After Massacres at Sicartsa Steel Mill and Atenco
Not One Vote For the Bourgeois Parties
PRI, PAN y PRD!
The following is a translation of a leaflet by the Grupo Internacionalista, Mexican section of the League for the Fourth International, distributed in Oaxaca where 300,000 people marched June 16 to protest the bloody police attack on striking teachers there two days earlier.
JUNE 16 – Two weeks before the Mexican presidential elections, the government of Oaxaca under Governor Ulises Ruiz of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) staged a blatant provocation, violently evicting teachers who have been occupying the downtown area of the state capital. In the classic manner of military dictatorships, thousands of city and state police fell upon the teachers as they were sleeping in the 53 blocks where they have been camped out for the last three weeks. Firing off tear gas grenades in all directions, they invaded the union headquarters, destroyed the teachers’ tents and burned what was left of their encampments. But the government only succeeded in shooting itself in the foot, and the eviction was a failure. After three hours of pitched battle, the 40,000 strikers managed to break through the police barriers and to drive out the forces of repression.
Amid the great confusion reigning in the city, there were reports of several people killed: an initial notice by the Mexican Red Cross reported eleven dead, a number that was later reduced to four according to spokesmen for the teachers and the Oaxaca daily Noticias. Clarity is still lacking on this issue. What is certain is that Social Security hospitals treated 92 people wounded in the attack, several of them in serious condition; in addition, a number of teachers are still missing. In short, the streets of Oaxaca ran red with the blood of the working people. It was a real massacre – the third in less than two months – coming after the April 20 shooting of workers at the Sicartsa steel plant in the Pacific Coast port city of Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán; and the deadly attack on the townspeople of San Salvador Atenco, near Mexico City, on May 4. In the electoral contest, each of the three main bourgeois parties is posing as being the toughest on “security” issues. In fact, the PAN (National Action Party), PRI and PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) have all sent killer cops against the working people. This is how the Mexican ruling class prepares its electoral farce drenched with workers’ blood.
In the wake of his failed paramilitary operation and facing the fury of the working class nationally and internationally, Governor Ruiz had to retreat. He freed ten strikers and suspended (but did not drop) arrest orders for 25 teachers union leaders. The federal government of President Vicente Fox joined in and the Ministry of the Interior (under the rightist Carlos Abascal) dispatched an undersecretary to act as mediator. They intimated that all of a sudden they might be able to find federal funds to pay for “rezoning” the teachers which would provide a minimal raise to their starvation wages. But matters will not be resolved with a round-table “dialogue.” This battle is not over, and any “truce” could prove fatal. Although they have withdrawn from the center of the city, the strikers have not abandoned their mass sit-in and they are now demanding the head of the repressive governor. The union has called not to vote for any of the presidential candidates, and is proposing to boycott the July 2 election – which they have the power to disrupt, at least on the state level.
What is urgently needed at this time is to break out of the state framework and to undertake a national strike against the murderous government, fighting for victory to the strikes by Oaxaca teachers and mine workers; for total trade-union independence from the bourgeoisie, breaking the shackles of the corporatist pseudo-unions and throwing back the government attack on miners and metal workers; for freeing and dropping all charges against the arrested workers, peasants and teachers, victims of the repressive onslaught by the ruling class. Above all, what’s needed is a political reply to the bourgeoisie’s class offensive, refusing to give a single vote to the PAN, PRI, PRD or any other bosses’ party, breaking with the popular front tying the “independent” unions to the PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and forging the nucleus of a revolutionary workers party which would fight for a workers and peasants government to begin international socialist revolution.
Teachers, Miners and Peasants in the Face of the Capitalist
is striking that in each of the recent massacres, the workers under
tenaciously resisted the repression and routed the repressive forces.
Cárdenas, they took back the Sicartsa steel mill in a
against the police and marines. (It now seems that the Fox government
trying for a repeat performance in the copper mine town of Cananea,
Sonora near the Arizona border, where the miners walked out when they
ordered to work on the centenary of the great strike that sparked the
Revolution of 1910-17.) In Atenco, hundreds of police
state of Mexico fled from the fury of the population incensed over the
of some flower sellers. And now in Oaxaca, the uniformed
dogs of capital received a sharp response from those they sought to put
It began with a silent operation in the early morning ours of June 14. At 4:50 a.m., the general secretary of the union, Enrique Rueda Pacheco, sounded the alert over Radio Plantón (Radio Sit-Down, the strikers’ radio station), calling on the ranks to prepare for “organized resistance against the repression that the state government is carrying out in an irrational manner.” At 5:15, the police took over the Teachers’ Hotel (union headquarters), a few blocks from the city center, and then advanced on the Zócalo, Oaxaca’s central plaza. Enveloped in dense clouds of tear gas from troops on the ground and from a helicopter which flew over the plaza for hours, the police managed to momentarily “recapture” the Plaza de Armas and the Alameda. At gunpoint and brandishing riot clubs, they pillaged and burned the teachers’ encampments, dismantled the equipment with which the strikers broadcast Radio Plantón, and savagely beat teachers they encountered.
But what happened next certainly wasn’t part of the operational plan. While the governor with hands soaked in blood tried to hide his crimes behind his own cloud of verbal laughing gas, talking about a fantastical “state of law,” Excélsior (15 June) reported on its front page that the teachers “Force Police to Flee.” The Oaxaca daily Noticias described how the teachers used buses to smash through police barricades:
“At around 7:45, the 40,000 teachers regrouped almost in their entirety and began to corner the police who as the minutes passed were forced to fall back on the Alameda de León and the Zócalo, due to a shortage of munitions, mainly tear gas canisters. A helicopter of the special operations police circled over the historical city center and fired off grenades on multiple occasions, but still they could not defeat the teachers….
“About 8:50, the educational workers now numbered thousands and proceeded to launch the final battle. The police were forced to pull back and abandon the Zócalo, retreating along Bustamante Street, after offering their last defense.”
Throughout the day, federal and state authorities bandied about threats of a new attack by the Federal Preventive Police (PFP). It was reported that Hercules troop transport planes filled with the paramilitary police were headed to Oaxaca to “finish the job.” The governor wanted to “clear” the Zócalo in order to “promote tourism” and carry out the demands of the state Coparmex (employers’ association) to get rid once and for all of this “rabble” of teachers who fight for higher wages. Ruiz claimed to have the support of the federal government, but apparently the president’s office decided otherwise. Interior minister Abascal announced later that it would be “better” not to attempt a new eviction. The federal government made an electoral calculation and decided to leave the PRI governor twisting in the wind.
The Story of the SNTE and CNTE: Oaxaca Teachers in the Eye of the Storm
In the face of the all-sided anti-labor repression, what’s needed is a class-struggle leadership to wage an all-out battle against the capitalist government. In the first place, it is necessary to burst the shackles of the corporatist “trade-unionism” (represented by the CTM, CROC, CROM, CT, SNTE and related federations) which during more than half a century of PRI rule served as the labor police of the regime to suppress the Mexican workers, break their strikes and murder their best fighters on a mass scale. Today the corporatist bureaucrats offer their services to the Fox government, although they have occasionally fallen afoul of their godfather as they find themselves caught between a furious proletariat and a decaying regime in a tight spot. This is what happened with the mine leader Napoleón Gómez Urrutia (“Napito”) after the “industrial homicide” in Pasta de Conchos1 for which the corporatist mine and metal workers union was co-responsible along with the company and the capitalist state.
Police destroyed the teachers camp and burned the remains. (Photo: Indymedia México)
The effects of the corporatization of the workers movement in Mexico are still being felt. The National Education Workers Union (SNTE), under its caudillo (strong man) Carlos Jonguitud, served for decades as the political instrument of the PRI (of which it was a part) to control the rural areas of the country. When discontent over his misrule boiled over, Jonguitud was replaced by the current “moral leader” of the SNTE, Elba Esther Gordillo, who was hand-picked by the PRI president Carlos Salinas de Gortari and designated union president in an all-night meeting in Gobernación (the interior ministry). The SNTE maintained its control over the teachers through internal terror, with bands of hired gunmen whose job was to “clean out” any dissidents. Jonguitud and Gordillo between them are responsible for the assassination of more than 150 members of their “union.” When a labor body engages in mass murder of its members, dedicates itself to breaking strikes and not simply selling them out (as the reformist bureaucrats regularly do), when it is an integral part of a whole repressive apparatus, then it is no longer a workers union, but instead a state apparatus for control of labor.
The Oaxacan teachers in particular rebelled against this repressive apparatus, playing a key role in the National Educational Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a union tendency which in much of the country acts as a separate union. This is the case in the state of Oaxaca, where the CNTE controls Section 22 of the SNTE. Although the PRI no longer holds the presidency of the country, the corporatist apparatuses have continued offering their services to the federal government, now run by the PAN. Thus the general secretary of the SNTE, Rafael Ochoa, declared that “the SNTE dissociates itself” from the Oaxaca teachers’ struggle. In the same tone as Fox’s education secretary, he asked “who is supplying the money to pay for the [strike] movement” (La Jornada, 6 June). Even after the June 14 massacre, Ochoa insists that “the teachers in the struggle belong to the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE) and not to his union” (Noticias [Oaxaca], 15 June). The SNTE leaders yearn to put an end to the labor militancy of the Oaxaca teachers and would not hesitate to call on the police to do so, as they have done against the CNTE in Mexico City.
But breaking the stranglehold of corporatism on the Mexican workers is far from sufficient. It is also necessary to free the proletariat from the political bonds tying it to the ruling class via the pro-capitalist leaderships of the “independent” unions who are subordinate to the PRD, among them top leaders of the CNTE. It is pro-PRD union bureaucrats in the first instance who stand in the way of joint action by the proletariat on a national scale against the repression (offering the mockery of a three-hour national work stoppage). They don’t want to pose problems for PRD candidates and particularly for its presidential hopeful, López Obrador, who calls for “dialogue” with the butchers (i.e., for the teachers, miners, peasants, etc. to surrender).
Massacres and Elections: Plenty of Stick, Not Much Carrot
The six-year term of Vicente Fox is drawing to a close as mass repression rains down on the working people of the countryside and the cities. Fox’s victory in the 2000 elections was seen as the longed-for end of the “perfect dictatorship” of the PRI. But the end of the PRI-government regime of a state party and its replacement by a PAN-PRI-PRD condominium has only brought more repression, helping to dispel many democratic illusions. No matter who emerges as the victor in the July 2 elections, the workers’ blood will continue to be spilled until the gruesome capitalist ruling dynasty in Mexico is swept away once and for all.
In fact, the string of police massacres is closely linked to the elections. The PRI, PAN and PRD are up to their necks in the electoral circus and are going after each other with all they’ve got. The main theme of their campaigns is the “lack of security.” The bourgeois candidates are competing over who can be the best repressor in upholding the business affairs of capital. Felipe Calderón of the PAN promises a “firm hand”; Roberto Madrazo of the PRI says he “knows how to do it”; and López Obrador proposes to throw in a little carrot along with the stick. Until now, the triplet parties of the pseudo-democratic “alternation” have not hesitated for an instant in banding together in the hour of repression. At Sicartsa, it was a joint action by the local (PRI), state (PRD) and federal (PAN) police. In Atenco, the repression was ordered by a PRD mayor and the PRI governor, backed by the PAN federal government. They cut down 14-year-old Javier Cortés and National University student Alexis Benhumea, who died last week after more than a month in a coma. The death toll in Oaxaca is not yet known.
The Oaxacan teachers of Section 22 also know that the “PRI, PAN and PRD are the same thing,” as a teacher said last week in a union assembly of the sit-down strikers. “First they kill the Sicartsa workers in Michoacán, then two youths in Atenco,” he went on. “This is the work of the same wretches. The PRI, PAN and PRD, all three of them, are parties of the rich. We call not to vote for any of them; what we have to do is boycott the July 2 elections.” His conclusion is correct, but insufficient. A negative, passive policy is not enough. In the face of the repressive onslaught by the capitalist regime, we must build the indispensable vehicle to wage a political struggle against the bourgeoisie: a revolutionary workers party.
It must be a Leninist vanguard party; a party of class struggle, which points the way and mobilizes the working people to win battles like the Oaxaca teachers’ strike; an internationalist party, capable of fighting the nationalist demagogy peddled by the bourgeois politicians (while grossly subordinating themselves to the imperialists), which is also reflected in the empty posturing of the Other Campaign2. It must be a party based on the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution, which in the face of the anti-democracy of the bourgeois regime that oppresses the peasants, Indians and all working people raises the program of workers revolution, not only in Mexico but also on the other side of the Line, in the imperialist bastion to the north, where millions of Mexican workers form a human bridge and a growing, potentially militant sector of the North American proletariat.
In fact, the struggle of the Oaxaca teachers and the massacre they have suffered has had a strong impact in the United States. Our comrades of the Internationalist Group, U.S. section of the League for the Fourth International (LFI), initiated a mobilization protesting the repression in Oaxaca in front of the Mexican consulate in New York. Already on April 14, the day the massacre took place, the IG called an emergency picket, pulled together in less than an hour. Yesterday, June 15, they held another protest attended by more than 50 people, among them many members of the Professional Staff Congress, the faculty and staff union of the City University of New York. Demonstrators chanted angrily, “Atenco, Oaxaca, massacres in Mexico,” and “Hail the Mexican teachers’ strike!” Union speakers expressed solidarity with their Mexican brothers and sisters. And last night, the San Francisco local of the West Coast U.S. dock workers union, the ILWU, unanimously approved a motion protesting the repression in Oaxaca.
The IG also fights for full citizenship rights for all immigrants under the slogan: “The workers’ struggle has no borders.” In Mexico, the fundamental objective of the Grupo Internacionalista is to build the nucleus of a genuinely revolutionary workers party, as part of a reforged Fourth International. This is not something that will become necessary in the distant future: faced with the government repression against the working people, it is necessary to build this indispensable political instrument for proletarian revolution. Today is when it is possible to give the final push to bring down the tottering corporatist edifice and land a telling blow against the murderous regime. We call upon teachers and other fighters who want to go from resistance to a fight for revolution to joint the ranks of the Grupo Internacionalista. n
1 On February 19, an explosion in the Pasta de Conchos mine in the state of Coahuila trapped 65 miners underground where they were left to die. In the face of the outraged relatives of the doomed miners, who complained to the press that the “union” was “the same as the company,” Gómez Urrutia accused management of “industrial homicide,” even though the union had signed off on fraudulent safety certifications along with the company and state labor inspectors. Thereupon, the mine owners demanded Gómez’ ouster and the Fox government summarily dismissed him (just as they had installed him four years earlier over opposition in the miners’ ranks). The Grupo Internacionalista opposed the government intervention while calling on the miners and metal workers to break the corporatist stranglehold and fight for genuine workers’ unions, free of state control, with a class-struggle leadership .
2 The “Otra Campaña” initiated by the Zapatista insurgents calls for opposing the mounting repression without suggesting the means to fight it, other than repeated demonstrations. While claiming to be “anti-capitalist,” their real complaint is that the rulers “are destroying what is our Nation, our Mexican Fatherland (Patria).”
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