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And another thing… back to the future

2 July 2018

Once more, from “Real News Network”… see you in 24 minutes with a few miscellaneous thoughts.

Amazing as the election results were, it’s not over: as both Lauta Carlsen and ALex Main note, that while the Presidential victory margin was more than enough to guarantee the Morena-coaliton victory, fraud will be apparent in some of the “down-ballot” races, especially those for legislative seats. The old party system is by no means dead, and … unmentioned… not all of those elected on the Juntos Haremos Historia ticket (the Morena-Workers-Social Encounter coalition ticket) are squeaky-clean themselves. More than a few were opportunists who sensed which way the poltiical winds were blowing, or disgruntled office seekers denied a candidacy by their traditional party.

THat said, and recognizing this as a watershed event, I see it more as a return to Mexican tradition, than as a break with the past. Only with the recent past. Mexico never has sought to be a world power, or even invested much in attempting to become a regional one. Except for material support for the American Revolution (and that was under the Viceregal reign) and in the anti-Fascist 1930s and 40s, it stayed out of other countries affairs, and just accepted them the way they were. Unlike Brazil, which under Lula, wanted a larger role in the United Nations (including a pemanant seat on the Security Council), and was keen to extend its economic reach into neighboring countries like Paraguay, AMLO is more in the tradition of past leaders… and I would include Santa Anna here: as Benito Juarez phrased it, “Entre los individuos, como entre las Naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz“.. or more colloquially, “Stay out of my shit, and I’ll stay out of yours”. With the exception of Pancho Filla, our heroes are not those that fought to preserve what we had, not to extend power: Cuauhtémoc, Guillermo Lombardo, Hidalgo, Morelos, Benito Juarez, and even Porfirio (“Between us and the gringos.. the desert!”) Díaz. Respect us, come if you like, but we don’t tell you what to do, so don’t try to control us, or tell us how to do things.

Given that, one can’t ignore the (orange haired) elephant in the room. Since Don Porfiro’s day, Mexican business has had to concern itself with an over-dependence on exports headed one direction: north. Porfirio attempted in a way to balance the equation, although keeping us dependent on foreigners: German tecnology and military equipment, French banking, British and American mining and oil exploitation. It was, in large part (or the major part) what the Revolution sought to overcome. The most creative years of the Revolutionary era were the 920s up until World War II… when Mexico turned inward, looking for solutions to its own issues. This did not mean it paid no attention to the outside world, but rather that it adapted its own way of working within the increasingly complex international business community. That we nationalized natural resources didn’t unduly ruffle supply or demand (although not without political costs), nor did Mexico’s non-interventionist foreign policy prevent us from being seen as a respectable nation and a “moral” one. Mexico’s lonely stand against the Anschluss, and its stand in the League of Nations against Italian aggression in Ethiopia, and it’s refusal later to join the U.S. led boycott of Cuba, may have been quixotic, but given it’s traditions, Mexico could do no other.

Finally, I would point out that since the Revolution, and Alvaro Obregon’s forumaltion of the Revolutionary Family to include all those who fought in the Revolution, regardless of economic ideology, Mexico has pursued an “flexible” political ideology. Millionaires and peasants, farmers and landlords, workers and employers… everyone with the Revolution was absorbed into the family. The family becoming the PRI. There was here (less abroad) talk that AMLO was just the “old PRI”… but that’s not a bad thing. The “old PRI” — for all its faults (and they were legion) — did promote economic an social growth. There was a 5% per year rise in GNP in the last years before NAFTA, followed by an anemic 1 or 2 percent rise in the years since. What made the difference? The neo-liberal wing of the PRI gained control of what was a big tent (a very big tent) authoritarian party. There was always a leftist cohort within the PRI and not all left when the PRD became the presumed party of the left. Many, like Beatriz Rangel, who during her short tenure as Party Chair renewed ties with Socialist International, stayed for the simple reason that the PRI was the party that was able to get things done. That the PRI dominated government was not a problem simply resolved by electing the anti-Revolutionary PAN to the Presidency, nor by absorbing what had been the disappointed PRI-istas turned PRDistas into one large party whose salient point was “we’re not PRI”… other than that, they might as well have been.

The voters said enough to pleasing other nations, or a small self-proclaimed elite. They showed a lack of respect to their neighbors, and it was, among neighbors, that Mexicans overwhelmingly voted to respect their neighbors and demand respect for themselves.

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