November 2006    

“Cobra” armored personnel carrier with water cannon burned by defenders of Oaxaca University,
November 2.
(Photo: Tomás Martínez/Reforma)

Down with the PRI, PAN and PRD! Break with López Obrador
And His Popular Front! Form Workers Defense Committees!

The following is translated from a supplement to El Internacionalista, published by the Grupo Internacionalista, Mexican section of the League for the Fourth International.

NOVEMBER 10 – One hundred and seventy days after it began, the militant strike and mass rebellion which has convulsed the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, and is now shaking the entire country, has entered its decisive phase. The violent invasion of the state by federal police (PFP) and the armed forces unleashed a wave of opposition throughout the country and is reverberating internationally. It is clear to everyone that the military deployment has not had, at all, the intended effect of intimidating the population. The Oaxacan strikers are heroically resisting the assault by the federal government with the same tenacity that they have demonstrated during more than five months of battling the bloody and hated governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. From the very moment that they arrived in the state, the federal forces have been faced with resistance by battle-hardened social activists who do not surrender.

In a pitched battle that lasted seven hours around the Autonomous University of Oaxaca named for Benito Juárez (UABJO) on November 2, a powerful blow was struck against the PFP and the army personnel disguised as police (see “The Battle of Oaxaca University”). To the defeat suffered by an army of several thousand state police in their failed attempt to evict the massive teachers encampment last June 14 has now been added the undeniable defeat of the federal police. Their humiliating flight has had a stunning effect in demoralizing the troops, many of whom are of Indian origin just like those they are repressing. But for the workers and oppressed of the entire country, the militant mobilization of the Oaxacan masses against the attempt to shut down Radio University, and thereby silence the voice and organizer of the resistance, has had an electrifying effect.

On Sunday, November 5, Oaxaca’s sixth “mega-march” was held, bringing out tens of thousands of participants. Demonstrators took several hours to cover the eight-mile route. At the head of the march were relatives of the murdered, disappeared and political prisoners, followed by thousands of teachers from the Central Valleys region of the teachers union, Section 22 of the SNTE-CNTE. They had decided that, contrary to the back-to-work agreement between the Ministry of the Interior (Gobernación) and Section 22 leader Enrique Rudea Pacheco, they would “keep up the fight” until Ruiz Ortiz falls and the PFP leaves. “With Rueda or without Rueda, Ulises is out of here!” they chanted. In the face of repression, the resistance is spreading. For the first time Sunday, communities from the Sierra de Juárez in the northern part of the state were present in the march. But while the strikers celebrate – with good reason – their temporary victory while staying on maximum alert, the repressive forces are preparing a bloody response.

The Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) has called for going over to a general offensive. Without a doubt, this is the time to really give it to the governments of the murderous governor Ruiz Ortiz and the heinous president Vicente Fox Quesada. But what will it take to win? The Oaxacan insurgents have already demonstrated  incomparable courage and determination. They must not stand alone! In this struggle, the outcome doesn’t depend solely on the working masses of this besieged state, one of the poorest in Mexico. A nationwide mobilization of the working class is urgently needed, along with action internationally demanding: PFP and armed forces, get out of Oaxaca! Teachers throughout the country should strike now. The encampments and barricades of the Oaxaca teachers and their allies should be buttressed by the strength of the electrical workers of the SME, telephone workers of the STRM, Cananea miners, oil workers, university workers and workers of the maquiladoras (free trade zone factories). For more than five months, the Grupo Internacionalista has been calling for a national strike against the murderous government. Today it is more urgent than ever to turn this call into reality.

It is also necessary to underscore the importance of international struggle against repression in Mexico. For months, the struggle in Oaxaca went practically unnoticed outside the country. However, the murder of a U.S. journalist of the left-wing alternative press, Brad Will, on October 27, sent shock waves around the world There have been angry protests in dozens of countries and more than 50 cities in the United States, The U.S. ambassador, Tony Garza, who fancies himself a proconsul of the empire, gave the order for repression: the death of Will “highlights the need to return to the rule of law and order in Oaxaca,” he decreed. President Fox, who up until then had vacillated, immediately dispatched the PFP. Protesting on October 30 outside the Mexican consulate in New York, friends of the murdered activist carried a banner saying, “No State Violence in Brad’s Name – Government Forces Out of Oaxaca.” There were 12 arrests that day, and the protests continue. Our comrades of the Internationalist Group organized several pickets in New York against the repression in Oaxaca. Their signs declared, “Tlaltelolco ’68, Oaxaca, 2006: Massacres in Mexico, Made in U.S.A.” And in their chants they recalled the Oaxacan teacher murdered the same day: “Emilio Alonso, Brad Will – The struggle continues!”

As always, this class battle must be fought politically. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of Governor Ruiz and President Fox’s National Action Party (PAN) are widely hated for their repressive actions in Oaxaca. Now the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and its standard-bearer, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (widely known by his initials, AMLO) are attempting to coopt the Oaxacan struggle. They are trying to connect it to the massive protests “in defense of the vote” following the July 2 elections and the upcoming November 20 inauguration of AMLO as the “legitimate president” of an “itinerant government.” We warn that just like the PAN and the PRI, the PRD – a bourgeois nationalist-populist party – is not an ally but a class enemy of the teachers, workers and Indians of Oaxaca and the rest of the country. In each of the recent massacres (Sicartsa steel workers in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán in April; peasants and townspeople in San Salvador Atenco, near Mexico City, in May; teachers in Oaxaca in June), PRD authorities and legislators have fully joined in the repression. Thus in order to fight the capitalist onslaught, it is necessary to fight to form the nucleus of a revolutionary workers party.

From Popular Rebellion to Workers Revolution:
I – Break with the Popular Front!

Aftermath of battle between striking workers and federal, state and local police at Sicartsa steel mill, Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán, April 20. (Photo: Arnulfo Moro/Quadratín.com)

Left groups who talk today about a Oaxaca Commune claim that there is virtually a revolutionary situation in the state, if not in the country as a whole. A case in point is the Militante group, which calls itself the “Marxist tendency” … of the bourgeois PRD! The main leader of this tendency, Alan Woods, wrote an extensive article on “The Revolutionary Awakening of Mexico” (8 September) in which he refers to “the Popular Assemblies, which are soviets in all but name,” while saying that at the national level “elements of dual power are already coming into existence.” He claims that all the aspects of a revolutionary situation exist in Mexico today except for a revolutionary party. Woods and his International Marxist Tendency are constantly writing breathless accounts of this sort, having discovered revolutions underway in Venezuela (where they are advising the bourgeois military president Hugo Chávez on Trotskyism!) and Bolivia (where a workers uprising in June 2005 led to the election of the bourgeois populist president Evo Morales). Such claims show, on the one hand, that their authors live in an imaginary dream world, having lost confidence in the revolutionary capacity of the actual proletariat; and, on the other hand, they have redefined (i.e., revised) the revolutionary goals in order to make them consistent with the perspective of a “democratic” (bourgeois) revolution.

Even if there were a fully revolutionary situation or a Oaxaca “Commune,” the program put forward by these gentlemen would not be what a genuine Trotskyist party fights for. “All Power to the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca!” proclaims Militante stridently. “For a provisional government of the APPO and the worker, peasant and popular organizations in struggle,” says the Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (Socialist Workers League). Elsewhere, the latter organization calls for a “workers and people’s government of the APPO.” Rather than fighting for an organization of the working masses that could set the framework for a workers revolution, they look to the current leadership body. It’s not the first time. In Bolivia last year, these same groups hailed the “National and Indigenous People’s Assembly” (APNO), claiming that this was the equivalent of or “embryo” of soviets in the 1905 and 1917 Russian Revolutions. The League for the Fourth International, in contrast, called for the formation of real workers and peasants councils (soviets) while showing that the “APNO” was stillborn and nothing more than a leadership cartel of opportunists. The latter put on revolutionary airs in order to hide their own betrayals: at the height of the uprising, APNO leaders made way for a new bourgeois government instead of fighting for workers power (see “Myth and Reality: El Alto and the ‘People’s Assembly’,” The Internationalist No. 21, Summer 2005).

In Mexico today, the LTS calls for the APPO “to transform itself into an organ based on delegates elected in the districts, neighborhoods and workplaces.” Militante/IMT calls for “broad-based, democratic organs of revolutionary struggle, which the day after the victory of the insurrection can be transformed into organs of direct revolutionary democracy” (Woods, 8 September). But even if they were “democratic organs of revolutionary struggle” or if “tendencies for self-organization” of the masses are developing, this would not give the APPO a proletarian class character. All of history shows that the organizations of impoverished peasants and Indians, however democratic, in the absence of workers councils based in the big industrial centers, cannot lead a revolution. The peasantry (a contradictory petty-bourgeois layer) and indigenous peoples (an ethnic category) do not have the social power and coherent class interest characteristic of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Like other intermediate strata, they tend to follow one or the other of the fundamental classes. Certainly, many of the present components of the APPO could be part of workers and peasants councils on a national scale, but these would not be a simple extension of the present Oaxacan organization.

The LTS calls for the APPO to “open the way to a genuine insurrection of the exploited and oppressed and the establishment of a real workers and people’s power in Oaxaca.” To attempt an insurrection in the single state of Oaxaca would be a reformist adventure condemned to failure; in order to take power out of the hands of the bourgeoisie and establish proletarian rule a struggle must be waged nationally. A genuine – and not imaginary – Oaxaca Commune could not last in isolation. Only on a national level can a social revolution be begun, with a workers and peasants government that expropriates the bourgeoisie and extends the revolution internationally, above all to the United States. Elsewhere, the LTS calls on various “independent” union organizations like the National Union of Workers (UNT), the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME) and the National Coordinating Committee of Educational Workers (CNTE), along with the Zapatistas’ “Other Campaign,” to “call a national work stoppage in solidarity and a huge mobilization in the Federal District [Mexico City]” (Estrategia Obrera, 21 October). This is nothing more than the “civic work stoppage” that the APPO, the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) and some pro-PRD unions have called for – that is, a bourgeois mobilization that is qualitatively different from the national workers strike that the Grupo Internacionalista advocates.

Internationalist Group signs in October 30 protest outside Mexican consulate in New York: “Break with the AMLO/PRD Popular Front! For Workers Revolution!” (Internationalist photo)

What’s key for Oaxacan teachers and their allies in opening the way toward a revolutionary uprising of workers, peasants and all the exploited and oppressed against the bourgeoisie is to fight for proletarian independence from all the bourgeois parties and politicians. One has to ask one’s self, how is it possible that the teachers strike and popular rebellion in Oaxaca have not had an impact nationally? Where are the workers’ solidarity strikes, the marches of hundreds of thousands in Mexico City to support the struggle in Oaxaca? They haven’t happened. And not by chance: this is the direct result of the role played by the “popular front” around López Obrador’s PRD. Seeing as AMLO was able to call repeated mobilizations of up to 2 million people in Mexico City’s Zócalo; and since the PRD was able to paralyze the streets and avenues in the heart of the capital city from the beginning of August to mid-September, it is obvious that they could have massively mobilized their supporters on behalf of the Oaxaca teachers. Obviously they didn’t do so because the PRD is a bourgeois party, which defends the interests of capital against the working people. It doesn’t want to get mixed up in a struggle that could get out of hand for the ruling class. And the so-called “independent” unions are tied to a sector of the bourgeoisie via the AMLO popular front around the PRD.

Throughout this time, it has also been noteworthy that the Zapatistas have not lifted a finger for the Oaxaca teachers. While López Obrador was off campaigning for the PRD candidate for governor of Tabasco, Subcomandante Marcos continued his tour of the “Other Campaign” in the northern states. The same day that it was announced that Fox would decide whether or not to send federal forces to Oaxaca, Marcos, now known as Delegado Zero, said that he was limiting himself to “seeing and learning” from the struggle in Oaxaca, but “our support doesn’t go beyond that.” Why not? First of all, because “it is a very complex movement,” and second, in order not to give the right-wing an opening to accuse the teachers of being linked to armed groups (La Jornada, 27 September). Only after repression had been unleashed did he make a call for active solidarity with the Oaxaca struggle. Meanwhile, left groups who tag along after the PRD and the “Other Campaign” also have not mobilized to oppose repression in Oaxaca. What we are seeing is the unity in inaction of parliamentary and anti-parliamentary cretinism. If today, after the invasion of the PFP and armed forces, and above all due to the heroic resistance by the Oaxacan working people and youth, they are calling for a work stoppage or a national “mega-march,” it is only to regain control of a movement that is threatening to slip out of control of the bourgeoisie (PRD) and the armed-for-TV EZLN.

In the struggle in Oaxaca, the second most popular slogan – after “Ya cayó, ya cayó, Ulises ya cayó” (Governor Ruiz has fallen) – is “El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido” (The people united will never be defeated). The truth is rather the opposite – to the extent that the exploited and oppressed continue to be tied to sectors of the exploiters and oppressors in the name of the unity of the people, they will be defeated over and over. “The people united…” was, after all, the slogan of the Chilean Unidad Popular (whose anthem has been adopted and modified by the APPO), which prepared the way for the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The latter was installed as minister of defense of Salvador Allende, and a few months prior to the bloody coup of 11 September 1973, Pinochet reviewed the troops [of the Chilean army] in the company of Fidel Castro. Since the 1930s, popular-frontism has led to disaster for the working people: in Spain during the Civil War, leading to the dictatorship of general Franco; in France at the same time, leading to the dictatorship of Marshal Pétain; in Greece, Italy and France at the end of World War II, when it headed off workers revolution; in Indonesia in 1965, leading to the dictatorship of General Suharto, and so on. As Trotsky wrote in the Transitional Program:

“Under the banner of the October Revolution, the conciliatory politics practiced by the ‘People’s Front’ doom the working class to impotence and clear the road for fascism.

“‘People’s Fronts’ on the one hand—fascism on the other: these are the last political resources of imperialism in the struggle against the proletarian revolution.”

Those who claim that there already exists a revolutionary situation in Mexico today, rather than a potentially revolutionary one, notably the Militante group and the LTS, base themselves on a simple arithmetical operation: they add the rebellion that has paralyzed Oaxaca to the mobilization “in defense of the vote” in Mexico City and conclude that the country is about to explode. In doing so, they confuse the roiling mass strike led by radical petty-bourgeois forces (the APPO) which has confronted the capitalist state power, resisting with everything at hand the onslaught of the murderous repressive forces and rejecting various attempts by its leaders to sell out, on the one hand, and the ultra-peaceful mobilization called by and under the strict control of one of the main bourgeois parties (the PRD), whose aim was to pressure the electoral institutions and which López Obrador simply called off once it had served its purpose. They are not only disparate but counterposed quantities: the PRD leadership is a class enemy of the Oaxacan working people, which seeks to put an end to their strike. What we have here is the mathematics of the popular front. As Trotsky wrote about the ‘Theory of the Popular Front’ during the Spanish Civil War:

“The theoreticians of the Popular Front do not essentially go beyond the first rule of arithmetic, that is, addition: ‘Communists’ plus Socialists plus Anarchists plus liberals add up to a total which is greater than their respective isolated numbers. Such is all their wisdom. However, arithmetic alone does not suffice here. One needs as well at least mechanics. The law of the parallelogram of forces applies to politics as well. In such a parallelogram, we know that the resultant is shorter, the more component forces diverge from each other. When political allies tend to pull in opposite directions, the resultant may prove equal to zero.

“A bloc of divergent political groups of the working class is sometimes completely indispensable for the solution of common practical problems. In certain historical circumstances, such a bloc is capable of attracting the oppressed petty-bourgeois masses whose interests are close to the interests of the proletariat. The joint force of such a bloc can prove far stronger than the sum of the forces of each of its component parts. On the contrary, the political alliance between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, whose interests on basic questions in the present epoch diverge at an angle of 180°, as a general rule is capable only of paralyzing the revolutionary force of the proletariat.”

–Leon Trotsky, “The Lessons of Spain: The Last Warning” (December 1937)

This law has already been verified by events. Despite the great combativeness of the Oaxacan teachers union, Section 22, and its allies in the APPO, their leaders are or have been linked to the PRD. On July 2, they called to cast a “punishment vote” against the PRI and the PAN – in other words, a vote for the PRD. [Section 22 leader] Enrique Rueda Pacheco is a supporter of the PRD, as are the scabs of the Central Struggle Committee (CCL), whose “moral leader” is Humberto Alcalá Betanzos, currently secretary general of the Oaxaca state committee of the PRD. Flavio Sosa, the most visible spokesman of the APPO currently, was a member of the PRD and even called to cast a “useful vote” in favor of Fox  in the 2000 elections. In the state legislative assembly, PRD legislators voted prior to June 14 in favor of using “public force” (i.e., the police) against the teachers; they supported the governor’s “transparency” plan; they voted in favor of extending the term of the state legislature; and they joined the PRI and PAN in calling for the intervention of federal police forces against the strikers. The PRD is co-responsible for the deadly state violence against Oaxaca teachers, as they also are for the bloody attacks on peasants and town dwellers in Atenco and against steel workers in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán (see “Mexico: Bourgeois Elections and Workers Blood,” The Internationalist No. 24, Summer 2006).

The Grupo Internacionalista has insisted on the need to break with the popular front around the PRD and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, as we earlier warned against the harmful influence of the Cárdenas popular front in keeping the potential power of the working class tied to capitalist sectors. We call on the working people of Oaxaca, and all of Mexico, to break the corporatist shackles of “labor” federations such as the CTM, CT and CROC, and pseudo-unions like the national SNTE, which are part of the state apparatus. As such they act as veritable labor cops for the bourgeoisie, just as the company “unions” in the north do. In the case of Oaxaca they engage in scabherding against the teachers’ strike and even organize death squads. At the same time, it is also urgent to break the political chains which bind the “independent” unions and important sectors of the working class to bourgeois forces like the PRD. In order for the teachers’ insurgency to win, in order to sweep away the repression unleashed against the Oaxaca revolt and threatening all Mexican workers, it is necessary to fight to build a revolutionary and internationalist workers party, based on the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution.

II – Fight for Permanent Revolution

Given its lengthy and hard-fought nature, it is obvious that the struggle of the Oaxaca teachers is facing something more than a murderous governor. The fact that Ruiz Ortiz has been able to hang on for so long, not giving in to the pressures of the other bourgeois parties and even to his own PRI, that he can get away with using the most heinous methods with apparent impunity, indicates that there are important forces backing him. In fact, “URO” has clung to power with such obstinacy that one is led to consider that there are sinister forces that would be seriously affected if he should lose control of executive power in the state. There are, for one thing, the multi-million contracts handed out to the construction company of his brother, Hugo Ruiz Ortiz, to build or remodel dozens of town halls around the state, as well as the seat of government in Santa María Coyotepec and the legislative palace in San Raymundo Jalpan. There are journalistic reports according to which he “has mafia-like relations with the ‘tsar’ of drug trafficking in Oaxaca, Pedro Díaz Parada,” who “controls him to such a degree that he was able to get the State Police headquarters relocated to a property in the town of Santa María Coyotepec allegedly owned by Díaz Parada (Universal, 29 October). However, such cases of corruption exist in practically every state in Mexico.

More important is the fact that Ulises Ruiz Ortiz can count on the support of a tight-knit bourgeois layer which feels itself threatened by the teachers’ struggle and the APPO. The governor’s grandfather, Odilón Ruiz, was a cacique (political boss) in Chalcatongo, in the Mixtec region, where “people had to kiss his hand,” according to one local official – “and his feet,” added another (La Jornada, 24 September). There is a veritable oligarchic structure in the state which reproduces almost colonial relations between a white elite and the working population of Indian origin. It’s similar to conditions in Chiapas, where the “coletos” of San Cristóbal long for the old days when they held the Indians in vassalage, right up to when the latter unexpectedly (to the rulers) rose up on 1 January 1994.

In the current rebellion in Oaxaca, the specific demand for autonomy for the indigenous peoples has played a lesser role, since demands have focused on the throwing out the murderer-governor. Trotskyists insist that neither the juridical recognition of Indian rights nor the ouster of the particular rulers, as justified as these demands are, will produce a radical shift in the miserable living conditions of the working people and poor Indians. To free the indigenous peoples from the capitalist yoke requires a struggle for a workers, peasants and Indian government in Oaxaca in the framework of a workers revolution, nationally and internationally (see “The Other War Against Oaxaca’s Indigenous Peoples”).

PRI gunmen during October 27 attack on strikers’ barricades when U.S. journalist-activist Brad Will was murdered. (Photo: El Universal)

One of the few concrete programmatic points in López Obrador’s PRD presidential campaign was to call for revision or renegotiation of the chapter on agriculture and livestock of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, particularly concerning corn and beans, which has devastated the Oaxacan countryside. Marxist revolutionaries opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in its totality, as an attack on the livelihoods of working people in all three countries (Canada, U.S. and Mexico) benefiting the big capitalists. However, we do so not from a nationalist or patriotic standpoint, but as proletarian internationalists who seek the unity of the workers of the entire world, and particularly with our North American class brothers and sisters, in struggle against imperialism. Against the ravages of capitalist “globalization” we don’t propose an impossible return to a narrow national market, but rather the struggle for an planned socialized world economy.

One of the effects of NAFTA has been an enormous increase in the flow of Oaxacan migrants to the United States, to the point that large parts of the countryside today have been emptied of men and youth, who have all “headed north.” So many now live in the area around the city of Fresno, California that the region has been dubbed “Oaxacalifornia” (pronounced like Baja California). Ten percent of all Mexicans now live on U.S. territory, much of which was stolen from Mexico during the wars of the 19th century. Trotskyists fight for a revolutionary Mexico to become part of a Socialist United States of Latin America, in conjunction with the formation of an alliance of North American workers states including Mexico, the U.S., Canada and Quebec. Only in this way can we tear down the wall of death being built along the U.S.-Mexican border which cruelly separates workers’ families.

The participation of Mexican workers in the United States in protests against the government of Ulises Ruiz has been a notable aspect of this struggle. Even more important would be the extension of the strike to the Mexican capital and to key industrial sectors, because the repression being suffered by the Oaxacan population is not due to a peculiarity of the personality of “URO” or the ways of the PRI. Rather, it is part of an assault launched jointly by the main capitalist parties against the working people of Mexico. In order to extend the struggle nationally, in addition to breaking with the popular front of AMLO and the PRD, it is necessary to present a revolutionary program of transitional demands in defense of the working class of the entire country.

Thus, in order to fight the massive unemployment which is pushing mass emigration, we fight for a sliding scale of wages and work hours, in order to divide up the available work among all those seeking it, with no loss in wages and protection against inflation. We propose a national strike against any attempt to privatize the energy industry (electricity, oil), and to impose workers control in those industries in order to check the sabotage by the bosses government.

Amid this capitalist offensive against the working people in Oaxaca and the entire country, there is a burning need to prepare workers self-defense. The photos of Oxacan youth resisting the PFP with slingshots and stones are striking, but the cops aren’t always going to respond with their own slingshots and marbles. This was, as Ricardo Alemán wrote (in El Universal, 7 November), “a caricature.” The “Molotov cocktails” are merely defensive and have a limited effect. Oaxacan strikers have shown that they know how to respond with creativity and intelligence to the multiple provocations and aggressions of the government, its cops, thugs and goons. But the next time around it’s going to get serious.

So how to prepare the defense? By forming workers defense committees, under the command of the mass organizations of the workers, who equip themselves as well as possible to protect the masses in struggle against the threat (and in Oaxaca, the reality) of generalized repression. Such workers defense committees could serve as the nuclei of future workers militias, as long as they maintain their independence from the bourgeois state and parties. We do not call for the formation of “political-military” organizations separate from the workers movement, but for the strikers themselves to organize the defense, with maximum labor support.

It is no secret to anyone that Oaxaca abounds in armed groups, a direct consequence of the repressive PRI regimes. There are the Ejército Popular Revolucionario (ERP – Popular Revolutionary Army), the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo Insurgente (ERPI – Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People), the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias del Pueblo (FARP) and others. Since 1994, the government has sought to terrorize the rural areas of Oaxaca, particularly the region of Los Loxchica and the Mixteca, with its counterinsurgency campaigns. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and his rabid attorney general, Lizbeth Caña vituperate against the teachers strike attempting to link it to guerrilla groups in order to thereby justify military repression.

Up to now, the main guerrilla groups have kept their distance from the teachers strike and the APPO. On November 6, a conglomerate of small guerrilla groups that had split off from the EPR responded to the repression in Oaxaca by exploding some devices at various places in Mexico City. URO’s supporters used this as a pretext to call for a crackdown in Oaxaca. The APPO quickly distanced itself from the actions. But beyond the negative effect that such acts may have for the teachers’ struggle, and the tactical differences between the various guerrilla groups, there is an essential programmatic question: all these groups are fighting for “popular” or at most “revolutionary” democracy, not for socialist revolution. With the Stalinist program of “two-stage” revolution which these organizations share, they accept the capitalist framework. This is armed popular-frontism. 

Sensible elements of the Mexican bourgeoisie fear that, given the scope of the mobilization in Oaxaca, a bloodbath such as Ulises Ruiz & Co. have in mind could produce a massive guerrilla conflict. We defend leftist guerrillas against repression, as well as defending the teachers against idiotic claims that their strike is an “urban guerrilla struggle.” However, the Trotskyists take a different path: rather than peasant-based guerrillaism, we fight for workers mobilization on the program of permanent revolution.

Analyzing the Russian Revolution of 1905, Leon Trotsky concluded that in semi-colonial countries and where pre-capitalist forms of production prevail, the bourgeoisie can no longer carry out the tasks of the great democratic revolutions of past centuries. Only under the leadership of the working class can we achieve democracy, carry out the agrarian revolution and win national liberation from the imperialist yoke, by establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, supported by the peasantry, and extending the revolution. This was the program of the victorious October Revolution of 1917 led by the Bolshevik Party under Lenin and Trotsky, which proclaimed the onset of international socialist revolution.

Today there is a consensus among sectors of the PRD and various pseudo-socialist groups to call for a new constituent assembly in Mexico. The mid-August forum on governability, where there was a heavy PRD presence, called “for APPO to promote the installation of a Popular Government Council” and “a Constituent Congress which promotes a new Constitution” for Oaxaca. The LTS calls for “a workers and people’s government of the APPO” to “call a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly in the state,” adding a little leftist spice to the PRD slogan. For its part, the Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist) demands “a Revolutionary Provisional Government” which would call “a Democratic and Popular National Constituent Assembly out of which would come a New Constitution.”

Although the liturgy differs slightly from one denomination to the other, it is evident that they are all singing from the same hymn book. All are calling for a new government that would be part of a bourgeois democratic regime. A democratic constituent assembly, whether it is called revolutionary or not, does not surpass the limits of capitalism. Now, it’s true that the Oaxacan masses are fighting for democratic goals in opposing the despotic regime of Ulises Ruiz. However, the duty of all Marxist revolutionaries is to explain to these valiant fighters that democracy for the workers, peasants and Indians can not be won without a socialist revolution which overthrows the system of capitalist exploitation.

This is exactly what a speaker for the Grupo Internacionalista said at the forum called by the APPO. “The reality is that in all countries where capitalism exists, there is no democracy. Democracy for the bosses, for the rich, for the powerful, yes, but democracy for the poor, the landless, the workers, the poor peasants, Indians, homosexuals, women – there is no democracy for them.” Therefore, he insisted, it is necessary to forge a workers party based on the program of permanent revolution.

Pseudo-Trotskyist groups like the LTS and Militante don’t even bother to mention permanent revolution. They fight for democracy under capitalism, just as the Stalinists, who at least have the advantage of consistency between their “democratic” slogans and their “theory” of revolution in stages. Rather than calls for democratic, revolutionary and/or popular constituent assemblies, or for a “democratic and revolutionary national convention” (the slogan of Militante, which yearns for López Obrador’s National Democratic Convention to take power), the Trotskyists of the Internationalist Group fight for a workers and peasants government that establishes the rule of the working people, that is, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Only in this manner can the democratic revolutionary tasks be realized, by expropriating the capitalists, extending the revolution internationally and beginning socialist construction.

The Grupo Internacionalista’s Struggle for Workers Mobilization…

The mass strike in Oaxaca, now in its sixth month, represents the highest level of struggle by Mexican working people in several decades. It comes in the context of a series of Latin American workers’ struggles in recent years, among them the worker and peasant uprisings in Bolivia in 2003 and 2005 and the earlier struggle of the Argentine piqueteros (picketers). In Mexico there was the struggle of the Social Security (IMSS) workers in 2004, when they surrounded the Senate trying to block passage of a law “reforming” their pensions; and more recently, the struggle of the Sicartsa workers which ended in a hands-down victory at the end of August.

The Grupo Internacionalista and the League for the Fourth International have sought to intervene around the struggle in Oaxaca in order to propagandize the Trotskyist program for cohering a revolutionary proletarian leadership, and to carry out actions of workers solidarity. The very day of the violent attempted eviction of the Oaxaca Zócalo, June 14, our comrades of the Internationalist Group in the U.S. called a protest picket in front of the Mexican consulate in New York, as they did again the next day, this time with the participation of a whole contingent from the faculty union of the City University of New York (CUNY). At the same time, comrades of the Grupo Internacionalista in Mexico traveled to Oaxaca, where they were constantly present over a period of two months.

The U.S. and Brazilian sections of the LFI mobilized again on September 21, initiating a demonstration of some 150 people in New York, including many teachers and professors, in defense of the Oaxaca strikers; and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on the same day teachers marched with a banner announcing that the local of the teachers union SEPE in the city of Volta Redonda was calling for workers’ strikes in solidarity with the Oaxaca teachers.

The LFI produced a DVD, “Class Battles in Mexico,” in English and Spanish, focused on the Oaxacan struggle, which has been shown in assemblies of students and teachers in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil, and has been broadcast on cable television in New York. With the military/police invasion of Oaxaca, the Internationalist Group called an emergency picket in front of the Mexican consulate in New York on the same afternoon, October 28, and again on the 30th, and participated in a third protest on October 31.

In Mexico, the Grupo Internacionalista has carried out intense activity around the struggle in Oaxaca during the months of September and October. The GI attended several meetings of Sections 9 and 10 of the SNTE-CNTE (representing primary and secondary school teachers in the capital), calling on the teachers of the Federal District to undertake a strike against the (then) threat of large-scale repression in Oaxaca. We initiated an assembly on September 13 at the CCH-Sur (college preparatory school for sciences and humanities) on Oaxaca, with several students present from the University of Oaxaca. On September 22, we went to a meeting of the Mexico City APPO to inform them about the protests in New York and Rio de Janeiro, and to fight for the perspective of a strike based on the working class to halt the repressive machinery of the capitalists.

Contingent of the Grupo Internacionalista in march of Oaxacan teachers as it arrived in México City, October 9. (Photo: El Internacionalista)

The GI marched with the Oaxacan teachers during the last three days of the APPO march that arrived in the capital on October 9. We carried a banner proclaiming: “Proletarian Solidarity with Oaxaca Teachers! For a National Strike Against the Murderous Government! Form Workers Defense Committees! Down with the PAN, PRI and PRD! Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!”

In protest against the federal police invasion of Oaxaca, the GI initiated – together with other student activists at the school, essentially anarchists – a successful shutdown of  CCH-Sur on Thursday, October 26. The same day, several of our comrades played an active role in carrying out a shutdown of the School of Philosophy and Literature at the National University (UNAM). On the 31st, during a second shutdown of CCH-Sur, students of the GI led a 150-strong march from the campus to the Oaxacan teachers plantón (encampment) outside the Senate. These were the main stoppages in Mexico City, along with a shutdown at CCH-Naucalpan, where a couple of days earlier a student was shot to death and four wounded by porros (pro-government thugs).

At the same time, the Grupo Internacionalista went to important unions in the capital, urging them to strike against the repression. On October 5, the GI led a brigade of students from CCH-Sur to electrical plants to talk with workers about the need to mobilize their tremendous social power on behalf of the Oaxacan strikers. In the course of the student walkouts against the PFP invasion, we took a contingent of 50 students to the headquarters of the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME) on October 31 to talk about the need for workers action in support of the Oaxcan strikers under attack.

Passeata SEPE-RJ, 23 setembro 2006. Foto: CLCTeachers march in Rio de Janeiro, September 21, with banner saying “SEPE of Volta Redonda Calls On Working Class to Strike in Solidarity with Teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico.” Comitê de Luta Classista, union tendency of Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, led struggle for workers solidarity. (Photo: CLC)

On October 26, a spokesman for the GI and several student strikers went to the General Strike Council of the Union of Workers of the National University (STUNAM) where they asked to speak about the urgent case of Oaxaca. Our comrade said that “what is now happening in Oaxaca is part of a larger series of attacks by the bourgeoisie against the working people which has extended over the final stretch of Fox’s six-year term.” If the strike of the Oaxaca teachers is defeated, he added, “this will mean wage cuts and anti-union attacks on other sectors, particularly energy and education,” which have been in the government’s sights for some years.

The student walkouts, he went on, although they are important, “are far from sufficient” to stop the repression. The UNAM workers have every interest in defending their class brothers and sisters in Oaxaca, and so they should go on strike, “not only in defense of their jobs and wages, but also to bring to a grinding halt the repressive machinery of the government. What is needed is a national strike against the murderous government. The STUNAM could play a key role in unleashing a struggle of the necessary proportions.” The speech by our comrade was well-received: we were told later by delegates who were present that “it shifted the ground for the workers” over the need to act against the repression in Oaxaca.

September 21 New York protest initiated by IG drew some 150 protesters, including NYC teachers, City University professors and students.  (Internationalist photo)

In another university labor organization, the Union of Workers of the Autonomous Metropolitan University (SITUAM), militants and sympathizers of the Grupo Internacioanlista who belong to the union spoke at the General Delegates Assembly on November 8. A comrade made an energetic intervention, noting that “the SITUAM has called, over and over, for carrying out actions of solidarity with the Oaxaca teachers and against repression. The time has come to pass from words to deeds. What’s necessary is not only to stop work this Friday, but to prepare a national strike against the repression.” He stressed that “the workers must understand that if there is a ‘final solution’ using the whole force of the state, the murderous attacks against workers’ struggles will spread to more and more places.”

Our motion did not succeed, but the next day at the Iztapalapa campus of the UAM we got a very positive reception from the workers, who voted to reproduce a wall newspaper produced by the GI on the struggle in Oaxaca. Although it may not be to the bureaucrats’ liking, they can’t escape the class struggle and they may be surprised to find that one fine day this giant, the Mexican proletariat, that has been pinned to the ground has broken the chains that bind it and risen up. It all depends on the attacks of the bourgeoisie and the capacity of the revolutionaries.

We have cited the activities of the Grupo Internacionalista and the League for the Fourth International to indicate how a small communist nucleus should respond to a large-scale class struggle. Our efforts have not always brought immediate results, but as shown by the student walkouts and shutdowns, they can have an effect. It’s worth recalling that during the UNAM strike of 1999-2000, the GI insisted repeatedly on the need for worker-student defense guards until, on the very day when the army was going to take University City, a contingent from the SME showed up to form the first workers defense guards (with hundreds of participants) seen in Latin American in a long time.

…And to Forge a Revolutionary Leadership

The necessary actions of solidarity and mobilization only constitute a part of the tasks of the revolutionaries. What’s indispensable is the struggle to form the nucleus of a communist vanguard party to resolve the excruciating crisis of proletarian leadership. There is not going to be, we have repeated over and over, a greater example of audacity, tenacity and courage on the part of the workers than what we have seen in Oaxaca. They are already conscious of the need to break the shackles of bourgeois corporatism of the national SNTE, the CTM, the CROC and other charro (corporatist) federations. “Against Charro and Neo-Charro Unionism!” says the Section 22 banner, showing greater consciousness than some opportunists, like the Grupo Espartaquista de México (Spartacist Group of Mexico), an outfit that considers these labor police bodies to be genuine workers unions.

We have emphasized that militancy is not sufficient in order to win the struggle. To the extent that the Oaxacan strikers continue to be chained to capitalist sectors, their admirable spirit of struggle will be sacrificed, and they will be blackmailed in order to maintain a phony “alliance” with so-called “progressive” bourgeois forces, in this case Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his Party of the Democratic Revolution. Today, the popular front around AMLO and the PRD is the biggest impediment preventing the mass strike in Oaxaca from having a powerful echo in the rest of the country. Therefore it is necessary to break with this class-collaborationist alliance and fight for a revolutionary workers party.

Painting of Leon Trotsky by Yuri Annenkov, last shown at Venice Biennale in 1924.

It must be a Leninist-Trotskyist party, because without the iron organization and intransigent program of the Bolsheviks, it won’t be possible to overcome the tremendous pressure of the bourgeoisie. Such a party will also have to act as a “tribune of the people,” the defender of all the oppressed, for the emancipation and liberation of women, including the right to free abortion on demand, and for defense of homosexuals and demanding an end to all anti-gay laws. These demands will be viciously opposed by the Catholic church and its political representatives, including “community” leaders who raise the Virgin of Guadalupe on their banners in order to combat the unions and blind the workers as to their class interests.

A revolutionary workers party must also be the champion of the poor peasants and Indians in the struggle against their age-old exploitation and oppression, at the same time maintaining its class independence against those who in raising the banner of Zapatism want to repeat the failed bourgeois revolutions of the past. Mexico has already had three “democratic” revolutions – that of Independence, from 1810 to 1822; that of the Reform, from 1855 to 1861; and the Mexican Revolution from 1910 to 1917. All have monuments and avenues in the capital named after them, but their leaders were assassinated and the workers and peasants continue to be mired in poverty. The Grupo Internacionalista insists: the next Mexican revolution will be a workers revolution, or it will not be.

The party we need to win this class war must be internationalist to the core. The tri-color flag belongs to the bourgeoisie, not to the indigenous peoples massacred under colonial and republican rule alike; nor is it the flag of the peasants, who are used as cannon fodder by the bourgeois armies, including to kill their brothers as is now happening in Oaxaca. Ours is the red flag of the working class of the entire world, emblazoned with the hammer, sickle and “4” of the Fourth International. In contrast to those who want to compete with the PRI and the PRD in waving patriotic symbols, the Trotskyists fight to begin an international socialist revolution.

Only by extending the struggle north of the border, to the imperialist centers, will it be possible to mobilize the resources needed to overcome the suffocating economic backwardness endured by semicolonial countries like Mexico. Precisely because of the depredations of imperialism, today millions of Mexican workers are already indispensable parts of the U.S. productive machinery, both those who live “in the belly of the beast” and the hundreds of thousands who work in maquiladora plants on this side of the border, which is increasingly artificial in the face of the relentless march of the world capitalist economy.

For a few days Mexico is going to have three presidents (Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Felipe Calderón and Vicente Fox), all of them enemies of the workers. But while those at the top squabble over possession of Los Pinos (Mexico’s White House), they are worried that a new six-year term that begins with a bloodbath could be doomed. Moreover, their godfathers in Washington, who think they are the masters of the world, having gotten bogged down in Iraq, are well-aware that a miscalculation in Mexico would have repercussions inside the United States, The outcome of the struggle of the Oaxacan teachers will be decided on the national and international stage, where the Trotskyists fight for workers revolution throughout the Americas. n

Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!
Fight for a Workers and Peasants’ Government!

See also:

The Battle of Oaxaca University (10 November 2006)
The “Other War” Against the Indigenous People of Oaxaca (10 November 2006) 
A Oaxaca Commune? (10 November 2006) 

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