This article was written on 10 May, prior to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrado (AMLO)'s election as President of Mexico. However, we think it is still relevant after the Mexican elections as it reveals the brewing conflict between AMLO and the Mexican ruling class.
“The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” – Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto
In the last several weeks, the Mexican bourgeoisie has become polarised in regards to the MORENA candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). The conflict commenced when the presidential candidate said he disagreed that a new airport should be built in Mexico City, according to the plans of the federal government and the big bourgeoisie. Days later the richest man in Mexico came out to defend the airport project, replying, “to suspend the project is to suspend the progress of the nation”, and that it would be a setback for thousands of families. When a journalist asked how much money the multi-billionaire Carlos Slim has invested in the airport, he cynically answered that he had not invested a single peso, that what had been invested were the retirement funds that are managed by one of his companies, Inbursa.
Later it was leaked that, after the meeting AMLO had with the bankers, the latter emerged very unhappy with his proposals. In WhatsApp messages, representatives of Bancomer said they were totally opposed to AMLO. This is not an isolated sentiment. In fact, all of international finance capital, which controls the national banks, lacks confidence in Andrés Manuel.
Later in a public assembly, AMLO said that some businessmen – from the mafia in power – had met with Ricardo Anaya, the candidate of the [right-wing] PAN and [the centre-left] PRD, to prepare the withdrawal of Meade, the PRI candidate, in favour of Anaya. This provoked a furious response from the businessmen, who said this was a lie, that they were not pressuring anyone, and that AMLO was slandering them.
From there the controversy escalated. Andrés Manuel has named members of the oligarchy, especially five of them (Claudio X González, Alberto Bailleres, German Larrea, Eduardo Tricon and Alejandro Amírez), and accused them of having been directly behind the electoral fraud of 2006 and of financing the campaigns of the right-wing candidates. He accused them of enriching themselves at the expense of the interests of the nation and called them rapacious and self-interested.
According to insiders, the Mexican Business Council consists of 60 of the most powerful families in the country. They released a statement called “Not like this”, where they demanded that AMLO not call them liars and said they are entitled to defend their points of view and say what they do not like about the candidates’ proposals. Days later, they published a letter containing hundreds of signatures from companies and businessmen, filling more than two pages, in all newspapers in national circulation. The bourgeoisie were closing ranks as a class against AMLO. In the letter, they defended their class point of view, their interests, and made it clear that they are the ones who provide employment and that they would not be silent.
AMLO attacks the capitalists?
AMLO has insisted in different interviews and assemblies that he has nothing against the capitalists, that in his government there will be room for everyone and that he will give opportunities for them to continue growing their businesses. In the programme he has presented for his government, at no point does he say he will nationalise companies or that he is against capitalism – a position that we criticise – nor does he talk about expropriations. Far from that, what he proposes is to support medium and small companies and their development. He also proposes the opening of industrial corridors in the north and south of the country with invitations to major foreign and national companies to invest. In his Programme for the Nation, he offers to open a 30km wide strip along the entire Mexican border as a free trade zone for investment: Israeli capital is specifically mentioned. This free trade zone will also offer lower taxes on the collection of water and electricity.
AMLO wants to promote conditions of capitalism like those in the First World, where the state plays a role in promoting public works and supporting private capital; in turn, it also provides welfare and support programmes to the people who need them the most. We can say that AMLO wants to strengthen a welfare state that can give small reforms to alleviate the pain experienced by the immense majority of the population. At the same time, he wants to strengthen Mexican capitalism and get it out of the backwardness to which it has been subjected by both the American imperialists and the cowardly national bourgeoisie, who earn more money by allying with imperialism than by playing an independent role in developing the nation’s economy.
Therefore, AMLO’s position is very clear: he does not want conflicts with the bourgeoisie, he is not going to attack it as a class, the only thing he is going to do is remove their privileges – for example, the multi-million tax rebates large companies receive, and the secret contracts that they have with the different parts of the government. That is also why there is a part of the Mexican petty-bourgeoisie, and even the big bourgeoisie, who support AMLO. These layers have not entirely benefited from all the reforms (of the ‘neoliberal’ period), nor from the privatisation of public assets. The brutal violence that pervades the country hits them in their wallets as they have had to abandon areas for the cartels and so on. They think it is necessary for this situation to calm down. They ask for a change in the country’s politics, but they are not a revolutionary class. They want to continue managing their businesses, making profits from natural resources, labour and so forth. But they cannot continue doing so in the current conditions.
What is the fundamental problem?
The Mexican Business Council, as we have already mentioned, is the oligarchy. They, together with American imperialism, are the ones who truly rule the country. They have directly decided economic policy for the past 30 years and chosen who should be in government and what should and should not be done in Mexico.
“[MBC] members include the owners or managers of important companies such as the Chairman of Kimberly-Clark de México, Claudio X. González; Televisa, Emilio Azcárraga Jean; Industrias Peñoles, Alberto Bailleres; and FEMSA, José Antonio Fernández Carbajal, alias ‘El Diablo’.
“In addition: the chairman of Alfa, Armando Garza; Grupo Lala, Eduardo Tricon; Bachoco from the Bours family of Sonora; Vitro, Adrían Sada; Grupo Carso, Carlos Slim; Bimbo, Daniel Servitje Montull.
“Also on the list are the owners or managers of: Soriana, Ricardo Marín Bringas; Grupo México, German Larrea; Softek, Blanca Treviño; and Alejandro Ramírez of Cinéopolis, the current president of the Council...” (El Universal)
Of the list of 60 names and families, at least 16 are billionaires listed on Forbes’ ‘The World’s Billionaires’ in 2018. These ladies and gentlemen have increased their wealth in the midst of pain, suffering and squalor.
As explained in an article published by El Sur:
“The number of billionaires in Mexico has not grown much in recent years, but their fortune as a whole has increased exponentially, as they accumulated a total of 142.9bn dollars, according to the report ‘Extreme Inequality in Mexico, Concentration of the Economic and Political Power’ by researcher Gerardo Esquivel Hernández.
“... Esquivel Hernández explains that the 16 wealthiest individuals in Mexico concentrated in 1996 a combined wealth of 25.6bn dollars... in 2002, the wealth of four Mexicans represented 2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but between 2003 and 2014 that percentage rose to 9 percent. It’s about a third of the income of almost 20 million Mexicans.”
To these figures, we must add the directors and owners of finance capital, which is dominated by multinationals. These are the individuals who exploit and plunder the country:
“The ownership of Bancomer, based in Bilbao, Spain, controls 23.19 percent of the market. Banamex is owned by Citibank of New York, and controls 14 percent of the assets. Santander, also Spanish, has 13.5 percent. Including Scotiabank at 6. 2 percent and HSBC at 6.5 percent, this practically means 70 percent of the banking sector is owned by foreign companies, and of course, profits are returned to their centres. In fact, these profits are the main cause of stability for the already not-so-strong Spanish banks, but they like to comment and threaten. It is very common that on the boards of directors we find former or future state officials: Agustín Casterns, Ernesto Zedillo, Carlos Salinas, Jesus Reyes Heroles, Luis Ramírez Corzo, Georgina Kessel, Juan José Suárez Coppel, and Pedro Aspe Armella. No doubt José Antonio Meade will be a member of some Board of Directors, his already long stay as Secretary of Finance and Public Credit and other posts promising privileged information that banks are willing to pay for, but there is something that characterises all these politicians who have worked for banks, they have done so as employees.”
The position they take towards a possible AMLO government is clear: they do not like it, they are not ready for a politician who speaks Spanish poorly, “who does not know English” – as the owner of the commercial chain Coppel publicly stated. They want to offer no crumbs for the poor.
The conflict in Mexico has not yet escalated because so far AMLO is only a candidate. Currently, the nation’s oligarchs and the imperialists are trying to resolve their internal conflicts to come to the elections as strong and unified as they can be. Although they could not compel Meade to withdraw for Anaya, we can be sure they are manoeuvring the structures of their parties and their funds so that, from the second debate, it will be clearer that they support Anaya. The PRI governors will also build a campaign of ‘strategic voting’, to buy and recruit voters for this unsavoury character.
If AMLO wins the presidency what we have seen so far will only have been the prelude to a campaign of economic and political sabotage by the oligarchs and imperialists against the government. Their goal is quite clear: any government has to be at their service, if AMLO does not align, they will pressurise him or try to remove him from the government.
The oligarchy and the reformist governments in Latin America
It can be said that we have the advantage of hindsight when it comes to Latin American events. Since Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela in 1998, a series of movements and sharp turns to the left prevailed, which in some countries managed to take over the government. These so-called ‘progressive governments’ were, in fact, reformist governments that wanted to offer some concessions to improve the conditions of the poorest layers, using state resources to create social assistance programmes, but without breaking with the limits of capitalism.
Although this is not the place to analyse these governments in any depth, we can give some generalities that are quite illustrative of the response of imperialism and the oligarchy. These governments can be divided into two periods: before the international economic crisis of 2008 and after. In the period before the crisis, these governments were able to take advantage of the high costs of raw materials – principally oil – to create infrastructure and programmes to help the layers of the population most in need. We cannot put all the countries in one camp; the case of the Venezuelan Revolution was the most advanced, and had the decisive backing of the working class and the poor of the countryside and the city. Also, the social programmes went the farthest.
After the crisis, the situation changed drastically and one by one the reformist governments had to cut back on social spending and start applying counter-reforms, in opposition to the interests of the workers. If a government accepts the rules of capitalism, it has to accept them not only in times of prosperity, but principally it must apply them in times of crisis. From this follows a process of internal crisis, demoralisation and a lack of confidence in these governments on the part of the workers.
What we want to highlight at this moment is the attitude of the different oligarchies, which, together with US imperialism, prepared a rabid reaction to all these reforms. In Venezuela, we recall the coup that was defeated by the masses in 2002, the oil strike of 2004, the economic sabotage, the capital strike, the sanctioning of Venezuelan oil exports and the assassination attempts on Chávez. In Bolivia, there were attempted coups against Evo Morales. In Honduras, we saw the coup d'etat against ‘Mel’ Zelaya in Honduras, followed by scandalous electoral frauds.
Here we see the methods of the gangsters that govern these different countries, who decide everything. When someone opposes them, even minimally, we know how they act. Not that any of the aforementioned presidents wanted socialism, they only wanted reforms, “to return to more human capitalism”, some would say. Even Chavez wanted to go further but did not break 100 percent with capitalism. In all cases, the oligarchy and imperialism responded to these ‘good intentions’ with a kick in the mouth.
Should AMLO expropriate and govern by decree?
Paco Taibo (a famous Mexican novelist and left activist) said in a conference a few months ago that if an AMLO government is sabotaged by businessmen, the people should demand they be expropriated. This idea was introduced into the debate – indirectly and in narrow terms – by the media.
As he himself explained, in reality, the mass media want to use this idea to conduct a campaign of fear among the people, to say: “you see, there are radicals proposing expropriations!” In an interview with El País (a Spanish newspaper), he responded to the question of, if AMLO does not get a parliamentary majority, how could he govern? He answered: by decree. The president of the republic has the right to present presidential decrees to implement his policies.
Neither expropriation nor ruling by decree are sufficient in themselves to transform society. There have been governments in the history of Mexico that have made expropriations and these have served to recapitalise companies and then re-privatise them; in the best case, General Cárdenas expropriated the oil industry to develop Mexican capitalism and industrialise the country, providing it with infrastructure.
We are in favour of re-expropriating the companies that were privatised, but not only that. We also favour expropriating all the big companies, banks and large commercial chains to have sufficient resources to satisfy the most urgent needs of the entire population. The country should be industrialised so that there are jobs for all. We are in favour of the companies being administered and directed by the workers themselves, who should concentrate their political power in a government of the working class.
We support the use of decrees as long as they strengthen this aforementioned policy: to give power to the people, not in the form of a populist president, but of a great national assembly – an instrument of struggle – where all progressive and revolutionary forces are concentrated. We support this method if it permits the country and the revolutionary struggle to maintain the workers’ gains. In other words, we believe that, if the masses do not fully participate in leading the coming struggle and delegate their aspirations, the government of AMLO, despite all its good intentions, will simply not be able to defeat the oligarchy and imperialism.
At the same time, the working class must enter the struggle with a programme of socialist revolution. Our task is not to fight for capitalism with a human face, which as we have seen in Latin America is a utopian and reactionary idea. We have to break with the limits of capitalism on the basis of the organised masses, arms in hand. This is the only way to defend a government that respects the interests of the working class.
The cheap arguments of the oligarchy – who say they create nine out of 10 jobs – are false. The youth are unemployed or in casual employment. The bourgeoisie creates jobs to exploit labour. They do not have a vision of employment for all of society, they create jobs for their benefit. The only way to provide well-paying jobs and for all is to end the power of the bourgeoisie, expropriating what they have taken from us for decades.