[Marxism] Electorialism Has Been the Kiss of Death for The MexicanPRD (in Sp

Julio Huato juliohuato at hotmail.com
Wed Mar 10 10:27:45 MST 2004

Tony Abdo wrote:

>Monsivais, sums up the experience well.... Obsession with getting elected 
>has been a kiss of death for the PRD, and by extension,for those socialists 
>who fell in with this PRD strategy of concentration on electorialism.

Corruption in the PRD is bad, very bad.  But basically, what we're reading 
now in Mexican newspapers is a media campaign by the PAN and PRI against the 
PRD.  They're targeting the PRD and, in particular, Andrés Manuel López 
Obrador, the current Distrito Federal governor (or, as the NYT calls it, the 
mayor of Mexico City), and very likely PRD candidate for the 2006 elections. 
  The main audience they have in mind is, of course, the youth (likely swing 
voters in 2006).  Within the PRD, there are factions in conflict for the 
control of the PRD.  Some of them would want to hurt López Obrador, but 
there are not only people from López Obrador's faction (Ponce) involved in 
the scandals, but also from the other factions.  Robles, Bejarano, and Imaz 
are clearly from the Cárdenas' faction, the faction that IMO Monsiváis has 
been closest too.

It's a mess, but things need to be put in perspective.  What the PAN and PRI 
want is for people to go cynical and say, there's no difference between the 
PRD and the other two big parties.  Well, there is, and big.  Ignore the 
different economic and social policies these parties represent.  Corruption 
is a big deal, in general.  So take corruption and compare how every big 
political party has faired in the corruption issue.  Ignore the tiny parties 
(e.g., greens), which were formed by the PRI to contain the progress of the 
left and exist today to milk the cow created by loopholes in the campaign 
finance laws.  Focus on the two other big parties, PRI and PAN; their 
ongoing corruption scandals are much bigger and we don't need to be very 
clever to see that embarrassing the PRD live on Televisa is aimed to shift 
the attention away from the big cases to small ones.

Take the PRI.  In 1995, due to the peso collapse, the PRI's government 
"rescued" the private bankers.  (And let me not get into how these private 
bankers were born as a result of the privatization of the nationalized banks 
in the 1980s.)  Thus the PRI's government created a financial black hole 
(FOBRAPROA), a trust fund with over 100 million dollars of defaulted debt.  
Taxpayers were left to plug the hole.  How did it get to be so big?  In 
December 1994, Zedillo gathered the business leaders (and PRI sponsors) to 
gently let them know he was about to devalue the peso.  They listened 
attentively, took a quick break to use the bathroom, flipped their cell 
phones all at once, and began to contact their brokers.  The Pemexgate, 
another ongoing scandal, resulted from the funneling of over USD 200 million 
from PEMEX, the state-owned oil company, to the PRI to fund its latest 
presidential fiasco.  200 million here, 100 million there, and soon we're 
talking big money.  While the historical role of the PRI in Mexico cannot be 
reduced to corruption, the PRI is inseparable from corruption.

The PAN has its own troubles: Amigos de Fox -- something like a PAC -- 
apparently violated the rules of campaign financing.  The issue here is that 
the law prohibits foreign funding of campaigns, and apparently 5.2 million 
dollars were funneled by AF to Fox's presidential campaign and 1/5 (over 1 
million) of this money came from foreign donors, some of them Fox's 
relatives.  The PAN is a party of people who tend to be narrow-minded, 
provincial, and religiously dogmatic (the Mexican equivalent of the 
religious right in the U.S.), but they have something like an 
anti-corruption culture.  So, in all fairness, the corruption levels in the 
PAN may not be as bad as the PRI's or, proportionally speaking, those of the 
tiny pseudo-parties.  Still, the strict pious Catholic culture of the PAN 
hasn't prevented a prominent party leader like Diego Fernández de Cevallos 
(PAN presidential candidate in 1994), personally and through his legal firm, 
to get involved in a few scandals of influence trafficking and conflicts of 
interest (he's been a senator and also a tort lawyer with big-money clients 
who takes cases against the federal and local governments).  In 1994, the 
presidential campaign of Diego was full speed ahead, he clearly won the 
debate against Cárdenas and Zedillo, and voter preferences were favoring 
him.  Then he suddenly went silent.  What happened?  Apparently nobody knows 
for sure, but Vicente Fox once expressed privately his suspicion that Carlos 
Salinas (the then president) had threatened Diego with making public 
something pretty fishy in Diego's past.  The PAN was halted on its tracks.  
Diego nicely slowed down into quiet defeat.

The PRI and now the PAN had tried very hard to get some PRD big guys into a 
corruption trap.  Until now, they hadn't succeeded.  A couple of locals 
mini-scandals.  Nothing could be said of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, who is 
independently wealth (although that independent wealth, inherited from his 
father Lázaro Cárdenas, former nationalist president, may ultimately be 
dependent upon similar mechanisms of "primitive" accumulation as those in 
recent news).  Then there were rumors that Rosario Robles had used public 
money to finance big commercials touting the achievements of her 
administration with an eye to future elections.  But that didn't go far.  
And now this.

So consider the PRD scandals: Ponce was videotaped playing at a Las Vegas 
casino.  Ponce is an officer in the López Obrador administration.  (PRD 
leaders claim this video was made possible by the generous support of the 
U.S. government, as Las Vegas' casinos are very protective of their clients' 
privacy and won't give up a video unless required by a court order.)  
Bejarano, another of López Obrador's assistants, apparently accepted 45,000 
dollars from a businessman with shoddy connections; apparently the money was 
intended to help a PRD local campaign under the radar of campaign laws.  
Rosario Robles, a Cárdenas groupie who was interim Mexico City's mayor after 
Cárdenas left to run for the presidency, apparently took money from this guy 
as well, as much as 60,000 dollars that -- she says -- were earmarked for a 
local welfare program.  Imaz, a former radical student leader who now leads 
one of Mexico City's delegaciones (say, a county), declared preemptively 
that he also received pocket change from the same guy, also earmarked for a 
local public works program.  That's about it.  Will new PRD corruption 
scandals emerge?  Perhaps, but still -- until proven otherwise -- it seems 
to me that we're talking little money compared to the hundreds of millions 
involved in FOBAPROA, Pemexgate, and Foxgate.

That said, Carlos Monsiváis is playing his role.  He's been a member of the 
left, an intellectual icon, since the 1960s.  And he's always chosen to be a 
bit on the sidelines, refusing to take organizational and administrative 
responsibilities, sticking to literature and journalism, and thus retaining 
his ability to whack those who do step on the plate and are therefore prone 
to make mistakes.  In a way, his job is necessary.  But this is somewhat 
like Monday morning quarterbacking.

Now, Monsiváis is not saying that participation in the electoral process is 
the cause of the cases of apparent prevarication in the PRD recently 
exposed.  After all, he supported the move of the left towards an electoral 
strategy in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the Partido Comunista 
Mexicano, the Coalición de Izquierda, and the Movimiento de Acción Popular 
merged into the Partido Socialista Unificado de México.  He encouraged it 
and criticized the radical left for not understanding that the main change 
working Mexicans demanded at the time was more democracy.  To be fair, on 
the balance, the role of the left in the country's political evolution in 
the last 25 years has been extremely positive.

What Monsiváis is blaming is "electoralism" -- i.e., the excessive, 
unscrupulous focus on electoral jockeying and money connections at the 
expense of the grassroots work.  In a way, this is an abstract criticism, 
and as such trivial: Corruption, bad.  Not being able to strike the right 
(shifting) balance between grassroots organizing and electoral tactics, bad. 
  Okay, that is all fine, but tell me concretely how to fix and prevent that 
from happening.  Help me anticipate it and preclude it.  A good portion of 
the PRD and over half of its most prominent national leaders were former PRI 
militants, including Cárdenas and López Obrador, and there's a corrupt 
pragmatic culture that the PRD has absorbed.  But the fact is that there's 
no way around the current strategy of the left, combining electoral 
participation with grassroots organizing.  (And here I view movements 
outside of the organizational structure of the PRD, including the 
Zapatistas, as part of one and the same big movement.)  The challenge is how 
to balance and complement the two sides.

The left is about assisting the working people to increase their union, 
organization, militancy, and power.  In a country like Mexico, the working 
people are at the bottom of society, and getting out of the hole cannot be 
done without taking big chances.  Any and every tactical tool used by the 
left in these conditions has a downside.  The downside of the electoral 
participation and running local governments is bureaucratization, 
corruption, hubris, etc.  (Former militants of Mexico's 1970s guerrillas -- 
as heroic and selfless as they proved to be, victims of a brutal dirty war 
and all -- are still disputing who kept the money from such and such 
kidnapping back then.  The leaders of the Ruta 100 workers' combative union, 
one of the legal fronts of the EZLN during its formation but before Marcos 
broke with them, have their own internal conflicts with accusations of 
corruption flying in all directions.  So we hardly say that more "radical" 
strategies are a vaccine against corruption.)

If I were a PRD leader, I'd go on TV and say: "The PRD will not retreat from 
its growing governmental responsibilities and from its decision to win the 
presidency in 2006.  We will bring about a government responsive to the 
working poor, committed to eliminating poverty, and achieve an economic 
development that is both fair and equitable, and environmentally 
sustainable.  And we will do it at the same time as we fight corruption in 
our ranks, many times more strictly than we fight corruption outside the 
party.  We want clear heads and passionate hearts in our ranks, but we want 
above all clean hands.  And we want a clear contrast with Mexico's 
corruption past under the PRI.  There'll be no FOBAPROAS or Pemexgates with 
the PRD.  We will not tolerate corruption in the PRD, no matter how small it 
may seem.  We ask anyone who has any credible bit of information that may 
lead to uncovering further acts of corruption among PRD public servants, 
officers, or militants, up to the highest levels, to come forward publicly.  
The PRD will demand the prosecution of these cases to the full extent of the 
law.  As for PRD members who are duly proven in a court of law to have 
committed acts of corruption, the PRD will demand the highest punishment 
contemplated in the law and then some."  Something like that.

I'd then try and form some internal auditing body to monitor PRD public 
servants, with policies, standards, and powers above and beyond those that 
regulate the behavior of government officers in general.  Twist the arms of 
Monsiváis, González Casanova, Gilly, Montemayor, and other big cows of the 
left to have them head this auditing body.  And shoot or hang in the Estadio 
Azteca or Zócalo the motherf***ers who are found to be corrupt or do things 
that leave any impression of wrongdoing.


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