Mexico: Left debates upcoming presidential elections

By Nevin Siders October 14, 2017
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Indubitably Mexico’s present conjuncture imposes great challenges on political organization and creativity which test consistency for strugglers with ecosocialist and human rights principles. The political atmosphere is delimited by recent natural disasters: two very strong hurricanes in August immediately followed by two powerful earthquakes in September. Curiously and ironically, the last quake happened on the very anniversary of the devastating 1985 earthquake, about two hours after the annual drills, leaving unmasked once again how insincere and useless these drills are. Now, almost a month after the last disaster, thousands are still homeless in extensive areas of the states of Morelos, Puebla, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. For its part, the response among the general population was exemplary: within two days almost every school and church, along with many parks and public spaces, became centers of storage and shelters. Persons in the government also responded quickly, seizing food and other donations, even whole trucks loaded with supplies. Moreover, in collusion with the banks, billions of dollars donated across the country and internationally are being disbursed as loans. The officially registered political parties declared in unison and on television that they refused to donate for homeless reparation even a single cent of the hundreds of millions of pesos that the treasury secretariat has granted them for the electoral campaign of 2018. In response to the generalized repudiation among the informed population, one of these parties broke ranks two days later to affirm its willingness to do without a fifth part of its treasure, as long as the others did so — a condition that would prevent any possibility of its happening.

They the wealthy

Alliances within the world of exploiters have not changed substantially so far this millennium. Reviewing them from right to left:
• Major landowners, agribusiness, and the Catholic Church continue to find representation in the National Action Party (PAN).
• Those industries with the greatest economic weight — production and transportation of illegal drugs, tourism and transportation, technology and manufacturing in general, services and commerce, press, television and radio — maintain their affiliation to the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) and its constellation of ephemeral satellites.
• After an internal, silent struggle in the upper strata of the PRI, it accorded with the PAN in 1982 to “alternate,” which is understood as switching back and forth only between the two of them. This new alignment also laid the groundwork for the turn to neoliberalism and drug trafficking, and has been backed by the banks and other financial institutions.
• Many of those who lost out in the internecine strife of the PRI went on to establish factions that formed the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), with the result that their candidate, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas (son of the president who is famous for nationalizing oil in 1938), won the majority of votes cast in 1988 but was denied the presidency. Yet it has retained the mayorality of the capital since then, backed by construction, telecommunications, and declining faction of the bourgeoisie and intelligentsia that desires to renationalize oil and the “benefactor state.”
• The PRD has never had a stable domestic life, which brought on a full mudslide in the second decade of the 21st century. The largest of the self-described “tribes” that broke away from the PRD to pitch tents as its satellites founded the National Regeneration Movement (Morena). With this Morena established the only significant realignment in recent decades among the officially registered parties by discreetly bringing with it support from the magnates of construction and telecommunications industries.
It should be mentioned that market dynamics and the intervention of the courts have kept the multinationals in the print press, radio and television from joining into consortia with telecommunications, but rather are its rivals. Today, Mexico suffers from one of the highest inequality indices in the world, while having the shame to host a high number of billionaires and trillionaires.

We the poor

On the side of the proverbial “99 percent,” the topography is in constant ebb and flow because of the ever expanding cuts, layoffs and closures. Neoliberalism has recorded its successes: in the 1990s, with the fracture of Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) into several companies less linked to the state, accompanied by a strong blow to its trade union; in the last decade with the feigned technical financial bankruptcy of the state-owned bus company Ruta 100 and smashing of its union; and in the present decade with an identical maneuver against the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and the Mexican Union of Electricians (SME). Every year there are further cuts in healthcare, education and other social programs for the general population. The government makes these budget reductions despite legislating improvements such as compulsory education through the secondary level and founding the Seguro Popular health insurance for those growing sectors that are not covered by the national systems of IMSS and ISSSTE. The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) inspired great hope on the very day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) began in 1994. And, despite its withdrawal from the national scene and the government’s non-compliance with the San Andrés Treaties, these Mayan communities have maintained their liberated territories and practice an autonomy directed toward constructing of a society outside of capitalism. Among urban workers, the SME retained a large part of its ranks, took possession of a hydroelectric power station, and founded the popular movements of the National Association of Electric Power Users (ANUEE) and the Peoples and Workers Political Organization (OPT) political party.

2018 elections: Enter the EZLN

A time is now approaching when the government is endorsed and renewed via the federal electoral process, which extends until the elections on July 1 and its inevitable sequels for fraud. Progressives debate once again what to do, based on Mexican tradition where the class-conscious movement — understood as anarchists and communists — abstain from bourgeois electoral arena. They snigger derisively in pre-election periods, an attitude that vanishes as the voting day approaches to turn into a sudden support for the call to vote for this or that lesser evil under the pretext of the latest version of the “useful vote,” which argues that it is useless to vote for anyone with a minimum of scruples. The surprise in this round is that the EZLN came to the National Indigenous Council (CNI) to propose a 180-degree turn and dive headfirst into the mire of that toxic electoral environment. There is a single motive for this tactic: to take advantage of the fact that it is one of the few social spaces enjoying something approaching freedom of expression, and from there advance the indigenous cause and “sow seeds” — a metaphor for extending and strengthening links so as to fight better. Its representative — rather than candidate — should be indigenous and a woman; they chose the Nahua (Aztec) María de Jesús (“Marychuy”) Patricio Martínez. Neither the EZLN nor the CNI speak publicly about their exchanges and accords with other indigenous movements in America, but it is reasonable to conclude that one of their considerations was the presidency of Bolivia held by the Movement to Socialism (MAS) and represented by an indigenous peasant who has notably improved the lives of the poor — Evo Morales. The CNI announced its entry into the elections, provided:
• not paying undue attention to the ballots and their counting;
• not paying undue attention to the other candidates, even though all of them have appropriated the discourse denouncing corruption since capital took its neoliberal turn; and
• not worrying unduly about meeting the National Electoral Institute’s (INE) undemocratic requirements and not to accept a single cent of the billions the INE disburses
... represents a middle point which opens the possibility for an ethical and healthy intervention that denounces the denounceable and advances toward a new grouping of forces. For these reasons, the leadership of the OPT met with the CNI and the EZLN to propose to support this initiative, pending approval at a National Gathering that was convened to that purpose the following weekend. This Gathering approved unanimously to “put the accent on denouncing the anti-democratic, partisan and fraudulent nature of the current electoral institutions and the system of parties, raising the need to abolish it, while at all times demand full respect for the popular will.” The denunciatory character of this resolution is and will be acceptable to the entire left (and indeed almost the entire political spectrum, as they have appropriated this discourse for decades). The difficult thing is to propose and implement measures that march together to create a meeting point, because there is no agreement on what to do, not even within the OPT itself. Said disagreement is concentrated in a current that represented an average of ten percent of those votes which abstained or voted against the other resolutions that are congruent and consistent with a road independent of the parties of capital. Specifically, the set of resolutions calls for:
• “A national organizational and propaganda campaign to become a political option different from the registered parties, considering that none of them represents us,” (that last phrase enjoying growing acceptance in Mexico);
• “Spreading its fighting program aimed at workers and people taking it as their own”;
• “Promoting a policy of alliances, so as to form a revolutionary political mass movement, by way of forming a social and revolutionary bloc with other social organizations that we strategically coincide with politically and programmatically. This will be a revolutionary social bloc independent of the bourgeois political system and have as its political objective the establishment of a new democratic, people’s regime that lays the foundation for building a socialist society in Mexico,” a text which emphasizes its conviction of fighting for power, insofar as many OPT partisans insist that we differ from the Zapatistas on this point, because they hold that the Zapatista Army does not share the intent of vying for state power, but rather intends to maintain its high degree of autonomy in the liberated territories;
• “Solidarity with the initiative of the Indigenous Council of Government, aiming toward promoting the independent candidacy of an indigenous woman to the Presidency of the Republic, represented by comrade María de Jesús Patricio [Martinez], helping actively to collect the signatures necessary for legal registration as an independent candidate, and thus achieving that her name appears on the ballot in the election of July 1, 2018”; and
• “Exploring possibilities of establishing an alliance with the Indigenous Council of Government, the National Indigenous Congress, and the Zapatista National Liberation Army to conduct a joint nationwide campaign.” Note should be taken that this resolution does not indicate what “joint campaign” will be undertaken, but rather very consciously leaves the door open to any proposal that can arise.
This task, which will last until the elections on July 1, 2018 and its predictable consequences for fraud, “imposes great challenges on political organization and creativity and will test our result in the fight” (report drafted by the Presidium).

What is “organization”, what is “left”

It is important for this reflection’s conclusions to address the concerns of the OPT’s minority, because it lends it voice to widespread considerations among progressive people in Mexico and, indeed, around the world. People who think along such lines usually sustain one of two positions. One of these has already been mentioned above: from the beginning of the pre-election period they embrace the principle of keeping their distance so as to prevent themselves being tainted with all the crap and slander pitched around in the well-described media circus. The problem with this ethical principle is that it turns out to be only exceptionally consistent because, as the election date approaches, they often bow to the “useful vote” argument, meaning to prevent the worst one from winning. At the end of the day, this ethical argument based on prevention turns out to be indistinct from the other position that does not profess any particular ethical principles. This second argument presents itself as merely pragmatic, and is perhaps even more pernicious precisely due to this apparent innocence. It sets out from two starting points that certainly are true, but incorrect conclusions are derived from them. First, that the authorities will carry out an intense, blackmailing campaign that shouts “you HAVE TO vote”, and most people will accept this command without questioning that aspect. Second, that it is crucial to forge a unity among the left. As for the first point, it is true that the working class shed its blood to gain many human rights from the bourgeoisie in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and even extended this right to vote to women and youth. That creates a moral obligation to exercise it. But the story does not end there; one must tell the rest of it. Before the 1830s, the powerful preached that plebs did not deserve to vote (along with having no living wage, not even a minimum wage, no medical insurance, no education, etc.) and now in the 21st century harass us to vote. What led to this total reversal? While the rich had to let go with one hand, with the other it perverted the institution. Exclusionary rules were set not by law, but through the “merely” internal by-lays of the legally registered parties. As they say: “The devil is in the detail.” Registration requirements are astronomical, with the result that only the rich can meet them. This anti-democratic measure should be denounced at every opportunity. The poor, peasants, professionals and small business owners must also have access to registering organizations that represent us. The second starting point is equally venomous, due largely to its appearance of openness, calling for the whole left to come together, just as the right wing does. (With a simple phone call the PAN can summon all its satellites, and it does not take more than a meeting of upper echelons for the PRI and PAN to come out shoulder to shoulder.) This argument justifies corralling anyone with the slightest social consciousness to support a populist who is a tad less evil than the PRI’s dinosaurs, and even the full dinosaurs that have recently fallen from grace and gone to create their own fiefdoms — those perennial “satellites” mentioned above; the current ones being the PRD and Morena. Incidentally, we should indicate that López Obrador never had the charisma Cardenas junior showed in 1980 or that which US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders strutted about with last year. Why should the left not support populist centrists? For the same reason as always: The starting point and minimum criterion is to oppose this unjust, immoral, self-destructive society because it is at the service of capital, instead of its just, moral, constructive reverse. It is perverse that we humans create an economy where our only function is to increase capital. We have entered the Anthropocene era; we are destroying the sole environment we know in the entire universe, in just a few generations. Therefore: standing up for a non-capitalist society is the minimum criterion for allying with someone for any purpose beyond single-issue campaigns. We should add that we are not blind. We know that one of the parameters for gauging that a violent society is imploding is when it starts killing and tormenting Archbishops like Oscar Romero or Desmond Tutu. At such crossroads it is imperative to be with the entire population in resisting an imposition of fascism. But those are pre-revolutionary times; until that crossroad arrives, we must promote an “revolutionary social bloc independent of the bourgeois political system that has as a policy objective the establishment of a new democratic and popular regime that lays the foundation for building a socialist society in Mexico”, as the Gathering called for. For all these reasons, the proposal from the Tlalpan Network in Support of the IGC, which we in the local OPT-Tlalpan participate in, is the most sensible thing possible: think about what “organization” is and how it works, because it is always too easy to fall into the “I am willing to direct the masses, as long as others are willing to implement what I suggest,” which Lenin so aptly characterized as a “childish” posture. Instead, we propose to “take this bull coming at us by the horns” and use the exercise of collecting signatures as an opportunity to “form a revolutionary social bloc with other social organizations with which we have political and programmatic coincidences of a strategic nature” and that are making genuine and morally consistent attempts to create a new and just society outside the capital.