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The OPT, a proletarian alternative to the crisis of political parties

Saturday 12 November 2011, by Edgard Sanchez

On 27 and 28 August the Workers and People’s Political Organization (OPT) held its founding conference. It was the culmination of months of preparation, since October 2010 when Martin Esparza, General Secretary of the SME (Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union) publicly announced at a rally of 50,000 people in the Azteca Stadium, the proposal to create what at that time was called a ’national political grouping’ (OPN). With the OPT’s founding congress a new phase has begun, of consolidation, recruitment and organization, at the same time as the SME’s own resistance struggle continues, alongside the broader call to organize Mexico’s “indignados” against the neoliberal and repressive policies of the present regime.

The OPT Congress was held in the SME’s headquarters and was attended by 956 registered delegates on Saturday 27th, 300 of them elected by the electrical workers, rising to more than 1,100 registered delegates on the Sunday at the OPT’s launch rally in Mexico City’s Zocalo square.

Given that the call for the OPT came from the SME, which only organizes in the central part of the country where its electricity company, Compania Luz y Fuerza del Centro (Central Light and Energy Company), operates, it was remarkable that delegates came from 22 different states, some of them very far from Mexico City. Apart from the Federal District (of Mexico City), there were delegates from Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Puebla, Aguascalientes, Michoacán, Sonora, Chihuahua, Zacatecas, Morelos, Jalisco, Sinaloa, San Luis Potosi, Estado de Mexico, Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Durango, Baja California, Querétaro, Tlaxcala and Nayarit.

Towards working class political independence

Many have emphasized the novelty of the OPT, given the crisis of Mexico’s party system and the decline of those who liked to present themselves as the sole representatives of the left. Its importance goes beyond just that of a new political organization or a socialist regroupment of the sort some of us were arguing for years ago, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The real importance of the OPT is that it comes out of a call from the most combative section of the Mexican working class, the electrical workers of the SME, who are struggling against energy privatization and the dismantling of the Central Light and Energy Company. Firstly because the proposal means moving beyond a purely trade union, labour struggle onto the terrain of political struggle. As the SME leaders frequently say in their speeches, the aim is to fight for power, to fight for the country, and that’s why they’re proposing to create a political organization. Secondly, it means building a political organization of the workers, based on the trade union strength of the SME, but which also includes other forces from the workers, trade union and popular movement. “Come on, Come on, here we are building the workers’ movement”, is the electrical workers’ favourite slogan at OPT meetings.

This initiative to create a political organization of working people could fill a historic gap in Mexico: the lack of political independence for the working class, given it has never had a party of its own to represent it, but has historically been tied to through the obligatory, mass, corporative affiliation of the trade unions to the PRI, to a bourgeois party that defends t