the vanguard, the international tendencies to follow the USSR, and in the 1930s, Stalinism – which meant purges and clearly defining where the people stood. Moscow calls the revolutionary shots (in fact, the Comintern scolded Jorge Fernández Anaya for the uprising, which we now know he [nor Martí] could not control).

Despite the passage of time, one will always find the narrow-minded and ideological clinging to the past – I see it in Central American narratives all the time, on both sides. Thus, Blanco, who speaks at some length in the article at Trotsky and Stalin and the worldview of the 1960s and 1970s, he concedes:

The youth who organized the conference yesterday—they want answers to the questions of today. We don’t have to resuscitate old debates from the last century. It is enough to still believe that another world is possible. I am old, and if I can teach something about Marx, Lenin and Trotsky and so on, this is something I can contribute. I still believe in standing up and struggling and not pleading with the government…

Asháninka men making their voices heard. The Asháninka, like scores of indigenous people across Peru, are protesting against government laws that violate their land rights. © David Dudenhoefer.

As with other interviews with 1960s guerrillas the issues of arms and nonviolent methods come up, which Blanco discusses at length. In short, peaceful means should be advanced (which has gotten him into heat with the Sendero Luminoso) and arms are only justified through self-defense. He also agrees with the Zapatista movement in Mexico. He believes in coordinating with the people behind the backs of the major political parties. It is in this vein that Blanco now sees the world.

In accepting the demands of indigenous peoples (and young people in solidarity) across the world, and in particular the Peruvian Amazon, instead of seeing them as dupes and tools for interested parties, major steps are being made. And none too soon. Blanco characterizes the struggle today (in contrast to his own struggles in the early 1960s against the haciendas and their lords) as being against an “industrial latifundio,” which exploits the workers and uses agro-chemicals to destroy the soils, “[a]nd it is all for export to the United States, it is not for internal consumption.” The struggle is to save the environment from a destructive government mining and digging and drilling communities into the earth. For the old vanguards (not saying Blanco is just now coming around) to break from the past will add more grist to the mills that try, as hard as they might, to create the world that has been dreamed of for all time.

It is a struggle that has lasted for over 500 years. Today, however, our actors are getting some recognition.


~ by Daniel on September 10, 2009.

One Response to “'Their struggle is not about class'”

  1. Having lived more than 15 years in Latin America, I can definately identify with your posts

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