Police cars burn after striking workers retake Sicartsa steel plant in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán, 20
April 2006. Federal, state and local authorities sent army of 1,000 police and marines to oust strikers
from plant they were occupying. Two workers were killed, shot in the head. (Photo: Eduardo Verdugo/AP)
Form Workers Defense Committees!
An abbreviated version of this article appeared in the English edition of The Internationalist No. 24 (Summer 2006). This is a full translation of the Spanish-language article in El Internacionalista/Edición México No. 2 (August 2007).
When Mexican voters went to the polls on July 2, the election campaign had only reached the half-way point. A month later, the outcome is still up in the air. Hundreds of thousands of supporters of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of the bourgeois populist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), have taken to the streets in the mass “informational assemblies of July 8, 16 and 30 – with 500,000, 1 million and up to 2 million protesters respectively – protesting crooked vote counting and an election process shot through with fraud. López Obrador, widely known by his initials AMLO, has camped out in Mexico City’s Constitution Plaza, the Zócalo, vowing to stay until every vote is recounted, “vote by vote, ballot box by ballot box.” Felipe Calderón, the candidate of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN), who according to federal election officials, had a razor-thin lead of half of one percent in the voting, is counting on the electoral court and the state machinery to impose his “victory.” The candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Roberto Madrazo, bombed out and his long-ruling party is unraveling amid internal feuding. Everything indicates that this drama will continue to play out for some time.
Was there fraud in the recent Mexican elections? How could there not be? Forget about the World Cup, Mexico is world champion in election fraud.1 Under the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ran the country as a state party for seven decades, election fraud became an art, if not a science. This is the land of the carusel, with revolving-door voters who go from poll to poll casting votes for the governing party; of the casillas embarazadas, the “pregnant ballot boxes” which arrive at the polls already stuffed with votes for the incumbent; of the mapache, the raccoon, who empties boxes of opposition ballots and replaces them with pro-government votes, or simply removes the ballot boxes altogether. Here is where in the 2000 election, a PRI governor (in Yucatán) bragged about handing out thousands of washing machines to party loyalists and even took a photo of the “presents” lined up. And in 1988, this is where the ultra-modern computerized voting system suddenly “crashed” at 2 a.m. the night of the voting, and when it came up again the next day the lead had mysteriously switched from challenger Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas to the PRI machine candidate Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
Faud? Here? Marked
ballots found in the garbage of a district election office in Mexico
Fraud in Mexico is not an aberration but an integral part of the electoral process. And not just in Mexico. In the United States as well, everyone is familiar with the notorious “hanging chads” in the highly dubious Florida vote in the 2000 presidential election. The Chicago mayor’s Boss Richard Daley’s admonition to machine captains to “vote early and often” is legendary. In fact, the whole system of bourgeois elections is a swindle. Behind the veneer of “democracy” it is money that decides who wins and loses, the money of the various capitalist forces whose interests are affected. The state, as Marxists have insisted, is a machine for imposing the interests of the ruling class, and the government is its executive committee. Whether it is by “dirty tricks,” handing out bags of cement in Mexico or buying up TV time in the U.S., this is how the contending bourgeois forces ensure that the “popular vote” reflects their interests. As Marxists, we give no political support to any of the competing capitalist parties and fight everywhere to organize revolutionary workers parties. Even when Trotskyists use elections to propagandize the revolutionary program, we warn that the whole system is rigged against the working people.
While supporters of the competing bourgeois parties are slugging it out, the Grupo Internacionalista, Mexican section of the League for the Fourth International, declares that these elections are drenched in workers’ blood. The GI repeatedly proclaimed: “No vote for any of the bosses’ parties! Break with the popular front around López Obrador! Forge a revolutionary workers party!”
Now that the election campaign has entered the phase of pushing and shoving over the vote counting, we do not diminish our political opposition to the capitalist parties one iota. Particularly in such a close and hard-fought election, where there are plenty of potentially suspicious elements, we support the demand for a recount, vote by vote, ballot box by ballot box. But while most of the left has enthusiastically climbed aboard the AMLO express, dropping earlier criticisms of the PRD candidate and instead calling to “defend the vote,” the Grupo Internacionalista warns that at present the mammoth marches called by López Obrador are in fact political rallies on behalf of his Coalición por el Bien de Todos (Coalition for the Well-Being of All). At such times, revolutionaries must swim against the stream, warning that even if popular pressure is enough to sway the bourgeois courts, el Peje (AMLO’s nickname) will administer Mexico on behalf of the big corporations and repress those who fight against the capitalists.
But if the struggle passes from the terrain of the electoral circus, if the capitalist state declares a victor by means massive fraud, imposing the candidate of an incumbent regime that can only stay in power by a repressive mano dura (crackdown), if instead of giant pejemarchas there are mass protests against actions pointing to a police-military dictatorship, proletarian revolutionaries would call for a working-class mobilization against the bonapartist threat. Following the repeated police and military attacks on workers, peasants and teachers and facing the prospect of a showdown over the elections, we call on class-conscious workers to fight to break the ties binding the “independent” unions to the popular front around López Obrador, to continue to fight for a revolutionary workers party, and to form workers defense committees independent of all bourgeois politicians and parties.
Blood Elections, Popular-Front Protests
López Obrador’s political strategy is based on actions of “peaceful civil resistance.” The huge PRD mobilizations are intended to pressure the Federal Election Tribunal (the Trife). However, on August 5, the seven magistrates of the Tribunal blithely announced the “inadmissibility of the proposal for a general recount of the votes.” The Trife agreed to a recount of only 11,839 ballot boxes, amounting to a trifling 9 percent of the voting stations set up on July 2. This decision marks the conclusion of any “institutional” way out: the unanimous vote indicates that the tribunal was following orders dictated by the government of Vicente Fox Quesada. The directive provoked noisy protests among the pro-AMLO activists camped outside the Trife building. Later in the Zócalo, during López Obrador’s speech tens of thousands responded with a vociferous “no” when he asked “are we going to let ourselves” (implicitly, get screwed).
The most recent demonstrations on behalf of López Obrador have brought out hundreds of thousands of PRD supporters. The Zócalo was a sea of yellow flags (the party colors), families came from distant states. In general, the crowds had a plebeian character, with many peasants and workers, but also a lot of middle-class support for AMLO in the capital, where the PRD has controlled the local government for the past nine years. Prominent left-wing writers and intellectuals such as Elena Poniatowska, Carlos Monsiváis and Paco Ignacio Taibo II are out drumming up support. The independent unions have formed a “front for defense of the vote” to rally workers to the PRD, while at the National University (UNAM) a coalition for “criticial support” to López Obrador has been formed, in order to attract those leftist students who might have a “stomach ache” over supporting the candidate of the party which arrested 1,000 students in order to break the ten-month 1999-2000 UNAM strike. In the plaza, they chant, “Andrés aguanta, el pueblo se levanta” (Andrés, hold on, the people are rising up) and even “si no hay solución, habrá revolución” (if we don’t get satisfaction, there will be a revolution).
In this new panorama, AMLO has opted to ratchet up the pressure, but always within the electoral framework, and dosing it out in dribs and drabs, in order to “conserve forces.” Already more buses are arriving to reinforce the “mega plantón” (giant sit-in) with supporters of the Coalition for the Well-Being of All consisting of the PRD, the Party of Labor (PT) and Convergence for Democracy (CD). The PRD candidate repeatedly calls on his followers to “keep calm” and reject provocations. In fact, faced with the persistent mobilization, the federal government would have an interest in setting up some kind of trap, in order to spread fear among the middle classes and portray anti-fraud demonstrators as a “threat to peace.” While the authorities are betting on the mobilization exhausting itself, it might give a foretaste of the repression to come, perhaps somewhere outside the capital – AMLO’s main base of support – like in Oaxaca, where the combative teachers struggle continues and is spreading with the takeover of some 20 town halls. Currently the leadership of the Oaxacan teachers is seeking to join its struggle with the demonstrations for “AMLO president.”
Much has been written about the “campaign of fear” by the PAN and Calderón, backed up by top business sectors, who portrayed AMLO as a wild-eyed radical. In fact, the PRD candidate is a run-of-the-mill “center-left” populist politician (which earned him the disdainful designation of Señor López, to which his followers replied with the obligatory references to “Mister Fox”). AMLO uses some mildly nationalist rhetoric while dutifully enforcing the interests of big capital. This used to be the registered trademark of the PRI, until it climbed aboard the “free trade” bandwagon and began selling off state-owned industry to its cronies at fire-sale prices. And as also occurred under the PRI, the “carrot” was always combined with the stick. During the run-up to the July election, all of the leading parties – the PAN, PRI and PRD alike – jointly took part in this “strategy of tension,” launching a series of bloody police and military assaults on workers, peasants.
Two strikers killed – or more accurately, executed – shot in the head by police sharpshooters at the Sicartsa steel mill in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán on April 20. A 14-year-old youth and a National University student killed at San Salvador Atenco, near Mexico City, on May 4. And then a full-scale assault by an army of 3,500 state and municipal police on an encampment of striking teachers in the capital of Oaxaca on June 14. These horrendous crimes show the hideous face of bourgeois “democracy.” But just as importantly, in each case the intended victims refused to be intimidated, valiantly fought back and drove out the uniformed attackers. At Sicartsa, after a pitched battle lasting several hours, the strikers retook the plant while police cruisers burned. At Atenco, peasants and townspeople, incensed over the arrest of flower growers (!), chased the police out of town and held several cops as security until their comrades were released. In Oaxaca, the teachers grabbed city buses to break through the metal police barriers and chase off the repressors who had run out of ammunition.
We salute these heroic acts of self-defense by our class brothers and sisters, and call to generalize their response to repression by forming workers defense committees and preparing a national strike against the murderous government.
From the “Alternation”
Fox the Leopard,
What’s at stake here with the outcome of the elections is not “social justice” versus “neo-liberalsim,” as claimed by many pseudo-leftists in the AMLO camp, but rather which of the contenders will carry out the “structural reforms” demanded by the capitalists, both the imperialists and their Mexican junior partners. The victory of Vicente Fox in the 2000 elections was seen by many is the beginning of a “democratic revolution” which would put an end to the hated PRI regime. The reality is quite different. There is nothing the least bit democratic about the new regime of “alternation.” Fox didn’t wait long to unleash bloody repression, as he did against the altermundista (anti-globalization) demonstrators in Cancún (see “Fox Drops the Mask,” The Internationalist No. 11, Summer 2001) and in Guadalajara (see “Represión in Foxilandia,” El Internacionalista No. 5, May 2005), and today against workers and peasants. We are now seeing how the PAN government seeks to keep itself in power, using every means at its disposal, whatever the cost.
It is also noteworthy how, after his campaign promises about replacing the “impediment” of “costly” mechanisms of state control, much of the PRI’s labor apparatus is safe and sound in Fox’s regime. It occurred to various “progressive” intellectuals to compare this to the novel of the Italian writer Giuseppi di Lampedusa, Il gatopardo (The Leopard). This novel describes how the Sicilian governing elite adapted to the new conditions after the unification of the country during the 1860s under the slogan “everything changes so that everything can stay the same.” But today the PAN wants to go all-out with “creative destruction” of the PRI edifice by introducing a government more akin to the more “traditional” Latin American bonapartist and semi-bonapartist regimes, the dictatorships and “soft” dictatorships, with an extreme free-trade policy.
The instrument selected for this job by the business elite is Felipe Calderón. The naming of this PAN political operator as Fox’s energy secretary was intended to prepare the energy “reform.” As part of this a whole series of co-generation plants were built to be operated under contract by private firms. At the same time, the government has tried to bankrupt the Compañía Luz y Fuerza del Centro (which provides electricity in the central Mexican industrial region) through financial maneuvers, charging loss-generating prices to companies while raising prices for individuals. It has also set up a “parallel and private” PEMEX (Mexico’s state-owned oil monopoly) to out-source services and construction to oil industry conglomerates like Schlumberger, the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root, Bechtel and Fluor Daniel, the same companies that have obscenely profited from the war and occupation of Iraq (see our article “¡Aplastar la ofensiva privatizadora y hambreadora – Obreros al poder!” in El Internacionalista No. 4, May 2004). If he manages to impose his presidency, Calderón, the technocrat who proclaims that his hands won’t shake when it comes to going after “delinquents,” is already preparing his plans to carry out such “reforms.” And he will impose them to the letter.
The discreet charm of
power: Felipe Calderón with Elba Esther Gordillo, head of the
corporatist teachers “union” SNTE.
Gordillo was ousted as president of the PRI and then formed her own
personal “party,” PANAL (an alternative PAN), inducing PRI governors to
proclaim Calderón the winner in 2 July 2006 elections.
The PRI regime, in its prolonged reign of seven decades, was based on a corporatist system of state control, in which all sectors of society were incorporated into the state party. This regime had its origins in the maximato2 of Plutarco Elías Calles, when single-party rule was established. It was later consolidated under the presidency of General Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-40) with the founding of the Party of the Mexican Revolution (PRM)3 and the integration of the newly formed Mexican Workers Federation (CTM) as the “workers sector” of the PRM. Leon Trotsky described the nature of the Cárdenas government as “bonapartism sui generis” (of a unique kind), distinct from other kinds of military-police regimes. In times of crisis, regimes of this sort seek to raise themselves above the usual give-and-take of capitalist interests and claim to represent the broader interests of bourgeois society. In Mexico, on the other hand – a semi-colonial country subject to the enormous pressure of U.S. imperialism, with a weak native bourgeoisie facing a combative proletariat – Trotsky indicated that a nationalist government would tend to tack and turn by making concessions to the working class, while ceding to the demands of the U.S.
Under successive PRI presidents who followed Cárdenas, the regime turned sharply to the right; nevertheless, at the height of the 1970s, a repressive anti-working-class government like that of Luis Echeverría was capable of nationalizing industries and dishing out crumbs to certain of its unconditional union bureaucratic supporters. However, as a result of the banking crisis and the arrival of Ronald Reagan in the White House in the ’80s, the PRI governments of Miguel de la Madrid, Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo began dismantling their own system, following the guidelines of “neo-liberalism.” They privatized almost all the state-owned industries and eliminated a whole series of social gains and concessions to workers. They looted pension funds of the Mexican Institute of Social Security in order to create the “Afores,” individual retirement accounts (similar to IRAs in the United States) which were then deposited in the recently privatized banks, enabling them to stave off bankruptcy. However, there remained the rest of the social security system, free public education, the state oil monopoly PEMEX, the state-owned electricity companies and a series of union benefits. Fox’s PAN government promised to give the PRI regime the coup de grace. However, he was only able to do so half-way, leading to considerable discontent in business circles. Calderón was put in charge of finishing the job.
The attempt at dismantling the social security system already produced an explosion of workers struggle by the workers of the IMSS (Mexican Institute of Social Secuirty). When a vote on the law “reforming” the retirement and pension system of the SNTSS (Social Security Workers Union) by eliminating any contribution by the employer, as well as increasing the number of years of service required, the workers encircled the Senate and the august legislators were only able to enter under police protection by the back door. Even so, that October the union ranks refused to approve a contract to implement the desctruction of their pensions, which was only achieved a year later when SNTSS chief, Roberto Vega Galina, signed a shameful contract. The next day, Labor Secretary Francisco Salazar, a furious rightist who belongs to the fascist organization El Yunque, announced that due to this betrayal “the retirement and pension systems of unions throughout the country will be modified, including those of government workers, workers in state-owned companies and public services.”
Also still pending is the
“counterreform” to the
Federal Labor Law (LFT). Although the foundations for Mexico’s labor
legislation were laid in the famous Article 123 of the Constitution, it
only in 1931 under Calles that this was implemented with the
the LFT, which was conceived in the image of the corporatist model of
Mussolini’s Italy. The LFT establishes a government registry of trade
“regulates” the right to strike and imposes the dictates of the
Arbitration and Mediation Boards (JCyA). In exchange for this iron
control over the unions and keeping wages low, successive PRI
conceded a series of benefits in order to maintain “social peace.” From
outset of his administration, Fox had called for an integral reordering
LFT. The PAN and PRD proposed draft amendments, as did the National
Workers (UNT0, a neo-corporatist labor federation. Although they
substantially in various respects, all of these drafts left the bosses
more “flexibility” in hiring and firing workers in the name of
President Vicente Fox (left). Labor Secretary Francisco Salazar chats with the top charro (corporatist “union” boss) of
the Congress of Labor (CT), Víctor Flores (right). The Fox regime rested on the corporatist labor apparatus of the PRI.
(Photos: José Carlo González/La Jornada)
The PRD and UNT proposals, although they infringed on established rights of the workers in important respects, were promptly rejected by Congress. The PAN’s “Abascal Law,” named after Fox’s fascistic first secretary of labor) initially had the support of the corporatist unions grouped in the CTM and the Congreso del Trabajo (Congress of Labor). This law would permit training and specialization contracts (like those that were rejected by the recent demonstrations of millions of French workers and youths), greater restrictions on the already greatly limited right to strike, and (taken together with a series of decisions by the Mexican Supreme Court, pointed toward the complete elimination of collective contracts through the imposing of “individual” contracts. However, after bouncing around the various committees and subcommittees of Congress, where the “workers caucus” of the PRI vacillated over whether or not approving the initiative would lead to their own extinction, it was declared a dead letter in April of last year. Now the PAN and the employers want to resume the charge. And they also want to try their luck with the plans for privatizing the energy sector.
AMLO in the Service of the Multinationals
The PRD candidate’s call to establish a “permanent assembly” camping out in the Zócalo and in the center lanes of La Reforma (Mexico City’s posh main avenue) has angered conservative forces, who are raising a clamor for President Vicente Fox to send in the Federal Preventive Police to evict them. Meanwhile, the “mega plantón” has taken on a festive air, with film and video showings about the repression in Atenco, chess tournaments, dance contests and brigades to prepare food. But this popular mobilization is on behalf of a candidate who has declared in advance that he would pose no problems for the capitalists, or for the U.S. imperialists, always vigilant about what is happening just “south of the border.”
While many of AMLO’s leftist backers denounce “neo-liberalism” and “globalization” (i.e., economic policies rather than the capitalist-imperialist system), his prospective economics minister, Rogelio Ramírez de la O, announced that López Obrador’s economic agenda would be “social neo-liberalism”(El Universal, 2 June). When reporters reminded him that this had been the slogan of the hated PRI ex-president Carlos Salinas (who privatized with special enthusiasm much of the state-owned enterprises), Ramírez de la O stressed that with López Obrador, the strategy would function because it would be carried out “without corruption.”
During his final campaign rally in the Zócalo, on June 28, AMLO directly addressed the captains of industry and finance, saying: We will not act in an irresponsible way, we won’t provoke a crisis, no one needs to get worried…. In short, there will be a technical, not ideological, management of the economy… there will be control of the public deficit, the autonomy of the Central Bank will be guaranteed and inflation will be avoided” (La Jornada, 29 June 2006).
When a bourgeois candidate talks of a “technical management” of the economy and vows to “maintain control of the macroeconomic variables,” what he is saying is that he will maintain the starvation and privatization policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. And AMLO has already shown he would do it. As head of the Mexico City government, López Obrador made an alliance with Carlos Slim, the third richest man in the world, to “clean up” the historical city center. Hundreds of residents were kicked out of their homes so that the magnate could buy up a million and a half square meters of choice real estate. Slim reciprocated saying: “I will keep investing in Mexico, no matter who wins the July 2 vote, including López Obrador.”
López Obrador also won the support of the Shell oil company, whose Mexico director, Cornelis van der Born, said that “the possible victory of a candidate of the left, like Andrés Manuel López Obrador, would not represent any threat whatsoever nor would it worry us. Shell works with everyone in countries that are under governments of all colors, and with left-wing authorities such as Venezuela (La Jornada, 25 March 2006).
Many opportunist leftists who have joined in the AMLO rallies justify their policy by claiming that U.S. imperialism is trying to block López Obrador from winning. There are certainly many in the U.S. administration who would prefer Calderón, yet even Washington war hawk Condoleezza Rice declared that “we are prepared to work with any president and any government which arrives at the highest office of that country [Mexico]” (La Jornada, 25 April). Already a year ago, amid the politicking dispute among the bourgeoisie around the removal of AMLO’s immunity, Rice “ruled out the idea that electoral victories by governments headed by left-wing politicians could worry the United States,” as Reforma (10 March 2005) reported.
Not only does López Obrador have the consent of important capitalist and imperialist sectors, in Mexico City he carried out the directives of the World Bank concerning the privatization of water resources. The Official Gazette of the Federal District announced on 27 April 2004 that the government was granting “concessions concerning activities relating to the supply of public drinking water, drainage and sewage, and where appropriate, in accordance with the interests of the Federal District Government, the treatment and reuse of residual waters” to four private companies: Servicios del Agua Potable S.A. de C.V. (SAPSA), Industrias del Agua de la Ciudad de México (IACMEX), Industrias del Agua S.A. (IASA) AND Tecnología y Servicios del Agua S.A. (TECSA). But where did these companies come front. Both SAPSA and TECSA are subsidiaries of the French water company Suez. IACMEX, for its part, is a subsidiary of Vivendi, another French trust; and finally IASA is part of Azurix, a company that is part of the Enron group!
All over Latin American there have been popular revolts against these giant monopolies who have sent the price of water skyrocketing after privatizing this vital public resource. But not in Mexico. Why? Because it is the populist PRD which has carried out these policies, not a government of the right. AMLO & Co. have done such a good job that most Mexico City residents have no idea that the water supply has been privatized. As for the workers of the Federal District Water Commission, the concessions for the supply of water services to private companies (with a non-unionized workforce, of course), carrying out the same tasks as the workers who are members of the Union of Mexico City Workers (SUTGDF), poses an imminent threat of losing their jobs.
In the recent elections, AMLO enjoyed the support of the most important “independent” unions in the country. The bureaucracy of the powerful Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), and of the Mexican Labor Front (FSM) which it leads, is guided by the policy of whatever suits the PRD candidate. Thus following the repression in San Salvador Atenco, the SME’s initial stance was to not mobilize against the repression (which it slightly modified some time later due to the pressure of the protests). López Obrador also has the support of the UNT and even of some corporatist “unions,” such as the CROC, which felt that there wasn’t much margin in voting for the PRI’s loser candidate Madrazo. A specially revealing campaign scene occurred when López Obrador appeared before thousands of trade unionists in a jam-packed Auditorio Nacional. Among his “friends” in the bureaucracy of the “independent” unions was Roberto Vega Galina, the head of the National Social Security Workers Union (SNTSS), responsible for sabotaging the struggle of the workers in defense of their pensions. When Vega Galina tried to speak, he was drowned out by loud whistles (booing) from the workers. AMLO had to approach podium to raise his arm in order to show his support.
The Mexican bourgeoisie subjugates those workers not regimented by the corporatist apparatus of labor control by means the pro-capitalist leaderships of the “independent” unions. Today, when tens of thousands of trade-unionists are mobilizing in support of López Obrador, it is more necessary than ever to fight for the independence of the proletariat from the bourgeoisie, its parties, its politicians and its state. What’s needed is not to install another, more “popular” bourgeois politician but to prepare workers revolution.
Workers Defense Committees!
López Obrador is one of a series of “center-left” bourgeois politicians who have come forward in Latin America in recent years, including Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Lucio Gutiérrez in Ecuador, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay. All of these politicians have carried out the “neo-liberal” policies of their imperialist overlords, and those who have been in office for a couple years have already become the objects of mass working-class protest and downright hatred. Gutiérrez was run out of Quito after repeated protests over rising fuel and electricity prices; public sector workers have struck against Lula in Brazil; and Morales is facing peasant unrest over his failure to implement his own land reform. Everywhere, the supposedly revolutionary left supported these capitalist politicians (some “critically,” others enthusiastically). The League for the Fourth International, in contrast, has constantly warned against voting for any parties or candidates of a popular front, that is, of a class-collaborationist alliance binding the working people to sections of the bourgeoisie.
This is not the case for the organizations of the opportunist left – including those which call themselves communist, whose constant practice (never mind their Sunday speechifying with rhetorical references to socialism) is to swim in the wake of the popular fronts, except when they directly join these class-collaborationist alliances. In the mobilizations in favor of López Obrador, one organization that has been notable for its prominence is the Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist). Despite its pretence of equally opposing Calderón and López Obrador, and its participation in the Zapatista “Other Campaign,” the PCM (ML) proclaims: “No to Fecal [Felipe Calderón]! Down with the electoral fraud!” Calling to mobilize in the streets to “defend the popular will,” it joins with the López Obrador marches (Vanguardia Proletaria, August 2006). It thereby carries out its Stalinist popular-front policy of “keeping out the right.”
Even more prominent in the mobilizations has been the “Marxist Tendency Militante,” a fake-Trotskyist current which is part of the PRD, a capitalist party! The moment the polls closed and the Early Election Returns Program announced a 1 percent lead for Calderón, Militante declared: “Against Election Fraud, AMLO Must Call a General Strike” (Militante, 4 July 2006). This “general strike,” however, would only last one day. They favorably quoted in their article a signe declaring, “We’re ready, lord, just give the order!” In spite of proposing a measure which purports to be a workers action (a strike), they appeal to a bourgeois politician to call it, thus removing from it any proletarian character. Militante has been a particularly pro-AMLO tendency, even within the framework of the bourgeois PRD. Currently, “following the proposal of López Obrador,” it is promoting “Committees of Struggle and Information Against the Election Fraud” (Militante, August 2006). They thereby hope to extend their influence as the best organizers of the “anti-fraud movement.”
Militante: fans of AMLO-Gandhi-Chávez Thought.
On its Internet site, Militante puts out articles with tags like “We Must Take the Ideas of AMLO Through to the End!” Following the orders of its comandante, Militante even announced a talk in the mega plantón on “Gandhi, non-violence and civil resistance.” These are the same imposters who praise Venezuelan nationalist president Hugo Chávez and claim to be giving this bourgeois military officer a crash course in Trotskyism. Following the guidelines of AMLO-Gandhi-Chávez Thought, it engages in éntrism” in bourgeois parties from Mexico to Pakistan. Its International Marxist Tendency, founded by the recently deceased Ted Grant and currently led by alan Woods, wants to be the “left” wing of whatever “movement” is currently in vogue. More than an opportunist tactic, for these quick-change artists, tailism defines their minimum program. Their empty “militancy” goes to such ridiculous lengths that they criticize calls for boycotting Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Sabritas snacks, etc. (over their support for the PAN campaign) for violating the rules of good dieting. Rather than eating fried potatoes and fowl, they argue, “Keep our society fat- and cholesterol-free! For a general strike against the fraud!” Even so, these champions of a general strike against fat and cholesterol don’t seem particularly optimistic about the outcome of the struggle, figuring that even if “in the end Calderón prevails,” they will end up with their committees against fraud.
Another outfit that calls for a “general strike against fraud” (in order to install a bourgeois president) is the Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo-ContraCorriente (LTS-CC –Socialist Workers League-Against the Current) part of the Trotksyist Faction formed by former followers of the late pseudo-Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno. Although they claim it will be the workers and not AMLO that will call this strike, the LTS’ call is no less tailist. They refer to the hard-line policies against workers and popular struggles, but they lay this exclusively at the doorstep of the PAN, ignoring the fact that the PRD has been a co-participant in each of the recent cases of anti-working-class repression.
The LTS: caboose on the AMLO bandwagon.
In April and May 2005, during the big mobilizations over the removal of López Obrador’s immunity, the LTS at first adopted an independent position, but it ultimately capitulated before AMLO’s popularity. This time around they didn’t hesitate for a minute to hitch their wagon onto the end of the AMLO popular front. No sooner was the word “fraud” was uttered, than they promptly forgot all about their weak-kneed and purely formal opposition to the election campaign of the PRD-PT-CD coalition. In a 7 July 2006 declaration, the LTS issued a call to mobilize together with the PRD, spelling out the reasons for its turn. After saying they favored a “revolutionary outcome to capitalist poverty and exploitation,” they add:
“However, being aware that workers are not yet in agreement with this outcome, and faced with the fact that millions are denouncing the fraud. Considering that it is not possible to achieve genuine democracy within the bourgeois framework, we call on them to fight together for a Free and Sovereign Constituent Assembly.”
So the LTS admits in so many words that it s democratizing policies inherited from Moreno are determined by the illusions of the masses. We might suggest, with all due respect, that in homage to truth, these neo-Morenoites really ought to change their name to LTS-With the Current.
Like el Peje (López Obrador), the LTS “is not alone.” Last year, the entire left joined in the mobilizations in favor of AMLO and against the desafuero (lifting of official immunity), with the sole exception of the Grupo Internacionalista. The Fox government, with the support of the PAN and the PRI in Congress, wanted to remove the immunity from prosecution conferred on López Obrador in virtue of his executive position as head of government of the Federal District. As proletarian revolutionaries, we oppose executive immunity, which exempts capitalist rulers from being put on trial for their official acts (as opposed to parliamentary immunity, whose purpose is to protect legislators from government intimidation). Executive immunity is the screen which has been used to legalize the impunity of government assassins, such as ex-president Luis Echeverría, so he can evade legal action against him for his responsibility in the massacres of 1968 and 1971. We explained that, as an elementary democratic question, we opposed any attempt to prevent López Obrador running as a candidate. However, even though Fox’s obvious purpose was to avoid AMLO running for president, lifting his immunity did not have that effect. The mobilizations against the desafuero were demonstrations of political support to the PRD leader. In reality, the official registration of candidates did not take place until December 2005, eight months later. In the end, the government removed AMLO’s immunity, but that didn’t stop him from running as a candidate.
Another organization that falsely claims to be Trotskyist, the Grupo Espartaquista de México (GEM), also joined the mobilizations in favor of AMLO with a leaflet titled “Down with the Lifting of López Obrador’s Immunity!” which was distributed at demonstrations on 7 and 24 April 2005. It subsequently published a furious polemic against the Grupo Internacionalista for having refused to support these PRD mobilizations. The GEM was established at the end of the 1980s following the presidential campaign of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and the subsequent founding of the Party of the Democratic Revolution. In the face of the capitulation of the pseudo-Trotskyists before Cárdenas, for ten years the GEM insisted on the need to oppose the cardenista popular front. Nevertheless, less than a year after the expulsion of leaders and youth cadres of the GEM who went on to found the Grupo Internacionalista, and just at the moment when Cárdenas was about to be elected head of government of the Federal District, the GEM discovered that there is not, nor can there be, a popular front in Mexico. We pointed out at the time that the GEM denied the existence of a popular front because it didn’t want to fight it. With its support for the PRD demonstrations around the lifting of AMLO’s immunity, the GEM proved us right.
Responding to our criticism of its capitulation before the popularity of the bourgeois PRD, and to justify its defense of the López Obrador’s executive immunity, a highly anti-democratic legal precept, the GEM wrote that “the GI resorts to democratic abstractions” and that “this grouplet brags of its utter indifference to the juridical campaign against López Obrador” (Espartaco No. 24, Summer 2005). More recently, however, the GEM is whistling a different tune. In an article on the Mexican elections, it opines:
“The potentially explosive, generalized discontent of the workers and the poor population over the rightist economic policies of the previous governments has been effectively channeled, for the moment, into support for the PRD and AMLO in particular, as was clearly shown by the enormous demonstrations against the process of lifting AMLO’s immunity last year, especially the April 24 march, which mobilized 1.2 million people – the largest demonstration in the history of the country.”
–Espartaco No. 25, Spring 2006
So now they recognize that the mobilizations against the lifting of immunity were mobilizations of political support to López Obrador, as we pointed out at the time? And what is their conclusion? The logic of last year’s policy should lead GEM to join with the LTS and the other organizations tailing along in the wake of the “anti-fraud” movement. In 2005, López Obrador and the PRD adroitly used Fox’s barrage to build massive support for their bourgeois candidacy. At that time, it was key to fight to uphold the independence of the proletariat with regard to all the bourgeois parties and politicians, as it is today. In such times, it is vital for revolutionaries to know how to swim against the stream.
What we are seeing in Mexico today is a popular-front campaign of protests over electoral fraud. Generally speaking, “anti-fraud” movements remain within the framework of capitalist electoral politics, such as the bourgeois “progressives” in the United States in the early 1900s, or the struggles against the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz in Mexico at the turn of the 20th century. It’s obvious that with slogans like “Effective Suffrage, No to Calderón,” which was one of the most frequently chanted in the Zócalo on July 8, many supporters of López Obrador are drawing a parallel to the campaign of Francisco I. Madero against Díaz in 1910. The leftist groups who have joined the “anti-fraud” protests may be laboring under the illusion that they are participating in the beginnings of a new Mexican Revolution.
However, it wasn’t the Madero campaign for “Effective Suffrage, No Reelection” (which was also Díaz’ slogan at the beginning of his reign) that give rise to the Revolution of 1910-17, but the resistance of the peasant insurgents led by Emiliano Zapata who rose up independently against the Porfirian repression. Later they resisted the massacres of General Victoriano Huerta, who acted under orders of by-then president Madero. The pro-López Obrtador leftists today can brag of playing the role not of neo-Zapatistas, but of neo-Maderistas of the first hour.
In Mexico today, opposition to the long-lasting PRI-government was channeled into the PRD and the PAN, bourgeois parties of the “left” and the right respectively. But sometimes, in periods of acute social tension, popular discontent boils over and leads to sharp class struggles, not on the electoral terrain but in real battles in the streets pointing toward civil war. It is precisely this spectre that the Fox government is bandying about in order to scare the petty bourgeoisie. And it is precisely in such circumstances that proletarian revolutionaries intervene on the side of the working masses who are fighting to defend their democratic rights against the imposition of a government by what would be more than a “technical” coup but a genuine act of force of an actual coup d’état.
Recently in Haiti, reactionary forces tried to steal a pseudo-election held under the auspices of the United Nations, a barely disguised form of colonial rule, in order to keep the favorite candidate of the slum dwellers, René Préval, from taking office. In an article titled “Attempted Election Threat in Haiti” (The Internationalist No. 23, April-May 2006), the LFI stated:
“With open confrontation in the streets over the attempt by right-wing reactionaries to steal the election, revolutionary Marxists stand on the side of the vast mass of poor black Haitians against the U.N. occupation forces and Haitian police on the other side of the barricades, while giving no political support to Préval and [his mentor, former president Jean Bertrand] Aristide. We warn against illusions in these bourgeois liberal populists.... What is needed is a class mobilization on both sides of the Haiti/Dominican border, to lead the urban and rural poor against their exploiters and oppressors. Trotskyists would have opposed voting for ‘Préval prezidan,’ or for any of the capitalist candidates, while calling today for the formation of committees of working and poor people to expropriate the bourgeoisie and drive out the U.N. mercenary occupiers.”
Haiti, February 2006: anti-fraud protests go beyond the bourgeois electoral framework. The LFI called to form workers defense committees to drive out the U.N. and expropriate the bourgeoisie. (Photo: Enrique Muñoz/Reuters)
In Mexico today, a fight for workers defense committees must be directed not only against the PAN government in Los Pinos (the Mexican president’s residence) but also against the PRD government of the Federal District. Don’t forget that the newly elected governor of the D.F. , Marcelo Ebrard, was the head of public security under the López Obrador administration. It was he who brought in the Giuliani company as advisors to introduce a program of “zero tolerance” to harass popular neighborhoods, including where there were protests over high water rates due to the surreptitious privatization carried out by AMLO. It is quite possible that if a “moment of truth” should arrive when the PRD decides to call off protests over fraud because it threatened bourgeois “stability” and “governability,” demonstrators will be facing Ebrard’s cops.
Today Mexico is experiencing a situation of social agitation, as important workers struggles coincide with a political crisis of the capitalist class. It is in moments like these that the construction of the nucleus of a proletarian vanguard, Leninist in its organization and Trotskyist in its program of permanent revolution becomes all the more urgent. However, the policy of the opportunist groups who have joined up with the current López Obrador electoral mobilization is counterposed from top to bottom to Leninism and Trotskyism. The Grupo Internacionalista, Mexican section of the League for the Fourth International, which is the only organization that has resisted the popular-front temptation to which the whole of the opportunists have capitulated, has assumed the task of building the nucleus of this indispensable revolutionary leadership.
So long as the squabble is
being conducted within the
capitalist parliamentary framework, we Trotskyists refuse to give any
support to bourgeois forces such as the popular front around the PRD.
for not votes for the “neo-liberal light,” Andrés Manuel
López Obrador, nor for
the privatizing technocrat Felipe Calderón. The aim of our
struggle is to forge
a Leninist-Trotskyist revolutionary workers party. If the conflict goes
the terrain of the class struggle, revolutionaries will seek to
power of the working class, not to “defend the vote” but in order to
workers against a bonapartist threat. Our purpose is not to prettify
democracy with a new constitution or constituent assembly, but to
capitalist rule and establish a workers and peasants government, to
socialist revolution in Mexico and the rest of the continent. n
1 During the election campaign, the Mexican government mounted a big publicity campaign around the international soccer championship, the World Cup, with the evident purpose of distracting the attention of poor and working-class voters who closely follow sports events.
2 Calles was president of Mexico from 1924 to 1928, but then prolonged his de facto rule through a series of puppet presidents from 1928 to 1934. This second period of Calles’ domination was known as the maximato, derived from Calles’ nickname as the jefe máximo de la Revolución (supreme chief of the Revolution).
3 The PRM changed its name to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 1946.
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