Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Hugo Blanco is a native of Cuzco in Peru. An indigenous Quechua, he took an active part in the Peruvian peasant farmers’ struggles for agrarian reform in the 1960s. In 1963 he participated in the defence of lands seized by peasants and was imprisoned for several years before being sent into his first exile. He returned to Peru in 1975 but fell foul of the military government of General Bermúdez and was once more sent into exile. After his return in 1978 he was elected to the constituent assembly and later to the Peruvian parliament during the 1980s. In the 1990s he was again forced to leave Peru, threatened by both the Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla movement, and the government security services. He has now returned to Peru and is currently editor of Lucha Indígena (Indigenous Struggle) a newspaper dedicated to the indigenous struggle across Latin America.
I am from Cuzco, and there you could always see the tremendous abuses carried out against the indigenous population. And the area always had a tradition of struggle. I remember a teacher at primary school taught us indigenous protest songs, and we also saw theatrical plays about past struggles. So I think it was natural to come to this.
There are no hierarchies. Although sometimes leaders emerge, or greedy people that hog the land, the essence is that we fight for a government by all. The indigenous communities that have survived for 500 years are collectivist political mechanisms. They are democratic and they have been recognised by several political constitutions. There are places where there are what could be called ‘communities of communities’, like in the Peruvian Amazon or in Cauca in Colombia. The Kuna in Panama are also recognised by the Panamanian government. The best example is that of Chiapas in Mexico, where a collective indigenous government has controlled the area for many years, and where leaders can be recalled.
Development hasn’t really reached the indigenous. They are those who least benefit from it. The system comes to exploit them and their land. They know much better than urban people that we are dependent on nature. Children in the developed world think potatoes come from the supermarket, but an indigenous person knows that he lives as part of nature and so when nature is attacked they must defend it.
Now, they might be able to use some elements of so-called civilization, but there is no comparison between these benefits and the damage done to nature. For example, you want to open a mine but it will poison the water and it will take water used for agriculture. This is absolutely lethal for the indigenous. For all the possible benefits that it might produce, such as jobs, schools or hospitals, it can’t substitute for life, and so they prefer to fight against it, and live without the mine.
Well, firstly I think that they are definitely progressive governments. They confront imperialism and their national oligarchies, and much of their strength, especially in Bolivia and Ecuador, comes from the indigenous movement, and we defend them unconditionally.
But when they confront the indigenous we support the indigenous people. Not simply because they are indigenous, but because we consider them to be more democratic than the governments themselves are.
I think it is the governments that are acting in a contradictory manner. Yes they are progressive and anti-oligarchic and anti-imperialist, but they continue with extractive economic policies.
This is an aggression against their indigenous populations and these peoples have to defend themselves.
We have little to do with the struggles [in the UK], but we work with ecosocialists, and we identify completely with them because the indigenous struggle is ecosocialist. Although we don’t call it ecological or socialist, that is what it is in essence.
There was recently a meeting of Peruvian and Ecuadorean indigenous people up on the border, and they said, ‘Before we were divided, but now we will unite and fight the multinationals together.’
And we always have international meetings. The first meeting against neoliberalism and for humanity took place in Chiapas, called by the indigenous peoples there, long before the social forums, and now the constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador define these countries as pluri-national and so states themselves are changing.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun