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Month October 2013

Letter From Mexico

Note: The following was written by a Mexican comrade of Insurgent Notes, in response to an inquiry about a very upbeat Financial Times assessment, in the late spring, of the Mexican economy under the new president Enrique Peña Nieto. –The Editors.

Mexico City

What the Financial Times says is completely false. The Economist and other “global” magazines have emphasized the “reset” of the Mexican economy, but there is not much to say on this count:

  • it is not possible for the government to have realized this so-called turnaround in six months;
  • the very same official bourgeois press in Mexico, as well as the leading business associations, are talking about a fall in the GDP in the first quarter of the year;
  • even worse, because of the Fed’s (the United States Federal Reserve Bank) interest rate increases, a lot of capital has flowed out of Mexico, which is red-flagging a possible devaluation of the Mexican peso (which had previously surprised people by its “strength”) against the dollar and the euro;
  • My explanation is that Mexico, and its submissive attitude, is one of the countries “tolerated” by Washington and London; that’s why they are talking up the new government. At the moment, the major decision to completely privatize PEMEX[1] is pending; this is the chicken laying the golden eggs for our government and country, and thus the global chorus calling for the smooth enactment of this reform is being cranked up to ensure that it happens.
  • There has been much hoopla about the so-called Pact for Mexico, which is a blatant and cynical agreement of all the parties (the PRI, the PRD and the PAN)[2] to support a series of reforms: in the energy sector (sale of PEMEX), and of the government tax agency. Both reforms have been seen as flashpoints which would set off a social confrontation. But now, the acceptance of these reforms by the official left is no secret but is seen rather as symbols of maturity and political strength. In this sense, the PRI government is a total success. There is, on the other hand, a split from the PRD, which claims to maintain the continuity of a reformist and nationalist left, and also claims to be launching a new party which will be called MORENA. However, this is an embryonic organization, and the general mood is one of skepticism about political parties, fear, individualism, apathy, depression, etc.
  • Finally, adopting somewhat the “final crisis” interpretation of the ICC[3] (with which I do not agree and in which I have never believed, namely that the crisis of capitalism is a kind of zero growth combined with the impossibility of the emergence of new national powers), there has been no improvement for the middle classes. For people such as myself who are pushing 50, the Mexico I saw in the 1970s and mid-1980s was very different from the Mexico of today, seen in a long-term perspective: it is possible for a young professional to be employed in a transnational company and to earn a good “salary,” to live in a comfortable apartment, for both him and his wife to have nice cars, to have all kinds of computers and apps, and to travel abroad. But these successful “young people” have neither the sufficient income nor the psychological ability to support a family of four or more children, and further, to provide them with university educations, as some proletarian families managed to do in the 1960s when the country was growing and when there was something of a Keynesian welfare state and the like, making possible a certain social mobility. No, the successful young people today have difficulty separating from their families, do not marry and still less have children, but at most a pet; they have no prospect of a secure retirement and medical insurance.
  • The rest is a disaster. The “war against the narco-traffic continues; what has changed is the manipulation of information. Mexico continues to be a country of massive massacres, assassinations of journalists and activists, and a growing militarization.
  • Of course, the wonder of capitalism is its ability to remake itself through shit: violence, poverty, drugs, weaponry, etc., and alongside that, big tourist centers, new shopping malls, bigger and bigger cars, absurd real estate projects, etc., etc.

PS. One point in the preceding may be inaccurate: when I say that Mexico continues to have “massive” massacres, perhaps it would be better to say “collective” ones. I have never understood what number is necessary to merit the adjective “massive.” In this country, many people like to pretend that “nothing is happening,” and that what is being said is an “exaggeration.” In fact, we Mexicans say that we are the country where “nothing happens,” describing in this way a cruel national subjectivity characterized by a peculiar mixture of indolence, indifference, and individualism…but more than anything by a profound fear of ourselves in the shadow of “barbarous Mexico”[4] or “wild Mexico.” In the last instance, this is the topic of much speculative social psychology, which Marxism has quite rightly avoided, but which continues to demand some kind of explanation. But certainly, by comparison with the great historical massacres, it is not “exact” to call the murder of 10, 20 or even 50 to 70 people in a single “event” a massive massacre; I don’t know. But don’t think I’m digressing into macabre ideas, but only that I feel that not even we who are living in Mexico understand what is happening in this new Colombia.

N.

  1. [1] Pemex is Mexico’s petroleum industry, previously owned by US and British capital, and nationalized in 1938.
  2. [2] The Partido Revolucionario Institucional, which ruled the country from 1930 to 2000 and which returned to power in 2006, and won again in 2012 election; the Partido Revolucionario Democratico, a left-center opposition party around the populist Lopez Obrador, and the right-wing Partido de Accion Nacional, which defeated the PRI in 2000.
  3. [3] The International Communist Current, which has argued for decades for a view of the decadence of capitalism as an historical mode of production.
  4. [4] The title of a famous 1910 exotic travel account by John Kenneth Turner.