Call for a Movement to Socialism

Against the Current No. 16, September-October 1988

Adolfo Gilly and 90 others

This “Convocation for the Movement to Socialism” (MAS) was published in March 1988. The statement was authored by Adolfo Gilly, a socialist militant and Marxist historian of the Mexican revolution, and signed by ninety others.

For space reasons we have had to abridge the statement significantly. It was translated for Against the Current by Samuel Farber and Selma Marks.

SIGNS OF A new Mexico are surging from the great and terrible changes produced by the crisis. This crisis has had a deep effect. It has destroyed structures, alliances, relations of trust and faith, and personal and political beliefs. The state and the big national bourgeoisie associated with foreign capital have joined in an offensive to ruthlessly raze the very foundations of the gains achieved by the Mexican people in the past decades: salaries, education, health and working conditions, employment, the ejido [traditional rural cooperatives], social security, nationalized enterprises, international solidarity.

The restructuring project behind this offensive has been dealing severe blows lo the very roots of the Mexican people’s security and solidarity, emptying of content and perspectives even the peasant and workers’ organizations which in the past functioned, to a limited extent, as structures of protection and legal defense. The process of modernization entailed in that project is being experienced by the great majority of Mexicans as a curse and as destruction.

This restructuring has also been penetrating the political terrain. It has dealt blows to the foundations of the domination of the state party, the PRI, and undermined its hegemony in national politics, as it subverted the pacts on which this hegemony rested. The PRI has been placed in a profound crisis by the restructuring project conducted by its own government. The party is becoming increasingly fractured, in spite of the undisputable loyalty of the leaders of the large peasant and working-class mass organizations.

At the top of the party, the rupture appears to be minimal: the Democratic Current [the opposition PR! tendency led by Cardenas] counts its members in the ones and tens. Below, however, the material conditions that assured the internal equilibrium of the PRI have crumbled; and the rupture led by Cuauhtemoc Cardenas and his Democratic Current has demonstrated that rebellion is possible.

Capitalist restructuring has also been penetrating society as a whole. But the modernity that this restructuring offers to us … is conceived as a process of internal dismemberment of the Mexican society which will, in tum, accelerate the tendencies to the integration of a supposed flowering Mexico with the U.S. economy, and to a new form of subordination of the Mexican nation to the project of U.S. domination. An advance sign of this new subordination is the explosive combination of the huge external and internal debts and the growing separation between Mexico’s international policies and the insurgent peoples of Central America and the Caribbean. Besides removing protection from the latter, this separation increasingly isolates Mexico in the face of external pressures.

It is a project that not only deeply strikes at the workers and the poor of this country, but also excludes the old nationalist development project, already transcended in reality by the changes that have taken place in Mexican and international capitalism, by the new international division of labor and by the world restructuring through the crisis in the relations among classes and nations.

The Mexican bourgeoisie, which grew by utilizing in its own favor the structures that integrated the workers to the stale created by Cardenismo, first emptied them of its initial content of mass mobilization and is now throwing them overboard, as it prepares a new form of domination. This is being done not without first utilizing to the utmost the earlier form in order to paralyze the working class, as shown by the role played by the bureaucratic union leaders in their support for the presidential candidate of the PRI.

But none of this has occurred while the workers and the Mexican people have been passive. They were initially surprised by the violence of the crisis, particularly after a quarter of a century of gradual but continuous economic growth. Handcuffed by their leaders and even by their own beliefs formed in the long years of the domination of the PRI through the ideology of the Mexican Revolution, these workers did not find in their organizations the means to offer an organized and generalized resistance to the capitalist and governmental offensive.

Nevertheless, by sectors, by unions, by enterprises, by regions, by ejidos, towns and neighborhoods, they resisted in a thousand ways, raising obstacles to the “modernizers.” They organized as they could, resorted to known forms of struggle or invented new ones, and formed new local or sectorial organizations that can be found today in every part of the country, unified by this dispersed but never-ending culture of resistance.

In this fashion, the social resistance in which the militants of the left have played a necessary and important role, has presently converged with the political crisis and, concretely, with the crisis of the PRI and its hegemony. The combination of that profound, tenacious and diffuse resistance and this political crisis provides the impulse which has brought about the ongoing rift in the PRI and the public appearance of Cuauhternoc Cardenas with his own candidacy against the ruling party.

The rupture of Cuauhtemoc Cardenas and his current brings to light an important change in the political geography of the country. A nationalist current, which was a necessary component of the legitimation of PRI domination over the masses, breaks with the party, the split is headed by somebody who can, in addition, explicitly invoke that nationalist tradition.

This rupture is joined together with the persistence of a nationalist ideology in the consciousness of the masses who were already in conflict with PRI domination, but lacked an opportunity for political unification at the national level in order to be able to go further. That opportunity was not provided by the bureaucratic union leaders, agents and instruments of the state in maintaining permanent submission, but by a political current threatened with total extinction if it submitted to the restructuring sponsored by the PRI.

But Cardenismo–the original project from which this current originates–cannot be repeated in the Mexico that has emerged from the crisis and that is part of this end-of-the-century world. Precisely because of this, and because the masses who have begun to support the rupture cannot stop and go backwards, this rupture will have to go further.

In effect, since its beginning less than a year ago, the Cardenista current has experienced a process of democratic radicalization accentuated by its breakup with the PRI and its independent appearance. At the same time, the PRI, liberated from this current, remains more exposed to the play and pressures coming from the right inside and outside the party.

The rupture of the PRI and the forms it has taken ran be seen as a product of capitalist restructuring and of the great mobilizations and diffuse resistance of the workers and people of Mexico. The most relevant examples of these were the mobilization in the days of the earthquake, the urban-popular movements, the regional and peasant movements, the struggles of the Oaxaca and Chiapas teachers, the strikes ranging from that of SICARTSA [steel workers] in 1985 to the electrical workers strike in 1987, the student movement that since late 1986 has continuously been a part of the national political scene.

A New Political Configuration

Three great political blocks confront each other in the electoral arena. On one side is the PRI, which possibly still retains a plurality but not a majority. On the other side is the right-wing opposition PAN, which has become a strong pole of opposition reinforced in the last years. Finally, the current of Cardenas, a fundamental break from the PRI, has produced a basically tripolar configuration of the electoral conjuncture. This is one of the reasons justifying the proposal for a unified presidential candidacy [of the left], while the parties of the socialist left maintain their independent organizational profile [including their own electoral slates for the Congress.-ed.]

The political crisis, opened by the electoral conjuncture and matured inside the crisis, is announcing the birth of a new mass political movement in Mexico that tends to go far beyond this conjuncture. This democratic movement has been in gestation for a long time and is now finding a unifying channel in the political scene. Its continuation could shake in its roots the structures of domination and control of the union bureaucracy, everywhere linked to the old model of PRI domination now in crisis.

Some of the independent left parties and organizations have not been capable of providing a political answer to this situation. Their reaction to the new movement was first to deny its existence, and then to see it as a competitor to be defeated rather than a growing potential ally.

The political responses to the crisis have not met the analyses and expectations of the leaders of those organizations, who feel displaced and react as if a newcomer is taking away from them the fruits that they had hoped to reap from their prolonged efforts in social and political struggles. These leaderships have been limited in their understanding and have responded in the defensive manner characteristic of the old left confronting the new mass movements that do not take the roads they had desired, prepared and foreseen.

Given the new conditions in the country, however, other possibilities are opening up to militants, leaders and organizations of this same left In order not to be relegated to political marginality, the left will have to confront its own crisis and rearm itself with democratizing and socialist projects of a greater political and mass scale.

The great historic challenge to the Mexican socialist left, in these decisive days, is to insert itself with its own independent political and organizational project in the birth and development of the mass movement which is searching through this rupture for its own channels of political expression and its independence from the state and the PR!.

This does not mean that the socialists must become Cardenistas or disguise themselves as such. This would be as detrimental to their tasks as the sectarian dogmatism with which others have opposed the rising movement.

It means that the socialists understand the potentialities inherent in the movement that is coming into being and that, in this conjuncture, they cannot but take as is the ideological forms which belong to the consciousness of the masses formed in the preceding struggles, experience and history.

In doing so, they can then intervene in the movement, accompany and contribute to organize the masses’ struggles with their own experiences and, instead of becoming bogged down in doctrinal disputes, they can, in their own way and within the masses’ own logic, take this movement further, towards the further growth of other movements and struggles of the coming years.

This movement combines three fundamental aspects:

1. The distancing, then the rupture, of growing sectors of the working class and the people from the tutelage of the PRI and the state. This undermines the bases of corporatism and develops the conditions for democratization from below of the country and its political relationships.

Independently of the program or the purposes of one or another leader, this process of rupture also involved a democratizing movement of society, which opens up previously unknown possibilities for initiatives and organizational forms that for a long time have been gestating and surfacing in Mexican society.

2. This democratic movement creates, in turn, more favorable conditions so that socialists, with their own independent organizations, can move the sectors breaking away, or their more advanced sections, from their present anti-imperialist positions towards socialist ideas.

3. On the other hand, the rupture of the Democratic Current with the PRI attracts currents sympathetic to the Lombardista [after Vicente Lombardo Toledano] ideology which proposes the creation of a national front with sectors of the bourgeoisie in order to oppose the International Monetary Fund, imperialism and the penetration of foreign capital and to actualize, under new forms, corporatism and national populism.

These three aspects are already present in the program that Cuauhtemoc Cardenas is currently presenting. The third aspect is the principal terrain upon which the parties that form the National Democratic Front (FDN) move and organize. On the other hand, the first two aspects are, in the order of importance in which they were mentioned, the appropriate arena of struggle and organization for socialists.

Mexican socialism will not accept enclosing itself in the old and obsolete apparatuses and schematic approaches, nor to separate itself from the masses who have begun to find their own political answer to the crisis. Neither will it subordinate itself nor stop at the starting point of that mass movement. It will try to accomplish, inside that movement and struggles, the task for which it has prepared itself through its many years of ideas and experiences.

We propose that this new movement take the name of Movement to Socialism, which synthesizes a program of ideas and action. We speak of a movement and not of a party. Many comrades will remain in their present organizations and will agree, nonetheless, to also join our movement.

Four major traits define the movement of this new Mexican socialist left:

1. It rises with the mass political movement and joins the latter while maintaining its own programmatic and ideological independence. It also develops its own political and organizational forms.

2. It struggles for democracy in all the social spheres: unions, ejidos, schools, enterprises, towns, and begins by proposing and practicing it within the movement itself. The left that developed at the end of the ’60s renewed a revolutionary dimension abandoned by the traditional left. The new left which is shaping up in Mexico aspires in turn to activate a democratic dimension appropriate to revolutionary socialism. Without such a democratic dimension, it is not possible to open the road to the creativity of contemporary human beings nor to establish in their experiences and consciousness the socialist perspective.

3. It proposes to build the socialist program for the Mexico of today, and together with it, with the participation and initiative of all, the creative forces in which such a program will be embodied, grow and enrich itself: … women, industrial workers in transition, peasants who are also being transformed, students, white- and blue-collar service workers whose lives and jobs are changing, intellectuals and professionals whose ideas and work contexts are being transformed, movements against sexual oppression and moral misery, ecologists, men and women coming from all the horizons of rebellion against the disintegration and destruction to which we are being led by the excluding and oppressive modernity of the owners of power, information and money.

4. It proposes to open the road for new organizational forms, which do not deny the rich party experiences of the past, but that instead incorporate them in order to fertilize the organizational innovating creativity provided by recent movements.

With these horizons and for these tasks, we convoke to unite and organize ourselves in the Movement to Socialism.

September-October 1988, ATC 16

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