June 5 Elections: NO to All the
Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!
Mexican Teachers Strike at a
Deepen, Radicalize, Broaden It
The Battle of Oaxaca Airport, May 26. Hundreds of teachers of the militant Section 22 of the CNTE blocked access to the airport outside the city of Oaxaca for ten hours, defying an ultimatum of the Federal Police. Then as cops were getting ready to move, another contingent of hundreds more teachers came up behind the federales, surrounding them and forcing the police to withdraw.
As in 2006 and 2010, the Call for a “Punishment Vote” Against the PRI-PAN-PRD and for Morena Only Prepares Another Defeat
JUNE 2 – The national strike of the independent teachers movement, now into its third week, has come to a decisive moment. As the National Coordination of Education Workers (CNTE)1 appeals repeatedly for dialogue, the government slams the door shut and responds with repression. The heavy-handed official response ranges from rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, capital of the southern state of Chiapas, to repeated evictions of the CNTE’s protest encampments (plantones) in Mexico City, and the unprecedented kidnapping of the teachers, their forcible removal from the national capital to their home states under police custody. The strikers have responded with massive marches of tens of thousands teachers and their allies, with the blockade of the Oaxaca airport and the occupation of highways, gas stations and town halls in Chiapas. It is expected that the repression – so far administered in doses, in order not to inflame the ire of a population that still is on the brink of a social explosion – will intensify in the wake of the June 5 elections. Then the rulers who are seeking to impose an education “reform” in the service of capital will go all out.
The government of Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI2 declares over and over again that it will not retreat one inch in its “reform” aimed at annihilating public education and the basic labor rights of the teachers. The head of the Department of Public Education, political marketing specialist Aurelio Nuño, has announced the dismissal of more 3,000 striking teachers. He claims to have a roster of 26,000 scabs made up of retirees, substitute teachers and young aspirants who have yet to be given a position. If he really believes this, he’s in for a rude awakening. The militancy of the teachers and the solid support they have from parents, particularly in Chiapas, have thwarted the intentions of more than one government to dismantle the struggle. However, in spite of the teachers’ heroic will to struggle, the dialogue-seeking policy of the union leadership has undermined the strike and emboldened the employer-state, which will accept nothing less than total surrender. Now, the Executive Committee of Section 22 of the CNTE in the state of Oaxaca Oaxaca seeks to derail the struggle into the politics of bourgeois electoralism.
On May 29 the Section 22 Exec issued an “guidance” for the elections calling for a “punishment vote” against the parties of the Pact for Mexico (PRI, PAN, PRD, PVEM and PANAL)3 that call for “structural reforms.” The document also rules out the PT,4 whose gubernatorial candidate voted for the education “reform.” However, it advises a vote for Movement for National Regeneration (MORENA) headed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known by his initials, AMLO.5 The Section 22 Exec promises that MORENA has “thrown its total support behind the teachers.” In reality, it is a bourgeois party that seeks to chain the workers and the “people” to the more nationalist sectors of the Mexican ruling class. Its leaders are deserters from the PRD, and many, including AMLO himself, come from the PRI that ruled Mexico for seven decades until 2000 (Oaxaca until 2010). For all its promised “dialogue” with the teachers, MORENA will not stop the privatizing, pro-imperialist and anti-worker program demanded by capital.
Oaxaca teachers and workers have already experienced the trap of “punishment votes.” In 2006, in the middle of the audacious uprising that was set off by the teachers’ resistance to repression by the murderous PRI governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, Section 22 and the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) called for a “punishment vote” against the PRI. This was a veiled appeal for a vote for López Obrador, who at the time was the presidential candidate of the PRD. And what happened? AMLO didn’t lift a finger against the repression, and the Oaxaca state legislators of the PRD joined with the PRI in calling for Federal Police intervention. In 2010, the Section 22 leadership called once again to “punish” the PRI at the polls. And so Gabino Cué Monteagudo was elected governor, who in July 2015 unleashed a witchhunt against the Oaxaca teachers.
This program of the popular front, by chaining the workers movement to sectors of the bourgeoisie, always leads to defeat.
Since 2013, the teachers have sought with strikes and marches to fight back against the plans, dictated by imperialist financial institutions, to privatize public education and gut the teachers unions. During all of the past year, since the electoral boycott of 2015,6 the teachers have waged a fierce struggle against the government’s determination to impose these “reforms” by fire and blood. However, the leadership lacks a strategy that goes beyond union resistance within the bounds of capitalism. They fail by “limiting themselves to a guerrilla war against the effects of the existing system,” as Karl Marx wrote in Value, Price and Profit (1865). Thus, faced with the brick wall of a government that rejects all negotiation, the leaders of the CNTE see no other way out than to sell out the militant teachers to capital. Searching for a life raft, they call for a “calculated vote” for MORENA. Their “orientation” to the rank and file is to vote for our class enemies, yet again.
The Grupo Internacionalista, Mexican section of the League for the Fourth International, and the Comité de Lucha Proletaria (Proletarian Struggle Caucus) union tendency politically supported by the GI, insist that the only policy that can win this crucial struggle, in which the capitalist government would wipe out over 35 years of struggle for independent unions against corporatism, is one of intransigent struggle for class independence: not one vote for bourgeois parties or politicians! For the teachers movement to be victorious, it needs a class-struggle leadership, which far from seeking to ally with the bourgeoisie, would turn to the workers movement, striving for a real nationwide strike capable of defeating the murderous government and its fateful “reforms.” Against the electoral farce, it is necessary to forge a revolutionary workers party that would fight for a workers and peasants government, the starting point of international socialist revolution.
History Repeats Itself
Teachers celebrate after the retreat of the Federal Police. However, the union leadership then called to vote for a bourgeois party, Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s populist MORENA. The popular-front policy of calling for a “punishment vote” for another capitalist party only leads to defeat. It’s necessary to fight for political independence from all the bourgeois parties and politicians and to forge a revolutionary workers party.
Six years ago, two days before the polls that resulted in the election of Gabino Cué, the State Assembly of Section 22 of the CNTE put the teachers on “poll watching” duty with regional brigades. The education workers who had kept up an encampment for over a month in the Zócalo were sent back to their hometowns to cast a punishment vote against the parties “that had repressed the people” (El Imparcial de Oaxaca, 3 July 2010). Azael Santiago Chepi, at the time the leader of Section 22, indicated that the teachers would monitor the elections, and even warned of a “popular insurrection” in case of electoral fraud. “The rank and file and the people know who to vote for,” he said. Now, once again, as if history from 2006 to the present has nothing to teach us, the leadership prepares us to vote for AMLO’s MORENA, “the party that has truly stood with the teachers and with the people.” Really?
This past March 21, López Obrador promised to “return” control of education to the union and put an end to the persecution against the dissident teachers if his protégé Salomón Jara won the governorship. Yet the very next day, the pro-PRI leadership of Section 22 publicly renounced the deal reached between AMLO and the teacher Rogelio Vargas Garfias (member of the political committee of the UTE-FPR7), Santiago Chepi, former legislator Flavio Sosa, and former PRD senator Armando Contreras. The latter, who is now the organizer of Morena in Oaxaca, was secretary of indigenous affairs in the government of the murderer Ulises Ruiz (Proceso, 21 March 2016). For his part, Salomón Jara was secretary of fisheries in the government of Gabino Cué. Now the rank and file are being disoriented by the promise that this gang of former PRI and PRD politicians, who in the past were on the side of the worst oppressors of the teachers, “has truly committed itself to the teachers and the people.”
As bourgeois politicians, López Obrador and his MORENA will be obliged to impose “austerity” and privatization, and to regiment public education in favor of big capital. MORENA now governs five of the 16 delegaciones (boroughs) of the Federal District (Mexico City). There it has imposed cutbacks and layoffs that led to angry protests by the government employees union (SUTGDF) during the May Day march. Even if MORENA “returns” the Oaxaca State Institute of Public Education to Section 22, it would do so in order to make the CNTE complicit in implementing the anti-education “reform.”
Once again, the nefarious program of the popular front seeks to drown the teachers’ struggle. The tragedy will be all the worse taking place just as the bourgeoisie girds itself to bring “the full extent of the law” down on the heads of the teachers, making more urgent than ever the need for the strike to be deepened, radicalized and extended. “Pressuring” the bourgeoisie is doomed to fail. The war on the teachers union is a capitalist war, and class war is needed to defeat it.
The Proletarian Struggle Committee and the Grupo Internacionalista which supports it have long insisted that in order to win, it is necessary to stop begging the bourgeoisie, and instead, to take the road of class struggle. A genuine nationwide strike must be unleashed involving key proletarian sectors who produce the profits of the capitalist class.
If the teachers strike alone, the government boasts that it is saving money. But if the teachers set off joint action with the oil workers to take over the oil rigs and refineries, for example in Santa Cruz, Oaxaca which supplies all the Pacific coast states; if subway workers in the capital, Telmex telephone workers, the militant steel workers at the port of Lázaro Cárdenas, the autoworkers of Volkswagen, Honda, Ford, GM, etc., walk out; if the strike extends to the miners of Cananea, the farmworkers of San Quintín, the women maquiladora workers of the northern border – that is, to the powerful industrial proletariat of Mexico and internationally – that is how we can win.
Yesterday, teachers discovered police infiltrators in one of the blockades in the city of Oaxaca, and detained them for hours. A bourgeois journalist (Quadratín Oaxaca) wrote in irritation: “The day passes, sweltering, implacable, like the law of the teachers who impose their punishment and torment.” In reality, the punishment and torment are imposed by the capitalist state that has waged a war that has resulted in the murder of over 200,000 people in the past decade, which is responsible for the disappearance and massacre of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa. On the other hand, the implacable “teachers law” could set off the struggle that will finally liberate the “those at the bottom,” the exploited and oppressed, from the long nightmare of bourgeois rule.
To the comrades, women and men, who want to build a genuinely class-struggle leadership to win the strike, who see the necessity of breaking with all bourgeois parties and politicians, we call on you to unite with the Proletarian Struggle Committee and the Grupo Internacionalista, to struggle to forge a revolutionary workers party that fights for international socialist revolution. ■
- 1. The CNTE is the independent teachers union under attack by the government and its corporatist pseudo-union, the SNTE. Corporatist “labor” bodies in Mexico are in fact union-busting agencies of the capitalist state. For further analysis, see “SL on Corporatism in Mexico: Games Centrists Play,” The Internationalist, July 2013.
- 2. The Institutional Revolutionary Party which for 70 years was the ruling state-party of Mexico.
- 3. Shortly after taking office, Peña Nieto’s PRI, which has the largest voting bloc in Congress, formed a grand coalition (the “Pact for Mexico”) with the rightist-clericalist National Action Party (PAN), which held the presidency from 2000 to 2012, and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), a populist nationalist capitalist party generally classified as “center-left” and led by former PRI politicians, which holds office in several states. Minor players in this bourgeois governing coalition are the Ecological Green Party (PVEM), a satellite party set up by the PRI, and the New Alliance Party (PANAL) founded by the now-imprisoned head of the corporatist teachers “union,” Elba Esther Gordillo. Together these parties hold over 85% of the seats in Congress. When the Pact was formed in January 2013, its first act was to ram through the education “reform.”
- 4. A completely bourgeois “Labor Party,” also set up by the PRI, that today serves to collect votes for the PRD.
- 5. López Obrador is a former PRI politician who then joined the PRD, becoming the head of government in Mexico City and subsequently ran under the PRD banner for the presidency in 2006 and 2012, losing in both cases amid massive vote fraud. As the PRD moved increasingly to the right, AMLO parted ways with it (“on the best of terms”) following the 2012 elections and formed his National Regeneration Movement on the PRD’s original populist-nationalist program.
- 6. See “Mexico: Down With Elections Under the Military Boot!” The Internationalist No. 40, Summer 2015, and “Mexico: Grupo Espartaquista Boycotts the Class Struggle,” The Internationalist, March 2016.
- 7. Education Workers Union-Revolutionary Popular Front, a current in Section 22 associated with the Stalinist Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist).