Mexican Socialists Show Gains at Convention

MEXICO CITY-The Mexican Socialist Unity League (LUS-Liga de Unidad Socialista), which was founded last year, held its first regular convention on the weekend of Jan. 9-10.

The group was formed by activists who wanted to maintain the perspective of building a revolutionary socialist party. In the recent period, most of the Mexican socialist left abandoned this perspective for the sake of the immediate advantages they hoped to gain from participating either directly or indirectly in the opposition populist capitalist party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which broke from the ruling PRI party in 1988.

The founding members of the LUS are those revolutionists who resisted the electoralist and other opportunist pressures that shattered the Mexican socialist left.

Although the LUS is still a small organization, it has already had made an important impact by its incisive political ideas and its activity in support of them. This was reflected by the fact that spokespersons of important struggles came to the LUS convention to express solidarity and in some cases gratitude for the help the organization has given them.

The guest speaker who has worked most closely with the LUS in the last two years was Melquiades Rosas Blanco, a leader of the Mazateco Indian people in the state of Oaxaca and one of the most prominent political figures in the National Indigenous Congress, the organization of all the Indian peoples in Mexico. The LUS has given full support to the struggle of the indigenous peoples for the right to control their own communities.

Rosas Blanco gave a report of the victory of the community slate in his county of Mazatlan Villa de Flores in the December elections in Oaxaca, which has opened up exciting prospects for the development of institutions of direct democracy in the Indian communities. The example of community government and collective work in Mazatlan has attracted the interest in particular of the radicalizing youth in the urban areas as well.

The congress was also addressed by a representative of El Barzon, an organization that represents millions of Mexicans who have been plunged into debt by the country’s growing economic crisis.

A son of Gen. Gallardo, an army general victimized for raising the call for defense of the human and civil rights of soldiers and officers against the roughshod rule of a corrupt and brutal high command, spoke about his father’s case, along with one of his father’s lawyers.

Gen. Gallardo was first imprisoned for writing an article in a specialized publication proposing the appointment of a human-rights ombudsman for the army. Gallardo’s victimization aroused protests from human rights organizations and even official bodies. Recently, he has been sentenced to long prison terms on transparently trumped-up criminal charges.

Nonetheless, discontent within the military is obviously reaching a crisis point. Shortly before the LUS congress, for the first time in contemporary Mexican history at least, a group of soldiers and officers openly demonstrated in the streets of Mexico City against the high command.

The LUS has been the only political organization that has wholeheartedly supported the soldiers and officers demanding democratic rights. The PRD, despite its opposition profile, is linked to a section of the high command, and therefore has not been able to relate to the rebellion in the armed forces.

One of the major reports at the congress was given by Emilio Anaya on the growing opposition by trade-unionists to the austerity package presented by the President Zedillo. His proposals include the removal of subsidies on basic necessities, such as tortillas, and a 30 percent cut in the educational budget.

Just before the congress, the courts handed down 40-year prison sentences against five leaders of a teachers’ protest in the Senate chambers. A few days after the congress, up to a hundred thousand teachers marched in the center of Mexico City in protest.

Another major report, given by Ismael Contreras, put the growth of Mexican working-class resistance into the international context of a beginning fightback by workers in a number of countries, most prominently France but also the United States.

Under this point, Gerry Foley, international editor of Socialist Action in the United States, gave an account of the growing mass upsurge in Indonesia, stressing the need for worldwide solidarity with the Indonesian fighters.

The report on the Mexican national situation, given by Manuel Aguilar Mora, a veteran Trotskyist leader, focused on the buildup toward the Mexican general elections in the year 2000 and on the need to understand clearly that the PRD was a capitalist party and therefore an enemy of the working-class movement.

This is a key point of agreement with the Socialist Workers Party (POS), an organization with which the LUS is united in the Socialist Coalition. The program and functioning of this coalition was a major topic of discussion at the congress, and POS representatives participated in it.

The LUS is evidently growing and attracting young people. This meeting was about twice the size of the LUS’s last national gathering, and a group of LUS youth announced the formation of a youth fraction.