Ricardo Paredes Romero

Ricardo Paredes Romero/ Art by Marcelo Guimarães Lima
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By VITOR VIEIRA FERREIRA & YURI MARTINS-FONTES*

Entry from the “Dictionary of Marxism in America”

Life and political praxis

Ricardo Paredes Romero (1998-1979) was born in the capital of the Andean state of Chimborazo, located in the center of Ecuadorian territory. His father was Alejandro Paredes Pérez, an employee of the Ministry of Economy who died when he was just four years old. His mother, María Romero Gallegos, a merchant, was responsible for raising her four children alone.

From an early age, Ricardo Paredes demonstrated his active nonconformity towards the injustices he experienced and observed. As a teenager, he organized with a group of classmates to protest against the punishments students were subjected to at the Jesuit school. San Felipe Nery, where he studied between 1908 and 1913. Due to this demand, in which he became head of the school (demanding the dismissal of teachers who committed excesses), he was expelled, in addition to being arrested for a day for interrogation – having to attend your last year at another educational institution.

In 1914, he entered the Faculty of Medicine of Central University of Quito. His academic and professional training contributed in different aspects to his social awareness, especially with regard to his inclination to learn more about the political issues of his country.

Throughout the course, Ricardo Paredes demonstrated a special interest in studying the damage caused by syphilis in pregnant women and their children, a topic that would be central to his research. During his graduation, such cases were closely monitored by him, during his visits to Quito hospitals; With this, he was soon able to realize that it was the expression of a serious epidemiological problem that was affecting the city at the time. His medical studies were not limited to technical analysis work, but looked for socioeconomic causes.

In addition to investigating how the bacteria responsible for the disease acted in the body and what its symptoms or treatment possibilities were, he researched syphilis as a social problem – as a historically situated issue that impacted the daily lives of a large number of individuals, especially those in the poorer social strata. More broadly, he became aware of the link between the epidemic and the socioeconomic contradictions of the Ecuadorian population, starting to study the possibilities of State action in combating the disease. Then, his concern would become with the type of public health infrastructure to which the population had access, with ways to guarantee the provision of adequate treatments and prophylactic measures.

He graduated as a doctor at the age of 23, in 1921, and from then on began to practice his profession – more specifically as a gynecologist, working to combat venereal diseases.

In parallel to medicine, Ricardo Paredes had begun to dedicate himself to political reading, which would open the doors for him to become a militant. Throughout the first years of the 1920s, he focused on deepening his humanistic and philosophical knowledge – coming into contact with works by Voltaire, Rousseau, Marx, Engels and Lenin, as well as socialist publications produced in the Soviet Union. The unequal reality of his country was a catalyst for his critical and transformative spirit, especially with the events of November 1922, when hundreds of striking workers were murdered by the Ecuadorian Army in Guayaquil.

From 1922 to 1923, he taught biology classes at the same university from which he graduated, in addition to setting up a medical office in the center of the capital.

In November 1924, together with some companions, he launched the magazine La Antorcha, which would function as a vehicle to contest the policies of the then president, the liberal José Luis Tamayo. The following year, this periodical was renamed La Antorcha Socialista, having contributed to the construction of the Ecuadorian Socialist Party (PSE) – which would be founded in 1926.

Still in 1925, Paredes promoted the formation of a group of socialists in Guayas, a state whose capital is Guayaquil. He then worked alongside the mentors of the call Juliana Revolution – a movement opposing the current plutocracy, carried out by civilians and military personnel who, even without reaching armed conflict, deposed President Gonzalo Córdova in a coup d'état (July 1925), replacing him with a government junta. This revolution was an important stage for the national socialist movement – ​​having promoted measures against large capitalists and landowners.

That same year, the Mexican communist Rafael Ramos Pedrueza (1897-1943) visited Ecuador, with the task of organizing, together with workers and intellectuals, a communist group; was then created Communist Section of Propaganda and Action ‘Lenin in Quito’. Ricardo Paredes established contact with Rafael Pedrueza and, although he remained independent of this group, he later stated that he already “considered himself a communist”.

Aware of the need to involve peasants in the revolutionary movement, Ricardo Paredes began to commit himself to building a communist movement in Cayambe, north of Quito. He thus met community leader Jesús Gualavisí, who, at the beginning of 1926 – alongside socialist indigenous leader Dolores Cacuango – led a popular uprising for the right of local indigenous populations to possession of the lands on which they lived. The protest, although repressed, was an important seed for the indigenous and peasant struggle. Paredes then invited Gualavisí to participate in the Socialist Assembly, which would take place in Quito, with a view to founding a socialist party. Thus, in May of this same year, with the participation of socialist groups from various parts of the country, the Ecuadorian Socialist Party – with Ricardo Paredes as one of its provincial representatives on the Central Council.

Due to his leading role, Ricardo Paredes was invited to participate in the VI Congress of the Communist International (IC), held in Moscow, in 1928, as a representative of the PSE. Such a ten-month visit to the USSR meant for the Ecuadorian communist an awareness that would mark him for the rest of his life – which can be read in his articles published at the time in the periodicals Flames e Journal of the Center for Medical Studies. Coming to understand the importance of the PSE joining the Communist International, Ricardo Paredes presented this proposal to the party, which would generate strong disputes – which would soon culminate in an internal division.

Still in 1928, he went to Portoviejo, capital of Manabí, to work as an Army doctor. There, he met Zoila Modesta Flor Cedeño, with whom he married and had five children.

In 1931, due to the process of linking it to the Communist International, there was a split in the PSE and the party was renamed Communist Party of Ecuador (PCE) – an organization that also had one of its main leaders in Ricardo Paredes, as was the case when the PSE was formed.

Between 1934 and 1935, he lived in Guayaquil, where the communists were more organized than in Quito; Around this time, he participated in a large workers' march, on May Day, and was arrested again, this time for four days. Still in 1935, he participated in the VII Congress of the Communist International, whose central agenda was the danger of the expansion of fascism.

At the beginning of 1937, Ricardo Paredes was elected general secretary of the PCE. A few days later, he would be arrested once again as he left the Casa del Obrero, in Quito; This time, his imprisonment was more serious, and he was taken by boat, along with other worker leaders, to Isabela Island, in the Galápagos archipelago. The episode generated a wave of protests by unions and peasant movements, which ended up causing Ricardo Paredes to be released by the Ecuadorian dictator. However, this was the cue for “communism” to be made illegal, so that the militants had to start working underground. Ricardo Paredes would have a relationship at this time with one of his comrades, Nela Martínez Espinosa, with whom he had a son.

During this period, the Marxist went to live in the coastal Machala, capital of the province of El Oro, a city close to the mining town of Portovelo. There, dedicating himself to medicine, he was able to see up close the violent exploitation suffered by the miners, who worked in sub-human conditions, suffering from all sorts of illnesses; This experience would be the subject of his book Imperialism in Ecuador (published in 1938).

Throughout the 1940s, working for the PCE (of which he was general secretary until 1952), Ricardo Paredes played a significant role in the organization of various entities, contributing to the formation of the Federation of University Students (FEUE), from Confederation of Workers of Ecuador (CTE) and the Ecuatorian Federation of Indians (FEI). The latter, in particular, will be one of his most important political achievements for him, as it was a concrete expression of his efforts and concerns towards the Ecuadorian indigenous population.

In 1946, President Velasco Ibarra, who had been elected with the support of progressive forces, betrayed his supporters and, in a conservative turn, imposed a dictatorship on the country – beginning a new era of persecution of communists and socialists. Paredes then goes, with his family, to live in the countryside.

As a communist delegate, in 1950 he participated in the World Congress for Peace, held in Warsaw (Poland), taking advantage of the opportunity to travel to several nations in Eastern Europe. The following year, he was elected senator, having dedicated himself to the cause of preventing the lease of the Galápagos to the United States.

In 1952, during a flight stopover in New York, he was kidnapped for two weeks in US territory, accused of being a “dangerous” and “fanatic communist ideologue”: these were the times of the McCarthyism Yankee, with his fanatical “witch hunt”. However, due to his position as a parliamentarian, as well as the mobilization of Moscow authorities, Paredes managed to free himself.

In the 1960s, with the communists once again outlawed – and persecuted by a new military junta (indoctrinated in the School of the Americas, an institution managed by Department of Defense from the USA) –, Ricardo Paredes took refuge in the interior of Ecuador. Although he was a recluse, he continued to lead union protests from his hiding place. During this decade, he visited Cuba on two occasions, being received by revolutionary leaders such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

Already elderly, in 1973, Ricardo Paredes – together with other communist leaders – was forced to go into exile in Colombia for a few months, due to threats from mercenaries (in the service of the CIA, in alliance with conservative military governments), who, at the time, , promoted a series of extermination actions against communists in Latin America. In this decade and until the last moments of his life, the “apostle of Ecuadorian communism” – a nickname he would receive from fellow countrymen – dedicated his efforts to defending the peasant, working and indigenous populations, participating in Ecuadorian politics and acting as a doctor .

Already an octogenarian, in 1978, a year before he died, the Ecuadorian Marxist was honored by PCE leaders in a solemn session at the Teatro de la Casa de la Cultura, in Guayaquil, with the presence of several of his party companions, who spoke about the thought and work of this militant who was one of the great founders of Ecuadorian communism – a communist who throughout his life fought to transform his society into a space more supportive and less unfair.

His burial was marked by an act of emotional rebellion and protest, in which, amidst red flags and flowers, countless workers and peasants paraded, alongside communist militants and members of the Ecuatorian Federation of Indians – which Ricardo Paredes had helped to found –, singing together the anthem of the Communist International.

Contributions to Marxism

Doctor, writer, politician, intellectual and above all a devoted communist activist, Ricardo Paredes Romero played a fundamental role in the development of Marxist thought in Ecuador and in the construction of the country's political organization.

As a doctor, it is important to highlight that the professional practice to which Ricardo Paredes dedicated himself throughout his life was directly linked to his political training, choosing to work with the poorest strata of Ecuadorian society – and often offering care to the poorest population. without remuneration. With his choices, he remained in direct contact with the structural deficiencies of Ecuador's health system on a daily basis. His activity as a doctor and epidemiologist researcher, therefore, was not limited to carrying out a careful professional service, but took on the dimension of political and grassroots work, in the sense of seeking to transform the structures of his country.

Regarding his political praxis, it is worth highlighting his efforts to form and consolidate a party with a Marxist-Leninist orientation in Ecuador. He remained faithful to this orientation and task throughout his life and, along the way, the professional and activist contributed to realizing the Marxist ideals of emancipation of the working class and combating imperialist forces. Based on a careful analysis of the Ecuadorian national reality, he brought significant contributions to understanding the relevance of the indigenous and peasant population for social transformations and the Latin American socialist revolution.

For Ricardo Paredes, in addition to the contradictions inherent to capitalism – responsible for economically oppressing workers – it was necessary to consider the racial oppression to which the indigenous population was subjected. Their ideas and struggles contributed in valuable measure to the understanding of the ethnic dimension that should be taken into account in organizing resistance to class exploitation in Ecuador, an issue inexorably interconnected, in a broader sense, with the class condition of Ecuadorian workers. Realizing the revolutionary potential of indigenous populations, Ricardo Paredes identified in them a particular and fundamental role in the political struggle – a key theme that, also in other Latin American countries, would become central in the Marxist debate.

A second aspect to be highlighted concerns the importance given by the Ecuadorian communist to the countries of Latin America and their insertion in the global communist movement. As a contemporary of the Russian Revolution and subsequent socialist experiences in several countries, Ricardo Paredes observed that the workers' movement in these countries had a strategic position, in that they were subject to the yoke of US imperialism – already a protagonist in the economy and politics. worldwide.

With regard to the specificities of each country in projecting a desired world revolution, an issue that had been discussed at the IC congresses, Paredes reiterates the importance of considering the different national degrees of development and industrialization – a topic covered in his intervention at the VI Congress of the International, in 1928. According to him, it is necessary to analyze the various stages of the development of capitalism in different countries and the means by which rich countries exercise their imperialist domination over poorer ones, both in economic and political terms.

Ricardo Paredes rejects a generalist perspective that would consider Latin America as a homogeneous whole; Conceiving all Latin American societies in a uniform way could suggest, mistakenly, that revolutionary tasks and strategies should also be the same in all their different nations. He highlights that it is necessary to verify, in each country, on the one hand, the degree of penetration of imperialist forces (considering above all the power of the United States and England); on the other, how politically independent these countries are in the face of this power.

Since foreign financial capital acts as an element that has a strong impact on the economies of nations, it therefore also impacts their political institutions, affecting their degree of autonomy. If it is possible to verify the imperialist forces acting in each country, it is also necessary to study the degrees of national development and the political strength of their internal bourgeoisie; Furthermore, the heterogeneity of work relationships must be accurately analyzed.

In the important document “Informe de la delegation latinoamericana de la IC”, presented during the VI Congress (Moscow, 1928), Ricardo Paredes highlights that the participation of Latin American countries on an “increasing scale in the world communist movement”, demonstrates that the IC had managed to establish “deep roots throughout the world”. However, he states that it was necessary for IC Theses contemplate the differences between the capitalist development of the various countries in the region: nations like “Brazil, Mexico, Argentina” have enormous large estates, in which, albeit slowly, “industrialization is taking place”; Such establishments are the “dominant form of agricultural exploitation” and “thousands of agricultural proletarians” are concentrated there – who are no longer strictly peasants. And establishing this differentiation between the masses who work in the field is a “very important fact for the organization of workers” and for “the elaboration of an adequate program of struggle”.

Still in this document – ​​in an interesting insight that brings him closer to the conceptions of José Carlos Mariátegui – the Ecuadorian communist also analyzes another crucial aspect that differentiates Latin American nations from each other and that should not be disregarded in the program of their revolutions: some countries have numerous indigenous populations and, therefore, are in a better position to promote “socialism in the countryside”, since their original “communes” represent “combative elements against the power of feudal lords”, and can become “nuclei for socialist cooperation in the field”, at the moment of “the establishment of proletarian power”. “American indigenous people – he considers – have a quite remarkable collectivist spirit”: they constitute “production cooperatives” and other forms of “collective work” that must be used in the “construction of socialism”.

The differentiation between national realities proposed by Ricardo Paredes also involves their different capacities for resisting imperialism; states that in order to “take over free countries” the imperialist power invades them “through trade, financial capital” and, thus, gradually consolidates a solid economic and, often, political position, as is the case of “Cuba , Nicaragua, Panama and other republics of America”. However – he argues – in certain nations, resistance to “political and economic domination” is stronger, either because they have larger territories and populations, and are therefore more difficult to subjugate, or because they have a geographical position that favors your defense. This is the condition of large countries such as Argentina, Brazil or Mexico, but also of Ecuador which, due to its greater geographic isolation, “has not yet been deeply penetrated by foreign capital”.

Ricardo Paredes’ thesis – also developed in the document “Reports from the Latin American delegation in the debate on the colonial problem”, presented at the same congress – is that it would be very important to establish a distinction between “colonial”, “semi-colonial” countries and those that “for lack of a better term”, he calls “dependent”; This is because in these “dependent” countries, in which a “very large political independence” is maintained, the “proletarian forces” are greater than estimated (being present even in more industrialized large estates).

Regarding the debate about possible alliances between workers and the so-called “national bourgeoisies” against imperialist power, Paredes highlights the importance of taking into account that the bourgeoisies of Latin American countries, “under current conditions”, know that they It would be “very dangerous” to ally with the organized proletariat and the peasants who demand land. Furthermore – the Marxist points out – the “monopoly plutocracy” which, in many Latin American nations, controls large estates, industries and banks at the same time, is a faithful ally of US imperialism and, in fact, many of its companies are formed by national and foreign capital.

In short, it can be said that Ricardo Paredes' great contribution to Marxist thought, something that remains relevant to this day, is his reading of the differences in the stages of development of the different Latin American countries and the incorporation of complexity of the ethnic configuration of each of these nations. From these analyses, it is possible to reveal the degree of national autonomy and independence in the face of international economic pressures, as well as the stage of development of its productive forces.

Comment on the work

Ricardo Paredes' work was only partially published in books, and is still little publicized and difficult to find. Despite some biographical works about the Ecuadorian Marxist, there is a scarce amount of information and bibliographical details about his production. In general, for those who intend to undertake more in-depth research on Ricardo Paredes, accessing his work is a challenge.

Among his first writings, the correspondence “Letter to IC”, dated October 18, 1926, included in the publication VIII Congress of the Communist Party of Ecuador (Guayaquil: Editorial Claridad, 1968), authored by Communist Party of Ecuador – and available on the portal Yachana (www.yachana.org). In it, Paredes, who was secretary of the interior of the PSE (at a time when the party had already joined the Third International), states that, given that the “Communist party” is still illegal in the country, the communists then chose to work within the Socialist Party. However, he continues, “the communists dominate” the Central Council of the party, so we carry out our propaganda from there, despite the “overwhelming literature” against the proletarian government. It was in this way – concludes Paredes – that the Socialist Assembly forward the PSE's accession process to the International.

In the aforementioned document presented to the VI Congress of the IC (Moscow, 1928), entitled “Report from the Latin American Delegate of the IC” (disp.: www.yachana.org), Ricardo Paredes stands out for his early perception of the need to distinguish Latin American nations according to their different levels of industrialization, political strength and social composition.

His best-known work is Imperialism in Ecuador: gold and blood in Portovelo (Quito: Editorial Artes Gráficas, 1938), in which Ricardo Paredes presents us with a study on miners in the Portovelo camp, in the south of Ecuador, carrying out a precise survey of their working, sanitary and social conditions. It also provides a historiographical survey of the organization and struggle of these workers against imperialism which, through large mining companies, subjected them to extreme conditions of exploitation; and describes the repression against miners that occurred on January 18, 1936 as one of the biggest “police and employer crimes” committed in Ecuador, the result of which was the destruction of workers' defense organizations, further aggravating the exploitation they suffered by the American company South American Development Co. (SADCo).

Now your book Malaria therapy in Ecuador (Quito: Imprenta de la Universidad Central, 1936) is based on concrete experiences that the Marxist lived working as a doctor in various regions of the country, over six years. In the work, in parallel with clinical and therapeutic notes, he sheds light on the precarious hygienic conditions of the peasant population in his country, highlighting how crucial social factors were for the spread of malaria.

It is also worth highlighting his thesis entitled syphilis (Quito: Archive Central de la Universidad Central, 1921), from which he graduated. In the work, it is clear that the medical knowledge he accumulated – about this disease which, at the time, was a major epidemiological problem in Ecuador – is interconnected with a broader historical and political reflection, with regard to both the circumstances of its transmission, as well as its proper prevention. In line with what he would produce throughout his later years, Paredes treated the disease with the necessary social sensitivity to identify that the poorest were the main ones affected by its illnesses – so that it was up to a set of public policies to provide adequate treatment. of the problem.

The Ecuadorian communist also wrote for several periodicals, as well as for his party's media outlets. A compilation published in the journal The Courier (Quito, 1938), entitled political writings, brings together several of his articles produced between 1928 and 1938 – containing political, academic documents and essay texts. The publication is now also available in digital format and can be accessed on the portal Soyuz Digital Productions (produccionesdigsoyuz.wordpress.com).

Among the writings in the selection political writings, the essay “El movimiento obrero en el Ecuador” stands out, originally published in the magazine La Internacional Sindical Roja (Aug. 1928). In the text, Ricardo Paredes begins by describing Ecuador's natural wealth, the situation of its industry and commerce, and then moves on to the topic of the condition of the country's working classes; it presents a brief history of the country's workers and socialist organizations, including the analysis of electoral struggles and Revolution Juliana of 1925 (understood by him as an event that gave “great impetus to the national socialist movement”).

Finally, it addresses the historic massacre of workers, which occurred during a protest that brought together a crowd of 40 thousand people in the “commercial capital” Guayaquil; in the episode, popular protesters were heading to the prison to free imprisoned comrades, when “soldiers opened fire on the crowd”, while “the bourgeoisie applauded angrily, from the balconies”; In the face of the tragedy, “the bourgeois press carried out a conspiracy of silence”. According to the author, this massacre “illuminated the country”, meaning “the entry of the proletariat onto the path of social revolution”.

Ricardo Paredes also considers that, if the First World War had left several negative consequences on the national economy, it served at least for an initial industrialization, albeit incipient – ​​a point that generated controversy, as it could suggest that a supposed “Bourgeois Revolution” (and, therefore, that a class alliance could boost the communist movement).

Still in Political Writings, it is worth mentioning your “Opening speech at the Conference of the Enlarged Central Council of the Ecuadorian Socialist Party – section of the Third Communist International” (Quito, 12/01/1929), in which he contrasts the “liberal doctrine” with the “socialist” one. There, he develops criticisms of “liberal vices” that he observes in the party – such as “intellectualism”, “chronic criticism” or “primitivism” (a type of “individualism”). He states that while “liberalism is a bourgeois doctrine, an expression of the interests of the exploiting caste”, “Marxist-Leninist” socialism is the “expression of the interests of the exploited class”: “a collectivist doctrine in its final objectives, aiming at the suppression of social classes and the establishment of integral socialism or communism”. He argues that “liberalism is individualistic”, with the “freedom” it proclaims being intended only for the “exploiting classes”, the “strongest”, who “exercise their freedom against the weak”; that their “equality” is “equality for the privileged, for the dominant caste”; that their “brotherhood” is the “brotherhood of explorers”.

Among his writings, published sparsely, we also mention: “Baths: gate of the Amazon"(University press Central, Quito, 1936); “Medical chronicles of Soviet Russia"(Magazine of the Medical Student Center, Quito, n.8-9, Jan.-Feb. 1929); “Malaria therapy in Ecuador: contribution to national medicine"(Central University Press, Quito, 1936); It is "University life in Soviet Russia"(Flare, Quito, no. 12, Feb. 1929).

Furthermore, regarding his work, it is noted that on the back cover of the first edition of the aforementioned book Imperialism in Ecuador there are mentions of the titles “Tierras cautivas”, “La evolución economic, social y Política del Ecuador”, “Cultura indigenous y cultura marxista en América”, “La Unión Soviet en diez años (1928-1938)” and “El proceso dialéctico de la vida” – texts then classified as “unpublished” and “in preparation”, but which were never published. Despite this, by looking at his titles, one can see where Ricardo Paredes Romero's research and reflection interests pointed.

On the internet, you can find some of Paredes' writings in digital format, available on portals such as: Rebel Archive (https://archivorebelde.org); and those already mentioned Yachana e Soyuz Digital Productions.

*Vitor Vieira Ferreira is a substitute professor of Literature at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).

*Yuri Martins-Fontes He is a teacher, writer, journalist and translator. PhD in Economic History (USP/CNRS). Author of, among other books, Marx in America: the praxis of Caio Prado and Mariátegui (Alameda).

Originally published on the Praxis Nucleus-USP.

References


BECKER, Marc. “Documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance of Ricardo Paredes”. Yashana: Ecuadorian e-archive, n.d. Disp.: https://www.yachana.org/earchivo/fbi/paredes

COLONEL, Valeria. “The Ecuadorian left during global crisis: republican democracy, class struggle and state formation (1919-1946)”. In: Words of power, the power of words: the twentieth-century communist discourse in international perspective. Trieste/Italy: EUT Edizioni/ Università di Trieste, 2020 [Digital edition: FLACSO Andes (Vanguard Digital Library for Research in Social Sciences). Disp.: https://www.flacsoandes.edu.ec

PAREDES Ruiz, Lenin E.. Ricardo Paredes Romero and the revolutionary leader: biographical essay on the founder of the Partido Comunista del Ecuador. Quito: Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, 2014 [Reprint of the monograph: Ricardo Paredes and his light in the world. Natal/João Pessoa: author’s edition, 2012. Disp.: https://dokumen.tips

PIMENTEL. Rodolfo Pérez. “Paredes Romero, Ricardo: founder of the Ecuatorian Communist Party”. Rodolfo Pérez Pimentel Biographical Archive. Disp.: https://rodolfoperezpimentel.com/paredes-romero-ricardo

PRADO, Carlos. “The Communist International and the interpretation of Latin America: criticism of the theses of the VI Congress”. In: Proceedings of the XII International Meeting of ANPHLAC. Campo Grande, 2016. Available: http://antigo.anphlac.org.

RODAS CHAVES, Germán Alfredo. The doctor Ricardo Paredes in the context of the period of the 20th decade of the XNUMXth century. Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar [Research Report], Quito, 2010. Disp.: https://repositorio.uasb.edu.ec.


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