The starting point was the day of ritual inaction which is organized in May at the time of the renewal of the employment contracts, of the National Trade Union of Education Workers. For this corporatist and class-collaborationist trade union this was to be nothing other than a pale simulacrum of struggle designed to allow the pressure generated by the difficult conditions which the teachers experience, to dissipate and inevitably lose energy. But in the State of Oaxaca, Section 22 of the SNTE, in opposition to the practice of class-collaboration of the traditional trade-union big-wigs, decided on May 22 to launch a strike, thinking that the government of the State of Oaxaca was going to give an immediate response to the demands for negotiations. (1).
The answer was given on June 14: at 4:AM; the local authorities launched an attack of thousands of police officers, helicopters, dogs, teargas, etc. against the strikers, who had installed a Protest Encampment in the central square:. For several hours the confrontations opposed the forces of bourgeois law and order against the strikers; joined by many inhabitants of the city; there were hundreds of casualties, but the police were forced to withdraw, while the demonstrators began to occupy administrative buildings and started to erect barricades everywhere, manned night and day to prevent the return of the police officers; following this, the local radio and television stations were occupied to prevent the systematic misinformation by the authorities and to retransmit the news of the fight.
Following these confrontations, the movement took a very different form; gigantic protest demonstrations took place in Oaxaca, and the social claims of the teachers (payment of unpaid wages and wage increases) became secondary to the demand for the resignation of the governor. The authorities while playing for time for the situation to deteriorate, sporadically utilized "death squads" which shot at the demonstrators during the night. The participants spoke about a "Commune" in reference to the Paris Commune as well as referring to traditional Indian communities (the State of Oaxaca is one where the Indian population is most numerous).
Under the pretext of broadening the movement, the local section of the teachers’ trade union supports the initiative of the constitution of a "Popular Parliament of the People of Oaxaca". A sign of support in the face of repression and of the general dissatisfaction in contrast to the veritable Maffia of irremovable political leaders, the APPO gathers 340 organizations, associations and various parties "of various sectors of society in this State" and in mid-November, after the fall of the barricades following a new brutal and massive intervention of the forces of repression, it even gave rise to a "alternate government".
This APPO made a lot of noise in the press. Some in Europe or elsewhere want to see there a true Commune with the image of the Paris Commune or a kind of Soviet of the common people, an instrument of dual power of the workmen and peasants, even the beginning of the Mexican revolution.
Actually, it acted as an interclassist gathering which had the role of diluting the explosive social dissatisfaction in a democratic, pacifist civil disobedience struggle. After having supported the presidential campaign of the party of center-left, the PRD, the APPO tried to convince the Mexican Senate (where the right is in the majority) that the vacuum of power in Oaxaca was paralyzing the city, in order to organize new state elections. Then it engaged in discrete negotiations with the government, while the famous "combative" local union called on the teachers to resume work - which was inevitable besides after a 5 month strike and the absence of concrete prospects. While certain very minoritarian local trotskyist groups could very well denounce the treason of the local union 22 and the machinations of the APPO leaders in arriving at a compromise with the authorities, they could propose nothing other than the continuation of the movement on its democratic, interclassist basis with the objective of the dismissal of the governor.
In December the APPO published a declaration addressed “to the people of Oaxaca, of Mexico and the World” and to “all the intellectuals, all the artists, all the eminent members of the scientific community and others, to all the NGO’s” (2) The APPO did not address its declaration to proletarians, to the working class of Mexico and the World, that is to say to those who are exploited by capitalism and who by their revolutionary struggle, can overthrow it to establish Communism: a classless society without exploitation, money and commodities, borders and States. Of course this is because the goal of the APPO, according to this declaration, is "a truly free and sovereign State of' Oaxaca ". Marx said that to call for a "free State" indicates the "limited mentality of humble subjects" (3): the conscious workers fight to destroy the capitalist State, not "to release it"!
The constitution of the so-called alternate government, "to build a power which little by little will itself destroy the existing power", taking charge of the functions which devolve upon the State (!) as its objective, is undoubtedly a response to this kind of criticism. But this is obviously the best means of exhausting the movement while above all avoiding confrontation with this State, which like any bourgeois State cannot be destroyed little by little! It is not a popular and democratic movement of civil disobedience, but a violent proletarian revolution directed by the class party, which will be able to cut down the bourgeois State and to substitute the dictatorship of the proletariat.
“Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”(4)
Democratic and Popular Illusions against the Class Struggle
The events of Oaxaca are the fruit of a political, economic and social situation which is not only relevant to this State, one of poorest in Mexico (but also one of those where the activities related to tourism are most promising).
The rate of Mexican unemployment was officially only 3.6 % in 2005; but the specialists generally estimate that it is actually 25%, and that practically half of the work force is in a state of under-employment or abstract employment (odd jobs). According to estimates' the number under the poverty line varies from 45 to 70 million (either 45% to70% of a population of a little more than one hundred million inhabitants), whereas the wealth of the capitalist minority never stopped increasing. The industrial development of Mexico, particularly in the form of maquiladoras, those factories where the proletarians are subjected to a bestial exploitation on behalf of American companies or working for the American market, or from the traditional international companies (Volkswagen, etc), suffers from the competition of countries where the wages are even lower, like China.
The degradation of the living and working conditions of the proletariat was the origin of several tough strikes in the last few months. That was in particular the case of the long strikes in the iron and steel industry. 500 strikers occupying the iron and steel complex of Lazaro Cardenas (in the State of Michoacan) where a long tradition of struggles exists, at the end of April suffered an attack of almost a thousand police officers and soldiers which killed 2 with forty casualties. However in spite of repression, the workers have it seems it, obtained at least some of their demands.
The attrition of the bourgeois party directing Mexico for nearly 80 years, the PRI ( Revolutionary Institutional Party), is the reflection of the economic changes of the country. A new party the of right, the PAN (Party of National Action) expression of more modern bourgeois circles, came to compete with the old party of the caciques ones, while on its left it created for itself the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution). In 2000 the candidate of the PAN, Vicente Fox, became the first president not a member of the PRI. This year its successor Felipe Calderon was declared victorious ahead of the candidate of the PRD, Lopez Obrador. He denounced electoral fraudulence and by his estimation was the winner of the elections. The PRD mobilized its supporters who organized occupations and demonstrations of several hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people in Mexico City, and he proclaimed himself the true president.
The massive character of these mobilizations is without any doubt a sign of the dissatisfaction which has accumulated towards the politicians who direct the country; but the fact that the candidate of the PRD can incarnate the change is also the sign of the depth of the existing illusions. The PRD is a party moderately of center-left, from which the economic program is not different from that of the PAN and it was a PRD governor who authorized the sending of the forces of repression against the strikers of Lazaro Cardenas.
The political instability which seems to be infecting Mexico should not be misunderstood: the social upsurges there are still contained by open repression mixed with democratic diversions -- and for a period of time this is inevitable.
But the deployment of the open social war, of the class struggle, is inexorable; moreover the Mexican emigrants in the United States already showed while massively demonstrating and by striking this May Day, undoubtedly in a still confused, but powerful, way that the Mexican proletarians are again taking up this long road.
To continue on this way they will have to avoid the democratic obstacles, the interclassist dead ends; they will have to find the fundamental weapons of the class struggle, to organize independently of all other classes, to constitute their class party, internationalist and international. That will not be done without much duress, or quickly.
But it is the condition so that tomorrow the proletarian Mexican Commune will be born and that it will be victorious!
Down with bourgeois oppression in OAXACA and the rest of Mexico!
Long live the anti-capitalist and international class struggle!
(1) According to an interview of a member of this trade union. cf Prensa de Frente, 29/10/06, published on risal.collectifs.net
(3) Critique of the Gotha Program
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