This is an abbreviated version of a longer statement by the comrades of Izquierda Marxista Honduras (Marxist Left) regarding the forthcoming elections in the country. On 28 November, the new president will be elected, in addition to 128 national deputies, and 20 for the Central American parliament. This comes at a time of deep social, political, economic and public health crisis, after years of attacks on the oppressed and exploited classes. What is the way forward?
These attacks intensified with the coup d'état in 2009 and have been expressed in inflation, looting, tax rises, electoral fraud and, more recently, in the creation of the Special Development and Employment Zones (ZEDEs): territories intended for the free exploitation of workers by big capital.
Since the Honduran capitalist oligarchy and its political organizations - the Liberal Party and the National Party - with the support of U.S. imperialism, overthrew the reformist government of Mel Zelaya’s Citizen Power, the attacks on the conquests of the workers have not ceased.
Instead, there have been more cuts to public health, privatisation of electricity and increases in the army budget, which have all caused chaos for the exploited and oppressed layers of socieity: from students, women, to the poorest peasants.
This crisis occurs at a historical moment where capitalism worldwide is going through one of the worst crises in its history. This has aggravated inequality. According to the World Bank, GDP growth in Honduras fell to -9 percent in 2020. This meant that the poverty rate went from 59.3 percent in 2019 to 70 percent in 2020.
The growth of poverty has been accompanied by an increase in violence, explaining why 500 Hondurans leave the country daily. In addition to being one of the poorest countries in the entire American continent, Honduras has had to face a repressive, cynical government, linked to organised crime and completely submissive to US imperialism.
These elections will once again be a battlefield between the oligarchic mafia sectors that are desperate to maintain their power and privileges, and the masses striving for a way out of the capitalist crisis, for democratic freedoms and to throw off the yoke of the coup governments.
The National Party in the elections
In this chaotic scenario, the National Party, which seeks by any means to continue the dictatorship, has made enormous efforts to raise the political profile of the current mayor of the capital, Nasry Asfura, in the hopes of pushing him as a prime candidate for the presidency.
The “Daddy is Different” campaign alone shows the desperation of the National Party and the attempt to clean up its image. With this campaign, they declare to the people: “Daddy will make the changes needed because he's different.” But what really makes Mayor Asfura different?
The demeanor of a man who dresses “like a worker", with muddy shoes and jeans, may deceive a casual observer, but the masses have had 12 years of dictatorship under Micheletti, Lobo and Juan Orlando. An advertising campaign will not overcome their actual experience of successive oppressive regimes. The most conscious people will not fall into old trickery and illusions of “the mayor who does works'', which falls apart when contrasted with reality.
Asfura represents more of the same, reflected in the fact he has faced several accusations of corruption. He talks about work, education and health, but these are just empty words. On the contrary, schools are falling, health centres have no medicines, and thousands of families still do not have access to clean water.
Aside from the demagoguery, the real programme of the National Party is the maintenance of the wealth of the big capitalists through the plundering of the country; the exploitation of the working class; and the impoverishment of the peasantry and the people as a whole. They wish to continue the crude oppression of women without giving them any rights, as well as keeping the door wide open to the imperialists to fill their pockets at the expense of the sweat and blood of the Honduran masses.
The opposition in recent years
As the discrediting of the dictatorship has progressed, so has the struggle of the masses. The absence of a revolutionary perspective in the opposition leadership of Libre and the trade union movement has contributed to a temporary ebb of the mass movement. At decisive moments, the leadership of Libre has not advanced to more decisive measures such as organising a general strike, that would give the coup de grace to the dictatorship.
In turn, few demonstrations have gained traction resembling the large mobilisations against electoral fraud at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. However, it cannot be said that the Honduran people have not fought. Protesting means huge sacrifices: with the risk of repression, gasing, beatings, rubber bullets and even death.
The bourgeoisie wants to use this environment to promote abstention, which would benefit them by increasing their chances of winning the election. But this atmosphere of frustration, where thousands of Hondurans seek to solve their problems individually, can be quickly transformed. Any accident could spur people into action.
The frustration and relative demoralisation of the masses is also accompanied by distrust and criticism of opposition leaders, some of whom were previously regarded as unquestionable. Added to this, several deputies of Libre have faced multiple criticisms for alleged fraud in internal party elections. This has not gone unnoticed, particularly among the youth, who note the hypocrisy given Libre’s supposedly ‘anti-fraud’ image.
This is the result of opening the party to opportunist elements, not establishing democratic mechanisms of debate and decision-making for the masses. There should be means of control over the leadership, starting with the failure of any Libre official to commit themselves to earning no more than the salary of a skilled worker and the establishment of impeachment mechanisms when a leader is not performing adequately.
But despite all this, to deny the sympathy that many militants retain for the party in general would be a mistake. Notwithstanding the balance of its successes and mistakes, Libre is the only electoral alternative of the masses since 2013 capable of confronting the dictatorship. This party is largely the product of the revolutionary struggle waged against the coup d'état, since its main base comes from the National Front of Popular Resistance, and it remains an instrument of struggle used by the masses to oppose the dictatorship.
A workers' state to combat repression and corruption
Xiomara Castro, a candidate for Libre, points out that the laws that sustain the dictatorship must be changed. A move towards a more democratic regime, even within the margins of the unjust and exploitative capitalist system, would be a step forward. It will give better conditions to strengthen the workers' struggle.
Xiomara promises that she will not repress peaceful protests, will give amnesty to political prisoners, will fight corruption, and will foster a culture of protecting human rights, such as greater equality for women and trans people who face violence, a lack of access to resources and discrimination.
Unfortunately, basing herself on an alternative economic model within capitalism (as she suggests) means calling for a nicer kind of capitalism, something impossible in a country dominated by imperialism and in the midst of a deep global crisis of capitalism.
Make no mistake, these promises will lead to a clash with the old state apparatus, created to defend the interests and privileges of the oligarchy and imperialists, which rest on the exploitation and oppression of the majority. What is needed is to build a completely different state, one based on workers’ democracy. This means going beyond Xiomara’s call for a ‘Socialist and Democratic State’, by which she means a strengthening of the capitalist state apparatus. What is required is a workers’ state, based on the power of the working class, and a planned economy.
It is true that, as Xiomara advocates, renationalising privatised companies and services would be an important step forward. But we must remember that entrepreneurs have achieved great fortunes with the privatisations of the past. The account books must be opened and the profits obtained in these years must be shown. This will demonstrate that the Honduran people owe nothing to these capitalists. Recovering the privatised companies would not be enough, it is necessary that the rest of the main levers of the economy be nationalised under workers' control.
No confidence in the bourgeoisie
It is not inconceivable that Washington and the Honduran bourgeoisie will be left with no choice but to allow the arrival of Libre to power, if they can make a pact with the party to preserve their rule, creating some space for bourgeois-democratic reforms to be promoted in the country, but assuring capitalist investments and profits, thus leaving the oligarchy and imperialists in control of the fundamental levers of the economy.
After all, history has shown us that, when the bourgeoisie are in trouble, they will resort to granting reforms to the working class. But as soon as they can scrap their deal with reformist governments, they move to an offensive against the victories of the working class.
There is the risk of reformists, once in power, making concessions with the bourgeoisie and allying themselves with sectors that represented businessmen and bankers, thus disappointing the expectations of the masses.
However, it is also possible that the very conditions of the crisis, the cry of the people for real solutions and the distrust of figures like Xiomara towards Washington, provoke contradictions that in turn will feed into radical struggles against the national bourgeoisie and imperialist rule itself. Indeed, Libre must not give them any concessions, on the contrary, a bold offensive against the leaders of the National Party will be necessary to make them pay for their crimes.
The role that Marxists must play
A fundamental change will occur when economic and political power is in the hands of the workers, which directly clashes with the interests of the bourgeoisie. That is why it is necessary for the most active revolutionaries to identify the parasitic ruling class of Honduras, with its private property and repressive state, as the main obstacle preventing this fundamental change.
In these elections we are not impartial, we cannot give any vote to the oligarchy parties such as the National and the Liberal. We position ourselves on the side of the masses to drive out the coup regime. Voting for Libre however, is not enough, it is necessary to combat all elements of the right and opportunists within it. The most conscious elements must unite in a revolutionary organisation, without detaching ourselves from the mass movement, but maintaining a principled position, of class independence and defence of a socialist programme.
In order to be able to solve the problems of the country, it will be necessary to use the resources of the bourgeoisie. There can be no government that supports both classes at the same time. People may expect Libre to solve the problems of the country, but if the new government does not dare to touch the resources of the bourgeoisie in a relatively short period of time, the crisis itself will quickly frustrate the masses. So in addition to voting for Libre, it is necessary to fight the right-wing and opportunist elements within it.
The only way to break the rule of the rich is by relying on the revolutionary struggle of the masses to overthrow the coup regime, which implies an iron defence of the interests of the workers. There is no solution to the demands of the masses without touching the interests of big national and international capital.
Giving justice to the rural and urban workers in Honduras means nationalising the fundamental levers of the economy under workers' control. This would set an example to the entire Central American and Latin American region, inspiring the working classes to seize power, and move towards the establishment of the socialist federation of Central and Latin America.