December 1999 

UNAM Strikers Demand Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal,
Protest Seattle Repression

Mexico City Cops Assault Student 
Protest at U.S. Embassy: 98 Arrested

Mexico City riot police arrest students after protest at U.S. embassy, December 11.

Cárdenas Popular Front: Goons for Washington
From the U.S. to Chiapas and Mexico City:
For Class Struggle Against Capitalist Repression!

In the streets of the Mexican capital, the official forces of repression have dealt out a bloody demonstration of the nature of the capitalist state, whether under President Ernesto Zedillo’s PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), which has governed Mexico uninterruptedly for the last seven decades, or the supposedly “democratic opposition” of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas’ PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution). While the red-and-black flag that traditionally signifies “on strike” in Mexico flies over University City and 37 other installations of the National University (UNAM), barricaded and occupied by student strikers for the last eight months, the downtown streets of Mexico City have been tinged red with the blood of students brutally beaten by black-uniformed paramilitary police. This cop terror was unleashed by the PRD government of the Federal District, which is now headed by a former Maoist and union leader and filled with top officials who are former student leaders and ex-leftists of every variety. The reformist activists of yesteryear are today enforcing “law and order” with a vengeance, explicitly at the behest of the U.S. government.

On Saturday, December 11, hundreds of striking students marched on the United States embassy to demand freedom for U.S. death row prisoner and black radical journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal and protest police-state repression at the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle. At the end of the demonstration, as the marchers were leaving they were subjected to a massive, well-orchestrated cop assault. Riot police (granaderos) suddenly appeared and began slamming demonstrators with their heavy shields. Cops struck potentially lethal blows to the neck and brutally kicked downed protesters in the head. Students were chased for blocks, and then cut off by another police detachment. Many were dragged out of stores, arrested at phone booths and seized at gunpoint on the metro (subway). The purpose was not to disperse the protest rally, which had already ended, but to arrest as many as possible of those identified as “hardline” student strikers. Altogether, 98 demonstrators were arrested, 19 of them minors, and six badly hurt protesters were hospitalized under police guard. Now 73 of them have been charged with “mutiny,” facing six months to six years in prison.

The December 11 march on the U.S. embassy not only sent the Mexican bourgeoisie into a rage, it also produced a frenzy among the dominant tendencies in the Strike General Council (CGH). The day before, CGH delegates had signed a series of ten procedural “points of agreement” with representatives of the UNAM rector, and both the openly pro-PRD elements and reputed “ultras” among the student strike leadership were congratulating themselves on the progress of “dialogue.” Then suddenly the illusion of polite discussion was shattered by the blows and guns of the PRD-commanded cops. PRD “moderates” like Fernando Belaunzarán joined the pro-PRD daily La Jornada in vituperating against the march itself as a “provocation.” But the reputed “ultras” of the En Lucha (In Struggle) current who are now the main architects of the phony “dialogue” in the Palacio de Minería, desperate to negotiate an end to the strike, consciously boycotted the December 11 march and have repeatedly sought to undercut efforts to defend those arrested

Behind this backstabbing is not just a sellout by ambitious student bureaucrats who want to demonstrate that they “know how to end a strike” (thus making their services to the bourgeoisie more valuable). As shown by the former student leaders known as the “Three Magi” (Imaz, Santos y Ordorika), whose secret deal that sunk the 1987 UNAM strike was their ticket to becoming PRD bigwigs, selling out a UNAM strike is a classic “career move” for ambitious petty bourgeois in Mexico. The “moderate ultras” of the Partido Obrero Socialista (POS) tried to pull off this maneuver in July, but failed miserably because the previous rector (Barnés) was not interested. Now the “neo-moderates” of En Lucha are attempting the same sleazy operation with the new rector De la Fuente, hand-picked by Zedillo. More fundamentally, the blow-up over the December 11 march revealed the bankruptcy of all the (bourgeois) “democratic” programs for “consensual reforms,” underscoring the urgent need for revolutionary leadership of what is at bottom a class battle that has lasted more than 240 days. 

Centrally, in order to win, the UNAM strike must be extended to the working class – to university workers throughout the country, whose contracts are all due or expired; to electrical workers facing a privatization drive by Zedillo; to dissident teachers facing anti-labor attacks by the government in league with “charro” leaders of the corporatist PRI machine that masquerades as a union; and other key working-class sectors. The UNAM strike is already an issue between the bourgeois candidates in the year 2000 presidential election campaign. The student struggle cannot be separated from Indian peasant resistance to the Mexican army’s occupation of the southern state of Chiapas, where UNAM strikers have joined Zapatista protesters. To win against the concentrated power of the capitalist state, as shown on December 11, the student strike must become part of a proletarian offensive that breaks with the Cárdenas popular front. What’s needed is to forge a revolutionary workers party that fights for socialist revolution, from semicolonies like Mexico to the imperialist heartland.

Cardenistas and Granaderos: “Armoring” the PRD Administration

The pro-government Mexico City daily Excélsior (12 December) wrote: “What began as a ‘peaceful’ march to the United States embassy to demand freedom for the black leader Mumia Abu-Jamal, condemned to death in a prison of that country, ended in a confrontation between strikers and granaderos….” In fact, the same paper admitted that “the march had proceeded without major incidents.” Several faculties and college preparatory schools carried banners for Mumia. The 600 participants chanted, “Libertad, Libertad para Mumia Abu-Jamal.” At the embassy, a spokesman of the Grupo Internacionalista (GI) led off the speeches emphasizing the need to mobilize the working class to free Mumia and the need for proletarian internationalist struggle by working people in the United States and Mexico. He pointed to the history of protest in Latin America against the death penalty in the U.S. A second speaker, from the Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (LTS), began talking about the protests in Seattle.

El Internacionalista

Students marching in December 11 Mexico City demonstration before cop assault. Banner
says: Stop the Execution! Freedom Now for Mumia Abu-Jamal! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!

Protesters had already noticed the presence of a dozen dubious types who had infiltrated the march. Now these professional provocateurs began breaking off pieces of concrete from flower boxes and throwing them at the embassy. Due to the increasing tension caused by the presence of provocateurs, an attempt was made by march organizers to isolate them and the protest meeting was declared over. As demonstrators were leaving the area, the last of several fireworks rockets exploded. Suddenly, several Suburban vans and buses full of riot police pulled up. Squads of granaderos piled out and began chasing and beating anyone they came across. Among their targets were several photographers, including an American woman and one from the newspaper La Jornada. When demonstrators regrouped on the other side of the wide Paseo de la Reforma, the shock troops struck again to disperse them. They continued to hunt down students in the nearby Zona Rosa district of restaurants and shops. 

But as the protesters headed toward the Insurgentes metro station, their path of retreat was cut off by a squad of the GERI (Special Immediate Reaction Group), an elite paramilitary police force trained by the U.S. military in combatting “urban insurgency.” Plainclothes police infiltrators pulled out pistols and began fingering students to the machine-gun-toting paramilitary forces. Police surrounded the metro station, then stormed in past the turnstiles and onto the platform with drawn guns, causing panic. One student reported (La Jornada, 12 December): “We piled into a subway car, but before leaving, the car doors opened again and police with their revolvers and Uzi submachine guns entered,” dragging off a protester dressed in black. Several of those who had been breaking car windshields and store windows were later seen talking amiably with granaderos outside the subway station. Subsequently, as student protesters began converging on Police Station 50 where those arrested were being held, more arrests were made, bringing the total to almost 100.

The detainees were kept there for up to five days, in flagrant violation of the legal requirement that suspects be charged within 48 hours. The students were caged in groups of 36 in tiny 12 foot by 12 foot cells. When they were transferred from police holding pens to prison, police threatened them with execution. Upon arrival at the Reclusorio Norte, they were stripped and bathed in cold water when the temperature was below 40°. But the courageous fighting spirit with which the demonstrators faced their torment is remarkable. After 24 hours of being held incommunicado, jailed students were able to smuggle out messages calling for freedom for Mumia. In Police Station 57, where those under 18 were held, the prisoners chanted “Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal!” as a way of defying their jailers and showing their determination to go forward. 

Outside, hundreds of student strikers surrounded the station, running the red-and-black strike banner up the flagpole. The Strike General Council held its weekly meeting in the street outside the station, voting to refuse to return to the “dialogue” with the rector’s commission until all those in jail were freed. Militants of the Grupo Internacionalista spoke on the need to mobilize labor support to demand the release and dropping of the charges against the arrested students, and to reinforce the worker-student defense guards of the strike. Students and relatives of those arrested slept overnight outside the station, fending off the biting cold with numerous bonfires. During the next days, repeated demonstrations and sit-downs demanding release of the 98 detainees were held in downtown Mexico City. Later students collected tens of thousands of pesos to pay the enormous bail costs (US$3,900 per person) to free their jailed comrades. The largest contributions came from the unions of workers of the National University (STUNAM) and the Metropolitan University (SITUAM), which have made several financial donations to the student strike and participated in worker-student defense brigades on the UNAM campuses.

In New York City, an emergency protest was called by the Internationalist Group outside the Mexican consulate on Monday, December 13. Demonstrators carried signs declaring: “Free the UNAM 98, Drop the Charges Now!” “No New ’68 Massacre, Victory to the Strike!” “Mexican Army Out of Chiapas!” “Seattle: For International Labor Solidarity, Not National Protectionism,” “Militarization Made in U.S.A.,” “PRI, PAN, PRD, Bloody Parties of the Bourgeoisie,” “From Seattle to Chiapas, Down with Capitalist Repression!” “Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants” and “Break with the Cárdenas Popular Front, Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!” In addition to IG supporters, a number of groups participated in the picket, including the League for the Revolutionary Party, Spartacist League, International Action Center, Coalition for Mumia Abu-Jamal and Chiapas Committee. Several spoke from the megaphone. That night, the Spanish-language Channel 41 TV news ran a substantial report on the demonstration, including interviews with participants and dramatic video footage of the police repression in Mexico City. 

Now 73 of those arrested have been criminally indicted. Originally the PRD prosecutor planned to charge them with damage to the embassy and to cars whose windshields were broken in the melee. But none of the car owners filed a complaint, and embassy spokesmen later admitted there was only “light damage” to “18 windows.” Finally, today the capital authorities withdrew the charges of “damage to the property of others.” Moreover, a police videotape of the fracas didn’t show any of those arrested. So instead the 73 were hit with a catch-all charge of “mutiny,” taken from the repertory of Latin American military dictatorships. What’s next? Will the Federal District government court martial student strikers for “rebellion” and resuscitate the infamous charge of “social dissolution” which students protested against in 1968? 

Lessons of December 11

The recent dramatic events from Seattle to Mexico City and New York City throw a sharp light on the political situation in Mexico and the United States. In the campaign for next July’s presidential election in Mexico, which is already running full-blast, the PRD’s Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas is running as the candidate of a coalition, the “Alliance for Mexico” with several minor bourgeois parties and the backing of a number of “independent” (of the PRI) unions and labor groups. The other major candidates are Vicente Fox of the right-wing PAN (National Action Party), who has been ostentatiously waving the clericalist banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the PRI’s Francisco Labastida, who is running on a “law and order” platform. The PRI has run Mexico for the last seven decades in a semi-bonapartist regime where party and state machinery are intricately meshed, and the working class has been straitjacketed by corporatist “unions” which are in reality police apparatuses to control labor. 

The reality of the “PRI-government” was shown last week when a military truck of the Presidential General Staff drove up to PRI headquarters and unloaded quantities of large-caliber guns and ammunition, which were then taken into the building!

Cárdenas’ PRD is a bourgeois-nationalist party which wraps itself in the Mexican flag as it profusely claims to defend “national sovereignty.” But on December 11, the supposedly “democratic” Federal District government unleashed police-state repression acting as semicolonial cops for imperialism. Excélsior (12 December) reported that at the height of the protest, the U.S. embassy demanded that Mexico City authorities drive away the demonstrators or else “the U.S. Marine Corps would intervene.” In the face of this outrageous threat to deploy American troops in the Mexican capital for the first time since the U.S. intervened during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-17, the PRD saluted its imperialist overlords and sent in the granaderos. 

El Internacionalista

Banner of the Grupo Internacionalista, section of the League for the Fourth
International. Banner reads: "Break with the Cárdenas Popular Front –
Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!"

Since his first presidential campaign in 1988, Cárdenas has been the focal point of a “popular front” whose purpose is to divert and contain potentially explosive social unrest by chaining sectors of the working class breaking from PRI control – along with peasants, Indians, students and the rural and urban poor – to the PRD, a bourgeois-nationalist party, many of whose leaders are former leftists. The Grupo Internacionalista has since its inception repeated the warnings of the communist internationalist Leon Trotsky (co-leader with V.I. Lenin of the 1917 Russian October Revolution) against the role of popular fronts as a roadblock to revolutionary workers mobilization. From the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s to Indonesia in 1965 to Allende’s Chile in the early ’70s, popular fronts have paved the way for the victory of right-wing reaction by shackling and repressing the workers and oppressed. 

This was not the first time the PRD Mexico City authorities sent the police against demonstrators. Last May, Cárdenas’ riot police attacked striking teachers of the CNTE, which has been a main support of the Cárdenas popular front. In June they arrested squatters associated with the Frente Popular Francisco Villa, another cardenista mainstay. On August 4, top city officials ordered granaderos to assault student strikers who had shut down a scab center for off-campus classes, arresting 117. Cárdenas himself resigned as head of the Federal District in September in order to pursue his presidential campaign. He was replaced by Rosario Robles, a former official of STUNAM and one-time Maoist in the Organización de Izquierda Revolucionaria – Línea de Masas. On October 14, the new Federal District chief dispatched granaderos who attacked student demonstrators as they were leaving the beltline (periférico) highway after protesting biased TV coverage of the strike by the PRI-connected Televisa network. Dramatic photos showed a young woman student lying in a pool of blood together with her brother, who tried to come to her aid as she was being brutalized by the cops. 

As a student in the 1970s, Robles protested in the streets against the PRI-government, demanding dissolution of the notoriously brutal granaderos. Today she and her patron Cárdenas send the riot cops against student strikers, teachers and squatters. Cárdenas has repeatedly sought to reassure U.S. investors, most recently in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico City. But a far more effective demonstration of his “reliability” in enforcing bourgeois “law and order” is sending the cops to beat up protesters, many of whom were only a few months ago among his most fervent supporters. On December 16, student demonstrators marched first on the U.S. embassy and then on Mexico City government offices in the Zócalo, the capital’s main plaza, to underscore the PRD’s responsibility for the criminal police repression. A GI banner in the December 11 march carried the message we have hammered home throughout the UNAM strike, calling to “Break with the Cárdenas Popular Front, Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!” 

The Mexican ruling class has grown increasingly frustrated with the UNAM strike. For months, the PRI regime and its rector, Francisco Barnés de Castro, who had been in charge of the state-owned petrochemical industry, counted on wearing the strikers down. When that didn’t work, following the selection of Labastida (whose wife is head of the UNAM’s “Institute of Esthetic Studies”) as the PRI presidential candidate in early November, Zedillo dumped his flunkey Barnés with an early morning phone call and put in Juan Ramón de la Fuente, until then cabinet secretary in charge of health. Meanwhile, the weekly Proceso (long the voice of PRI “progressives,” now sympathetic to the PRD, with good sources in the security agencies) put out a glossy 72-page special edition (1 December) on “The Strike Without End.” Two UNAM academics published a book titled La huelga del fin del mundo (The Strike of the End of the World), comparing it to the millenarian uprising of the Canudos in Brazil at the end of the last century, which was brutally put down by the Brazilian military.

Intimidation didn’t work either: following days of media frenzy denouncing students for daring to block traffic on October 14 and amid a massive mobilization of thousands of police, the CGH was able to bring out 30,000 or more on November 5 to march on the beltline highway. Students were joined by unionists and residents of poor communities in this act of defiance. At the beginning of December they again brought over 20,000 to demonstrate in the Zócalo in front of the presidential palace and Mexico City government offices. In the face of the strikers’ tenacious resistance, the government and Zedillo’s handpicked rector De la Fuente finally agreed to “dialogue” with the strikers. After much haggling about meeting places and the agenda, on December 10 the rector’s commission agreed to discuss the CGH’s agenda, in the order demanded by the CGH. Then came December 11. 

The vicious police beating of student protesters exposed the brutal reality behind the curtain of “dialogue” in the Palacio de Minería. A symptomatic fact: all those students not on the commission of 120 (who had to show UNAM identification to enter) were kept out of the building by Protección Universitaria campus cops, even though dissolving the university’s repressive apparatus was the first on the strikers’ list of demands, and though the police (along with their auxiliaries, the porro thugs) had been run off campus and their offices occupied early in the strike. The cops must be thrown out of the STUNAM as well! Nevertheless, the strike leadership core around the En Lucha tendency centered on the Faculty of Sciences insisted on resuming “dialogue” as soon as possible. En Lucha even floated returning to the talks while the strikers were in jail. A couple of days later, at a meeting in Ciudad Universitaria on December 14, the Sciences representatives insisted for a long time that they wouldn’t turn over 60,000 pesos (raised by raffling off a Volkswagen) to raise bail for the jailed students because it was supposed to buy paper. They lost the vote. 

In fact, these one-time alleged “ultras” who are now ironically referred to in the bourgeois press as “neo-moderates,” tried to sabotage the march from the beginning. On December 11, they insisted on holding a Sciences strike assembly at the same time as the march. En Lucha leader Javier Fernández even opposed sending a delegation to the march. A group of a dozen or more students who had been putting up posters calling for freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal protested that the march had been formally voted for by the CGH, and left the meeting to join the demo. The next day, En Lucha leader Mario Benítez pointedly refused to defend the march, saying that the government wanted to portray the students as “vandals.” Then, at a meeting with En Lucha sympathizers (informally called Los Brigadistas after the name of their strike paper) on Monday, December 13, in a discussion of whether it was right to go to the march Fernández argued that the marchers had “created the problems we are now facing,” and that it ultimately had no direct relevance to the strike. Several brigadistas expressed their anger over this treachery.

And to top this off, in Los Brigadistas (16 December), En Lucha has the gall to complain about “supporting this or that person in a march” – an unmistakeable reference to the march for the liberation of death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. They are expressing here in the crudest maner their eagerness to isolate the strike from the international class struggle, in order to negotiate a rotten deal “among university members,” as is demanded by De la Fuente and his deputy José Narro. Moreover, this statement was made in an issue dedicated to regurgitating its fantasy that the strike will be won by demonstrating superiority and expertise in the “arguments” in the discussions at the Palacio de Minería, as if it were a program of Jeopardy on TV Azteca.

As the spokesman for the Grupo Internacionalista said at the December 11 protest in front of the U.S. embassy: “Today the papers are full of praise of the supposed ‘dialogue’ while we are here protesting against repression – not only in Philadelphia and Seattle, but also in Chiapas … and here in Mexico City. The enemy is imperialism and its neocolonial puppets and underlings like Salinas, Zedillo, etc. And Cárdenas, who has repeatedly promised his masters on Wall Street that he will protect their interests. And he fulfilled this promise, sending granaderos against student strikers. To win this strike which has lasted almost 240 days, it is necessary to extend it to the university workers (SITUAM, STUNAM), to key sectors of the industrial proletariat such as the electrical workers. This is what the bourgeoisie fears most.” 

Forge a Trotskyist World Party of Socialist Revolution!

Another group which boycotted the march was the Grupo Espartaquista de México (GEM), affiliated with the Spartacist League/U.S. in the International Communist League. After the mass arrests, the GEM put out a leaflet claiming that the December 11 Mexico City demonstration “was called in solidarity with recent mobilizations in Seattle against the WTO meeting” which were “a circus spectacle of nationalism and chauvinist protectionism in solidarity with their own bourgeoisie.” The Seattle mobilizations called by the AFL-CIO labor fakers and liberal/reformist organizations orbiting around the Democratic Party were indeed built on a chauvinist program of protectionism, and proletarian internationalists would not participate in them. But the December 11 march was called to protest against the police-state repression of the demonstrations against the World Trade Organization meeting. Moreover, the lying GEM leaflet never mentions that the December 11 march was called to demand freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal!

To demonstrate for those two demands – down with the repression in Seattle and freedom for Mumia – is what was voted by the CGH meeting on November 4 and 5. That was what the CGH leaflet for the protest called for. Even the truncated statement posted on the Internet by the CGH Press and Propaganda Commission (controlled by En Lucha), which GEM members cite as the proof for their claim, says: “March Saturday at 2 p.m. from the Tianguis del Chopo to the United States Embassy, to protest repression in Seattle and for freeing those arrested.” The GEM’s self-serving lie is both absurd and disgusting. Absurd, because why would Mexican students be solidarizing with U.S.-chauvinist protectionism, which is often directed against Mexico (for example, Teamster attempts to keep out Mexican truck drivers, Steelworkers court suits claiming that Mexican steel is sold at “dumping” prices)? Disgusting, because here there was the first major demonstration in Mexico of hundreds of student strikers demanding freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal and protesting police-state repression in Seattle … and the GEM/ICL denounces this as “nationalist.”

In fact, the genuinely nationalist position was that of En Lucha, which joined with the GEM in boycotting the December 11 march on the U.S. embassy, in its case claiming that freedom for Mumia and opposition to police violence in Seattle had no direct relevance to the UNAM strike! In another important respect, the GEM/ICL position was even worse than that of En Lucha: during the several days of mobilizations outside the police station and in the streets to demand freedom for the jailed UNAM students, in which the Grupo Internacionalista participated, the GEM was nowhere to be seen. Nor did the GI comrades see the GEM as we went to key unions to gain support for the arrested students. Not until the students had been freed did they dare distribute their leaflet to the December 16 march. These charlatans, who resort to absurd distortions, vile smears and outright lies to justify their centrist degeneration, have become a parody of the former ICL, making a mockery of the name Spartacist, which stood for intransigent opposition to the bourgeoisie.

There was a group at the December 11 march that did hail the Seattle protests, namely the Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (LTS), affiliated with the Argentine PTS, a split-off from the pseudo-Trotskyist current led by the late Nahuel Moreno. In keeping with its Morenoite tradition of unprincipled maneuverism, the LTS operates through numerous front groups, from ContraCorriente to a “Committee Against Repression of the CGH.” A leaflet (11 December) signed by ContraCorriente and “independent students” and titled “Long Live the Battle of Seattle!” presents a classic example of petty-bourgeois Latin American nationalism masquerading as anti-imperialism. The flyer has only the most fleeting criticism of the AFL-CIO tops in Seattle and presents a purely “democratic,” i.e., bourgeois, program ranging from a “democratic decision-making congress” as the crowning demand for the UNAM strike, to demilitarization, down with repression, support the masses’ struggles against “imperialist exploitation and oppression” – and what about the exploitation and oppression by the Mexican bourgeoisie?

Of course, in typical Morenoite fashion, the LTS had another leaflet on “The Battle of Seattle,” this one in its own name, which denounces the “protectionist and nationalist policies” of the AFL-CIO leadership. It even notes the anti-Chinese character of the labor fakers’ protest, but doesn’t mention that these arch-anti-communists are bent on counterrevolution, nor that the only way to defend the remaining gains of the Chinese Revolution is through workers political revolution, led by a Trotskyist party, to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy which is preparing the way for capitalist restoration. Indeed, in its two-line leaflets the LTS does not call for the formation of Bolshevik workers parties either in the U.S. or Mexico. Instead, its crowning demands are for “a national coordinating committee against repression” and for a “revolutionary constituent assembly.” (Cárdenas himself is calling in his election campaign for a constituent assembly.) 

The LTS’ method is typical reformist front-groupism, with a low-level popular-frontist, “anti-imperialist,” “anti-fascist,” etc. mass line and a more “advanced” party line for the initiated. More particularly, it reflects a variety of opportunism characteristic of ostensible Trotskyist groups, namely Pabloism. Michel Pablo was the head of the Fourth International in the late 1940s and early ‘50s when, under the pressure of the mass Stalinist parties and the Cold War, he adopted a liquidationist policy of tailing after the West European pro-Moscow Communist parties, as well as social democrats, and bourgeois nationalists in the semicolonies. Ever since then, a panoply of pseudo-Trotskyists have developed Pabloist tailism into an elaborate program of tailing after any mass movement, from Cuban Castro/Guevarist guerrillas to Chinese Red Guards, Portuguese military officers, Mandela’s ANC in South Africa, and even outright reactionary forces like the Iranian mullahs.

Moreover, behind the LTS’ line of “Long Live the Battle of Seattle,” as well as its particular criticisms of the AFL-CIO, is the program of Latin American nationalism which they share with a host of petty-bourgeois left groups in Mexico and throughout the region. The LTS along with its parent PTS routinely refers to “Yankee workers.” In contrast, Marxist internationalists denounce “Yankee imperialism” which oppresses not only semicolonial countries but also the working class in the U.S. At the December 16 march that returned to the U.S. embassy, a poster put out by the En Lucha-controlled Press and Propaganda Commission referred to the “gringo embassy,” another chauvinist term. Some Stalinists showed up with a Mexican flag bearing a hammer and sickle, and at the end of the march a number of demonstrators sang the national anthem. And the GEM, in flagrant contradiction with its Trotskyist pretensions, has come out as defenders of Mexico’s “national sovereignty.”

Vanguarda Operária 

Demonstrators at November 22 demonstration in Rio 
de Janeiro call for victory to Mexico student strike.

The Mexican tricolor flag and the national anthem belong to the bourgeoisie, those who exploit the proletariat and repress the UNAM strike. Our banner is the red flag of the world proletariat; our anthem is the Internationale, which goes back to the Paris Commune. Marxists fight imperialist oppression as part of an internationalist working-class struggle to smash capitalism. Trotskyists fight for the program of permanent revolution in semi-colonial countries like Mexico, insisting that even fundamental democratic tasks – national emancipation, agrarian revolution and the liberation of indigenous peoples– can only be accomplished by smashing capitalism and establishing proletarian rule, through a workers and peasants government under the leadership of a communist party, and the extension of workers revolution around the globe. Tying the struggle to sectors of the “national” bourgeoisie – as do all variants of Stalinism, including Maoism and Castroism – spells defeat. In Mexico, this was the policy of Lombardo Toledano, who spearheaded the slander campaign against Trotsky that prepared the way for his assassination, and of the PCM (Mexican Communist Party), whose remnants ended up liquidating into Cárdenas’ PRD.

Those who present anti-imperialism as vulgar anti-Americanism hoodwink the workers. The Communist International of Lenin and Trotsky underscored that revolutionary struggle in Latin America can only triumph if it is united with the multiracial proletariat of the United States. Likewise, the struggle against the racist death penalty in the U.S. goes hand in hand with the fight against its reintroduction in Mexico. (Various of the most rabid witchhunters against the CGH, such as the emeritus jurists Burgoa and Carrancá y Rivas who virulently denounce the “impunity” of the strikers and call for “applying the law” against UNAM students, are also calling for the death penalty in Mexico.) This fight must be part of a struggle against the racist oppression of Indians, against the persecution of Central American immigrants, against the oppression of women and homosexuals, and all the other characteristics of the rule of the “national” bourgeoisie in Mexico – which does the bloody bidding of the U.S. embassy.

In Mexico, the bourgeois parties unite in repressing the student protesters, accusing the UNAM strikers of provocation, when the provocation came directly from the police, for the purpose of justifying police-state measures. In the United States, the liberal Democratic city government of Seattle called in the National Guard and sealed off the entire downtown area to keep out not only demonstrators but anyone other than the dignitaries of the World Trade Organization. In New York where the possibility of a transit strike transfixed the city last week, Republican mayor Rudolph Giuliani along with the Democratic state attorney general and Metropolitan Transit Authority bosses got the courts to issue a battery of injunctions which not only declared a strike illegal, but also proposing a strike or even discussing it! Violators were threatened with unheard-of fines of $25,000 a day per person, doubling daily thereafter, while the union would be fined $1 million the first day, $2 million the next, $4 million the following day, etc. 

Thus, how to fight repression is a burning question on both sides of the border. In his speech to the demonstrators outside the U.S. embassy on December 11, the spokesman of the Grupo Internacionalista emphasized: 

“From Seattle to Chiapas and Mexico City, the struggle against capitalist repression has been undercut over and over by popular frontism, which ties the organized working class to sectors of the bourgeoisie. The struggle to save Mumia, just as was the case earlier in the struggle to save the anarchist workers Sacco and Vanzetti and the Scottsboro youths, must be part of a revolutionary, proletarian, internationalist class struggle, a struggle to forge the revolutionary workers party we so badly need.”
While the LTS spoke uncritically of the “Battle of Seattle” as some kind of anti-capitalist revolt, the Internationalist Group speaker warned that in the demonstrations in Seattle the program of Clinton’s opponents was that of protectionism
“Many of them wanted to dump Chinese steel into the ocean. This is a counterrevolutionary program, conceived as a means of pressuring the Clinton regime. The Mexican government also opposed Washington’s plans, in order to ‘defend’ starvation wages. As for the European powers, what happened in Seattle was the beginning of future trade wars, which could lead to a third world war.”
The GI speaker ended on the history of international working-class defense:
“During the struggle to save Sacco and Vanzetti from the executioner, a young Central American was working in the New York office of the International Labor Defense, affiliated with the International Red Aid. It is reported that this young man wore a button with the image of Trotsky. He later went to Nicaragua to talk with the insurgent leader Sandino. But disagreeing with the nationalist policy of the latter, he later decided to form the Communist Party of El Salvador. The youth was named Farabundo Martí, and he was brutally assassinated along with 30,000 peasants and workers in 1932. His example shows how the struggle for democratic rights and against repression goes hand in hand with the struggle for socialist revolution around the world.”
As a resolution of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International (1922) stated in a declaration on Latin America: 
“When the workers of South America oppose the criminal aims of Yankee capitalism, such as during the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, the ruling classes repress these proletarian demonstrations in order to demonstrate their selfish and conscious submission to the imperialism of the north. The Pan-American union of the bourgeoisie is an evident fact…. Now is the hour to unite the revolutionary forces of the proletariat, since the capitalists throughout America are uniting against the working class…. The common struggle of the proletarians of all the states of America against the united American capitalists is a vital necessity for the exploited class.”
Or as a Grupo Internacionalista chant, taken up enthusiastically by other marchers on December 11 put it: “¡Por revolución socialista en el monstruo imperialista!” 

Grupo Internacionalista,
section of the League for the Fourth International
21 December 1999 
Workers Vanguard’s "Virtual Reality"

Who Are You Going to Believe, 
WV or Your Lying Eyes?

Internationalist photo 

No Internationalist Group criticism of protectionism in Seattle? 
See for yourself. Demonstrators at IG-called December 13 NYC 
picket against Mexico City cop attack on student protesters.

They’re evidently addicted to it. Cooking up lies about the Internationalist Group, that is, with an odd predilection for patent falsehoods that are easily proven to be false. Workers Vanguard, newspaper of the Spartacist League, U.S. section of the International Communist League, keeps churning out smears, fabrications, willful distortions and outright inventions against the IG and the League for the Fourth International in order to mask its own abstentionism and opportunist degeneration. The SL/ICL clearly believe that they can say anything about us and to hell with the facts. 

The latest issue of Workers Vanguard (No. 726, 31 December 1999) includes an article reprinting a leaflet by the Grupo Espartaquista de México (GEM) about the brutal cop attack on the December 11 demonstration outside the U.S. embassy. The striking UNAM students were demanding freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal and denouncing cop repression of protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Trying to cover up the fact that their Mexican comrades boycotted the December 11 demonstration and didn't participate in days of protests against the arrests, an introduction by WV notes that on December 13 the SL “participated in a demonstration in front of the Mexican consulate in New York City initiated by the Internationalist Group,” but raises two charges against the IG:

  • We are supposedly “tailing bourgeois-nationalist forces in Mexico represented by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas”; and

  •  “While correctly defending the student demonstrators against the brutal cop assault, the IG says not a word of criticism about the anti-WTO protests in Seattle, which in the main were filled with protectionist ‘Buy American’ poison and anti-Communism directed against China.”

WV’s first charge is a smokescreen to cover up the ICL’s own abandonment of its decade-long warning against a popular front around Cárdenas and the bourgeois-nationalist PRD. In fact, at the December 11 demonstration in Mexico City the Grupo Internacionalista carried signs and a banner calling to break with the Cárdenas popular front and forge a revolutionary workers party. Today the GEM’s line of “no illusions in the PRD” hardly differs from that of various leftists at UNAM, the so-called “ultras,” who criticize the PRD but do not call on workers and students to break from class collaboration with the nationalist bourgeois “opposition” coalition. The call for “no illusions” is something revolutionaries would say when giving critical support to a reformist workers party, not in drawing the class line against a capitalist party.

Point 2 really takes the cake. “Not a word of criticism” from the Internationalist Group about the protectionism of the anti-WTO protests? Anyone can see from the photo reproduced here that the IG carried a sign at our December 13 NYC protest saying, “Protest Police Repression in Seattle! For International Labor Solidarity, Not National Protectionism!” An SLer was right behind. Moreover, the Internationalist Group speaker said over the megaphone:

“The struggle of the working class is international, and while we protest against the police repression in Seattle, we warn against the program of protectionism and anti-communism of the AFL-CIO leaders, who seek to set workers in the U.S. against their brothers and sisters around the world and to foment a capitalist counterrevolution in China.” 
He called for defense of the Chinese deformed workers state against imperialism, and for proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy that is preparing the road for capitalist restoration. In an interview with Spanish-language Channel 41 TV news, he criticized “the protectionist tenor of the protests in Seattle.”

The SLers couldn’t have missed all this. In fact, they came armed with a tape recorder to get our every word. They are not deaf and blind, just desperate liars.

And in Mexico, the spokesman for the Grupo Internacionalista prominently criticized the nationalist protectionism of the Seattle demonstrations and the counterrevolutionary attacks on China there, as quoted in the Grupo Internacionalista leaflet translated above. But how would the GEM know, since they boycotted the march and the protests outside the jail where the arrested students were held? The WV introduction now admits that the demonstrators were demanding freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal, something the GEM leaflet failed to mention. But how did they come up with the figure of only 200 at the Mexico City demonstration that they weren’t at? Every single major bourgeois paper reported higher numbers, ranging from 500 (La Jornada) to 350 (El Universal) to 300 (La Crónica and Excélsior). Only the city authorities said 200. 

The ICL thinks it can pick up any smear or distortion and spread it around with impunity. But to paraphrase Richard Pryor’s quip, “Who are you going to believe, WV or your lying eyes?” 


To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com