by Nico Solon and Alejandro Giron / July 2006 issue of Socialist Action newspaper
Recently we had the opportunity to take a trip to the twin cities of Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. They were originally established as one city (El Paso Del Norte) in 1669, but divided by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.
Although the majority of people who occupy these two cities have many things in common—including race, heritage, family, and language—the cities themselves are drastically different from one another. As of 2005, Juarez was rated as the second most dangerous city in Mexico, while El Paso has been rated the second safest city in the U.S.
El Paso seems to be the prime example of what a capitalist would call “target marketing,” most ads being either bilingual or monolingual in Spanish. However, the only place the Latino community of El Paso has been taken into account is in the advertising. This community is unrepresented in schools or in politics aside from a handful of officials.
We contacted the local chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). The MEChA chapter consisted of a dozen members, with only a core group actually active. One of the members told us that the apathy of the student community at UTEP was surprising considering the recent immigrant rights movement and the fact that UTEP has a high percentage of Latino students.
The Democratic Party has successfully defused most social movements—using the electoral process to put a few token Latino leaders in key positions. The small core of activists has been trying to break through this veil of submission.
Juarez, just across the border, is plagued by U.S. multinational capitalism; local businesses are few and far between and the many workers unions are riddled with cronyism. The rapid rise in the city’s population due to maquiladoras (large production plants) cannot keep up with city planning, development, and public works.
Many neighborhoods and development areas are not connected to public facilities, leaving many without water, electricity, and sewage plumbing. This has motivated many from the inner city to risk everything to migrate to the U.S. to find better living conditions and wages.
Recently, the local government called in bulldozers to remove the vendors’ stands in the public open-air market. This move has been seen by local residents as a way to insure that their business goes to multinational companies such as Walmart.
Plutocracy is evident in local schools, businesses, and unions as employees and members are threatened with termination or expulsion if they do not adhere to the political ideals or candidate recommendations of those in positions of power.
Our sister party in the Fourth International, Liga de Unidad Socialista (LUS), although small in size, seems to have a strong presence in Juarez, rooted in the public activeness of its members and their local socialist publication La Gota. LUS in Juarez is a fighting force of revolutionaries involved heavily in the struggle and movements locally and nationwide—including the newly formed Leftist University Front and the Other Campaign, which was initiated by the Zapatistas.
The Leftist University Front is an anti-capitalist front started by our LUS comrades to mobilize the students of the local colleges and universities both in the community and within their schools. During our stay we attended two meetings. The first discussed Marxist political theory. The second meeting discussed the concrete issues the Front will be fighting for—its program and goals.
During our stay we were able to learn more about The Other Campaign, the initiative of the 6th Declaration of the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN). The Other Campaign calls for a united front of non-bourgeois leftists—a coalition that would coordinate nationwide social movements to fight for and defend those that are “below and to the left” of the bourgeoisie.
While in the past the Zapatistas were supporters of the PRD, a bourgeois party currently running the pro-capitalist Lopez Obrador for president, they have broken all relations with them and are providing an informative counter to the current elections by calling for social consciousness and action.
The Other Campaign is looking beyond the elections and expects to continue for however long it is necessary to create a fundamental change in Mexico’s society and constitution. It has called for the help and support of other leftist groups, a call that our comrades in LUS have heeded.
We saw how the bourgeoisie has used the border to divide and conquer. Although the people of these two cities seem to have many common interests, the communication between leaders of the social movements seems to be nonexistent. And yet mass awareness of the eurocentric oppression in these two cities could awaken a vast majority of those silenced by capitalist-style “democratic politics” and spearhead a powerful social movement.
On the Mexican side of the border, people are beginning to see connections between their social problems and economic imperialism and are taking action against it. Social movements in El Paso, however, are small and ineffectual.
But we look forward to seeing the progress made by our comrades on both sides of the border. Hasta La Victoria Siempre!