August 1999 

Mexico: Cárdenas' Cops Assault Students
Break with the Cárdenas Popular Front!

Following Brutal Cop Attack
Defend, Extend the UNAM Strike!

                                                                                         Rubelio Fernández/Reforma

Mexico City police attack strike picketers on August 4, arresting 107. 

The following is a translation of a leaflet issued on August 10 by the Grupo Internacionalista, section of the League for the Fourth International.

In a massive display of wanton cop violence, on Wednesday, August 4, the government of the Federal District (Mexico City), headed by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, unleashed brutal repression against striking students of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). More than 150 members of the Granaderos (riot police) participated in the assault, along with two dozen motorcycle cops, members of the Grupo Escudo, police dogs and helicopters from the Condor squad. The police furiously attacked a picket of some 200 strikers, indiscriminately beating women, professors, parents and students. The picketers were blocking access to a strikebreaking center where the administration was attempting to carry out registration for a new semester, even though university facilities are still under occupation. Kicks and blows from riot sticks rained on the strikers during the melee as police cocked their pistols and submachine guns. Afterwards, in order to humiliate them, scores of arrested protesters were forced to get down on their knees with their hands against the bars of a fence. According to press reports, a majority of the 107 arrested suffered injury, and six students had to be hospitalized with serious wounds. 

The guard dogs of capital carried out their function of maintaining bourgeois law and order by violence. They also demonstrated the collusion between the ruling PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) and Cárdenas’ PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) against the UNAM strike, giving a taste of what the police takeover of the university facilities, already in preparation, would be like. The police operation was obviously planned beforehand. The riot cops were put on alert beginning at 3 a.m. The police arrived at about 10 a.m. at the Conalep (technical college) where the "off-campus" proceedings were taking place, but didn’t attack until three hours later, after an attempt by porros (hired goons) to break the line had failed. Hours earlier, UNAM rector Francisco Barnés de Castro sent a written request for the "protection" of the capital police, and during the morning he was with Cárdenas, the PRD head of the Federal District government. The police assault was immediately hailed by the PRI federal Interior Ministry. 

The carrying out of "off-campus" activities has been a constant provocation against the strike. From the phony "classes" which university authorities orchestrated in hopes of breaking the strike shortly after it began to the "reregistration" procedures during the last week, this official scabherding serves a definite political purpose: to prepare the way for putting a violent end to the strike which has shaken the capital of the country for the last 112 days. This is unalloyed provocation: Barnés himself admits that the UNAM can’t find the thousands of classrooms it would need. Blocking this type of activity, as well as combatting all kinds of scabbing, is vital to the UNAM strike. At the same time, as the Grupo Internacionalista has repeatedly stressed, it is indispensable to extend and strengthen the worker-student defense of the strike. This is even more urgent following the porro attack on Preparatory School No. 9, carried out on Saturday, August 7, in which three strikers were badly beaten. These repressive actions come on top of a whole series of provocations carried out by the UNAM police. We call on university workers to demand the expulsion of the campus cops (Auxilio UNAM) from the university workers union, STUNAM. 
  Marco Peláez/La Jornada

  Diálogo" policíaco con los estudiantes, política cardenista.

With their indiscriminate clubbing and mass arrests, the uniformed thugs dealt out a hard lesson on the class character of the bourgeois state, which is not neutral but rather the fundamental weapon of the exploiters against the exploited and oppressed. At the same time, they revealed the real content of the "popular front" around Cárdenas which ties the workers to sectors of the bourgeoisie and acts as a barrier against all those who would dare to oppose the dictates of capital. It is necessary to learn well these lessons from the university of the class struggle.

Following this experience, some in the Strike General Council (CGH) have come to the conclusion that it is time to throw in the towel. A leaflet along these lines is circulating which calls for lifting the strike in exchange for Rectoría (the university administration) agreeing to the proposals of the group of emeritus (retired) professors. After reciting how much the strike has accomplished and stating that "the six points of our list of demands are within our reach if we take the path which will enable us to strengthen the strike," this leaflet calls for "strengthening" the strike by calling it off! This is a fairy tale for fools. At the same time as these barely disguised PRD supporters are singing the praises of the strike in order to bury it, Luis Villoro (who was an official advisor of the Zapatista Indian rebels), speaking on behalf of the emeritus professors, stated that, "The strike has been very damaging" … to justify the same conclusion. So far these siren songs that would inevitably lead to shipwreck of the strike have been rejected. But what is the alternative?

Despite the fact that the CGH assembly of August 7 declared Cárdenas persona non grata, i.e., banned him from the struck campuses along with Mexican president Zedillo, Mexico City police chief Gertz Manero and UNAM rector Barnés, there are still illusions that the PRD, a bourgeois party which defends the interests of its class against the proletariat and the oppressed, could represent a "progressive alternative." Following last Wednesday’s repression, at various student assemblies there have been calls on Cárdenas to "find out who was really responsible for the repression." Pablo Gómez, the outgoing interim president of the PRD and a former Communist youth leader in the 1968 student strike, declares that the UNAM authorities are setting the stage for a "dangerous and provocative game," trying to portray things as if Cárdenas were not responsible for the repression. It’s obvious, however, that he is. The popular front around the PRD has as its goal preventing social discontent from overflowing the bounds of bourgeois politics. Recent events are conclusive proof of this, and it is necessary to draw the conclusions. 

Above all, in order to win the strike it is necessary to forge a class-struggle leadership with a revolutionary program. Now Cárdenas says that "the police will intervene every time that it is necessary," in order to supposedly prevent more "acts of violence among university students." He has already given proof positive of what he means by this. However, as we quoted in our supplement of August 3, supposed "ultras" such as the supporters of the POS (Socialist Workers Party) said that "the government of Cárdenas must understand that it has to be more flexible in the way in which it applies the law." En Lucha, another reputed "ultra" group, held the view that repression of the student movement would be "very difficult" for Cárdenas, because it would cause "an enormous political cost for him and his party." In contrast, the Grupo Internacionalista has repeatedly declared, for example in our leaflet of October 1998, that "if the popular front cannot control social discontent from within, it will do so by resorting to open repression." Well, then, who was right about Cárdenas? And what are the programmatic conclusions? We already gave them: "Break with the Cárdenas popular front! Forge a revolutionary workers party!"

The truth of the matter is that Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas has not fallen into any trap or game of the government, contrary to what all the left partisans of the Cardenista popular front claim; on the contrary, he has offered his services to capital in order to carry out the dirty work for Zedillo and Barnés. For the same reason, Cárdenas has engineered the "opposition" alliance with the PAN (National Action Party) of Vicente Fox, the Mexican front man for Coca-Cola and for agribusiness conglomerates like Green Giant, who dreams of carrying out a new Cristero War*  while keeping his boot on the necks of the peasants and workers of the state of Guanajuato (of which he has been governor). Just prior to the police crackdown, a spokesman for Mexican investors, Ernesto O’Farrill of the Bursamérica brokerage house, declared that their response to a victory of the opposition coalition in the year 2000 elections would be "euphoric." The following day, John Reed, head of Citigroup, opined that "world finance" would wish success to the opposition alliance. The brutal repression unleashed by Cárdenas against the students is his acceptance of the extended hand of Mexican and imperialist big capital.

The Grupo Internacionalista has emphasized that the only way to win and defend the strike is by extending it to key sectors of the working class. The students are clearly targets of the same policies of privatization and slashing of social programs which are devastating the workers and poor. Students are being repressed literally in order that the government can take milk from the mouths of children: this year alone, more than 1.2 million people have been excluded from the subsidized milk program Leconsa. The bourgeoisie is billy-clubbing the students today because tomorrow they want to do the same to the electrical workers protesting against privatization of state-owned electricity sector and the layoffs this will bring about. What is urgently needed is common struggle, a class-struggle offensive against the bourgeoisie. The carrying out of a joint strike of the UNAM, the SME electrical workers union and the dissident teachers of the CNTE—the potential for which has been shown in the huge demonstrations of students and workers, as well as in the formation of worker-student defense guards in various schools of the UNAM—would open the possiblity of defeating the starvation policies being carried out by the government and the entire bourgeoisie in the name of the "free" market.

This class-struggle perspective, however, requires a consistent struggle against the Cárdenas popular front and those who follow its lead. It implies a hard fight to replace the present political line and leadership of the CGH. Although many in the CGH are now more criticial towards Cárdenas, and now some school assemblies such as in Political Science correctly say that the struggle is not just against Barnés but against the state, including the Cárdenas government, the truth is that their reaction is that of the "disillusioned," not that of staunch opponents of the popular front. The present leaderships, including of the "independent" unions, tie the proletariat hand and foot to cardenismo. In the SME there is talk of pressures from the Ministry of the Interior (Gobernación), while in the STUNAM there are references to Barnés’ threats of closing the National University in order to threaten the workers, of whom there are many, who understand that now more than ever it is necessary to strengthen the bonds with the striking students. 

Today, as the UNAM strike faces the false dilemma of capitulation or violent repression, the Trotskyists of the Grupo Internacionalista emphasize the need to fight for a class-struggle leadership which breaks definitively with all forms of class collaboration and which mobilizes the enormous strength of the proletariat in an international struggle, from Buenos Aires to Athens, to counter the capitalist-imperialist attack on public education and the historic gains of the labor movement. In the context of the "New World Order," the imposition of these policies goes hand in hand with brutal imperialist aggression, such as the recent NATO war on Yugoslavia. 

Break with the Cárdenas popular front—Reforge the Fourth International as the world party of socialist revolution! 

Grupo Internacionalista 
10 August 1999 

*The 1926-29 revolt of Catholic reaction against secular education and anti-clerical government measures following the 1910-17 Mexican Revolution. 

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