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Newsletter (in English)


After the Honduran elections on November 29, the bourgeois press was triumphant. The newspaper El Heraldo proclaimed: “Honduras defeats abstentionism with a massive turnout”. The same evening, the Supreme Electoral Court declared that participation had been around 65%, far higher even than the participation in the presidential elections of 2005, which had been just 46%.

In contrast, President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, who had been deposed in a coup d’état on June 28, and the National Front of Resistance against the Coup, claimed that roughly 65%-75% of Hondurans had not voted. Independent reporters confirmed that in the capital Tegucigalpa, schools (where the voting took place) generally had more soldiers present than voters.

The run-up to the election was characterised by repression – even more than in the five months since the coup. For example, a demonstration of 1,000 people on the day of the elections in the biggest industrial city, San Pedro Sula, was broken up by police leaving at least two people seriously injured and 49 arrested. The coup government was from the beginning based on repression. Activists from trade unions and social movements have been threatened, attacked and murdered by the police or “unknown persons”. As the election came into view, this repression was stepped up in the second half of November.

The resistance to the coup by the workers, peasants and urban poor of Honduras has been truly heroic: on July 4 and again on September 15, hundreds of thousands of people came out onto the streets. An independent poll from early September showed that only 17% of the population supported the coup government of Roberto Micheletti. The necessary conditions were in place to smash the conspiracy by the “ten families”, the military and the church.

The only thing that was standing in the way was the figurehead of the resistance, Manuel Zelaya. He began his term as President in 2005 as the scion of a Liberal Party dynasty, but in response to the economic crisis and a wave of mass struggles in 2008 he made a tactical shift to the left and sought alliances with other “progressive” governments in the region, like that of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

This left shift cost him the support of all significant sectors of the bourgeoisie and all of its institutions. Thus, Zelaya had no other option than to partly base himself on the poor masses of Honduras — especially after the coup. However, his deep-seated class allegiance to the bourgeoisie held him back from the measures that would have been necessary to topple the coup government.

For example Zelaya’s surprise return to Tegucigalpa on September 21, when he sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy, led to an insurrectional situation in the poor neighborhoods of the capital. Streets were blocked with burning tyres and in one case an army base was attacked — the regime had to call a national curfew for several days.

But Zelaya, rather than building on this resistance to deliver a final blow to the “golpistas” (coup supporters), called for dialogue and peaceful protests. He even met with and hugged the four main candidates in the planned elections, all four of them golpistas!

The coup of June 28 had always been based on a strategy of holding out for the elections due five months later and then presenting the so-called “international community” with accomplished facts. Now it seems this strategy has been partially successful; while big Latin American countries are refusing to recognise the election results, in early November, US State Department functionary Thomas Shannon surprised the world by telling CNN en Español that the US would (despite earlier statements to the contrary) recognise the results of the elections.

Fatal negotiations

All the negotiations — the “San José accords” and the “Guaymuras dialogue”, in which Zelaya made every conceivable concession in order to be restored to power — in the end only legitimised the coup. This failed strategy of negotiations represents more than an “error”. Zelaya comes from a family of big landowners in the Western province of Olancho, sometimes referred to as the “Texas of Honduras”.

His father, also named Manuel Zelaya, was implicated in the murder on the family ranch in 1975 of 14 peasants and priests who had been fighting for an agrarian reform. The son, who used to be referred to as “Melito”, might have alienated himself from Honduras’ oligarchy, but he remains firmly committed to the structures that give them their power.

The resistance, even though it claimed to support the demand for a Constituent Assembly and not back the government of Zelaya, was de facto led by Zelaya and the sectors of the Liberal Party who continued to support him.

There were a series of courageous street demonstrations in the face of continuous repression and a state of emergency, but these were never based on a strategy of toppling the coup government — instead, they were supposed to pressurize the golpistas to make concessions.

This lack of strategy in large part is due to the fact that no one in the resistance seriously challenged Zelaya’s leadership.

The National Front of Resistance against the Coup, though it enjoyed the support of a majority of the population, never developed the structures which could organise them. Different sectors of the left failed to fight to realise this possibility.

The left

The independent presidential candidate, trade union leader Carlos H. Reyes, withdrew from the elections on November 9 to protest against the farce. Even though the bourgeois media claims this was because he was afraid of not getting any support, polls from before the coup had put him as high as 18%.

However, Reyes, a trade union bureaucrat and a former cadre of the Communist Party, has, despite his personal bravery, been far from a consistent fighter against the regime. For example he rejected calls for a general strike against the coup as unrealistic.

The other main left wing candidate, César Ham of the Democratic Unification (UD), decided to participate in the elections and was hoping to profit from the fact that his was the only anti-coup candidacy.

However, there was some resistance to this course within the UD, with local UD candidates withdrawing and an opposition tendency “Workers to Power” being formed around the left wing MP (and former Trotskyist) Tomas Andino. According to the official figures, the UD received less than 2% of votes, so their opportunism did not even bring them any short-term benefit.

The Socialist Workers Party (PST) has been a consistent opponent of the coup, and argued for a general strike to topple Micheletti and for a revolutionary constituent assembly. However, the PST had not been able to win broader layers for their strategy.

It should be expected that the new government of the Nationalist Party politician Pepe Lopez will be regarded as illegitimate by the majority of Hondurans. The mass protests over the summer and the discrediting of both Zelaya’s strategy of negotiations and the UD’s “Zelayismo”, open new possibilities for politically organising the vanguard of the Honduran working class.

Such an organisation, whether it’s called a party, a “political instrument” or something else, would need to fight to organise the resistance on the basis of democratic assemblies and elected delegates with the goal of implementing a Constituent Assembly. Such an assembly, in contrast to the vision of Zelaya, could not be based on the bourgeois parties horse-trading to agree on a new bill of rights. Instead, the workers, peasants and urban poor of the country would need to elect their own representatives and implement their own social and political order.

by Wladek Flakin from the independent youth organization REVOLUTION Berlin, December 5, 2009
published in “Permanent Revolution“, #15, Winter 2010


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