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Socialists Unite… and head for the beach

19 November 2008

With the world news focused on the United States’ economic meltdown and the incoming Obama Administration, the Iraq War and… here in Mexico… the Mourino air crash and the war on (some) drugs, there’s been almost no coverage of this.  The governing council of Socialist International — a world-wide body of various socialist, social-democratic and labor parties — is meeting in Puerta Vallarta.

Almost nothing has appeared in the press on this, and it is more or less a policy session for these various parties.  SI president, George Papandreau of the Greek socialist party, PASOK, perhaps was speaking ironically when he opened the session with remarks on the “danger” of socialist priniciples becoming fashionable during the economic crisis:

“For us, this development was a pleasant surprise, but we do not want to become a fashion. We want our principles and values to remain clear and stable. We have a great responsibility to make things clear, as conservative forces have created an upheaval. However, the challenge we are facing is historic,” Papandreou said.

The SI president presented five proposals for a way out of the economic crisis.

Firstly, the creation of a fund for social protection in order for social security to be guaranteed, particularly in developing countries.

Secondly, the establishment of a special fund which will support small and medium-size businesses and the employees working in them. ?This will be an answer to one of the greatest problems of the international economic crisis,? Papandreou said.

Thirdly, the creation of a special fund which will undertake the support of fluidity in the economy.

Fourthly, special measures for the support of developing countries and their economies, which must have fluidity so that they do not end up bankrupt.

Fifthly, the promotion of the necessary reforms in the international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.

Nothing particularly remarkable in all this, but SI vice-president and host of the conference, is PRI chair Beatriz Paredes Rangel. We sometimes overlook the fact that the largest Mexican party, the PRI, and the third largest, PRD, are both socialist parties. Paredes has been trying during her tenure to move her party back to the left, and away from the “technocratic” and centerist role in Mexican politics. What was most notable at this Puerta Vallarta meeting was that Paredes is suggesting a merger between PRI and PRD.

Notimex)

La Presidenta? (Photo: Notimex)

Party switching is not a sin in Mexican politics, nor is changing coalition partners.  The Greens were at one time allied with PAN, but having been frozen out of cabinet positions during the Fox Administration, have partnered with PRI.  Fox, incidentally, would not have won the presidency without Green and two smaller (now defunct) Social Democratic party support.  The PRI remains the largest party in Mexico, but PAN has been able to win national elections (assuming it did win) because of the split between them and PRD.

The PRD seems to be hopelessly split between two factions, with the AMLO-led faction which also theatens to break the “FAP” congressional coalition of the PRD, Convergencia and the Workers’ Party.  AMLO, and his wing of the PRD may move to Convergencia, which would open the way for Paredes to unite PRD and PRI, at least create a strong fusion ticket that would represent over half the electorate.  It could, conceivably, also work with the further left Convergencia and Workers’ Party in local elections (or at the national level) or the Social Democrats, who are not members of SI.

I don’t know what the former Tlaxcala governor’s long-range ambitions are, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she was the PRI presidential candidate in 2012… or Mexico’s first woman president. At the conference, Paredes outlined her own suggestions for the Mexican party, mostly financial protection for the poorest workers, more assistance to agricultural sectors and safe-guarding the political process from narco-dollars.  The latter may cost her some party officials (quite a few, depending on who you listen to), but still, it’s not all that radical.  And, a purge of those party leaders suspected of corruption (like Governor Ulises Ruiz of Oaxaca) might improve the PRI’s image with voters who backed PAN on the theory that it was somehow more “honest” than the others, but are having buyers’ remorse at this point.

And, by the way, there is no United States party represented in Socialist International.  There’s a small informal “Democratic Socialists” organization in the U.S., but it has nothing to do with the Democratic party, nor any other U.S. party.  The only Socialist in Federal office that I can think of is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont… and given what the Socialists International is talking about between dips in the ocean and trips to Senor Frog’s, they don’t sound all that radical right now.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 19 November 2008 10:40 pm

    Paredes should be a candidate in the PRI primaries, but there seems to be no derailing the juggernaut lead by State of Mexico Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto. He must be considered the early favorite.

    Look for the PRI and PRD to form alliances in the PAN heartlands of Jalisco, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi and Queretaro – of all which hold local or gubernatorial elections next year and are hopelessly out of reach for any non-conservative party – but not nationally. PAN might actually perform well on the local level next year, but only because of the locations of the various elections. (The midterms are another matter.)

    As for the left-wing parties: The Chucho Ortega wing of the PRD and the PSD – formerly Alternativa, but without Patricia Mercado – look set to join forces. Mercado bolted, in part, over her opposition to forming alliances with other parties. The PT and Convergence alos just linked up – they have regional bases of support and should get an assist from AMLO – and decided against going with the PRD. So much for the FAP.

  2. 20 November 2008 4:35 am

    Actually, the small democratic socialist group in the United States is informal mainly in that we don’t generally wear suits. The group, DSA, is not a political party, however, and in that way we are something of an anomaly as a full member of the SI. On the other hand, I’m not sure that the U.S. can be said to actually HAVE political parties in the sense that other countries do. For what it’s worth, the Democratic Party is represented in the SI through its foreign policy “think tank”, the National Democratic Institute that has “associated organization” status. The NDI also has this status with the Liberal International.
    This is an interesting article; thanks.
    be well,
    bob roman
    chicago

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