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A curious sort of leftist… August 16, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Been wondering about López Obrador in Mexico ever since reading a long piece on him in the New Yorker last year. As this piece notes, he’s curtailing the right to protest in that country – despite himself being a serial protestor. And there are other things too:

Amlo’s approval rating remains on more than 60%, though he has stoked disquiet on the left – of which he claims to be a part – with moves such as announcing austerity measures, creating a militarised police to calm the country and attacking critical media outlets.

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1. FergusD - August 16, 2019

He is a pseudo leftist, wheeled out to divert and confuse the working class. Maybe not an actual conspiracy, although you do begin to wonder. Perhaps he believed he was a good guy, but as he doesn’t have the ideology to really oppose the demands of capital his trajectory is inevitable.

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yourcousin - August 16, 2019

“he doesn’t have the ideology to really oppose the demands of capital his trajectory is inevitable.”

I don’t think its a matter of ideology. I can’t think of any politician who has become “more leftwing” once elected. His election should be seen as much a protest against the corruption of PRI, PAN, and PRD then as a left wing turn of the nation.

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2. Liberius - August 16, 2019

At a press conference on Feb. 1, López Obrador said his government would embrace what he called “Franciscan poverty” if it would “transfer funds to the people” and achieve “development, jobs and welfare.”…

…López Obrador’s poverty vow is more bureaucratic than religious. As part of an ambitious effort to fight poverty and reduce government corruption, the president proposed to cut the salaries of public officials, including his own, slash federal budgets and lay off 70 percent of non-unionized federal workers. An estimated 276,290 public employees will lose their jobs…

…Over 20,000 public servants have also filed individual complaints in federal courts, saying salary cuts violate their labor rights. Under Mexican law, legislation is deemed retrospective – and thus unconstitutional – if it affects the vested rights of individuals. Employers, including the federal government, cannot unilaterally reduce their employees’ wages.

At least 12,817 Mexican public servants have already been laid off under López Obrador’s austerity plan. Many of those who have kept their jobs have seen their social security benefits and vacation time eliminated under the new law…

All of that looks fairly similar to attacks on public sector pay and conditions here, right down to the notion that this is only making things fairer on the beleaguered private sector worker, one type of worker pitched against another in a race to the bottom rather than an effort to lift the standards for all. On that farcical framing of “Franciscan poverty” here’s a quote from the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels had the number of people like López Obrador.

As the parson has ever gone hand in hand with the landlord, so has Clerical Socialism with Feudal Socialism.

Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a Socialist tinge. Has not Christianity declaimed against private property, against marriage, against the State? Has it not preached in the place of these, charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, monastic life and Mother Church? Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch03.htm

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WorldbyStorm - August 16, 2019

Thanks for that – clearly he’s no leftist at all

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yourcousin - August 16, 2019

I would caution against such simplistic approaches as ascribed by the likes of Marx and Engels. Or of likening the situation in Mexico to that of say Europe. The reduction of the public work force may be unpalatable to those of the European left, but for many of us it is not a litmus test of progressiveness that we would want to fall on a sword over.

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3. Lamentreat - August 17, 2019

AMLO… it’s complicated and a bit depressing. Mexico is to some degree a political Alice in Wonderland: it very much has its own history on the left, with patterns very different from Europe but also other parts of Latin America. The army, for example, has not played the same role here as in many Central American countries, for example; likewise, the particular politics of race are very specific here; also what the Revolution meant etc. is kind of sui generis. So you have to feel your way into the political and historical landscape.

What is true is that the MORENA (Lopez Obrador’s party) government in has in some ways been startlingly conservative: in its fiscal and economic policy and attitude to the markets; in its foreign policy, above all in its early decision to not to confront the US on anything. On security, there has been an apparent remilitarization (of continued militarization) of policy on the rampant violence across the country, and now also on migration and border control, basically doing Trump’s dirty work.

Also relevant is how the AMLO idea of “republican austerity” (which was not bad in itself) turned out in practice to be very like austerity elsewhere. At best, maybe, cannibalizing one part of the state to fund another. Some of the projects the government has launched do seem to have directed money at certain sections of the poor, but even that has a kind of Friedmanite vibe about it, often as direct individual payments so people can pay for training courses, sort of thing, rather than building up really effective new state educational institutions or whatever.

And what there has been absolutely nothing of, is any real move – even in the most vague, slight, social democratic form – to begin wealth redistribution, in what is among the most unequal countries in the world. Not even a whiff of it. Mexico faces the most extraordinary conjunction of structural problems: it has social tensions are spewing out extraordinary levels of violence; it has class/caste relations that are hierarchical and authoritarian to a degree that makes Ireland seem like a harmonious egalitarian Trumpton. And there can no halfway possible solutions to this with some substantial equalization among its 130 million people, something on the scale of post-45 Western Europe, for example. That’s the bare minimum: it’s just obvious.

The depressing thing is that those conservative choices made by a government that had the biggest popular mandate in decades. Since de facto multi-candidate elections came in recent decades, mostly r-wing presidents have won on a 30 percent plurality, not much more than that. But the 2018 election was a huge wave of support: AMLO took 53 percent, with a new party, directly calling for reform and change on a historical scale. That is a massive victory here, a big deal. But it seems that even a democratic movement on that scale, with that kind of support, does not have the political strength to take on the profound vested interests it has to confront, vested interests that are heavily armed with guns and/or with money.

Unfortunately, MORENA capitulated almost immediately to the markets, the US, to the domestic rich. It may have had little choice. And the thought arises: if *this* government can’t tackle those powerful interests, then Mexico really is fucked, because there is no obvious solution to enormous structural problems it faces – social, political, economic, environmental. And things will keep getting worse.

But there are two other things: 1) there are big problems with the government but a lot of this is a recent turn of events. In earlier decades, AMLO was a sometimes a genuinely progressive figure (as mayor of Mexico City for example), although with occasional odd conservative lurches, granted. The Zapatistas say he’s been a statist productivist bastard all along, but not everyone on the left would agree with that. 2) There is still very widespread support for the government among the population at large, maybe 60 or 70 percent in opinion polls. This slightly baffles and embarrasses much of the Mexico City center/right-wing intelligentsia, who like to portray him as a dangerous fool. But ultimately that support has to be given its due. He still commands the hopes of a large number of people, and they are not, on the whole, from groups who have traditional run the country. For the moment people are willing to back him, and that has to be borne in mind.

If yr interested, I say some of that in a bit more detail (more optimistically, it was written in late Jan). I think it is open access:
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13569325.2019.1608517

A bit on Mexican labor relations here:
https://nacla.org/news/2019/07/10/mexico’s-striking-university-workers-war-attrition-over-public-education

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WorldbyStorm - August 17, 2019

Thanks for that – a really helpful insight into the situation

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yourcousin - August 17, 2019

Lamentreat,
Just read both articles. Excellent and informative. I printed the first off here at work and highlighted as I read. Thank you.

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Lamentreat - August 17, 2019

Great, really happy they were of use.

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