The CNI’s Presidential Run: Story of an Unforced Error

CNI presidential candidate Marichuy (center), alongside Subcomandante Moisés (left), spokesperson for the EZLN, at a gathering of the CNI in Chiapas last year.

Below is a translation of an article by Mexican anarchist Erick Benítez Martínez, originally published on the Portal Libertario OACA, offering an anarchist critique of the attempt by the National Indigenous Congress, supported by the Zapatistas, to place an candidate on the ballot for this year’s presidential elections in Mexico. All footnotes are offered for clarification purposes by the translator.

As a project, It’s Going Down takes much inspiration from indigenous struggles in Mexico and Zapatismo specifically. It is because of this that we publish this critical editorial which rejects the recent electoral push.

In 2017, the CNI (National Indigenous Congress)[1] surprised the world by announcing that it would run an indigenous woman as a candidate to compete in Mexico’s presidential elections.

It’s not my intention to discuss the foolishness of them talking out of both sides of their mouths, of participating in an election but saying they weren’t seeking the presidency.

More interesting is the fiasco that resulted from the attempt to appear on the ballot. A fiasco for the CNI and a total triumph for Mexican bourgeois democracy.

Mexico’s institutional electoral system is completely discredited in the eyes of almost the entire Mexican population. Note for example the enormous publicity the INE (National Electoral Institute) directed towards promoting citizen participation in these 2018 elections. It’s no longer about instructing people how to vote, of informing people about voting, but of putting another layer of varnish on the already destroyed structure of Mexican democracy so that people vote…. vote for whoever the candidate might be, but that they vote, that they participate in the electoral comedy.

To make matters worse, and as if the farce wasn’t enough, we see the PRI[2] going out the door and coming in through the window. We see a good number of PRI, PRD[3], and other candidates abandoning the parties from which they plundered the Mexican people to join the one who stands out as the leader of the electoral contest: AMLO[4]. And this is accepted without even blushing by those who have plundered the people.

If all this weren’t enough, we have actors, singers, and soccer players ruling the country. Not because a government of scientists is preferable, but because having people from soccer and from the spectacle in government turns politics into the clearest expression of an electoral circus.

Shame covered these bourgeois institutions, but now all the more completely given the joke that these elections have become.

And in this situation, those who have a modicum of dignity and social conscience remove themselves from elections like one would remove oneself from manure.

But there were those who, within the CNI, believed in the sham of democracy and that it could be of some use to the Mexican people.

What did they actually do by trying to run for the presidency? They legitimized institutions that are an embarrassment to the Mexican people. It’s perfect for the Mexican bourgeois regime that Marichuy tried to appear on the ballot, because the heads of the INE and all the bourgeois democrats interested in the existence of the State, and with it the preservation of social classes, can raise their arms to the sky and cry out to the people that are sick of them:

“Our electoral system is so magnificent that even an indigenous woman believed in it and sought to appear on the ballot for the presidency of Mexico. And our institutions, so effective and free, allowed her to seek the presidency!”

Commonly, Marichuy’s defenders assert that an indigenous woman appearing on the ballot would be progress, because to reject this attempt would be sexist or even racist. Marichuy, according to this perspective, would give voice to all those subjected by the bourgeois regime…by participating in the bourgeois regime. She would put her finger on the wound created among the people by the tyrants of always….by participating in the institutions that tyrannize the people. She would be the representative of all the exploited in denouncing savage capitalism…by participating in the institutions that provide security and the foundation to capitalism.

But nothing could be more degrading for women and indigenous people than to commingle with the bourgeoisie, the tyrants, the murderers, and the plunderers of the Mexican people.

It is precisely the rejection of the electoral system, the maintaining of the people’s dignity by drawing the line that separates us from the government, that constitutes the highest form of promoting women, indigenous, students, men, etc.

People and government are antipodes, polar opposites, things that mutually reject one another. The government seeks to subject the people to the worst conditions so as to exploit them as much as possible. The people always seek, many times instinctively, to wrest maximum freedom from the government.

One triumphs solely on the condition of crushing its opposite as much as possible.

How can it be dignified, then, when instead of widening the line that separates people and government, one requests of the executioners the possibility of participating in the institutions that keep the people in misery?

There may be a bit of everything, of all possible intentions and interests, but there will never be dignity and justice when one participates in governmental institutions.

The CNI’s attempt to participate in the electoral farce benefited absolutely no one except the bourgeois and criminal institutions that dominate the Mexican people.

Ultimately, Marichuy did not collect the necessary signatures to appear on the ballot. There exist well over one million Zapatistas, but they only gathered a little more than 10% of the signatures that were asked for.

What was the reason for that embarrassing self-defeat if there are enough Zapatistas to surpass one million? There is only one answer to this: even the Zapatistas, the majority, refused to sign in support of the presidential candidacy, or else the organizing of this attempt for the presidency was so badly done that it turned out to be a total failure.

By the time this article was published, the timeframe given to independent candidates by the INE to collect the total number of signatures had passed. Marichuy and the CNI have disgracefully failed in their attempt to appear on the ballot.

I say disgraceful failure because if in 1994 they gave the world revolutionary inspiration and filled indigenous people with glory, in 2018 they have thrown buckets of filth on the people. Never, never in the history of the people have bourgeois elections been necessary to change the world, much less to create a society entirely different from the current one.

The Zapatistas did much more for revolutionary struggle in 1994 than what they have done now in seeking to appear on the ballot. In 1994, they rose up for the dignity of indigenous people. In 2018, they asked to participate in the electoral game of the enemies of the people.

One may or may not be in agreement with the Zapatistas, but to the existing critiques a black mark has been added that they alone placed on themselves.

How could they, at what moment did it cross their minds that this cumulative system of corruption, injustice, where inequality reigns, where despotism rules, where elections are shameless frauds that place the presidential chair under the one who will provide more possibilities to Mexican capitalists to wring a little more from the necks of our people, could be fair to them and allow them to aim for the presidency?

If the signatures had been collected, would the INE have recognized them? It would be very naïve to believe that could happen. Have we not seen enough blatant fraud? The hiding of boxes filled with ballots, the altering of results, the physical elimination of political opposition even during elections?

And that institution was the one the Zapatistas believed in and trusted would allow them to participate in the electoral circus?

In the end, the CNI failed in its attempt to have Marichuy appear on the ballot, but the attempt remains as a mockery of the Zapatistas.

How is the CNI after this failure?

If they already had many critics from within social movements, the precedent of seeking to participate in the electoral comedy will be something that will always follow them and cost them credibility among their supporters, as more than a few have stopped sympathizing with the EZLN and the CNI as a result of the electoral run.

Because if the intentions of the CNI were to combat capitalism and lift up the people, with their electoral attempt they did nothing more than validate government institutions and fill the people with shame upon seeing an indigenous woman trying to mix with the leprous government, even though they had ten thousand pretexts to justify their actions.

There is another way, and those who are in social movements should adopt it as a logical and fair guideline: the rejection of everything that even remotely smells of government, even if it is popular, even if it called ‘from below’, even if it pretends to be done in the name of the people. Even if it is not a government, but merely the aspiration to participate in the enemies’ institutions, it is the duty of sincere revolutionaries to denounce that act as a betrayal of the people, because instead of eroding power it leads people to believe that the institutions are fair and necessary.

The people will never be freed using the tools of their executioners. An understanding between people and government will never be reached, as it is through the crushing of its counterpart that each finds the adequate means for its existence. The ballot has never been necessary to combat capitalism or to speak out.

For anarchists, the spectacle has been embarrassing and cringeworthy.

But it has also been an opportunity to further define our enemy’s façade as all forms of government – established or seeking to be established – including all those that (such as in the case of Marichuy), under any pretext, are inclined to unite people and government, even when it is claimed to be nothing more than a means for propaganda. Because we agree with Bakunin:

“When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called ‘the People’s Stick.’”

In the same way, participating in elections doesn’t dignify the people, it degrades them.

It has been another opportunity to loathe the bourgeois institutions that some believed in.

[1] The CNI is an organization made up of indigenous communities throughout Mexico. It was formed in 1996 with the encouragement of the Zapatistas. At the CNI’s gathering in 2016, the Zapatistas proposed the CNI run an indigenous woman for the 2018 presidential elections. The proposal was approved and María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, known as Marichuy, was selected as the candidate. Signature gathering to qualify her as an independent candidate for the ballot ran from December 2017 to February 2018. The effort fell far short of the required signatures.

[2] Institutional Revolutionary Party. The PRI was the ruling party in Mexico for 70 years until 2000 and returned to power with the election of current president Enrique Peña Nieto in 2012. Currently a center-right, neoliberal party.

[3] Party of the Democratic Revolution. Created by defecting members of the PRI in the 1989. Center-left party.

[4] Andrés Manuel López Obrador. President of the PRI in the state of Tabasco, then former mayor of Mexico City with the PRD. Lost presidential elections in 2006 (likely due to fraud) and 2012 with the PRD. Subsequently formed MORENA, the National Regeneration Movement, and has a wide lead in polls for the 2018 elections. Leftist/social democrat.

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