Mexico: The largest mobilisation of polytechnic students since 1968

 

Original article: http://www.marxist.com/2014-10-02-11-59-33.htm

ipn-struggleThe march on 30th September was an overwhelming show of force by the students at IPN (National Polytechnic Institute), we saw a public display of the potential for a fighting movement with wide participation. We, proud, polytechnic students, carried our credentials to make it clear that this struggle is really being fuelled by the public itself. All of the IPN schools in the metropolitan province are on strike including some campuses from other provinces. The protest that began in Casco de Santo Tomas, went through the central ring road to get to Angel de la Independencia, but due to the multitude of participants, some groups were still waiting to start back in Casco de Santo Tomas. Tens of thousands of young people took part, ready to defend IPN and its future.

There were banners and placards rejecting the new bylaw and educational plans that would lower the academic quality of the institution, one supporter commented: “An engineer without physics is like a country without education”, referring to the cuts on core subjects that these reforms would cause. Several parents marched proudly with placards saying “Mother (or father) of a polytechnic student”. #TodosSomosIPN (We are all IPN) was widely read. We also saw banners with slogans such as: “The IPN is for the people, we are the people” or “More IPN less EPN” (Enrique Pena Nieto).

In the schools a high degree of organisation and participation is visible, with a few exceptions, usually there are sufficient supplies for those on strike, which reflect the community support of the struggle.

The IPN chant originates from the word strike and was charged with energy and pride as it was chanted over and over again. Slogans were shouted against Yoloxochitl, Director-General at the university. The chants that the Mexican fans chanted during the World Cup were very popular in this struggle: “Ehh, ehhh puto” was shouted when a helicopter or police patrol appeared. In Casco de Santo Tomas groups of students representing other universities were present such as UAM (Autonomous University of Mexico City) and UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) chanting Huelums and Gollas (chants) in the electric atmosphere, and slogans like “UAM, Poli, UNAM, together we will overcome”. In Ciudad Universitaria, UNAM, general assemblies by Political Science and Law, together with students from other faculties, have called a public meeting in support of the IPN on 1st October.

As usual, there is a great atmosphere for unity, but the state and the polytechnic authorities are fighting to keep the movement from spreading and unifying with other sectors. At one point in the Paseo de la Reforma Avenue there was a group of students from the Mexican Electricians Union (SME), shouting slogans, which were welcomed along with their other signs of solidarity. But there came a point where some paid anti-protest infiltrators moved to march silently in front of the SME arguing that this is a polytechnic movement and that we should avoid being contaminated. We must not forget that the IPN is the result of the struggle of the Mexican people and is supported by the taxes of the working-class. Many of the students, not really understanding what was occurring, went quiet when they were asked to, but it reached a completely new level when the cynical infiltrators at one point said: “Quiet, there is a hospital”. It was not that there was a hospital, rather that the infiltrators had a great fear that the IPN would join and spread to other struggles.

The state is acting surgically against the student body. Any frontal attack could mean that this already overwhelming movement would acquire greater class consciousness. At the same time it is trying to curb IPN from infecting and unifying with the student and youth movement in the country, through internal crackdowns of the organised sectors thus hindering the increase of a greater class consciousness within IPN. There is a smear campaign against the Committee for the Struggle of the Polytechnic Students (CLEP), the authorities have launched a campaign on Facebook using paid ads, following the mobilisations a board meeting has taken place about the launch of a similar campaign on Twitter as well. We know there are comrades who honestly have doubts about and criticism of the participation of organisations such as the CLEP in the struggle. But, as comrades in the struggle we can discuss and analyse our differences and reach agreements concerning how to best promote the movement and review our own participation mechanisms, however it is clear that within the schools there are infiltrators and students paid off by the authorities to promote the spread of rumours, to generate distrust dividing the student movement, isolating important elements in the struggle seeking to replace them in order to have a more controlled and tamed struggle.

Yesterday in the newspaper La Jornada, it said: “The Polytechnic Student Committee of the Struggle is recognised as the sole organ of dialogue”. Furthermore, it mentions that 10 students from CLEP visited the Secretariat of the Interior Monday the 29th and they were seen by Osorio Chong, Secretary of the Interior. In other media they have been referred to as the Confederation or Council of the Student Struggle. This is done to create more confusion and put a barrier between the CLEP and the rest of the people to prevent the integration of the students.

The authorities sent their paid anti-protest groups to the Secretariat of the Interior on Monday the 29th, who they claimed belonged to the CLEP. This is without a doubt a part of their plan to create confusion and even a lynching campaign against the members and supporters of CLEP. This refers to the meeting presented on Tuesday in La Jornada which reported: “The Polytechnic Student Committee of the Struggle is recognised as the sole organ of dialogue”. We clarified our view through a statement that we disseminated during the march, on our website and on social media (http://goo.gl/eH1to5). Today in the Letter to the Editor in La Jornada there is a published clarification from us and the reporter from La Jornada (http://goo.gl/bjSEhE).

The CLEP has been involved from the outset in this struggle, and we have encourage its expansion to other schools. We were the ones who proposed the first polytechnic general assembly at the march on the 25th of September, the general strike on the 30th of the same month, where we had the logic to continue developing the struggle. We must recognise that the pace and intensity of the movement exceeded what we had expected. The people participating in the demonstrations and especially in the organization of the struggle have been inspiring and impressive.

The CLEP has not simply assumed the leadership of movement, it has mechanisms such as the school assembly for the election of representatives and the general polytechnic assembly. Its members and supporters are involved in these things, and through their work, sacrifice and ideas they have in several schools been elected representatives. We, the IPN students are not like the authorities, so we should not take to anti-democratic practices. The CLEP also struggles because it respects our right to express our views and opinions freely as a part of the right to freedom of speech and does not discriminate or exclude a comrade for belonging to a student, social or political organization.

The state’s strategy is to offer the IPN movement some concessions that do not involve any substantial change in its policy to attack public education and the working people, and to prevent the movement from becoming more aware of class questions and connect and spread to other working-class movements. This is done by isolating and targeting the most critical sectors of the student movement, particularly the CLEP, an organisation with 46 years of history, whilst attempting to wash the government’s stained face and red hands of repression.

The big show of force of the polytechnic students led to an historic event, something officials at the highest level will have to realise: The Secretariat of the Interior, responsible for the internal policy of the federal government, went to the public student meeting. This is already in itself a clear indication of the strength that this struggle has acquired.

As previously mentioned, the cause of this struggle derives, not from the change in internal bylaws or in the curriculum, but from a series of accumulated attacks and tensions that have now surfaced. The student body clearly notices that the government is plotting future exploitation, hence our rejection of the idea to become a Superior Technical University. This struggle expressed itself against the change in bylaws and the curriculum, which certainly goes against our interests. However, the state can dispense with this policy and continue its attack strategy, this would give an apparent ‘solution’, which in itself does not solve anything. So Osorio Chong was initially willing to resolve the dispute within 30 minutes, but the Polytechnic General Assembly had decided to include other demands. Osorio Chong, who publicly read the list of demands, was surprised to see that it required 2% of GDP to be earmarked for higher education and research. This is actually a lot more important than the non-application of the internal bylaw.

The media has portrayed Chong’s participation in the public meeting as democratic and an act of open dialogue – it appears as a well set-up montage, whereas in reality Chong simply responded to the strength of our movement. Do not forget that the current government of Peña Nieto came to power through media manipulation and buying of votes, although we as university students strongly opposed his election. Do not forget that this government, in coalition with local governments, is taking steps to hit the youth movement, and has imprisoned several real fighters of social crime who were defending their rights and fighting for a better society. We do not forget the crimes of the state, and the repressions on the 26th and 27th of September in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, when regular school mates were made victims, as 6 were killed in Chilpancingo and dozens of comrades wounded of which some are still missing. We send our solidarity and a message of support to the colleagues, to demand the punishment of the guilty. The government of Enrique Peña Nieto is anything but democratic and progressive.

Peña Nieto’s government has shown willingness to resolve the struggle, it will give some sort of solution to the internal demands of the IPN, but it is trying to avoid the most important ones, such as the budget increase for higher education and research. This demand includes not only the polytechnic students, it is important that students from other universities assume it as well. On Friday the 3rd the government will present a response to the demands made by the IPN. The 2nd of October should be seen as an opportunity for the entire student movement which is fighting for an increase in higher education spending. IPN’s struggle has resulted in a general strike and schools remain closed as leverage for meeting the list of demands.

We, as direct participants in this struggle, call for the Mexican people and students from other universities to defend higher education and fight together for the implementation of these demands as this regime attempts to continue to take away all the historical conquests of the workers and peasants.

The list of demands is the solution!

Scrap the reforms against the polytechnic community!

Earmark 2% of GDP for higher education!

by Claudio Roman, CLEP; translated by Patrik Nordqvist, Manchester Marxists