Crisis in Mexico

THE MEXICAN ruling class was plunged head first into a fresh crisis last week with the detention of Raul Salinas, elder brother of former president Carlos Salinas, on suspicion of organising the murder of the secretary general of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Ruiz Massieu. As its grip on society weakens by the day, the PRI is consequently disintegrating into warring factions.

Massieu was a leading member of the ‘reformist wing’, which for many ‘hard-liners’ within the PRI, such as Raul Salinas, can only be seen as a serious threat to their political and financial power base. Last March Luis Donaldo Colosio, the PRI’s hand-picked successor as presidential candidate and also a leading ‘reformist’, was gunned down by a so-called “lone mad gunman” a few days after he had given a speech urging the PRI to democratise itself.

Even though he recently went on hunger strike in order to protest his innocence, suspicion has fallen on Carlos Salinas himself - at the very least it appears that he has colluded in covering up the truth behind the Colosio killing.

It is abundantly clear that a revolutionary situation is developing in Mexico. The ruling class can no longer rule in the old way and the masses are beginning to refuse to be ruled in the old way. When members of the ruling class have to resort to assassination and thuggery to resolve their internal differences, then it is apparent that an extremely deep and organic crisis is gripping it.

Meanwhile, the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas rumbles on, ominously for the ruling class. On Sunday the EZLN issued a statement firmly rejecting Zedillo’s ‘peace’ proposals, saying they were “humiliating, undignified, arrogant and unjust”, and that they were being set up for betrayal, if not elimination, by government forces. Remembering what happened to Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, who were similarly tricked into attending government ‘peace’ talks, one cannot but help think that the EZLN made a wise decision.

The economic situation continues to deteriorate. For the past 65 years or more Mexico has been run on the basis of a rough and ready form of state capitalism, with government - or quasi-government - bodies controlling all aspects of the economy. That phase has now ended. Mexico has now formally handed over the reins of the economy to Washington.

The US ‘rescue’ package is expected to include a four percent rise in wages, although public transport fares have increased by 100% and there has been a 56% overall fall in purchasing power since December. Forty-six percent of firms are expected to sack part of their workforce and 16% to close.

Clearly, if Mexico was to ‘blow’ this would have immense ramifications within the US and upon the American working class. Mexico 1995 is not Mexico 1911 or 1919. It is not even Cuba 1959. Mexican (and Latino) labour is widespread throughout the US, its economy is deeply entrenched in Mexico. An explosion there would shake-up US society in a manner that is hard to predict.

Given the thoroughly aristocratic, non-working class, chauvinistic nature of US labour organisations, and the working class in general, it cannot be discounted that a Mexican revolution could shift American society even further to the right. Ultimately, though, revolutionaries thrive where there are crises, splits and polarisations in society.

We should recognise that a potentially enormous historical opportunity is opening up in Mexico. Despite the backward looking nationalism of the EZLN and the Maoist ruralism of the MRM, a revolutionary situation would see the masses sympathise with the Zapatistas, thus unleashing unquantifiable revolutionary forces.

As the crisis inevitably hits the US economy, the working class throughout North America must be won to act as a class for itself. Such a revolutionary wave could not be held within the borders of North America.

Frank Vincent