By RICARDO MARTINEZ-LACY
MEXICO CITY-On Feb. 6, as day broke, a few thousand members of a police body formed by ex-soldiers (Federal Preventive Police, Policia Federal Preventiva) penetrated the barricades erected by the General Strike Council (Consejo General de Huelga, CGH), interrupted a session of this student organization, which thus turned out to be the last, and illegally arrested the 700 people who were present.
Five days earlier, the same police had also illegally arrested more than 200 students who had gone to the help of the students of a high school that belonged to Mexico’s National University [Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, UNAM) and who had just been expelled from the high school grounds by a police group paid by the university authorities.
Suddenly, there were more than 1000 political prisoners, an event matched only by repressive acts to crush the railway workers in 1958 and the student movement in 1968.
How to explain the swift repression of a movement which had started (on April 20 and not on the April 15, as mistakenly stated in my previous article) with a plebiscite in which most students participated and in which a majority voted in favor of striking?
The previous article was an attempt to explain how the non-political stubbornness of the university’s original chancellor had favored the eventual control of Stalinist and ultraleftist tendencies within the movement. These tendencies were speedily becoming a sort of bureaucracy that were decidedly uninterested in solving the conflict, which was becoming their very way of life.
However, the university authorities changed their tactics, for by mid-November a new chancellor, who came from the presidential cabinet, had been appointed and he, named de la Fuente, had challenged the CGH to join in talks to solve the conflict. This challenge, though, was made in a contradictory and confused way.
In spite of the fact that only a fourth of the university’s community had participated in the strike and, of these, a tenth had voted against the chancellor’s positions, the CGH, instead of claiming to participate in the chancellor’s plebiscite with its own motions, organized another one of their own.
This gave the chancellor the opportunity he was looking for to ask the government for repression. He did this by deceitfully claiming that most of the university members (i.e. students, employees, and the faculty) wanted the government to apply the law, by which he meant police intervention.
These were the pretexts for the government to invade the university campuses and high schools and arrest everyone there. On Feb. 6, the government declared that the police would occupy the university for a period of between two and four weeks, but the same day a spontaneous demonstration in the city center of some 12,000 people took place and only three days later there was another enormous one (of more than 100,000 people).
The demands were for the liberation of the university from the police and freedom for the political prisoners. These mobilizations had a prompt effect. The police left only four days later, and approximately 750 prisoners have left jail in different conditions.
The student movement is not dead. There is unanimity about freedom for all political prisoners and, as the strike was crushed, there are classes again and most free students have returned to the campuses and schools.
If they organized to set their colleagues free they could rebuild some of their former organization. However, it is very difficult to learn from defeats, and the students who stayed in the strike to the last and were not imprisoned are trying to keep their old exclusionist and antidemocratic methods.
The only chance for this movement comes thus from the students who were expelled and those who never took part in the strike, who are now again the majority and who may be the only ones to teach prudence to their defeated colleagues.