Oaxaca: workers' militancy derailed by democratic illusions

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The repression that the state has unleashed against the population of Oaxaca has shown the real bloody and furious face of democracy. The city of Oaxaca has been a powder keg for the last five months where the presence of the police and paramilitary forces has been the main means for spreading state terror. Invasion of homes, kidnappings and torture are the means that the state has used in Oaxaca in order to establish ‘peace and order’. The result of the police incursion has been dozens of ‘disappearances’, the imprisoning of many and at least 3 deaths (not counting the nearly 20 persons run over by the white guards between May and October of this year).

Six years ago the ruling class said that the coming to power of Fox meant that it had entered a ‘period of change’, but reality has made clear that capitalism, no matter what changes are made to its personal or government parties, can offer nothing other than more exploitation, poverty and repression.

Faced with the events in Oaxaca, the whole of the working class has to carry out a profound reflection, recognising that the brutal and repressive actions carried out, are not due to this or that government or its representative, but are expressions of the nature of the capitalism.

In order that the coming struggles are better prepared, it is necessary to draw the lessons of the meaning of these struggles.

The bourgeoisie has contained the discontent and uses it for its own ends

The present mobilisations in Oaxaca are without doubt the expression of the workers’ discontent about the exploitation and the ignominy of capitalism. The mobilisations in this region express the existing discontent due to the continuing degradation of their living conditions. This is the fruit of a profound development that is revealing itself in real courage and willingness to struggle. Nevertheless, the manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie have resulted in the workers losing control of the aims, methods and running of their struggle.

Faced with these mobilisations the system has openly demonstrated its bloody nature. However this use of terror by the state goes beyond the repression of the demonstrators in Oaxaca. The incursion by military and police forces in Oaxaca have not had as their main aim the extermination of the Asemblea Popular de Peublo de Oaxaca (APPO), rather it has fundamentally been aimed at spreading terror as a means for warning and threatening the whole of the working class. This state terror has been let loose by the combination of government, federal and state repressive forces, showing clearly that even when there are struggles between different bourgeois gangs, they will always agree to carry out their repressive tasks together. Therefore to think that it is possible to have a ‘dialogue’ with a part of the government, is to stimulate the false hope that ‘progressive’ or ‘open’ sections of the bourgeoisie exist. By aiming to get rid of Ulises Ruiz[1], the APPO has spread the illusion that the capitalist system can be changed by making it more democratic or by changing the people in power.

The APPO’s aim of uniting against Ulises Ruiz, does nothing to reinforce collective reflection or the development of consciousness, but rather spreads confusion and the submission of the working class to the interests of one bourgeois fraction against another.

The clearest demonstration of just how disoriented this movement has become is the pushing into the background of its original aim to increase wages. This allowed the unions and federal government to present the problem of wage increases as a technical aspect, a question of the simple supply of adequate resources to the region through the planning of the public finances. At the same time they were able to isolate the problem, by presenting the question of falling wages as a ‘local’ problem, without importance for the rest of the working class.

The methods of struggle they sanctioned: pickets, exhausting marches and desperate confrontations, have done nothing to develop solidarity, on the contrary, they have isolated the struggle and made it an easy target for repression.

APPO: a body alien to the proletariat

The social composition of the APPO (formed by ‘social’ organisations and unions) reveals that this organisation, and therefore the decisions it takes, is not in the workers’ hands. The fact that this structure leaves reflection and discussion in the hands of the unions demonstrates that it does not have a proletarian nature. This means that the potential strength of the participating workers is diluted. This force cannot express itself in a structure which, despite presenting itself as an organisation that was directed by so-called open assembles, shows in its practice its true nature an inter-classist front driven by the confusion and despair of the middle layers. This was clearly demonstrated by the appeal of  9 November for the APPO to be turned into a permanent structure (State Assembly of the People of Oaxaca). This was made even clearer by its definition of the Constitution created by the Mexican bourgeoisie in 1917 as a “historical document that endorses the emancipatory tradition of our people” and that therefore calling for its defence, also means defending “...the territory and its natural resources...”. Thus its radicalism is reduced to the defence of nationalist ideology, which is a real poison to the workers. Moreover the Appeal contains a false proletarian internationalism, when it insists on the necessity of “Establishing co-operative, solidarity and fraternal links with all the peoples of the world in order to construct a just, free and democratic society; a truly human society...” as the basis of the struggle for “the democratisation of the UN...”!

The constitution of the APPO was not an advance for the workers’ movement, on the contrary, its creation is linked to the subjugation of workers’ genuine discontent. The APPO emerged as a straight jacket for confining proletarian militancy. The Stalinist, Maoist, Trotskyist and union groupings that formed this body know full well how to undermine the working class’s courage and expressions of solidarity, through imposing a leadership and activity alien to workers and the rest of the interests of the exploited. Therefore the comparisons between the APPO and the structure of the Soviets or “embryonic workers’ power”, is nothing but a devious attack against the real traditions of the workers’ movement.

An authentic proletarian organisation is distinguished by the fact that its aims are directly linked to the interests of the class, that is to the defence of its living conditions. This has nothing to do with the defence of the ‘national economy’, state enterprises, let alone the democratisation of the system that exploits it. Above all else it seeks to defend its political independence from the ruling class, an independence that allows it to carry out its struggle against capitalism.

The daily struggles of the workers are the preparation of the radical critique of exploitation: they express the resistance to the laws of capitalist economics, and it is their radicalisation that will open the way towards the revolution. These are moments in the preparation of the revolutionary struggles that the proletariat has to carry out, they are the seeds of the revolutionary struggle.

Consciousness and organisation: the workers’ weapons for confronting capitalism

As an international and internationalist class the proletariat, in every country, must assimilate and make their own, the experience of their past struggles. It is indispensable in the development of consciousness. It is thus vital to remember the lessons of the mobilisations of the students and workers in France against the Contrat Premiere Embauche (CPE) in the spring of 2006. The essential lesson of this movement was its capacity to organise, which allowed it to maintain a control of the struggle which stopped the unions and leftists efforts to divert their central aim: the struggle against insecurity of employment. The movement by the workers in Vigo in Spain, at the same time, confronted the union sabotage, by defending the demand for increased wages, and through maintaining the workers control of the assemblies and the extension of the struggle.

The defence of living conditions, organisational autonomy and the massive reflection that these movements gave rise to, are lessons that belong to the whole of the proletariat and which need to be assimilated into its future struggles.

Workers of the world unite!

18/11/06 (adapted from ICC online in Spanish)


[1]                               The corrupt governor of the state of Oaxaca, who belongs to the old ruling party of Mexico: the PRI