Against Trump and Peña Nieto

Donald Trump signed an executive order on January 25 to begin immediate construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, repeating once again that Mexico would have to pay for it. Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a planned visit to the White House on January 31. After Trump's order, the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (PRT), the Mexican section of the Fourth International, published the following statement, translated into English for the International Viewpoint website.

Donald Trump meets with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (left) in 2016Donald Trump meets with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (left) in 2016

AFTER A dramatic increase in fuel, electricity and water prices throughout the country and a month of uninterrupted, massive protests across the country that have deepened the crisis of legitimacy--which is increasingly a political crisis--of Mexico's oligarchic regime, we are now beginning to see the first steps of the new, extreme right, xenophobic, macho, racist and anti-Mexican administration in the White House. This can only bring further complications, contradictions and possibilities of struggle to the Mexican political scene.

The timid response of the Peña Nieto government once again shows its inability to cope with the country's crisis, now including the measures taken against Mexico by the Trump administration and its continual threats. The new U.S. government's protectionist turn is underway; it has not only blocked investments in Mexico and liquidated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It has also threatened to "renegotiate" the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in its favor (virtually cancelling it) and to impose a 20 percent tariff on Mexican exports to finance Trump's wall of shame on a border that is already militarized--not to mention massive deportations that are coming around the corner. All of this, which is an expression of the crisis of neoliberalism, could destroy the foundations on which decades of neoliberal economic policies were erected to secure Mexico as the United States' backyard. Indeed, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's most recent structural reforms, especially in the energy sector, were designed (and imposed) on the assumption of the Mexican economy's deep and almost exclusive dependence on the imperialist interests of its northern neighbor.

It was on this neoliberal assumption that NAFTA destroyed the Mexican countryside, dismantled the incipient domestic industry to favor the "maquiladora" model (of export processing plants), gave away to U.S. (and Canadian) companies the country's minerals, destroyed labor rights and spread precarious work, to name but a few of the clearest effects. At the same time, since the time of President Miguel de la Madrid (1982-1988), governments of both the authoritarian-nationalist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the socially conservative, business-oriented National Action Party (PAN) have justified their submission to U.S. interests, saying that it was better to be "allies" than "enemies." These technocrats never imagined, when they prostrated themselves before the White House, that a future tenant might turn on them. These Mexican rulers and officials never saw themselves as statesmen, as representatives of an allied, sovereign nation, but as mere subordinates. That is why we cannot expect the Mexican government, or the parties that signed onto the "Pact for Mexico"--a series of neoliberal reforms agreed to by the PRI, PAN and the center-left Democratic Party of Revolution (PRD)--to represent the interests of the Mexican people in any "new NAFTA negotiations" or in the face of abuses against Mexicans in the U.S. and the imminent construction of the border wall.

There will only be a new form of subordination, more bowing and scraping, which will only bring about worse consequences for workers on both sides of the border. The discomfort of Peña Nieto's government is not only an expression of his own personal incapacity, although that is real enough. Above all it stems from decades of faithful subordination to the dictates of neoliberalism--most fully expressed in the structural reforms imposed by Peña Nieto and the parties of the Pact for Mexico. And now that Trump is giving a more right-wing and protectionist turn to imperialist politics, the neoliberals in Mexico have been left in the lurch, with no alternative to the crisis. They can offer no alternative because they dug Mexico's grave by following imperialist dictates, which is all they know how to do, and now those dictates are in contradiction with the previous ones they had followed so faithfully.

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IT IS important for the left, for social movements and for working people not to fear a renegotiation of NAFTA--after all, it brought nothing but misery for working people. The worst mistake now would be, as the PRD has done, to "defend NAFTA" against Trump. On the contrary, peasants, democratic unions and the left in general have for decades been fighting NAFTA and its consequences. We fight for a sovereign and independent nation that uses its natural resources to build a strong economy benefiting the majority, that is, all of us who are workers.

Trump's "protectionist turn" does not imply that the United States no longer has an interest in grabbing our natural resources and super-exploiting cheap, precarious labor. From the perspective of workers' interests, faced with Trump's protectionist trade policy, it is no alternative at all to "look to other countries" (such as those proposing China or the European Union); this would mean remaining a semi-colonial and dependent country. These unequal and subordinate relations will not improve either the country or of the workers' situation, but they will certainly maintain the privileges of the ruling caste. We need to break the model, not just change master. The end of neoliberal Mexico should signal the opportunity to unite all of us from below, starting with the working people, organizing and fighting to remake an independent and sovereign Mexico, one which is fair and democratic, free and egalitarian, ecological, free from exploitation or oppression of any kind. That is a revolutionary political perspective.

Everything indicates that a "renegotiation favorable to the United States," which Trump proposes in relation to NAFTA, means only more destruction of Mexican infrastructure and greater subordination of the Mexican economy to the needs of its northern neighbor. During this attempt to restructure U.S. production, the empire will try to secure the basic inputs it needs, and to do this at the lowest possible cost.

Given the economic and political collapse of Mexican neoliberals in the face of this protectionist turn by the new U.S. government, calls by Peña Nieto and other political figures--like populist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the MORENA party (National Regeneration Movement)--to forge "national unity" against Trump are desperate attempts to overcome their crisis of legitimacy.

National unity? What do we Mexican workers have in common with the wealthy magnates who, faced with a changed political landscape, are seeking to accommodate themselves and their interests to the new master? What do the corrupt, xenophobic and billionaire members of the Trump cabinet have in common with the millions of Black, Latino and white workers whose situation has been made more precarious by both Democratic and Republican policies in recent years? Nothing can be more poisonous than supposed calls for national unity with those who were the first to plunge us into this crisis.

Of course, forging the broadest unity against policies of racist hatred, exclusion and oppression of "the other" is an urgent task. But that means unity from below and unity across borders. Trump and Peña Nieto represent the enemy, the same enemy, regardless of momentary insults hurled between them. U.S. workers, the Sioux Nation, Mexican migrants (our brother and sister workers across the border) and Latinos in general, the Black Lives Matter movement, the millions of women who flooded into the streets on January 21, all these people are our main allies.

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ALTHOUGH THE outlook is grim, it is also true that Trump and Peña Nieto's draconian blows are already facing the obstacle of mobilized resistance. On the one hand, Trump's inauguration was met by mass protests, with women in the front line, and new mobilizations and struggles are in the works. These are a starting point. On this side of the border, massive mobilizations against the petrolazo (fuel price rises) and economic structural reforms herald a new period of struggle and resistance. These struggles will once again raise the cry: Out with Peña Nieto! It is critical for people in struggle on both sides of the border to reach out so that we can face the capitalist monster together. We need to return to the example of international solidarity on display in the case of the Ayotzinapa 43, students disappeared (and feared murdered) by dark forces in September 2014. This is not about the scam of national unity, but of unity without borders, unity from below, unity in diversity, of the unity to resist and win.

In the Mexican case, the social discontent that has been expressed in massive and spontaneous mobilizations across the country, which in a few cases like that of Baja California, have won partial though not yet consolidated victories, must be channeled and organized into more permanent and democratic fronts of struggle--political fronts which different organizations can promote and where they can come together. Almost a month of spontaneous daily protests across the country against the fuel price hikes have begun to demonstrate greater participation by forces that had previously organized against neoliberalism. On Thursday, January 26, a decisive sector of the working class--represented by the New Workers' Central (NCT), the Mexican Electricians' Union (SME) and the National Assembly of Electricity Users (ANUE), supported by the Political Organization of the People and the Workers (OPT)--has taken part in a very large mobilization in the streets of Mexico City, marking the presence of an organized proletarian wing within the framework of the spontaneous, popular, citizen protests of recent days. The January 26 mobilization was preceded by dozens of occupations and protests at gas stations and workplaces of what used to be the Mexico City Electricity Company (before it was privatized), organized by ANUE and SME.

On January 31, another big mobilization was called in Mexico City, by another important force, involving peasant organizations and the UNT (National Workers' Union), most importantly including the union of telephone operators and university students. The scale of the crisis and the size of the protests pose the need (and the left's responsibility) to develop an organized pole of the working people in struggle, independent of the calls for "national unity" from the government and all the institutional parties--now not only the parties of the Pact for Mexico, but also López Obrador's Morena party. This demands a conscious and responsible effort to create a genuinely united space in order to coordinate all the struggles across the country and to raise them to the level needed at this moment to carry them through to the conclusions of three current mobilizing slogans: No to fuel price hikes! No to structural reforms! Out with Peña Nieto! This means raising protests to new levels of struggle, including a potential, nationwide civic strike. But that cannot be just a propagandistic call. It means, above all, creating and coordinating the social forces capable of making it reality.

In fact, getting rid of the structural reforms, especially in energy and education, cannot be separated from the political objective of immediately getting rid of the Peña Nieto government--not by the following smooth and institutional route proposed by López Obrador of waiting until elections scheduled in 2018, which would mean a negotiated transition. Indeed, in the medium term, getting rid of the structural reforms cannot mean simply returning to the Constitution as it was before 2013 (or 1994, when NAFTA came into force). It requires a new Constituent Assembly to redesign the country. This is even more true now that Yankee imperialism, represented by Trump, is imposing a new turn in neoliberal globalization that the parties of the Pact for Mexico and its governments enthusiastically imposed on our country, destroying rights and historical conquests--whether or not these were codified at some point in the Constitution.

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BUILDING UNITY from below, of all the movements and expressions of resistance, certainly faces many difficulties. But the continuation and deepening of the crisis could propel it forward in the coming weeks. On February 4, there will be new petrol price increases, already approved in the Fiscal Income Law by the parties of the Pact for Mexico. And the practical implementation of Trump's plans will hardly bring a period of peace and stability, despite the calls for "national unity." Again, just think of the social consequences of building the wall and making Mexico pay for it, along with the possible mass deportation of Mexican workers from the U.S.

Today, as perhaps never before, it is urgent that social movements on both sides of the border seek spaces to meet and discuss and develop joint campaigns. Solidarity is crucial to curb racist hatred. An internationalist spirit is the only way to defeat xenophobic nationalism. There are many possible meeting points. Hundreds of movements that for years have been resisting ecocidal mega projects in Mexico now see themselves in the mirror of Standing Rock; dozens of political prisoners in Mexican jails and the protesters recently detained in the U.S. facing up to 10 years in prison suffer from the same repressive policies; women who, since last year, have taken to the streets throughout Latin America against violence against women and femicide find their sisters in the millions of "pink pussy hats."

Peña Nieto and Trump: No pasarán! They will not pass! United we will win!

Mexico City, January 25, 2017

This statement originally appeared in Spanish at the Revolutionary Workers' Party website and in English translation at International Viewpoint.