Workers Vanguard No. 1135
1 June 2018
Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!
Mexico Elections: No Choice for Exploited and Oppressed
The following article is translated from Espartaco No. 49 (April 2018), publication of the Grupo Espartaquista de México, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist). The Mexican elections are scheduled to be held on July 1.
A few months away from the presidential elections, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his bourgeois-populist Movement for National Regeneration (Morena) is in the lead against his opponents: the technocrat José Antonio Meade of the governing PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party]; Ricardo Anaya of the alliance of the neo-Cristero PAN [National Action Party—the Cristeros led a right-wing Catholic fundamentalist revolt in early 20th-century Mexico]; the bourgeois-nationalist PRD [Party of the Democratic Revolution]; and the “independent” candidates, the renegade PAN member, Margarita Zavala (wife of former president Felipe Calderón), and the right-wing ex-PRI populist Jaime Rodríguez, “El Bronco.” [Zavala withdrew from the campaign in May.] For the working class, there is no one to vote for. National-populists or neoliberals—all are candidates of the bourgeois parties that defend the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression. All are enemies of the interests of workers and the oppressed.
We learned from V.I. Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik Party that led the Russian workers and peasants to power in 1917, the true nature of capitalist democracy: every six years the workers and the oppressed are granted the right to go to the polls and decide which representative of the bourgeoisie is to crush and repress them. Our purpose is to sweep this whole system away, and the political independence of the workers movement is the premise of this revolutionary program. On principle, we oppose voting for any party and/or candidate alien to the workers movement. We struggle to forge a vanguard workers party that unites the advanced workers and declassed intellectuals under a program of revolutionary internationalist class struggle.
For us, it is also a question of principle that Marxists do not run candidates for executive office of the capitalist state, such as president, mayor and governor. This position derives from our understanding of the bourgeois state as a machine of repression and oppression—whose nucleus is the army, the police, the courts and the prisons—which serves to protect capitalist rule and its mode of production (see “Marxist Principles and Electoral Tactics,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 61, Spring 2009). Far from wanting to administer the capitalist state, we communists struggle to destroy it and replace it, through socialist revolution, with a workers state.
Anti-Worker “Reforms,” Militarization and Imperialist Subjugation
According to government numbers, in 2016 there were 53.4 million people “in a situation of poverty”—more than 40 percent of the population—while the number of people “in poverty or precariousness” increased to 95 million—three-quarters of the Mexican people! This is a direct result of NAFTA, a treaty of imperialist depredation against Mexico, and of decades of privatizations and “structural reforms” (privatization of the oil industry, electricity and railways; deregulation of the price of gasoline; “education reform,” etc.) with the purpose of turning the nation’s economy over to the imperialists, especially the United States, and weakening and destroying unions.
The craven Mexican rulers do not cease in pursuing their aims, despite the open contempt of their imperialist masters. While overseeing the looting of Mexico, Democrat Barack Obama deported 2.7 million immigrants, setting an all-time record for a U.S. president, which the racist Republican, Donald Trump, would like to break. Trump is determined to make NAFTA even more beneficial for the United States while at the same time unleashing la migra against the “bad hombres” (Mexicans) and all immigrants, erecting his humiliating anti-immigrant wall and militarizing the border with the recent deployment of thousands of U.S. troops.
The Mexican capitalist government, along with its economic assault, launched a brutal “war on drugs” under the PAN [in power from 2000 to 2012] and maintains it today under the PRI. This repressive assault was made in the U.S. as a means to increase the control that it exercises on its Latin American “back yard.” The recently approved Internal Security Law legalizes permanent militarization on a large scale and grants bonapartist powers to the president to mobilize the army, with no limitations, against whatever it considers a “threat.” Down with the Internal Security Law! Down with the “war on drugs”!
As we have insisted, the “war on drugs” and the increasing militarization of society have nothing to do with protecting the population; they are an excuse for strengthening the bourgeois state and further limiting the rights of the people. They are an attempt to frighten the entire population into submission and are aimed particularly at fighters for social justice and at union militants. We call for the decriminalization of drugs, which, by eliminating the enormous profits derived from the illegal and clandestine nature of drug trafficking, would reduce the crime and other pathologies associated with it. We also oppose the measures taken by the bourgeois state to restrict or prevent the population from bearing arms, which curtails its rights and guarantees a monopoly of arms by the state and criminals.
This lengthy pro-imperialist assault on workers and the poor has, in most cases, been met with passivity from the pro-capitalist union bureaucracies loyal to the PRI or the PRD (and now sometimes to Morena). The bureaucrats have made their best effort to demobilize the working class, when they have not simply supported one attack after another.
Morena, a Capitalist Spare Tire
PRI, PAN and PRD are openly in favor of the continuation of the bourgeois offensive. As testimony to their right-wing character and abject servility, they sound the alarm at the possibility of an electoral victory by AMLO. For his part, López Obrador, whose party (founded in 2012) has not had the opportunity to head the federal executive branch, has bent over backwards to demonstrate, correctly, that the bourgeoisie has nothing to fear from him. He too is for the continuity of the “structural reforms” and the defense of NAFTA.
The PAN and the PRD formed an alliance, putting forth Ricardo Anaya of the PAN as their candidate. The PRD, discredited by its attacks on the exploited and the oppressed and its murderous repression, such as the disappearance of 43 teachers college students from Ayotzinapa [in 2014], has clung to this alliance because it had no chance of winning the federal elections (although it expects to maintain its historic bastion of Mexico City).
AMLO, in turn, has allied himself with the Social Encounter Party (PES), an evangelical right-wing formation that is rabidly male-chauvinist, anti-woman and anti-gay, and obsessed with destroying the right to abortion, gay marriage (and gay divorce) and adoption by gay couples in Mexico City. AMLO competes with the PRD for the same base; in this city, where these democratic reforms enjoy popularity, especially among intellectuals, AMLO has been forced to declare through clenched teeth that he will maintain them—where they exist, in Mexico City. On the other hand, AMLO opposes these basic democratic rights and has repeatedly threatened, including through promises to the church, that he will submit them to a popular referendum, which would very probably mean putting an end to them. We Spartacists say: No plebiscite! For free abortion on demand and full rights for gays in the entire country!
Many intellectuals and pseudo-leftists see something “unnatural” in the PRD-PAN and Morena-PES alliances. In reality, all that these alliances between the bourgeois parties confirm is that there are no irreconcilable differences between them, and that bourgeois democracy is a sewer in which the only unbreakable principle is maintaining the capitalist regime itself; it is a democracy for the rich and a fraud for the poor. In backward countries like Mexico, “democracy” is a thin layer of paint that is supposed to hide the bloodbath of daily military-police brutality.
Bourgeois Populism, Then and Now
Broad layers of the exploited and the oppressed see in AMLO an alternative to improve their situation substantially and to gain the fulfillment of the democratic rights that they have demanded so vehemently, such as national emancipation. For many workers, AMLO is a sort of reincarnation of General Lázaro Cárdenas. Certainly, Lázaro Cárdenas and AMLO (just like the deceased Hugo Chávez and now Maduro in Venezuela) are representatives of nationalist populism. Such populism is a form of capitalist politics to which Third World capitalist classes, attached to imperialism by a thousand threads, have resorted in order to win the support of the powerful working class and place themselves in a better position to renegotiate the terms of their own subordination to the imperialists.
In the 1930s, Cárdenas modernized the country to the benefit of the national bourgeoisie. For this purpose, he won the support of workers and peasants through concessions and democratic reforms, such as a significant redistribution of land and the nationalization of the railways in 1937 and of imperialist oil companies in 1938. Co-opting the union bureaucracies, Cárdenas tied the unions to the bourgeois state through the straitjacket of corporatism. The result was decades of PRI governments that combined nationalist-populist policies, based above all on oil profits, with savage repression.
Eighty years later, and with the counterrevolutionary destruction of the USSR, AMLO’s populism seems to be a parody of that of Lázaro Cárdenas. For AMLO, it has been enough to give a demagogic speech against the corruption of the “mafia in power” and promise to grant a few concessions, such as an increase in pensions to the elderly and scholarships for students—measures we would certainly defend.
Although AMLO has managed to garner the sympathy of the working class by declaring that he will repeal the education and energy “reforms”—if a “popular referendum” approves his doing so—in his next breath he assured some bankers and other members of the bourgeoisie that if he wins the elections, he will not carry out any nationalizations and will leave in place the reforms approved during the six years of the administration of [current PRI president] Enrique Peña Nieto.
In order to co-opt miners and teachers, two of the sectors hardest hit in the six years of Peña Nieto, AMLO nominated the miners’ leader, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, to run for the Senate. He also established an alliance with the “Progressive Social Networks,” an organization of members of the SNTE (National Union of Education Workers) that is linked to the son-in-law of Elba Esther Gordillo and her relatives [Gordillo is the previous president of SNTE, imprisoned in 2013 and now under house arrest]. We Spartacists warn that the illusions in AMLO promoted by the union bureaucracy only serve to chain the proletariat to this bourgeois-populist caudillo. It is necessary that the working class break with AMLO and oust the pro-capitalist union bureaucrats—regardless of whether they are from the PRI, the PRD or Morena—replacing them with a class-struggle leadership.
AMLO is in favor of NAFTA, the main vehicle for the economic subordination of Mexico to the United States and one of the main causes of the current economic devastation, especially in the countryside. AMLO’s only objective is to make this treaty of imperialist depredation more “fair” and “equitable.” To this end, he hopes to convince…Donald Trump.
Although he hypocritically denounces criminal state brutality, AMLO offers more of the same. He boasts that he will enforce the current Internal Security Law (in fact he had previously proposed to create one of his own); he is in favor of having the army in the streets (although, according to him, in a temporary capacity); and he wants to continue this militarization by creating a “national guard” in charge of “security” and integrated into the armed forces and the police. He plans to implement a policy of “zero tolerance for corruption,” a remake of the draconian “zero tolerance” policy that he applied when he was head of the government of Mexico City, which meant greater police repression and, among other things, the prohibition and criminalization of panhandling and street vendors. To carry out this vile policy, in 2003 AMLO hired the hated ex-mayor of New York, and later Trump adviser, Rudolph Giuliani, at a cost of 450 million pesos [$23 million]. And it should not be forgotten that it was AMLO who in 2001 unleashed repression on the peasants of Atenco, well before Enrique Peña Nieto had done it.
The important thing is to understand that today with AMLO, just as before with Lázaro Cárdenas, the working class should have no illusions in these nationalist-populist caudillos. Neoliberalism and nationalist populism are no more than two alternate capitalist policies that can be employed by the same individuals according to necessity. Further, whether or not AMLO wins the elections, capitalist Mexico will continue to be a backward country subjugated by imperialism.
We Spartacists are guided by the understanding that was behind the Russian Revolution of 1917, Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, which states:
“With regard to countries of belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation above all of its peasant masses.”
—The Permanent Revolution (1930)
It is necessary to combat bourgeois nationalism, which obscures the class divide and pushes the fallacy of common interests between exploited and exploiters. The best potential ally of the Mexican proletariat is the powerful multiracial proletariat of the United States. To open the road to socialism, it is necessary to extend the revolution to the advanced capitalist countries, such as the U.S. Here as much as there, it is necessary to break the chains that subordinate the proletariat to the supposedly “progressive” bourgeoisie, whether it is the bourgeois-nationalist AMLO or the imperialist Democrats, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The MTS in the Shadow of AMLO
The pseudo-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Movement (MTS) would like to make electoral cretinism its trademark. Recently it celebrated the success of its crazed 52-day campaign to collect the signatures needed to run a candidate for Mexico City Congress in the next local elections. For the last four years, the MTS has mobilized all of its scarce forces in campaigns to participate in bourgeois elections, including in the farce of Mexico City’s Constituent Assembly (see: “Ciudad de México: El circo antidemocrático de la Asamblea Constituyente,” Espartaco No. 46, October 2016). The fact that this small organization of a few dozen militants goes from campaign to campaign in search of congressional seats says a lot about the reformist perspective of these supposed Marxists.
Just as with every previous campaign, the MTS in its current one has not even drawn a tenuous class line. They call themselves “anti-capitalists,” a deceptive term that is in vogue. It means not opposition to capitalism, but rather to a few of its neoliberal “excesses.” The MTS’s entire electoral program was reduced to raising a series of narrow demands, such as the reduction of salaries for functionaries and taxes for businessmen—demands that AMLO could very well raise himself, and, in fact, he has raised a few of them. None of MTS’s articles dedicated to the promotion of its candidacy mention the class character of AMLO and Morena, much less call for a break with them. Its entire campaign is a fraud, dedicated to accommodating the illusions in AMLO.
Ever since the founding of Morena, we have warned that the then League of Workers for Socialism (LTS), predecessor of the MTS, was introducing ambiguity regarding the class nature of this bourgeois party, making it pass for a sort of social-democratic Third World workers party whose problem was its “political leadership” and “strategy” (see “La LTS: entre Moreno y Morena,” Espartaco No. 37, February 2013). Showing its own illusions in AMLO, now the complaints of the MTS against the populist caudillo are based not on the bourgeois program or character of AMLO and his party, but rather on his alliance with the PES:
“With alliances like this, the figure who raises the most illusions among broad sectors of the population questions women’s rights, such as the right to abortion that has been won in Mexico City, and the rights of the LGBT community, among them marriage equality.”
—izquierdadiario.mx (8 April)
Independently of his alliance with evangelicals, AMLO (himself a devout Christian) is an opponent of the basic democratic rights of women and gays and in fact has never pretended otherwise.
For a Workers and Peasants Government!
Against all illusions in bourgeois parties, we Spartacists struggle, based on the experience of the Russian Revolution of 1917, for a workers and peasants government through socialist revolution. In countries of backward capitalist development, such as Mexico, only the seizure of power by the working class, led by a revolutionary workers party and supported by the peasantry and pauperized urban petty-bourgeois masses, can attain genuine national emancipation by expropriating the national bourgeoisie, repudiating foreign debt and struggling to spread the revolution internationally. The socialist revolution would replace bourgeois democracy, which in reality is nothing but a mockery for workers and the poor, with a genuine democracy for the exploited and the oppressed, in which the workers and poor peasants would lead the country through soviets or workers councils.