Mexico: Gasolinazo, proletarian anger and reformist impasse
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 14; Autumn - Winter 2017)
At the beginning of January, tens of thousands of Mexican men and women took to the streets, went on strike, set up roadblocks, blocked railways and highways (including those connecting the country to the United States), occupied fuel depots, sabotaged pipelines, looted stores and confronted the forces of repression...
In all parts of the country, from north and south, demonstrators demanded the cancellation of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s decision to cut subsidies on gasoline, gas and electricity, a measure – dubbed the Gasolinazo – which will raise consumer prices by 14 to 20% this year. Since 1 January, increases have been 14% of the price of SP98, 20% for SP95 (regular unloaded petrol) and 16% of gas oil, compared to the maximum price of December 2016.
This mobilization is the made up of very different categories: proletarians but also part of the petty bourgeoisie (teachers, taxi drivers, doctors ...) and peasants. The mobilization is very strong in the working class regions of the North – usually more «calm» than the South, marked by Zapatista peasant agitation. The demonstrations were particularly important in Mexico City, megalopolis of twenty-five million inhabitants, in the oil state of Veracruz and in the industrial center of Puebla. Of course, the Mexican bourgeoisie tried to crush the movement by force, which resulted in deaths and thousands of arrests, but limited its use for fear of amplifying the revolt.
Misery and economic crisis
The increase in the price of energy has been the straw that broke the camel’s back leading tom an outburst of rage, largely related to the impoverishment of proletarians, other wage-earning groups and the poor peasantry. For five years, the purchasing power of the average Mexican had decreased by more than 10%. The price index of the basic food basket needed to feed a family of four has increased to 220 pesos per day, nearly three times the daily minimum wage of approx $4US (even this which is not earned by a large part of the workers).
The decision not to subsidize energy will increase the cost of living. All sectors are likely to see an increase in their prices, whether it is public transport or the transport of goods, which of course would lead to an increase in the price of the goods themselves.
Added to this are the effects of the economic crisis in the emerging countries: forecasts of economic growth have been reduced to 1% for this year. The outlook is even more gloomy with Trump’s envisaged protectionist measures, especially in the automotive sector, which accounts for 30% of Mexican exports and 875 000 direct jobs.
The revolt of the proletarianized masses is therefore not a reflection of a national situation but the effect of the current course of world capitalism which is less and less able to ensure its stability and which increasingly uses expedients of all kinds.
Reformist and Social-Patriot Impasses
Faced with this explosive situation, the «far» left took a stand against rising energy prices and in support of mobilizations ... but on reformist bases. This is particularly the case with the many Trotskyist forces which are all marked by nationalist tendencies and offer only a change of government within the framework of the bourgeois democratic system.
Most organizations put forward a defense of national capitalism and its state-owned enterprises, in particular PEMEX (Mexican Oil).
The Revolutionary Workers’ Party, (Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores PRT), a section of the Fourth International (Usec), accuses the government of «putting the last nail in the coffin of Mexican oil and national sovereignty». The Revolutionary Socialist Coordination (Coordinación Socialista Revolucionaria CSR) – a federation of groups sympathetic to the Fourth International – calls for «defeating the oligarchy» and «renationalizing the energy sector». The Workers’ Dialogue Committee, led by the Lambertists of the Socialist Workers’ Organization (Organización Socialista de los Trabajadores, OST), denounces a «social war against the nation and against the workers» and defends «the rights of the working people and the national interest». The Mexican section of the International Workers’ League (LIT), the Workers’ Socialist Group (Grupo socialista Obrero), presents the capitalist enterprise PEMEX as a «conquest of the workers and the Mexican people» and demands «all refining in Mexico and no imports». The Revolutionary Left (Izquierda Revolucionaria IR) (which is in close contact with the Committee for a Workers’ International) calls for the renationalization of energy «under the democratic control of workers and the population», the «nationalization of banks and strategic sectors of the economy» and a «public investment plan to create millions of jobs with dignified wages». For its part, the Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Obrero Socialista POS) accuses the Mexican bourgeoisie of being a «class enemy of the country and the 99%».
Logically, to achieve their bourgeois goal of defending the national economy, the Trotskyist groups propose bourgeois democratic methods. The PRT limits its slogans to «Down with gasolinazo! Oust Pena! «. The Socialist Left (IS), a member of the misnamed International Marxist Current, calls for a united front «of all workers’, peasant, popular and student organizations including Morena [dissident bourgeois democratic candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party] and EZLN [Zapatista Army], against this measure and to obtain the departure of Pena Nieto and build a program for the working class and the popular sectors «. The Movement for Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo MAS) wants to «impose extraordinary elections», the Movement of Workers for Socialism (Movimiento de los Trabajadores por el Socialismo: MTS member of the Trotskyist Fraction) wants a «free and sovereign national assembly».
The Mexican «far» left -– in its Trotskyist component but not only there – offers a true festival of reformist «solutions»! This constitutes an obstacle to the struggle of proletarians. Whether private or state, enterprises remain capitalist enterprises, whose aim, according to the laws of capitalism, is to extort profit by the exploitation of proletarians. This is true for PEMEX, which needs capital to fight the decline in its output: capital will only be invested in the company if it has the prospect of profit, which is to say only if it is sufficiently profitable. For that, there is no alternative but to let the prices of petroleum products (gasoline and others) rise, or to extort sufficient additional profits on the backs of workers to subsidize it: in both cases it is from the proletarians and the poor masses that the capitalists will recover the costs of the economic recovery of the PEMEX.
The president decided on February 1 to postpone a new expected increase in gasoline prices (8% increase); But this is only a temporary measure, taken in fear of explosions of anger of the poor masses. The need to attack the proletarians remains for Mexican capitalism.
Against this prospect, the working masses and the impoverished must not suspend their mobilization; they must continue to struggle to impose their immediate economic, social and political demands (wages, rights to organize, to strike, to expression, anti-repression, gender equality, etc.).
They will be able to do so only if they are able to avoid the trap of putting their force at the service of a bourgeois reformist goal which is not theirs, and if they can find the way of the independent organization of class, of the constitution of the Marxist, internationalist and international revolutionary party.
Then their aim will be not to impose a Keynesian reformist policy and / or (illusory) national independence on a frightened bourgeoisie, but to fight and defeat this bourgeoisie in the struggle for the proletarian revolution. This revolution will lead to the installation, over the ruins of the bourgeois state, of their own power, which can only be the dictatorship of the proletariat, the necessary step to uproot capitalism and move towards communist society, in close coordination with proletarians of other countries.
International Communist Party