Election Upset in Mexico

By Gerry Foley

The defeat in the July 2 general elections of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the quasi-state party that has ruled Mexico for 70 years, is an indication of the radicalization going on in the country, even if the victorious National Action Party (PAN) is no different politically and in fact represents a more right-wing tradition and ideology.

Under pressure from rising mass discontent, the Mexican capitalist class and its imperialist backers were anxious to carry through a political facelift. The victory of the PAN was clearly what the U.S. ruling circles wanted, since the one-party regime in general had become seriously discredited, and the ruling party was over its head in corruption.

The U.S. political manipulators had clearly been pushing for years for the establishment of a more normal bourgeois regime in Mexico, the sort of electoral shell game that prevails in the United States.

The immediate effect of the PAN victory is a defeat for the Mexican masses, since their justified hatred of the regime in place was diverted into support for a party that was certainly no better and is maybe even worse than the PRI.

This setback is a result of the fact that most of the Mexican left parties abandoned socialist perspectives and focused exclusively on the “democratic” question, that is, defeating the ruling party. So, the natural conclusion of most of those dissatisfied with the PRI regime was to vote for the PAN, the largest opposition party.

Nonetheless, even this superficial change in the parliamentary regime in Mexico is not going to be easy to carry without pain and without risks for the rulers.

For one thing, the election was not a vote of confidence in a new regime. The total vote, for example, was 10 percent lower than in the last election six years ago, when there was no doubt of the outcome.

The reporting of the Mexican presidential elections in the serious U.S. capitalist press has reflected an obvious uneasiness of American ruling circles about the political situation in a huge and potentially unstable country with which United States is increasingly intertwined.

In its July 2 issue, The New York Times headlined its story on the start of the voting in Mexico, “Whoever Wins, Vote in Mexico Will Be Fateful.” That is, there will be a political crisis, even if the two capitalist parties, as expected, try to make some bipartisan arrangement in the aftermath of the election to maintain political stability.

In the three-way race, the pre-election polls had showed a large majority of Mexicans against continued rule by the PRI. Given the discredit of the de facto one-party system and the party presiding over it, the PRI remaining in power yet again after this election could have led to serious disillusionment with the bourgeois electoral system itself.

On the eve of the vote, the PAN candidate, Vicente Fox, was apparently running neck and neck with the PRI standard-bearer. As it turned out, he appears to have defeated the former ruling party candidate by a wide margin, indicating that the discredit of the regime was substantially greater than it had even appeared.

On the other hand, after maintaining itself in power for 70 years through a massive patronage system, the PRI’s loss of power will threaten the livelihoods and prospects of a large number of aggressive and potentially violent parasites.

In fact, the last Mexican elections were marked by the assassination of the first PRI candidate, apparently as a result of a struggle among rival gangs in the party.

After that event, Jaime Gonzalez wrote in the June 15 issue of El Umbral-El Socialista, the newspaper of our cothinkers in the Socialist Coalition of Mexico, that the then PAN candidate “effectively withdrew from the race,” recognizing the violence that entrenched interests in the PRI could resort to.

The threat of violence also deflated the prospects of the other main candidate in the 1994 elections, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the probable real winner of the 1988 elections, although denied the presidency then by electoral fraud.

The population had good reason to doubt that his electoralist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) could mobilize effectively to defend an election victory against the entrenched power of the PRI and its capitalist backers.

Cardenas a distant also-ran

In this election campaign, the polls showed Cardenas trailing far behind the PAN and the PRI, with no chance of winning. His final result seems to have been about what the polls predicted, 16 percent.

In fact, Cardenas’ PRD had been under pressure to quit the race in order to permit “democratic alternation,” that is, the defeat of the one-party system and the establishment of an “opposition” government. The more opportunistic elements of the PRD have been steadily deserting the party to join the PAN campaign.

This desertion to the PAN is the natural result of the PRD’s bourgeois electoral politics since it does not pose a working-class alternative to the bourgeois parties, but merely “democratic” opposition to a one-party regime.

Thus, the natural course for PRD politicians is to join the strongest bourgeois electoral alternative to the PRI.

This development represents the final bankruptcy of the Mexican left-so-called socialist parties, that dissolved themselves into the PRD years ago in the hope of being catapulted into power on the back of a “democratic” opposition to the one-party state.

Socialist Coalition makes gains

In this election campaign, the only socialist campaign has been waged by the Socialist Coalition, formed by the Socialist Unity League (LUS) and the Socialist Workers Party (POS). These are two small parties without ballot status and with organizations in only a few places across the country.

Nonetheless, despite the Socialist Coalition’s organizational weakness, its campaign has gotten a respectful hearing across Mexico, not only from young people but even from major newspapers.

For example, in Jalisco, Manuel Aguilar, the Socialist Coalition candidate, was interviewed on four radio stations in mid-May and given time to explain the coalition’s platform.

He was the only candidate there to defend the workers at the local Euzkadi tire factory, who have been hit with arbitrary firings.

In mid-June, Aguilar campaigned in the poor, largely Indian southern state of Oaxaca, where he reported that he got his best results by that point. In Juchitan, on June 11, he spoke to a rally of up to 300 people, along with POS speakers, who spoke in the Zapotec Indian language.

Aguilar has spoken mainly to groups of workers and students across the country in a myriad of meetings. The total numbers have not been large, but this is an extremely important audience for Mexico’s future, and the Socialist Coalition reports that Aguilar has gotten a generally favorable response.

While bourgeois politics in Mexico are more and more caught in an impasse, the ground is clearly heating up under the feet of the electoral politicians. Thus, the June 15 El Umbral-El Socialista reports that even the bourgeois candidates have found it advisable to speak in uncharacteristic “leftist” language.

Vicente Fox, the candidate of a party with a traditional right-wing Catholic base, went so far as to try to identify himself with the revolutionary student movement of 1968, which was drowned in blood by the PRI government of the time. That is an eloquent testimony to the growing radicalization in the country. It is also a disguise that Fox cannot maintain very long once he is in office.

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