Mexico’s Crisis of ‘Democracy’ and Regime of Exception

BY JOSÉ LUIS RÍOS VERA & IVÁN MONTERO

Mexico is going through a historical period of great social tension — the product of widespread malaise without recent precedents.

This social tension is based on several conditions.

Monumental economic exclusion, such as unemployment and underemployment; the gigantic difference between the real value of the labor force and the real wage paid to the worker, known as super-exploitation; territorial and natural resource dispossession; exacerbated state violence, such as the disappearance of the Ayotzinapa normalistas; the murders of social activists and journalists; femicides; forced disappearances; scandalous corruption at all levels of government; rampant impunity; neoliberal reforms; and the deterioration of quality of life.

In an apparent paradox, it is in these circumstances that the concentration of wealth in Mexico has increased for the country’s richest. For these affluent people, the social crisis that the country is going through lies merely in “corruption.” It’s natural that they spread this view, since it corresponds with their interests while separating them from the super-exploitative conditions they create.

Thus, their great concern is the exhaustion of Mexican “democracy” and “governability,” which they have imposed in conjunction with the major political parties for decades. The government imposes their class interests while presenting them as the “general” interests of the nation.

It was the new conditions of “Mexican democracy,” controlled from above, that helped to establish their political domination so that the government would in turn make Mexico victim to capitalism and neoliberalism.

It is in this historical conjuncture that Mexico’s elites, subordinate to the U.S. economy, undertook a new model of capital accumulation. This is a neoliberal capitalist model, exemplified by the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. This launched an offensive against labor in order to adapt it to the new demands of globalized capitalism.

It was the dominant class holding the reins of state power that reorganized the accumulation of capital with a focus on foreign investment and contempt for domestic needs. This class dismantled domestic industry and deepened the inequality between what workers produce and what they require to survive.

Workers were forced to manufacture goods in sweatshops set to be exported to wealthy countries. Likewise, the greatest expulsion of Mexico’s labor force was established, weakening the country’s internal market.

Given the contradictory nature of capitalism, free trade agreements were imposed as the “solution” to “get the country out of arrears.” However, what developed was underdevelopment itself.

The Exhaustion of Mexican ‘Democracy’ and Capital’s New Offensive

Mexico’s working class masses managed to understand that a Mexican “democracy” built on the heights of power is an affront to their interests. This “democracy,” as many have come to understand, bears the stigmas of fraud, extortion, outright theft, looting of society, demagogy at unprecedented levels, racism, cynicism, xenophobia, exclusion, corruption, despotism and impunity. These stigmas as a whole created exhaustion within the country’s proletariat.

In this exhaustion, the links between national and foreign elites and the government became exposed.

It’s wrong to think that the bosses can play a “progressive” role in the country, since they have constituted a political force increasingly centralized in the bloc of power, allowing them to impose the sets of interests (economic, political, legal and cultural) of the ruling class and its fractions, both domestic and foreign. With this, they have controlled the forms and modalities of accumulation centered on dependence and external subordination, contravening the needs, aspirations and interests of the working class.

The fall of the fetishistic charm of capitalist “democracy” that surrounds the nation has installed a historical period marked by greater political instability. This instability acquires even more force with the ongoing crisis of democratic legitimacy and the government’s ability to institute changes on a whim.

During such a political crisis, the government’s ability to maintain legitimacy based on liberal political and legal ideology declines. This is because these types of systems are allegedly grounded in political pluralism, citizenship, freedom, equality, inclusion and rule of law.

The exhaustion of “democracy” and its impact on “democratic governability” leads to the emergence of new social struggles and the greater mobilization and politicization of the exploited classes. This opens the way to greater confrontation, threatening the stability of the economic-political regime, as shown by the growing social protests that threaten Mexico’s status quo.

Thus, through the depth that the economic crisis is acquiring, the government is increasingly encountering greater popular pressure, to the point of placing itself in a dead end.

Given these conditions, Mexico is entering a historical period in which social struggles force the government to make modifications. Few options are left for the bloc in power, but one of them is creating a regime of exception, a reactionary alternative to the acute contradictions that are plaguing the ruling class.

A regime of exception begins when the government transcends the rule of law in the name of the “public good,” which can take the form of martial law or states of emergency.

The reproduction of capitalism in Mexico is based on the premise that the ruling class wields full control over the state. This allows them to implement the super-exploitation of labor, dismantle industry, harden neoliberal austerity policies and become dependent on foreign investment — all of which are done through law. In the realm of energy, for example, the government has been able to transfer the wealth produced by oil from the country’s poor to transnational companies.

Moreover, the bourgeoisie will not negotiate the new and aggressive policies imposed by U.S. imperialism daily, deepening the conditions of crisis.

This in turn ushers in regressive fiscal reforms, budget cuts, transfers of public wealth to compensate for “losses,” new anti-worker labor reforms, privatization, greater exploitation of natural resources and the expansion of new “public-private” associations in infrastructure projects.

In short, within the context of economic crisis coupled with the exhaustion of Mexican “democracy,” the ruling class has launched an aggressive offensive that challenges the working class. The ruling class has used the state to promote a strategy of militarization of social protest, which takes the form of the recently-approved Internal Security Law.

This is another example of how Mexico is under a regime of exception.

The Qualitative Leap of the State of Exception

Within this new stage of social resistance to the government and ruling class, the latter tends to rely on authoritarian methods, a dangerous way of attempting to contain social conflict.

It is a legal-political method that jumps from the phase of criminalization of social protest towards the militarization of popular indignance.

Within the government and the hegemonic fractions of the ruling bloc, the rule of law is presented as the establishment of “order” and “social peace.” In fact, however, it is the continuation of parasitic capitalism and the suppression of working class resistance through violence.

In this context, the Internal Security Law, which allows the Armed Forces to assume powers of local police, seeks to annihilate all opposition, reason and challenges to “order” under the manipulatory mantle of fighting drug trafficking and organized crime. It is clearly the new legal weapon of Mexico’s ruling class. The elites have exhausted their political resources intended to maintain control over the country.

The origins of the Internal Security Law are inseparable from the intentions of the ruling class to maintain their grip on legitimacy. With the Internal Security Law and the new regime of exception that underlies it, Mexican capitalists and their foreign overlords can annihilate mass resistance to the economic and political model that prevails in the country.

The establishment of a state of exception sounds very scandalous. However, for the ruling class, it is more “natural” than it might seem. In Peru, for example, the neoliberal regime of former President Ollanta Humala decreed states of emergency on several occasions in response to mass protests in defense of natural resources, Indigenous territories and public programs.

In these times of depression and economic stagnation, both national and global, why wouldn’t the ruling class use tools like the Internal Security Law to maintain their interests?

With the new Internal Security Law, social movements resisting territorial dispossession, environmental destruction and the erosion of labor and social rights will see their own lives at risk.


Note: This article was originally published in Spanish by Rebelión on Dec. 15, 2017 and translated into English by ANTICONQUISTA on Dec. 15, 2017.

5 thoughts on “Mexico’s Crisis of ‘Democracy’ and Regime of Exception

  1. In Ecuador Rafael Correa opened the door to the Right by criminalizing Indigenous protest in a way similar to Humala’s crackdown on the original people. The powerful Indigenous organization CONAIE which originally supported Correa became an enemy. As a result Alianza PAIS would lose the Indigenous vote in the recent election. Recognizing that the overall vote margin would be slim, Correa chose Moreno rather than Glas (who had been under attack by the right wing media for many months) to represent Alianza PAIS. Today the Indigenous movement is in Quito, following a long march, demanding that the traidor cuántico keep his promise to free political prisoners and honor constitutional rights to self determination and bilingual education. Protected by the Ecuadorian military, foreign mining and drilling corporations from Canada and China are exploiting Indigenous land. That won’t change under Moreno. His alliance with the bankers and his overtures to Washington puts Ecuador on a rightwing path that will inevitably undermine the positive accomplishments of La Revolución Ciudadana. No one can predict our future here as so much depends on the instability of the global system of imperialim in decline.

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