Necessity often expresses itself through accident. Under certain conditions, when the contradictions that have been accumulating in the consciousness of the exploited become intolerable, the situation can be transformed at lightning speed: the enraged people enter the stage of history. The Oaxaca teachers' struggle for better salaries, conditions and resources unleashed a movement with enormous repercussions for the lives of all Oaxacans.
On June 14, 2006, the Oaxacan state government attempted to violently dislodge a protest encampment organized by section 22 of the CNTE teachers' union. This attack collided head-on with the strength and unity of the people; from across the city we mobilized to defend those who educate our children and youth, those who struggle to improve education, and for better conditions of life in our communities.
As events heated up, we participated in the creation of an organization that rapidly went on to control practically the entire central region of the state: the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO). Far from being a mere coalition of organizations in struggle, the APPO was the organized expression of the will of the workers, the embryo of a new state that paralysed the local representatives of the ruling class, the state government, and kept the federal government in check. It was the mass participation of the workers themselves that made the APPO what it was.
This was a situation of dual power, which by definition cannot last indefinitely; one of the two contending classes had to submit to the other. Either the workers would succeed in smashing the capitalist state, or they would smash us. The Federal Preventative Police was sent to crush the movement, but the masses' response was exemplary. We fought body to body against this invasion, and in the end, they only succeeded in pushing us out, not crushing us.
The government showed its true face, which interests it defends, and the extreme methods it is willing to use in defence of the capitalist class: torture, arbitrary detentions, and violations of "freedom of expression" and juridical legality. They want to deceive people into thinking the conflict has disappeared, not only in Oaxaca, but in Atenco, Pata de Conchos, etc.
Throughout this process, the students, recognizing the political leadership of the APPO, energetically supported its decisions and actively participated in the movement, maintaining "Radio Universidad" alive throughout the struggle. Today they are demonstrating their enthusiasm to continue fighting in an organized manner. They recently re-took the radio station of the UABJO (Autonomous University of Oaxaca, Benito Juarez) in order to transmit messages in support of the May Day march and the general strike of May 2nd.
Although the mobilizations are not as strong as they were a year ago, there is a dynamic of organization and an eagerness to learn from the experience and errors of the past.
The failure of the movement to go further was not due to a lack of willingness on behalf of the people, many of whom even gave their lives in the struggle. The movement did not go further because the leadership of the APPO vacillated between reformism and ultra-leftism, allowing many opportunities to extend the movement to the masses of the entire country slip away. For example, the failure to link our struggle to the national movement against the electoral fraud, which was made up of millions of workers. This could have been done by proposing and energetically building a united front against the government of Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) and against the imposition of Felipe Calderon as president, convening a general strike to bring them both down.
In the conditions that existed at that time in Oaxaca and throughout the country, a national general strike could have been transformed into an insurrectional general strike that would have turned the situation around 180 degrees, in favor of the workers of the entire country. Unfortunately, the leadership of the APPO opposed this, lost the opportunity, distanced the struggle in Oaxaca from the struggle taking place nationally, and was in the end isolated. This facilitated the reaction against the movement that was eventually unleashed by URO and Calderon. In order not to fall into the same mistakes as the past, we must urgently create a revolutionary political leadership for the movement.
Now, with a period of local elections opening up, the Oaxacan masses will again enter the struggle. Despite what the ultra-lefts in the APPO say, who are encouraging a boycott of the elections, the masses will use them to express their discontent with the current regime, in an attempt to achieve through the electoral process what they were unable to achieve in struggle on the streets. We must launch a broad campaign of agitation and organization around the question of the elections, presenting our revolutionary program and linking the struggle at the ballot box with the need for continued mobilization on the streets.
The economic crisis of the country will continue to drive down our conditions of life, and the misery of the Oaxacan masses will only increase. A new uprising in Oaxaca is being prepared, only this time, it will be joined by the workers, peasants, and youth of the entire country.
The task of all of us who participate in the APPO is to orient ourselves based on the experience of the past toward a national mobilization as the only solution to our problems, to struggle so that all the workers in the country are organized in Popular Assemblies, linked up and coordinated nationally, and fighting for a revolutionary program that includes the expropriation of the means of production, cheap credits for the peasants, nationalization of the latifundios, free, quality education for all, etc.
We have demonstrated that power can be taken and truly exercised by working people, and that there is no reason for capitalism's continued existence. In the coming period, Calderon's weak and crisis-ridden government will be unable to solve the problems that have only worsened since we first came out on the streets of Oaxaca and across the country. Our struggle must continue, leading us to the socialist transformation of Mexico, which will have tremendous repercussions across the Americas.
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