On Sunday, July 1 Mexicans will go to the polls in a crucial election. All opinion polls show that a victory for the candidate of Morena (Movement for National Renewal), Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) is quite likely. However, nothing is certain in Mexico. The ruling class has already used election fraud to cheat AMLO out of winning the elections twice and will certainly try a third time. In this article, the comrades from the Mexican section of the IMT—La Izquierda Socialista—explain why they advocate a critical vote for Lopez Obrador, address the limitations of his program and assert the need to organize to struggle against capitalism (read the original, Spanish-language article here).
“Democracy does not abolish class oppression. It only makes the class struggle more direct, wider, more open and pronounced, and that is what we need. The fuller the freedom of divorce, the clearer will women see that the source of their ‘domestic slavery’ is capitalism, not lack of rights. The more democratic the system of government, the clearer will the workers see that the root evil is capitalism, not lack of rights. The fuller national equality (and it is not complete without freedom of secession), the clearer will the workers of the oppressed nations see that the cause of their oppression is capitalism, not lack of rights, etc.” —Lenin, A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism
On Sunday 1 July, one of the most important elections in recent national history will be held. After 30 years of brutal policies against the workers, youth, women, and poor of Mexico, the situation is at boiling point. In order to maintain their regime of exploitation, the bourgeoisie have militarized the country and drowned it in blood. In a distorted form, the candidates express the underlying class struggle: a battle to perpetuate barbarism, or end it.
The last three decades have seen horror without end for the impoverished masses of Mexico. To have a point of comparison we have to consult statistics from before the period of so-called neoliberalism and compare them to the current numbers:
Mexico has been immersed in neoliberalism for 32 years and the results are overwhelming: “Under Porfirio Diaz, 95 percent of the population was poor. In 1981 it had fallen to just over 40 percent. Now it is actually 85 percent,” said Dr. José Luis Calva Téllez, a member of the Institute of Legal Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), in an interview with Contralínea. (Contralínea 2015)
In addition, the purchasing power of wages dropped by 71.5 percent. It is practically impossible to live on the minimum wage as it is not enough to buy basic necessities. Due to tax reform, big businesses are either exempt from taxes or receive rebates; on the other hand, the growing mass of middle-class citizens and white-collar workers pay increased rates.
The driving priority was “macroeconomic management above everything else. More than 1,000 state-owned companies were privatized to stop state intervention in the economy. Foreign trade was liberalized by drastically reducing all taxes or tariffs on foreign products; the Mexican financial system was privatized.”
As a result of all this we saw a high concentration of wealth in the handful of companies and families that truly rule the country.
“From the administration of Lázaro Cárdenas to the beginning of the neoliberal era, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a rate of 6.1 percent per year, which meant an accumulated growth of 1,597%, or 394% per capita increase,” emphasizes researcher José Luis Calva. As a result, there was a “200 percent rise in the purchasing power of manufacturing wages, while minimum wages increased their purchasing power by 97 percent.”
In the three neoliberal decades, GDP per capita has grown at a rate of 0.6 percent per year; that is, an aggregate growth of 21 percent. That is not to mention the millions of Mexicans who emigrated in search of jobs they do not find in our country. “Counting the emigrants, the growth of GDP per inhabitant is scarcely 0.3 percent per year, or an aggregate growth of 10 percent in 32 years.” (José Luis Calva, Mexico Beyond Neoliberalism: Options Within The Global Change)
Mauricio Romero, writing for Contralínea, continues:
In 1982, per capita GDP in Mexico was higher, for example, than that of South Korea, as well as wages: while those of the Asian country were around 3,925 dollars per year, the Mexican average was 7,762 dollars.
The tables have turned: 20,210.7 dollars is now the average in Korea, with an increase of 456.7 percent of the purchasing power in manufacturing wages, while in Mexico the number barely reaches 9,755.9 dollars, with a reduction of 38.5 percent in purchasing power.
According to the IMF, in 1982 Mexico’s economy was larger than China’s. Adjusted for purchasing power parity, the Mexican economy stood at 488bn dollars, to China’s 390bn. They ranked respectively as the ninth and 10th worldwide. Now that has abruptly changed.
This is the result of a policy implemented to deprive the masses of their wealth and resources. Concretely, neoliberalism amounts to cutbacks in social services, the privatization of state enterprises, slashed subsidiaries to the rural areas, and the reduction of state intervention in the economy to a bare minimum. The conclusion of all of this has been an entrenchment of the power of the rich, the creation of a new breed of millionaires who fill their pockets by looting the state, and an open door to the imperialists, particularly the Americans, to flood the market with their surplus products.
In order to ensure this regime of super exploitation, the ruling class had to send the army, the navy, and other repressive bodies to the streets to intimidate the mass movements, militarize whole regions of the country, and murder activists and disobedient journalists. The outpouring of blood engulfed everything, especially the youth. All this was waged in the name of a fictional war against the cartels. The conflict between the cartels and the government spread its rot through the entire political, economic and social structure of the country. The state apparatus cracked in important parts of Mexico, giving way to a situation where the strongest rule. All the while, this situation is a breeding ground for domestic violence, the disappearance and murder of women, the abduction of children, and other horrors.
The bourgeoisie and the imperialists have made the decision to plunge the country into savagery to maintain their regime of exploitation. This is a clear demonstration that the bourgeoisie are absolutely uninterested in anything besides their private interests, and their profits. To them it is of no importance whatsoever that more than 300,000 people were killed in a space of 12 years, that thousands more have been displaced by war, that a woman has been raped every 16 minutes, and so on. There is a climate of civil war throughout the country. The people can no longer endure the violence.
When the candidate of Morena, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) said that what is at stake is two different directions for the country, he is correct. It is not that AMLO wants to end capitalism, in reality his policy is to prop up capitalism. But, even so, within capitalism there are different models of accumulation.
The direction represented by both the ruling party PRI and the right-wing opposition PAN is the continuation of this climate of brutal exploitation, bloodshed and agony. These parties represent the program of imperialism and the oligarchy. At different points during the electoral campaign we have been able to see, not only the program, but also the personal characteristics of their respective candidates.
The first thing that stands out for the two candidates of the right is their dishonesty. Both are complicit in the corruption and responsible for the structural reforms that have kept us in squalor. They are linked to the worst national scandals of recent years. Nevertheless they shamelessly allege that AMLO is to blame for what is happening in the country.
Both are participants, in the open and under cover, in the cancer that eats away at society: exploitation and corruption. Ricardo Anaya Cortés (PAN) is under investigation for money laundering. Jose Antonio Meade (PRI) was the head of the Ministry of Finance when funds were embezzled from different state institutions, besides his role in all the counterreforms, which according to him, have benefited the country.
What can they offer the impoverished masses? Only the continuation of an oppressive regime.
AMLO does not propose a fundamental change of the system—replacing capitalism with socialism—what he proposes is a return to a more humane form of capitalism. In some countries this is known as the “third way.” In the government program he has presented, in the presidential debates and in the press, he has explained that his fundamental objective is to end corruption. He does not propose a program of expropriations, nor the development of a large-scale nationalized industry, as there was before neoliberalism. To the capitalists, he offers a country of opportunity, without special privileges and without corruption.
For the poorest, he also offers a good list of proposals, particularly for the youth: he is committed to providing education for all at all levels, universal healthcare—not the so-called “seguro popular” (“people’s insurance”), but healthcare systems like the IMSS and the ISSSTE (the Mexican social security and the public employees’ healthcare programs) that will be made available for everyone. He also speaks of scholarships for young people and programs where the state will employ millions of youths a year. He says he will raise pensions for seniors and for single mothers and so on. All of this is a good start and we support it.
He proposes that the funding for these reforms and a large-scale national infrastructure plan will be drawn from eliminating corruption and cutting the high salaries of the bureaucracy, as well as reducing the number of state workers, reducing unnecessary state expenditure and so on. That is to say, he proposes that the interests of the big companies and the banks are not to be touched, and that no more foreign loans are requested. We have real doubts about the possibility that the money he saves with his proposed measures will cover all his planned reforms . In addition, we must take into account that the big source of public funding, PEMEX, is being auctioned off to private companies, that the costs of goods at the international level are quite low, and that the FTA negotiations do not indicate a path favorable to Mexican workers.
For various sectarian organizations large and small, the points we have just laid out—that AMLO is not fighting against capitalism or for socialism, that he seeks a capitalism with a more human face—are sufficient grounds to say that he is the same as the other candidates. They call for abstention and argue that we should “stick to the social struggle”—as if elections weren’t part of the people’s tireless struggle for emancipation.
Such thinking is removed from reality. The sectarians overlook the fact that there are millions of people who see AMLO as an alternative, and a means to transform their reality. As these organizations are not at the forefront of the struggle—and see no red flags emblazoned with the hammer and sickle being waved—they can simply skip over “this little electoral incident.” Moreover, Morena’s alliance with the PES (a small, right-wing Christian party) and the incorporation of nefarious candidates to different candidacies gives them the perfect excuse to turn their noses up at him.
In each and every occasion where we have had the opportunity to put forward our views, we have clearly explained that we are completely against the policy of Morena’s alliances. We criticize his program because it does not break with capitalism, and that we have stood against the destruction of Morena’s internal democracy. These are things we have said and explained.
Now, would it be important for the Mexican masses to experience an AMLO government—yes or no? Only a stupid person could fail to answer this question affirmatively. There are some lunatics who say that the worse off we are, the more radical will be the class struggle. We have had 12 years of civil war to prove this perspective wrong.
The Marxists think that under capitalism there can be no solution to the urgent problems the country is experiencing; we study history and we know that socialism is the way out. But the 15, 20, or 30 million who are going to vote for AMLO, do not know this yet. They have to experience in their own lifetimes the limitations of a reformist program. Lenin said the school of life is the only way the masses learn.
Some say, we have to give AMLO a chance. We say, we have to put him to the test, that we have to help the masses learn through their experience. In view of this, notwithstanding all of our criticisms of AMLO, we ask for a very critical vote for him in the next elections. And more than that, we explain that it is not enough to vote but we must organize and fight.
We will also say this: a government of AMLO would be subject to great pressures. We have already seen a little taste of what can happen. If he is elected, this would be multiplied by 100. The oligarchy and a section of American imperialism have no confidence in AMLO. As we have already explained, this is not because he is going to attack the capitalist system, but because he would remove a part of their privileges—exclusive contracts with the government, tax exemptions, and so on—and most importantly, because the Mexican and international bourgeoisie already have the experience of Latin America in mind.
The poor in the rural areas and the workers in the cities will see this government as theirs and they will get to work recovering everything that has been taken from them; they will mobilize into the streets, and it is possible that AMLO will be pushed by the masses and could go further than what he proposes in his program. The imperialists would not tolerate this.
In the class struggle, the masses will have the opportunity to put their political and labor union organizations to the test, and in the process they will draw important lessons that will help them understand that, only by ending capitalism can a new society be built.