In spite of the rightist conservatives who lead the institutions and who fear activists and left militancy, in Mexico this May Day organized workers held independent marches and kept alive the commitment to continue the fight for the dignity of labor.
Vicente Fox, a militant member of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), was president of Mexico between 2000 and 2006. As president Fox ended the official celebrations of May 1, something his predecessor, Ernesto Zedillo, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) didn’t dare do. An example of Fox’s anti-worker policies was his (failed) initiative to tax books and food, which by law had always been exempt. Mass protests of poor and working people prevented Fox from carrying out his antidemocratic plan.
Prior to becoming president Vicente Fox was a national executive of Coca-Cola. Many Mexicans recall his (in)famous declaration that the politician he emulated most, the man he most admired was not Mexican, but Ronald Reagan. His business approach to politics as president was well known. For example, he repeatedly attacked the social policies of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), then mayor of the Federal District and outspoken leader of the PRD. When AMLO decreed a universal pension for the elderly in nation’s capital, Fox opposed him and the corporate media launched a campaign denouncing his decision, calling it “populist,” “irresponsible” and “demagogic” and implied that it was a waste of funds better dedicated to “productive purposes.” At that time, de facto and generalized outsourcing was established as a rule of worker and employer relations. Since then, a policy has been in effect that forces workers to sign their resignation papers at the time they are hired — unjustified firings are today a regular instrument of coercion that helps maintain a supply of cheap and “loyal” labor.
The next president, Felipe Calderón (2006 – 2012), continued with this policy of demolishing workers’ rights and increasing tax benefits for business. In México, big capitalists not only pay virtually no taxes, but in many cases are beneficiaries of huge tax refunds at the end of each fiscal year. Meanwhile, while official figures claim that 40% of the Mexican population live below the poverty line, independent studies show that poverty is closer to 70% when considering not only decreasing access to basic goods, but the lack of educational and cultural needs and services.
Neoliberalism as an official project began with the administration of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, but it was during the two PAN governments, as well as the present PRI six-year term of Enrique Peña Nieto, that inflation and lack of economic development opened the door for selling off the nation’s energy resources to the private sector. México’s oil industry, PEMEX (Petroleos Mexicanos), was created in 1938 when President Lázaro Cárdenas expropriated the oil industry from US and British interests. For the past seventy years oil has been critical for the nation’s economic development and given the people a sense of national pride. The neoliberal state’s plan to sell PEMEX is an attack against people’s dignity and has sparked mass protest. The most recent outrage was Peña Nieto’s December 28 surprise: the gasolinazo. (This was described in a previous piece.)
The sellout neoliberal government is the class enemy of working people, of women, of indigenous peoples, of sexual “minorities.” This class of rulers is largely responsible for the extreme criminal violence in our country, it is the class that maintains fear and demoralizes our people.
So today more than ever the working class has historical reason to both resist and to celebrate. The countless struggles of the working class offer courage, as well as a sense of freedom and hope. The working-class holds the values and the potential to unite the many identities of the Mexican people. Our common identity as workers and victims of the state places us in direct opposition to neoliberalism. Today the left, which by definition is the historic ally of the workers, should lead the protests against the traitorous government that gives everything to capital and leaves nothing to the people.
May 1 can offer an awareness of a phantom of the left materialized in MORENA and the progressive social movements, and that an actual regeneración of our country is possible. MORENA has the potential to promote the creation of a loving and firm homeland based on our shared ancestral, non-individualistic sense of community.
This International Workers’ Day, on the eve of an electoral year in which the Left could lead the way, MORENA, the only left-wing political party, has a historic duty to send clear messages of hope and struggle, of peace and dignity, of commitment and organization.
However, many leftists and activists that support MORENA believe that the party must change its narrow focus as an electoral machine, that it must become a mirror of the struggles of working people, a manager of social justice. In short, MORENA, if is to be the hope of our more than twenty million people, must look forward and correct its course.
Today’s Mexico no longer enjoys the tradition of mass celebrations for International Workers Day. Toward restoring this tradition, we need a workers’ movement and a party that represents the masses’ struggles and that unites with the popular and indigenous movements. If MORENA declares herself in favor of rescuing the workers’ tradition of struggle and organization, then MORENA, the only left-wing party of Mexico today, will gain an historic opportunity to put forward its best face, which is the face of the people of Mexico.