Socialist Worker

Oaxaca need not burn in solitude

Debbie Jack argues that the movement against electoral fraud in Mexico can take up wider issues

Issue No. 2027


Mexico's Amlo

Last week an important and emotive article by Adolfo Gilly, entitled Oaxaca - solitude in flames, appeared in Socialist Worker.

Months of repression, meted out by thugs loyal to the state governor and later by federal forces, has led to deaths, injuries and the imprisonment of activists in the Mexican city of Oaxaca.

Gilly’s article rightly expressed his anger that “the entire structure of political organisations and institutionalised trade unions are leaving Oaxaca in solitude”.

I think it is important to take this opportunity to analyse some of the problems of the political movement that has emerged in Mexico in recent months. Here I think Gilly is in danger of dismissing the whole movement, not merely its leadership.

The new movement emerged when left candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known as Amlo) was denied the presidency following the 2 July elections.

Gilly argues that the national convention (NC), set up to reverse this fraud, “exists purely to demand a recount”.

However, behind this demand lay a much wider politicisation - stretching back 12 years to the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

That is why Amlo has been able to mobilise some of the biggest demonstrations in Mexico’s history.


The NC does not restrict itself to condemning fraud. It also speaks of changing society from below, stopping Mexico being the sweatshop of the multinationals, winning rights for farmers and indigenous people.

There is unquestionably support for Oaxaca among delegates to the NC.

The NC did not speak of insurrection - Amlo is committed to reforming Mexico, not revolution. His PRD party is a reformist party with its own history of sellouts and corruption.

However, the movement has pushed Amlo’s agenda to the left and has created a space for workers, students and farmers to come together and debate alternatives.

So, the question remains, why hasn’t it mobilised with all its force in Oaxaca?

Gilly provides part of the answer when he argues that Amlo has sought to keep control over the movement at the expense of mobilising fully to oppose the repression.

To this needs to be added a second argument. Mexico lacks an independent organisation within the movement that can exert the pressure to push it towards a more revolutionary trajectory.

The responsibility for creating such an organisation now lies with those who have witnessed the movement’s failure in Oaxaca.

But it is the existence of the movement that creates the potential for this to happen. For many trade unionists this is their first opportunity to break from the politics of the corrupt “institutionalised trade unions”.

Many Mexicans are moving into political activity for the very first time.

Some who have not yet broken with the PRD will question Amlo’s lack of action over Oaxaca.


It is also necessary to be critical of the role of the leadership of the Zapatista movement.

Subcommandante Marcos, the best known Zapatista leader, agreed that electoral fraud had taken place.

But he claimed Amlo was as bad as his political opponents and that the NC was undemocratic. Before the election, as part of the Zapatistas’ “other campaign”, Marcos called for a “left wing and anti-capitalist” Mexico to be built from below.

But when some of the biggest mobilisations in Mexico’s history began - when there were people capable of doing just that in the streets - Marcos criticised them from the sidelines.

The Zapatistas’ struggle is held in great respect within the movement. If Marcos had taken part he would have been in a powerful position to increase the level of support for Oaxaca today.

I have had the opportunity to work alongside the Zapatistas and their supporters. I joined the “other campaign” and support the Zapatistas’ struggle. I also took part in the NC and the many demonstrations against the fraud.

I have nothing but respect for our comrades involved in the struggle in Oaxaca today and I rage at the murder and repression.

But I also see the movement around Amlo as a source of hope for Oaxaca and Mexico.

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Article information

Sat 18 Nov 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2027
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