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Politics by other means

13 September 2012

In a way, this SDPNoticias heading is the most disturbing statement I’ve seen  since the presidential elections:

While I realize that Gustavo Cárdenas Monroy, of the Federal District’s PRI Central Committee was only calling for people to put their differences behind them… the sort of remark that most political actors make after winning an election (or at least being declared the winners). But if Cárdenas Monroy is quoted correctly, what he is saying is that the CITIZENRY should be relieved of taking any role in the decision-making process.

He considers it a good sign that the left has understood that the way forward is to respect the institutions and that all social and political organizations recognize the critical role they play in the country’s development.

He also assured that president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto´s newly-appointed transition team is committed to outlining the actions that Mexico needs to be strong, democratic and modern.

While I am not a citizen, and take no part in Mexican political decisions (nor seek to influence them), I would certainly expect my co-workers, friends, neighbors, conocidos, etc. who are citizens presumably depend on “social and political organizations” to represent their own varied and conflicting interests.  Even a quasi-one party state, conflict was build-in to the “Mexican system” best defined by a friend of mine as a “consensus capitalist state”:  that is, while officially a Socialist party, the PRI itself included not just labor and bureaucratic interests, but business and financial leaders, traditionalists, nationalists, modernists, and intellectuals… all of whom were expected to slug it out (within the Party itself, though sometimes spilling into the streets) eventually coming to some sort of compromise that — if not satisfactory to all — was either something everyone could live with, or something that the losers were expected to resist.  The amount and nature of resistance acted as a counterbalance to complete top-down decision making.

I suppose there are those who would like a return to one-party dominance — not that I know anyone like that.  And I suppose you might be able to enforce some sort of consensus even in a multi-party system among party leaders.

When Andres Manuel Lopez Obradór announced last Sunday that he was leaving his old party, the PRD, to work in an undefined role in an undefined organization (which may end up being another political party), it was not necessarily either a break in the leftist coalition, nor a withdrawal from politics.  As Aguachile noted:

This is, then, a separation from party politics, though he may next turn his social movement MORENA into a party in near future:

In this new stage of my life, I will dedicate all my imagination and work to the cause of the transformation of Mexico. I will do this from the space that MORENA represents, and therefore separate myself from the parties of the Movimiento Progresista [the name of the 2012 coalition].

This is not a rupture; I leave on the best terms. I separate myself from the  the progressive parties with my deepest thanks to their leaders and activists.

Yesterday, the left’s governors-elect and PRD, the largest party on the left, declared they will accept Enrique Peña Nieto’s victory, however grudgingly – which clearly distinguished them from AMLO. There is rarely such a thing as a coincidence in politics.

The PRD, after all, as a political party HAS to govern or legislate under the existing system… which means that “grudgingly” or otherwise, it has no choice BUT to accept Peña Nieto’s de facto role as President-elect.  By stepping outside of the established system,  AMLO, and those who he represents, or have chosen him and his movement as their representatives — are not obliged to do so, and are free to continue their fight, in politics, but not in the political system.

What I mean is that both legally and practically, representation is through political PARTIES for right now, but there is widespread dissatisfaction both with the political options, and with the choice of candidates.  And, one needs to remember that one of Peña Nieto’s campaign promises (though there were too many to count, it was one of the bigger though less commented on ones) was to “downsize” the legislature, making it even harder for minority — dissenting — voices to be represented in the legislature.  The practical effect of doing away with plurinomial seats would be to drive out the minor parties, forcing them to either merge with the larger parties (and hoping to be heard much the way dissident groups within the one big party of the pre-1990s PRI hoped to have SOME effect on the overall party structure) or go outside party politics altogether… either violently (as some of the Communist groups did in the 1960s and 70s) or non-violently, as AMLO as proposed.

Secondly, from both left and right, there have been serious proposals for an overhaul of the electoral/political system, to allow “independent” candidates, law-making by initiative and referendum, or other changes in how the system functions.   Good luck making those kinds of changes when the people making the rules got where they were by making the rules they wanted.  Think about the difficulties there are in the United States just in getting legislatures to conceive of allowing more than the two existing parties there are now on the ballot as other than window dressing.  Systems don’t change easily.  Not from inside, anyway.

And third.  The “mainstream” leadership of the PRD is largely made up of what I call the “Euro-socialist” wing of the Mexican left.  They are technocrats (like the French educated Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón),  academics (like former UNAM rector,Juan Ramón de la Fuente), or professional politicians (uauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano and Manuel Camacho Solís).  While, like AMLO, their base is largely Mexico City and environs, AMLO’s faithful are less the urban upper bourgeois as it is the working class and the campesinos.  And, AMLO — while a wily pol, comes from a very different background… rural Tabasco, with his political schooling being in union and community organization, not the Sorbonne or being born into the party.  He is from the trenches of the old PRI and a product of more traditionalist Mexican leftism.  That the “new, improved PRD” is defining itself as a Social Democratic Party does not mean its interests won’t coincide with whatever organization AMLO allies himself with, but it does mean that the traditionalist left will be critical to the PRD’s electoral success.

And the price of those votes?  We’ll see…


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