Mexico: Rank and file sets the tone at the First National Congress of Morena

The first national congress of Morena, the Movement for National Regeneration, was held on November 19th. This is the new left-wing political formation promoted by Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), formerly the leader of the left wing of the PRD [the Democratic Revolutionary Party]. Here we provide a report by the Marxists of the Izquierda Socialista who took part in the congress.

More than 1700 elected delegates were present from the 300 district congresses that had been set up all over the country. Given that the results of these local congresses had been quite diverse, and that in some cases there had been some interventions by groups allied to certain currents within the PRD, and that there had even been infiltration by “Panistas” or “Priistas”, this congress itself was also important to see the balance of forces that existed between a rank and file that is left wing and democratic and the influence of organised bureaucratic groups from the right.

morena-congress2012[Note: “Panistas” refers to members of the PAN, the right-wing National Action Party, and “Priistas” to members of the PRI, the bourgeois bonapartist Institutional Revolutionary Party that ruled Mexico for 7 decades after the revolution, through a combination of repression and co-option of the workers' and peasant organisations].

AMLO’s Opening Speech

morena-congress2012-3The first point of the agenda was the contribution of AMLO. His speech was firm and clear in relation to what Morena needs to do in relation to eradicating the vices that affect other parties, vices such as “clientelismo”, patronage, a way to get votes by promising government jobs and “acarreo”, the practice of transporting people to a political meeting or a polling station, in other words bussing in supporters. He also said that all the activists and the leadership of this organisation had to behave in an honourable and honest manner.

He said that nowadays, despite the fact that political parties have a bad name, more than 80% of the activists who had taken part in district congresses had been in favour of establishing ourselves as a party. AMLO emphasized the fact that the activists were in favour of there being a party because they believed that it was going to be a different type of party. But there is something that is even more important: the rank and file understands that what is needed is a tool in the organised struggle on a national scale and that there will be within the party the chance for their needs to be heard.

There are many comrades who are sceptical that Morena could be such a party. They often cite the examples of the development of bureaucracies, corruption and “jobs for the boys” that reigned within the PRD and other left parties. With these arguments to hand they say that it is a mistake to have another party. However, what they always fail to understand is that a party is not an electoral machine. The party is the historical memory of a certain class; it is a tool in the struggle of the exploited. And it was precisely this that was discussed in quite a heated manner in the committees where they discussed the principles, programme and statutes of the party.

What was also stressed was that the National Council and the national leadership should be elected in a free and democratic manner, that we should not allow any type of pressure on members on how to vote and that there should be evidence of internal democracy.

One of the incidents that drew a lot of attention was the presence of the US ambassador at the opening of the congress and when this was announced a murmuring arose that clearly showed that many did not agree with the ambassador being there. When they announced that there was a member of the Cuban embassy there, it was impossible to stop the shouts of support for the Cuban people and the rejection of US imperialism. Throughout the hall there could be heard the slogan: Cuba Yes, Yankees No; Cuba Yes, Yankees No!

AMLO’s reason for having representatives from both the US and Cuba, with everything that they both stand for, was to try and show that he was neutral, but despite this the congress clearly showed it was in favour of the Cuban people and totally against US imperialism.

Discussions in the Commissions

Straight after AMLO’s speech various commissions (Mesas de Trabajo) began to discuss the programme, principles and statutes. It has to be said, however, that the time allowed for these discussions, scarcely two hours, was clearly not enough given that there were more than 1700 comrades present and many of them who wanted to take part were not able to do so. In relation to the discussions on the statutes of the party they had to extend the session to more than three hours, such was the intensity of the debate.

Some things have been said in different sections of the media about the amendments to the statutes that were approved. It is worth mentioning that that this was the most important and interesting point in the congress as here there could be seen in a clear manner the balance of forces in the congress and I think that this remained clear for all to see despite the manoeuvres of those in charge of the committees when chairing the discussions.

The biggest battle in these discussions was in reference to the future candidates that Morena will put forward in elections. The idea was that there should be clear and open methods of preventing the infiltration of opportunists and bureaucrats who wanted to come to Morena for a career and then hop from job to job earning millions of pesos each year.

In the Second Commission on Statutes the comrades around the La Izqierda Socialista [The Socialist Left, the journal of the IMT in Mexico] together with other comrades from states such as Guerrero, Xalapa Veracruz, Quintana Roo, DF (Federal District of Mexico City), and so on, put up a hard battle to try and get those who had some position that they had been elected to by popular vote to give 50% of their salaries to the party. In the same manner there was also a hard fight to try and ensure that in order to be a candidate for any position any comrade had to have been an active member of the party for at least two years.

In Commission Number One there were also arguments put forward by Comrade Taibo II for the need for Morena to be self-financed by the members and that this could be achieved by having a membership subscription of one peso a day. This money would be useful to finance those comrades who were getting help to carry out their work and if our party were to receive money from the State, this money could be used to finance the political education of the members of the party.

It was also emphasized that Morena should be organised on a sectoral basis and not only on a district basis. This is absolutely fundamental given that we are trying to join in with social movements and in order that our leading comrades can intervene in a direct manner we have to develop our organisational work in the areas where people live (barrios), the schools, the factories and so on.

Another great success that we achieved in the Statutes was that after the next national congress, the National Executive Committee is to be elected by the whole congress and not by the National Council. All of these initiatives, and many others that we are not mentioning here, arose from a spirit of wanting to make Morena a real tool in the struggle and not an electoral apparatus nor a club for sentimental good intentions.

In each of the three commissions on the statutes the discussion was passionate and the amendments were put forward in a comradely manner and were defended with clarity and without any type of threats. In relation to the commission on principles and programme the speakers’ list was very long and therefore it was not possible to deal with each one of the proposals in a clear manner.

One of the things that many comrades commented on was that in all of the discussions the need was emphasized for Morena to be a party that was clearly left-wing and not simply progressive. In addition, many comrades from the La Izquierda Socialista insisted on the need for us to be much clearer in relation to defining our ideology and that we should be clearly anti-capitalist and socialist.

Our proposal on this issue was not the only one that was put forward and that is quite significant. We have to say that we were the only socialist organisation that came out openly in favour of a socialist revolution. What was interesting is that in many other contributions, mainly from the different states, this same point was also emphasised. The moderators from this committee decided in the plenary session, and this was agreed by the congress, that they would promote a wide discussion within Morena about how it defines itself ideologically and if it should declare itself to be anti-capitalist and socialist. We will follow up this point in a detailed manner.

In addition to this it was also stressed that there was the need to defend the secular state; to renationalise the basic sectors of the economy in order to achieve real political and economic independence; to state that we are in favour of carrying out the San Andres Larrainzar agreement [signed between the Mexican government and the EZLN Zapatistas on a number of issues including the rights of indigenous peoples]; to show that we are totally against Israeli imperialist aggression against the Palestinian people; to show that we are on the side of the different left and progressive governments that there are in Latin America; cancel the foreign debt, etc.

There is not time here to be more specific about the proposals that could have all been discussed much more deeply. Nevertheless, the battle that was kept from view and contained in all of the congresses at district and state level, a battle between the rank and file and right-wing currents, was clearly evident at this congress for all to see and the results were emphatic. The rank and file was there for all to see because we are a fundamental element for change in our country.

The Election of Members of the National Council

At the same time that the discussions were taking place ballot boxes were put out so that voting could take place for any one of the 2500 delegates to the congress. At first this method seemed very democratic but in the end it left a lot to be desired because people knew the most public faces of Morena but they did not know the rank and file leaders in each of the states. Furthermore, there was also a problem of inequality because some states only had a few delegates because of lack of money for transport so about 700 delegates could not take part in the congress.

There was also no way for potential candidates to the National Council (NC) to make themselves known to the congress. Everything was done in a disorderly manner so that if you wanted to have the chance of fighting to be a member of the NC, you had to form alliances with other comrades to promote one or two candidates.

And although AMLO often stressed that he was not in favour of lists to be voted for, in the end there wasn’t any other way to promote comrades who were fighters and left socialists. For our part we managed to get one comrade onto the National Council with the help of different states and of the Federal District and this could be a way of bringing together a force to maintain the idea of fighting for a socialist revolution in our country.

It is worth pointing out that one of the aspects of this vote that attracted a lot of attention is that one of the social fighters who is clearly anti-bureaucracy and to the left of everyone there, Comrade Taibo II, was the person who obtained the second highest vote in the whole congress, only being beaten by AMLO himself.

The First National Council

On the following day, November 20th, 300 members of the National Council met to vote for the National Executive Committee and to decide on a plan of action for the coming period. Suffice to say that the membership of the Council is quite diverse in that there are left intellectuals; social leaders at national, regional and state level from the struggle against the electoral fraud that happened in 2006; some – but to be honest very few – leaders of workers and peasants; youth leaders from the student struggles; defenders of human rights; representatives of the movement for diverse sexual orientation; socialists; and some bureaucratic remnants from the PRD.

Once again AMLO stressed in his opening speech that no one wanted to impose any political line on any of those present and in effect that was true given that the proposals that were made in the heat of the debate were analysed and freely voted on. The secretaries are as follows:

President: Martí Batres
General Secretary: Berta Luján
Organisation Secretary: Tomás Pliego.
Finance: Marco Medina
Communication and Propaganda: Jesús Ramírez
Political Education: Froylan Yescas
Human Rights: Rosario Piedra Ibarra
Research and Projects: Pablo Moctezuma
Cooperatives and Solidarity Economy: Alfredo Ramírez Bedoya
Youth: Patricia Ortiz
Women: Martha Miquel Palafox
Indigenous question: Ana Lilia Rivera
Labour: Jesús Martin del Campo
Production: Irma Sáenz
Welfare: Clara Brugada
Art and Culture: Paco Ignacio Taibo II
Environment: Terelupe Reyes
Anti- corruption: Bernardo Batís
International Relations: Juan Carlos Loera
Morality and Values: Ortiz Pinqueti
Sexual Diversity: Jaime López

If we look at the composition of this list it is completely unequal and what it reflects in the end are the different tendencies that exist amongst the rank and file of Morena. It is an accurate reflection of the heterogeneous nature of the party and the lack of any clear policy or ideology. Nevertheless, it is a good beginning. There is no doubt that there is an immense distance between this democratically elected committee and the national leadership of any of the left parties that exist today. The main task that now faces the most conscious rank and file members is to fight for a leadership that is more politically defined.

The Plan of Action

At the end of the session AMLO proposed an ambitious plan of action for Morena to be able to become, both in effect and in law, a political party. This does not mean just having meetings at state level but building the membership and the political level. The active rank and file of Morena is going to be qualitatively different. It is not simply going to finance the party. One of its tasks has to be to raise its political level, to take part in committee meetings and to work in an active manner to make the party grow in numbers.

At the same time Morena will take the lead in fighting against the so-called “reforms” that the government is carrying out and which will directly affect the working people. It will call for mass mobilisations on December 1st and we will go out and fight against the rise in VAT [purchase tax] and against the privatisation of PEMEX. At the same time we will have to support the mobilisations of workers who are fighting against the labour reform law that is anti-worker, as well as supporting other struggles that are being taken up by our people.

Political education schools are being prepared and through these we will be able to promote a critical view of our history as well as reinforce the political education of the rank and file activists.

There is a lot to be done. We need people to do the jobs so that we can go forward. On our part we in La Izquierda Socialista will work to build Morena, and within Morena we will defend the ideas of socialism and the need for the radical transformation of society.

(21 November 2012)

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