[Marxism] re: Enrique Krauze on elections in Mexico [was: Julio Huato on Enrique Krauze0
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Jul 1 01:19:41 MDT 2006
I was glad to see Julio Huato's very thoughtful comments about the
Obrador campaign in Mexico. It confirms my sense that we are dealing
with a serious division, rooted in the masses but extending in response
to them into the ruling classes, whom Obrador basically defends. That
is, Obrador -- more openly and determinedly than Cardenas minor's
presidential campaigns, represents a proposal to change an increasingly
intolerable status quo.
What he raises about the US ruling class suggests divisions in that
class not only about Mexico, but about United States. After all,
Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, et al. are NOT the only
countries in the Americas where the rich have grown richer and the poor
have grown poorer, where "neoliberalism" has gone wild, and where the
"threat" of "populism" to disrupt "neoliberalism" is an actual or
potential reality. The United States is also one of those countries.
Hence the growing identification of "populism" (from the bourgeois
standpoint opposition to "neoliberalism," from the SECTARIAN Marxist
standpoint, opposition to movements that direct their appeals centrally
to more than one class of the population).
I have not seen Krauze's NYT op-ed, but I did read his mid June New
Republic article on Obrador. This was a hysterical assault on a rising
populist and therefore dictator and fascist, a representative of the
threat posed around the world to decent humanity by the great unwashed.
But factually, it was nonetheless pretty interesting. Krause in this
article deals extensively with Obrador's identification with his roots
in the Cardenas and pre-Cardenas wave of progressive change in Mexico.
Krause carefully ducks the question of Cardenas himself, seeking to
avoid expressing an opposition that would immediately cut him off from
even much of the mainstream opposition to Obrador. Instead he focuses
on Obrador's positive recollections of the era that led to the Cardenas
presidency in so-called "Red Tabasco," his home province at the time.
Krause denounces the massively expanded education of working people in
the province, since it was done in "Red Style." His main goal is to hint
that Obrador would ban the Catholic Church and kill all Catholics in
Mexico (this would take a lot of killing, of course, but Krause is ready
for battle). This is because of the militant and extremist
anti-Catholicism of the Tabasco movement, which sought to virtually
outlaw and suppress the Catholic Church (a continuation of the very
conservative bourgeois nationalist policy of Plutarco Calles in the 20s,
who sought to suppress Catholic Churches and priests. To understand
this, you have to understand the Catholic Church's deep commitment and
support to the old oligarchic regime against the peasants and common
people, dating back to and also before the peasant rebellion led by the
priest Morelos in the early 19th century. A lot of hatred of the
priests built up among the masses, and the intelligentsia, over many
To understand what happened to the Catholic Church -- breaking its
political power and landed power for many years -- it is important to
study the actual history of the revolution, and not just Graham Greene's
novel "The Power and the Glory" or the rather good film by the great
director John Ford based on it.
The attempt to bait Obrador as a Catholic-hater because of his
identification with the basically popular, mass-based
bourgeois-revolutionary tradition is parallel to the attempts to portray
Humala as someone who would exterminate all whites in Peru (a fear that,
to me as a Freudian of sorts, is naturally linked to a legitimate sense
of guilt among the descendants of the Spaniards, and those who identify
with them). In fact, Humala, raised in that legitmate but narrow
nationalist tradition of legitimate anti white outrage among the Indican
population, represented the attempt by the Quechua speakers to reach out
to the others along lines of common interest -- something.
I hope Obrador wins. If the election is stolen from him, I hope his
following fights to overturn or correct the result. This is my general
policy at this stage of lthe process in Latin America. I think we
should vote for the candidates who represent the fight for change in the
interests of the most oppressed and exploited. I think we should vote
for the "populists," against all those over-educated by Richard
Hofstadter's "Anti-Intellectualism in America Life", which I view as the
fountainhead of views of populism as forms or rightism or even fascism
(or, as they say about Iran, "Islamofascism."
I am opposed in this situation to counterposing reform and revolution,
to the extent that reform is seriously intended. My sense is that
Obrador's election even though he like most leaders of labor parties
and social democratic parties and "communist" parties represents social
forces other than and differing from the working-class perspective, will
be a step forward for working people.
Vote for Chavez, Morales, Humala, Obrador, Bachelet, and so on (unless
we have the ability to elect someone better, in which case we should go
ahead and do it. Fred Feldman
Julio Huato, by way of Louis Proyect, wrote: the main threat to Mexico's
fragile democracy is not a ghost. It is, instead, the brutal reality of
the country's social inequality. Twelve years after NAFTA was
implemented -- official sources attest -- almost fifty percent of
Mexicans still live in poverty. Measures of wealth dispersion are
dismal, comparable to those in Brazil, Haiti, and sub-Saharan Africa.
Many Mexicans are under the impression that Felipe Calderón, the
candidate of the right, "has failed to convey real concern for Mexico's
poor," as Krauze puts it, because he has no actual concern for Mexico's
There can be no political stability in Mexico and -- therefore --
lasting growth without narrowing the gaping economic divide between the
rich and poor. López Obrador's redistributive policies promise to be
effective without disrupting private ownership and markets; not only
compatible with the growth of the economy but actually growth inducing.
Wall Street seems to have grasped this. Joydeep Mukherji, Standard &
Poor's specialist in Latin America, recently told CNN en Español that
foreign investors' real concern was Mexico's ability to grow in the long
run, which depended on stable social conditions, and dismissed
short-term turbulence should López Obrador win.
López Obrador has been quite consistent in his economic policy stance,
pledging to respect the autonomy of Mexico's central bank, rejecting
fiscal and monetary policy gimmicks, and ruling out increased
indebtedness. While fulfilling his vow to tackle inequality will
require a substantial hike in tax revenues, López Obrador intends to
accomplish it by eliminating tax privileges for the rich and well
connected, limiting tax evasion, fighting corruption, and reducing the
top bureaucracy's frivolous spending and outrageous salaries. Krauze
dismisses it as demagoguery, but it is credible.
As mayor of Mexico City, López Obrador proved to be a resourceful penny
pincher. With a limited budget, subject to strict oversight by a
federal congress dominated by rival parties, he began to rebuild the
central areas of Mexico City devastated by the 1985 earthquake, improved
public transportation by expanding old metro lines and building new
ones, tackled traffic congestion (a large contributor to air pollution)
by building surprisingly efficient elevated bypasses, and provided
subsidies to single mothers, the elderly, and the disabled -- all on a
shoestring. Private investment in Mexico's capital reached rates it had
not had in decades. His mayoral experience convinced him that
corruption and waste are a gigantic diversion of public resources. His
fiscal plan is not inconsistent with his social agenda.
The "free markets" credo and the "pull-yourself-by-the-bootstraps"
moralising of the PAN lack popular appeal. Backed by the financial and
political muscle of prominent businessmen with strong conservative
leanings, to the poor, this discourse smacks of hypocrisy -- doublespeak
where helping the rich at public expense becomes a "stimulus to private
investment" and helping the poor turns you into a "populist." Aware of
this, Calderón's campaign strategy defaulted to fearmongering,
saturating the airwaves with negative messages.
A López Obrador victory, Calderón claims, will be a prelude to economic
crises, foreign capital flight, authoritarian rule, expropriations,
militarization, and violence. Intentionally or not, Krauze's article
fits in this strategy. But, to judge by the massive attendance and
enthusiasm in López Obrador's campaign meetings and rallies, the
strategy has not worked. Popular instincts may prove prescient: In the
long run, the real danger is inaction in the face of Mexico's monstrous
inequities. A monarchical presidency under López Obrador, on the other
hand, is in Krauze's imagination only.
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