The New PRI

Luis Rubio

The outgoing administration never understood the Mexico that he was about to govern. He did not care that there was a Mexico yearning to incorporate itself into the modern world and that was briskly advancing toward that aspiration, and the other Mexico, the one left behind, which was unable to break with the bonds of the old system and the petty fiefdoms, interests and mafias that keep it tautly anchored in an unsustainable phase. His reforms were necessary, but not sufficient: there also was a dearth of governing. The lacks inherent to his (and previous) governments created the environment that made Andrés Manuel López Obrador possible.

The notion of a “new” PRI that he boasted about from left to right was none other than the oldes and left-behind PRI, the one which had refused to modernize itself, opposed the first wave of reforms and lived from the status quo: the one on which AMLO has now set his sights.  The truly new PRI is the one that we will surely begin to see in upcoming times: the one that AMLO’s Morena hoists on high, now without technocrats or confusions –nor limiting factors- ideological or pragmatic. A new political monopoly, a new ideological hegemony.

The project of AMLO is foundational: to start with a clean slate of what exists in order to build a platform that presides over the future of the country. The model is similar to that proposed by Plutarco Elías Calles back in 1928, but one saddled with a quintessential difference: for the latter involved an institutional project, while for AMLO the objective is personal, to construct a movement that envelops all of the political forces, controls the population and bestows political-ideological sustenance on his government. What AMLO has called the “fourth revolution” is nothing ethereal: it concerns an integral political reorganization, much greater and more ambitious than the national heroes he invokes as the authors of the three previous ones.

The question lies in just how viable a hegemonic project of this nature is in the XXI century. When Elías Calles advocated the creation of a “country of institutions,” Mexico found itself submerged in a flood of political violence, the government relied on extraordinary powers that were the product of the circumstances of the moment and of the specific era: the information possessed by the population was filtered by the government, television did not even exist yet, not to mention the Internet, and the revolutionary movement had finished off all of the public and private instances of any relevance. In a word, it was a world not even remotely like that of today.

Elías Calles summoned the pertinent leaderships of the time and spliced them together into an organization that would serve to shape the development project that raised aloft the victors of the revolutionary feat. AMLO sets foot into the government of a profoundly divided and polarized nation, well informed, inserted into a universe of nano-second communications and within the context of weighty political, entrepreneurial, financial and international powers that feature the capacity to act. The context is absolutely distinct, but so are the people.

In contrast with Elías Calles, AMLO’s venture is inherently personal. This I do not affirm in a negative sense: his vision is that of correcting or dismantling that which, from his perspective, has constituted the modernizing project of the past four decades. Instead of constructing new institutions, the objective is to give credence and sustainability to his personal vision, thus conferring upon it political viability. His enterprise does not entail building a new institutional framework, but rather the reorientation of public policies. The insistence during the last weeks of the campaign to secure the vote to his candidates for Congress and governorships reveals the true aim of his vision: to occupy all positions and political instances so that, from there, he can launch the assault against the modernizing project.

The model is not that of Alonso Quijano, Don Quixote, but nonetheless embraces much of it: rise up against the instances of power –political, economic, union, civil- not to destroy them but to take them but to submit them.  Instead of Sancho Panza, there is Morena, whose object will be to absorb at least the PRI and return to the “original,“ hegemonic, undertaking that emerged from the Revolution. To do this, it is imperative to pervade all the spaces and oversee all the power loopholes.

How far will he take his crusade? Throughout the election, he was accused of being Chavista and desirous of restoring a permanent regime. But AMLO is not Chávez: he is a sixties PRIist who wants ensconce Mexico in the period during which, from his standpoint, everything worked well: when there was growth, less inequality, and order. The meltdown moment will come when his vision clashes against the complex reality of today, when it becomes evident that the cost of implanting it into the XXI century is so steep that it would produce just the opposite of what he aspires to:  financial crisis, impoverishment and more inequity.

AMLO does not have a destructive project in mind, but his plan is incompatible with today’s world. When that clash is apparent, we will know what he is inclined to do because it will oblige him to define himself: there is much he could achieve if he were to devote himself to setting aright the excesses and the vices of the present –and he proposed just that with absolute clarity in his campaign, such as inequality, pathetic growth and insecurity- rather than trying to turn back the hands of time.