On the attacks on the EZLN

Edgard Sanchez

At the beginning the year a series of attacks, some slanderous, were unleashed against the EZLN following its New Year statements, especially those by Commander Moises, concerning the projects of the new Mexican government, headed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).

In a conversation on WhatsApp I answered the comments of a comrade who sought to defend the government of AMLO against the criticism of the EZLN. The wave of attacks against the EZLN continues and, although different from those of the person I refer to, I find it useful for the debate that is being generated to reproduce here what I said rapidly on social networks. The criticisms of those who are “more Catholic than the Pope” contrast with the statements by López Obrador himself in Tabasco, recognizing the right of the EZLN to have an opinion, but at the same time responding that the megaproject goes on and nothing will stop it. With its statements on its 25th anniversary, the EZLN is not “debunking electoral triumph.” The issue is no longer the election campaign, but the position you take in the face of the new Government’s policy.

In this case, as we in the PRT explained and discussed a couple of weeks ago at our cadre school, we oppose the typical social liberal policy of the “progressive” governments that support extractivism as a rule and thereby the dispossession and division of indigenous peoples. This is what the projects of the Maya train and the Transítsmico (a reworking of the Puebla Panamá plan backed by cabinet head Alfonso Romo, as well as other bourgeois sectors inside and outside the new government) represent.

These projects also coincide with the interests of Yankee imperialism and Trump’s government, to effectively draw the border with the US farther south, down to the isthmus, practically raising the Wall, or the curtain or filter as AMLO calls it, there, with the excuse of offering work, cheap labour, so that Mexicans and Central Americans don’t have to go to the US.

It is not the EZLN that seeks to divide the exploited by organizing resistance against the neoliberal megaprojects of the new government. These megaprojects involve dividing the communities and therefore the exploited. While in the Zócalo they give AMLO’s baton to indigenous groups of the PRI and the CNC in folkloric ceremonies, it is the new government that is seeking to divide and discredit the EZLN, the National Indigenous Congress and our candidate Marichuy. As in any other movement, there are political differences in the indigenous movement. There are indigenous groups who support the PRI, a product of the indigenous politics that derives from Cardenismo (a project for which AMLO worked in Tabasco in the INI (Instituto Nacional Indigenista), when he was active in the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) at the time of Echeverría (PRI President from 1970 to 1976) and there are also indigenous groups that have been defined on the left (from the PC and the PRT in Guerrero and Oaxaca) but also Zapatismo since 1994, with the CNI (Congreso Nacional Indígena). By appealing to the indigenous PRI in the Zócalo, AMLO does not “stain his anti-capitalist credentials”, as Ramón says in relation to the EZLN, but seeks to beat the anti-capitalists by showing that on the indigenous issue he also has the PRI. When the EZLN responds to the new government, it acts as a defender of the interests of its social base and indigenous peoples.

We have insisted therefore that the central axis of the socialist and anti-capitalist left must, as always, be political independence with respect to the new government. It is regrettable that former militants of the left acrimoniously join the disqualifying and immobilizing campaigns of Morena and the Lopezobradoristas. That the defeat of the PRIAN was inflicted by 30 million voters with the illusion of ending neoliberalism, should force us to act consequently pushing and supporting the mass struggles in that direction and not subordinating to the rhythms, commitments and interests of a progressive government with a social-liberal policy (which will develop some welfare policies, at the same time as the mega-neoliberal mega-projects).

As the event of the new government is explained in the framework of the deep crisis of the regime, it was accepted by the ruling classes as a way of salvation to avoid a violent and radical breakdown, and it is clear that we have entered a phase of sharpening of the class struggle and frequent Bonapartist turns by the new government. The above does not mean as the Lopezobradoristas suggest that the line should be to support the government. On the contrary today political independence with respect to the government is necessary to continue developing the struggles and eventually achieve triumphs not by the will of AMLO but by the thrust of these struggles. The struggle is what, even through Bonapartist turns, forces the government to recognize the correctness of our demands.

Trotsky, during his exile in Mexico, at the time of the founding of the Confederation of Mexican Workers, self-critically insisted that the experience of “War Communism” showed that the trade unions (and today we can extend this to the whole movement) must be independent of the government, of all governments, even of “a revolutionary government” (which anyway is not the case with the AMLO government). The left in Mexico, which since the 1970s has learned the strategic nature of the struggle for union democracy and independence, now contains some who reject the supposed dogmatism of the “old left”, forgetting the necessary independence with respect to the government, even believe that trade union democracy can be achieved with government support.

I apologize for repeating the arguments that you have surely read in the recent resolutions of the PRT and that were explained and discussed in the cadre school in December, but it is necessary again confronted with the wave of attacks by Lopezobradoristas and their fellow travellers against those who, like the EZLN, dare to criticize the new government’s policy. Worse yet to disqualify the critics by presenting them as allies of the right. An old recourse of the Stalinists and the PRI. In the epoch of Echeverría they said that the dilemma was “Echeverría or fascism”. Surely the phrase is remembered by people like Ignacio Ovalle, private secretary of the LEA and now in the ranks of Morena, or Porfirio Muñoz Ledo who was then the President of the PRI. Reissuing the slogan as “AMLO or fascism” faced with the advance of the far right, as the case of Bolsonaro in Brazil shows, is a mistaken analysis sacrificing the necessary independence with respect to this type of progressive government.

The extreme right has advanced not simply by its own energy but by the limitations, errors or the failure of progressivism. The corrupt orchestrated the removal of Dilma Rousseff; accusing her of being corrupt. But where did the right-wing Temer come from? He was the vice-president with President Dilma. It was because the PT made a broad alliance to win elections, even with right-wing parties, such as Temer’s. The serpent’s egg for “betrayal” or revenge was already in the PT government. It was Temer who succeeded in dismissing Dilma and then imprisoning Lula. In Mexico there is no longer the figure of vice president. Now there is a Chief of Cabinet. Who? What interests does the Mexican Temer Alfonso Romo represent – including in Chiapas?

Bolsonaro’s triumph involved a far right and evangelical minority winning by denouncing corruption and the failure of the PT. Evangelicals were also in the minority and practically unknown on the political terrain in Mexico until the irresponsible policy of alliances of AMLO projected them, via the PES, to the forefront with many deputies and senators. The snake’s egg is there. That is why the “AMLO or fascism” binary is wrong. It is vital to maintain political independence with respect to the new government. Do not let the right wing capitalize on the errors, limitations or the politics of the new government, as the right did in Brazil. To remain silent in the face of errors or the neoliberal policy of progressivism is what helps the right. Criticism does not play the game of the right, silence, the subordination of the left to the new government clears the way for the right. In any case, the alternative expression of the anti-capitalist or socialist left will be necessary.

We welcome the criticism and ddenunciations by the EZLN. We share opposition to extractive and neoliberal megaprojects. And our opposition and arguments are not those of the right but of the anti-capitalist left and the interests of indigenous peoples and communities. So, we must continue in all struggles: offering a critique and opposition from the left, independent of the government and not leaving the field open to the demagoguery of the right. This is the position that we, the PRT, have.

This article was originally published on January 24, 2019 in the International Viewpoint.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Promises the “Rebirth of Mexico”

Dan La Botz

December 13, 2018

“His call for an end to neoliberalism and to corruption are accompanied by invitations to Mexican and foreign capitalists to invest and make a profit.”

REUTERS/Henry Romero

Andrés Manuel López Obrador took the presidential oath on December 1 and then gave an hour and a half oration to the legislators as well as another lengthy speech to the people of Mexico City gathered in the zócalo, in which he reiterated his campaign promises to end corruption, to bring about economic prosperity, and to lead Mexico into a new historic fourth period of Mexican history, a period of “rebirth.” The speech made clear that AMLO, as he is called by his initials in the press, is a reformer, but not a radical and certainly not a revolutionary as his opponents have claimed. His call for an end to neoliberalism and to corruption are accompanied by invitations to Mexican and foreign capitalists to invest and make a profit.

AMLO’s challenges are many. He must deal with the country’s powerful economic oligarchy that working with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the National Action Party, have for a hundred years dominated the country. He must confront the powerful, multi-billion dollar drug cartels that have penetrated and permeated the government and police and even infected the military and whose armies of gun thugs and assassins contributed to the deaths and disappearances of over 300,000 people since 2006. He must find a modus vivendi with the Colossus of the North and deal with its maniacal rightwing and racist president. And finally, he must now find a way to meet the needs and even more important satisfy the new aspirations of the Mexican people—who may be more radical than he is—without jeopardizing his reformist program. He will for the next six years have to both wrestle with the oligarchy and both mobilize and reign in the plebeians if he is to be successful in his own terms.

The Challenge of Trump and the Economy

With a certain irony, AMLO thanked out-going president Enrique Peña Nieto for not interfering in the elections and stealing them as had happened to AMLO twice before and to others many times over the more than seven decades of the rule of Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party’s rule. With Peña Nieto sitting beside him, AMLO blamed the country’s problem on the combination of the thirty-six years of the neoliberal economic model and the unbounded government corruption during that same period.

AMLO recognized Ivanka Trump who was present, sent as her father-president’s emissary, and he thanked President Donald Trump for his message of friendship. Turning directly to the new U.S., Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA, which replaces the former North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA) ) and which was foisted on him by Trump and Peña Nieto—AMLO stated that he wanted to go beyond to USMCA and see new investment agreement between all three countries that would help to develop Central America as well as Mexico and in that way deal with the migration issue that in the form of the migrant caravans has dominated the news recently.

Ivanks Trump, by the way, committed the faux pas of referring to AMLO’s wife Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller as the “first lady,” a title she has rejected, saying that the title suggested the superiority of one woman over others.

López Obrador in these speeches promised once again, as he had so often in his campaign, that the investments of Mexican and foreign stockholders would not only be safe in Mexico, but would make decent profits under his honest administration. He promised that with the rule of law, clear rules, and economic growth there would be economic confidence.

AMLO told the legislators and the people that he was being given a country in bankruptcy, and he asked them to be patient with him and to have confidence in him. He complained particularly about the economic situation of the Mexican Petroleum Company (PEMEX), but promised with the help of the workers and the technical employees of PEMEX and of the Federal Electrical Commission to rescue those two great national corporations of the Mexican people. He declared that there would be no increases in gas or electric prices beyond the rate of inflation and, ignoring the issue of carbon fuels and global warning, promised to build a new refinery to make possible the lowering of gasoline prices.

An End to Corruption and Impunity

Taking on the question of corruption, AMLO told the assembled lawmakers that anyone who “trafficked on the poverty of the people” by buying votes or engaging in electoral corruption would go to prison without bail. And he declared an end to the use of private planes and helicopters by high government functionaries and said he would be selling off the presidential plane immediately. To confront the country’s tremendous violence, a result largely of the drug cartels, and recognizing the uselessness of the existing police forces to deal with them, he called for the creation of a new National Guard.

He argued that while the Mexican military was not without its problems, it had not formed corrupt groups within it such as in other parts of the Mexican government. And unlike in other countries, the military did not form part of the oligarchy, he said. He promised that during his administration the president would never use the military to oppress the Mexican people nor cover up such repression—a strong implicit condemnation not only of the Peña Nieto administration but of the entire history of modern Mexican governments, from the assassinations of the immediate post-revolutionary period of the 1920s, through the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre, to the kidnapping and murder of the Ayotzinapa student teachers in 2014.

There were three demonstrations during the speech in the national legislature. When at one point in his speech, AMLO said he would not persecute those in the old government, a demonstration brokeout among his own supporters who stood waving white handkerchiefs and began counting from 1 to 43 for the victims of the Ayotzinapa murders and kidnappings. AMLO has created a truth commission to investigate the disappearances of the 43 students. At another point, when foreign dignataries were being mentioned and the name of Nicolás Maduro was called, the rightwing legislators began chanting “dictator,” though in fact Maduro’s plane was late and he was not in the hall. Finally, the rightwingers also raised signes calling for a reduction in the “IVA,” the value added tax. 

As he was bringing his inaugural speech to a conclusion, López Obrador told the story of a boy on a bicycle who had come up to him shortly before and said, you cannot fail us, and the new president told the legislators, I have a responsibility not to fail you. He talked of his confidence in the people of Mexico and in their culture—in their cultures—a hardworking people, as demonstrated by the emigrants to the United States who sent $30 billion a year home to their families. AMLO expressed his optimism and his faith that with the Mexican people’s support he would succeed in bringing about Mexico’s rebirth.

Finally, López Obrador promised that he would never seek reelection—something forbidden by the Mexican Constitution—and that in two and half years he would submit to the Mexican people a referendum asking them if they wanted him to continue in office.

The new president will face challenges from the old political parties. The National Action Party, historically the religious and pro-business party, is already carrying out a leafleting campaign with a flyer that compares AMLO to Stalin, Hitler, Nicolás Maduro, Hugo Chávez and Kim Jong-un and promises to defend freedom. And at the same time, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, for seventy years the ruling party, has called for a united front of the people to resist AMLO’s proposed reforms and what they say will be the militarization of the country. Both parties compare AMLO to Maduro and point to the disaster of the dictatorship and disintegrating economy there. AMLO will have his hands full.

After the last twelve years of violence and the hundreds of thousands of dead and disappeared, one has to hope that AMLO will be able to end the violence and the corruption and that the people of Mexico will take advantage of a new safer and more democratic life to push forward their own demands for their needs and desires, going beyond the reforms that the new president envisions.