by Iván Martínez Zazueta
On July 1, the people of Mexico rebelled at the polls. People went out to vote
en masse and defeated the fraud apparatus, the fear campaign, misinformation, media manipulation, smear tactics, the purchase and coercion of votes, alteration of ballot boxes, intimidation, violence and, above all, despair. This electoral rebellion demonstrated what the people are capable of when they mobilize.
The overwhelming mobilization, before and during election day, nullified every possibility of fraud and forced the oligarchy to come to the negotiation table.
Many polls and other manifestations of massive citizen support for the candidacy of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) would have meant an eventual popular uprising in case of electoral fraud.
After the overwhelming electoral result, which exceeded all expectations, the business leaders, who had previously shown a strong opposition to the “left” coalition and had actively participated in a dirty war against López Obrador, called meetings for reconciliation upon the defeat of their preferred candidates.
The magnitude of the electoral avalanche forced the de facto powers to subordinate themselves to a less desirable scenario, to a terrain not suited to their interests. In this way, the people managed to snatch a victory from the powerful on their own home field. However, this triumph was only partial, and the people themselves didn’t lead it.
The massive vote for López Obrador was an expression of social discontent, of being fed up. It was a vow of hope, conviction, punishment and even resignation. It was a major way in which, within the framework of the electoral process, Mexican citizens demonstrated the repudiation of the current government and the rejection of neoliberal policies, inequality, violence and impunity. The historical accumulation of grievances from the popular sectors turned into a massive drive to the polls and radically transformed the composition of political-electoral forces at the level of the state.
At the same time, the triumph of AMLO was a product of the struggles and social movements that preceded it.
Although a large part of the so-called popular bloc does not feel represented and even rejects this project, the victory at the polls is the result of the action and omission of thousands of resistance and social organizations, which around Mexico have faced the onslaught of the oligarchy and have attempted to develop alternatives to the neoliberal model. We say AMLO’s victory is a result of actions, on the one hand, because these movements, while trying to or not, actively contributed to the political consciousness and social terrain that opened the door to triumph. On the other hand, we say the electoral victory is a result of omissions, because was also a consequence of popular movements’ inability to build a viable alternative who managed to channel discontent, hopes and social potential towards a political project that disputed the oligarchy’s power. The electoral victory is a river with water from many streams.
The popular forces weren’t the only protagonists in the winning coalition. In the next administration there are also elite interests, pacts with diverse sectors of the oligarchy and highly contradictory alliances. It is these forces which most recently have grabbed leadership and who stand to negotiate the political transition as conservatively as possible toward scenarios that benefit the interests they represent.
These are the forces that seek to suppress people’s leadership in the recomposition of forces and erase the narrative of a people’s victory at the polls.
This is evident in statements that point to the non-modification of the main structural reforms, such as those having to do with energy and national security, as well as respect for contracts with transnational oil companies and the continuity of megaprojects and plans such as the Special Economic Zones. And let’s not forget the statements of the future chief of staff, Alfonso Romo, who promises that “Mexico must be a private investment paradise.”
In addition, AMLO’s insistence on fighting corruption as his main campaign platform points to two fundamental aspects of the new government’s intentions: 1) not to affect, or to affect as little as possible, the economic base of the neoliberal system and of transnational companies that operate in Mexico; 2) the reduction of social policy to redistributing surpluses by fighting corruption and waste of resources at the different levels of government. Mexico generates so much wealth that redistributing even a small percentage to the people makes a considerable difference.
Even though it puts the brakes on the voracity of the neo-colonial oligarchy, it is only a drop in the bucket when considering the magnitude of the looting and exploitation of the oppressed classes by the wealthy. The danger of these measures is that the structures of domination attempt to reformulate themselves in order to remain intact.
Concrete results of the electoral victory
López Obrador’s victory was overwhelming. The Juntos Haremos Historia coalition, formed by the Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (Morena), Partido del Trabajo and the evangelical Partido Encuentro Social, obtained more than 30 million votes, something never before achieved in Mexico’s history, representing over 53 percent of votes cast.
This is more than twice the number of votes obtained by its closest competitor, Ricardo Anaya Cortés, from the conservative alliance, Por México al Frente, which includes Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) and Movimiento Ciudadano, and more than three times what was obtained by the official José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, of the Todos por México coalition, composed of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM) and Partido Nueva Alianza (Panal). Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, the only independent candidate got 5.1 percent of the vote. López Obrador won in 31 states, everywhere except in the ultraconservative state of Guanajuato.
Thus, the people of Mexico defeated the PRI-PAN-PRD mafia and its satellite parties, a de facto alliance that crystallized in the so-called Pacto Por México, the elite agreement led by outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto, which promoted the neoliberal reforms of the last six years. The electoral defeat was a collapse of the party leadership that was in power. However, its influence has not been completely eliminated, as a considerable part of the new administration comes from the ranks of the ousted parties, because of desertions, opportunists seeking posts in the new government, and new allegiances born out of the political crisis.
Challenges, dangers on the horizon
In closing, we’ll reflect on some scenarios that social movements and organizations may face in the election aftermath.
One of the main dangers for the popular sectors, organized and unorganized, is the demobilization that can come with the idea that the struggle was purely electoral, that with the triumph of López Obrador the oligarchy is beaten. Winning an election does not mean winning power. The ruling classes are still there, and their power is still operating. The correlation of forces was barely affected. Although it’s still an important moment, it’s not enough. And the post-election demobilization could reverse the small gains, even to the point of expecting extremely adverse scenarios.
A second danger is co-optation. The gifts and political concessions granted by the new government to social organizations may limit their range of action to what the administration dictates. Organizations may be pressured to reduce their tactics to a much more limited, pragmatic approach. The result would be oppression adopted and tweaked by popular movements. Another effect of this scenario is the possibility that political power represses, directly or indirectly, movements and organizations that don’t assimilate.
A third danger is that social organizations generate an open antagonism to the new government, at least in discursive terms. This may entail, on the one hand, turning their backs on a large part of the base that drove the electoral avalanche and which could be the basis of further struggles. This could happen with those who see the electoral result as a deception on the part of the powerful and who deny the protagonism and influence of the people, those who see everything in black and white and do not recognize the complexity and contradictions of the political recomposition. In addition and above all, this scenario can hurt those who have stayed out of the power arena and therefore who haven’t built an independent political force that can win and be a viable alternative.
This third danger, critique without disputing political power, could also leave the most conservative part of the new government in charge of defining the economic-political evolution of the country. Critique without action would leave the people without political weapons and would generate indirect allies of the extreme right.
Even though the insurrection at the polls was a victory for the people, a demonstration of our potential and strength, but it didn’t yet show all of our transformative capacity. The election was just a spark of something that could turn into a fire. Both the huge rallies and the mass vote are expressions of popular power, of a collective force in motion. However, these events are blips in a context of an extremely divided public, who has seen its capacity decimated in terms of organizing and together making decisions about our collective future.
The task is to reverse this condition, to build organization in every neighborhood and on every street. Our job is to help people become conscious of of their power through the practice of their creative capacity. The challenge is to take the people’s voices that today are dispersed and only unite in rejection — in marches, demonstrations or at the polls — and make it into a people’s project for change, a project that transcends the electoral arena and that of individual demands.
We’re talking about project that seeks the transformation of Mexico from the root — above all, a project that manifests itself in the concrete possibility of victory, since most of the population that got out massively to vote did so because they saw a tangible possibility of changing something, even if it were minimal.
Appealing to the leadership of the people is to have confidence in ourselves and in our collective strength. That force today goes to the polls en masse, but tomorrow it may spark a radical upheaval that will bring down the foundations of power in Mexico.
On behalf of the Nueva Constituyente Ciudadana Popular, we fight for this. We say that true victory will be the day when the people are in charge.
Iván Martínez Zazueta is part of the Nueva Constituyente Ciudadana Popular. He is based in Baja California, Mexico