From the November-December 2014 issue of News & Letters
Mexico, D.F.—Students at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), supported by some teachers and workers, began a general strike calling for cancellation of new regulations and new academic programs that IPN had presented in September, and the immediate dismissal of the director of the Institute, Yoloxóchitl Bustamante.
Students, teachers and workers gathered in a representative organ, the General Politécnico Assembly (AGP), to decide actions and the political direction of the strike. This assembly, say students, represents an authentic democratic effort to administer the university. “We’ve realized schools should be run this way, and not just according to the will of the General Director,” they said. Here we see the beginning of a new and more complete way to practice democracy—and, implicitly, a new way of understanding the function of education. The AGP criticized all the articles of the new regulation, making it clear their struggle is against privatization of education, and for it to have a public and free character. We can summarize the new regulations:
1. Political-administrative centralization. Several councils and other consulting organs would be dismissed, so that major decisions can be taken by the General Director alone, which is aligned with government policies. New regulations would deny recognition to students’ free associations, and make it easier to expel students who do not have “good manners” and who do not keep “order” within the Institute.
2. Academic changes. Academic programs, now relatively autonomous, would be transformed into “pertinent educational modalities” modified according to the criterion of “flexibility.” That is, they would be more tied to the contingency of capital and markets than to students’ needs.
3. Economic dimension. We are facing a general privatization of public schools, with less and less money budgeted each year. Thus they intend to rent space for “concessions” to private businesses and propose the “acquisition of additional resources” by offering research and cultural services to the private market.
The beginning of the Politécnico strike occurred on the eve of mass demonstrations commemorating the Oct. 2, 1968, student massacre. The strike also coincided with the social explosion produced by the state-instigated attack and the “forced disappearance” of the 43 normalistas from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, on Sept. 27 (see p. 1). In organizing demonstrations and cultural performances, students from IPN have shown their solidarity with this cause.
It was in this political context that the government tried to give the conflict at IPN a “fast response.” The government pushed the dismissal of the director of the IPN, accepted the total cancellation of the new internal regulations and the new academic programs, and proposed a series of “bilateral” and “democratic” dialogues on the students’ other demands.
However, the AGP has kept a critical distance and has decided to go on with the strike. This is because the struggle at the IPN is over the demand for authentic educational autonomy, as part of a larger struggle by all social subjects for radical transformation of the current economic-political system.
This system chains the youth to a 67% unemployment rate, leaving them at the mercy of the informal economy, narco-traffic gangs, prostitution and death.
The explosion of the IPN strike just before the Oct. 2 anniversary, as well as its solidarity with the Ayotzinapa students, reveals a longing for universality, for going deeper and lower within society in the search for other social subjects in order to transform reality.
The student movement in Politécnico may have only a beginning consciousness of this wider revolutionary possibility. Still, it is precisely within this movement that the possibility of a new world can be seen.
—Héctor M., Nov. 7, 2014.