Interview from Mexico

Oaxaca: Two tendencies at the APPO Congress

November 20, 2006

On the 10, 11 and 12 of November, the Constituent
Congress of the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de
Oaxaca (APPO) was carried out. We interviewed Mario
Caballero, leader of the Liga de Trabajadores por el
Socialismo - Contracorriente, member of the Fracción
Trotskista - Cuarta Internacional.

- In what context did the Congress of the APPO held in
Oaxaca take place?

The Congress took place in a context marked by the
heroic resistance of the masses of Oaxaca, and
especially by the victory of the “Battle of the Ciudad
Universitaria,†on November 2 (see La Verdad Obrera
No. 212), when thousands of students, workers and
residents defeated the repressive attempt of the
Policía Federal Preventiva (PFP) to evict the APPO
from one of its central bastions on the campus of the
Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UABJO).
It happened in a context where sectors of the regime
are asking the PRI Governor Ulises Ruiz (URO) to step
aside, while the PRI continues without ceding Ulises
Ruiz’s exit, because of the big political costs that
would entail. And it happens in a situation where
sectors of the leadership of the movement have tried
by multiple means to stop the struggle without yet
having achieved its demands. An example of that is the
treacherous attitude of the leadership of Section 22
of the CNTE (teachers’ union), but also the policy of
sectors like Flavio Sosa and FPR (Frente Popular
Revolucionario, a reformist organization of Stalinist
derivation, part of the conciliatory sector of the
leadership), that were proposing and still propose new
“cooling-off†measures, like taking down part of the
barricades while the PFP still occupies Oaxaca. In
other words, handing over control of the city to the
federal government. At the same time, part of these
sectors have been imposing an approach to the PRD, a
party that always tried to differentiate itself from
the radicalism of the APPO, and now, after the entry
of the PFP, [the PRD] is trying to get on top of the
movement to prevent its radicalization and put an end
to the open conflict in Oaxaca. However, the arrival
of the national leader of the PRD in the middle of the
Congress caused a lot of discontent, the rank and file
was yelling, “APPO, APPO,†and slogans against the
PRD’s tapping into the movement.

- What sectors expressed themselves?

The Congress was intersected by two big tendencies: on
one hand, the broad base of teachers and of the
communities that sent delegates (around 3,000
altogether), with a big mood of remaining firm on the
demand “URO, Out,†the suspension of [URO’s] authority
[“desaparición de poderes†] and the demand that the
leadership should approve forceful plans of action. On
the other hand, the leaders and organizations that are
betting that the APPO will transform itself into a
political movement within the framework of the regime
and that they wanted to deactivate the struggle.
Through maneuvers and pressure, these sectors tried to
curb the militancy of the APPO and direct the struggle
toward the institutional path [of] participating in
the state legislature. The APPO Congress confirmed the
existence of a broad militant vanguard that sustained
the struggle against the PFP (in spite of the fact
that the leadership failed to prepare the resistance
for Sunday, October 27). This vanguard, that set up
the barricades on November 2, now expressed itself
politically by arguing against the proposals to give
up the struggle. We are talking about a sector that
expresses a new subjectivity that is beginning to
arise in Mexico, with radicalized methods, but also
setting up superior forms of organization and
mechanisms of self-defense.

- What were the central discussions and proposals?

Although the conciliatory sectors allowed the
discontent of the rank and file with the “cooling offâ€
policies to be expressed during the first two days,
when the proposals that would guide the action of the
APPO were to be presented, the leadership tried to
approve as the first resolution, that people would
begin returning to work in Oaxaca as had been
happening, but in a formal manner, by proposing “that
the federal government negotiate with the APPO so that
it could return power to the state government and in
exchange for that, a place in the state legislature
would be given to the APPO.†When the podium read out
this proposal, there was indignation among the
Congress participants, who began to yell that “now the
struggle was being sold out,†to which the
conciliatory sectors responded by yelling, “unity,â€
and the Congress participants answered them, “Yes,
unity, but without union bureaucrats.â€

Faced with this resolution, a broad sector of the
delegates presented a proposal that aimed at
developing democratic representation in the APPO and
designing a strategy on how to convert this into
popular power in the state. The leadership, seeing
that it was not possible to arrive at a consensus,
chose to leave the dispute unresolved. In spite of
that, two visions were set forth: one, to continue
using institutional methods through the electoral
processes, and the other, to move forward in deeds
toward “popular power.â€

Another big discussion was around forming the new
leadership. It was agreed to form the Popular Council
of the APPO, a state collegial body composed of 260
people, which will not have a single or permanent
leader. The members of the council will be
representatives of the seven regions of the state and
of the sectors belonging [to the APPO], like the
indigenous peoples, workers, peasants, and students.
Former political prisoners and members of the APPO
with arrest warrants for having participated in the
movement, will be honorary members.

In spite of the loss of prestige of some of the
leaders (like Rueda Pacheco, whose dismissal was
demanded), the most radicalized sectors of the APPO
did not manage to get rid of the conciliators from the
old leadership, who, through various maneuvers,
prevented [the APPO from] moving forward to establish
a leadership more in keeping with the struggle set
forth, by adopting a program and a policy for that.

- Perspectives

What actions have been set forth and what are the

The Congress approved a plan of action in which the
need to recover the center of Oaxaca and to begin
building the barricades again -on a date still to be
determined—, the seizure of state and municipal
public offices, and blockading highways, was imposed
on the leadership. Together with this, it was agreed
that the demand, “URO, get out,†cannot be negotiated
or withdrawn.

The perspectives are complicated. After the victory of
the resistance of November 2, and the result from the
Congress itself, the best way out for the regime seems
to be to negotiate the exit of URO, waiting until
January 12 so as to avoid calling early elections in
the state. Anyway, the development of the Congress
showed that a real political struggle exists in the
APPO, and that conditions exist for the rise of an
organized and militant left that can challenge the
conciliatory wing (which the regime continues to seek
to co-opt and so to encourage and strengthen it) for
the leadership. As part of the sector of the vanguard,
it is important to emphasize the anti-bureaucratic
process in the unions that participate in the APPO,
organized in the Frente de Sindicatos y Organizaciones
Democráticas de Oaxaca (FSODO), since for sectors of
the workers -above all in the unions of UABJO and
health [workers]-their leaderships immobilize and
display bureaucratic features.

From the LTS-CC we made a proposal to this Congress,
maintaining that to achieve the demands, it is
necessary to oppose any “cooling-off†measure and
[oppose any] attempt to stop the struggle while URO
has not resigned. It is necessary to fight to throw
the PFP and URO out, by retaking the path of state and
national mobilization, promoting a national strike in
solidarity with the struggle of the people of Oaxaca
for these demands.

In this proposal we also put forward the need to
continue moving forward to strengthen the APPO as an
organ of self-organization for the struggle, by adding
all the sectors that defend the Oaxaca Commune. Also,
to advance in the struggle for a provisional
government of the APPO and the other organizations in
struggle, against every attempt to transform it into
an organization adapted to the rotten pro-boss regime
of Oaxaca.

The “inheritance†left by the Fox government, that is
hounded by multiple problems and very weakened at the
end of its mandate, is a time-bomb that Felipe
Calderón will have to confront. Then it will be a new
President with a great lack of legitimacy, who will
have to define very soon how to confront the APPO and
the national discontent.

The victory of the struggle of Oaxaca would strengthen
the national struggle against the “regime of
alternating parties.†The aim of this struggle must be
to prepare a political general strike so that Fox,
Calderón and the bourgeois politicians will leave, on
the road to a government of the workers and their
allies in city and countryside.