The New Student Rebellion and the Mexican Left

Challenging the Corporate Media and the Electoral Fraud – Published on The Bullet, Socialist Project’s E-Bulletin No. 673, by Richard Roman and Edur Velasco Arregui, August 1, 2012.

The defeat of the center-left in the Presidential election of 2012 is a victory for Mexican Big Business and the U.S. in advancing the neoliberal agenda of privatization, cutbacks and attacks on the working-class. The fact that the old ruling party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party – PRI), ‘won’ the presidency in 2012 – rather than the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party – PAN) as in 2000 and 2006 – involves an important shift in influence within the neoliberal bloc.   

It is very consequential in terms of methods of rule and patronage opportunities but it doesn’t affect the program and domination of Mexican Big Capital and its U.S. and Spanish allies, which have dominated Mexico more or less comfortably with both the PRI and the PAN. The neoliberal agenda has been advanced for the last thirty years by a tacit alliance between Big Business, the PRI and the PAN with varying degrees of opposition and acquiescence by different sectors of the center-left … //

… The Founding of the Convención Nacional Contra la Imposición CNCI:

  • The exemplary militancy of the new student movement gave energy to the call for a new national coalition independent of the electoral parties. The Convención Nacional Contra la Imposición (CNCI – National Convention Against the Imposition) brought together a diverse group of movements. It held its founding convention in Atenco on July 14 and 15, the site of Peña Nieto’s brutal repression of May 3 and 4, 2006 where two activists were murdered (Javier Cortés, a 14 year old, with a bullet through his heart and Alexis Benhumea Hernández, shot from close range with a tear gas canister to the head), 206 people tortured, 26 women raped by police, and many injured and detained. These human rights violations by state and national police, under the orders of Peña Nieto, have been documented both by Amnesty International and Mexico’s Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos. This has not interfered with his rise to the Presidency, an ascent assiduously promoted by the television duopoly and by massive campaign overspending through money laundered by dummy companies, money likely originating from PRI-controlled state governments and/or drug cartels.
  • The unexpected emergence of the new student movement has begun to change the topography of the left as well as the electoral and post-electoral dynamic. It has now brought much of Mexico’s diverse protest movements under a common (national) umbrella while leaving the implementation of proposals up to the constituent organizations and local assemblies. The extra-parliamentary left and the union, community and social movement left have come together in the CNCI. It is made up of a diverse set of movements and organizations: 1) unions and union currents (the two most important are the CNTE, the national organization of dissident teachers’ within the gangster teachers’ union and the SME, former union of the power workers of central Mexico still fighting for their jobs – see Bullet No. 279 and Bullet No. 280); 2) militant community organizations such as the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra de San Salvador Atenco, state of Mexico, which successfully blocked a new airport on its lands, and the people of Cherán, Michoacan (two of whose leaders recently were tortured and murdered), fighting to preserve their forests against a drug cartel and lumber interests backed by political caciques (bosses); 3) the burgeoning national student movement itself, which made up half of the 2,000 people attending; 4) a variety of small left organizations. Many of these organizations have worked together in previous campaigns against austerity and repression. They are very diverse in their politics, strategic and tactical proclivities, and social base. They hold a range of positions on electoral politics in general and on the electoral left and López Obrador in particular. But they are united in their intense opposition to the PRI, Peña Nieto himself, and his imposition through manipulation by the TV duopoly as well as the multiple violations of electoral law that have taken place.
  • When the delegation from Cherán arrived, the Convention suspended all the working groups to receive these heroic fighters in an emotional ceremony. The defensive solidarity of the Left was palpable in that moment. The Left, including the union left, has suffered tremendous defeats in recent years. It is capable of mobilizing around embattled groups in struggle. It has a gutsy, almost instinctive solidarity but that solidarity while fundamental remains at the level of defensive segmented struggles. It has not been able to develop and unite around a revolutionary or counter-hegemonic consciousness and strategy. This is the daunting challenge for the CNCI and the challenge that the Mexican Left – as well as the Left in most parts of the world – has long faced and faces today.
  • There have also been significant, amorphous, militant mobilizations that were not called by organizations or known leaders but through the internet by individuals. Some of these “spontaneous” protests have been impressive in turnout and have taken place in unlikely places for the Left, such as Monterrey and Guadalajara. Their organization through the net and their character showed both the militancy of the participants and their lack of organization. Their opposition to Peña Nieto and the imposition has been militant and wide-scale. These protests and those of the student movement nationally have given the revolt against the fraud a much more national character than it had in 2006. Many of the participants in these movements likely come from the rank and file of electoral left and other movements but their protests are not being organized by either the electoral or the social movement left. These masses of discontented citizens could be the base for the growth of the extra-parliamentary struggle as well as mobilized as the base for the cautious, legalistic protests of AMLO and the electoral left.
  • The absence of the Zapatistas from the protests should come as no surprise. The culture and practice of corruption and co-optation in the electoral process made the Zapatistas wary of any engagement with it. As well, betrayals by part of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática, (Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD) on indigenous rights embittered them toward the electoral center-left. And the real danger of co-optation of Zapatista communities through clientelism and patronage also encouraged them to turn inward. There also developed a bifurcation between the paths of the indigenous movement and its more institutionalized urban popular allies that neither side was able to bridge. While many of these organizations found space to expand their social and political influence, the insurgent indigenous communities faced a continuation of low intensity warfare. The focus on building at the local level, however, does not mean that the Zapatistas have renounced returning to the national arena. They are, however, determined to avoid getting caught up in battles among political elites. Though they have contact with many organizations involved in the new movement/the CNCI, they have neither participated nor issued any statements to date. Their inward turn may have enabled them to preserve their integrity as well as their base in southern Mexico but they are isolated from the most dynamic, mass struggles in Mexico today as they were in 2006. The difference, though, between 2006 and today is that there now is a powerful new, extra-parliamentary movement independent of the electoral left, though its origins and demands are linked centrally to the election process and outcome. A delegation from the Zapatista community of Tila, Chiapas is travelling to Mexico City at the end of July to pursue a court challenge to the constant attacks they face. There are likely to be discussions between them and the new movements.

The Development of the Electoral Left[1]: … //

… Conclusion: Mexico’s Crises, the Post-Election Struggles, and the Left:

  • The student movement has been building alliances with other sectors of society. Its most important potential ally is the Mexican working-class. Mexico is, after all, an urban country with a majority working-class, a working-class that has experienced decades of deterioration of wages and working conditions, now made even more acute by the recent economic crisis. 64 per cent of Mexicans live in cities (70 million of a total population of 107 million) and 75 per cent of the economically active population is waged or salaried (32 million of 43.8 million). The Mexican working-class, while providing the base for the electoral left or other broad protest movements, has not had a strong independent presence in these struggles in spite of its tremendous size and location in Mexico’s urban centers. This absence of an independent working-class voice in the great struggles of Mexico reflects the dearth of genuine and independent unions. Most Mexicans do not have any unions at all or are members of phantom,[2] company, or charro (authoritarian, regime-linked) unions. Most important national unions, such as those of oil workers, teachers, railway workers and power workers (see note re: SME, the democratic power workers’ union),[3] are kept under authoritarian control by the union officialdom through undemocratic internal statutes, various types of governmental support, the usual control mechanisms of an organizational oligarchy, and when necessary, violence by union thugs or agents of the state. The Mexican state has a strong system of labour control – a system that has continued through the “democratic transition” – which makes the organization of genuine unions extremely difficult. There are important exceptions – the miners/metallurgical workers, teachers (CNTE), power workers (SME), university workers and scattered rank and file caucuses, all of whom have had to fight continuously to survive.
  • The success of the two sets of mobilizations unfolding today requires the mass support of working people. And workers have been present in large numbers in these demonstrations but mainly as individuals or small groups of citizens, rather than as working-class formations with working-class demands. Working-class demands have tended to be subordinated to the other demands as in the anti-fraud struggles in 1988 and 2006. These mobilizations did not seek to mobilize workers as workers in their workplaces or in struggles for control of their unions. Such mobilization would have gone beyond the strategic and political bounds of most of the electoral left.
  • Each of these mobilizations, that of the students and the CNCI and that of the electoral center-left, will have its own dynamics and, at times, will likely flow together, at times go their own ways. But they represent two different trajectories. The electoral left seeks to bring out workers as citizens in mobilizations controlled from above, without horizontal linkages among the participants. The student movement, still in the process of defining itself, has a more democratic, participative, and horizontal orientation.
  • The #YoSoy132 is oriented to self-mobilization and seeks to develop links with current and emergent working-class formations. It has decided to join in demonstrations in August organized by the SME. The development of alliances between working-class formations, the student movement, and communities-in-struggle, has the potential to bring working-class demands to the forefront alongside the democratic demands of the protest movement. The joining of workers’ demands alongside the existing democratic demands has the potential to energize workers and spread the struggles inside the charro unions and into the workplace. The entry of the working-class with its own voice and formations in these broader movements would give the democratic struggle deeper roots and more radical content. It would create a fundamentally new situation and pose great dilemmas for the electoral left and great challenges for the dominant class.
  • The many crises of Mexico continue – war for drugs, growing state violence, deepening unemployment and poverty, and the relentless assault of neoliberalism on social rights. Peña Nieto has announced he will appoint a counter-insurgency Colombian General as his special adviser on the drug war, a concession to the U.S. and an affront to Mexico. He has promised to increase the privatization of the oil industry and to push through the stalled (anti-) labour reforms (destruction of the remaining rights of workers). These efforts will be supported by the PAN and resisted by both the social movement and electoral left.
  • The post-electoral crisis is one element flowing in the cauldron of Mexico’s multiple crises. The electoral left is hoping against hope that it can push forward further democratization and remove the barrier to the presidency. But that effort takes place in an explosive context of war and repression in various states and deepening polarization between the social movement left and the regime of Big Business, the PRI, and the PAN. The new student movement, without experienced cadres, will create its identity and future in this context. The forging of an alliance between this movement and the working-class is critical for its survival and success. And the emergence of a new workers’ movement is essential for a transition to democracy in Mexico. The Mexican situation is very fluid, it’s outcome impossible to predict. This may be Mexico’s springtime… or winter of repression. As with climate change, it’s hard to know what season it is …//

… (full long text and Notes).

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