Archive for January, 2006|Monthly archive page

The Importance of Being Ecuador, 4

1.Independence brought neither emancipation nor peace to the territory that would become Ecuador. Bolivar, the would be Bonaparte searching for a wished for bourgeoisie, entered Quito to hero’s welcome. San Martin, meanwhile, traveled to Guayaquil, home of the almost-bourgeoisie. There he and Bolivar met and discussed the division and integration of the conquered territories. Bolivar convinced San Martin that the former Quito Audiencia was better off as part of Gran Colombia, and so what had been an audiencia became District of the South of the Confederation of Gran Colombia.

The confederation, however, was neither nation nor continent. It was a structure built on the weakness, the absence of a single class with a singular property that could absorb, overturn, subjugate, and speak for all in its terms of production, commerce, and exchange. It was this weakness, this absence, that made Bolivar, Sucre, and those who would follow, these men on horseback, heroes. And failures.

The Confederation went to war first against the Spanish vice-royalty in Peru and then against the criollos and peninsulares of Peru itself. Finally, in 1830 the Confederation disintegrated with the withdrawal of Venezuela.

In August 1830, a constituent assembly dominated by the “notables” of Quito met and chartered a constitution for a state to be called Ecuador. The Quitenos, in an act simultaneously of maximum self-criticism, self-awareness, historical recognition , and self-parody, handed power to the Venezuelan General Juan Jose Flores, who had been appointed governor by Bolivar of Ecuador during its “integration” into the Confederation of Gran Colombia.

Would-be capitalism wishes for national development, that is to say establishment of a domestic market not just in and for the exchange of commodities, but first and foremost a domestic market for the appropriation of “free,” unlanded, labor. But wishes aren’t horses, and men on horseback are in riding breeches and not sans culottes.

The potential for the creation of such free, unlanded labor power existed only in the emancipation of the indigenous peoples from the encomienda, the mita, the hacienda; in short emancipation from the very organization of private property that created peninsulare, criollo, and indigeno. No such potential existed in the saddlebags of Bolivar, in the armies of a gran confederation.

2. Economically sterile, the would be bourgeoisie of Ecuador endured, tolerated, supported, criticized, and plotted against Flores for 15 years until March 1845, when an insurrection in Guayaquil forced the general to vacate at a high rate of speed. The insurrectionists, marcistas, from Guayaquil were no more capable of governing Ecuador, of organizing the economy than the general or the notables of Quito.

In 1851, General Jose Maria Urbina took power in a coup and accomplished what the bourgeoisie and notables had never dared– the abolition of slavery. In 1857, Urbina’s successor, General Franciso Robles abolished again something the bourgeoisie and notables never dared, the annual payments of tribute required from the indigenos. Both actions places the Guayaquil generals in direct opposition to the hacendados and the Catholic Church.

The linkage of Guayaquil’s economic and commercial liberalism with anti-clericalism, with better treatment of the indigenos, only strengthened the regional, isolated, enclave, nature of would-be capitalism.

By 1859, the centrifugal forces overwhelmed the Liberal regime. Local caudillos declared their autonomy from the central government. In response to the occupation of the southern regions by a Peruvian army, Flores made his last long march, returning to Ecuador, forcing out the Peruvians and subjugating the caudillos. But the real power, the power of centralization would not belong to Flores. It was in the hands of Garcia Moreno, the man from Guayaquil who was more Quitoeno than the Quitoenos; more conservative than the notables; more clerical than the clerics; and more a man of international capital in his nationalism than all the traders, merchants, factory owners, exporters of Ecuador.

3. Where class, parliament, even army had failed, Garcia Moreno achieved success in wielding the vicious legacy of the original conquest, the Catholic Church. What plunder, landed property, and god’s enforcers had achieved hand in hand, destruction of a superior indigenous society, devastation of rural productivity, liquidation of the indigenous peoples, could and would be utilized again to build atop those ruins the form of a unified state, and to permit the penetration of capital.

Education and infrastructure, the supposed “social” benefits of the liberal capitalism, would be and were harnessed to the clerical state. The “ease” of this accommodation of capital to the national clerical state was, again, in the suppression of the indigenous population, the very source of landed property itself.

With the land itself held not as a value to be realized in commodities, in exchange, in its very alienability, but rather as monument, as title to the past; economic “development” was always and forever a product of export, of the paucity of the domestic market, of the connection to the world market through weak urban areas. Capitalism, internally, and capitalist penetration internationally, converge in the establishment of the enclave, the concession. The port, the plantation, the hacienda, the railroad, the factory exist, and grow, as grafts upon the trunk of impressed, indigenous labor. And so we have advanced world capitalism and its national agents as the true heirs to the conquistador, the cleric, Spanish mercantilism, the hacienda, the vice-royalty. And also as heirs and victors in the failed struggles of Bolivar and Sucre, the failed Gran Confederation. Dis-integration is the once and future history of Ecuador in the world market.

S. Artesian
February 5, 2006

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