Mexico: the National Democratic Convention

Reform the bourgeois political regime, or struggle for its revolutionary downfall

By Martín Juarez
Source: La Verdad Obrera No. 205
Thursday, September 21, 2006
unofficial translation and notes in brackets by Fred Bergen

On this past September 16, the National Democratic Convention (CND) was held in the Zócalo, Mexico City's central square. Called together by Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and the Frente Amplio Progresista [Broad Progressive Front] (led by the PRD [Party of Democratic Revolution, AMLO's party], the PT [Labor Party, ex-Maoist reformists] and Convergencia [Socialist Convergence, an electoral alliance of Pabloites and other reformists that runs candidates on the PRD ballot]), the CND united, according to some estimates, one million people. Called for by AMLO with the goal to "reject the official tally; reject the usurpation of power and reject Calderón as President; (and to decide) if it should constitute itself as a government of the Republic", it proposed to "lay the foundations of a new republic" and "create our own institutions in accordance with article 39 of the Constitution [1]" (La Jornada, 8/28/06). The CND was organized amid great anger at the electoral fraud, and while the heroic struggle of the Oaxaca Commune, led by the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), continued, which is the highest point of the class struggle in our country. According to various leftist organizations (some of which claim to be Trotskyist), the CND was a step forward for the mass movement. [2] Our position, presented in Estrategia Obrera 53, [3] maintained the need for a clearly independent political program with respect to the PRD, building a nationwide struggle that would unite the heroic struggle of the Oaxacan people with the anger at the electoral fraud. We think that we should discuss the results of the CND, and how to fight against the electoral fraud and for all the demands of the oppressed and exploited people, in doing so to shift the positions of the leftist organizations. Here, we present a few notes to advance in this direction.

The struggle against the electoral fraud and the politics of the CND

The CND expressed the great discontent that exists among broad layers of the population, who protested in the Zócalo [Mexico City's main square], to whom the call for this convention seemed to be a political alternative and an opportunity to discuss and decide upon the next steps in the struggle against the electoral fraud. The declarations of AMLO along the lines of "to hell with the institutions" and his rejection of Calderón's victory are a strong element of confrontation within the political regime. The principal and most popular leader of the PRD, the party that is the pillar of the orderly succession of alternating-party governments in Mexico, stands opposed to the rest of the institutions and particularly against the ruling party.

Nevertheless, despite the expectations of the workers and youth who turned to the CND, its dynamics and results shed light on the political character of the PRD leadership.

1. AMLO's appointment as the "legitimate president" and his "plan of action" (which does not propose to unite the struggle in Oaxaca with struggle against the electoral fraud, nor advance toward a nationwide strike), shows that we are dealing with a program of radical pressure on the institutions of government, which does not challenge the basic functioning of the political machine and the institutions of bourgeois rule, nor seek to bring down the regime by means of mass action, but instead to reform and "democratize" it. We have already seen the result of this kind of politics in 1994, when the agreement among the three parties (PRI, PAN, and PRD) for the transfer of power supposed that the old PRI regime could reform itself, and paved the way, in 2000, for a new bourgeois regime, the alternating party system, which, aside from cosmetic changes, preserved the denial of democratic rights, oppression, and exploitation of the workers and peasants of Mexico.

2. Moreover, despite AMLO's declarations, the PRD has shown that it is not interested in turning its back on the institutions. Thus, while AMLO was presiding over the CND, the PRD senators and deputies took their seats in the fraudulent national Congress (as did Marcelo Ebrard in the Mexico City government), demonstrating that they are far from wanting to break with the very institutions that they denounce in their speeches. As in the recent meeting of state governors, where the four PRD governors, along with those of the PRI and PAN, agreed a resolution of support for Ulises Ruiz [Ortiz, the murderous governor of Oaxaca state whose resignation is a principal demand of the APPO]. Likewise, in Oaxaca, the state deputies of the PRD and the Frente Amplio Progresista promoted the call for the Secretary of the Interior to send the federal police to "restore order". The Aztec sun [the symbol of the PRD] shows itself to be a defender of the institutions and an enemy of the most important mass struggle at the national level, which is the struggle of the APPO. Also, AMLO and his party maintain a complicit silence over the political prisoners of Atenco, violently repressed by the city, state, and federal police at the orders of the governors of all three parties (remember that the mayor of Atenco is with the PRD, while the state governor is with the PRI).

3. The anti-poverty declarations formulated by the leadership of the CND are rhetorical efforts that group the popular discontent with the misery caused by six years of a PAN government. But the truth is that, despite their speeches, AMLO and the PRD do not challenge this system based on the rule of a few families of capitalists and landlords (like the magnate Carlos "Slim" Helú, AMLO's friend and "partner") over the economy, and on the oppression and exploitation of the great majority of the Mexican people.

4. As we have said above, the action plan proposed by the CND demonstrates the character of the PRD leadership. Just as they avoided calling for new actions like those of July 16 and 30, and as they didn't try to organize a huge rally against the national congress on September 1, so the action plan adopted on September 16 is not oriented toward defeating and bringing down the political regime. In actuality it is an instrument for lobbying the institutions of government, and a way of consolidating AMLO's leadership of the opposition movement throughout the coming years.

5. The reason for this is that López Obrador and the PRD - by being part of the same bourgeois regime and their ties to the bosses represented by "Slim", the telecommunications magnate - are not in favor of a mobilization against the anti-worker and anti-poor people regime, and must limit themselves only to heavy pressure on the institutions of government, the objective of which is to reform the regime. This political program has already shown itself to be incapable of stopping the electoral fraud and of developing, generalizing, and giving a militant orientation to the anger that expressed itself in all its magnitude on July 16 and 30. The CND and its plan of action seek to direct the anti-fraud movement toward being the political base for AMLO and his political machine, the Frente Amplio Progresista, with a "anti-neoliberal" program of class collaboration.

6. With this political strategy, the CND was far from being an embryo of people's power, as some self-styled socialist organizations incorrectly claim (they even claim that "it could be the base of an organ of state power integrates collectively and democratically the forces which sustain it," [4] ignoring that it would be a state under the hegemonic power of the bourgeois parties). We maintain that while the CND came about under the bourgeois political banner of keeping the movement "peaceful and non-violent" which does not question bourgeois "legality", the Oaxaca commune does represent an embryonic form of a true dual power opposed to the bourgeois state, which is based on the radical methods of class struggle, on the insurrectionary action of the masses, and on an organization that territorially controls the city.

The CND, very far from being democratic

The CND was far from being a case of democratic decision-making; discussion forums were not organized, the resolutions were voted by show of hands without hearing the opinions and disagreements that existed. There was no chance for alternatives to AMLO's proposals to be heard, nor for the worker, peasant, poor people's and leftist organizations to present their own programs. It was a political rally for AMLO, not a meeting organized to hear and debate the workers' and popular demands. Likewise, there was no place for the sectors that are struggling against the government, like the workers and fighters of the APPO, the political prisoners and ex-prisoners of Atenco, and the striking steelworkers of Sicartsa. But those who did have reserved seats at the convention were the "Salinista" politicians [associates of the PRI former president Carlos Salinas] like [Manuel] Camacho Solís and [Marcelo] Ebrard. The CND, despite the desires of the hundreds of thousands of participants, was organized in a vertical and bureaucratic fashion, which ended up giving a mandate to AMLO's politics and blocking leftist positions that were outside of the bounds drawn by the PRD and AMLO.

How different from the functioning of the APPO where all the different unions and organizations in struggle (with all their limitations) have a voice! It has to be said, this defied the expectations that leftist organizations had of the CND being a "step forward" in the popular struggle ...

For a radical and revolutionary struggle against the alternating-party regime

Unfortunately, the unions such as the SME [electrical workers' union] did not voice any alternative position, and the SME's president Martín Esparza took part in this political effort, calling on the workers to subordinate themselves to the CND (while two of his unions directors are PRD deputies). For their part, many leftist organizations, such as those that signed the aforementioned document, forgot not only the necessary criticism of AMLO for his [inadequate] program against the electoral fraud, but also forgot to uphold - against this bourgeois leadership - an orientation with which working class could intervene in the current crisis with an independent perspective in defense of its gains, pushing forward the alliance of workers, peasant, and poor people.

We socialists are on the front lines of the struggle for democratic demands, as is the case with the fight against the electoral fraud, and we do this without a trace of sectarianism. But we do this by promoting the only means to achieve these demands: mass mobilization independent of the diversionary institutions and mechanisms that the regime and its parties use.

In light of this, to say that the CND was a "great step forward", avoiding the fact that AMLO sought to contain the movement within a bourgeois program, is a flagrant error. Those who took this perspective were led to conclude that "the five topics of discussion (proposed by AMLO) are correct" and that "we propose that the programmatical details that have arisen from the movement be taken into consideration", trying to reform the program of this bourgeois leadership, seeming to hold out unrealistic hopes for what was by all appearances a trap to institutionalize the democratic movement and transform it into a movement of political support for AMLO.

Instead of this, what is needed is a geat nationwide struggle that unites the heroic struggle of the Oaxaca commune with the anger at the electoral fraud, led by the workers with their methods of struggle (and in the first place by the CNTE [teacher's union] and the APPO), and making sure that the great working class detachments from the industry and services are included at the national level, preparing the way for a general strike to bring down the alternating-party regime and institute a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly. This is something that AMLO and the PRD will never do, and we socialists must be clear and direct about the solution by which the working class can respond to the democratic demands of the entire people, which can not be achieved in the context of bourgeois legislation (whether the constitution of 1917 or an eventual new reformed constitution by the methods of "Slim" and the other magnates.

In this Revolutionary Constituent Assembly the workers and peasants will be able to freely discuss our demands, starting with the demands of the teachers and the APPO in Oaxaca.
On the way toward implementing this Revolutionary Constituent Assembly, the workers and poor people will develop their self-organzation and methods of struggle, as well as their conviction that, as the example of Oaxaca points out, we need a workers and poor people's government that ends once and for all this system of exploitation and misery.

We call on the groups that call themselves socialists (POS [Socialist Workers Party, Morenoites], LUS, GAR [Revolutionary Action Group, sister party of the Argentinian Partido Obrero], PRT) to open a political debate, open to the vanguard of workers and youth, over the political orientation in relation to the democratic movement, AMLO, and the PRD, as an essential part of the discussion over the program and strategy that a new unified revolutionary workers party in Mexico must have, a party which is ever more urgently necessary to be able to give a correct orientation and program to the heroic struggles such as that which the Oaxacan workers and poor people are carrying out. We also address this call to the members of the Militante group [section of the International Marxist Tendency, its sister organization in the U.S. is the Workers International League], to whom we propose that they break with the PRD, since political and organizational independence from all the capitalist parties is necessary in order to advance toward the foundation of a genuinely revolutionary party in Mexico.


1. Article 39 of the constitution states that political power belongs to the people - FB

2. See La convención nacional democrática y la izquierda socialista [the CND and the socialist left], a document signed by a number of organizations, among them, the PRT [Revolutionary Workers' Party, sympathizers of the Pabloite Fourth International], Uclat [Union of the Working Class, a Morenoite group], and the LUS [Socialist Unity League, another group close to the Pabloite FI]. This document proposes that the CND "Elevates the struggle against the electoral fraud to the defense of national independence and popular sovereignty against the usurping power," against which "it presents a practical alternative".

3. The journal of the Mexican Trotskyists, available on-line at

4. From La convención nacional democrática y la izquierda socialista (see footnote 2) - FB

Labor action discussion group:
Working Class Emancipation e-newsletter: