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The Internationalist
  September 2016

Not One Step Backwards! We Demand: Complete Repeal of the Capitalist “Education Reform”!


Education at gunpoint: the head of the head of Mexico's education secretariat, Aurelio Nuño (center) and war secretary General Salvador Cienfuegos (right), inspect the troops, August 23.  (Francisco Olvera/La Jornada)

Break with All Bourgeois Parties: PRI, PAN, PRD, MORENA and the Rest!
Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!

SEPTEMBER 1 – As of today, the teachers strike undertaken by the National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers (CNTE) in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero and Michoacán has lasted 110 days. The federal and state governments hoped that the teachers would end the strike on August 22 with the beginning of the new school year. They were mistaken.

Even after the June 19 massacre in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca1 unleashed a whirlwind of furious protests, the chief executioner who runs the secretariat of the interior, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, announced that he would evict new highway barricades using the federal police. While the murderous president Enrique Peña Nieto (“The Plagiarizer”)2 was having a dialogue –considered shameful even by the Mexican bourgeoisie – with the Republican candidate for U.S. president Donald Trump over who would pay for a border wall, thousands of federales were arriving by air and land in Chiapas to “dialogue” with teachers with blood, riot clubs and gunfire.

After more than three months on strike and years of confronting security forces, the battle-hardened teachers are not about to be intimidated by threats of imposing a return to the classroom at gunpoint. The reality is that the strength and militancy of the CNTE educators has put this criminal government in a real bind. After Nochixtlán and the disappearance of the 43 teachers college students from Ayotzinapa, another massacre could lead to an explosion of outrage among the working people of Mexico. The consequences could be catastrophic for the government, and even personally for its murderous chiefs.

Those who today are preaching about “toning down” the strike and giving in to the new ultimatum are preparing the road to defeat. The result would be the firing of thousands of teachers and a grave attack on public education, particularly in the poor neighborhoods and areas of indigenous population. Parents are well aware of this, and that is why they have emphatically supported the teachers in this struggle. But you’re not going to defeat this government simply by maintaining the strike. Nor will calling for “dialogue” with the criminal government, as the CNTE leadership has insistently done, produce results. The real policy of the government consists of wearing down the strike, whether by repression or by talks that go nowhere: that is, the policy of beatings and lies.

Obeying the dictates of the imperialist financial institutions, the submissive rulers of semi-colonial Mexico are attempting to impose, by whatever means possible, a privatizing “reform” of public education. No argument from educators, pedagogues or parents is going to convince them to change course. The capitalist state defends the interests of its class, and the bourgeoisie as a whole is promoting this insidious counter-reform. In order to stop it, it is necessary to mobilize a greater force. That force is the powerful Mexican proletariat, which is capable of bringing the wheels of the economy to a grinding halt, in alliance with teacher and workers around the world.

President Peña Nieto of the PRI3 has adopted the profile of a new Porfirio Díaz4 surrounded by his technocratic ministers like “Porky Pig” Aurelio Nuño, the political marketing expert who is running the federal SEP (Public Education Secretariat). Peña answers to the big business associations and conglomerates like Televisa, which orchestrated his election as president while its executives like Claudio X González lead Mexicanos Primero,5 the lobby behind the education “reform.” The 21st century PRI regime responds to protests in the same manner as Porfirio Díaz regime in the 20th century, sending in the federales and >rurales (federal and rural police) to quash any outbreak of rebellion. But we all know what happened to the man who inspired Peña Nieto.6

The bourgeois press compares the CNTE to a “ category 5 hurricane.” It demonstrated its capacity to mobilize and the enormous courage of the teachers in the face of murderous repression. But a class-struggle leadership is needed to extend the strike to key sectors of the Mexican proletariat, going up against the capitalist system. Here the striking teachers are blockadeing the Oaxaca-Mexico City superhighway in mid-August. (Noticias)

The CNTE strike is the biggest struggle by Mexican labor in decades, and the first that could defeat three decades of privatizing, “neo-liberal” style free-market policies. But it can’t do so with traditional methods and a narrowly sectoral strategy. The educational counter-reform is an integral part of an attack by the bosses against all the working people of Mexico. A victory of the government over the teachers would bring about new attacks against other sections of the working class and the oppressed. Some of these attacks are already underway: massive layoffs in Pemex (the state-owned oil company) and the Federal Electricity Commission, as well as the privatization of health care services throughout the country, masked by the duplicitous slogan of “universalization.”

We are at a key juncture in the teachers strike that has thrown the country into turmoil for months. It is incumbent on all working people to mobilize in defense of the insurgent teachers. Teachers and students throughout Mexico must join the CNTE strike in order to defeat the scabbing by the corporatist SNTE, the labor cops of the capitalist state whose task is to prevent the rise of a genuine independent labor movement. In order to emerge victorious in this struggle, what’s needed is to unleash a nationwide workers strike to bring the murderous Peña Nieto government to its knees. Rather than capitulation and a sham dialogue, it’s necessary to extend the strike to the heavy battalions of the working class, which requires forging a class-struggle leadership capable of waging revolutionary struggle against capitalism.

The Trap of “Dialogue” with the Murderers

Following the Nochixtlán massacre, the government backpedaled and agreed to establishing “roundtable discussions” with the CNTE under the auspices of the secretariat of the interior. Today, the government has canceled the “dialogue” and making any return to the table dependent upon the teachers surrendering and calling off the strike. However, the talks have already shown once again that nothing can be solved together with the murderers. What’s to discuss with the gendarme Nuño? This is no pedagogical discussion. The issue is political and all about class: the capitalist government declared already in July 2015 that it was bent on “retaking control” of education.

The government hasn’t backed off one bit. Although strikerrs have managed to obtain the release, bit by bit, of arrested teachers of Section 22 in Oaxaca, the truth is that the charges against them have not been withdrawn, and they could be arrested once again at any moment. Cosmetic changes won’t change the essence of what is, in reality, a labor “reform” intended to pave the way for the privatization of public education by means of destroying the CNTE and other unions independent of corporatist control by the state.

CNTE members must remain firm. Not one step backwards! We insist, as has been the battle cry since the beginning of the strike, on the complete repeal of the educational reform of capital. The goal is not merely to throw Nuño out of the federal SEP and to dump the current heads of the state education departments, or to “retake” the Oaxaca State Institute of Public Education (the IEEPO). Defenders of public education must fight not only against privatization but also to eliminate all control of public education by the capitalist state. The schools should be government by the teachers, students, parents and workers.

The onslaught against education is the product of terminally decaying capitalism. Amidst a world economic crisis which has already lasted eight years, with no end in sight, the imperialist bourgeoisies and their financial institutions call for the elimination of remaining democratic rights for the exploited and oppressed in order to cut costs and raise the profit rate. Education and health are among those democratic rights that are in the process of being privatized. For that reason, even the most basic defense of access of working people to these rights requires an all-out fight to extend them. That will only be possible if the working class takes power at the head of all the oppressed. In effect, to fight for free, secular, quality education for all it is indispensable to fight for socialist revolution.

No Capitulation – Extend the Strike!

Meeting of striking teachers of Section 22 in the Zócalo (main square) of Oaxaca, August 21. (Noticias)

Part of the pressure to implore the government for “dialogue” comes from the bourgeois supposed “allies” of the CNTE, especially from the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) and its top caudillo (chief) Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known by his initials, AMLO. In the June 5 elections, the leadership of Section 22 in Oaxaca called to vote for MORENA, because it favored “dialogue” with the teachers. We of the Grupo Internacionalista and the Comité de Lucha Proletaria (Proletarian Struggle Committee) opposed voting for any bourgeois party or politicians, as they are all class enemies of the working people, and thus ultimately are defenders of the misnamed “educational reform.” This led to sharp discussions in our study circles in the teachers’ plantones (tent cities).

Now we have one more proof that we were right, coming straight from the mouth of AMLO himself. In a radio interview with the journalist Ciro Gómez Leyva, López Obrador “pointed out that he respects ‘the point of view of the teachers’ of the CNTE, but that he does not believe that the educational reform should be repealed, instead it should be revised” (El Universal, 14 July). AMLO added: “A repeal would be capitulation by the government … and this doesn’t suit anyone. We don’t want to build a new Mexico out of the ashes, there must be authority and we have to arrive at 2018 with stability, with social peace…. If Peña Nieto is utterly vanquished, then there won’t be stability, there won’t be a government.”

So accept a prettified education counter-reform in order to assert the authority of the president? The viewpoint of López Obrador is that of a bourgeois politician who, although he tries to pass himself off as a “friend” of the teachers, ultimately defends the interests of the capitalist class he belongs to. One can say the same of the PRD, which also pretends to be on the side of the teachers when in reality it signed Peña Nieto’s Pact for Mexico that was based on approving the educational counter-reform. Thus Miguel Ángel Mancera, the PRD head of the government of Mexico City, last week praised the leader of the SNTE, Juan Díaz de la Torre, for scabbing on the teachers strike.

This underscores the need to fight with total independence of the capitalist parties and politicians, not only against the vile PRI, PAN and PRD, but also their sidekicks in MORENA. The policy of class collaboration can only lead to defeats. A proof of this is the latest rubbish from the Stalinists of the Revolutionary Popular Front (FPR) and the Union of Education Workers (UTE), linked to the reformist Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist), who still have a certain influence among Oaxaca teachers.

It was the UTE and the FPR that most insistently pushed for Section 22 to call to vote for MORENA in the June 5 elections. Now, as they did a year ago, they are promoting capitulation. Last week, in an interview with Adiario (24 August), Rogelio Vargas Garfias, the founder and spokesman of the UTE, declared: “We are going back to the classroom because we are concerned about the education of our students, not because the government has ordered us to.”

This statement, which was widely publicized by TV news and the right-wing bought-off press, was a stab in the back for the striking teachers. An urgent meeting of the Section 22 leadership angrily refuted him. After more than three months on strike, the pressure from lost pay, the threat of firings and the repression is real. However, this is not a justification for capitulation. Quite the opposite, as we have insisted over and over, it makes all the more urgent the need to deepen, radicalize and extend the strike in order to win.

In order to combat the scabs of the phony “Section 59” of the corporatist SNTE and effectively prevent it from spreading, it is necessary to shut down the schools under its control with picket lines of teachers, parents and workers from other unions. Fighting to extend the strike to the rest of the education sector nationally and the workers movement is not a pipe dream. This is shown by the spread of mobilizations against the education counter-reform to states where only a few years ago teachers did not confront the government’s designs, not only Tabasco and Veracruz, but also Nuevo León (the stronghold of company and corporate unions), Sonora, Zacatecas and Puebla, as well as other states.

In Oaxaca and Chiapas, parents, particularly from Indian communities, have been key in defending the teachers strike. Now the government is counting on getting parents to put mounting pressure on the teachers for not taking care of their kids during school hours. To avoid this prospect, it’s necessary to involve students and parents massively in the teachers actions. But how?

Support from parents has been key in the teachers strike. Here they are confronting police in Mexico City, July 5.  (Foto: Fernando Ramírez/El Universal)

In the marches, a slogan which is frequently chanted is “the teacher in the struggle is also educating.” Let’s concretize this perspective: at key locations, the teachers could organize mass concentrations lasting all day long, where along with barricades and soup kitchens there is education of and with the students and parents in the class struggle. Put up blackboards in front of the IEEPO to teach about the functioning of capitalist institutions. Teachers can show how Peña Nieto plagiarized his “reform,” word for word, from reports of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation an Development). Eyewitnesses can illustrate the nature of the capitalist state and the murderous role of the police as the armed fist of the capitalists in Nochixtlán and Hacienda Blanca.

And let’s draw the lessons of the massacres of Tlatelolco in 1968, Chenalhó in 1997, the terrible night in Iguala in 2014, and of the more than 200,000 people murdered in the heinous “war on drugs” from 2006 on: it is not a matter of a particular government, but of the nature of the Mexican capitalist state. And then we should take up the corresponding measures: the “Agreements, Tasks, Pronouncements and Plan of Action” approved by the Permanent Mixed State Assembly of Section 22 on August 22 included as task number 2, “To set up self-defense brigades in every sector or region.” This should be carried out to the letter so that when the gendarmes and the police attack again, they will confront a forceful organized resistance.

Now is the key moment to extend the strike. Official delegations of striking teachers should go to workplaces of various unions explicitly calling on them to stop work. In plants of the Federal Electricity Commission they should urge workers to prepare to “hit the off-switch.” In Chiapas, they should speak with the workers at the hydroelectric plant Chicoasén, in Oaxaca with the workers of the Temescal hydroelectric plant. Here, there and everywhere they should contact telephone workers, as well as hospital workers. In Oaxaca, due to the work of the Grupo Internacionalista and the Comité de Lucha Proletaria going back more than a year agitating for solidarity with Section 22, health workers carried out solidarity work stoppages in support of the teachers for up to 72 hours, despite the corporatist union leaders.

In Mexico City, the National University should stop work now! The STUNAM (Union of Workers of the National Autonomous University of Mexico) has informed the administration of its strike authorization, as it ritually does every year. It has also declared solidarity with the CNTE. Together with students, this is the opportunity to make this solidarity concrete! The best way for UNAM workers to fight to reverse the blows to their working conditions and wages is by joining the teachers strike!

From the very beginning of the strike, the Grupo Internacionalista has not only called for it to be extended, but has gone to work organizing, both in Mexico City and Oaxaca, numerous brigades of teachers to agitate among workers of other sectors (telephone, electrical, health and university) to get them to join the teachers’ struggle, which is also theirs. Many workers sense the attacks which are threatening them, and express their desire to solidarize with the teachers. But it is necessary to defeat the pro-capitalist leaderships, and to break the straitjacket of the corporatist “labor” organizations in order to carry out that desire.

In the struggle to mobilize other unions in their support, the insurgent teachers can play a key role in forging, in the heat of the class struggle, the necessary instrument to lead this struggle to victory: a revolutionary workers party like the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky. Only a party based on the program of permanent revolution, explaining that in our epoch in semi-colonial countries such as Mexico, even resolving democratic tasks – such as winning and defending the right to free, high-quality education and health for all – requires a workers revolution. Only such a party will be able to lead the working class in taking power to install a workers and peasants government based on workers councils, which extends the socialist revolution to the rest of the hemisphere … and beyond.

For a genuine national strike to smash the education counter-reform!
Break with all the bourgeois parties and politicians!
Forge a revolutionary workers party!

  1. 1. See “Mexican Teachers Strike Braves Murderous Repression,” The Internationalist No. 43, May-June 2016.
  2. 2. Mexican investigative journalist Carmen Aristegui recently revealed that Peña Nieto’s thesis for his law degree was heavily plagiarized.
  3. 3. PRI, the Insitutional Revolutionary Party, ruled Mexico for seven decades, mostly as a one-party state, from 1929 to 2000. It regained the presidency under Peña Nieto in 2012.
  4. 4. Díaz was the dictator who ruled Mexico, directly or for a brief interlude through an underling, from 1876 to 1911. His braintrusters were known as Los Científicos and his policies consisted of “modernizing” Mexico through foreign investment imposed by brutal repression.
  5. 5. Mexicans First, a business group that sponsored the film De panzazo, a teacher-bashing propaganda film along the lines of Waiting for Superman in the U.S.
  6. 6. I.e., Porfirio Díaz was overthrown with the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1917.