Héctor Recinos: Pushing from Behind

September 25, 2007

Hector Recinos is a founderHector Recinos is a founder of the National Federation of the National Federation of Salvadoranof Salvadoran Workers (FENASTRAS) and one of the few orkers (FENASTRAS)aand one of the few su?-viving leaders of the labor movement of the 1970s. He surviving leaders of the labor movement of the 1970s. He recently returned to El Salvador after several years in exile, recently returned to El Salvador after several years in exile, and was interviewed in late March. and was interviewed in late March.

WhyWhy have you returned to El Salvador at this time? have you returnedto El Salvador at this time?
I was here for [FENASTRAS] congresses in 1985 and I was here for [FENASTRAS] congresses in 1985 and
1986. Our evaluation at that time was that we needed to 1986. Our evaluation at that time was that we needed to strengthenstrengthen our international work, so I left. Now we believe our international work, so I left. Now we believe that conditionsthat conditions are ripe to work for a national consensus for are ripe to work for a national consensus for a political solution. This is the avenue the movement must a political solution. This is the avenue the movement must take. take.

Have other leaders also returned? Have other leaders also returned?
Some have always been here, others have rtumed. We Some have always been here, others have returned. We have been working for some time holding events where have been working for some time holding events where cornpaneros return to exchange ideas for a time and then companeros return to exchange ideas for a time and then leave.leave. And more will come, depending on conditions. We And more will come, depending on conditions. We have been combining the movement experiences of the have been combining the movement experiences of the
1970s1970s and l980s. This interchange of experience between and 1980s. This interchange of experience between old and new leaders is what will allow us to move forward. old and new leaders is what will allow us to move forward.

How would youHow would you compare the union movements of the 1970s compare the union movements of the 1970s and 1980s? and 1980s?
There were different contexts. In the 1 970s we were There were different contexts. In the 1970s we were winning terrain for a new unionism, which overcame econ- winning terrain for a new unionism, which overcame economism and bureaucratism and led to a more combative omism and bureaucratism and led to a more combative posture. We began in STECEL [the electrical workers posture. We began in STECEL [the electrical workers union]union] in 1969 to constitute ourselves as a de facto union, in 1969 to constitute ourselves as a de factor union, and begin a deand begin a de facto struggle. De facto struggle meant being facto struggle. De facto struggle meant being ready for anything. We won legal recognition during the ready for anything. We won legal recognition during the electionselections of 1972. We offered our votes to the official party, of 1972. We offered our votes to the official party, thethe PCN [National Conciliation Party]. We made a political PCN [National Conciliation Party]. We made a political decision: decision: votesvotes for legal rights. This was very important. It for legal rights. This was very important. It gavegave us a vision of the kinds of alliances we could commit us a vision of the kinds of alliances we could commit to, even with the enemy itself. What are the principles that to, even with the enemy itself. What are the principles that one must respect, and what are the rights we have. This one must respect, and what are the rights we have. This history is important, it's part of the process that educated history is important, it's part of the process that educated our leaders. our leaders.

So the l970s was a struggle against ecoriomism, bureau- So the 1970s was a struggle against economism, bureaucratism, legalism, [maladies] which were overcome in cratism, legalismi, maladies] which were overcome in
1975-19761975-1976 with the emergence of a revolutionary current with the emergence of a revolutionary current within the unions. We found ourselves amid workers with a within the unions. We found ourselves amid workers with a tremendous disposition to fight. tremendous disposition to fight.
From 1980 on, another generation of union leaders From 1980 on, another generation of union leaders emerged. in the context of the FMLN offensive. Many of us emerged, in the context of the FMLN offensive. Many of us were assassinated or jailed. 1 was a prisoner for four years were assassinated or jailed. I was a prisoner for four years and two months. With this repression everyone either fled and two months. With this repression everyone either fled the country or went to the [guerrilla] fronts, whether or not the country or went to the [guerrilla] fronts, whether or not we were actually connected [to the FMLNI. This left the we were actually connected [to the FMLN]. This left the cities without organizers, and new leaders then emerged in cities without organizers, and new leaders then emerged in a context of retreat. a context of retreat.
TheseThese conditions continued through 1983. There had conditions continued through 1983. There had been an enormous accumulation [of experience]. The prob- been an enormous accumulation [of experience]. The problem was how to make the strength that had been accunsu- lem was how to make the strength that had been accumulated come forth. So the struggles began once again, typi- lated come forth. So the struggles began once again, typicallycally with the creation of new organizations. At times this with the creation of new organizations. At times this waswas difficult for people in solidarity work to understand. difficult for people in solidarity work to understand.
Yesterday it was one thing, now it is another. But this has Yesterday it was one thing, now it is another. But this has been the dynamic. been the dynamic.
This new contingent of organizers has been immersed in This new contingent of organizers has been immersed in fierce struggles. They are deeply committed to the interests fierce struggles. They are deeply committed to the interests of the workers, and they have become radicalized. We could of the workers, and they have become radicalized. We could not ask for more commitment. Their task was to protect the not ask for more commitment. Their task was to protect the workers organizations, and [this very process] led them to workers' organizations, and [this very process] led them to become radicalized. But at the same time they did not become radicalized. But at the same time they did not understand that there were other workers and organizations understand that there were other workers and organizations that were politically more backwards. They wanted to judge that were politically more backwards. They wanted to judge the whole world, when they should have interpreted it. They the whole world, when they should have interpreted it. They demanded the same development from everyone. This is demanded the same development from everyone. This is where they committed errors. where they committed errors.
There was a time when this type of strictness had a role. There was a time when this type of strictness had a role.
But once you become stronger you can be more flexible. But once you become stronger you can be more flexible. Now we must change. We have been in the front, leading, Now we must change. We have been in the front, leading, saying this and thaL But we can push from behind perfectly saying this and that. But we can push from behind perfectly well. well.

We cannot ask for more faithfulness, more sacrifice. But We cannot ask for more faithfulness, more sacrifice. But this lack of analysis of the situation, of the development of this lack of analysis of the situation, of the development of SalvadoranSalvadoran society. and of the development of each sector, society, and of the development of each sector, has led to errors for which we have paid a price. We have not has led to errors for which we have paid a price. We have not grown with the rhythm we had at the beginning, in 1983, grown with the rhythm we had at the beginning, in 1983,
1984 and 1985. We arrived ata dead end because of the lack 1984 and 1985. We arrived at a dead end because of the lack of a new form of convergence. of organizing, ideas, slogans. of a new form of convergence, of organizing, ideas, slogans, coincidence of common interests. The difference is that the coincidence of common interests. The difference is that the new contingentnew contingent [of leaders] was born in the heat of war. This [of leaders] was born in the heat of war. This has led them to be less flexible in pursuing the objective of has led them to be less flexible in pursuing the objective of protecting their unions. protecting their unions.
The problem of radical rhetoric [became clear] in the The problem of radical rhetoric [became clear] in the dispute over the participation of AIFLD ]American lnsti dispute over the participation of AIFLD [American Institute for Free Labor Development] and the organizations the tute for Free Labor Development] and the organizations the ChristianChristian Democrats built to win over the more backward Democrats built to win over the more backward sectors by buying leaders. Whoever puts up the money sectors by buying leaders. Whoever puts up the money solves the problems. They buy allegiance. opinions, the solves the problems. They buy allegiance, opinions, the voice of a union. This happened. But these unions. fraternal voice of a union. This happened. But these unions, fraternal unions, have been weakened and split, and we [radical unions, have been weakened and split, and we [radical unions] have paid for it. They have split and have lost their unions] have paid for it. They have split and have lost their base. base.
We have not grown, but we have not lost strength either. We have not grown, but we have not lost strength either. And we have not split. First, this showsAnd we have not split. First, this shows our unity of thinking our unity of thinking and our common interests. Second, it helps us to understand and our common interests, Second, it helps us to understand our problems. We have seen the problem of radicalization. our problems. We have seen the problem of radicalization, and are searching for the common ground which will allow' and are searching for the common ground which will allow us to broaden our alliances. us to broaden our alliances.
The ARENA victory will allow us to seek common The ARENA victory will allow us to seek common interests, common flags. and confront a common enemy. I interests, common flags, and confront a common enemy. I am talking of all the democratic forces, including the base of am talking of all the democratic forces, including the base of the PDC [Christian Democratic Party]. We must join to- the PDC [Christian Democratic Party]. We must join together to face the common enemy and to defend the victories gether to face the common enemy and to defend the victories we have won, and work for peace through a negotiated we have won, and work for peace through a negotiated solution. We must begin a process of discussion concerning solution. We must begin a process of discussion concerning solutions, concerning peace. Here we see a future in which solutions, concerning peace. Here we see a future in which new' organizations will be created, new forms of struggle. new organizations will be created, new forms of struggle, new slogans, which will bring us together. new slogans, which will bring us together.

Tags: El Salvador, FMLN, labor movement, Hector Recinos


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