Workers Vanguard No. 1012
9 November 2012
Amid War on Drugs Militarization, Economic Crisis
Mexico: PRI Back at Helm of Capitalist State
Break with the PRD!
For a Revolutionary Workers Party!
The following article is translated and excerpted from Espartaco No. 36 (September 2012), newspaper of the Grupo Espartaquista de México, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).
Following two six-year terms of reactionary PAN [National Action Party] governments, the PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party] will return to the presidential residence of Los Pinos on December 1. According to the official results of the July elections, PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto defeated his closest contender, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO and formerly affiliated to the Party of the Democratic Revolution [PRD]), by a little over 6 percent of the vote, while the PAN came in third, around 6 percentage points behind the PRD.
Prior to the elections, we Spartacists explained why we oppose voting for the parties of the bourgeoisie—PRI, PAN, PRD, etc.:
“All the candidates defend capitalist exploitation and, therefore, will not do anything to combat the evils it causes. It does not matter who wins the July presidential elections. Hunger, repression, unemployment, women’s oppression and miserable poverty in the rural areas, which hits the indigenous population particularly hard, will all persist.”
—“No Vote for the Bourgeois
Parties!” Espartaco No. 35,
Calls by AMLO to have the presidential election declared void were based on the PRI exceeding the allowed limit for campaign expenses and “buying votes,” that is, trying to get people to vote for the PRI by distributing groceries, T-shirts and other items. This is simply the normal functioning of electoral bourgeois democracy. Bourgeois democracy is always a farce for the oppressed masses, who are given the choice of who will head the repressive machinery used against them during the next term.
Like most elections in the history of Mexico, this last one was plagued by irregularities, violence and fraud. However, there is no evidence that the level of fraud altered the results. Our opposition to the PRI is not based on it being corrupt. We oppose the PRI, the PAN and the PRD/AMLO as a matter of principle, based on our revolutionary proletarian program and not on which one of the bourgeois parties is more, or less, fraudulent, corrupt or repressive.
The return to power of the PRI [which until 2000 ruled Mexico for seven decades] is not due to widespread support for the policies of this pragmatic bourgeois party but is instead based on rejection of the PAN, mainly because of the desperate economic situation and the brutal “war on drugs.” Thus, the PAN lost to the PRI some of its fundamental Cristero [heirs to the reactionary Catholic rebellion in the 1920s] bastions in the state of Jalisco and the city of León in Guanajuato state. As it became clear that the PAN’s candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, did not stand a chance and that support for AMLO was rising—in good measure thanks to the [student-based] #YoSoy132 [I Am 132] protests—even PAN ex-president Vicente Fox threw his support behind Peña Nieto.
Throughout his campaign, López Obrador made an effort to shed his false reputation as a “radical,” which is promoted by his adversaries in the PRI and the PAN. He did this particularly through ridiculous rhetoric about a “Loving Republic,” as well as through pacts with businessmen and direct overtures to Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man. This won López Obrador support among a few notable capitalists in northern Mexico. Nevertheless, the large majority of voters in the north and west of the country, which includes the traditionally more Catholic and pro-PAN regions, supported the PRI.
Following the elections, AMLO’s refusal to recognize Peña Nieto as “president-elect” seems to have brought old grudges inside the PRD to the fore. After the PRD’s leadership accepted Peña Nieto’s triumph, López Obrador split from the party. In any case, it is fundamental for the working class to understand that López Obrador’s Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional [Movement for National Regeneration, known as Morena] is nothing but another bourgeois party, dedicated to the preservation of capitalist exploitation and hostile to the interests of the proletariat.
Hunger and Militarization
The world economic crisis and the PAN’s transparently anti-worker measures have spelled disaster for the population. Throughout the PAN’s last six-year term, the minimum wage rose just 28 percent, this year reaching a miserable 62.33 pesos [US $4.80] a day in zone A, the area with the highest wages! Meanwhile, the price of food staples rose more than 125 percent. During the first half of August, the price of eggs, for example, went up 100 percent in Mexico City. According to [Mexico’s census agency] INEGI’s ever-dubious figures, by mid 2012 unemployment had reached 4.8 percent of the employable population; among the employed, 29.3 percent (14.2 million people) work in the “informal economy” and 8.9 percent (4.3 million) are “underemployed”! Adding to this, the escape valve offered by emigration to the U.S. has been increasingly blocked because of lack of jobs, anti-immigrant measures by the Obama government and the dangers of crossing the border, where those attempting to do so face criminal gangs and police/military forces on both sides.
Now, following the example of his counterparts in Spain and Greece, among others, [outgoing PAN president Felipe] Calderón is hurriedly trying to pass a reactionary labor “reform” that would facilitate firing workers, make temporary contracts the norm, promote outsourcing and attack all kinds of basic benefits, such as health care. This piece of legislation further curtails the right to strike and gives the state new powers to meddle in the finances and internal life of the unions.
This situation allows even the corrupt and repressive PRI to pose as a lesser evil, even though Peña Nieto has promised nothing but further austerity, disguised by vague declarations, and more privatizations—notably of [state oil company] PEMEX, about which he has not been vague at all. We say: Down with the privatization of PEMEX and the rest of the energy sector! Down with the draconian labor “reform”!
Additionally, there is widespread loathing for the increasing brutality of the state and criminal gangs carried out under Calderón’s “war on drugs,” which has left over 60,000 dead in the last few years. This “war” has nothing to do with protecting the population but rather with regimenting it, particularly the working class.
The “war on drugs” has also served a purpose in allowing U.S. imperialism to tighten its control over its “backyard.” By 2010, military aid to Mexico had increased seven-fold through the Merida Plan. For the U.S., the “war on drugs” in Mexico serves the same purpose as the “war on terror” elsewhere: the presence of U.S. military and police personnel in Mexico is increasing, while drone flights are now common. Now there’s even talk about an independent U.S. plan—in the style of bin Laden’s execution in 2011—to come into Mexico and hunt down famous drug lord “Chapo” Guzmán.
In the same sense, Peña Nieto has promised a “strategy” change that in reality means business as usual for the Mexican masses: increasing police forces and strengthening intelligence services, particularly in coordination with the U.S. and Central American countries. This has not been enough, however, to convince his untrusting imperialist masters that he will continue the “war on drugs.” James Sensenbrenner, director of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, complains that during the 71 years of PRI rule, the party “minimized violence by turning a blind eye to the cartels.” On the other hand, the fear caused by the increase in “narco-violence” has stirred some nostalgia for the order of the olden days. Some graffiti mentioned in Proceso magazine, clearly referring to this desperate situation, evocatively read: “Out with the incompetent ones, bring back the corrupt.”
It is the duty of the workers movement as a whole to oppose the “war on drugs,” whose only purpose is to strengthen the repressive powers of the capitalist state. We say: Down with “war on drugs” militarization! FBI, DEA and all U.S. military and police agencies out of Mexico! We call for the decriminalization of drugs, which, by eliminating the superprofits derived from the illegal and underground nature of the drug trade, would reduce crime and its related social pathologies. We also oppose measures by the bourgeois state to restrict or prevent the population from carrying firearms. Gun control laws limit the rights of the population and guarantee that the state and criminals maintain a monopoly of weapons.
Permanent Revolution vs. Bourgeois Nationalism
Since the 1980s, the PRI has set aside its old corporatist and nationalist politics—identified with [1930s president] Lázaro Cárdenas’s populism—to adopt neoliberal “openness,” i.e., privatization, anti-union attacks and increased political and economic subordination to U.S. imperialism. At the same time, this adaptable bourgeois party has kept its old links with powerful unions, such as the oil workers union, SUTERM [national electrical workers union] and the CTM [Mexican Labor Federation]. The PRD, which was founded by former PRI members, among them AMLO himself, arose after 1988, initially through the Frente Democrático Nacional [National Democratic Front], as a national-populist alternative to keep worker discontent within the framework of “democratic” bourgeois politics. Now Morena could grab the populist baton, though it might simply remain a mere appendage of the PRD.
Neoliberalism and nationalist populism offer no way forward for the working masses—both are capitalist policies that can be wielded by the same individuals depending on the circumstances. The PRD, just like the PRI and the PAN, is a capitalist party. Through its concessions to the working class and the poor and “anti-neoliberal” rhetoric, PRD populism seeks to preserve this brutal system of exploitation and oppression. For all its nationalist rhetoric, the PRD, as is true of the Mexican bourgeoisie as a whole, is bound by a thousand strings to its U.S. imperialist masters. In fact, this party does not even oppose NAFTA—the treaty of imperialist rape of Mexico—and seeks only to renegotiate the terms of subordination to the imperialists, leaning on the working class for support in this regard.
It is necessary to break the ties that bind the proletariat to the supposedly “progressive” bourgeoisie. Chief among these ties is the ideology of bourgeois nationalism, which obscures class divisions and promotes the lie that the exploiters and the exploited share common interests. This lie not only keeps the proletariat ideologically chained to the national bourgeoisie but also prevents it from seeing the class divide beyond the borders, particularly in the U.S. The main potential ally of the Mexican working class is the powerful U.S. proletariat, which must also break with the “national unity” promoted by its “own” bourgeoisie. For joint class struggle on both sides of the border!
Basing ourselves on the experience of the Russian Revolution of 1917, we fight for a workers and peasants government through socialist revolution. In countries of belated capitalist development such as Mexico, only the seizure of power by the working class—led by a revolutionary workers party and marching at the head of the desperate peasant and urban petty-bourgeois masses—can achieve genuine national liberation through the expropriation of the national bourgeoisie, repudiation of foreign debt and the international extension of the revolution. Socialist revolution would replace bourgeois democracy, which actually is nothing but a sham for the workers and the poor, with genuine democracy for the exploited and the oppressed, under which workers and poor peasants would rule the country through soviets (councils).
With the devastating effects of the world economic crisis and constant attacks against the already meager living standards of the working class, the peasantry and the urban poor, it is necessary for the proletariat to demonstrate its ability and determination to fight not only for its own survival but also for all the poor and the oppressed. In the face of rampant scarcity, we call for price-monitoring committees composed of delegates from factories, unions, cooperatives, peasant organizations and the urban poor. We fight for a sliding scale of wages to guarantee that wages increase proportionally with prices. Against massive unemployment, it is necessary to fight for a sliding scale of working hours to distribute available work, as well as for an extensive program of public works. No bourgeois party will carry out these demands. Rather, these indispensable demands serve as a bridge to socialist revolution and the establishment of a planned economy that, through the expropriation of the capitalists, will devote the entire economy not to fattening the wallets of a handful of magnates but to satisfying the needs of the population.
In the Service of the PRD
The #YoSoy132 movement started at the Universidad Iberoamericana last May, when some students, more than justifiably, harangued Peña Nieto for his role in the brutal repression [against peasant protests] in Atenco in 2006, when he was governor of the State of Mexico. However, by declaring itself to be strictly “anti-Peña Nieto,” this movement not only whitewashes the PRD—a perennial partner in capitalist repression—but even the “war-on-drugs” PAN. Having initially arisen at elitist private universities in Mexico City, several of them Catholic, #YoSoy132 enjoyed some level of respectability at the beginning and, in that context, was endorsed by none other than Calderón.
Students at public universities soon joined the 132 movement, whose demands are incredibly narrow and sometimes frankly ludicrous—e.g., contests for student productions to be shown on TV, “making Internet access a constitutional right” (in a country where large masses of the population still lack electricity and potable water, to say nothing about phone service or computers) and the “national broadcasting of the presidential debate.” Making a fetish out of the vote, the movement notably came out against abstention and spoiling ballots, labeling these as “ineffective actions for advancing the construction of our democracy.”
In past months, the 132 movement has acquired a more traditionally populist, “anti-neoliberal” and nationalist profile, in part through its alliances with the SME [the remnants of the combative union that was destroyed after the government dissolved the state-run Central Light and Power Company and fired all the workers in 2009] and the FPDT [Atenco peasants organization]. The majority of the Mexican left has shamelessly embraced the bourgeois-liberal politics of #YoSoy132. Meanwhile, the participation of students from private universities has decreased considerably.
#YoSoy132 is an amorphous, electoralist and petty-bourgeois movement, politically related to the Spanish “Indignados” and the Occupy movement in the U.S. Its sole objectives are “democratizing the country” through the vote and “democratizing the media.” Even though it claims to be non-partisan, from the get-go it has in practice served as an appendage of AMLO’s and the bourgeois PRD’s campaign in Central Mexico, without closing the door to the PAN in other areas of the country. It is a measure of the betrayals of the misleaders of the workers movement, who are subordinated to the PRD and the PRI, that the electoralist mobilizations of #YoSoy132 (and of the PRD itself) became the center of every protest against the more grotesque effects of the economic catastrophe.
Just like its counterparts in Europe and the U.S., #YoSoy132 dissolves the proletariat as just another sector of the “people.” On the contrary, the proletariat, because of its relationship to the means of production, is the only class with the social power and the historic interest to overthrow capitalism. Not having anything except its labor power to sell, the working class has no objective interest in the preservation of the rule of private property; its interest is to collectivize the means of production. The petty bourgeoisie—a heterogeneous layer that includes peasants, students, professionals, etc.—is incapable of raising its own revolutionary program: it always trails behind one of the two fundamental classes in capitalism—the proletariat or the bourgeoisie.
The Democratic Scam
As communists, we defend democratic rights and understand that in countries of belated capitalist development the democratic aspirations of the masses—such as national emancipation, agrarian revolution and political democracy—cannot be satisfied under capitalism. These aspirations act as a motor force for socialist revolution. Democratic illusions under capitalism, however, are suicidal. This is a country where a stable bourgeois democracy can never exist. The weakness of the Mexican bourgeoisie, subordinated to imperialism and fearful of the proletariat, does not allow it that luxury.
In the epoch of imperialist decay, there is no “progressive” wing of the bourgeoisie capable of breaking the subordination to imperialism. Revolutionary Marxists, based on the Trotskyist perspective of permanent revolution, have no democratic program separate from the socialist one. In the struggle for democratic demands, we counterpose the proletariat to the bourgeoisie, based on the fact that these demands are only attainable under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The #YoSoy132 student movement is based on and pushes illusions in democratic abstractions that ignore the division of society into classes. It demands a “change in the model of national security,” reducing the “security budget” in favor of funding “public expenditure, education, culture and health.” No matter what its “security model” is, the capitalist state—with the police, the army, the courts and the prisons at its core—will always be an instrument for organized violence to maintain the rule of the exploiters. This machinery cannot be reformed to serve the interests of the exploited and the oppressed. It must be destroyed and replaced by a workers state.
Democracy has a class nature; “pure democracy” is a liberal scam to dupe the workers and the oppressed and obscure the real dictatorship of capital. This scam is particularly successful in the advanced capitalist countries, where the imperialist bourgeoisies can afford to maintain a more or less stable parliamentary system. Parliamentarism, in the words of French socialist Paul Lafargue (Karl Marx’s son-in-law), “is a system of government in which the people acquires the illusion that it is controlling the forces of the country itself, when, in reality, the actual power is concentrated in the hands of the bourgeoisie—and not even of the whole bourgeoisie, but only of certain sections of that class” [quoted in Leon Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism, 1920]. In countries of belated capitalist development, this facade is exceedingly brittle and unstable. However, in both advanced and backward countries:
“Bourgeois democracy, although a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism, always remains, and under capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and deception for the exploited, for the poor.”
—V.I. Lenin, The Proletarian
Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (1918)
In contrast to the fashionable (and illusory) “non-partisanship,” we fight to forge a vanguard workers party, uniting advanced workers and declassed intellectuals under a revolutionary and internationalist class-struggle program. A Bolshevik party is the fundamental instrument to bring political consciousness to the proletariat, essential for it to carry out and consolidate socialist revolution.
It is necessary to intervene in social and class struggle with the program of revolutionary Marxism, fighting to break workers and the oppressed from the bourgeois populism of AMLO and the PRD. This is the only way to build the Leninist-Trotskyist party that will lead the working class to power. This is an enormous task, with no shortcuts. But it is the task to which the Grupo Espartaquista de México and the International Communist League are committed.