Latin America is in the midst of a great awakening, a revolutionary struggle. From the outside, it would seem as if Mexico has been the exception to this; the capitalist press here in Canada have painted Mexico as the bastion of stable bourgeois democracy. As a result, people have made the mistaken assumption that the right-wing government of the (illegitimate) President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, is a reflection of the will and mood of the masses of Mexico. This could not be further from the truth. The mood in Mexico is very much a revolutionary one; conditions in Mexico become more and more difficult every day for the Mexican working class and the people have said “¡Ya basta!” – enough is enough.
Unfortunately, the corporate press makes a point of ignoring and marginalizing popular expressions and movements, so it is worth taking note of some of the historic struggles that have recently occurred in Mexico, most notably the APPO in Oaxaca and the anti-fraud movement of 2006, and what they mean for Mexico today.
The APPO in Oaxaca
This historical struggle that culminated in the formation of The Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO in Spanish) began as an annual protest of section 22 of the National Educational Workers Union. The difference, this time around, was that local governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz ordered troops to violently break up the protest. The teachers, reflecting the militant mood sweeping over the region, chose to fight back and won. Alan Woods writes, “The heroism of the strikers gained the admiration of people throughout the state. They demonstrated their iron determination not to be terrorized into submission.” In the following days, there were protests of 400,000 strong calling for the ouster of Ruiz Ortiz and an end to his corrupt agenda. In essence, the community galvanized itself around the issue; the state repression and the response of the masses was the accident born out of necessity. As Mexican writer Ubaldo Oropeza, puts it, “When the police represses them, the media launches a campaign to justify the repression, and legislators use their position to pass laws ruthlessly attacking the exploited people of the country, the workers come to understand the true nature of the state.” The struggle waged by the people of Oaxaca very rapidly taught them a number a lessons and gave the masses a sense of their own power. What followed was what can only be described as a natural progression in the consciousness of the working class, the creation of a democratic worker’s organization that replaces the bourgeois capitalist form of organization. In Oaxaca, this was the APPO. The demands of the APPO went beyond those that were initially brought up by the teachers’ union. The masses of Oaxaca arrived at revolutionary conclusions: they had to do away with the bourgeois state. And so, the APPO was more than a coalition of the participating organizations; simply put, the APPO was the embryo of a worker’s state.
Although the movement suffered a serious setback when the Federal Preventive Police pushed the APPO out, it is still important to remember the actions taken by the masses of Oaxaca and the lessons learned as a result. What was seen was a refusal to acquiesce, a refusal to conform to the status quo, i.e. a revolutionary mood.
The Anti-fraud Movement of 2006
The working class of Mexico suffered immensely under the previous government of Vicente Fox. Fox was the oligarchy’s president and a happy servant of imperialism. Fox’s free-market agenda made the situation for the working class, which was already very difficult, even worse. The masses of Mexico viewed the presidential election as a chance to change the course of things and this sentiment manifested itself in strong support for the presidential candidate from the Party for the Democratic Revolution (PRD in Spanish), Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador. Despite having a moderate reformist program, the ruling class of Mexico was quite aware of the threat Lopez Obrador represented; not so much because of his policies, but rather the class forces that stood behind him. They knew they could not allow Lopez Obrador to become president. The ruling class has no real respect for democracy, even in its bourgeois form; as Alan Woods put it, “They murdered Salvador Allende in Chile, they overthrew Arbenz in Guatemala, [and] they attempted to overthrow Hugo Chávez in 2002.” Mexico proved to be no exception, and after the polls closed, Calderón was declared the winner by a margin of less than 1%, despite the fact that Lopez Obrador’s popular support was undeniable.
But when the masses are caught up in a revolutionary fervor, they do not take any attack sitting down and what followed was the largest mobilization of people in the history of Mexico. Millions upon millions took to the streets. They were not there just to speak out against the fraud, but against the policies of the last 20 years; policies promoted by the parties of the ruling class, the PRI and the PAN, parties of the oligarchy, and servants of imperialism, policies that only made life worse for the working class and increased the profits of the bosses. Millions gathered on the streets in the centre of Mexico City and set up plantones (encampments) demanding that their democratic will be respected, while at the same time, demanding an end to this exploitative system.
Unfortunately the leaders of the PRD relied on bourgeois legal methods to address the fraud; the movement was defeated and Calderón was able to take office. It should come as no surprise that if the ruling class were willing to commit electoral fraud, they would have no issue refusing a total recount and handing the victory to their candidate, Calderón. However, here – like in Oaxaca – something more important happened, a leap in the consciousness of the masses of Mexico. Millions of voices spoke out to declare that they have awoken and will no longer stand this oppression.
What’s next for Mexico?
The working class and the bourgeoisie are on a collision course in Mexico; the contradictions of capitalism have become very apparent to the masses and they must be resolved. The working class has learned much from their previous experiences – from the school of struggle – and has gained more confidence. Every attack brought by the Calderón government will be met by fierce resistance from the masses and it will motivate them even more. Though the major movements have subsided, the revolutionary mood continues. Through every struggle, big or small, ordinary citizens are developing an anti-capitalist critique. Anybody who says that the Mexican workers have not gained sufficient consciousness to overthrow capitalism is either blind or deliberately trying to ruin the movement. Now, we could very well see the fall of the Calderón government, and should that come to pass, it is important that the working class not hand power back to bourgeois interests. Instead, they should take power themselves and that will require a determined and disciplined leadership with the appropriate revolutionary vision.
Finally, it is important to note that the recent events in Mexico did not happen in isolation. They are part of the trend of Latin America to break from its chains. The victories in other parts of the region, most notably Venezuela, have clearly had an effect on the consciousness of the masses of Mexico. These victories have shown that the masses can rise and fight back. They have also shown that the path is not a moderate program but one built on finally addressing the needs of the majority. But, these needs will never be met on a capitalist basis; the struggle must be one for socialism.
¡Que viva la revolución!
- The revolutionary reawakening of Mexico by Alan Woods (11 Sep. 2006)
- Mexico after the Electoral Tribunal’s decision to confirm Calderon as president by Militante Mexico (7 Sep. 2006)
- URGENT APPEAL: Mexican Marxists come under attack by In Defence of Marxism (1 Sep. 2006)
- What attitude should APPO take towards the National Democratic Convention? by Militante (1 Sep. 2006)
- Oaxaca: The spearhead of the Mexican Revolution by John Peterson (31 Aug. 2006)
- Mexico: Mass protests against electoral fraud acquires insurrectionary proportions by Erik Demeester (30 Aug. 2006)
- 1.5 million people march in Mexico against electoral fraud by In Defence of Marxism (17 Jul. 2006)
- Protest Stephen Harper’s recognition of Calderon by Fightback (12 Jul. 2006)
- To defeat electoral fraud in Mexico — call a general strike! by In Defence of Marxism (11 Jul. 2006)
- Lopez Obrador challenges Mexican election results by Rob Lyon (11 Jul. 2006)
- Mexico: Mobilize the masses and call a general strike to stop the electoral fraud by the editorial board of Militante Mexico (5 Jul. 2006)