More than 1.2 million people took to the streets of Mexico City on Sunday April 24 in the so-called “March of Silence” to protest against the politically motivated case against Mexico City’s mayor, Lopez Obrador. The attacks against him have backfired on Vincente Fox and the Mexican ruling class, and the balance of forces is now tipped heavily in favour of Lopez Obrador and the mass movement.
The legal case against him lies in ruins, and his removal from office has given him time to travel the country and galvanize the opposition to the Fox government.
The massive demonstration, which some observers say was the largest in living memory, followed a 7-kilometre route. There were a lot of trade union delegations and some of the country’s largest unions have already declared they will make the defence of Obrador one of the main issues at the May Day march. Just to give an idea of the massive character of the demonstration, the enormous Zocalo square was already packed early in the morning and when Lopez Obrador was delivering his speech at 2 pm, most of the 7-kilometres of the march’s route was still full of demonstrators.
The Mexican ruling class trembled at the sight of 500,000 people in the Zocalo square demonstrating against the case against Lopez Obrador on April 7. This accentuated the divisions in the ruling class. There was confusion over Lopez Obrador’s legal status and there was hesitation on the part of the Attorney General to file charges against him. There were reports that Fox would pardon Lopez Obrador, which was clearly an attempt on the part of the government to avert a crisis and cut across the developing mass movement. The government then retracted this report showing signs of panicky confusion.
Lopez Obrador then announced that he wanted to go to prison to highlight the injustice being done to him and to Mexican democracy. Fearing that Lopez Obrador would lead the struggle from prison and become a massive martyr symbol to a developing revolutionary mass movement, two PAN deputies paid his bail to prevent him from going to jail. This clearly shows the divisions and weakness of the Mexican ruling class, and shows that a section of the ruling class believes that the case against Lopez Obrador is weak and will backfire. They clearly fear that the mass movement around his defence could escape the control of the PRD if he were imprisoned.
The case is now in limbo, as an approval for an arrest warrant has been sent back to prosecutors because of procedural problems. At the mass demonstration on April 24, Obrador exclaimed that the case was dead and that he would return to his office the following day, which he did. Government officials claim that he is no longer the mayor and that he would be arrested if he returned to work. Obrador and many legal experts and lawyers in the country disagree. He returned to work and has not been arrested. These developments clearly show that Lopez Obrador and the mass movement have all the momentum, and that if they continue to go on the offensive they can defeat the intrigues of the government and launch a struggle against capitalism. The masses can see that the weakness and indecision of the Mexican ruling class have been exposed, and that they are powerless to stop Lopez Obrador and unable to strike a blow against the PRD and the movement behind him.
The fears of the ruling class
The US ruling class, at least through its mouthpieces in the bourgeois media, seem to have come out against the manoeuvres of Vincent Fox. The Seattle Times, The LA Times and The New York Times run articles daily on the situation. When the controversy first began, the US ruling class tentatively and cautiously supported the moves against Obrador. They feared the rise of another Chavez type figure along the very borders of the United States. The US ruling class, being richer, stronger, and having more experience in these matters, wanted something done against Obrador, but something that would work out in their favour. The Mexican ruling class, being right in the middle of the storm and under direct threat, panicked and have backed Obrador and the masses into a corner, which carries with it dangerous results from their point of view.
When Chavez was elected in 1998, the US and the Venezuelan oligarchy took a wait and see approach. When they realized that he could not be bought and that he was a major threat to their interests in the whole region, they began organizing opposition to him, resulting in the April 2002 coup. Every time the oligarchy and imperialism move against Chavez and the Bolivarian movement, the masses are activated, further radicalized, and become more confident with each passing victory.
It is a similar situation with Obrador. The question boils down to this – would he be a Chavez or a Lula? This is literally how the US mass media presents the question. But the Mexican ruling class was not willing to wait and find out. Lopez Obrador’s social programmes and talk of “the poor come first”, and his willingness to use oil revenues to fund further social programmes sent chills through the ruling class. The weakness of Mexican capitalism and imperialism are exposed by the fact that even these mild reforms cannot be tolerated. No matter what the Mexican ruling class does, it will be wrong. If they allow Obrador to continue his reforms in Mexico City, the masses around the rest of the country will demand the same. Once the masses have received these reforms they will not give them up without a fight. However, any moves against Obrador and the mass movement, even before these reforms have been initiated across the country will only serve to radicalize the movement, the demands of which will then be much more radical and far-reaching. The Mexican ruling class is not willing to wait to find out whether Lopez Obrador would be a Chavez or a Lula – he had to be stopped now because they did not want to be put in a similar position as the oligarchy in Venezuela and have no real prospect of defeating the masses at this point in time.
The US sees that the flimsy legal case against him has entrenched Lopez Obrador’s positions and has pushed him to the left, as well as radicalized the mass movement behind him. The US ruling class fears that due to the pressure of the masses, their counterparts in Mexico may be forced to drop the case against Obrador and allow him to run for president. They also fear that the mass movement behind him could escape the control of the PRD and Obrador himself. The New York Times published a most interesting article on April 19 entitled “Guilty of Popularity”. The article points out that, “If his [Lopez Obrador’s] opponents are foolish enough to put him in prison, it’s quite possible that an infuriated electorate might catapult him directly from jail to the presidency.”
Couched in the language of the “threats to Mexican democracy”, the article goes on to explain the hopes of the Mexican ruling class. “It could be, as his opponents probably hope, that blocked from campaigning, he will see his popularity ebb, and that by the time of the vote, his supporters will have abandoned his cause. If so, the leading contender will have been sidelined, a blow to democracy.” But the real fear of the Mexican and US ruling class is expressed in the next paragraph – the fear that the mass movement could escape the control of the Obrador and the PRD. “Or it could happen that despite López Obrador ‘s insistence on peaceful resistance, angry demonstrations will erupt and be met with official violence, a horrific setback for the country.” The only threat to Mexican democracy is the Fox government and the ruling class, who have undemocratically attempted to stop the most popular presidential candidate from running for office. The real threat facing the ruling class is not a threat to “democracy”, a concept to which they have no loyalty. They only use democratic means to rule the country so long as it suits them. What they really fear is that the movement will threaten capitalism.
The mass movement
What the US ruling class fears has already started to happen. The mass movement behind Obrador has already begun to develop a mind of its own. The so-called “March of silence” was not really so silent. The movement has gone way beyond simply demanding that the case against Obrador be dropped. The masses can see a direct link between the privatizations and austerity measures of the Fox government and the removal of Lopez Obrador. They are linking the case against Obrador to the defence of democracy and against capitalism.
The trade unions and the advanced layers of youth and PRD activists now make demands for the defence of Mexican democracy and against privatizations. The mass movement is now learning through their own experience what many in Venezuela for instance have already learned: that democracy cannot be established and defended in Mexico without a struggle against capitalism and imperialism. Many in Venezuela, through the concrete experience of events, have learned that capitalism cannot be tinkered with, that the social programmes and reforms in Venezuela are not tolerated by the oligarchy and are not sustainable under capitalism. In order to ensure the victory of the struggle against poverty and capitalism, the workers and peasants in Venezuela are realizing that they need to control the levers of the economy, because you cannot control what you do not own, and that they must establish the broadest genuine democracy – workers’ democracy, or socialism. The movement in Mexico is heading down the same road and is coming to the same broad conclusions. As the movement develops its slogans will become more and more radical and develop strong anti-capitalist demands.
Pushing this process forward will be the role and activity of the ruling class and the Fox government. No matter what they do in regards to the case against Obrador it will be wrong. If they continue with the case and the manoeuvres against him, this will only radicalize the mass movement and draw more and more people into it, driving the movement forward and giving it more momentum.
However, if the ruling class relents, and drops the case and allows Obrador to run for the presidency, his support will not ebb, as many in the ruling class hoped. The mass movement gains confident with each victory. The ruling class has become more indecisive and cannot make a move against it. If the government drops the case against Obrador, it will be seen as a major victory by the masses, who will gain the confidence to struggle for further demands and victories – against the privatizations, against cutbacks and attacks on workers’ rights, and in favour of genuine, meaningful reforms. The ruling class will be further demoralized and powerless. As the struggle for reforms grows and as victories are achieved and challenged, the masses will realize the need to challenge capitalism itself.
The leadership of the PRD will attempt to de-rail the movement of the masses into safe channels. However, the process of social polarization will continue and this will effect change in the party. The victory of the movement in securing Lopez Obrador’s candidacy will only give the masses confidence, and deepen the class struggle in Mexico as their demands clash more and more with the interests if capitalism and imperialism. The masses are beginning to realize their strength, and have seen the strength of other mass movements in Venezuela, Bolivia, and now Ecuador. They will demand that the PRD enter the road of struggle. The PRD and the unions must be transformed into organizations of struggle. The Fox government is on the defensive, and is weak. It is powerless to act against Obrador and against the mass movement. Imagine what could be possible on the basis of a genuine militant socialist programme! The Fox government would not last even one day, and Mexican capitalism would be swept away, allowing for the socialist transformation of society and the realization of the demands of the masses – for the establishment of genuine democracy, for an end to poverty and misery, for a real improvement in the lives of the workers and youth.
- J’accuse! Mexican Congress votes to impeach Obrador By Rob Lyon (April 8, 2005)
- Imperialist Intrigues in Mexico - No to the desafuero of Obrador! By Rob Lyon (April 4, 2005)
- Where Is Mexico Going? (March, 2004)