Oaxaca erupts once more: the battle of Cerro del Fortin

One year after the revolutionary events in Oaxaca, Mexico, the movement has erupted again. The Mexican ruling class thought they had put an end to the movement with a wave of repression, but they were wrong. The underlying problems that provoked the movement have not gone again. See also in Spanish.

We dedicate this article to comrade Emeterio M Cruz, an APPO fighter and sympathising member of the Marxist Tendency Militante, severely injured in the battle of Cerro del Fortín. We send our deepest felt sympathy to his family. [Emeterio Cruz was arrested by the police  and beaten up. As a result he suffered a fractured skull, broken internal organs and is now in a state of coma]

Once again, the counter-revolution has created chaos in Oaxaca. Yesterday, July 16, marked the beginning of a new offensive against the rotten regime of the PRI governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz. For some days the criminal governor had asked [illegitimate president] Felipe Calderon for hundreds of Federal Police PFP officers to face the renewed offensive of the mass movement.

The result: hundreds of wounded, both police officers and activists of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), and dozens of people arrested. This is the balance sheet after four hours of police violence against the masses. The clashes started after the attempt of more than 20,000 demonstrators called by the APPO to take over the Cerro del Fortin open-air auditorium, where they wanted to hold the "Peoples' Guelaguetza". The Guelaguetza is a traditional festival, the official organisation of which - on the part of the governor - is scheduled to take place between July 23 to 30. These renewed clashes show that the revolutionary energy of the Oaxacan masses is still burning and is showing the way forward.

A few minutes ago, as we were finishing writing this article, APPO spokesperson Florentino Lopez announced that the teachers will mobilise en masse from July 21 to 30 to boycott the official Guelaguetza, a Festival which showcases the customs and traditions of the 16 ethnic groups present in Oaxaca in the open air hall of Cerro del Fortin in the north of the city. One year ago, the Guelaguetza had to be cancelled because of the boycott of the APPO as part of the struggle that started at that time to demand the resignation of Oaxacan governor Ulises Ruiz.

That was the beginning of the Oaxaca Commune. Its violent suppression in November 2006 was announced by the ruling class as an "outright victory", but in fact did not destroy, nor did it defeat the movement. Although the movement apparently ended in a partial defeat, from the point of view of the Oaxaca masses they feel that they scored a moral victory, since they proved that "si se puede", it is possible to challenge the might of the capitalist State. That moral victory was shown again on May 2 during the national day of struggle against the attacks on the ISSSTE pension system, in which the APPO was strong enough to completely paralyse the city of Oaxaca. Faced with this, the ruling class unleashed a new wave of repression.

On October 29, 2006, Militante wrote: "It took the Federal Police an all-out six hour-long battle to take over the main square of Oaxaca. Thousands defended the APPO barricades. The pictures show a war scenario. Meanwhile in Mexico City there were demonstrations against repression and in solidarity with the APPO. Big business, the Catholic Church, the bourgeois media, all with one voice, fully backed and supported - with joy even - the intervention of the PFP ordered by [the then Mexican president] Vicente Fox. But, what will happen in the next few days? Will it all go back to normal? Will the militant APPO fighters go back to their homes defeated? We doubt it. Marx explained that sometimes revolution is spurred by the whip of counter-revolution and this is precisely what will happen now, this can only be a temporary defeat".

And further on:

"The intervention of the PFP only shows the weakness of the regime. It shows precisely the cul-de-sac Mexican capitalism finds itself in. Whatever they did, whatever they do it will be wrong from the point of view of their class interests. They think that because they have taken over the Oaxaca Zocalo they have solved the situation. How wrong they are! If the PFP withdraws from Oaxaca, the APPO will take up its positions again. Are they able to keep the PFP in Oaxaca indefinitely? Dear capitalists, by repressing the APPO you have made a crass error; be ready to regret the consequences."

In reality the offensive of Ulises and Calderon corresponds to a position of weakness of the regime. When an animal is wounded, cornered, it responds aggressively; far from showing a position of strength, this new attack reveals the weakness of the right wing. The only reason why the regime is able to use repression at all is the collaborationist policy of the PRD leadership. This is the time to struggle not to conciliate! Physical repression is the resource left to the bourgeois State when the mechanisms of ideological coercion have proven insufficient, it is an indication of the sharpening of the class struggle, not of the strength of the regime.

The inspiring movement of the APPO in Oaxaca is a small indication of the enormous reservoir of revolutionary energy of the Mexican masses. One year after those momentous events [of the struggle against electoral fraud and the Oaxaca uprising] it is necessary to draw the right conclusions. It is necessary to coordinate and spread the struggle of the Oaxacan people to the rest of the country. After this new wave of repression, it is imperative to take the movement to the Federal District as soon as possible; we must defend the movement of Oaxaca by bringing it to the centre of national attention; we must break the isolation! The movement must acquire a national character, because isolation will strengthen repression.

The leadership of the APPO needs tactical clarity, but above all the APPO need to abandon once and for all any attempt to conciliate with the ruling class. Experience shows that all attempts to negotiate by the APPO have led straight to State repression! This has been proven over and over again during the heroic movement of the APPO. Now, after these latest attacks, the main aim should be, beyond the resignation of the reactionary PRI governor Ulises Ruiz, beyond the calling of a local Constituent Assembly, beyond the boycott of the official Guelaguetza, to take the movement to the whole of the country, spread it to other states, starting with the main cities, to take the movement to the Federal District immediately and from there to the main areas of the country.

Conditions are favourable to the movement for several reasons:

1. The Calderon regime is at a low ebb, both from the point of view of the economy, and from the point of view of public opinion. The main economic indicators (oil, unemployment, growth, etc), are putting the Calderon government in a situation of increasing crisis and this will be reflected openly in the struggle over budget allocation in September.

2. The complete failure of Calderon in his media adventure in the field of the so-called struggle against narco-trafficking has forced the regime to attempt to distract attention by setting up or promoting the "terrorist" attacks on oil pipelines, looking for smokescreens which will also allow them to justify increased repression faced with growing class struggle.

3. The lid on this huge stinking sewer has been lifted and in any "democratic" European country would have caused the fall of the government. We are talking about the scandal of Zhenli Ye Gon, a member of the mafia who financed the PAN presidential campaign which, through fraud, brought Calderon to [the presidential palace of] Los Pinos. This scandal on its own should be used to mobilise the masses of the National Democratic Coordination [set up during the struggle against electoral fraud] onto the streets with the clear aim of overthrowing Calderon.

4. Also on the horizon we can see the inevitable confrontation over the counter-reform of the ISSSTE pension system; this will bring the masses onto the streets again. The same will happen when Calderon attempts to privatise oil and electricity.

5. The government is planning further attacks on the living standards of the working people through a reform of the tax system.

6. A serious and bold call on the part of the APPO to the social movement as a whole, including the rank and file militants of the PRD and the unions, particularly the miners' and metalworkers' unions, the National Strike Council and the National Democratic Convention, would not only shield the APPO but start a serious struggle for the release of all political prisoners, not only those of the APPO, but also those of Atenco and others.

7. The APPO could send a strong contingent to the Federal Disctrict Zocalo and prepare delegations to the workers' movement to agitate for the need for a 24-hour general strike for the fall not only of Ulises Ruiz, but also Calderon, for the defence of social security, for the democratisation of the unions, for the defence of the purchasing power of wages, for the socialist transformation of society.

8. An APPO actively agitating for mass mobilisation in meetings all over the country would be even more useful than carrying out a heroic but isolated resistance in Oaxaca. The APPO movement should not be an end in itself, but should serve to coordinate and spread the struggle throughout the country. The heroic fighters of the APPO can take such proposals to the trade union branches, rank and file PRD committees, peasant communities, neighbourhood organisations, students groups, etc.

We want to stress the idea that the leadership of the PRD and the unions must call for:

1. A 24 hour general strike

2. The setting up of strike committees in all schools and workplaces

3. These Committees must organise democratic mass assemblies to decide on a coordinated nationwide plan of actions involving millions to reject repression and calling for the fall of the Calderon regime.

4. To raise finances for the movement (through collections, sale of materials on the struggle of the APPO, etc). Workers know that we finance ourselves with our own resources, since "those who pay the piper, call the tune".

5. To make an internationalist appeal to struggle against so-called "neoliberalism" (i.e. imperialism), aimed particularly at the revolutionary struggle in Latin America, Venezuela, etc.

6. To set up commissions in charge of media, propaganda and coordination

7. To organise road blockades and coordinated actions in the main roads and government buildings all over the country.

8. To set up stewarding and self-defence committees to protect the demonstrations from repression and infiltration.

Comrade of the APPO, workers of Mexico, from the cities and the countryside! The strength of our class lies in numbers and in the fact that without our permission nothing works in society. We have the strength of millions and the ability to run society! Let us use that power to defend our courageous brothers and sisters of the APPO! Let us not allow this movement to be drowned in blood! An audacious policy on the part of the APPO can turn the situation around, breaking the isolation of the movement. This is the key tactical issue of the day.

Isolated actions will not overthrow the government nor release political prisoners. Mass struggle will!

Stop repression in Oaxaca!

For the immediate resignation of Ulises Ruiz!

Break the isolation, spread and coordinate the struggle nationwide!

Let's strike all together on the same day at the same time!

Bring the movement to the Federal District!

Prepare a 24-hour general strike for the overthrow of Calderon!

See also in Spanish.