Cover image for Power from Experience: Urban Popular Movements in Late Twentieth-Century Mexico By Paul Lawrence Haber

Power from Experience

Urban Popular Movements in Late Twentieth-Century Mexico

Paul Lawrence Haber


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Power from Experience

Urban Popular Movements in Late Twentieth-Century Mexico

Paul Lawrence Haber

“Haber’s book is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of social movements in Mexico and beyond. His historical summary of Mexican politics in a remarkably brief fifty pages, his methodological discussion, and his review of the literature are excellent and all written in particularly lucid style. Most important, Haber’s focus on the impact of social movements on electoral politics (and the impact of electoral politics on social movements) is illuminating. His insistence that the ‘story of movements is incomplete without attention’ to the fact that ‘movements must survive in the world as it is’ is, in itself, a major contribution, along with his recognition of the tensions between political and material survival and ‘visionary ideals.'”


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When Vicente Fox was elected Mexico’s president in 2000, the world’s most enduring twentieth-century authoritarian regime finally came to an end. In this book Paul Haber explains how urban popular movements contributed to such a historic transition.

In the 1960s Mexico’s urban poor, effectively incorporated into institutionalized forms of clientelism and cooptation, were perceived as passive and acquiescent. Their situation changed during the 1970s, Haber shows, as popular movements—led largely by young people inspired by the revolutionary ideals of Mexico’s 1960s student movement—took the first steps toward mobilizing the urban poor in what would develop into the full-scale political protests of the 1980s.

When Mexico’s economic crisis came in the early 1980s, urban popular movements were in a position to play a major role in the growing democratic opposition. Haber, using a creative blend of ethnography and policy analysis, traces this history on a national level and with detailed reference to two key organizations, the Comité de Defensa Popular of Durango and the Asamblea de Barrios of Mexico City. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many of Mexico’s most important social leaders saw new opportunities in electoral politics, and the transformation from social movement to party politics began. Haber’s study closely follows the urban dimensions of this history and spells out its implications not only for the urban poor but also for Mexico’s nascent democracy.

“Haber’s book is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of social movements in Mexico and beyond. His historical summary of Mexican politics in a remarkably brief fifty pages, his methodological discussion, and his review of the literature are excellent and all written in particularly lucid style. Most important, Haber’s focus on the impact of social movements on electoral politics (and the impact of electoral politics on social movements) is illuminating. His insistence that the ‘story of movements is incomplete without attention’ to the fact that ‘movements must survive in the world as it is’ is, in itself, a major contribution, along with his recognition of the tensions between political and material survival and ‘visionary ideals.'”
Power from Experience is a tour de force. Haber provides a compelling and highly significant analysis of the contribution of social movements among the urban poor in Mexico to that country’s transition to democracy. Haber’s unique access to all levels of two leading social movement organizations allows him to combine the ‘experience of movement’ with more traditional power analysis to great effect. In the early twenty-first century, when movements of the poor are often suggested to be linked to insurgency or global terrorism, it is of urgent importance to consider Haber’s work, which masterfully illuminates how social movements of the urban poor instead moved Mexico towards democracy. Experts, students, and general readers will have much to learn from reading this book.”
“[Haber] carefully relates social movements to social theory within the Mexican context. This analysis helps one understand how the Mexican political system both withstood popular movements and was ultimately (if only partially) transformed by them.”
“Despite the ten years or more of research that went into its making, the book is pleasingly slim. In sum, this is a good book on social movements in Latin America. That makes it rare enough to be well worth reading.”

Paul Lawrence Haber is Professor of Political Science at the University of Montana.


Preface and Acknowledgments

List of Acronyms

Introduction: Introducing the Terrain of Struggle

1. Theory and Method for a Phenomenological and Institutional Study of Social Movements

2. Mexico at the Zenith of the 1980s Protest Cycle

3. The Seesaw Political Economy of Recovery, Crisis, and Democratic Transition (1988–2000)

4. The Comité de Defensa Popular de Francisco Villa de Durango

5. The Asamblea de Barrios of Mexico City

6. Comparisons and Conclusions





Introduction: Introducing the Terrain of Struggle

We know that the kind of history one writes depends very much on the kind one wants. History shares a quality with all scientific classifications: it is composed for some specific purpose. So long as it does not willfully distort facts and events, it must be judged on the basis of whether it meets the historian’s intentions. No history can be true or false in an abstract or absolute sense. Consequently, it is very important to be explicit about one’s aims.

—Ernest Becker, The Structure of Evil

Poor people are, in general, too ignorant to be trusted. Democracy needs an active and participatory middle class that strives to improve its condition and cares about politics and the national progress.

—Porfirio Díaz

The July 2000 electoral overthrow in Mexico of the twentieth century’s longest-lasting authoritarian regime cannot be properly understood without an accounting of the significant role played by the mobilization of the urban poor during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The nonunionized urban poor have become the most populous social class: they are more numerous than unionized workers and the peasantry, and they far outstrip what by Latin American standards is a significant middle class.

The regime’s failure to incorporate this large number of people into Mexico’s political, economic, social, and cultural institutions made it possible for them to become the political base for the radical students who survived the regime’s violent repression of the student movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Beginning quietly, so quietly that they eluded significant comment or in some quarters even detection, these student leaders enabled the urban poor to become significant actors in the left-wing reawakening of Mexico’s civil society during the 1970s and 1980s. These urban social movements played a key role in the contentious presidential election of 1988, when Carlos Salinas of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutionalized Revolutionary Party [PRI]) was declared the winner, but only over loud accusations of massive fraud.

Throughout the turbulent Cold War period, most political actors on the revolutionary left perceived elections as exercises designed to legitimate authoritarianism through the staging of democratic farces: electoral contests that yielded no substantial benefits to those challenging the authoritarian regime at its core. Where elections existed but were perceived thus by the Left, it attempted to locate itself within the sites of power that had the capacity to destabilize existing institutions and practices, thereby creating the possibility of democratic reforms. These democratic-reform social movements tended to wither during the transition phase of democratization, that is, when the authoritarian regime was being replaced by a new and incipient democratic order. This scenario can be seen in many recent cases, including those of Brazil, El Salvador, Poland, South Africa, and the former Czechoslovakia. However, once political parties and the holding of public office become viable options, movement leaders often turn their attention to playing the new democratic game. This has happened all over the world, as social movements that played vital roles in democratic transition have created or been incorporated into Left and Center-Left political parties. Mexico is no exception: by the end of the 1980s, the new urban popular movement organizations debated participation in electoral politics, with the majority opting for political party affiliation by the 1990s.

A primary purpose of this book is to examine this widespread historical trend through an exploration of the Mexican experience, considering what the transformation from urban low-income movement to party politics has meant for the country’s democratic transition and its future consolidation. I examine the implications for neoliberal political and economic restructuring of these transformations on the left and what the close association between most of the large urban popular movement organizations and political parties has meant for the evolution of the Mexican party system. Finally, I explore the implications of this change in terms of power, material rewards, and identity for those who moved these movements forward, the rank-and-file members and sympathizers.

Most people who study politics agree that elite interactions are critical in an analysis of political outcomes. However, as Joseph Klesner argues, “the study of elite interactions alone, of strategic pacts in which elites promise to protect each other’s interests or existence, ignores the social bases of the elites who are negotiating” (1998, 478). In his review of the literature on Mexico’s democratic transition, Klesner notes that “[t]here is a crying need for systematic exploration of the extent of recruitment of civic organization leaders into the opposition parties” (491). In this study, I aspire to help fill this gap, by detailing the strategic decisions made by movement leadership to seize the new political opportunities promised by electoral participation in the post-1988 period.

As Pamela Oliver and many others correctly point out, movements should not be equated with any particular organization or organizations. They function more as networks occupied by both organizational and nonorganizational actors (1989, 4). However, as Snow and his colleagues (1986) observe, lead organizations can tell us a great deal about a social movement. The two cases chosen for this study represent extremely important organizations, both of them in the leadership of Mexican urban social movements. The first, the Comité de Defensa Popular (Popular Defense Committee [CDP]) of Durango, has a rich and influential history dating back to the 1970s, when it influenced the entire popular movement by becoming one of the first organizations to participate in electoral politics. It is the most important organization within the Partido de Trabajo (Workers’ Party [PT]), a new political party that emerged in the 1990s. Sergio Zermeño has written that “The CDP is without a doubt the urban popular movement with the most tradition, power, and continuity in Mexico” (1997, 9). The second case study, that of the Asamblea de Barrios (Assembly of Neighborhoods [AB]) of Mexico City, represents the most important urban popular movement affiliated with the Center-Left Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution [PRD]). By studying these two movement organizations and their trajectories into electoral politics, we are in a strong position to reflect on the complexities of urban movement and political party relationships.

Few accounts of Mexico’s long political transition from being ruled by an authoritarian regime overseeing a highly regulated and nationalist capitalism to being governed by a fledgling democratic regime implementing a market-oriented and internationalized capitalism, make reference to the urban poor. If they are mentioned, it is often in the capacity of passive or second-class citizens. One of my goals is to dispel this unfortunate myth and interpret Mexico’s thirty-year history of social activism in terms of how it was experienced by its participants, from top leadership to midlevel activists to the rank and file, examining their ability to change the policy content and policy style of the country’s particularly durable authoritarian regime.

In this book, I aspire to contribute to an appreciation of the magnitude of change that has occurred in the politics of the urban poor. What I claim and document is that the presence of the urban popular movement shaped the consciousness and political activity of millions of people across Mexico. These movements were crucial to the events of 1988 and the multiparty system that has begun to take shape in Mexico in subsequent years. The story that unfolds here also illustrates the persistence of authoritarian qualities in the workings of Mexican politics (renovated corporatism, clientelism, and co-optation). Authoritarianism in Mexico has never been static or monolithic in its exercise or its results. In particular, in many parts of Mexico, power has long been hotly contested, and the national regime, based upon the continued domination of the PRI, was significantly and repeatedly challenged. From the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, in some cases, the opposition won elections, took office, and contributed to building a more robust federalism. In others, social movement organizations deeply influenced the operations of the PRI government, as well as altering the authoritarian power structures in civil society.


While different theoretical and methodological approaches have created the tremendous diversity that characterizes the Latin American social movement literature of the past decade, these approaches are significantly shaped by what can realistically be researched. Accessibility to people involved, political sensitivities, and the quality of available information all interact with the temperament and the theoretical and methodological inclinations and capabilities of authors to influence the written literature in ways that are sometimes unrecognized. In my case, fieldwork was fundamentally shaped by the fact that I was both inclined to work closely with movement leadership and that they were willing to work with me.

The results of my investigation would have been very different indeed had not the early suspicions, sometimes expressed openly in my presence, that I was likely to be associated with some form of undercover surveillance not given way to significant levels of trust on the part of top and midlevel leadership in both Durango and Mexico City. This network of trust grew over the many months that I spent living within the urban popular movement, and the trust I gained with top leadership spilled over into my interactions with midlevel leadership, whose members had close ties with much of the rank and file. Despite assurances to the contrary, I remained firm in my intuition that maintaining this trust required that I carefully limit the relationships I developed with government officials. This has resulted in an analysis in which the state is viewed from the perspective of the movements; this would not have been so had I felt freer to develop relationships with elected officials and government administrators.

This book is also influenced by the fact that the published regional history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century durangueño history is, to be charitable, very thin indeed. The lack of a rich historiography combined with my training as a political scientist and not as an historian pushed me toward the contemporary period very early on in my research. In this my work also contrasts sharply with that of Jeffrey Rubin, who drew on the rich historiography of Oaxaca to develop deep historical sensibilities. While our differences are in part a reflection of our divergent passions, insights, and convictions, they also stem from what we had to work with. Social science research in radical social movements is, at least in many cases, influenced as much by contingencies met on the ground as it is by the dictates of one’s discipline or theoretical orientations.

In writing this book I was strongly motivated by a desire to convey to the reader the political experience of participants in the Mexican urban social movement, without getting lost in abstract discussions of structures. While it was essential to stake out a position regarding the political implications for policy formation and outcomes at both the regional and the national levels, I did not want the prose to take on the style of a public policy text. The experience of social movements is too rich a story to get lost, as it often does, in social science renditions. The experience of participants as it is articulated in their own words not only makes for interesting reading but also opens an engaging lens through which the reader can better understand movement politics. The passion and insight expressed by movement participants is key to understanding why people joined, stayed in, and drifted away from the movement at various points in its history; they convey how it felt and what it meant to participate in these events that changed Mexico’s history. The story that unfolds in the following pages is the result of my effort to combine their various perspectives.

Historical interpretation can entail a significant degree of controversy and contention. The reader will notice that rather than write this history in a single voice, I have often opted to present in the form of conversation or debate “what really happened.” At other times, because of the nature of the data, the logic, or even admittedly simply my own intuition, I move more aggressively and take a strong interpretive position. I advise the reader of such interpretive interventions, particularly when strong analyses are presented.

In this book I seek to convey what I have termed “the experience of movement”—that is, the phenomenology of being in the movement as seen from a variety of perspectives, from those of the rank-and-file members to those of top leadership. This experience of movement is extremely varied both over time, as the movements went through various stages from emergence to decline, and as dictated by one’s particular position within it. It is extremely important to convey both the headiness generated by active participation in a particularly dynamic type of public life as well as the factionalism, bossism, and clientelism within Mexican urban popular movement organizations. The story that unfolds in the following pages is the result of my effort to combine these various perspectives. This ethnographic orientation is combined with a more traditional political science power analysis that focuses on social movements as pressure groups that influence policy in both style and outcome. This analysis draws from a review of the policy record as well as the interpretations of movement participants and state actors.

This method is applied to two of the most important urban popular movement organizations of the 1970s–1990s: the CDP in Durango and the AB in Mexico City, neither of which have received the kind of detailed analytical treatment they deserve. By exploring them in depth, this study also aspires to make a contribution to the growing and rich literature on Mexico’s regional histories. The two case studies show that movement strength is due to successful institution building within movements simultaneous to continued social mobilization, skillful negotiation with elites, taking advantage of political opportunities, and the types of strategies movements design to exploit these opportunities.

Assessing the Importance of Social Movements

From a political science perspective, the most important questions are the most difficult to answer: Did the movements affect power relations and policy outcomes? If so, how did they do it and why were their achievements limited? The challenge of isolating and assessing the causal influences of social movements is an old and contentious issue. As expressed in one literature review, “The interest of many scholars in social movements stems from their belief that movements represent an important force for social change. Yet demonstrating the independent effect of collective action on social change is difficult” (McAdam, McCarthy, and Zald, 1988, 727). Perhaps in part because of this very difficulty, few analysts have been willing to tackle the problem of assessing the systemic political implications of Latin American social movements. Clearly, “part of the problem lies in conceptualizing ‘effects’ or ‘impact’ of movements on state institutions given the principle of multiple causality” (Street 1989, 7). Assessing the independent causal weight of social movements in a cycle of protest that by definition involves many crucial individuals, groups, movements, political parties, state institutions, and international actors—while most certainly difficult—is not insurmountable. Well-argued and empirically supported interpretations are both possible and desirable, and my goal in this book is to offer them.

Social movements often have emancipatory revolutionary goals. Sometimes, movements are judged to be failures because they fail to achieve these goals. While movements usually fail to achieve their more far reaching goals, limiting their historical importance on this basis is not only a disservice to their creativity and bravery—often in the face of fantastic odds—but also bad history. Manuel Castells, in his influential work on urban social movements, is representative of a wide body of opinion among sympathetic movement analysts in the sociological tradition when he responds to this problem:

[The importance of urban social movements] is not limited to their great victories, which, alone, would be exceptional, but to the impact they had, even in defeat. Their lasting effects are present in the breaches produced in the dominant logic, in the compromises reached with the institutions, in the changing cultural forms of the city, in the collective memory of the neighborhoods, and, ultimately, in the continuing social debate about what the city should be. (1983, 71–72)

Learning more about how social movements have influenced political outcomes contributes to reducing the wide gap in our understanding of Latin America. “Our current knowledge of Latin America is painfully inadequate and centered primarily on elite concerns and perspectives. As a consequence, we know much more about state structures, political parties, and interest groups than about the lives and preoccupations of ‘popular groups’” (Eckstein 1989a, 2). From the political science perspective, we should be troubled by how relatively little we know about these movements, despite their importance in both the historical trajectories and the contemporary developments of Latin America. The high regard we give to state structures, political parties, and elite groups is warranted. But the lack of attention to popular movements is not.

The Study of Mexico’s Urban Poor

Massive rural-to-urban migration in Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s meant that both those who feared and those who hoped to find revolutionary potential among the urban poor were motivated to explore this possibility. Influential social scientists such as Karl Deutsch (1961) and James Coleman (1960) predicted that this sudden migration carried with it the very real possibility that these “peasants in cities” might well shed their rural conservatism for the new dress of political mobilization. Later in the decade, Samuel Huntington warned that the most likely source of political destabilization in Latin American cities surely was to be found among the urban poor: “On the surface, the most promising source of urban revolt is clearly the slums and shantytowns produced by the influx of the rural poor. . . . At some point, the slums of Rio and Lima . . . like those of Harlem and Watts, are likely to be swept by social violence, as the children of the city demand the rewards of the city” (1968, 283, cited in Handelman 1975, 37). During the 1970s, Fagen and Tuohy (1972), Cornelius (1975), Montaño (1976), Eckstein (1977b), and Lomnitz (1977) all undertook extensive empirical investigations and found the concerns expressed by earlier social scientists to be unfounded.

While the 1970s literature addressing the politics of the urban poor is not uniform, prevailing images exist. For Mexico, authors write of a national corporatist regime that is capable of incorporating rural to urban migration so as to effectively prevent system-threatening behavior. The image that emerges from these studies is that of an urban poor conforming to the demands of national regimes. Wayne Cornelius (1972), with reference to not merely the Mexican urban poor but Latin America more generally, describes new arrivals to urban settings as fundamentally conservative, too fearful to risk dissent. Larissa Lomnitz finds a “nearly complete lack of influence and control over urban and national institutions” (1977, 181). While there is some participation, is—to use Lomintz’s term—almost entirely “passive.” There is no mention whatsoever of opposition politics.

Evelyn Stevens wrote an influential study of three major protest movements in Mexico from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. She concluded that state responses to these protest movements resulted in a strengthening of Mexico’s authoritarian regime (1974, 13). Not only were “decision makers . . . adamantly opposed to making any accommodation with the protesters which would have required even minimal modification of their preferred policies” (258): they were able to get away with it. As Stevens goes on to say, “Not only that, but they made plain their refusal even to concede that the protesters had any right to present demands and to be given an explanation as to why the demands would not be granted” (ibid.).

During the 1970s, Eckstein aimed to demonstrate “how [urban poor] residents in newly formed low-income neighborhoods become associated with groups which, in effect, extend the regime’s legitimacy where political order had not previously existed” (1977b, 24). Opposition parties emerging from the 1970s apertura democrática (democratic opening) strengthen Mexican authoritarianism by creating the illusion of democracy without providing the substance. The political importance of regional variation is dismissed, for all local politics is “subordinated to the President through his control over patronage, political recruitment, and budgetary allotments” (24). Almost all “groups” are affiliated with the PRI, “and even the nominally independent ones are subject to PRI and government influence because the leaders overtly or covertly associate with PRI or government groups or persons associated with such groups” (27). Even nominally independent groups are encouraged to show their support for the regime at public events, as there are simply no other avenues to power and to the distribution of public goods and services. Patronage directed at the urban poor unambiguously strengthens the regime, and poor residents have no alternative but to associate themselves with PRI-affiliated political entrepreneurs.

The conclusions reached by Wayne Cornelius, on the basis of fieldwork done about the same time and also in the Mexico City area, are, in broad outline, quite similar. Cornelius interviewed community leaders and was told that “if a need of their community were particularly acute and the government had ignored community petitions regarding the need, they would try to organize a protest demonstration outside the office of some high-ranking government functionary; but none were able to document an instance in which this kind of action was actually taken” (1974, 1139). Cornelius documents that this should come as no surprise, because the majority of new urban migrants believed that no good could come from such efforts.

Montaño’s (1976) study of Mexico’s urban poor has a somewhat different cast. While he encountered an urban poor made up of recent migrants who, for the most part, were effectively incorporated into the inclusionary political regime, he chronicles some independent opposition, particularly composed of alliances between the urban poor, student movements, and the progressive wing of the Catholic Church. He quotes a federal deputy of the PRI from Nezahualcóytol in the Mexico City area who suggests that progressive Christian leaders were influencing an independent politics among at least some small sectors of the urban poor:

These Jesuits that publish that small paper are not really priests, they are looking for and causing problems, using their influence with the people to try to turn the people against the government. As you can imagine, this is against the law and we are not inclined to accept this, if they want to cause problems we are going to teach them a lesson real soon. I know that the people are extremely angry at the behavior of these so-called priests, especially now that “el señor Presidente” has given us water, electricity, paving, which furthermore, we could lose [if this kind of insubordinate activity does not cease]. (102)

Despite such examples, Montaño concludes that these instances of rebellion remain local, affecting only a relatively small number of people. He stresses that independent organizations, whether social movements or oppositional political parties, play no decisive role in the lives of the overwhelming majority of the urban poor. When resistance exists, it is almost always the result of an independent leader or small number of leaders acting on local issues (104). He concludes, on the basis of survey data, that the urban poor tend to view all politicians in negative terms, which, he argues, results far more often in fatalism than in rebellious acts (154). Clearly, Montaño is not describing any kind of widespread culture of resistance or systemic threat, although he does devote an entire chapter to some “radicalized exceptions.” He focuses on two colonias (neighborhoods), Colonia Pancho Villa in the state of Chihuahua and the Colonia Rubén Jaramillo on the periphery of Cuernavaca (which is close to Mexico City), both being well-known examples of what would soon become identified as the national urban popular movement.

By the 1980s, the term quiescence was no longer adequate to describe the politics of the urban poor as new urban popular movement organizations emerged and preexisting organizations grew, as favorable changes in the structure of political opportunities were seized. Many popular movement participants had previous experience with the PRI and were drawn to independent movement organizations because of the PRI’s failure to adequately respond to their needs (Bolos 1995, 241). Movement politics gave way to opposition parties that emerged at the end of the 1980s and that relied heavily on the urban poor vote. As momentous as these changes have been, it is important to point out that the majority of the Mexican urban poor did not actively participate in the 1979–89 heyday of the urban popular movement. What does emerge is the presence of an urban popular movement that shaped the consciousness and political activity of millions of poor people in many cities across the nation and that were crucial to the events of 1988 and to the party system that took shape in subsequent years.

Organization of the Book

In Chapter 1, I consider the theoretical debates that are pertinent to the key questions of this study, introducing the assumptions, perceptions, and intuitions that guide the subsequent historical account. My major theoretical claim is that social movement theory benefits greatly from a close relationship with the actual experience of social movement history. I construct theory from the many disparate elements that contribute to movement existence, from birth to decline. At a minimum, theory must be developed with a close eye on the structure of political opportunities that history provides the movement, the strategy developed to exploit these opportunities, the experience from the perceptions of differently situated participants both within and outside the movement, and the changes in these variables over time. Authentic social movements, while often including members of the elite, grow from the bottom up. So should the theory that seeks to illuminate them.

Chapter 2 provides a historical overview of Mexico from the Spanish conquest to 1988, focusing on those events, ideas, and institutions that have had the most impact on urban popular movements. I analyze in depth the period between 1979 and 1988, when mass mobilization and radical politics put pressure on the regime to reform specific policies and move toward democratization. The year 1979 saw coalition politics being developed by sector: teachers, peasants, and the urban poor created national coordinating bodies. These instilled and symbolized a period of dynamic social movement activity in Mexico, culminating in the important role played by movements in the dramatic presidential elections of 1988.

In Chapter 3, I explore the decline of the protest cycle from 1988 to 1994. The lessening of activity is understood in relation to interacting factors: a decrease in the elite splits that predominated during the earlier protest cycle; a mitigation of the economic crisis that had racked the nation; an increase in policies implemented by the Salinas administration, designed in part to roll back multisectoral movement solidarity; and a related shift in the political-opportunity structure to favor party involvement by key movement players. Throughout this analysis, the focus remains on the politics of the urban poor in relation to other key actors, including civil society, political parties, and the state.

In Chapter 4, I narrate the history of the CDP in Durango, from its Maoist origins in the late 1960s to the successful election of the CDP candidate to the Municipal presidency of 1992–95. Chapter 5 tells the story of the AB of Mexico City, a movement whose roots are in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake and that grows to hold key administrative and PRD party offices in the capital. Its history is contrasted to that of the CDP in Durango.

In Chapter 6, I take a focused look at the 1988–91 period, an extremely important chapter in Mexico’s long democratic transition. I examines in detail the split between the urban popular movements that sided with Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and the PRD and those who incorporated into the PT and openly embraced the Programa Nacional de Solidaridad (National Solidarity Program [PRONASOL]). PRONASOL was a high-profile and controversial antipoverty program initiated by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari in 1989, designed at least in part to split the Left and undermine its appeal among the electorate. The AB and the CDP took opposite positions in what became the most consequential and highly publicized debate between urban popular movement organizations in the 1988–91 period. Because the two organizations are leaders within their respective camps, contrasting their differences and the political outcomes of their strategies provides a fruitful vantage point from which to examine the role of Solidarity in exacerbating divisions within the Mexican Left. It also presents an important window through which to view the changing relationships between the state and popular movements during the Salinas administration (1988–94) in comparison to the administration of Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado (1982–88). This chapter ends the book with reflections on the immensely complex question of what happens when a movement culture is largely disbanded because of entry into party politics during a democratic transition.