Redeeming the Revolution: The State and Organized Labor in Post-Tlatelolco Mexico

Redeeming the Revolution: The State and Organized Labor in Post-Tlatelolco Mexico

Redeeming the Revolution: The State and Organized Labor in Post-Tlatelolco Mexico

Redeeming the Revolution: The State and Organized Labor in Post-Tlatelolco Mexico

Synopsis

A tale of sin and redemption, Joseph U. Lenti's Redeeming the Revolution demonstrates how the killing of hundreds of student protestors in Mexico City's Tlatelolco district on October 2-3, 1968, sparked a crisis of legitimacy that moved Mexican political leaders to reestablish their revolutionary credentials with the working class, a sector only tangentially connected to the bloodbath. State-allied labor groups hence became darlings of public policy in the post-Tlatelolco period, and with the implementation of the New Federal Labor Law of 1970, the historical symbiotic relationship of the government and organized labor was restored.

Renewing old bonds with trusted allies such as the Confederation of Mexican Workers bore fruit for the regime, yet the road to redemption was fraught with peril during this era of Cold War and class contestation. While Luis Echeverría, Fidel Velázquez, and other officials appeased union brass with discourses of revolutionary populism and policies that challenged business leaders, conflicts emerged, and repression ensued when rank-and-file workers criticized the chasm between rhetoric and reality and tested their leaders' limits of toleration.

Excerpt

Redeemers and prophesies of redemption have been central to the Mexican narrative. Choosing from among many, the predicted return of Topiltzin, the Toltec lord who was shamed and exiled in the tenth century, and the expected resurrection of Emiliano Zapata, the revolutionary who was ambushed and killed in 1919, were visions that effected historical change in Mexico long after the redeemers had exited the stage. Redeemers walk among Mexicans even today, we are told, as scholars apply this label to Subcomandante Marcos and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, both of whom endured political or personal setbacks in their lives and whose expected revivals factor into the modern Mexican drama.

Redeemer and redemption are concepts that need political contextualization. Being terms that originated in a Latin world of Christians and pagans, the verb redeem and the noun redeemer connote religious meanings by definition. “To redeem,” according to the dictionary of the Real Academia Española, has several interrelated definitions, as it can mean: (a) to rescue or free from slavery by means of payment; (b) to buy back something that had been sold, possessed, or owned for some reason . . .

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