Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

by Jim Creegan

It is now increasingly apparent that the abrupt reversals of the Trump White House, emerging from behind a curtain of court intrigue, signal a major political shift. The white nationalist platform upon which the parvenu real estate mogul was elected in November seems in the process of being scrapped, plank by plank, in favour of a far more conventional rightwing Republican agenda, at home and abroad.

Far too often, Marxist political writing suffers from a conceptual gap. On the one hand, the bourgeois state is said – as a general theoretical proposition – to be an instrument of capitalist class rule. On the other hand, short to medium-term political events are analysed exclusively in terms of the pronouncements and deeds of political actors, momentary combinations, electoral moods etc., without regard to the interface between politics and class. No attempt is made uncover the particular pressures and influences through which the interests of the bourgeoisie are brought to bear.

In cases where politics flow through accustomed channels, the challenge is not daunting. Political parties and institutions are headed by individuals who either come from the ruling class themselves, or who are thoroughly venal and have undergone certain vetting procedures for class loyalty. The task of explanation becomes more difficult, however, when extraordinary convulsions – coups or insurrections in authoritarian regimes, or electoral upsets in democracies – put power in the hands of individuals and groups without long-established ruling class connections, and who may be hostile in important ways to the settled aims and practices of the bourgeoisie.

Hostile takeover?

Donald Trump is a case in point. Although himself a member of the ruling class, he entered the presidential primaries as an (more…)

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Women workers taking on the bosses' gun thugs

Women workers taking on the bosses’ gun thugs

During the night-time hours of September 26-27, 2014, policemen attacked students at a rural teachers college in the town of Iguala, located in the state of Guerrero in southern Mexico. They then handed 43 of these students over to the enforcers of a local cartel, who promptly murdered all of them. The brutal nature of this action exposed the collusion between the police, the gangs, the mayor of Iguala, and the governor of Guerrero, revealing not only the corruption of the political regime in Mexico but also the degree to which it has fallen into utter decay.

Iguala’s local government, like so many others, had been under the control of criminals and corrupt functionaries. The mayor had married the sister of a prominent cartel member. One of the governing officials of the state of Guerrero had chosen him for this position because of his family ties. This “Guerreros Unidos” cartel, like all of the others, uses terror to impose itself on the population with the support of the local authorities. Long before this particular case, the state governor had been implicated in the kidnapping and execution of militants and students linked to peasant organizations or community self-defense groups. For the local authorities, it is a common practice to call on the gangs to repress protest.

The mayor and the governor were forced to resign as a result of this scandal. Both belonged to the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the same party that was formed 25 years ago claiming to represent a fight against the corruption and patronage devouring the country. However, the PRD had clearly become just as corrupt as its rivals.

The murders in Iguala are far from the first (more…)

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Thousands of farm workers in the Mexican state of Baja California walked out of the fields on Tuesday, March 17, at the peak of the winter harvest season.

This strike pits against each other two diametrically-opposed social forces. On the one side, there are some of the biggest and richest companies in the world. The large farms in Baja, about 200 miles south of San Diego, specialize entirely in produce for the U.S. market – for big companies that we all know: Walmart, Safeway, Kroger, Albertsons, and others. Mexico’s produce exports to the U.S. are a business worth more than 7.5 billion US dollars a year.

On the other side are fruit pickers, the vast majority of whom are indigenous people from the southern states of Mexico. Many of them are illiterate and don’t even speak much Spanish. Trying to escape extreme poverty, they have migrated hundreds of miles north, only to be caught up in extremely bad working and living conditions.

The companies pay the fruit pickers as low as (more…)

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Mexico1

Students murdered by state forces in Mexico City on the eve of the 1968 Olympics

by Philip Ferguson

Today, October 16, marks the 45th anniversary of one of the smallest but most dramatic protests of the 1960s, the clenched fist salute on the 200 metres victory dais at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  To understand what happened and why it became so famous, some context is necessary.

1968 was a year of rebellions across the face of the globe.  In January 1968, the Vietnamese liberation forces struck hard against the US-led occupation forces and Washington’s puppet regime in Saigon, launching the Tet Offensive.

Early in the year events began in Czechoslovakia which led to the ‘Prague Spring’.  A radical student movement, demanding more democracy and equality, emerged in Yugoslavia.  In France, students and workers shook the French capitalist establishment to its core in May and June.  Students rebelled in Italy, and workers; struggles increased there too.

Even in sleepy New Zealand, the workers’ movement stirred back into life after 17 quiet years following the defeat of the wharfies and their allies in 1951.  The nil general wage order of that year resulted in significant workers’ protests here, while student radicalism began to stir as well.

In Latin America, students, workers and peasants fought against repressive regimes and faced torture, death and imprisonment at the hands of these regimes, including in Mexico itself (see here).

In the United States, 1967 had seen the first sizable US casualties in the Vietnam War and the movement against the war was growing on the campuses, on the streets, in workplaces and in ghettos and barrios across the country.  While some significant civil rights legislation had been won as a result of mass demonstrations and direct action – the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – the mass of black Americans remained on the receiving end of substantial institutionalised racism, including in sport.  Ghetto rebellions had grown since the 1965 Watts revolt in Los Angeles, and were by 1968 a regular part of life in the United States, with a particularly large revolt in Newark in 1967.  By 1968 the Capitol building in Washington had a mounted machine-gun post on it.

In Australia, students and workers were stirring again.  Workplace issues, the Vietnam War, the nature of campus courses and authority, and issues of Aboriginal rights were coming to the fore.  The situation of Aboriginals was, if anything, even worse than that of blacks in the United States.  Not surprisingly, some of the tactics of the US civil rights movement began to be deployed across the ditch, for instance freedom rides.

This then was the global situation in which the October Olympics took place in Mexico City in 1968.  Of particular relevance to this article is the American and Australian situation, because these led to one of the most dramatic symbolic protests of the 1960s.

Dais protest

Among black American athletes, who faced segregation within their own sports within the US, including within the overall US team at the Olympics, there was discussion about boycotting the Olympics.  However, most black athletes (more…)

800px-Exèrcit_al_Zócalo-28_d'agostby Tim Bowron

The situation in most of Latin America in 1968 was vastly different to that in Europe, the United States and South East Asia. Throughout most of the continent the revolutionary dynamic seemed to be running in reverse – since the 1959 Cuban Revolution the left seemed to be everywhere on the retreat, with right-wing military dictators ruthlessly crushing any opposition.

It was not as though the left suffered from any shortage of militancy – in Venezuela and Colombia communist cadre inspired by the example of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara fought heroically to overthrow capitalism by setting up guerrilla foco in the countryside. However unlike their Cuban comrades they failed in the vital task of building a parallel mass underground movement among the urban working class, and consequently were left isolated.

An attempt by Guevara himself to lead a guerrilla insurgency in Bolivia in similar conditions led to his capture and execution at the hands of local military and US intelligence officers in 1967.

In Peru the peasant leader Hugo Blanco had led a relatively successful guerrilla campaign in the early 1960s which had mass support among the indigenous population of the Cuzco region, but by the mid 60s Blanco was in jail and the insurgency crushed.

In 1968 a left-wing (more…)