Mexico: Teachers continue strike despite extreme repression
Struggle against government's neoliberal agenda needed
Mexican police shot dead ten people, mostly striking teachers, in the southern state of Oaxaca. In response to this brutal repression teachers have blocked highways leading to fuel and other shortages. Adam Ziemkowski of Socialist Alternative (CWI, USA) reports on this bitter class struggle.
Tens of thousands of teachers in Mexico have been on strike since 16 May, led by the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), in opposition to an education reform law that would open the door to mass firings of teachers, weaken public sector unions, and pave the way for the privatisation of public education.
The neoliberal government of president Enrique Peņa Nieto took a hardline approach towards the teachers' strike from the start, refusing to negotiate with the CNTE, firing more than 4,000 teachers for striking, and arresting key CNTE leaders on trumped up charges.
The repression took a violent turn on 19 June when at least ten people were killed, most from the Oaxacan town of Nochixtlan.
In the wake of these killings, the CNTE has vowed to continue its opposition to the education reforms, receiving considerable community support. In Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the National Revolutionary Movement (Morena) party held an enormous rally with as many as 250,000 people by some estimates in support of the teachers.
There has also been a tremendous amount of international support. Seattle City councillor Kshama Sawant expressed solidarity with the striking CNTE teachers on behalf of Socialist Alternative and the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), in a letter and video.
The Peņa Nieto government, for its part, has refused to back down and Education Minister Aurelio Nuņo reiterated plans to implement the counter-reforms.
The CNTE opposes the 'reform' law because it would allow the government to administer standardised tests and use them to evaluate teachers, opening them up to arbitrary attacks. It would also reduce unions' control over the hiring of teachers and limit the number of unionised workers that the state can employ. Overall, the law would be a step towards privatising public education in Mexico.
But this struggle is about more than the education reforms. Teachers and public sector unions have been at the forefront of the opposition to the neoliberal agenda of the Mexican ruling class, and the Peņa Nieto government hopes to weaken that opposition. The government's inability to achieve this goal, in spite of how severely it has repressed the CNTE and teachers, reveals the fundamental weakness of the Mexican ruling class.
Capitalism has been an utter failure for ordinary people in Mexico. It cannot guarantee jobs with decent wages and living standards to most people, nor ensure basic safety.
Nearly 50% of the Mexican population lives in poverty, including 40 million children, while super-wealthy individuals like Carlos Slim, whose personal wealth is more than $75 billion, accumulate tremendous fortunes.
Capitalism in Mexico, however, will not fall on its own. More working people will need to follow the lead of the CNTE teachers and wage an organised struggle against the education reform law as well as other attempts by the government to impose its neoliberal agenda. Workers also urgently need a political force capable of providing an alternative vision to the bankrupt system of capitalism.