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Workers Vanguard No. 880

10 November 2006

Mexican Trotskyists Say: Defend Teachers, APPO!

Down With Bloody State of Siege in Oaxaca!

No Illusions in the PRD, Party of Capital!

NOVEMBER 6—For more than a week, the city of Oaxaca in Southern Mexico has been under a state of siege. On October 27, gun-toting thugs, some of them believed to be police, shot down four people in an attack on striking teachers and their supporters in the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO). Two days later, some 4,000 Federal Preventive Police (PFP) forces backed by the military attacked the APPO’s encampment in the center of Oaxaca City at dawn, killing three more people. Protesters retrenched at Oaxaca’s Benito Juárez Autonomous University, where thousands stood off a brutal attack on November 2 by the PFP, which is formally barred from entering the university without permission from the campus administration. Dozens of APPO members, teachers and others remain in jail, and more than 60 people were “disappeared.”

Protests continue in the face of the state of siege. Tens of thousands of APPO supporters marched in Oaxaca yesterday, demanding that the PFP get out of the city and that the governor, Ulises Ruiz, be removed. There is an urgent need for solidarity with the Oaxaca protesters—in Mexico and internationally. At Mexico City’s UNAM campus, comrades from the Juventud Espartaquista, youth group of the Grupo Espartaquista de México, section of the International Communist League, helped shut down the School of Political Science on October 31 as part of a student strike and also organized a speakout denouncing the attacks in Oaxaca. As students throughout the UNAM system joined in protest actions, right-wing thugs called porros, who are supported by the UNAM administration, waged an attack on students at the CCH-Naucalpan high school, killing one.

Protests have been held outside Mexican embassies and consulates in Italy, Brazil, Canada, Spain, Britain, Greece and Germany, with several arrests reported. Last week, the Spartacist League/U.S. joined protests in cities throughout the country, while the Spartacus Youth Clubs held rallies at the University of Chicago and the University of California at Los Angeles. After 12 people were arrested outside the Mexican Consulate in New York City on October 30, the Partisan Defense Committee sent a protest letter to the mayor demanding the dropping of all charges and noting that “defenders of civil liberties and rights of working people have every right, indeed, the duty to protest the murderous repression in Oaxaca.”

The latest crackdown in Oaxaca began the day after teachers voted to end a strike that had begun in May, when thousands of members of National Educational Workers Union (SNTE) Local 22 walked out demanding higher wages. In June, an attack by hundreds of riot cops ordered by Oaxaca state governor Ulises Ruiz of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) galvanized mass opposition to his regime, and striking teachers and protesters began demanding his resignation. Teachers and their supporters occupying the center of the city set up their own security forces and ran their own radio station.

Mexico’s rulers are increasingly fearful that the PRI has lost control in Oaxaca and that outrage over the repression threatens a broader social upheaval in a country that already this year has seen powerful strikes by industrial workers and mass protests, including over the disputed July presidential elections. On October 30, members of the ruling right-wing National Action Party (PAN) and the left bourgeois-nationalist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) voted in the Senate, where the two parties hold a majority, to urge Ruiz to resign. Even sections of the PRI are abandoning Ruiz. The Mexico City paper La Jornada (4 November) quoted government sources as saying that despite his resistance, Ruiz is being pressured to resign and accept a government sinecure out of the spotlight.

We reprint below a translation of an October 29 leaflet issued by our comrades of the GEM that has been distributed by the ICL at protests internationally.

* * *

After more than four months of the teachers strike—heroically maintained in the face of continuous, murderous state attacks—and despite the fact that teachers had already voted to end the strike, the brutal capitalist state has unleashed massive repression to smash the struggle of the teachers of Oaxaca and their allies of the APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca). While we write these lines, there are reports that the PFP have already taken the Zócalo [main plaza] of Oaxaca City. There are also reports, after the repression has barely begun, that a 15-year-old youth has been shot to death. Already dozens have been arrested. The bloody repression of October 27 cost four more lives: teacher Emilio Alonso Fabia, the American photographer from Indymedia, Bradley Roland Will, the communal peasant (comunero) Esteba Ruiz and a person still unidentified were killed in government and federal police attacks together with PRI paramilitaries.

There are also reports that during this period, 23 people have been injured, 20 people detained, and 50 teachers are missing. Since June, at least 14 teachers and social justice activists have already been killed by police or gunmen, while many others have been either arrested or kidnapped. Every day more police provocations and attacks are reported. The teachers and the APPO must not stand alone against the murderous repression of the capitalist state. The attack against the teachers is an attack aimed at the entire workers movement, and it is in the interest of the workers movement to defend the teachers in Oaxaca. The industrial working class must flex its powerful muscle through strike actions in defense of the Oaxaca teachers and the APPO.

We Trotskyists in the Grupo Espartaquista de México protest in the most vigorous way possible the attacks by the state and their gangs of gunmen, and we solidarize with the struggle of the teachers and the students and peasants who support them. We say: Free all the arrested now! Drop all the charges! PFP and army out of Oaxaca! For workers strike action against state repression! Defend the teachers and the APPO!

For their support to the struggle in Oaxaca, students at the CCH-Naucalpan were brutally attacked last Thursday by porros in the service of the authorities and the state. One of the students was killed and five more required hospitalization. For worker and student action to drive the porros from UNAM!

The massive discontent over the rightist attacks carried out by the PAN and sections of the PRI has led to a sharp social polarization and the rise of populism, represented prominently by the bourgeois PRD. Since 2005, there have been massive demonstrations of up to 1.2 million people in defense of democratic rights against Fox’s desafuero [stripping of political immunity] scam against [PRD presidential candidate Andrés Manuel] López Obrador. The PRD demonstrations in July, August and September of this year drew millions of people onto the streets to protest the dubious [presidential] election victory of Felipe Calderón of the clericalist PAN. Fox responded by putting a large part of Mexico City under a virtual state of siege on September 1, the day of his last state of the union address. The bourgeoisie itself is divided and fearful that the discontent will turn into a social explosion. Thus the brutal capitalist rulers intend the attack against the combative Oaxacan teachers as a warning to the entire population, especially the working class.

Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in the country and one of the most rural, and has the largest numbers of indigenous people. More than a fifth of the population over 15 is illiterate; more than a quarter lack drinking water. The state has the lowest per capita income and the highest poverty rate in the country, forcing many to migrate either to the U.S. or to urban industrial centers in Mexico, desperately searching for a way to survive. Teachers, earning starvation wages, are struggling to give education to students who often have nothing to eat.

The current militant struggle reflects the level of anger, which has been contained for a long time, of the Oaxacan masses who are submerged in misery and racist oppression. After the strike had started, initially demanding increased wages, the brutal repression against the teachers’ encampment in the center of Oaxaca City on June 14 pushed Local 22 of the SNTE to adopt more radical methods and demand the removal of PRI hangman, state governor Ulises Ruiz. Since then, the teachers and the APPO—formed some days later—have maintained control of the city center, having constructed barricades throughout the city. Their security forces successfully broke up various police provocations and captured some of their perpetrators. Isolated in Oaxaca, and lacking social power, the struggle had arrived at an impasse. The industrial working class must lead all the exploited and oppressed in struggle against this bourgeois state repression, which can only be stopped, once and for all, through the overthrow of the capitalist system through socialist revolution.

Our vigorous defense of the APPO and the teachers against the state does not imply embracing their political perspective that is dominated by illusions in the PRD and limited to the militant petty-bourgeois populism that also characterizes the EZLN [Zapatistas]. On the eve of the July 2 [presidential] elections, the Oaxaca teachers called for a “punishment vote” against the PRI and the PAN—i.e., for the PRD. Today, the main demand by the teachers is the removal of Ulises Ruiz. Of course this thug should be thrown out. But what is important is to understand that capitalism, independently of who administers it, is a system based on the exploitation of labor and the systematic repression of the workers and oppressed by the bourgeois state—the police, army, courts and prisons. Taking up the lessons of Engels against those who argued that the bourgeois state could be reformed, Lenin explained in The State and Revolution that the special forces of repression “of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, of millions of working people by handfuls of the rich, must be replaced by a ‘special coercive force’ for the suppression of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat (the dictatorship of the proletariat). This is precisely what is meant by ‘abolition of the state as state.’ This is precisely the ‘act’ of taking possession of the means of production in the name of society.”

The PRD is a bourgeois nationalist party. Its differences with the PAN and the PRI simply lie in the manner of administering capitalism. To obtain some more crumbs from the table of their imperialist masters, the PRD needs to prop itself up on the working class, and this is why it tries to pose as a “friend” of the workers and oppressed. Illusions in the nationalist bourgeoisie are truly suicidal. As we wrote in Espartaco No. 26 (September 2006):

“The participation of the PRD in continual anti-union attacks in Mexico City —especially against the SUTGDF [municipal workers union] and the Metro [subway] union—and in the breaking of the 1999 UNAM strike by police, the murderous repression in Lázaro Cárdenas and in Atenco, in the killing of Zapatista activists that the EZLN has documented, etc., are not isolated incidents: they are a reflection of its bourgeois, and therefore inherently anti-worker, nature.”

The PRD—and the trade-union bureaucracies tied to it, not to mention those tied to the PRI—has carefully kept its distance from the Oaxaca struggle, which has slid out of its direct control. Even though the PRD says that they oppose the repression against the teachers, tomorrow they will attack the struggling masses, as they have done so many times before.

For Permanent Revolution!

The only perspective for fundamental change in the situation of the working class and the mass of impoverished petty-bourgeois is the struggle for socialist revolution. The youth that identify with the combative teachers and social activists in Oaxaca must understand that the working class is the only class with the social power and class interest to destroy the capitalist system through socialist revolution, leading all the exploited and oppressed. Because of its role in setting in motion the means of production, the urban industrial proletariat has the power to paralyze the entire economy. An example of this immense social power was the recent successful strike of the miners and metalworkers in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán, which brought the bosses to their knees—they finally had to give in to all the union’s demands—and dealt a heavy blow to the government itself. Because the workers toil collectively and have nothing but their own labor power to live off, their objective class interest is the abolition of private property and therefore the destruction of the capitalist system.

Fundamental to achieving this is unceasing struggle against all illusions in the bourgeoisie—which are prominently pushed by the pro-capitalist trade-union bureaucrats who run all the unions today—and struggle for the political independence of the proletariat and for the construction of a Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard party with the purpose of leading the working class to take power. The bourgeoisie, regardless of its political perspective, is unable to resolve even democratic questions like the agrarian problem, which keeps the bulk of the peasantry—in Oaxaca and the entire country—in the most complete misery. As Leon Trotsky, the co-leader of the October 1917 Russian Revolution with Lenin, explained in The Permanent Revolution:

“With regard to countries with a 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.”

An essential part of combatting the influence of the bourgeoisie in the working class is struggling against nationalist ideology, which only serves to keep the workers tied to “their own” bosses, lackeys of the imperialists. The working class is an international class with common interests, and a proletarian revolution in Mexico could not survive without the assistance of our class brothers in the United States. Marxists counterpose proletarian internationalism to bourgeois nationalism and fight for new October Revolutions throughout the world.

The Left Tail of Populism

The majority of the left has adapted politically to the APPO and the Oaxacan teachers (although some, such as “Militante,” a fake-Trotskyist group that is part of the bourgeois PRD, criticize the APPO from the right because a section of the APPO refused to participate in the “National Democratic Convention,” whose only purpose was to name AMLO [López Obrador] as the “legitimate president” [“La Insurrección Revolucionaria de Oaxaca,” undated pamphlet]). The Stalinists of the Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist)[PCM] base their entire strategy on building their “Revolutionary Popular Front” (FPR) with the goal of subordinating the working class to the bourgeoisie through the Menshevik scheme—later plagiarized by Stalin—of “two stage revolution.” The first stage consists of a supposed bourgeois democratic revolution; the second stage, supposedly the fight for socialist revolution, has always, in reality, consisted of a massacre of the workers. Thus the PCM calls for “All power to the people” (Vanguardia Proletaria, second fortnight of October 2006), which power, according to Florentino López, a spokesman for the APPO and a member of the FPR, will come “through a New Constituent [Assembly], to give form to a democratic and popular government which opens the road to a truly free and sovereign state of Oaxaca.” A “democratic and popular” government is a bourgeois government. To “justify” his abandonment of the Bolshevik program of struggling for world socialist revolution, Stalin upheld the anti-revolutionary dogma that the USSR could build “socialism in one country.” Vanguardia Proletaria gives a new twist to this absurdity, fighting now for “popular democracy” in just one state.

Not far from the Stalinists are the politics of the fake Trotskyists of the Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo-ContraCorriente (LTS-CC). In their paper Estrategia Obrera No. 54 (2 October), they state: “That there is a dual power is shown by the fact that the media coordinate the struggle, extend solidarity and express the discontent of the oppressed.” This statement is absurd.

The classic example of dual power was given by the 1917 Russian Revolution. The workers carried out the February Revolution, which brought down the tsar and led to the formation of a bourgeois republic run by the Provisional Government. But that revolution also created the soviets, or councils, organs of workers power counterposed to the capitalists’ power. The Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries (a populist party based on the peasantry) supported the Provisional Government, and participated in it, and at first led the soviets with a class-collaborationist policy. In contrast, Lenin’s Bolsheviks strongly opposed the Provisional Government and called for “All power to the soviets!”, polemicizing strongly against the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries and thus preparing the October Revolution. The contradiction between the two powers (the bourgeois Provisional Government and the workers soviets)—a situation that was deeply and necessarily unstable and brief—was resolved by the Bolshevik Revolution which overthrew the bourgeoisie and created the dictatorship of the proletariat based on the soviets.

The LTS-CC calls for a “provisional government of the APPO and other workers, peasants and people’s organizations of the state. This government must call a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly [that is, a bourgeois parliament] upon the ruins of the current regime, to discuss and push demands of the people on the state, as part of a national struggle against the regime of alternating parties.” The call of LTS-CC is reduced to the APPO’s administering the capitalist state in Oaxaca, adopting the illusion—which has also made the Zapatistas very popular—of some type of democratic island of “self-management” in the midst of the brutal capitalist regime. In deeds, the LTS-CC also adopts the “revolution by stages” Menshevik scheme. It is not a coincidence that the LTS takes up the name of the bourgeois and imperialist Provisional Government in Russia in 1917.

Although the Internationalist Group (IG) tries to use Marxoid phraseology more often than the groups mentioned above, it shares with them an adaptation to the consciousness of the masses in struggle. Unable to respond to our polemics, the IG has resorted to the grossest falsifications and recently launched the vile slander that we Spartacists are “apologists for death squads.” The reason for their desperate recourse to such slander is our principled defense of the miners union against the attack by Fox and the PRD, and our denunciation of the pro-PRD and union-busting position of the IG that the corporatist unions in reality represent the “class enemy” (and thus “death squads”), while only those tied to the PRD are genuine workers organizations, as well as their subsequent renunciation of the basic defense of the miners union against state attack (see “IG: Dangerous Lies and Cynical Slanders,” WV No. 879 [27 October]).

The founding cadre of the IG came out of the ICL a decade ago, despairing before the arduous task of forging Leninist-Trotskyist parties to struggle for socialist revolution. Since then, they have devoted themselves to searching for substitutes for the proletariat as the fundamental agency for proletarian revolution. Their positions on Oaxaca clearly demonstrate this. The IG characterizes the APPO as “an organization with a popular-frontist orientation, although still in the process of formation. That is, it points in the direction of a class-collaborationist coalition that seeks to chain the working class to sections of the bourgeoisie, to derail explosive class struggle and thus avoid a ‘revolutionary danger’” (El Internacionalista/Edición México No. 2, August 2006).

The popular front is a class-collaborationist coalition in which one or more workers parties is subordinated to the bourgeoisie, generally to administer the capitalist state. The APPO is not a workers organization, but is based on unionized teachers and sectors of the petty-bourgeoisie, such as students and peasants. By its social composition as well as its political perspective—which dilutes the proletariat in the mass of the “people” and is based on illusions in the democratic reform of the capitalist state, looking directly to the PRD to carry this out—the APPO is not a popular-frontist organization but, as we have already seen, simply populist. Although the struggle in Oaxaca could serve as a spark to ignite workers struggle, in itself it does not pose a “revolutionary danger.” The IG is incapable of recognizing that the industrial proletariat, in any case tiny in Oaxaca, is not a relevant force in the current struggle, and has found, in the teachers, students and peasants, its substitute.

In any event, the IG’s blather about the APPO’s “popular frontism” is designed to give a somewhat “leftist” covering to their adaptation. On the ground, when it matters, they prefer to silence any criticism of the struggling masses. Thus, in a student assembly called by the IG at CCH Sur [another UNAM high school] recently, their speakers left out all criticism, all reference to Marxism or even to their own organization, in order not to alienate their fellow travelers in the “movement.”

We Spartacists fight to forge a revolutionary, proletarian and internationalist party as the fundamental instrument for socialist revolution—the only solution to the exploitation, oppression and misery inherent to capitalism. The working class must not allow the capitalist repression to pass with impunity. Defend the teachers and their allies against state attack!


Workers Vanguard No. 880

WV 880

10 November 2006


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