Oaxaca, MEXICO, Feb. 15 — Today, 70 thousand teachers of Section 22 of the SNTE carried out a one day strike and mass marches to protest against the state government and Governor Ulises Ruiz. Teachers demanded that the jailed political prisoners be freed (teachers, students and workers arrested during the teachers strike of 2006), better working conditions, and that the schools taken over by the state and given to Section 59 (supporters of the fascist governor) be returned.
The fight between Oaxaca’s working class and the government began when the teacher’s union demanding a better contract had confrontations with the police in which several of its members where beaten and another killed. This event unleashed years of Oaxaca’s workers’ pent up anger at the government that has done nothing to improve the massive poverty, racism against indigenous people, and unemployment in the area, and has instead used the police to savagely oppress students and workers who demand better conditions. A coalition of different community based and student organizations, as well as, the teachers’ union and political parties formed APPO (Asemblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca) to lead a struggle which took over major roads, schools, government buildings, and radio stations in Oaxaca. The struggle climaxed in the fall of last year when students and workers bravely fought several battles against the Mexican government’s federal police over control of Oaxaca. Eventually, the Mexican government prevailed over the APPO led forces taking Oaxaca back and imprisoning leaders of the struggle.
Now, a little over a year later workers and students who participated in this struggle continue to fight. Teachers are fighting to change Sec. 22’s leadership whom they blame for having sold out during last year’s struggle. Many workers and students also blame APPO leaders for too closely allying themselves with mainstream political parties like Lopez Obrador’s PRD. More importantly, teachers, workers and students are talking about the movement’s strengths and weaknesses. What went wrong? Why did it fail?
Overall, the struggle in Oaxaca has elevated the political consciousness of workers and students. Members of PLP have participated in these struggles and in these discussions inside the teachers’ union and on university campuses.
Recently, at a neighborhood committee led by teachers, a group of PLP’ers gave a political economy presentation explaining how the capitalist system is responsible for the exploitation and oppression of workers. They also pointed out that the movement was limited primarily by the reformist politics put forth by its leadership. One teacher agreed and stated that fundamental and permanent change would only come as a result of a revolution; but to take on the Mexican government we need communist ideas and, to defeat it, armed struggle for workers’ power. The PLP’ers introduced CHALLENGE/DESAFIO and argued that the most difficult part of the struggle is the one over ideas and developing a political understanding that enables workers to build a movement with a long term and revolutionary communist outlook. The discussion concluded with the committee agreeing to organize a study group based on CHALLENGE/DESAFIO and other PLP literature.
As a result of PLPer’s participation in this movement, the Party has grown and strengthened. Many students and workers in Oaxaca know about PLP and respect its principled stance on the need for revolutionary communism. Now, as workers and students reflect on the lessons learned from the struggle, they are more open and willing to learn about PLP and its politics.