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UNAM: Report on the UNAM Striker's Talk



     Bob McGrew succeeded in finding the meeting addressed by a UNAM striker and he reports:
     The UNAM striker did, in fact, speak at Stanford, but her fifteen-person audience included five Mexican graduate students who had gone to UNAM before the strike and still had classmates or family there. While the remainder of the audience were liberal activists, the dialogue between the striker and the former UNAM students made the event much more interesting - and truthful - than I had expected.
     The speaker was Irina Arellano, a member of the general council of the strike. She talked about the reforms the strikers wanted to repeal - the rise in fees and some earlier reforms. One was a standardized entrance test which asked the social background of the applicants. I presume the data were meant to be used for statistical purposes, but she feared that "the authorities" would use the test to accept only those who could pay the new $140 fee.
     Since the fee increase was instituted under general pressure from the IMFto reduce the state sector, she said "For us it is clear that the World Bank and the IMF they already have plans to make Mexico into a factory country. So to them it is obvious that they don't need a scientist or a novelist..."
     She accused the mass media of being under the control of "the authorities," and told a few anecdotes about police brutality. For instance, when the strikers went to protest the WTO and the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal at the American Embassy in solidarity with their Bay Area brethren, the police herded them into back streets, beat them, and arrested them, pursuing those who tried to escape.
     After she had talked for an hour, however, the students from UNAM began to speak. Every one of the students from UNAM had supported the strike at the beginning, but none of them supported it anymore. They agreed with the goal of repealing the fees, but would have accepted compromise over the other goals. From their discussion, it became apparent that the strikers had been divided into 'moderates' who wanted the fees reduced and were willing to compromise on the other points, and 'intransigents' who insisted on all or nothing. The intransigents seem to have taken control of the strike and gradually forced the moderates out of any control. (Parallels to the French Revolution, anyone?) The administration offered a number of compromises, but the intransigents insisted on all of their original demands and a few new ones. By this time, the general council of the strike no longer represented the student body, much of which had left to obtain work or had transferred to private universities.
     In the end, it seems that the students suffered, the University suffered, the faculty suffered, and the people who depended on University City for their livelihood suffered - all for the benefit of a few radicals who could not make any compromise that would reduce their power after the strike ended.


     My comment: This is an excellent summary. Bob tells us that a fuller account will be published in the Stanford Review. He offers to e-mail the article to those interested. His e-mail address is Bob McGrew: bmcgrew@Stanford.EDU

Ronald Hilton - 3/13/00


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