By Nevin Siders
January 5, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The People’s and Worker’s Political Organization (Organización Política del Pueblo y los Trabajadores, OPT) held its first national congress in Mexico City on the weekend of December 12 and 13, 2014.
Since its founding in 2011, the party has grown to have local units registered in 16 of Mexico’s 32 states. According to convention organisers, 200 members attended the convention held in the headquarters of the Mexican Electricians Trade Union (SME), which was the protagonist for its founding in 2011 and has continued to press for it as an alternative to the parties of capital and their hangers-on.
SME’s secretary general and OPT national committee member Martín Esparza Flores gave the opening welcome.
The draft political platform opened with an indelible ecosocialist stance: “Capitalism, as a global system and by its own nature, without exception, tends to extend and deepen the levels of exploitation of the workforce, while preying and degrading on nature. This is why it tends to produce generalised conditions of poverty, misery and precariousness around the world.”
The draft statement has these sharp statements worth translating in full (section 2, pp. 1-2):
“Capital is a system that ruptures the relationship between society and nature, sucking the latter dry while preventing its regeneration. For capital, nature is like a tap into unlimited resources and also a sewer for its polluted waste. Yet natural resources are limited, so reckless exploitation and extraction, linked to growing, disastrous pollution, is literally consuming and destroying nature. Operating in this manner, capital has caused global ecocide and accelerated destruction of more than 45% of the planet’s ecosystems, provoking, moreover, climate change which is producing catastrophic consequences for humanity. This is why capital has become nature’s true enemy.”
“This is why ecosocialism is necessary, as is our commitment to farmers and communities that struggle against extractivist mining projects in our country that benefit imperialist firms — Canadian above all. We also commit to and solidarise with all movements that fight against capitalism’s environmental destruction and depredation.”
Most of this brief program (a mere 18 pages) is dedicated to denouncing how neoliberal policies have ravaged the country since their introduction in 1982, when Miguel de la Madrid took the presidency. Characterised as “everyone for themself” (section 3, p. 4), statistics are cited from the national census to show how the minimum wage has lost three quarters of its purchasing power since 1976 (section 6, p. 6). Mexico now has Latin America’s highest proportion of workers in the informal sector, hitting youth the hardest (section 7, p. 6). The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have wrecked the countryside more than other sectors of the economy (section 9, p. 7).
At the same time, inequality has reached unbelievable extremes: Mexico is home to 35 multimillionaires, and 10 of them have fortunes greater than the entire country’s income (section 4, p. 4). This in one of the world’s most populous countries.
Section 4 points out that this disaster is not a sign of the failure of neoliberalism, but rather its success, that is, such a state of affairs is precisely what was planned.
A unifying thread throughout the document is the need to “avoid naturalising violence”, as it is put in section 12 (p. 9, italics in original). Violence against women in all its forms is denounced, with particular anger expressed against femicide. Emigration of more than 10 million farmers to the United States is dealt with as a form of violence in section 9, as is the “authoritarian, corrupt, discriminatory and oppressive policy” toward more than 10 million indigenous peoples. That section reaffirms support for the 1996 San Andrés Accords in which the federal government promised autonomy, and has not complied.
Section 10 denounces the false war on drug trafficking that has left more than 150,000 dead and 27,000 disappeared.
The parties of capital
The program roundly denounce the Party of the Institutionalized Revolution (PRI, currently in power), the National Action Party (PAN) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) as conspirators in passing the laws that have gutted the constitution. One of the larger splinters from the latter, the Movement for National Renovation (Morena), is dealt with at some length, clearly seen as little different from the PRD but neither is it characterised per se as one more servant of capital.
Delegates continued to express contrasting positions as to what the OPT’s electoral stance should be, ranging from tactical alliances with the PRD or Morena where possible, to total abstention from the electoral arena.
The former position is posed in terms surprisingly similar to those in favour of the united front found in the proceedings of the Comintern’s fourth congress, putting the emphasis on limited unity when there is a single issue in common. The opposite extreme of turning the organisation’s back on elections of any sort is sustained with anecdotes of how any time the word “party” is heard, the common person’s blood boils over accusations of avarice and corruption.
Discussions on the matter of elections must take into account the federal laws that require parties enrol tens of thousands of members spread over a majority of the states. This law could be denounced as undemocratic.
In this observer’s opinion, the treatment of abstentionism (p. 17) overlooks the option of active or conscientious abstention. Most people are aware that the majority in this country no longer votes. Rather than seeing this fact as a negative, the art of politics demands turning it into a strength. For instance, recognising that the phenomenon is abstention, rather than apathy, a call for ruined ballots to be counted could be complimented with a call to vote against every party. If the majority of votes were abstentions it would come closer to representing what society believes and whomever won would clearly not have mandate.
Civil disobedience not explained enough
Point 15 opens with the declaration that “we have decided that our fundamental political orientation is civil disobedience” (p. 12), and the balance of the section consists of an extensive excerpt from the constitution on people’s right to rebel when not represented.
Yet this topic requires offering responsible guidelines on how and when such a measure is to be carried out. In particular, civil disobedience has everything to do with the previous point 11 that touches on the self-defence guards in the state of Michoacán (autodefensas, p. 9) that have taken up arms to protect themselves from drug traffickers and kidnappers. (Leaders of the autodefensas have been interviewed at length in the influential magazine Proceso, among numerous other media, see for instance www.proceso.com.mx/?p=391625 or www.proceso.com.mx/?p=376235). Do these rural defence militia represent a valid and responsible form of civil disobedience? Do they deserve support in the same way as the Zapatista National Liberation Front (EZLN)?
Along those same lines, point 9 mentions defending the 1996 San Andrés Accords between the government and the EZLN. But again, it leaves the reader wondering how that is to be done. Does civil disobedience apply here, too?
Issues left aside
While this observer would like to have seen politically correct positions on any number of issues, two stand out as oversights.
Due to the slowdown of the US economy since the 2008 crash, repatriation of migrants has become a generalised phenomenon. A political party is in a position to recommend how the labour and political movements should orient toward these millions who are returning, and offer guidelines on how their knowledge and experience can be successfully incorporated.
More broadly, the international context within which Mexico lives and breathes received little treatment. For instance, the price fall of oil and consequent devaluation of the peso has an impact on politics and policy. Yet if a larger view is taken into consideration, where the US has launched economic warfare against Russia, then it becomes clear that Mexico is again playing the role of scab in international oil markets, a role that can be firmly denounced.
Moreover, a vision of the Latin American context allows for inspiration from and solidarity with the advances toward socialism taken by the ALBA countries.
The draft concludes by putting forward three campaigns around which the OPT proposes unity among progressives. One is the boycott of payment of fees to the new electricity company, another is to continue building a new workers’ confederation and the third is to participate in the left unity congress called for late January.