Oaxaca’s Social Rebellion Faces New Challenges as the Movement Enters a New Phase
With Teachers Heading Home to Finish Out the School Year, State Government Attempts to Exploit Divisions and Fatigue
By James Daria and Dul Santamaria
The Ricardo Flores Magòn Brigade Reporting for Narco News from Oaxaca
July 7, 2006
The spirit of unity that has been a hallmark of the teachers’ and popular movement in Oaxaca was put to test yesterday, June 6th, after a series of disagreements and misunderstandings fractured the spirit of festive resistance that has permeated the city.
While the teachers’ union was in a state-wide assembly (Asamblea Estatal Magisterial) the social organizations and common people who have sought their voice through the Popular Assembly of the Oaxacan People (or APPO) rallied in the city center to occupy the old Government Palace, which Governor Ulises Ruiz turned into a museum, in order to put into place a popular government that would fulfill the needs of the Oaxacan people. The intent failed however as the teacher assembly lasted too long and the lack of consultation with the social base led the organizers to disband the effort. The doors of the palace were never opened to the Popular Assembly (though some supporters did enter the building to carry out an “occupation”) and divisions began to permeate in the ranks as Enrique Rueda Pacheco, the union leader, declared that the teachers will return to classes the following Monday.
When Enrique Rueda Pacheco read the decision of the state assembly to the crowd in the zócalo (main city square) who had been waiting for the arrival of the teachers to open the Palace of Government, many people shared their disillusionment, shouting “sellout!” Rueda Pacheco however maintained the position that only those members of the teachers’ union who work directly with students will return to classes next Monday, leaving other unionized sectors in the zócalo to continue the struggle. Explaining that the union has a compromise with the people to replace hours lost so the students will be able to fulfill academic requirements so as to continue to the next grade, Rudea Pacheco reaffirmed the union’s commitment to the struggle. Class will be given until the twenty second of July and the teachers will return in full force to the plantón.
This did not satisfy everybody as many social organizations referred to the decision as a “repliegue,” or withdrawal. Small marches circled the Zócalo chanting “no withdrawal!” Many people – mostly citizens or members of the many social and political groups who have rallied around the teachers – publicly spoke of their lack of confidence in the union. They claim that groups within the heterogeneous teachers union are with the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and since this party won the state of Oaxaca now do not feel the need to continue the struggle. Others claim the union is plagued by beaurocoracy and don’t have the needs of the people in mind, only the self-interest of the union leaders and the demands of the union. This distrust in the teacher’s union is not new, but instead has been a recurrent concern of the diverse social organizations who, lacking numbers and influence in the state, have continually sought to unite in alliance with the more numerous teachers’ union. The fragile unity between the popular and union forces seemed to be unraveling and all were aware of the opportunity that disunity and disorder gives to the government of Ulises Ruiz to smash the movement.
This morning, the teacher’s union seemed to respond to such accusations by continuing the blockades of the important transportation arteries throughout the city and inviting the general populace to reinforce the zócalo occupation in their absence. In the blockade of the intersection of the streets Periferico, Universidad and the Calzada de la Republica near the Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca, this reporter had the opportunity to talk with a group of teachers organizing the blockade. According to them, the teachers union is not giving up the struggle but instead looking to fulfill their students’ educational requirements and their commitment to the families. They see the struggle as long-term; simply ousting Ulises Ruiz could take more than a year. While the sentiment among teachers and the populace has until now been “not one step back,” this teacher spoke of the “maturity” and “experience” of the twenty-six years of teachers’ struggle and the need to “take one step back in order to take two steps ahead.” As well, these teachers rejected the claim that they were bought off by the PRD. They claim that patience in the struggle is something that the popular forces in the movement must learn.
The government has maintained a campaign of disinformation in the commercial media, assuring that there is negotiation going on, and that thanks to this negotiation the teachers will return to classes and give up the struggle. Despite the lies of the government, Oaxaca remains in struggle and the commitment to ousting Ulises Ruiz is still firm –although it is unclear in which direction the movement is going. The one thing that all seem to agree upon is the need for unity, as the government is seeking to divide and weaken them, taking advantage of fatigue, low morale and internal conflict. The outcome of the social unrest in Oaxaca will depend on this much-needed unity.
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