Letter from Mexico: Will López Obrador hear masses?

July 25, 2018

From the July-August 2018 issue of News & Letters

by J.G.F. Héctor

The historic victory for the leftist candidate López Obrador and his party Morena in the July 1 election in Mexico, with 53% of the votes, is a clear indication of the massive dissatisfaction with the dramatic increase of violence, corruption and inequality in the country in the last decade. It was a huge “no” against continuing to live in this horrific situation.

Striking farm workers in San Quintín, Baja California, one of the many movements from below that will test López Obrador’s leftist campaign promises.


Now the masses will keep a close watch on Obrador, making their voices heard every time their expectations are betrayed. In a letter to López Obrador after his victory, people from San Salvador Atenco, who have been fighting against the construction of a new airport on their land, requested a “direct audience” with him “to take on [this subject], its implications, and its environmental, social, economic and legal consequences.”

At the same time it reminded him that “a government like the one you are proposing [can’t] make deals with the business class on the future and the lives of poor people, without the consent of the people themselves, without even having listened to them.”

A month and a half earlier, the parents of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa had crashed one of López Obrador’s rallies to ask for assurances from him that, if he became president, he “shouldn’t forget our case….We want to achieve truth and justice [for our children].” How can that genuine wish for change be concretized, so that our expectations don’t get defrauded once again?


As many Left critics have pointed out, the project of Morena, López Obrador’s party, is insufficient to solve Mexico’s problems: it is not based on the eradication of capitalism, but merely aims at a more “equal” distribution of wealth and the elimination of corruption. As soon as López Obrador was declared the winner, he met with the business and political class and not with the social movements, making clear whom he views as the subjects of “change.”

Striking farm workers in San Quintín, Baja California, one of many movements from below that will test López Obrador’s leftist campaign promises in practice. 

Certainly, López Obrador’s administration may be more open to dialogue and less repressive than the previous ones, at least in its beginning. However, to focus our political actions on making demands on his government in order to force it to “bend more to the Left” is not just an incomplete vision, but a naïve one.


In order to achieve radical change, we must pay attention to the actions and thoughts of those whose struggles are posing a new way of exercising power. There are the Zapatistas, who for decades have shared and practiced the idea of “whether you vote or not, get organized.”

There is also the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), which through its spokeswoman Marichuy traveled all around Mexico, not looking for votes or members, but listening to the voices from below and inviting them to get organized. The Purépecha people from Nahuatzen, Michoacán, did not even allow official elections in their territory, so as to defend their right to choose their own representatives.

In order to strengthen these struggles and to help give birth to new ones by people who showed their massive wish for change in the latest elections, we need not just a “tactical” analysis but a whole view of liberation. That involves a philosophy that goes beyond the critical comprehension of current society and poses an integral relation between theory and practice—ideas of liberation and struggles from below.

The methodology of struggle can illuminate the path needed to get rid of the existent class divisions, racism and sexism and to build a new society. To concretize this vision together with the struggles from below is the most urgent task we face in this post-election period.

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