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 the capitalist system. From the beginning we said that the importance of the SME initiative was that it opened the way to the creation of what in the international workers’ movement has been known as a “workers’ party”.  Of course there have always been organizations of the socialist left that who defend the interests of the working class, including the PRT and others, but the OPT goes beyond a regroupment of the left and points towards the creation of a broad workers party, a party of the working class that offers workers in other unions tied to the PRI an alternative of their own.
It is true that the OPT has not come about at a time of growing working class struggles and victories, nor does it organize the majority of the class. The SME, which continues its resistance, now has some 16 thousand members among the 40 thousand electricity workers sacked in October 2009; nonetheless it remains a significant force, an example and a pole of attraction for workers in other unions, as the teachers and miners have already shown. Although it has not been able to reverse fully the blow represented by those mass lay-offs, it is not a movement that has been defeated. The key thing is that the SME’s struggle is the reference point and backbone for all the resistance struggles that continue to unfold against the current regime’s neoliberal policies and militarization. Although the OPT doesn’t come out of an upsurge in struggle, the fact that is born under the leadership of the SME, at the head of resistance struggles and at a time of sharpening class conflict, also has an effect on its political character.
The Brazilian PT, created on the initiative of trade unions like the metal workers, was born in the midst of a number of victorious battles, yet when it reached government its orientation was social liberal, for the administration of neoliberal capitalism. Obviously there are many more political factors that mean the circumstances in which such an organization emerges are not decisive one way or another for its subsequent evolution. But in any case, the process of radicalisation and of confrontation with the most reactionary, privatizing and pro-capitalist policies of Calderon, means there is little scope for the OPT to harbour illusions in the conciliatory policies that dominate the institutional left (for example with the PRD and its alliances with the PAN or the search for coalition governments with the right).
The debates leading up to the OPT
Once the proposal for the OPN was announced, during the months leading up to the Congress a major discussion was undertaken on its content, scope, character, programme and organizational structure. This was possible because the proposal was received favourably by many brothers and sisters beyond the SME, militants in other struggles, other unions and other social and political organizations. The project has been embraced by activists from various currents of thought on the Mexican left, reflecting both its success and its potential.
As political activists of the current represented by the PRT, we also welcomed and took part in the discussions to define the content and character of the OPN under construction. In fact, the PRT’s XII National Congress held in August last year addressed the issue in its resolution entitled “The Road to building a revolutionary party.” When Martin Esparza announced the proposal in October 2010 at the Azteca stadium, we also issued declaration welcoming the initiative and presenting our views. When in December the first written texts were presented for the new organization, at that time still seen as the creation of National Political Grouping, comrade Guillermo Almeyra wrote some critical observations shared by us. (The above texts are available on the site of the PRT.).
Organized around four working groups, (Principles, Programme, Statutes and Plan of Action), the Congress saw its discussions enriched with many proposals and observations, but three main themes, I think, stand out:
1. The character of the OPN and whether it relates to a perspective of national liberation or defines itself as an anticapitalist or socialist project. 2. The OPN’s approach to elections within the current political system and its political perspectives for the 2012 elections.
3. The right to tendency within the OPN’s democratic organization.
In the first texts presented for the founding of the OPN, which were no longer written by comrades of the SME, it was proposed that the OPN’s strategic perspective should be guided by the struggle for national liberation, recalling some old debates on the left. There were in the past those who argued this perspective as a first stage of struggle historically separated from the socialist perspective, saying that as the first task was to achieve the national liberation of nations oppressed by imperialism and win demands that were anti-imperialist and democratic but not yet socialist, there needed to be an alliance with – and programmatic subordination to – a supposed national bourgeoisie that was ready to fight imperialism. In reality, the way in which capitalism has developed means the bourgeoisie in Mexico has grown in alliance with and subordinate to foreign capital and imperialist interests, with no significant sector of the national bourgeoisie willing to oppose and fight against those interests. Therefore it would be a mistake to self-limit the struggle of working people to the bourgeoisie and its programme, and hence the importance and absolute necessity of an independent policy to build the OPN as the working people’s own organization.
In Mexico, the consolidation of the oligarchy in power with the development of neo-liberalism in recent decades clearly shows the interrelationship between the interests of imperialism and the oligarchy against which we fighting today.
After months of intense discussion and clarification, the comrades who initially proposed this national liberation strategy say that they are not arguing for two historically separate phases of struggle; they say they do not want to limit the struggle to a merely anti-neoliberal perspective, because they believe that neoliberalism is simply the form assumed by capitalism today, nor are they proposing a subordinate alliance with any sector of the bourgeoisie. If this is the case and it can be made clear in the documents voted by the Congress, then it would seem that thanks to the discussion the differences have reduced and people’s positions have drawn closer.
In that case it would still be useful to make clear that although capitalism currently takes the form, model and prescriptions of neoliberalism, opposition to neoliberalism is not necessarily the same thing as anticapitalism. In fact there obviously are political currents who see themselves as antineoliberal without being anticapitalist, and who believe, mistakenly, that it is possible to “humanize” capitalism. The new oligarchy that has emerged under the mantle of neoliberalism, using mafia methods of plunder and violence, has in fact displaced from power other sectors of the bourgeoisie, and this provides the objective basis for those who, suffering the consequences of neoliberalism, long for the previous phase of capitalism, with its so-called welfare state and statist policies, but also with its corporatism and anti-democratic, populist demagogy. On occasions no doubt, in the fight against some aspects of neoliberalism, we will coincide with certain current or sectors of the bourgeoisie displaced by the oligarchy, but that does not mean we should limit our perspective to the struggle against neoliberalism, as they do, but rather maintain our anti-capitalist approach, precisely because we know that the current reality of capitalism is neoliberal.
There seems to be a confusion in this debate within the OPN between the tasks of the struggle against the oligarchy and the system, on the one hand, and on the other the character of the new party organization that we are building.
It is true that the oligarchy’s submissive governments give some relevance to anti-imperialism and the defence of national sovereignty (the fight against NAFTA, against privatizations that favour imperialist companies, against Plan Merida and Felipe Calderón’s "war on drugs" or the presence of foreign agents and police officers, and the defence of the country’s oil, are some examples of this). This means that on occasions there will be an overlap with the struggles of other social sectors, because of course neoliberalism benefits a very narrow minority and hurts some business and bourgeois sectors too. But the possibility of fronts or common struggles against neoliberalism, do not eliminate the need for independent workers’ organization. This is why we say that the OPN is the organization, the party, of the workers. In the course of the struggle we may form fronts with other social sectors. But these sectors are not in the Workers’ Party, nor can the latter limit its own programme as if it were a multi-class party. It is not a party of national liberation which implies a multi-class programme, albeit anti-imperialist, but a workers’ party with an anti-capitalist perspective, even though in the immediate struggle it may coincide with other sectors that are just anti-neoliberal. This is why we make a distinction between anti-imperialist tasks, which we may share with others, and the character of the workers’ party. This is the "novelty" of the SME’s proposal: it’s the workers’ own organization. It is not about repeating the experience of other supposedly left-wing parties whose programme is merely neoliberal or partly anti-imperialist, or has a certain vision of national liberation that comes from the revolutionary nationalism of the old PRI and Cardenas. We repeat: what is new in the SME’s proposal is a party political organization of the workers themselves, that comes out of the SME’s struggle against the neoliberal policies of the oligarchy in power, which favour a capitalist minority, i.e., out of an anti-capitalist struggle.
Some comrades in the discussion in recent months have criticized, correctly, the fact that the programmatic proposals included so many nods and winks to business sectors, as if we wanted to represent their program and interests. It is obvious that no medium business sectors or displaced sections of the bourgeoisie will have the least interest in joining the OPN. So this obsession with including in the programme of a workers’ party these nods to business leaders, or saying that, yes it is a left party, but without including any anti-capitalist definition in its programme, is a misplaced self-limitation that will not only fail to appeal to the bourgeoisie, it will give the impression that we are waiting for them, saving them a place just in case, and submitting to the shadow of this absent bourgeoisie, by making concessions in party’s programmatic definition. According to this logic, it would indeed be more attractive to define the party as standing of national liberation, rather than as an anti-capitalist party of workers struggling for socialism (although it should undertake imperialist tasks).
People often say we don’t want another PRD, but if we define the OPN as an anti-neoliberal or national liberation party, we will maintain the same strategic outlook. We have to stand by the original sense of the SME comrades’ proposal. And this does not mean not making fronts with others whose anti-neoliberal positions we share, even though they re not anti-capitalist. For example, in the past in the fight against the privatization of the electricity industry, the SME gained the support of people like Manuel Bartlett. That was right and helped fight the SME. That does not mean that in the new OPN characters like Bartlett will be comrades in the same party. Similarly, we may coincide with Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) in the struggle to defend the Mexican oil industry, or indeed in other areas of struggle against the oligarchy, which he calls "The Mafia", but that does not mean that there are any illusions that he will join this new political organization of the workers which is the OPN. We do not need to make programmatic concessions that no one is asking of us, as if we were keeping the chair warm for social sectors that are not representative of the working class and who anyway will not join this party. Multiclass, anti-neoliberal parties, we have seen many times before, and their failure has become apparent. The SME’s proposal is different. We should support it.
The right to tendency is not the same as tribalism or the pressure groups of the caudillos.
As we said, the SME’s call to build the OPN had a first success with the very widespread favourable response from the left, well beyond the ranks of the SME itself. The need to build an organization with exemplary democratic structures is not just an abstract moral commitment, but an objective necessity to ensure the unity and the effective operation of the new organization. This project brings together activists from different political organizations and currents with very different backgrounds. Nor can this be just a corporate decision; we need membership to be a conscious decision by every militant and not mere obedience to a decision from above. This means that the OPN will be made up of critical individuals and not unthinking recruits. Given this, discussion and critical thought among the members of the organization will be only natural , as the preparatory discussion period has already shown. In no way should discussion, or the recognition of and respect for differences in our organization, be seen as barriers or as sabotage of the organization; rather they are a natural part of the political organization of the working class and of a radical organization in its critique of bourgeois society and values, among which neoliberalism has only sharpened the claim to a "single truth" and to uniformity in thought and values. On the contrary, we defend the right to difference, to diversity. To achieve this we need a democratic system.
The way to achieve such democracy and respect for diversity cannot be reduced to recognizing majorities and minorities on every issue, but must also include the right to organize political tendencies and to try to convince others of your proposals in a framework of democratic give and take. And that means knowing that if this time you fail to convince the majority, you will not be excluded from the organization nor will your point of view be suppressed. If the right to criticism and self criticism is recognised, that means that if on this occasion your proposal has not convinced others, and then tomorrow the majority proposal proves inadequate, then corrections can be made and it may be worth listening again to the minority proposal.
Right now, in spite of all the discussion that has taken place, everyone accepts that there are some issues that we will have to return to and discuss again after the organization’s foundation. Similarly, ideas that have not been accepted now will not be excluded, and nor will those who argued for them.
This is why it is necessary to ensure the right to tendency in the new organization. A tendency is a group of comrades in the organization around a political project or proposal. It is a current of thought that may be temporary, but which can be recognised and respected, without its members having to act in secret, clandestinely, a practice that is likely to produce unprincipled groupings based merely on personal loyalties to particular figures or ‘leaders’. It is better to require any current of opinion to express itself openly and tell the organization what it stands for and why it has decided to organize itself.
When some comrades in the OPN hear this proposal about tendencies, they reject it, remembering the experience with “currents” in the PRD. Again they argue, quite reasonably, that the new organization should not be a repeat of the PRD. But while that is right, again there is a confusion here that affects particularly all the comrades who have lived through the experience of the PRD. It is supposed that the main shortcoming of the PRD is the existence of currents, the so-called "tribes". In fact the main problem has nothing to do with the currents, but with the underlying character of the PRD. The "tribes" are a consequence of the character of that organization and not in themselves the cause of its evolution and degeneration. Even those founding members of the PRD who came from the socialist left agreed to abandon that perspective and take up the programme of a party of the "democratic revolution", which translated into a struggle to take turns in government. In the process, they dissolved or abandoned their previous parties. But if the objective is to take turns in government and show that once in office there is no instability or crisis but just a brave and honest administration (although not always quite so honest), then this objective turns into a fight for more votes and more government posts, simply in order to manage the state apparatus and not to transform the current reality. The “tribes” emerge in the struggle for these posts and elected office, and the material benefits they bring, and not for any medium term political project. That is why, even though whole parties with long histories of their own dissolved into the PRD when it was founded, these “tribes” re-emerged as interest groups circling around the elected posts and sinecures of a party seeking to become an electoral alternative.
The other part of the confusion is to see the right to tendency as something peculiar to those PRD-type currents. But in fact those are not political currents at all, in the sense of currents with a political point of view and proposal, but interest groups or unprincipled “tribes”. That is not what we want when we propose the right to tendency in the new organization.
On the eve of the Congress, we said that this right was even more necessary in the case of the OPN. This was not just because the SMEs call for the new OPN had already attracted a variety of historic currents of the Mexican left, some of them joining for the first time in a shared party project. So political tendencies within the OPN are not a proposal for the future, they are a reality now in this process where we are already working together. It would be ingenuous to think that these historic currents are going to disappear overnight, after the weekend of 27 and 28 August, especially after they have shown they can work together in a new project like the OPN, and alongside the SME workers and following their initiative, can create a new organization.
What is more, it should be pointed out that the right to tendency is not just an obsession of the Trotsky, but an idea that is part of the finest traditions of democratic struggle in the Mexican workers’ movement. Ever since the consolidation of the old trade union bureaucracy linked to the PRI, the fight for trade union democracy has been a permanent demand of the workers’ movement. This has been shown by the emergence of political currents and tendencies in the unions fighting against the monolithic control of the bureaucrats, against the exclusion clause and against the obligatory affiliation to the PRI. Many workers coming to the OPT come from the experience of democratic union currents, like those of the teachers or university students. The best example of this democratic functioning is the SME itself, where it was common, in the annual elections for half the Central Committee, for the General Secretary and the External Relations Secretary to be from different union currents. It is this democratic tradition of the SME that we should keep alive in the OPT and not the monolithic tradition of the bureaucracy. As we know, given their opposition to corporatism of all kinds, the SME leaders who called for the OPT did so as the 11 October current and not officially in the name of the union.
The democratic and inclusive decisions taken by the Congress.
The different opinions were able to express themselves during the founding Congress of the OPT. The work of the Congress and its conclusions demonstrate the validity and utility of a democratic way of functioning that allows all points of view to be expressed and discussed. For decades we have suffered the imposition of an anti-democratic culture by the PRI, which has been inherited by both the leaders of the institutional left and by the trade union bureaucracy. Often this also affects the mindset of grass roots activists and militants who, wrongly, see the democratic discussion of ideas as disputes or divisive conflicts, and who shout their opposition with abstract calls for action or practical activity, even in assemblies that are precisely designed to discuss and agree plans for action and organization. Discussion is not the same as division and the discussion and debate of ideas serves to clarify positions. The Congress decided to pull together all the different positions in the report backs from the working groups and round tables, and to point out the differences where these seemed, for the time being, to be unresolved (see the OPT website.).
As mentioned above, the discussion over national liberation and anti-capitalism produced some clarification and a lessening of the differences. No doubt practical experience will lead to further clarification.
In the press release following the Congress, comrade Humberto Montes de Oca, External Relations Secretary of the SME, summed up the founding of the OPT in these words: “Given the absence of a left-wing political organization representing working people, it is essential we develop a new organization based directly on the social movements, with a clearly left-wing, popular and class-struggle project, so that we can effectively fight the oligarchic regime and its supporters right now, without waiting for the “political opportunities” that the system itself decides.” 
Montes de Oca further describes the basis of the OPT: “To achieve its ends, our political movement will not put forward dogmatic ideological definitions, nor will it align itself with any particular current of the left. Nonetheless, all aspects of our national-democratic platform will stress our questioning of the capitalist system and the new forms of colonialism this has created. In this way we will assume our internationalist tasks, linking up with the peoples of Our America and with the peoples and working classes of the world.” 
On the question of elections, it was decided the organization should take no position at its founding congress in August, but do this at another to be held next March. In any case, the debates suggest that most people believe it is possible to take part in elections to public office, in ways to be decided according to the circumstances – this after those who saw not participating in elections as almost a principle, seem to have decided not to take part in the creation of the OPT.
On the issue that we call the right to tendencies, and which in the discussion is referred to as the right to political currents, the resolution is also interesting. “On the points that attracted much debate, like the right to form internal currents of opinion, it was agreed to continue the discussion and take a decision at the next congress to be held in March next year. This will also discuss our electoral tactics for 2012”, says Montes de Oca in the press release already mentioned.
In fact there is more to this, because although the discussion of the Statutes did not adopt our own proposal to recognize explicitly the right to tendency, it did remove from the draft Statutes the article that prohibited the existence of currents and also obliged all organizations wanting to join the OPT to dissolve themselves first. On the contrary, Article 39 of the Statutes now recognizes: “The National Executive Commission is the executive body of the National Council of the Organization, and this will determine its composition, always taking account of the stability of the organization and its plural character, in which there converge various traditions of struggle that enrich our democratic life and our collective vision”.
But this agreement is not confined to the written statutes. It is expressed in practice in the initial shape of the OPT, which ensures that the National Council and subsequently the National Executive Commission have a plural makeup reflecting the various traditions of struggle and of political culture that have responded to the SME’s call and come together. In fact, the organizations that have converged in the OPT maintain a public profile at its activities and meetings, some even with banners bearing their own names or pointing out their political origin every time they make a proposal or contribution or give greetings. The leadership bodies established so far include, alongside a decisive presence of comrades from the SME, members from such diverse political traditions as the MLN and the OST, the PRT and the PPS, REDIR-PRD or Rumbo Proletario, among others, as well as comrades from many of the movements and social organizations currently in struggle. 
Paraphrasing comrade Guillermo Almeyra, we can say that the OPT is a broad party, an anti-capitalist organization of the workers and their organizations. 
In this sense, the OPT is now, with its leadership bodies set up and busy recruiting and organizing its members, operating in relation to political currents just as it did before the Congress. If this continues, it may even be unnecessary to insist on explicit recognition of the right to tendencies at a later congress.
The only disputed votes in the OPT Congress, settled in an inclusive manner, were on the organization’s name and motto. As for the name, Martin Esparza’s proposal that we call it by its initials, OPT, standing for Political Organization of the People and the Workers, was supported by an overwhelming majority. The vote on the motto or slogan was between “National liberation and socialism” and “National liberation and social emancipation”, with 171 votes for the former and 281 for the latter. In reality, both expressed a combination of the perspectives for national liberation and socialism, since in the debates just before the Congress people began to use the idea of social emancipation as synonymous with the process of a revolutionary rupture leading to socialism. We voted for the “socialist” version because we wanted to call things by their name and not be cowed by the argument that the collapse of the Soviet Union meant we had to hide our name in order not to be tainted by that; we have no responsibility to bear for that particular corpse, nor should we suppose that the socialism we want has anything to do with that supposedly, really existing version. But the idea of social emancipation is obviously not contradictory with our socialist proposal and indeed, as the vote showed, is part of the historic anarchosindicalist and class-struggle union tradition in our country.
Many challenges in the immediate future
With the launch successfully completed, the OPT now has big political challenges ahead. The founding has been very inclusive politically. Now it has to consolidate this among its social base and extend it to activists in new social movements that are in struggle. Recruitment and organization of the rank and file is being driven by the OPT’s central coordination and leadership. It could not have been otherwise. Many initiatives are being taken to organise OPT members, not only geographically by areas of struggle, but through trade union initiatives aiming to promote a united workers’ confederation, as well as initiatives for the student movement, the peasantry and among women. More broadly, there are unitary attempts to move towards a broad, anti-neoliberal front of struggle and opposition, that can also link up with Mexico’s ’indignados’.
In a context where the whole party system in Mexico is in crisis, the OPT emerges as a hugely promising proletarian alternative, but with many challenges and difficulties to overcome, which are linked to what happens to the class-struggle workers’ movement and in particular to the SME itself.
Since the Extraordinary Congress of the PRT in July 2009, we have pointed out that a phase of the political crisis had begun that would lead to a rearrangement of all political forces, “to an imminent readjustment, rearrangement and recomposition of the party, political and electoral landscape, as in 1976 or in 1988”.  One year later, at the 12th Ordinary Congress, we added that “in this rearrangement, new political parties or formations may emerge while other disappear – almost or in fact – as in previous crises and rearrangements”. The creation of the OPT in August is a confirmation of this crisis that will see parties appear and disappear. For his part, López Obrador has called for MORENA to be turned into a civic association, probably as another step towards the creation of a new political party, as indicated by the calling of the MORENA Congress for November 2012, in other words after the elections. The PRD’s collapse, the end of its cycle, continues with this new step by López Obrador. But what may seem interesting as an opposition front or alternative social block, which is what MORENA is today, tomorrow as a party will be just another cross-class, anti-neoliberal party. It is in this context that the arrival of the OPT stands out because of its class identity, as a broad workers’ party, which now needs to clarify its position to be part of a broad social block in opposition to the oligarchy, at a critical time that could see the neoliberal mafia removed from office.
But undoubtedly one challenge that will have to be faced by the OPT very soon, possibly earlier than the time scale envisaged by the founding Congress, is the position to adopt in relation to the presidential elections, in a situation characterized by the violence of the Calderón government’s policy of militarization and its so-called war on drug trafficking. It will probably be necessary to wait for the current phase of the SME comrades’ struggle to be rehired to reach a conclusion, after all their years of resistance, before any clear decisions can be taken. However I do not think abstract calls for a “united candidate” are an adequate substitute. “United” between who? It is not possible to put an equals sign between the various political options and pre-candidates on offer today and just wait to see who “has the best chances”. The OPT’s position should not be based on electoral marketing but on political criteria, in terms of what each option represents and what its political possibilities are. For example, Marcelo Ebrard and López Obrador are not the same thing. Nor is it the same thing, in a time of crisis and confrontation, when there is a real perspective of removing from office the neoliberal representatives of the oligarchy who are responsible for this crisis, whether they be the PAN or the PRI, on the one hand to decide what alliance can achieve this goal, or on the other to stand a non-registered, symbolic or propaganda candidate, even from our own ranks – something that could be useful in other circumstances but not now.
The experience of the founding Congress shows that the OPT will be able both to hold onto to its character as a party of the workers, and to show the flexibility needed to develop a successful, anti-oligarchic front or block