An Open Letter to the New Zealand Herald
Yesterday the international section of your newspaper devoted its front page to an article which completely misrepresented recent events in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
David Usborne's 'The Battle of Oaxaca' claims that the state's capital city has been 'sliding into near-anarchy', and presents the recent invasion of the city by heavily armed police as a 'liberation' for which local inhabitants are only too grateful.
If the heroes of Usborne's story are the police, then his villains are the 'leftist gangs' which have 'roamed the streets' of Oaxaca creating a state of 'lawlessness'. These leftist thugs have supposedly been spending their time spraying graffiti on walls and attacking mothers trying to take their children to school.
Usborne does not tell your readers that the real sources of lawlessness in Oaxaca are Ulises Ruiz, the governor of the state, and Vicente Fox, the President of Mexico. The rule of both men has been characterised by electoral fraud, nepotism, and the use of violence to repress dissent. Because Ruiz and Fox and the parasitic capitalist class they represent have run Mexico without regard for democracy or the rule of law, the revolt against them is nothing if not a struggle against chaos and violence.
Earlier this year 400,000 Oaxacans responded to the brutal repression of a teachers' strike by rallying to demand the resignation of Ruiz. When the dictator refused to budge workers, students, and campesinos from across the state established the Oaxaca People's Popular Assembly to replace his regime. In every street, representatives have been elected to 'Neighbourhood Assemblies', and these organisations have in turn elected delegates to the Popular Assembly.
With its mass grassroots democracy, the Oaxaca People's Popular Assembly recalls bodies like the Paris Commune, the soviets of revolutionary Russia, and the worker-controlled factories established in recent years in Venezuela and Argentina. The Oaxaca Commune is not a 'leftist gang' but the seed of a new, revolutionary society, in which the needs and desires of ordinary Mexicans prevail over the interests of a wealthy elite. That is why it has been the subject of such determined attacks from the governments of Ruiz and Fox.
Perhaps the worst part of David Usborne's article is its characterisation of the police execution of three men last Sunday as a 'shootout'. Usborne cannot bring himself to acknowledge the photographic and film evidence which shows that the three slain men were unarmed. Nor does he acknowledge that the same evidence shows the murderers to be clumsily disguised members of Oaxaca's police force. Usborne might as well describe the Tiananmen Square massacre as a 'shootout' between Chinese students and unknown opponents.
It is no surprise that the New Zealand Herald has chosen to reproduce an article that smears the Oaxaca Commune and defends the governments whose agents committed murder last Sunday. Over its long life your paper has always been hostile to people like the Oaxaca Communards. In 1913 you cheered on Massey's Cossacks as they used long batons to smash the general strike; in 1917 you called the Bolshevik revolution a threat to civilisation; and in 1951 you sided with Sid Holland's National government when it suspended civil liberties and battened locked out wharfies into the pavements of Auckland.
Because they are mouthpieces of economic elites, papers like the Herald always side with the over-dog against ordinary people like the Oaxaca Communards. It was a desire to help develop a different sort of media that brought Bradley Will, a journalist from New York City, to Oaxaca this year. Will was covering events in the city for the international left-wing Indymedia news service when he was murdered by Ulises Ruiz's police last Sunday. His death tells us far more about the reality of Oaxcaca than David Usborne's fraudulent article.
For more info on events in Oaxaca and an ad for this Friday's demonstration in support of the People's Popular Assembly, visit Aotearoa indymedia.