Mexico: 1 million strong Convention elects “legitimate government”

A massive National Democratic Convention (CND) met in the centre of Mexico City on Saturday, September 16 and decided to elect “a legitimate government” with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as its president. It is clear that this is not simply a "normal" movement against electoral fraud but a movement that challenges bourgeois democracy itself and the institutions of capitalism.

A massive National Democratic Convention (CND) met in the centre of Mexico City on Saturday, September 16 and decided to elect "a legitimate government" with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (the candidate of the left-wing PRD in the July 2nd elections) as its president. This was the culmination of a struggle of more than 2 months against electoral fraud which has put into question all the institutions of Mexico's bourgeois democracy. For 48 days, in the run up to the CND, tens of thousands of AMLO supporters had organised a tent city in the centre of Mexico City, paralysing its main thoroughfares, and millions had participated in massive rallies and daily assemblies (the largest on July 31 with 3 million).

The CND was attended by 1,025,724 delegates from all over the country and by tens of thousands of others who had not been officially registered. It is difficult to estimate the size of this massive rally, but it contained anything between 1.5 and 2 million people.

In the week prior to the assembly, the Mexican government had tried to prevent it from taking place. September 15 is the traditional day of the "Grito de Dolores" (the shout from Dolores), when the first call for the struggle for independence of Mexico was made by Hidalgo in 1810. Traditionally this is celebrated by the president giving an address from the National Palace in Zocalo Square at midnight on September 15. This is then followed by a military parade on Mexico's Independence day on the 16. The government was threatening to use the army to remove the protesters.

National Democratic Convention in Zocalo SquareFinally, the movement decided to withdraw from the square to allow the military parade to go through, but only after they had taken over the Grito de Dolores. The movement decided to reassemble on the afternoon of the16 for the CND. Showing the weakness of the government, president Fox had to abandon (for the first time in nearly 100 years) any idea of delivering the Grito de Dolores from the Zocalo and fleed to Guanajuato. The official excuse that was given was that intelligences services had information that "groups of PRD radicals were going to kill people". Now even high-ranking officials in the intelligence service are refuting the official government version. The truth is that in Mexico we have quite an unprecedented situation in which the legitimate government of Fox cannot impose its will on the mass movement. Hundreds of thousands rightly saw it as a victory when left-wing Senator Dolores Ibarra and other representatives of the movement celebrated the Grito de Dolores from the Zocalo.

The CND started about an hour late, delayed by torrential rain. But more than 1 million delegates who filled the Zocalo and the nearby streets of Pino Suárez, 20 de Noviembre, 16 de Septiembre, Madero and 5 de Mayo, did not move and stood there waiting. They had come to the Zocalo for a reason and they would not be moved by the rain.

When the meeting started the first speaker was left-wing writer Elena Poniatowska. She started by mentioning a letter she had received from Cuahtémoc Cárdenas, a former leader of the PRD, in which he advises the movement "not to break the framework of the institutions" by electing Obrador as a "legitimate president". This was received by a roar of disapproval, with the multitude shouting "Traitor! Traitor!". Cárdenas, and many others in the PRD leadership, have openly disassociated themselves from the resistance movement against electoral fraud. As a result, they have gone from being respected leaders (Cárdenas furthermore is related to president Cárdenas who in 1938 nationalised oil), to being widely despised and rightly considered as traitors.

Another organisation which has been put to the test by this massive movement is the "Otra Campaña" (the Other Campaign) set up by Subcomandante Marcos and the leaders of the EZLN. By openly advocating abstention from the election campaign which the masses saw as an opportunity to change their lives, they have squandered the support and respect they had amongst the workers and peasants throughout Mexico. The leader of the EZLN is now commonly referred to as Subcomediante Marcos ("subcomedian" instead of "subcommander"). Revolutionary events put all organisations and tendencies to the test, and mistakes are paid dearly by those who fail it.

The CND passed a number of resolutions, declaring PAN presidential candidate (who has been declared elected president by the electoral tribunal) as a "usurper" and refusing "to recognise him as a legitimate president of the Republic. A "plan of resistance" was also passed with massive support. This includes a national day of action against the privatisation of energy sources (electricity and oil), a national week of action in defence of free state education in October, and so on. This shows clearly that the character of the movement has gone beyond the question of electoral fraud and the defence of democracy. In fact, this is clearly linked to a rejection of the policies of the right-wing PAN which include the privatisation of Mexico's oil company PEMEX, of the electricity company, the creation of a two-tier higher education system, the destruction of the social security system and the elimination of basic workers' rights enshrined in the Constitution of 1917 during the Mexican Revolution.

But the culmination of the CND was when the issue of recognising AMLO as legitimate president was put to the massive meeting. There was a proposal to declare him as "head of the resistance" instead, thus making a concession to the established institutions, but this was rejected out of hand, with a massive majority declaring him "president of the Republic". Crushed against the barriers that created a space for the media in the Zocalo, 84 year old Rafael Pérez Vázqued shouted as loud as he could: "President, he is the president! We have been fighting since the fraud! He was elected and should be president!"

It was then decided that AMLO would form a legitimate government and that this would be installed in Mexico City on November 20, Mexico's Revolution Day. After, it was agreed that the highest point of the movement will be a massive mobilisation on December the 1, to "prevent the installation of Calderón as president".

Lopez Obrador, in his speech accepting the presidential position, made clear the challenge to the institutions of the ruling class which he described as an "elite block openly composed of the leaders of the PAN and the PRI, the political arm of a small rapacious minority which has caused so much damage to our country". He added that he was proud to be at the head of a "government of the people."

Another issue which has fuelled the anger of the masses is the media blockade imposed by the mass media in Mexico (and we should add, also internationally) on the resistance movement. A commission of "journalists in resistance" was set up which immediately demanded the "expropriation of the TV channels", in order to restore "truthful information, free from the interests of the oligarchy".

Leaving the meeting of the CND, the masses were jubilant and the mood was one of victory. Thousands left in columns with raised clenched fists shouting "se siente, se siente, tenemos presidente" (you can hear, you can hear, we have a president"). Undoubtedly this movement has strengthened the confidence of the masses in their own strength, particularly after a period in which a series of mass movements against the Fox government had ended up in either victories or at least in a draw. The idea has conquered the imagination of the masses that with direct action in the streets they can fundamentally alter the course of events. Even more than that, the way AMLO has conducted the "information assemblies", has given the mass movement the idea that they are the ones who decide and democratically vote on the proposals for action. However imperfect the democracy of a meeting of 1 million delegates might be (and in effect it became a mass rally rather than a proper convention with delegates and resolutions), the movement feels that they have the power to decide. They will be closely watching what their leaders do, and if they do not do what they expect from them, they will be branded traitors, and the masses will try to replace them with others that reflect more closely their aspirations.

A clear challenge to the ruling class and its institutions has been made, and they are clearly afraid of it. Even if they were able to diffuse the movement (and this is not ruled out), the ruling class in Mexico (and its mentors in Washington) are in a very difficult situation. The right-wing government of Fox, which was elected with a sizeable majority, was unable to carry out any of the counter-reforms that the ruling class and US imperialism were asking for. Every single time it was stopped in its tracks by a mass movement of the workers and peasants. The last one was when it attempted to prevent AMLO from standing in the elections. Two million came out onto the streets and Fox had to publicly withdraw the measure.

If the Fox government was weak in the face of the mass movement, just imagine how much weaker would be an eventual Calderón government, assuming it can be installed.

The ruling class has already started a carefully organised campaign to re-establish the legitimacy ofNational Democratic Convention in Zocalo Square (2)its institutions and to brand AMLO and the movement as dangerous outlaws and radicals. The first ones to come out, and it could not be otherwise, were the Cardinals Sandoval and Rivera, who at Sunday mass appealed for Lopez Obrador to recognise Calderón and appealed to him to "accept the rules of the democratic game". They know very well that the movement that has been unleashed as a result of the electoral fraud against AMLO, regardless of his intentions, is challenging not only Calderon but the institutions of "democracy" (capitalist democracy that is) as a whole.

Former left-wing intellectuals, international governments, the business organisations, the media (in Mexico and abroad), have all joined the chorus, in defence of democracy and the institutions of government. While Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has expressed himself in the strongest possible terms and said he "will not recognise the elected government", Evo Morales in Bolivia took the opposite approach saying that "even if there have been tricks, within the framework of the norms, the winner must be recognised". On Thursday September 14, Bolivia's Foreign Affairs Minister Choquehuanca sent an official letter of recognition to Calderón, in direct contradiction to Bolivia's ambassador to Mexico who had declared that Bolivia would wait until December 1 to take a decision.

Meanwhile in Oaxaca, where the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca has declared itself to be the legitimate government of the state and started to take over government functions (public order, transport, etc), the movement continues to challenge the governor. Last week there was an attempt by some leaders of the APPO, from the teachers' union (section 22 of the SNTE), to put an end to the teachers' strike which has been the backbone of the movement so far. The deal that was proposed included a sizeable wage increase for the teachers (the demand that sparked the movement), but when leading members of the APPO and of SNTE 22 tried to explain the agreement to the rank and file and advocated the end of the strike, this was rejected and the leaders expelled from the assemblies, showing the mood that exists in Oaxaca as well as that the struggle goes beyond the mere struggle for economic demands.

Peoples' Assemblies, or similar bodies of dual power under other names have been spreading throughout Oaxaca. The Popular Mixtec Assembly and the APPO announced that these bodies had now spread to Santa Catarina Ticua, Yuxia, San Andrés Chicahuaxtla, Yolomécatl, La Laguna Guadalupe, Río Las Peñas, Siniyuvi, and were in the process to be established in San Juan Mixtepec, Santo Domingo del Estado, Teposcolula and San Agustín Tlacotepec. The APPO also reported that Peoples' Assemblies were also being set up in other states outside of Oaxaca, like in Guerrero, Michoacán and even in the northern state of Baja California.

It is clear that the strategy of the state is to combine repression with concessions that might force the teachers to abandon the movement, thus weakening it significantly. The nationwide Secretaria de Gobernacion (Ministry of the Interior) has revealed that they are considering sending federal police and even the army to Oaxaca, to re-establish legality. It is not ruled out that they could even find an "institutional" way to remove the hated governor of Oaxaca in order to put an end to the insurrectionary movement.

There is the danger that the declaration of AMLO as a president will remain just words. For this new "government" to become a real government it must, at a certain point, clash head on and replace the Calderon government. A situation of dual power (the elements of which exist today in Mexico) cannot last for a long period of time without one replacing the other.

The main task now for the revolutionary movement in Mexico is for this government elected at the CND to become a real government. This should be done by creating local committees of struggle, in every neighbourhood, factory, school and military barrack, and for these to be linked up by elected representatives at the local, regional, state and national level. These committees should start by struggling for the immediate demands of the masses (for clean water, food, housing, trade union democracy, decent wages, against privatisation, etc), so that the struggle for genuine democracy (workers' democracy) becomes inseparable from the struggle for the improvement of the living conditions of the masses. Then these committees, like in Oaxaca, could start taking over power at the local level, running their own police force accountable to the assemblies, transportation, provision of food, etc. The calling of a general strike, which has been advocated by the Marxist Tendency Militante since the beginning of the movement, would galvanise the movement and put forward clearly the question of who rules. A general strike demonstrates clearly that it is actually the workers who make the country work and it brings to the fore not only the power they have to paralyse society, but also that they have the power to run it.

What will happen in the next weeks and months in Oaxaca and in Mexico as a whole is difficult to predict. This is a struggle of living forces and there are many factors involved: the quality and the actions of the leadership of the movement, the tiredness of the masses, the manoeuvres of the ruling class and its more or less skilful management of the situation etc., and to this we have to add accidental elements which might propel the movement even further.

But one thing is clear: this is not just a "normal" movement against electoral fraud. It has much deeper roots going back over the last 15 years of attacks on the living conditions of the masses, on their acquired rights, the implementation of the NAFTA agreement which destroyed Mexican agriculture and forced millions of Mexicans to emigrate to the US, the widespread feeling that the institutions of bourgeois democracy (the government, the judges, the governors, the media) do not serve the people but only a small minority of the rich and powerful, etc. Because of this, the movement will not go away. It will develop in ebbs and flows, and through these the masses will learn valuable lessons. The best and most advanced activists amongst the workers, the peasants, the indigenous peoples, the youth, must gather around a genuine revolutionary tendency which can put forward a programme that can take the movement forward.

The revolutionary events in Mexico, part of a continent wide movement, are an inspiration for all of us.