Workers Vanguard No. 1104
27 January 2017
Capitalist Democrats and Republicans Bleed Mexico
Mexico: Mass Protests over Gas Price Hike
For Socialist Revolutions on Both Sides of the Border!
Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets across Mexico since January 1 in protests against the gasolinazo—the imposition of an increase in gasoline prices of up to 20 percent by the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) government of President Enrique Peña Nieto. This attack on Mexico’s workers, peasants and poor has resulted in the largest mobilizations in history in several states and cities. Protesters in the states bordering the U.S. have repeatedly shut down toll booths and border crossings.
The almost complete media blackout of the protests in the U.S. is not an accident. The U.S. imperialist rulers are clearly worried about continuing instability south of the border and want to keep working people in the U.S. ignorant of the struggles by their Mexican class brothers and sisters. Helping to fuel the protests in Mexico is the enormous fear and loathing provoked by newly elected president Donald Trump, who has missed no opportunity to revile the Mexican people. Trump’s protectionist tirades have already caused Ford and GM to reconsider investment in Mexico, while the Mexican peso, already on a slide, has hit all-time lows in recent weeks following anti-Mexico pronouncements by Trump and his new secretary of commerce. The multiracial U.S. proletariat has a particular obligation to oppose the depredations of the U.S. imperialist behemoth, which has condemned millions of Mexican workers and peasants to hunger and joblessness under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
The gasolinazo is a result of the phasing out of price controls as part of the union-busting energy reform approved by the Mexican Congress in 2013, which opened up PEMEX, the nationalized oil industry, to foreign investment. The moves to sell off PEMEX are part of a wave of privatizations demanded by the U.S. rulers to open up the country to untrammeled imperialist plunder. The NAFTA free trade agreement has long served this purpose, devastating the Mexican countryside and massively increasing urban poverty. Workers in the U.S. must oppose NAFTA out of solidarity with Mexico’s exploited and oppressed. Such proletarian internationalist opposition to NAFTA has nothing in common with the chauvinist protectionism pushed by both Trump and the AFL-CIO officialdom.
The struggles for workers revolutions in Mexico and the U.S. are intimately linked, including through the agency of the millions of Mexican immigrants who are an important component of the U.S. proletariat. In order to overcome the divisions between native-born and immigrant workers, which hamstring the working class, it is necessary to struggle against the vicious anti-immigrant bigotry promoted by the capitalist Democrats and Republicans. No deportations! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!
We print below an article written by our comrades of the Grupo Espartaquista de México, section of the International Communist League.
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The up to 20 percent increase in the price of fuel imposed by the hated government of Enrique Peña Nieto is the result of privatization and condemns the already impoverished masses of Mexico to misery and hunger. The government had the support of the PAN [right-wing clericalist National Action Party] and the majority of PRD [Party of the Democratic Revolution] legislators. Relative to the minimum wage, gasoline in Mexico is now more expensive than almost anywhere else in the world. The cost of basic foods is expected to rise significantly. Public transportation fares, already exorbitant especially outside of Mexico City, have increased, as have electricity rates.
Together with the precipitous fall of the peso against the dollar, the gasolinazo seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Outrage has spread throughout the country since January 1. There have been mass protests in dozens of cities—for example, 20,000 people in Monterrey on January 5, 40,000 people in Mexicali on the 15th and 60,000 in Guadalajara on the 22nd. Also on January 22, over 5,000 workers, mostly of Local 271 of the miners and steel workers union, marched in the port city of Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán. PEMEX terminals have been blockaded in at least nine states. The railroad crossing at the Sonora-Arizona border was obstructed, impeding the flow of imports and exports for several days. The government has responded with a huge deployment of police, the guard dogs of the bourgeoisie. The brutal repression has resulted in over 1,500 arrests and at least five deaths. Free all the arrested now!
In order to fight against this crisis unleashed by the Mexican capitalists and their imperialist patrons, the power of the working class must be mobilized at the head of all the oppressed against this inhumane system of exploitation and oppression. The working class, which operates all the machinery of modern industrial capitalism, has enormous social power deriving from its relationship to the means of production. The Grupo Espartaquista de México fights to build a revolutionary workers party like the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, which led the proletariat to power in Russia in the 1917 October Revolution. As part of this perspective, today we advocate a program of proletarian action based on demands linking the fight for the urgent and immediate needs of the masses to a struggle to destroy the whole capitalist system through socialist revolution.
Against austerity and unemployment, workers must fight for: A sliding scale of wages to keep up with the cost of living! Jobs for all through a shorter workweek with no loss in pay! Against the gasolinazo and rampant deprivation: for price-control committees composed of delegates from the factories, unions, cooperatives, peasant organizations and the urban poor! Against imperialist plunder, the working class must fight for the nationalization of key industries like energy. Expropriate the banks, utilities, transportation and the ports!
Confronted by such a struggle, the bourgeoisie will say that it is impossible to provide jobs for all, or to ensure that all families have sufficient food, housing and decent living conditions, given that it would hurt profits. This will show the masses that the capitalist system deserves to perish and that the imposition of such simple and rational measures requires the expropriation of the expropriators, the entire bourgeoisie. In this way, we seek to advance revolutionary consciousness among workers and to destroy the illusions promoted by the bourgeois-populist PRD and Morena [former PRD presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Movement for National Regeneration] that the capitalist system can be reformed to serve the interests of the exploited and oppressed. It is necessary to abolish private property in the means of production through a socialist revolution that establishes a workers and peasants government.
Trump and Peña Nieto: The Master Repudiates the Lackey
For decades, the Mexican bourgeoisie and its governments have obsequiously followed imperialist diktats. They have opened up the Mexican economy to unrestricted pillage by the U.S. bourgeoisie through massive privatizations, elimination of agricultural subsidies, anti-union attacks and, above all, through NAFTA, a treaty for the rape of Mexico. At the same time, a handful of Mexican capitalists have enriched themselves in the shadow of their masters. The result for the masses has been a devastated countryside and growing desperation among the remaining millions of peasants, many of them utterly miserable and oppressed indigenous people; massive unemployment poorly disguised as the “informal economy”; an increasing dependence on the import of basic foodstuffs. The purpose of NAFTA is to strengthen the North American imperialists against their European and Japanese rivals. While in Mexico it has brought abject and generalized misery, in the U.S. and Canada it has served the bourgeois imperialists as a means to attack the standard of living of the working class, provoke mass layoffs and severely weaken the unions.
Not content, the imperialist masters demand more. The racist demagogue Trump now seems to want to abandon his Mexican bourgeois lackeys to their fate by demanding to renegotiate NAFTA in order to make it even more beneficial to the imperialists, on the basis of rabid protectionism. But let us not forget for a single moment that it was Democrat Bill Clinton who pushed for and rolled out NAFTA. His wife Hillary, as secretary of state under Obama, was the one who devised the scheme to privatize Mexico’s oil. And it was Obama, until recently the “Deporter in Chief,” who broke the record for deportations by a single U.S. president—more than two million. Democrats and Republicans are both parties of U.S. imperialism.
In a joint statement issued by the Spartacist League/U.S., the Trotskyist League of Canada and the Grupo Espartaquista de México, sections of the International Communist League, we explained, “The fight against the FTA [NAFTA] is a battle against American imperialist domination of Mexico” and declared: “We call on Mexican, U.S. and Canadian workers to join in opposing this anti-labor pact” (WV No. 530, 5 July 1991). A quarter century later, this call not only remains valid but is even more urgent.
Trotskyists do not equate protectionism in neocolonial countries, where it constitutes a measure of national self-defense, with the protectionism of the imperialists, which pushes chauvinism and seeks to bolster the domination of one or another imperialist bourgeoisie. We are opposed to the oil privatization, which took legal effect three years ago, although imperialist investment has been slow in arriving. We say: Down with the privatization of the energy industry! In the context of the 1938 nationalization of oil, James P. Cannon, founder of American Trotskyism, said during a speech he gave in Mexico that same year:
“We know that we cannot overthrow the imperialists of America without the aid of [the] Latin American people who are oppressed by the same imperialism....
“The expropriation of the oil companies is an action which inspires the workers of the entire world. It is too bad that you have to pay these robbers who have been robbing Mexico of its natural resources. In principle the Fourth International is in favor of expropriating the capitalists without any compensation at all. If the Mexican people have to pay compensation it is because they have not yet received enough support from the workers of the U.S.”
The Mexican bourgeoisie and the imperialists have been trying to smash the oil workers union through privatization, which the union’s pro-capitalist bureaucracy criminally supported. This points to the urgency of the struggle for new leadership of the unions, a class-struggle leadership that maintains its independence from any bourgeois party, whether it be the PRI, PAN, PRD or Morena.
For a Workers and Peasants Government!
The main slogan during the current protests, as it has been for some years now, is “Peña Nieto Out!” Peña Nieto should fall. But his replacement by some bourgeois populist like AMLO [Andrés Manuel López Obrador] or his former colleagues of the PRD (not to mention the reactionary clerical and neoliberal PAN) will not bring any substantial improvement to the exploited and oppressed masses. In fact, the fundamental reason Peña Nieto gave for the gasolinazo was that Mexico, an exporter of petroleum, imports more than half the gasoline it consumes. This is an example of the inherent incapacity of the Mexican bourgeoisie to develop the industrial forces of the country.
Regardless of who governs and on what program, capitalist Mexico will continue to be a neocolonial country subjugated by imperialism, subject to market crises and wild fluctuations in the price of crude oil. As Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution explains, it is not possible to break the imperialist yoke or to satisfy the needs of the population under capitalism.
The bourgeoisie of every country of belated capitalist development is absolutely incapable of breaking with imperialism. As Lenin taught, imperialism is a worldwide system of exploitation and oppression dominated by the big monopolies of finance capital backed by their respective nation-states, with their armies and navies. Due to imperialist penetration, Mexico is a country of combined and uneven development, where modern production techniques coexist with miserable rural backwardness.
Regardless of their ideological differences, the bourgeoisies of the Third World are tied to the imperialists by thousands of threads and are too weak to break their own subordination. The bourgeoisie’s interest is always the generation of profits—the whole capitalist system is aimed at fattening the pockets of a handful of the superrich. The working class is the only class with the social power and class interest to destroy capitalism. Under the leadership of a Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard party, the working class will be able to carry out a socialist revolution and replace the capitalist system with a regime that seeks to fulfill the needs of the population.
The bourgeois state consists centrally of armed bodies (the police, the military, the courts and prisons) to defend the capitalist system of exploitation. It is necessary to destroy the capitalist state and construct a new state power that defends the rule of the working class at the head of all the rural and urban poor. Only a government of workers and poor peasants councils can satisfy the masses’ aspirations for social and national emancipation.
As part of our perspective of permanent revolution, we understand that in order to defend such conquests and proceed on the road to socialism it is necessary to fight for the international extension of the revolution, especially to the U.S. imperialist colossus. A revolution in Mexico would electrify the multiracial U.S. proletariat. Just as Mexican workers must break with the craven bourgeois nationalists of their own country and see the U.S. proletariat as their class brothers, the U.S. proletariat must understand that its interests coincide with those of the Mexican proletariat—and those of the workers of the world—and break with the politics of its bureaucratic misleaders who are loyal to the imperialist Democratic Party.
Unleash the Power of the Working Class!
The bulk of advanced and heavy industry in Mexico—with the exception, for now, of petroleum and electricity—is the product of imperialist investment and destined for export, overwhelmingly to the U.S. As Trotsky explained in “Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay” (1940): “Inasmuch as foreign capital does not import workers but proletarianizes the native population, the national proletariat soon begins playing the most important role in the life of the country.” The bourgeoisie creates its own gravedigger: NAFTA has enlarged the ranks of the industrial proletariat—for example, Mexico is today the fourth-largest exporter of automobiles. The Mexican and U.S. economies are profoundly interpenetrated, something the working class can use to its advantage. If Mexican auto workers exercised their social power, they could paralyze the whole complex of U.S. automotive production.
The unions are currently weakened by the long-running neoliberal offensive, including historic defeats such as the destruction of the Mexican Union of Electrical Workers and massive privatizations. At the same time, today’s protests are politically dominated by bourgeois populists and, especially in Mexico City, by elitist, petty-bourgeois elements. It is necessary for the unions to mobilize in defense of their own interests and those of all the poor. Strike action by powerful sectors of the Mexican proletariat—such as the miners and oil workers unions—could make the weak Mexican bourgeoisie tremble and could challenge the bourgeois state’s starvation attacks and repression. This requires a political struggle against the pro-capitalist bureaucracies, which tie the unions to the bourgeois parties and caudillos, and for their replacement with a class-struggle leadership. For the political independence of the workers movement! To begin to reverse the anti-union attacks, it is necessary to fight to organize the unorganized, including subcontracted workers.
Internationalist Group Joins Bosses’ Drive Against Oil Workers Union
The government, which is trying to sell the rights to the oil platforms, has launched the current attack to undo petroleum price controls in order to increase the profitability of the oil assets they are putting on the auction block. They need to demonstrate that their imperialist masters will be able to make enough money from the blood, sweat and tears of the Mexican masses. This is also an attack against the oil workers union. Carlos Loret de Mola of Televisa [giant media company] ranted that behind the “chaos” caused by the “blockades and looting” was the hidden hand of the oil workers union. According to the newspaper El Financiero (16 January), the union “has become a liability to national development.”
The Grupo Internacionalista (GI) [Internationalist Group] has joined the bourgeois spokesmen who support the campaign to destroy the oil workers union. Far from defending the union against the bosses’ new offensive, in a recent leaflet (misdated January 2016), the GI affirms “the bourgeois character of the charro ‘unions,’ which are nothing other than labor fronts integrated into the capitalist state, that serve as veritable labor police to repress all attempts at resistance on the part of the workers.” Whatever its rhetoric, for the GI the class character of the Mexican unions is determined by which bourgeois party they are tied to. Thus, according to the GI, the supposedly “bourgeois” unions are those that support the PRI, whereas those that support the bourgeois-nationalist PRD or Morena are quite “genuine.” But the bureaucracy of the telephone workers union, for example, to this day led by the everlasting Francisco Hernández Juárez, who cheered the privatization of his own industry 25 years ago, is just as charro [sell-out] as that of the oil workers union. Nonetheless, for the GI, the telephone workers union is a “genuine” workers union. How to understand the GI’s nonsense? The key detail is that Hernández Juárez supports the PRD; Romero Deschamps [leader of the oil workers union] supports the wrong bourgeois party (the PRI).
The GI had to surreptitiously “correct” a previous, almost identical version of its leaflet by making a few changes. Among these was its inadvertent reference to the corporatist unions as “unions” [sindicatos], which the GI subsequently changed to “guilds” [gremios]. The GI goes on to say, “It is necessary to overcome all guildism” [gremialismo]. This is the GI’s politically cowardly way of saying that it is necessary to destroy the corporatist unions from within—i.e., do the bosses’ dirty work for them. The GI also explained in its revised leaflet, “Local 22 of the dissident teachers can be instrumental in making a joint struggle of diverse guilds of workers against the government offensive a reality.” The CNTE teachers of Local 22—which the GI has tailed for years—is tied to the bourgeois caudillo AMLO through its own bureaucracy. Of course, the GI does not mention the CNTE’s support to Morena and AMLO when it nominates the dissident teachers to occupy the “instrumental” position in organizing other workers. So for the GI, the “complete independence from the bourgeoisie” will be realized once powerful sectors like the oil workers also tail AMLO. And perhaps then the GI will grant the union its imprimatur as a “genuine” workers union.
In spite of the fact that the unions are under pro-capitalist leadership, the defense of the unions (the elementary organizations of the working class) against the attacks of the bosses and their state is a minimum condition for a struggle for the political independence of the workers movement. We don’t identify unionized workers with their bureaucracies, nor do we identify the bureaucracy with the bourgeoisie. The working class should clean its own house! As Trotsky taught in “Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay”: the fight for union democracy “presupposes for its realization the complete freedom of the trade unions from the imperialist or colonial state.” He went on to note: “As a matter of fact, the independence of the trade unions in the class sense, in their relations to the bourgeois state, can, in the present conditions, be assured only by a completely revolutionary leadership, that is, the leadership of the Fourth International.”
Bourgeois Hysteria over Looting
During the protests, there were some who took the opportunity to obtain a few consumer goods for free from department stores like Elektra—which belongs to the magnate Ricardo Salinas Pliego, who also owns TV Azteca—and from big grocery chains like Aurrerá and Walmart. Some seem to have managed to recover their own belongings from the infamous pawnshop loan sharks. These acts occurred in some of the country’s poorest towns, including in Veracruz, Hidalgo and the miserable suburbs of Mexico City, like Ecatepec and Zumpango. The mass media and myriad petty-bourgeois types on social media whipped up a lynch mob campaign against “looters.” AMLO came out with the reactionary line that looting constitutes a “fascist strategy.”
Like altar boys from the choir, the bulk of the left has added its voice to the bourgeois clamor. For example, the pseudo-Trotskyist Izquierda Socialista [Socialist Left] and the Movimiento de los Trabajadores Socialistas [Movement of Socialist Workers], which tail Morena and AMLO, speak of infiltration by PRI supporters and acts of vandalism. This hysteria is nothing more than elitist indifference to the generalized misery in which large sections of the population live. The Mexican masses have had their bread, jobs, land and homes stolen, and are now fighting merely to survive. The few acts of looting that occurred at the beginning of January were neither a radical tactic nor a crime from the standpoint of the working class; they were simply a reflection of the desperation of the poor. The real looters are those who have driven the country to misery and humiliation. Mobilize the social power of the working class against the repression!
The terrible imperialist oppression suffered by the Mexican masses has fed nationalist illusions of false unity between the exploited and the exploiters on the basis of a supposed common purpose in advancing the interests of the “fatherland.” The GEM fights to build the proletarian vanguard party that seeks to rip the masses’ loyalty away from the nationalist-populist bourgeoisie, combating illusions in democratic reform of the bourgeois state and directing the masses’ struggles toward the seizure of power by the proletariat. Our perspective, like that of Lenin and Trotsky, is internationalist. We Spartacists of the International Communist League fight to reforge the Trotskyist Fourth International in order to carry out new October Revolutions around the world.