The Truth of U.S. Domination Over Mexico
By Raymond Lotta
Revolutionary Worker #1092, February 25, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
The following excerpt is taken from a speech given in late February 1994 by Raymond Lotta, a Maoist political economist.
Mexico is thoroughly penetrated by U.S. imperialism. Economically, it is penetrated by U.S. transnational corporations and banks. They exert tremendous power over crucial sectors of the economy. Where and how people work and live in Mexico has everything to do with the investment decisions and priorities of companies like General Motors, Ford, and IBM. Just look at the industrial development and the population movements that have taken place in northern Mexico. This is where U.S. auto and electronics firms have built high-tech sweatshops. But it's not just economic penetration.
U.S. imperialism also penetrates the Mexican state. The U.S. provides economic aid and assistance; it provides training, equipment, and services to Mexico's military; and leading government ministers have been trained in the United States. The leading business groups and banks in Mexico have close partnerships and connections with the Mexican state and with U.S. capital.
Now when I speak about imperialist domination, I don't just mean that U.S. corporations are inside Mexico. I also mean that Mexico is inside the imperialist world economy. It is integrated into the world capitalist system. This is a system based on exploitation and oppression. It is a system in which a handful of rich countries dominate the oppressed nations of the Third World. The rich countries make up 15 percent of the world's population; yet these countries use up 80 percent of the world's productive resources, and their ruling classes control 80 percent of world income. Why is this? Because the role and position of the oppressed nations in the global economy is determined by unequal power relations and by an unequal global structure of production, trade, and credit. The ups and downs of this world economy, the prices of goods that are bought and sold on world markets, the production methods and technologies used internationally, the new foods people eat and how they are packaged, the economic and political rivalries between different imperialist powers--these and other factors work their way through the Mexican economy, right down to the most basic level.
Let me give an example. In Chiapas, most peasants used to grow corn and beans. But over the years many switched to growing coffee. This was because the Mexican government would no longer give them financial assistance for growing food crops. Beans are not profitable on the world market--even though people need that protein. The Mexican government has been promoting crops that could be sold on the world market to pay off its debt. Coffee has been one of these crops. But in 1990, the price of coffee on the world market tumbled. Many peasants in Chiapas were ruined--and they had fewer beans and corn to eat. This is imperialism at work.
What I'm saying is that Mexico's economy--when you look at it as a whole, when you look at what is produced, how, and for whom--you see that it has been shaped, molded, and remolded not to serve the needs of independent national economic development, and certainly not to meet the needs of the people -- but to serve the requirements of imperialism and its local partners...
Maoists say that Mexico is a semi- or neocolony of the United States. That means Mexico is indirectly controlled by the U.S....but it is controlled! And Maoists say that Mexico is a semifeudal society. That means it is a society in which capitalist exploitation is combined with feudal forms of exploitation of the peasantry. It is a society in which landownership is key to economic and political power in the countryside... but in which the vast majority of the rural masses are denied land and resources. It is a society in which there is a modern capitalist agriculture. But it is also a society in which huge landowners and the Mexican state keep large numbers of the rural poor in a condition of virtual servitude. They do this through control of land, credit, and other production resources. And they do it through terror. The Mexican state itself is stamped by bureaucratic-feudal patrone (people with political clout)-client relationships.
It is important to understand this semifeudal situation for three reasons: one, it has been a major element of the whole way the Mexican economy has functioned, although it has been covered up and denied; two, because the suffering of the rural masses is linked to these semifeudal conditions; and, three, because there is a social volcano ready to explode in the Mexican countryside. The poor peasants and rural masses of Mexico represent a powerful force for change; they are the key to a potential revolutionary people's war in Mexico!
The Agrarian Question in Mexico
The revolt in Chiapas brought some reality into focus. People are now talking about the campesino, about agriculture, about how imperialism affects what people produce and what they eat...and whether they eat. Most of the time, the countryside and the campesino are the forgotten and invisible side of Mexican society. One of the Mexican ruling class's official myths is that Mexico is an urban society in the making. The campesino is considered a relic of the past.
About one-third of Mexico's population lives in the countryside. Many experts and political forces claim that the Mexican countryside is basically capitalist. They claim that feudalism and its landlord-peasant relations have been eliminated. But a question has to be asked: If land reform and capitalist development have so thoroughly transformed the peasant economy --why has the struggle for land remained at the heart of the struggle in the countryside? Mexico does in fact have a large capitalist agricultural sector. There is large-scale capitalist cultivation of food and agribusiness products. There is extensive capitalist cattle-raising activity. And U.S. corporations are heavily invested in food processing and in fertilizer and agricultural machinery production. But landlord-peasant relations have not been eliminated. What has happened is that these landlord-peasant relations have become more influenced by the needs and production standards of capitalism and imperialism. And the peasant economy is linked to the capitalist economy. This is why we say feudal relations have become semi-feudal relations.
There is a vast sea of poor peasants throughout Mexico's countryside. Many must work as day laborers. There are wage workers in the countryside whose families can only survive by growing food on patches of land. Millions of the rural poor are tied to the land. They are crushed by debt and loan sharking. They are forced to perform labor for landlords and on construction projects. They are terrorized by thugs and local political bosses, the caciques. In some areas of Mexico, like in Chiapas, peasants are brutally exploited on plantations and ranches of rich landowners. But the main pillar of semi-feudalism is what is called the ejido system. This is the system of communal lands worked by the peasants. In fact, the state is the effective landlord. It dominates the peasant through its agricultural banks, its control of seed and fertilizer, and its political bosses and guns. Local powerbrokers and local landowners are also able to exploit and swindle the peasant through the ejido system.
The poor and backward parts of the Mexican economy are not isolated features of Mexican society. They are the other and necessary side of Mexico's modernization. This is one of the lessons of Chiapas. The Mexican government poured lots of so-called development money into Chiapas. This was to explore for oil and to expand and modernize production for agro-export. But agricultural labor was coming from the poor and highly oppressed peasant and Indian communities.
How has imperialism benefited from semi-feudalism? Earlier I mentioned the low wages paid to Mexico's industrial workers by U.S. corporations. One reason wages could be kept low was that the Mexican government made sure that relatively cheap food was produced for the cities. And the poor peasant economy was a major source of this cheap food, especially from the late 1940s until the early 1970s. The peasant economy has also been a major source of cheap labor for capitalism. Driven by poverty, peasant have migrated in search of work to other parts of the countryside, to Mexico's cities, and to the fields and factories of the United States.
The Mexican agricultural economy has been greatly damaged by its deeper integration into the world market. Over the last 30 years, land and resources have been shifted away from production of basic foods, like maize and beans. Instead, more cropland is devoted to crops that can be sold on the world market. Crops that used to be grown and eaten in the countryside are diverted to the cities, where they are turned into processed foods by U.S. agribusiness corporations. More food production is geared to the consumer needs of the better off. The Mexican government made huge investments to irrigate the northern flatlands. This is where tomatoes and strawberries are grown. For whom? Consumers in the U.S. Cattle ranching has also been greatly expanded. This is to supply meat to the middle and upper classes in Mexico's cities, and to supply live cattle to the U.S. where they are further fed and then slaughtered. Cattle raising and the growing of crops like sorghum to feed cattle have also taken over lands that had previously been used to grow basic foods.
What has modernization and new technology in agriculture led to? Let me break it down this way. Mexico used to be self-sufficient in food production. It is now one of the four largest importers of grain in the world. Food production and food consumption per person declined through the 1980s. Malnutrition is spreading. And a growing portion of the rural population is suffering from landlessness.
Let me end this part of my talk by saying this. The most fundamental distortion caused by imperialism is what it has done to the Mexican countryside. The agrarian question, and the just struggle of the peasant for land, is central to revolution in Mexico.
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