“A little discussion on the partner state concept in the context of the flok experience:
I think there are really big misunderstandings if the relative failure (which also means relative success ) of Ecuador is interpreted to mean that it means the failure of the Partner State.
The Ecuadorian state is not a partner state, it’s a market state, though different from the neoliberal one.
I interpret as a state that wants to rebalance the market state towards local sovereignity and the local bourgeoisie, with a better deal for most citizens, and seeing the necessity of a strong state to balance extracitive foreign capital. It represented a different type of class alliance that wanted to strengthen the local state to tame international capital for its own ends. After a more radical phase in 2007, it is now slowly retreating and seeking a new accomodation with Empire. The famous National Plan is now mostly playing an ideological role, the actual policies of the state are often opposed to it. The results are a mixed bag of very strong social justice results, but a disempowering of civil society as a collective force. It is remarkable that after meeting more than 70 different civic groups, I could not find a single one that supported the government, and even the ones that once did, are now alienated from it. The kind of heated discussions pro and con that I witnessed in the fall of 2013, are now entirely absent. Nobody comes up for its defense.
The Ecuadorian state is technocratic, ‘knows best’ and dislikes participation. They dislike independent civic groups as much as, if not more, than neoliberal capital. So-called neosocialism is a statist approach to make Ecuador fit for a socially better kind of capitalism. It’s mostly better than what existed before (though quite a few civic groups disagree and say they have less freedom now), but it’s neither socialism nor p2p nor participatory. It is more difficult to create a coop in Ecuador, than a private company, and as our researcher John Restakis has found, Coops and NGO’s are highly regulated and controlled. As I was leaving Ecuador, there was an attempt by a government agency to destroy and close the most dynamic and successful cooperative in the country. (The civic groups that we encountered, including those that once supported the government, told us it was almost impossible for them get meetings with government officials while corporate CEO’s had a direct line). I am not claiming that Ecuador is less free than say the repressive government of Spain, or Colombia, where activists are assasinated, but it would be incorrect to idealize it.
The second important point is that while we can never idealize the state, the big and central question remains:
1) is it possible to imagine a class society without a state ? My answer is no, as who would stop the homeless of going into empty houses, or elite paramilitaries to take away the land of the farmers … While failed states are possible, they are generally worse. I am not aware of big migrations to Somalia, nor of colombian urban dwellers to the lands of the paramilitaries, but am only aware of the opposite. People able to vote with their feet, flee stateless regions
2) is it possible to imagine abolishing class society by fiat. My answer is no. Therefore in any transition period, there will be a state to defend the mass of the people and their democracy against attempts at restoration.
Thus the state is simply unavoidable.
So the question becomes, what kind of state? My answer is the partner state, a state where the people themselves are the state, and the historical precedents are of course the greek polis and the free medieval city states described by the anarchist Kropotkin. If you agree, I don’t care what other name you use for it, that is the partner state we are talking about, nothing else can be it.
The third question is: what do we do in the meantime?
My answer is:
1) build autonomous social organisation
2) engage with the state to fight bad legislation and promote good legislation
3) create prefigurative partner state policies where the people’s forces have majorities.
So back the question: does the relative failure (or succes) of flok prove anything about the failure of the partner state concept?
My answer is: the opposite. Ecuador shows that anything but a partner state approach is relatively doomed. It wasn’t a partner state, we thought a prefigurative experiment was possible at scale, and it wasn’t (though various successfull micro-projects are still possible).”