To Smash the Capitalist Education Counter-Reform
Mexico: For a National Education Strike!
Combative teachers of the CETEG march on capital of Guerrero, April 18. They must not be alone.
Since February 25, teachers of the Guerrero State Coordinating Committee of Education Workers (CETEG) have been on strike against the educational counter-reform ordered by Mexico’s president and implemented by the tripartite government of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), PAN (National Action Party) and PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) via the “Pact for Mexico.” This phony “reform” is in reality a capitalist attack on public education and teacher unionism. In fact, the combative Guerrero teachers are doing what the teachers of Mexico as a whole should be doing: waging an all-out battle to defend their rights and the welfare of their students. Guerrero is showing the way!
Enough of the lying talk of a supposed “dialogue”! This bosses’ government, like its predecessors, carries out “dialogue” with riot clubs and bullets. Although it has made Elba Esther Gordillo, the now ex-president of the corporatist National Union of Education Workers (SNTE by its initials in Spanish), a scapegoat bureaucrat, its real goal is to destroy the independent teacher unionism that for the last quarter century has been a thorn in the side of the Mexican bourgeoisie. For that very reason, the Guerrero teachers must not be abandoned. A national education strike is necessary in order to defeat the repression and defend free public education.
The bourgeois media are endlessly vituperating against the strikers in Guerrero. They repeat the verdict of the federal secretary of government (interior minister) Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong that the protests “have gone too far.” They demand that the state give the teachers “the treatment they deserve.” In the face of their mobilizations, the press and TV are clamoring for blood. With a distinct taste of racism which they don’t even bother to hide, they refer to the “vandals,” the barbarians who have come down out of the mountains to wipe out everything. (They are referring to the impoverished, largely indigenous population of Nahua, Tlapanec and Mixtec Indians of the La Montaña region of Guerrero from which many of the striking teachers come.)
The rebellious teachers are confronting a united ruling class. The main obstacle to win this struggle is political: it’s necessary to break with all the capitalist parties and politicians. The Guerrero educators have already understood that they must wage the struggle not only against the PRI and PAN, but also against the PRD of Governor Ángel Aguirre. At the same time, it is necessary to break with the phony bourgeois “opposition” of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his MORENA (Movement for National Regeneration), which seeks to channel the struggles “from below” into the dead-end of parliamentary politics. He already did it with the electrical workers, and now he wants to do it with the teachers.
From Guerrero to Tijuana,
From the Mountains to the Coast:
Phalanxes of federal police wait for teachers on superhighway outside Chilpancingo, April 11.
(Photo: Raul Ibanez/ZumaPress)
Following the installation of a camp in Chilpancingo, the state capital of Guerrero, the CETEG aroused the ire of the bourgeoisie. After a few weeks, their struggle made the front pages of the national press when at the beginning of the spring (Holy Week) vacation they began blocking the Superhighway to the Sun, linking Mexico City to Acapulco. It’s one thing to strike in the remote areas of the Costa Chica (in southeastern Guerrerro), but it’s something else again to impede access to toney resort areas like Punta Diamante and the Acapulco beaches. The PRD governor agreed to present a bill to reform the local law that would “take up” the concerns of the teachers. A hopeless illusion! The state legislature rejected the reform, and the teachers went back on the offensive.
Since the beginning of April, contingents of federal police arrived in Chilpancingo to carry out “training” maneuvers for “social containment.” They formed up like Roman legions with their shields, marching in tight phalanxes. D-day came on April 5: with a force of over 1,000, the police pushed the teachers to the side of the highway, in the very place where on 12 December 2011 the Federal Police, backed up by state police, shot dead two students from the teacher training college at Aytzinapa. TV evening news programs praised the “clean and precise” repressive operation.
Nevertheless, the Guerrero teachers have continued with their mobilizations, blocking the superhighway at least once a week. On April 18, they marched on the local Congress to demand once again that the bill proposed by the CETEG be enacted in order to maintain the free, public character of education, to establish a state institute of teacher evaluation and to guarantee the teachers’ labor rights. But the legislature fled to the Pacific port city, and on April 24 in a special session in the Acapulco convention center they approved a law to implement the federal “reform.”
Like the Oaxaca teachers in Section 22 of the SNTE/CNTE with their Plan for the Transformation of Education in Oaxaca, the Guerrero teachers of CETEG sought to limit the reach of the anti-education law approved at the federal level by means of state laws that would recognize their rights. However, this road leads to a dead-end, given that it subordinates the struggle to what the political representatives of capital will vote for. As the Guerrero legislators have shown, this is a recipe for failure.
Meanwhile, in the states of Mexico [the state surrounding the Federal District of Mexico City], Morelos, Zacatecas, Durango, Tlaxcala and Coahuila, tens of thousands of teachers have begun mobilizations against the educational “reform” of the Pact for Mexico. In Michoacán, the students at the rural teachers colleges have again mobilized in defense of their schools, which the bourgeoisie wants to close (see “Defend the Rural Teacher Colleges,” El Internacionalista supplement of November 2012). In the Federal District, the administration of the National University (UNAM) is seeking to impose a “reform” to the Colleges of Science and Humanities (junior colleges) with repressive police control on the campuses, sparking student opposition.
There are protests everywhere, as in past years, but only in Guerrero have they launched an unlimited strike. However, despite its great willingness to struggle, Guerrero alone cannot win in this war of capital against the teachers unions and public education. A national strike of ALL the educational sector is indispensable. This would aid in breaking the corporatist straitjacket which the SNTE imposes on the hundreds of thousands of educators that it regiments. And it could unleash a proletarian counteroffensive against the almost three decades of free fall in the living standards of Mexico’s working people.
An “Educational Reform” Ordered by Imperialism
A counter-reform dictated by
imperialism. "Guidelines" for evaluating
teachers decreed by the OECD.
The counter-reform threatens the entire educational system. In primary and secondary schools, standardized tests (without any scientific or pedagogical value) will be used to carry out massive firings, above all of the dissident teachers. The schools themselves, financed according to the test scores, will have the “power” to seek alternative sources of funding. This opens the way for de facto privatization by imposing fees, and the closure of schools in the most impoverished areas which lose state funding and can’t attract resources.
At the junior college (bachillerato) and university level, the bourgeois assault intends to slash the number of available slots by sharply increasing tuition and fees and developing a model of bank loans to pay them (such as the Chilean students and workers have been fighting), which will saddle students with decades of debt. By turning education into a commodity rather than a democratic right, the access of the children of working people and poor families to higher education will be even more limited. And the reduction in the student body will provide a pretext for massively firing teaching personnel and administrative workers.
The Pact for Mexico, signed by PRI president Enrique Peña Nieto with the leaders of the two main “opposition” parties, the clerical reactionary PAN and the bourgeois nationalist PRD, was inaugurated with the education counter-reform. The bill approved by Congress in January was dictated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2010, President Felipe Calderón (of the PAN) signed an agreement with the OECD to “clearly define teaching standards” in order to “establish a national entrance exam and other evaluation tools” for hiring and firing teachers. The was the beginning of the “reform” ordered by Peña Nieto.
Needless to say, the “agreement” with the OECD does not resolve any of the problems which beset education in this country. Not a word about the fact that public schools wage a daily battle to keep functioning with meager resources. That many schools in rural areas, as well as in marginalized urban areas, lack running water, lights, adequate ventilation, not to mention libraries, computers and other elementary teaching materials. That many students lack a sufficient diet of proteins and other nutrients, in a country in which, according to the government itself, 7.5 million people are suffering not just from hunger but from famine conditions.
So what then does this “reform” base itself on? On the thesis that those responsible for the disastrous situation of education in Mexico are the teachers and their unions, especially those that are independent of control by the bourgeois state. Thus, according to the OECD, it is necessary to “open all teaching jobs to competition” and to “create periods of hiring and evaluation” by instituting temporary contracts which would facilitate firings. By means of “stimuli” for productivity (as if this was piecework production in a free trade zone maquiladora), they hope that teachers will stop fighting collectively in defense of their interests and thereby undercut the foundations of their unions.
The corporatist SNTE, which far from being a workers union is a government organization, signed together with Calderón the infamous Alliance for Educational Quality to implement the “agreement”/diktat of the OECD. This alliance is still intact, despite the jailing of the president-for-life of the SNTE. This was understood by the head of the OECD, José Ángel Gurría, a former finance minister under PRI president Ernesto Zedillo, who praised Peña Nieto for putting an end to “the practices and customs of the teachers union,” which he blamed for Mexico’s backwardness in educational matters, and for “eliminating union interference in the administration of resources dedicated to education” (Excelsior, 12 January).
The struggle to defend public education and the rights of education workers in Mexico is at the forefront at the outset of the new six-year PRI presidency. Teachers and students want to fight. They admire the Guerrero teachers for resisting the onslaught of the Federal Police. Some wave red flags and make references to Marx and Lenin. But what they have so far not understood is that there is no (bourgeois) “democratic” solution to the assault on public education by capital, and that instead it is necessary to fight for socialist revolution in order to defeat it.
The government of Enrique Peña Nieto is directly attacking the constitutional right for free, secular public education. He is doing so as a subcontractor of Washington and Wall Street. Just as the Guerrero teachers cannot win alone against the PRI-PAN-PRD government, the OECD and other imperialist international organizations will not be defeated by a struggle limited to Mexico. It is necessary to extend the revolutionary struggle into the heartland of the imperialist beast, the United States, where teachers and students confront the same enemies as their Mexican comrades.
In order to wage this struggle, what’s needed is an internationalist party like Lenin’s Bolsheviks to place itself at the head of the exploited and oppressed in order to dispose of the capitalist system which today is systematically destroying the democratic gains of the past, even partial ones, such as those achieved in public education. This is the task to which the Grupo Internacionalista devotes its efforts. ■
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