“It will be the biggest march of your life” a comrade of La Izquierda Socialista (Marxist wing of Morena) told me before Wednesday, 27th of June, when leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), like other candidates in the coming Mexican presidential elections, was to hold his final election rally or ‘cierre de campaña’ (campaign closing) as it is called here.
I wasn’t sure about that but shortly after I arrived on the scene, it looked certain that his prediction would be vindicated.
The march was supposed to start at 4 pm from the Angel of Independence and go through the usual route (which, in the last months alone, I have travelled a good dozen of times) to the massive central square of Mexico City, the Zocalo. This route is about 4 to 5 kilometers. I arrived a little bit late and found out that my comrades were already near Zocalo and I had to march without them.
It was, however, perhaps a blessing as I got to talk to a lot of ‘random’ people among the thousands that had joined the march.
I’ve been to a lot of ‘official rallies’ where it is clear that the attendees are in one way or another directly linked to the sponsoring organization and in some cases have been “acarreados” (in one way or another forced or bribed to attend): not only the marches of bourgeois parties that I attended in, for instance, Aguascalientes (a city a few hours to the north of Mexico City) but even those of AMLO’s PRD in some Coyoacan locals, were of this kind.
This rally, however, was far from anything like that. Thousands upon thousands in a seemingly endless stream poured into the streets. Young and old, men and women, students and workers. They carried not only the banners of the organizations supporting AMLO, but their homemade banners with every slogan you can imagine. Many had painted their face with AMLO signs, just like football fans would do before a game in Aztec Stadium. Many had used their back or their arms to display slogans.
And what did these slogans say?
Messages of hope and the aspiration for a better Mexico expressed sometimes in the most intimate language. “My Father told me you can’t be fooled no more. You deserve a better future,” a girl had written on her back. Many young women who were voting for the first time held signs to cheekily declare that their “first time is for AMLO!” There were entire families, sometimes spanning a few generations, present. A grandmother told me how proud she was that her granddaughters, seemingly apolitical, had now taken an active interest in politics and she was there to support them. A man in a corner was shouting: “I am a worker and will support AMLO.” Another banner read: “AMLO is dangerous [echoing an oft-repeated accusation of the bourgeoise]… for the corrupt.” And, as has become the tradition of these marches, whenever people passed the headquarters of a large company, they made sure to remind them of their real role in society: “Esos son, esos son, los que chingan a la nación!” (It is them, them, who are fucking up the nation.)
When we were in front of the Fine Arts Palace, a short distance from the Zocalo, it was clear that we were witnessing one of the largest demonstrations in the history of Mexico. When your correspondent, who is quite tall, looked back, until the eye could see there were tightly packed crowds of people who had blocked Reforma avenue. In the opposite direction, in front of us, on the way to Zocalo, the crowd was so tight that we could hardly move forward. When we called some of the friends who were still further back, they said the same was true in the starting point of the march, the Angel!
It was way past 5 pm which was supposed to be when AMLO started his speech. Earlier he had marched with the people towards the Zocalo and when the crowd had made his approach to the square impossible… he had simply taken the Metro! (Many in the crowd were asking “could you imagine a candidate from other parties taking the Metro with the people?”).
Speeches were being delayed to wait for the rest of us, but the crowd moved as slow as a worm. Calle Madero, one of the main streets leading to Zocalo, was literally exploding from the crowds and a few comrades and I had to try to take another route. We finally were able to make it to Zocalo but many others couldn’t. The truth was simple but astonishing and later became much clearer when we looked at the aerial pictures: Even Zocalo, one of the largest city squares in the world, didn’t have enough capacity to host the whole demonstration. Reports of the numbers in attendance vary wildly, from the unbelievably low figures given by some of the media (150,000), to the probably exaggerated claims of 2 million given by some AMLO supporters. The organizers gave the number of 1.4 million. There were certainly hundreds of thousands present. There is no one single air photograph that I’ve seen so far that covers the whole masses of people that had chocked the Historical Centre of the city yesterday.
This show of strength was very important for the morale of the people as they were encouraged to see the power of their own mobilization. The mood of AMLO supporters could not be more strikingly different from about 2 months ago, at the beginning of the campaign, when I first arrived in Mexico. Then, a lot of people were disappointed at the anemic campaign of AMLO and all the polls put the main bourgeois candidate, Pena Nieto more than 15 percent ahead. It was the coming to scene of the youth movement (known as “I am 132” [#yosoy132]) that injected a new life into the campaign. All the comrades who had experienced the 2006 campaign were unanimous that this time the level of youth participation and energy was much higher.
AMLO was the first to acknowledge that. He started his speech by calling the people present the “motor force of real change” (“Real change” [el cambio verdadero] being the main slogan of his campaign.) He then quoted Benito Juarez, the 19th century legendary bourgeois-democrat president: “Without the people, nothing. With the people, everything.”
AMLO directly mentioned the “I am 132” movement and the role it has played in energizing the population to defeat the bourgeois candidates. Also, when mentioning the organizations that back him he put an emphasis on MORENA (“Movement for National Regeneration), which is not an ‘official’ party yet but acts as a mass movement of more than 3 million members, many of whom youth and students, who are organized in brigades and committees all across the country. Tellingly, the mention of MORENA also got the loudest applause, possibly to the chagrin of some of the PRD bureaucrats present.
Few days before elections, it has now become clear to many how corrupt and unreliable are the opinion polls which put Peña Nieto more than 10 points ahead! AMLO spoke about this in his speech and reported about polls conducted by his own campaign which show him on top.
Will AMLO win? And what would his victory mean?
Less than 4 days to the elections, it is clear that the bourgeois are frightened by the possibility of a victory of Lopez Obrador. One more time, we witness that hilarious situation when a left reformist has a chance of getting to power: He, ever anxious to prove to the bourgeoisie that he can be a ‘responsible’ statesman, gives few or no revolutionary promises, whereas the bourgeoisie keeps attacking him for being dangerous and radical!
Whether Lopez Obrador finally wins will depend, to a large extent, on how much the mass mobilizations of the last few weeks, composed mainly of youth, have managed to reach wider layers of the population and convince them that something fundamental is at stake.
In reality, AMLO hasn’t put forward one tenth of the socialist program that is necessary to change the dire situation of the Mexican poor, workers and peasants. On Wednesday, he again promised to be a President for both ‘rich and poor.’ Oddly enough, one of his only promises was to NOT ‘expropriate’ (nationalize) the hated Televisa, which together with TV Azteca, maintains a monopoly of the country’s television broadcasting. Yet, he promised to secure people’s ‘right to information’. But how can the ‘right to information’ be secured if two private companies are allowed to control up to 90 percent of the media? In this example, we can see the contradiction of AMLO’s program. While he has promised a lot of progressive measures, his program does not contain a single measure to undermine the economic power of the ruling class and without this, the promised reforms will be basically impossible to implement and untenable in the long-term. Another example was Agustin Ortiz Pinchetti, AMLO’s proposed Labour Minister, who spoke to the crowds. He, like AMLO, promised job creation while at the same time acting as an impartial ‘arbitrator’ between labour and management.
In fact, even sections of the bourgeoisie are already planning to deal with the possibility of an AMLO presidency. They would, of course, be prepared to use every method (including fraud) to secure the victory of their own candidate, but they know that robbing AMLO of a clear victory might lead to a social explosion, vaster than 2006. It is worrying that one of AMLO’s chief supporters, also present on the platform on Wednesday, is Alfonso Romo, a former supporter of right-wing President Vicente Fox from National Action Party (PAN) and a member of World Bank’s External Advisory Board for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Marxists believe that no genuine social change can come from the ballot box alone. At the same time, ignoring the elections is also no solution and isolates the small sectarian groups which advocate boycott from the fantastic pro-AMLO movement which has a clear proletarian composition. The bourgeoisie, who are scared of AMLO’s victory, despite his anemic program, understand the potential of this movement as well as the Marxists do. And it is for this reason that they are scared, not so much of AMLO himself but of the massive movement behind him.
In this case, even securing AMLO’s victory will need more than showing up on ballot box and putting ink on your finger. As we saw in 2006, those who have had control of the Mexican state for generations will not simply let go of it. What is needed in the next few days is first a massive campaign to mobilize people to vote and to further polarize society on class lines. “I am 132” movement has pledged to ignore legislation which bans electoral activity in these last few days, and to organize actions and demonstrations against Peña Nieto. But even more important will be organizing brigades (of Morena, trade unions and the “I am 132” movement), not only defend the counting process and prevent fraud, but to be ready to wage a mass struggle to force the bourgeoisie to accept the result. Without a mass struggle, victory will not be secured.
Securing the victory of AMLO would only be the beginning. It would open a new exciting chapter in Mexican history. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that hundreds of thousands of people have been enthused and will not easily accept election fraud, and even if AMLO is finally defeated, they will take their energy, enthusiasm and willingness to struggle away from the electoral field and onto the day to day struggle to transform their concrete conditions.
In his speech, AMLO promised that after the victory party on Sunday there will be “a new country,” and that “a new republic” will be built with the aid of people. This is the right direction but what content this ‘New Republic” takes will be up to the tumultuous class struggle in the years to come. It will soon become very clear that if there is one promise AMLO will never be able to hold true to is to be a president for both ‘rich and poor.’ He will have to govern either for the likes of Señor Romo or, as he promised, ‘for the people, by the people, with the people.’
The question of challenging capitalism will be on the order of the day as, in current conditions, that is the necessary pre-requisite for most of the measures of reform that AMLO has promised. The job of MORENA and the fantastic mass movement that we witnessed yesterday will really only begin after securing the victory at the polls: a vast struggle for socialism, on the streets and in the factories.
Coyoacan, Mexico City