A united front in Mexico?
The Revolutionary Awakening of Mexico is a new Socialist Appeal pamphlet on the mass protests against the fraudulent Mexican election which saw centre-right, Washington-backed Felipe Calderon defeat Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) by a suspiciously razor-thin margin. The margin of victory was 233,831 - the number of votes not counted was over 904,000.
Of course, this is a betrayal of the bourgeois-democratic rights won by Mexican workers in the 1910s revolution. Even though all bourgeois-democratic systems are 'unfair', Marxists are against the abuse of the rights which are nominally democratically held. Alan Woods, criticizing sectarians such as Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos who refused to critically support AMLO in the election, comments;
"unless we are strong enough to take power and replace the rotten and corrupt bourgeois democracy with a superior regime of workers' democracy, we are compelled to defend whatever rights the workers have won, including the right to vote and to fight against the attempts of the Mexican bourgeoisie to deny the people to elect a government of their choice."
Let's assume that Woods' claim that AMLO should have won the election is accurate. But, we must ask ourselves, how can supporting him in the elections be retrospectively rationalized by largely unpredictable subsequent events? Why should Mexican workers, unaware of the future fraud, have gone to the ballot box and voted for AMLO for the sake of "defending democratic rights", in spite of what Woods admits to be a thoroughly bourgeois programme?
In relation to the undemocratic nature of the election, there may appear to be a difference between the two candidates' role - but Woods doesn't explain why independent socialist candidates should not in the first place have stood in the elections against both bourgeois parties. Al Gore was cheated out of an election, but that isn't a call for Marxists to rally round the flag of the Democratic Party [which itself has a largely working-class social base well to the left of its programme].
Woods writes that;
"[failing to back AMLO] is absolutely typical of the formalistic and abstract thinking of sectarians everywhere, their complete inability to think dialectically and put themselves on the standpoint of the masses... it is necessary for the small forces of Marxism to reach the masses wherever they are".
He goes onto an extended reportage on how sincerely, how deeply the Mexican masses want AMLO to win - they say that he is giving the poor a voice.
"The sectarian disapproves of this. He shakes his head and tut-tuts. Of course! The masses ought to support him and not Lopez Obrador! "Ought" is a philosophical category that belongs to Kantian idealism, not dialectical materialism. The latter takes the world as it is, not as it ought to be, analyses its contradictory tendencies and shows how it will develop."
It is Woods' approach which is undialectical. He can only see the static, the workers' consciousness as it is now - the argument of course is not that the workers "ought" vote for someone different, but that Marxists should educate, agitate and, indeed, give them the choice to vote for a working-class alternative!
Of course, even if AMLO's Party of the Democratic Revolution is not a bourgeois workers' party, Marxists should still intervene in the structures which have been built up around the election fraud row. The people's assemblies, the National Democratic Convention, and so on - they should not ignore the anger of the masses at the CalderÃ³n coup. But the task of Marxists is to break workers from their bourgeois consciousness, not to sustain the illusion that AMLO is the answer to imperialism, globalization and 'the system'.
Much of what Woods writes about fighting for democratic demands and continually pushing for more and more radical working-class demands is true - but it is not commensurate with his support for AMLO, who represents the main obstacle towards a genuine socialist movement. He and his PRD allies are happy to rest on the mass movement, but they only wish action through the courts, through constitutional means - the formalities of the state bureaucracy must not be challenged "too hard", after all. Although planning to "declare" himself president, he refuses to use violent means to take over state organs and save democracy - so how can the workers progress under his leadership?
The over-riding problem with the Zapatistas' attitude is that to call for abstention is not to progress - elections are an opportunity for propagandizing and agitation, and the real Left missed the chance to pose a positive alternative to the PRD programme. The Zapatistas have a misguided attitude towards the question of state power, and this can be seen in their failure to formulate a strategy for the elections, and their indifference to Calderon's undermining of democratic rights.
Woods claims that there is "dual power" in Mexico, since AMLO claims that he plans to set up a "parallel government". This is a total misunderstanding of the phrase "dual power", which, and I presume Woods is trying to compare Mexico to historical cases of dual power, is a quite advanced revolutionary stage where the working class has seized control of economic, military and bureaucratic apparatus as to make itself into a sizeable alternative power base.
Even if an AMLO presidency represented working-class rule (it really wouldn't), the current situation is not akin to dual power. As Woods admits, AMLO has no power in his hands - the police are largely right-wing, the army, even if soldiers voted 70% for AMLO, is loyal, and state-bureaucratic institutions recognize the CalderÃ³n victory. AMLO will not be able to take power by legal means - but he refuses to endorse anything different.
Woods also suggests that the National Democratic Convention, people's assemblies and so on are the "embryonic forms of a new state power". These developments are exciting - the teachers' police force in Oaxaca is one example of people taking power into their own hands. But there is no way in which they can sustain themselves, never mind take state power, unless they break with the PRD - Woods' talk of a people's militia controlled by the people's assemblies is at odds with his refusal to break with AMLO's leadership - if president, AMLO would disable any of the organs of working-class power which could possibly grow in the current situation.
Of course, Woods claims that AMLO is himself being radicalized by this process, much as Rob Sewell claims that there is 'mutually reciprocated' radicalization between ChÃ¡vez and the Venezuelan masses. He idealizes Obrador's role in his own bourgeois party;
"LÃ³pez Obrador has continued to maintain the struggle. However, he is under immense pressure. Lacking a revolutionary perspective, the petty bourgeois leaders of the PRD will inevitably tend to hesitate, vacillate and compromise with the enemy... A section of the most corrupt leaders will eventually join CalderÃ³n. This will provoke a crisis in the PRD. The rank and file will demand the expulsion of bourgeois elements in the leadership."
Ignoring the character of the PRD, including that of AMLO, friend of Mexico's richest businessman Carlos Slim, Woods hopes that the party can be reclaimed, apparently with AMLO still at the head. The rank-and-file of the people's assemblies are not just PRD members though - Woods ignores the spontaneity of the movement, the independent working-class streak which runs through events like the Oaxaca revolt.
Ignoring the need for an independent mass working-class party to stand in the election or to intervene in the people's assemblies movement now, Woods puts off the creation of such a party for a hypothetical future date.
"At a certain point there will be a major clash between the classes in the struggle for power. The best and most advanced activists amongst the workers, the peasants, the indigenous people and the youth, must gather around a genuinely revolutionary tendency which can put forward a programme that can take the movement to its conclusion."
But how can it build enough, be ready to fight, if it's not been agitating and educating the workers before the class conflict breaks out? How and when should it assert its independence, and on what side of the barricades will AMLO be?
Before the election as well as now the party question has been decisive for the Mexican working-class. The current situation is not revolutionary, but certainly has opened up new perspectives, new milieux to intervene in. We are not indifferent to attacks on democracy. But unless Marxists assert the need for a working-class alternative to both bourgeois parties, the movement will go nowhere.
The attitude of Socialist Appeal's allies in Mexico is both to demand socialist economic change, and demand that AMLO, who they idealize, be installed as president. This is not "critical support" - the two agendas are incompatible. Lopez Obrador will deliver them nothing.
[+/-] Hide/Show this post