Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Indians and Leftists in the Making of Ecuador's Modern Indigenous Movements, a book review by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

The image above is the cover to the book reviewed below. This book can be found at Amazon.com; I found the cover and more here, at Monthly Review, September 2009.

Indigenous Resistance in the Americas and the Legacy of Mariátegui: a review by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Notes from the Editors

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (www.reddirtsite.com), a longtime activist, historian, writer, and professor emeritus at California State University East Bay, has published numerous articles and books on the history and issues of Indigenous peoples, including The Great Sioux Nation (1977) and three books of historical memoir.

Reviewed: Indians and Leftists in the Making of Ecuador’s Modern Indigenous Movements, by Marc Becker (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008).

Following the 2005 election of the first Indigenous president of any country in the Americas — Evo Morales in Bolivia — I commented in MRzine on the fact that many were taken by surprise by this seemingly sudden occurrence out of nowhere, but only because they had not been paying attention to the development of the international Indigenous movement over the past three decades.

I called attention to the Indigenous mass movements in the Americas during the 1960s and 1970s that gave rise to the international Indigenous movement that, in turn, brought mass-based Indigenous movements into the United Nations. At that forum, significant work was done to develop international law norms for the protection of Indigenous communities and nations, in order to found collective rights analogous to those established in international law by the process of decolonization, the outstanding achievement of the United Nations. Historian Marc Becker, in his invaluable new book, goes deeper in locating the roots of those twentieth century mass movements, focusing on Ecuador.

Sixteen years before Evo Morales, in another Andean region, Indigenous peoples rose up and paralyzed Ecuador for a week. Becker begins with this moment in a chapter titled, “What Is an Indian?” He describes how the protesters blocked highways, halting all traffic in the country, and then massed in the streets of Quito, the capital, presenting sixteen demands focused on land, culture, and political rights. The pan-Indigenous organization, CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), founded in 1986, provided both leadership and an ideological frame for the future of Indigenous movements in that country. Becker focuses on the extraordinary role of women’s leadership and participation as well (“gendered histories”). Although Becker doesn’t refer to it, CONAIE had been actively participating in the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, and after 1990, the Ecuadorian government included Indigenous representatives in its delegations to the United Nations.

Becker observes that, following the 1990 uprising: “In a manner rarely seen in Latin America, Indigenous activism in Ecuador spawned an academic ‘Generation of 1990’ with numerous articles, books, and doctoral dissertations on the subject of Indigenous politics. Anthropologists, political scientists, and sociologists analyzed the uprising and the ideological shifts engendered within the Indigenous world. Academics came to see the uprising, the organizational process leading to it, and the political negotiations following it as representing the birth of a new Indigenous ideology and organizational structure.”

Becker contrasts that flurry of new academic interest with CONAIE’s view of how the resistance movement developed: “Popular, community, syndicate, associate organizations, peasant and Indigenous movements do not appear overnight, nor are they the fruit of one or two people who meet and decide to create them. . . . A movement, a mass organization is the fruit of a long process of organization, of consciousness-raising, of decision making, of uniting many ideas. . . . More than anything, it is the fruit of problems and contradictions that are produced between oppressors and the oppressed at a specific time and place.”

Becker agrees, and proceeds to provide a clear, persuasive, and brilliantly written history, based on exhaustive documentation and his direct experience in Ecuador. Noteworthy is the extraordinary collaboration between the Communist Party of Ecuador and Indigenous communities in the highlands, including the early participation of women. Becker’s case study of Ecuador suggests that the study of similar collaborations throughout Indigenous regions of the Americas would prove fruitful, not only as a matter of historical research, but also as a guide to political practice.

Thanks to the guiding light of the work and vision of Peruvian Marxist José Carlos Mariátegui in the 1920s, both communist and Indigenous organizers early on were cognizant that the Indigenous peoples of the Andes are nationalities, which, in the Marxist-Leninist sense, have the right to self-determination, although Mariátegui argued against the practicality of a separate Andean state. Becker wrote a good book, exploring Mariátegui’s influence on Latin American social movements and, more recently, an article specifically addressing the relationship to Indigenous peoples.1 The book under review focuses on Ecuador, bringing to it not only his knowledge of those questions but also of current Indigenous social movements.

Mariátegui was disabled and in poor health most of his life, dying at age thirty-eight in 1930. Although he was never able even to visit the Andean region and had no Indigenous colleagues, his thorough studies of the “Peruvian reality,” that is, its colonial and neocolonial social and economic history, led him to conclude that Indigenous peoples were the source of social revolution in Perú, with land tenure as the key element. He was famous throughout Latin America and in communist and socialist communities as a staunch defender of Indigenous rights, as well as for being a brilliant and devoted socialist. During the time when the Soviet Union-led Comintern promoted the right to self-determination — including independence — of all nationalities, and promoted Black Republics in the United States and in South Africa, it proposed that an Andean Indian Republic be formed in South America.

Mariátegui accepted the fact that Indigenous peoples were nationalities and had the right to self-determination, but believed liberation and socialism — Indigenous socialism — would come from struggles of the Indigenous, peasants, and urban workers in unison. He was certain that a century of independent state formation in Latin America would not lend itself to separatist movements, nor would such movements lead to authentic liberation. In fact, even the most militant Andean leaders and organizations have not proposed separate Indigenous republics, but rather a multinational of state formations. As contemporary Ecuadorian Indigenous (Shuar) intellectual, Ampan Karakras, states: “The power of decision-making and the political will of nationalities will be exercised through the multinational state and its respective agencies and institutions.”2

Becker contextualizes the Indigenous-peasant-workers’ social movements during the 1920s to the 1950s within the history of anti-colonial Indigenous revolts from the beginning of Spanish occupation of the Andean region and the Ecuadorian Amazon. Here too, he includes the participation and leadership of women. As in the rest of the Americas, Indigenous resistance movements prevented colonialism from achieving total eradication of Indigenous cultures, and actually worked to continue the development of Indigenous identity. However, particularly in the densely Indigenous-populated areas of Mexico and the Andean states, after independence, the colonial/feudalistic latifundia land tenure system persisted, perpetuating the servile status and debt peonage of agricultural laborers, both Indigenous and Mestizo. Land reform and workers’ rights were central to Indigenous struggles, which, in Ecuador at least, brought about alliances between rural Indigenous and Mestizos and urban workers.

Becker shows that socialists not only supported labor and land reform in alliance with Indigenous communities but also Indigenous cultures, languages, and self-governance. They brought to Indigenous struggles tactics such as strikes, demonstrations, and marches, while Indigenous activists adapted socialist tactics to specific, local conditions. Ecuadorian socialists, Becker emphasizes, were not given to paternalism toward the Indians. This work culminated in the 1940s with the founding of the Ecuadorian Federation of Indians (FEI) as part of the communist-led Confederation of Ecuadorian Workers (CTE).

The thesis of communist involvement in social movements is not a popular one. The Cold War affected peoples’ movements in every corner of the world, no less the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. By the 1950s, Marxist-inspired movements were under heavy attack, ideologically, as well as physically. As mild a democratic reform government as that in Guatemala was overthrown in 1954 by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and following the Cuban Revolution, any social movement demanding land reform or workers’ rights was labeled communist. Missionary intervention and assistance in Indigenous movements, particularly following Vatican II, largely replaced the weakened socialist movements. One of the most interesting and valuable parts of the book is found in Chapter 7, titled, “Return of the Indian.” Here, Becker traces the end of the Indigenous militants of the earlier era, and the rise of new movements, assisted, and sometimes originated, by Christian religious groups, as the “secular leftists and religious activists competed for subaltern allegiance, representing two alternative trends in the evolution of Indigenous movements.”

Now that socialism is back in the forefront of the Indigenous movement, most visibly in Bolivia with Evo Morales’s political party MAS (Movement Toward Socialism), Becker’s book is timely and an important source for those on the left seeking to comprehend Indigenous struggles and aspirations, as well as for Indigenous communities.

Shuar intellectual Ampan Karakras captures the specificity of Indigenous views in contrast to peasants and workers, and especially, unitary nationalism:

The different “indigenous” peoples, from within their cultural beliefs and experience, consider as part of their sovereignty the three areas that modern states consider part of their own sovereignty: the subsoil with all its riches, the soil or the national territory, and the airspace. To the “indigenous” people, in the subsoil are the living or mythological beings that should be respected, and valued, and asked for permission to extract a part of the soil’s riches. In the territory live the human beings; we share the soil with other living creatures — the fauna and the flora — because we are part of nature and not the kings of nature. In the firmament, or the airspace, mythological beings form an indivisible part of the life of human beings and the universe. This “indigenous” concept of sovereignty — that we are an indivisible part of a whole — is entirely different from Western values and concepts of sovereignty. They may be complementary, but they are different in concept and form; for the Western world, everything is money, power, and private property.

We are Nationalities.

Our sovereignty is based on our spiritual relation with Mother Earth, whom we recognize as a point of meeting with the supreme creator and the source of life.3

Readers of Monthly Review are well aware that imperialist global capitalism has brought us to the brink of planetary disaster. The notion that Indigenous resistance movements — in particular those imbued with the legacy of the genius of Mariátegui — contain the germ of successful resistance is an idea whose time has come.

Notes [for the links that go with these notes, see here and scroll down]

1. Marc Becker, “Mariátegui and Latin American Marxist Theory,” Latin American Series, No. 20: Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Monographs in International Studies 1993; “Mariátegui, the Comintern, and the Indigenous Question in Latin America,” Science and Society, no. 4 (October 2006): 450-479. Go back
2. Ampan Karakras, “Indigenous Sovereignty: An Ecuadorian Perspective.” Go back
3. Ibid. Go back


UPDATED POST: I, Julian Real, do not support or advocate any form of genocide against men, or mass murder of men, including any percent of all men being systematically killed (details at the top of this post): No! means no. Something for Runaway1956 and other Liberal to Conservative Men who claim to love and respect the women they are with

I have seen excerpts from the following discussion on other websites, never shown in context. And, some of my comments below are misleading and not representative of my own personally and politically held views, and so I want to clarify where I stand on a few matters that are discussed in the comments section. I apologise for any confusion on this matter that I may have inadvertantly contributed to. 

Here is where I stand:

1. I am opposed to any and all forms of genocide, including any that only targets men.
2. I do not endorse or support an effort to destroy 90% of men, or 80%, or any percent. Taken out of context, and also due to my own sloppy writing, something I said in response to someone could be wrongly interpreted to imply that I do endorse this.
3. I support people knowing how to defend themselves and get out of violent interpersonal situations and relationships, preferably without using lethal force.
4. I am basically a pacifist, and do not advocate the use of lethal force as a means of achieving peace, justice, or liberation for oppressed people.
5. I don't believe it is my place to tell women how best to defend themselves against male violence against women.
6. I WILL NOT accept comments, and WILL NOT POST ANY, that call for or advocate for men or women or transgender or intersex or intergender people being killed en masse, or being mass murdered, or being systematically slaughtered.

I hope that clears up some of what might be seen as confusing in the comments section below.

[4 November 2009 ECD update: I redid the link to the PDF file/document titled "Everyday Male Chauvinism" and so hopefully now it works when you click on it. I've put it in a new post, so as to give Johnetta Cole and company their own space!!!]

PLEASE NOTE: I took down the gross video made by two misogynistic white men, with thanks to Jennifer Drew for giving me some background information on who made it. In its place, I put the following video, the trailer to a film that all men need to see, called NO! The Rape Documentary:

For more on this film, please go to notherapedocumentary.org/.


What to do about Rape and White Het Male Supremacy: Discussion with Jennifer Drew

[image is from here]

Hi Jennifer Drew,

[I have mildly revised some of this since your first reading and wanted to alert you to that.]

A few responses to your latest comment. (The original, unedited and not annoyingly broken up with my responses, can be found here.)

Here in the UK we have legislation making it a criminal offence to promote racism and/or homophobia but all too often public outrage is expressed only when a celebrity white male publicly makes a racist comment about a coloured male.

One problem I have with such laws--which is not to say I don't wish we had such a law in the U.S.!--is that they tend to assume two things about the majority of racism and homophobia:

--An assumption is too often made that racism is a matter of [morally] "bad" interpersonal behavior ("bad" in the liberal sense, which behavior is bad but we're not really going to stop it at its roots, because, well, our dominant society depends on it continuing, especially institutionally.

--An assumption is too often made that racism and homophobia aren't intricately woven in with misogyny; that racism and homophobia only negatively impact men and don't impact women of color in particularly harmful ways. It's not exactly that, for example, a lesbian woman of color is treated oppressively on three scores, although that's true enough. But it's also the case that there are particular forms of misogyny that are leveled at lesbian women of color that other women don't experience. So, as I see it, white heterosexual women know sexism well. White women know sexual violence intimately. And there are other forms of misogyny reserved for various women of color--depending on so much, like where one lives, for example, and one's class status, sexual orientation, appearance, upbringing, and personal history.

In fact--in the real social world, when a woman is not white or not heterosexual, her quality of life, in terms of being seen as a person deserving of full human rights, doesn't ever increase.

In the U.S., as a classic feminist text says, "All the women are white, all the Blacks are men, but some of us are brave".

And all the queers are white as well, and middle class. (Wrong. Most, in fact, are not. This is "provable" simply by noting that most people in the U.S. are not white middle class folks.)

So the realities of the lives of queer women of color are so invisibilised as to not even register in the dominant cultural imagination, unless as some allegedly bizarre aberration, or small niche or "fetish" in pornography. Hence dominants can believe such human beings don't really exist at all as real people. Wanda Sykes is the only Black "out" lesbian woman I know of who is due to have her own television program and I hope her corporate employers let her fully speak her mind.

Thank you for sharing what you did about how U.S. and UK societies do and do not differ in terms of law and society.

Misogynistic comments made by so-called celebrity male comedians are dismissed as 'just humour' rather than deliberate women-hating.

We have had one incident to date, where Black women in the U.S. were named by a prominent WHM supremacist TV and radio "personality" in misogynistic-racist ways. (Not that he's a comedian by trade. It appears he's an asshole by trade.) While he was fired from that job, he was hired again by another media empire. Various media were confused about what to do: is this just a racist incident? Just a misogynist incident? So invisible are women of color as targets of racist misogyny and misogynist racism that most dominant media didn't even know how to appropriately cover the story. Meaning, in part, Don Imus was never called a WHM supremacist. And the women he targeted for his m-r vitriol was never fully understood as the crime it was. And THE story became whether or not he should be/have been fired. That is, the mass concern was for his well-being (and the preservation of WHM's rights to fully speak their minds, which is the only protected "free speech" we've ever had in this country.

I'm not trying to trivialise racism/homophobia rather what I see here in the UK is the continued male-centered and male-dominated focus on males and invisibility of females - unless of course they are portrayed as white men's dehumanised sexualised objects.

I agree with you to a point. Yes, in whiteboyland white women are dehumanised in grotesque ways too innumerable to mention here, overwhelmingly by white men. But men of color, and women of color, are marginalised and stereotyped, oppressed and turned into things, including sexual things, by white men and white women. And there's a dynamic when men of color put down women of any color that is different than when white men do it. Two things happen when men of color insult and degrade women of color:

--It is a non-event, in the sense that "nothing wrong is happening here", in the WHM supremacist media and imagination. This is partly because the WHMS media fund and fuel such racist misogyny and benefit from men of color's misogyny against women of color.

--If men of color also target white women, whites take this to mean that only men of color are misogynists. Or that men of color are misogynistic in ways that have never occurred to white men to treat white women, even while white men have spent the last 500 years teaching men of color how to commit despicable, harmful gynocidal atrocities to women of color worldwide, as well as to white women, by example. Even though white men oppress women of color more than men of color do in the U.S. To hold such a view means not ignoring the harm to WOC by WHMS institutions and industries.

Women of colour living in the UK are subjected to racism but all too commonly their experiences are invisibilised because the focus continues to be on coloured men's experiences of racism. Similarily women living in the UK and who identify as lesbian or are 'considered to be lesbian' and then subjected to homophobic comments and verbal attacks are also invisibilised because as always men are centre stage and women are marginalised.

Here in the U.S., non-heterosexual women of color are not considered period, by dominant media or dominant society. Butch white women are also rendered completely invisible.

Alan Johnson in his book The Gender Knot makes a similar statement, wherein he says medals are awarded to soldiers for the 'brave deeds they have committed in battle' but where are the medals and memorials to the innumerable women and children slaughted in men's wars?

That is a chilling thought. Imagine the land mass it would take to appropriately bury and honor every woman and girl harmed by men misogynistically, due to male privileges and entitlements, or through WHMS systems of harm? With woman-symbols as gravestones. I can barely imagine it. But it could be Photoshopped using the image above, and I think it ought to be made, with a political statement about how many women men kill annually.

What is to be done? I personally do not believe all men are rapists but certainly all men learn as they grow up that being white and male gives them automatic entitlements and privileges including the pseudo male sex right to unlimited sexual access to women and girls.

I agree that not all men are rapists, although the white woman Anonymous who is pro-separatist who comments here regularly gives me pause to think about how I can know that. Depending on how we define rape, how can I know there are men who do not rape women? I've only made the case to her that there are men who are so immobilised through injury as children or from birth that they wouldn't have the physical means to injure a woman, but still might be able to violate a woman visually, if sighted. (And what percent of men are totally immobilised and not sighted?)

And I do know gay men who have never had any sexual contact with a woman, nor any violent contact with a woman. (And what percentage of gay men is that?)

So we do not want to make the assumption that "all the men are heterosexual". MRAs and their kind will likely look on this post (stupidly) as an example of me saying "All men are rapists". Well, I didn't. What I believe is what many here have said: all men participate in systems of rapism and gynocide, directly and interpersonally, or institutionally and systemically.

I must also note that in my experience it alarms and upsets men, across sexualities and races, that any woman might "hate all men" or think "all men are rapists" than it does that many men do hate women and many men do rape women. And it certainly bothers most men more that women might feel disdain for men, when disdain for women is one of the bedrocks of many so many male supremacist societies. Where's men's collective outrage about that? (I'm listening... and all I hear are crickets chirping.)

And yes, what can be done, given white class-privileged men's entitlements, privileges, unjust power, unjust access to resources with which to defend themselves. What can be done to wipe male supremacy and white supremacy off the Earth, short of global nuclear holocaust? I welcome people posting answers to this question here at this blog. Jennifer, there needs to be a website that exists just for women to post their ideas and successes with how to stop misogyny and male supremacy from flourishing, and from existing at all. Something along the lines of holla back, but more comprehensive. Stories of successfully ending male violence against women and girls. Stories of how to approach doing so. Documentation of efforts of women in the past who have waged such campaigns. Is there such a website? Such an online network? And it would have to move past the pacifist position, no? Women's acts of self-defence need to be expanded and protected by law. Women shouldn't have to kill a man while he's raping her to be found not guilty of murder due to self-defence. She ought to be able to track his rapist ass down and shoot him dead. That's "self-defence". That's women looking out for one another, in my view. (And I'm fine with women organising groups of profeminist men to do just this, so women don't have to risk being traumatised or jailed for the act, or, if a parent, losing her children because she blew the brains out of her daughter's rapist.)

Challenging individual men on their behaviour is a step but more much more needs to be done and radical feminists have been saying for years that we need to change how our society teaches men as boys what being a man is all about. Going to the root of the problem directly challenges male entitlement and pseudo male sex right which is why I personally was not surprised on reading reports of approximately 20 males, some adults others boys who rushed to view the spectacle of males engaged in group raping a young woman. To me this demonstrates what happens when our so-called liberal society refuses to even begin to understand how and why so many men cannot even begin the long, long task of challenging their indoctrination of masculinity and supposedly innate male superiority over women and girls.

It's stunning to me how a program of socialising boys differently is met with consternation by men, yet when radical feminists argue that it is this male supremacist socialisation that teaches males to be rapists, those women are accused of being "biological essentialists" and man-haters. To any pro-patriarchal man reading this: if women really were man-haters to the degrees and depths some men claim, and if such women knew how to direct that hatred towards men, instead of against themselves and other women, you would have good reason to fear for your life.

I agree that raising boys radically differently, to not be male supremacists and girl-haters and woman-haters, needs to be a major component. But so too does the permanent removal of misogynist men from society. (And I don't mean more prisons.) And the dismantling of white men's industries, institutions, and systems of harm and exploitation. Misogynist ways doing economics, criminal justice, law, religion, academics, and medicine must also be challenged. And I saw more of that challenging going on twenty years ago than I do now. The pornography is more vicious, more degrading, more violent (if that's possible), and society as a whole is far more pornographic.

Regarding the horrific atrocities white men have committed and continue to commit against indigenous women and girls is appalling. But given white males are taught almost from birth their biological maleness supposedly automatically makes them human compared to women of colour and particularly indigenous women and girls because they are 'non-human' it is not surprising such atrocities continue to be committed. But whilst I am not surprised that doesn't mean I'm not angry at the atrocities committed by white men against white women, women of colour and indigenous women and girls.

Yes. It is no surprise and it is an outrage. And I fully support Indigenous people keeping white men off their land by any and all means necessary. I wish there was a chip in white men's heads, such that when they thought to go and rape a woman, his head would implode (keeping clean-up to a minimum).

I see a continuum of male violence wherein white male violence is even more excused and justified if the women are not white and yes racism and xenophobia plays a huge part in male hatred of women.

As I see it, the misogyny of xenophobia, of racism, needs to be understood more. That any genocide means gynocide, for example.

I'd like to see this latest atrocity as a 'wakeup call' but unfortunately I think it will be quickly forgotten and dismissed as 'just another individualised case wherein some boys just got carried away!' Or else the focus will once again be on the young woman, with minute analysis as to how and why she didn't take more precautions with regards to her safety. Because women are supposed to have built-in antenna which automatically alerts them to potential male violence being committed against them.

I agree with you, Jennifer. That is likely how this will go. And the school system, as yolandac has noted on this blog, will never be held responsible. As for women having such antennae, this would necessitate forming women's nations ASAP with well guarded borders. And then what?