One response against the robbery by the capitalists and the cartels has been the arming of the people, above all in the rural areas. In Michoacán, the exactions by the Knights Templar cartel have become as unbearable as the overall violence, with the entrance on the scene of these narco-thug groups, many of them deserters from the state armed forces. One of the things making this situation unbearable has been the onset of the practice of entering people's homes in order to rape women, pushing popular tolerance over the edge.
[Read part one here]
Self-defence organisations and community police
The autodefensas "Self-Defence" groups are a contradictory movement which has embraced large sections of the population, including not only poor peasants, but also including some medium-sized producers. It expresses their indignation at the insecurity, with the inability to resolve the problems of violence, extortion, and the state's complicity with organized crime.
The autodefensas of Michoacan have taken control of a number of municipalities. The state tried to divide them, buying off a large group so as to achieve strong control over the communities. This proved simpler than using repression. However, those who refused to be bribed were suppressed, as was the case with Jose Manuel Mireles, who claimed that the drug-traffickers of Michoacán, like the Chayo, met with businessmen in the region to finance the campaign of Peña Nieto. In a television interview with Sabina Berman, he said: "We thought that the problem was only Michoacán". In this context, he was developing a national plan for the autodefensa groups and the community police with a presence in 16 states. He said that when they took up arms they had one enemy – organised crime – but that the cartels had already taken over the government of the state and that they had to fight them on that level too. When the federal government intervened in the conflict, instead of supporting the autodefensas they aligned themselves with organised crime, incorporating them into the government and giving them weapons. When Mireles asked for a public dialogue with the President, Peña Nieto went to Mireles’ hometown, Tepalcatepec, where he uprooted the shanty-town dwellers and brought in his own audience – soldiers dressed in civilian clothes.
Suddenly the TV station where Mireles was speaking went off the air, and a short while later Mireles was arrested and, at the time of writing, is still in jail. This is clear evidence of the complicity of the Peña Nieto government with organised crime. The drug-traffickers in Michoacán continue to act with impunity and those who combat them are attacked or thrown into prison cells.
The autodefensas have not only been created as a response to the abuses of the drug traffickers, but also of the legal capitalists. An example of this is in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in Oaxaca, where the residents are fighting against the looting of the land by wind-power companies.
Guerrero is a state where the Community Police has developed the most. The movement has deep roots in the local communities and obtained legal status in 1995. In the fight against the education reform, the teachers went to the villages looking for support, where they linked up with the community police, which backed their armed marches to the capital, Chilpancingo, and helped them free the political prisoners in the local jail. The 2013 struggle against the education reforms shows us that the key to the success of the community police and self-defence movement lies in an alliance with the working classes in the cities.
These organisations, despite the limitations they may have, show that the armed masses are more effective than the brutal apparatus of the capitalist state. Some community police in Guerrero have their own jails and a system of social rehabilitation for criminals. A rapist, a thief, a murderer or a drug dealer does not change just by being imprisoned. That is why if a community wants to build a road or a school, the prisoners are forced to work. They call this a process of re-education. In the coastal communities of Guerrero, we see the implementation of real justice by the people's militia, which is controlled by the people and whose leaders are democratically elected by the masses. This is an example of what we should do at a national level – building a workers’ state to replace the existing corrupt state apparatus which is at the service of the drug lords and other capitalists.
The case of Iguala
We find ourselves in this situation because for years Mexican capitalism has been attacking the masses, destroying the conquests of the past, leading to poverty and lumpenisation. This regime cannot live without corruption and is incapable of accepting even minimal reforms. López Obrador himself, who has not raised the need to end capitalism, but rather, seeks to build a more democratic and slightly more egalitarian regime, was not allowed into government, despite having clearly won the elections in 2006. This corrupt and oligarchic regime cannot accept even the most modest improvement. The need for a fundamental change is being deeply ingrained in the minds of the masses.
During the last two presidential terms we have seen literally a mountain of corpses. This country can no longer tolerate having its people, and above all its youth, continually falling under the bullets of the state and the cartels. The armed attack by police units of the state, which resulted in the murder of 3 students, 3 other civilians and the disappearance of 43 normalistas (students at a teacher training college) is what sparked the struggle. Julio Cesar Mondragón, one of the murdered students, was found flayed. The autopsy found that he died due to a fractured cranium.
The Rural High School network was a project formed by Cardenas to provide and implement education for the rural poor. The students are grouped in the Federation of Socialist Campesino Students of Mexico (FCSUM), the oldest student organisation in the country, which has declared itself to be Marxist-Leninist. There is an intimate relationship between the rural normalistas and the democratic faction of the teachers' union, the CNTE. Important cadres of the teachers’ movement originate from the teacher training college at Ayotzinapa, including Genaro Vázquez and Lucio Cabañas – the latter, a convinced communist. In the case of Guerrero, the CETEG (which is locally known as the democratic wing of the teachers) has great traditions. The teachers make up the vanguard of the local class struggle and during the government of Peña Nieto, they gained much strength and played a leading role in important mobilisations. Ayotzinapa is a hotbed of political cadres for the CETEG. The attack on the normalistas goes to the heart of the struggle of the workers and youth in Guerrero and, in a certain way, in the whole country.
On the day that they were attacked, the normalistas of Ayotzinapa were gathering resources for a demonstration scheduled for the 2nd October in Mexico City, commemorating the massacre of students in 1968.
In the magazine Proceso, the prestigious journalist Anabel Hernandez wrote that one of the 43 missing students belonged to the Council of Student Struggle, the highest governing body of the school, and ten were political activists in training. She also pointed to the participation of federal and state forces, who until now have denied participation in the attacks, blaming them on the municipal police alone. Today it is known that since leaving school, the students of Ayotzinapa had been constantly monitored by federal agents and that reports were sent to the federal police, the army, and the federal security agencies. It was not only the municipal police but also their federal counterparts that shot the students. Hernandez gives evidence that the army was embedded in the municipal police, where the students never arrived and that the military were present on the night of the attacks. They were also in the areas in which the attacks took place (cf. Revista Proceso no. 1989, 14/12/14)
Omar Garcia, a normalista student and a survivor, said that while attending to a wounded comrade, the military, two hours after the second attack, told them: "You asked for it, you got what you deserved." They also told them to "Give real names because if you give false names you are never going to be found."
The official version states that the municipal police handed the students to the cartels, who took them to a rubbish dump in Cocutla. Some of them killed the students by asphyxiation, burned the bodies continuously for 14 hours, and destroyed the rest of the remains with baseball bats. What was left was packed into black bags and thrown into a river. Today we know that the drug traffickers who were captured testified under torture. Scientists have questioned this version of events, since the bodies are not said to have burned for long enough to disfigure them so much.
The remains found in the San Juan river were sent for analysis to Austria. It is expected that it will be at least two months before the results come back. The first analysis confirmed that some of the remains belonged to Alexander Mora, one of the 43 that went missing. Such is the distrust of this repressive and corrupt state that the parents of the normalistas have not ruled out the possibility that it was they who dumped their children's remains in the bags found in the San Juan river.
Peña Nieto faces a fight in which the principal protagonists are not inclined to be bought off. The state has offered the parents money, Peña Nieto has shed crocodile tears and has said how we are all Ayotzinapa, and has called for the tragedy to be overcome. The parents of the normalistas say that they will not back down until their children are returned to them. The Senate of the republic received them, and the parents demanded the suspension of the elections of 2015. In Guerrero, the mayor of Iguala has been deposed and has been put in jail along with his wife. So has the governor of the state, and the state buildings have been set ablaze by protestors. The bourgeois state is falling to pieces in Guerrero.
The Peña Nieto government may have shed crocodile tears over Ayotzinapa, but it continues to militarise the state. It wants to save its skin and that of the regime, and if it hasn’t done so before it is because of its weakness – a frontal attack against the movement could unleash forces that are beyond the control of the regime. But once it feels strong enough, it will not hesitate to crush the movement. That is why the working class must step in and the mass movement as a whole must respond to the counterrevolutionary blows of the imperialists and the Mexican state.
The class struggle
The events in Ayotzinapa represent a breaking point. A country cannot tolerate so much violence and exploitation indefinitely. One symptom that the mood is changing was evidenced by the movement at the Polytechnic Institute, the most important technical school in the country and the second largest, with 175,000 students. Students quickly launched a general strike, which was initially directed against the changing of the syllabus and the general regulations. The strike spread to 44 high schools and higher education facilities, and saw demonstrations of up to 75,000 students.
The movement began with huge anti-organisational prejudices. The state thought that it could outmanoeuvre the students by infiltrating the movement and displacing the Committee of Student Struggle at the Polytechnic, by offering a solution to the minor demands – those that would not change the essence of the government’s plans and that would make the government appear open to dialogue, so as to wash its dirty hands. They were playing with fire. Struggle teaches, and it has its own logic – it cannot be manipulated like a puppet.
The essence of the movement at the National Polytechnic Institute is the youth fighting for a better future. The Secretary of State, Osorio Chong, came out to meet the student rallies to the Interior Ministry on two occasions. Public dialogues were aired on TV between representatives of the state and the students. The democratic facade of the regime crumbled, since students denounced the real situation in education, and demanded the return of the normalistas.
Pedro Cruz, a student of the UPISCA of the IPN, speaking in one of the Television debates, compared the government of Peña Nieto to that of Diaz Ordaz, which massacred the students in 1968. When Daniel Antonio – a student of the ESIA Zacatenco who had previously challenged the Interior Minister by telling students that he had no confidence in him – spoke in the public debate, he denounced the undemocratic nature of the elections for the director general imposed by Peña Nieto. He also denounced the fact that the state wanted to use the struggle of the IPN to whitewash its own image, and argued that this would not stop the struggle of the students who were fighting to change society.
The consciousness of the students developed, and they linked the struggle for the normalistas to be returned alive to the general struggle. They clashed with the police and were violently evicted from the main square. When they protested peacefully on the 1st December, they were beaten by the riot police, and one comrade was taken to prison, only being freed later by the movement. The students have learned more in the two and a half months of the strike than they had previously learned in years.
The explosion of the youth is not limited to the IPN; thousands of students from UNAM, UAM, UACM, the state universities, etc. have entered into action and in the next period we will see them leading new battles.
The struggle for the student teachers grew like a snowball, and we witnessed mass actions such as those on October 22, November 20 (the anniversary of the revolution) and on 1 December (anniversary of the inauguration of Peña Nieto). On 6 December the movement commemorated the 100th anniversary of the seizure of the city of Mexico by the troops of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata with a demonstration demanding the fall of Peña Nieto.
A profound transformation is necessary
The only limitation holding back the struggle of the Mexican people to bring down Peña Nieto and begin a deep social transformation is the absence of a revolutionary leadership. The PRD, controlled by the reactionary chuchos (the right-wing of the party), has been completely discredited, to the degree that its own founder, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, left the party. This organisation has ceased being an alternative for the masses who aspire to changing their lives. The rank-and-file of Morena have been at the forefront of the struggle, but the party's leadership has done practically nothing and is more concerned with organizing its forces for the next election. If there were a revolutionary party, deeply rooted among the youth and the workers, it would be possible to organize actions such as a general strike, or even coordinated insurrections to overthrow the regime.
A little digging is all one needs to see the rottenness of the Mexican capitalist system. Even if the 42 normalistas who are still missing were found alive, there is no guarantee that new crimes won't occur. The problem is not Peña Nieto himself, because Calderón, Salinas, Fox, and Zedillo were no better. The problem is the capitalist system and the corrupt state that defends the cartels and the capitalists. The Ayotzinapa case shows the complicity of the state with the drug lords: this is a crime of the Mexican drug state. Today we know that the army and the Federal Police were part of this crime and that Peña Nieto's Interior Minister knew about it from the beginning. Real justice will not come with the appearance of the teachers but rather by putting an end to this state and this system that murders its youth and pushes the working class to levels of extreme suffering.
The Mexican state participated in the Ayotzinapa crime in order to deal a blow to the movement of students and workers who resist the attacks of the system and fight for socialism. I remember a father who spoke in the Zócalo at the end of the October 22 march saying that the state wants to get rid of Ayotzinapa because a new Che Guevara or a new Lucio Cabañas will be born there. In the midst of these struggles, and not just in Ayotzinapa, the future leaders of the new Mexican revolution may be forged. Youth involved in struggle should arm themselves with the scientific ideas of Marxism and begin the construction of a revolutionary organization aspiring to the socialist transformation of society.
There is a risk that layers of the youth may turn to desperate and ultra-left measures, including an orientation towards guerrilla methods. It is not through isolating ourselves from the mass movement that we will achieve the transformation of society. Lucio Cabañas was a student, worker, and peasant leader, and saw himself obliged to take up arms; but this was not the most important aspect of his struggle. It was his steadfast defence of a revolutionary programme. Lucio, the best revolutionary cadre Ayotzinapa has given us, left us a legacy in his thought, which still offers guidance for the battles of today. We think that it is the mass revolutionary struggle that will bring about change, that weapons will only be useful if carried by the whole of the working class in the countryside and the city. Although we differ over tactics, we agree fully with his programme, with some of his points calling for:
- Struggle... alongside our working people and carry out the socialist revolution; conquer political power; destroy the bourgeois state of exploiters and oppressors; build a workers’ state.
- Destroy the capitalist system; abolish private property, which is the basis and essence of the exploitation of man by man; annihilate the bourgeoisie as a privileged, exploitative, and oppressor class.
- After the armed triumph of the Socialist Revolution and the seizing of political power by the people, the factories, businesses, farms, financial institutions, etc. will be expropriated and socialised…
- The laws and the whole bourgeois judicial system will be abolished. The army and all the law enforcement agencies that form the criminal, repressive apparatus will be destroyed. The revolutionary state will arm the whole people.
The struggle of the Mexican people for their complete emancipation is an integral part of the world revolutionary movement for the total liberation of humankind, and all borders must be swept away by the struggle and by revolutionary internationalism (Quoted in Ruben Ribera, "Lucio Cabañas Barrientos"; accounts pending, laizquierdasocialista.org).
The normalistas disappeared and died while in struggle; our struggle is not only for them to reappear alive, but for the end of this system that generates such barbarism. Comrade Edith Gutiérrez left the Polytechnic strike one night, and reappeared one day later, dead, near her home. Anyone could be next. Finishing off this system and its state is a life-and-death question for Mexican workers and youth. In the course of this struggle we will raise anew the programme of the socialist revolution.