For them, it was over very soon. Less than a couple of hours after the polling stations were closed, the night of July 1, the main monopoly television stations were already declaring the victory of bourgeois candidate, Pena Nieto, of the hated Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The newspaper “El Universal” had already printed in advance its morning edition with Pena Nieto on the cover as the “winner” in the country’s presidential elections. They had in fact planned this months and years ahead and just couldn’t wait a few more hours for such niceties as an official declaration of results!
The preliminary results declared by the IFE (Federal Election Institute) – of course – confirmed this by declaring Pena Nieto as the winner with 17,615,529 votes (37.89%), with leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) following with 14,808,521 (31.85%) and then Josefina Vazquez Mota, from the incumbent National Action Party (PAN) with 11,839,849 (25.46%). These were only preliminary results and they came amid the vast evidence of fraud and all sorts of ‘irregularities’ which, now that we write these lines, (Tuesday night) have become ever more evident. Thus, when Lopez Obrador declared, on Sunday night, that he would wait for the official results, he was only doing what any self-respecting candidate in any elections would do.
But the Mexican and International bourgeoisie, ever fearful of a repeat of the 2006 movement against the abject fraud in that year’s elections, quickly rallied around Pena Nieto and attempted to clean any stains from the banner of his victory and also heavily pressuring AMLO to concede. International media quickly crowned him “President-elect” based on the ‘exit polls’ of monopoly television stations that are so visibly in cahoots with the PRI. The New York Times, whose coverage of the campaign has been truly shameful even by its own standards, quickly ran an op-ed by Pena Nieto that dubbed him as “President-elect.” President Obama, of course, quickly called to congratulate his new Mexican friend.
These ‘confident’ gestures of the bourgeoisie initially led to a sense of shock and despair within the ranks of AMLO supporters and the fantastic youth movement, “I am 132.” In the early hours, the relatively wide margin declared between the two candidates (at least 6 percent, compared to less than 1 percent that was declared in 2006) led many to doubt if, in fact, significant fraud had taken place. But it was amazing how quickly this mood started to change. With the help of talking to youth who had gathered in the Zocalo to celebrate, and by observing trends in the social media, one could quickly grasp this changing mood. From shock and despair to anger, an endless anger not only against what quickly became clear as the fraudulent actions of the PRI (as we will describe below) but against all that the status quo of Mexican capitalism presents the youth with.
As we write these lines two nights after the elections, the details of the electoral fraud and the sham that the ‘electoral process’ is in Mexico, have become ever more clear. AMLO has aptly called it a ‘national shame.’
Immediately after elections, the London based Economist (one of the feisty supporters of Pena Nieto) reported of ‘voters in poor areas being offered upwards of 500 pesos ($38) to hand over their voting cards and that ‘others were disenfranchised by poor planning on the part of the election authorities.’ (Curiously, the vast majority of such cases were in strong working class areas of Mexico City which are AMLO strongholds.) Your correspondent’s interview with several international observers from the Organization of American States (hardly a revolutionary organization!) in Mexico City voting stations revealed the same thing.
But what has been revealed since is even more shocking. Associated Press reported that “thousands of people rushed to stores [of Soriana] on Tuesday to redeem pre-paid gift cards they said were given them by the party that won Mexico’s presidency, inflaming accusations that the election was marred by massive vote-buying.”
AP’s report further reads: “At least a few cardholders were angry, complaining they didn’t get as much as promised, or that their cards weren’t working.” An angry father told AP that: “They told us they were worth 500 pesos, but when we got to the check-out, they were only worth 100 rotten pesos.”
Al-Jazeera showed a video of a man telling an assembled group of people that they will only receive their ‘gifts’ if they sign-up 10 other people! This is only an extreme and direct form of the way the PRI would force thousands of people to vote for it. We have to remember that this is the Party that ruled Mexico for more than seven decades on a corporatist model. It still controls the vast majority of state governments (19 out of 31), including, crucially, the most populous one, the State of Mexico (the suburbs surrounding the Federal District) whose last governor was no other than Pena Nieto himself. For a lot of people, ‘good relations’ with the PRI is the only way of obtaining their Taco stand permits or keep their jobs in institutions such as Pemex (the national oil company).
However, fraud was not limited to direct vote buying and blackmail, pro-AMLO activists were harassed, threatened and arrested during the campaign and on election day AMLO appointed polling booth observers were intimidated, shot at and some even killed for carrying out their duties.
And to sum it up, not only AMLO’s team declared detecting irregularities in 113,855 polling places, independent election observers has said that 28 percent of voters interviewed (i.e. about one third) had faced cases of ‘irregularities’ such as this which, as a result, in their opinion, puts the whole process into doubt. AMLO has, therefore, requested a total re-count of the vote that he is unlikely to be granted.
We need to note that even before these revelations, factors like the role played by hated Televisa, among the main targets of the “I am 132” movement, was enough to put the whole process into question. This had been broadly revealed by outlets like Mexican magazine Proceso and the British newspaper The Guardian. In a country that has more TV sets than refrigerators, Televisa alone controls 70 percent of the market and from the beginning it worked hand-in-hand with the PRI to force Pena Nieto onto the Mexican people like a character in one of its ‘telenovelas’ (soap operas.)
This was clearly a ‘national shame’, a sham of electoral fraud and the most base vote-buying which didn’t even conform to the minimums of bourgeois democracy and Mexico’s own laws. This sham was, moreover, supported by the desperate Mexican bourgeoisie who after 12 years of disastrous rule of the PAN, was ready to hand power back to the PRI, the Party of corruption and authoritarianism. Thus, the abandoning of the PAN and its candidate, Josefina, by the bourgeoisie led to its significant fall and left it in the wilderness, a blow that PAN might not fully recover from anytime soon, if ever. (The rise and fall of the PAN in recent years and its relationship with the PRI could be a subject of an article itself.)
Youth movement demands ‘revolution’
“If you impose him, we’ll have a revolution!” This bold demand was repeated times and again in the marches of the “I am 132” movement in the last few weeks. It took less than a few hours after the initial results came out, in those crucial hours of Sunday night when surely hundreds of thousands didn’t sleep, for the ranks of the movement to decide that Pena Nieto’s ‘win’ is that ‘imposition’ that they were warning against. A march was immediately planned for Monday, 2pm from the ‘Estela de Luz’ monument to the Zocalo, the city’s massive central square. To many, including your correspondent, it wasn’t clear how many would show up to such a march, on the first day of the week, in the middle of the day, at such short notice. None of the mainstream media, domestic or international, mentioned anything about the march as they were busy broadcasting ‘love-ins’ with Pena Nieto. (Although Al-Jazeera’s correspondent did, at least, notice that there were curiously no youth present in the PRI’s semi-empty election night ‘fiesta’ in their Mexico City headquarters).
When I arrived at “Estela de Luz”, shortly after 2pm, any doubts were clarified. This was to be nothing less than a mass youth movement. Thousands upon thousands had filled the area in front of the monument and seemingly endless swarms of people kept joining in. When you came out of the Chapultepec Metro station (itself, by the way, filled with protesters holding signs up) the first thing that caught the eye was an activist that had gotten on top of a large bulldozer, waving a red flag with a Hammer and Sickle emblazoned on it. This was the state of things. The New York Times might declare Pena Nieto “President-elect”, but at the same time a red flag was flying over a mass youth movement against him!
As I interviewed many of the people present (almost all students), the mood was markedly different than on previous demonstrations. Karla, a 19-year old philosophy student from UNAM, was almost offended when I asked if she thought there was fraud. “Their whole system is a fraud!” she told me. Does she think they can overturn the IFE results? “It’s simple. If they impose him, we’ll have a revolution!” – repeating the oft-repeated slogan to me as if it was a simple fact.
This was, and is, not yet a revolution but ‘revolutionary’ would be a good word to describe the mood of those present. Shortly after march begins, for some reason people don’t want to go to Zocalo! “We always do that.” There is a correct sense that something other than ‘the usual’ is needed to confront this latest round of fraud, even though people don’t know what. What do we do then? “Let’s march to the monument of the Revolution!” Some ‘leaders’ grumble and talk about the ‘original plan’, but here people vote with their feet. On an intersection, after a sense that the majority wants the “new route” they change and head toward there.
From Estela de Luz until the Monument of Revolution it’s less than 2.5 kilometer (30-35 minutes) in a straight line. But it’s as if the youth have vowed to free themselves of their energy! They take a bizarre route, going through the affluent Polanco which takes much more time! We have previously written about the energetic state of marches in Mexico City and today it’s even more the case. Tens of thousands of youth, which are seemingly joined by more and more people every minute, march and block the streets, while running and jumping (“He who doesn’t jump is Pena Nieto!”). Their battle cry, “Look here! Look here to see Pena Nieto will not become President!”, has now, after the results, another dimension to it. If until a week ago, to vote Pena out sounded like an intention, now it sounds like a declaration of war on all the institutions that have endorsed his ‘victory’.
As if to test the energy of the youth, one of the heaviest rainfalls of recent weeks starts pouring down. While the plastic raincoat vendors are having a brisk business, the youth have seemingly found an excuse to shout their defiance. “Come rain, come wind, the movement will continue” they declare. But when they finally reach the Monument of Revolution, hiding from the rain under their huge university banners, the bother of the rain has seemingly added to the restlessness and anger. It is now closer to 6’o clock. We have marched more than 4 hours. What to do next?
The spokespersons of “I Am 132” movement take the stage while thousands are listening under a rain that is now much less fierce. They have prepared a program. Poems, declarations, songs… But it seems that the crowd has no patience for that. When an actress from a respected artistic group of UNAM wants to recite a poem, people grumble and shout her down. The spokesperson’s suggestion of going to the Zocalo now is also shouted down. One cry becomes louder than the others: “IFE! Let’s go to the offices of Federal Election Institute.” A slight problem there, IFE is about 50 kilometers away in the centre of Tlalpan, the southernmost borough of Mexico City! (Whereas the ‘city centre’ area, where we were, is actually in the northern part of the city.) The youth who shout “IFE” know that, but they seem to not care. This is what I mean when I say there was a ‘revolutionary’ mood among the youth: They want everything, and they want it now.
The leaders propose an action for Thursday, three days from now. They are shouted down with cries of “too late!” How about Wednesday? “Even tomorrow is late!” comes the answer. We need to do something now! Nowhere is the lack of leadership more obvious and in a tragicomic manner clear to see. The tens of thousands of youth gathered, having marched more than four hours, some of it under the pouring rain, are clearly full of energy and thirsting to ‘do something’. But quite what it takes to stop Pena Nieto, they are not sure. And the ‘leaders’ can offer no lead. Some of the youth who start to figure out 50 kilometers is not what they can afford marching right now, propose that for tomorrow. For now, let’s go to the PRI offices that are nearby. At least, it is something new. Somewhere we can direct our anger at!
Again, an indirect route is taken so that it takes more than another hour to reach the huge PRI offices in the city center. (‘Offices’ is probably not an accurate word as the headquarters looks like a mini-city in its own right!). The slogans become angrier and angrier as we get close to the PRI office. Pena Nieto being an “assassin” is one of the primary ones. This title, not as fancy as ‘president-elect’, is written by the youth, in huge letters, on the walls of the PRI compound. Some also enthusiastically respond to a call by some protesters by peeing in the compound through the gates! Their disgust has to be somehow shown!
But again the question of “What Now” reigns everywhere. The march has already been going on for nearly six hours. Some start to leave. But there are those who just can’t do so, just as they can’t accept the results that they heard less than 24 hours ago. Thus, they once more continue to another favorite location, the Televisa station in Chapultepec. Thousands (although the numbers are much, much lower now, as many leave when it gets dark) march there as well and greet the police forces with shouts of “Brothers, your fight is on this side!” All the walls of Televisa are, once more, decorated with slogans. After a while, and when it’s nearly 10pm, and thus we have marched for about 8 hours, some demand another stop: “Let’s go to the Zocalo!” Here, however, some youth intervene to say: “Weren’t we rejecting going to the Zocalo from the beginning? This is madness! We need direction, we need a plan! We can’t just march everywhere!” Thus, the obvious limits of the marching have dawned on some only after 8 hours of shouting anger on the streets. The Zocalo plan is rejected and people start going home. One of the last things written on the Televisa wall: “Until yesterday we were peaceful, now it’s time for the revolution!’
We have indulged in this detailed description of the march in the hope of give you, our readers, a sense of the energy and mood on display, a mood of defiance and confidence, familiar in the early stages of every mass movement.
The day after, Tuesday, similar actions continued, which your correspondent couldn’t take part in, including another tens of thousands strong march on Televisa and a sit-in in front of IFE in Tlalpan which until now – the wee hours of Wednesday morning – are still going on. (Some reports speak of this sit-in having ended in ‘violence’ with the possible involvement of police and/or army. But, by the time we write these lines, this was yet to be confirmed.)
The situation is quite clear: there is a defiant mass movement of tens of thousands of youth who are ready to fight the imposition of another 6 years of bourgeois rule and the return of the PRI. What they lack is a direction and leadership that could lead them toward their goals. Will that be found in AMLO?
Can AMLO provide leadership? What Way Forward?
The main reason why AMLO is so widely hated by the Mexican and international bourgeoisie is that in 2006, after the most obvious case of fraud that prevented him from victory, he dared to defy the bourgeois state, symbolized with his slogan, “Devil take your institutions” and led more than six weeks of blocking Reform Avenue, the main pathway of Mexico City with hundreds of thousands of supporters. That movement (an analysis of which can be found on Marxist.com) included demonstrations of up to three million people (the largest in the country’s history) and was happening at the same time as other movements, like the one in the southern state of Oaxaca which lead to a temporary collapse of the state, but it eventually failed because of its failure to put the working class at its head with an indefinite strike that could have paralyzed the country. AMLO’s lack of a bold socialist program was matched by his hesitancy to go for such a plan and thus Calderon was finally able to be sworn-in as President on December 1, 2006, although he had to enter through the back door to escape the masses of protesters in front of the National Palace in the Zocalo. The result? Six years of poverty and misery, thousands of dead in the disastrous Drugs War and a downward spiral toward hell for the Mexican masses.
This time, the camp of the PRD, the Party of Democratic Revolution, (of which AMLO represents its left-wing, while it also has a right-wing linked to sections of the “liberal” bourgeoisie) was planning on not running the ‘embarrassing’ AMLO who had dared to take on the bourgeois ‘institutions.’ There was initially a plan to repeat an “Anti-PRI” alliance with the conservative PAN (that was done in a few state elections), .i.e. either not running a candidate and supporting the PAN or running somebody that PANistas could stomach… certainly not Obrador who had never accepted the legitimacy of the presidency of PANista Calderon. The PRD’s right-wing candidate of choice was Marcelo Ebrard, the ‘moderate’ current mayor of Mexico City. AMLO, however, threatened to run as the candidate of the smaller PT (Labour Party) if he wasn’t allowed to run on the PRD ticket. He also launched the mass movement/organization MORENA (Movement for National Regeneration) to organize his base. The PRD bureaucrats knew they had no chance against a mass-backed AMLO candidacy and conceded in supporting him, to the chagrin of many within the bourgeoisie who had hoped for a ‘responsible’ PRD as a less-embarrassing alternative to the corrupt parties, PRI and PAN.
Obrador, however, made the mistake of drawing the wrong conclusions from his 2006 campaign. Instead of now moving toward a clear socialist program that could mobilize thousands more of workers, youth and peasants, in the ballot boxes and on streets, he went out of his way to appear more ‘moderate’ – not a Chavez but a Lula, to use a popular analogy. This is even a bigger shame considering the fact that Mexico has been the scene of some huge proletarian battles like that of the electrical workers, organized in the democratic union SME, in the last few years.
The man who used to refer to himself as the ‘legitimate president’ after 2006 was now apologetic about that movement, going as far as signing a ‘civility pact’, promising to bow down to the state institutions. The man whose campaign in 2006 had been titled “For the good of all, the poor are first” now promised, on every occasion, to be a President “For both poor and rich” and referred to his goal as the vague concept of a “Republic of Love”.
This led to a truly anemic campaign that had failed, even more than in 2006, to mobilize the masses, while it also failed to ‘satisfy’ the bourgeoisie (Most significantly, The Economist explained plainly that had the PRD chosen Ebrard, they would have endorsed him but now they have no choice but to back the PRI!)
If the Obrador campaign got the energy that it did – on display with its ‘end campaign’ march of more than 1.4 million in the Zocalo – it owes that not to its ‘moderate’ program but to the fantastic “I am 132” movement, the rise of which has been chronicled in our previous articles.
This, however, was a case of ‘too little, too late’. As great as the “I am 132” movement has been, it remains largely confined to the youth (and mostly to students) whereas a movement that could truly penetrate the depths of society and the working class needs more time. This lack of mobilization (also displayed in the low voter-turnout of 62 percent, which is similar to last time) gave more room to the PRI to organize its shameless fraud.
In this context, we are right to be skeptical about AMLO leading a durable and successful fight against the “imposition”. (He is to be credited with having yet not bowed down to the pressure of the bourgeoisie in conceding the elections, but nor has he called for a mobilization by MORENA à la 2006.)
As a comrade of La Izquierda Socialista, the Marxist wing of MORENA, recently noted, Einstein once defined as ‘insanity’ as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. If AMLO’s methods failed to overturn the results in 2006, how can we expect the same methods, and even more ‘moderate’, to be victorious this time around? Especially now that the bourgeois, having learned its lessons from 2006, is more ready and has declared a wider margin in the results?
However, at the same time, this time around there are indications that we could see a stronger movement. The two main factors are: 1) the organization of MORENA, which with three million members, is present in every corner of the country, together with its youth and student wing, MORENAJE, and its ‘cultural’ wing, “Morena Cultura”, organizing some of the most well-known left-wing intellectuals and literary figures in the country. 2) There has been the fantastic “I am 132” movement, a very rare case of a mass movement against a candidate even before he gains office!
Anybody who says there are not the forces and willingness to fight is therefore fooling himself. What is lacking is not the base but a leadership that could lead these thousands of ready militants into a campaign that bears fruit and stops the PRI in its tracks.
A few hours before these lines were being written, on the invitation of La Izquierda Socialista, a public forum took place in the building of the CNTE, Section 9, a democratic teachers’ trade union. More than 100 people, mostly youth, filled the room and took every chair, with many standing in the halls. The youth had come from Morena branches, from the “I am 132” movement, the universities, etc. The room was swarming with the energy of people looking for answers. They bring many points, from mentioning cases of obvious fraud in their own locals to offering the Iranian and Egyptian revolutionary movements as role models.
Comrades Ubaldo Meneses and Adrian Alvarado, both from LIS, and the latter also a militant of Morena in the Polytechnic Institute (IPN), were the main speakers of the event who presented a way forward for the movement. Ubaldo stressed the critical role of the working class in society. He said that a demonstration is, in effect, nothing but a show of power, a barometer of the balance of forces. But in reality it hurts nobody, except perhaps some disgruntled drivers in the city centre! What is needed, instead, is to link the struggle to the working class which, with its power, could stop society. Ubaldo echoed LIS’s call for a ‘24-hour general strike’ and ended his moving speech by a call to ‘paralyze the country’ with worker’s action.
Adrian continued on the same theme by emphasizing the need for all those present to raise such a prospect in their respective organizations: branches of Morena, “I am 132”, etc. Adrian called for the formation of a “National Front against Imposition”, a call that was further clarified in the interventions of the comrades of LIS and others. Such a front would unite all the forces that are against the prospect of a Pena Nieto presidency into a mass movement aimed at stopping him from taking the presidency. Adrian noted that this movement should also include those who hadn’t necessarily taken part in the elections but want to fight against the prospect of the PRI coming back.
Comrade Adrian ended his remarks with what will prove an important lesson for the movement: “We have nothing to lose. It’s better if we fight and lose than if we don’t fight at all!” Another comrade, Ruben Ribera, added to this by saying that even if the movement didn’t succeed at stopping Pena Nieto from taking the presidency, there would be a lot at stake in continuing the fight against his policies in the coming years.
And this is the spirit of the moment! While we have every reason to doubt whether a suitable lead will be given by AMLO and the current leaders of the movement (a lead that could mean its success and could stop Pena Nieto from assuming the Presidency come December), it is also true that they can’t control the current mass movement any longer. This movement has arisen out of the depths of Mexican society, as a response to its many ills and traumas, and it will continue its march, no matter who is President.
When Calderon became President in 2006 after defeating the movement, he benefited from a relative economic boom and agreeable international economic conditions. The next Mexican president, however, will take office amidst the greatest crisis in the history of capitalism and in a period of rising revolutionary movements all over the globe. If Pena Nieto becomes President and goes forward with his declared goals, such as the privatization of PEMEX, the nationalized Mexican Oil industry, he will face huge class battles that he will, by no way, be certain of winning. (We might also add that based on a projection of current numbers, the PRI will not have a majority in both chambers of the Congress which will give it a tougher time.)
The slogan of Mexican youth, “If you impose him, there will be a revolution”, might seem a bit over-optimistic at this stage, but we are absolutely certain of its eventual realization, if not in the coming months, in the coming years!
Expose the electoral sham!
Build The National Front Against Imposition!
For a 24-hour General Strike!
The struggle continues!
(July 4, 2012, 5am, Coyoacan, Mexico City)