Established in May 1998 as a subsidiary of the Alliance for Global Justice, the Mexico Solidarity Network (MSN) is a lobbying group that organizes in pursuit of a “radical” and “fundamental” brand of “social change grounded in democracy, economic justice, human rights, and redistribution of power on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.” Conceding that overnight societal transformation is an unrealistic goal, MSN views social change as a gradual, “ongoing process” that, “in the Gramscian sense,” achieves cultural “hegemony” in piecemeal fashion.
MSN's work aims chiefly to address the needs of “impoverished,” “exploited,” and “repressed or dominated groups” such as “working-class women, working-class people of color, working-class gays, etc.” The Network's organizing activities focus most heavily on “immigrants, particularly Latinos,” whom it describes as “the most exploited and dominated group in the U.S.”—people who “suffer racism, discrimination based on their 'legal status,' and exploitation beyond anything experienced by citizens.”
MSN's organizing likewise solicits the participation of young people, “generally university-educated and often referred to in social movement theory as 'new social actors'—people who are ethically committed to social change and enjoy relative privilege.”
At MSN's inception, its participants were overwhelmingly white, middle-class activists seeking to direct public attention toward the expulsions of foreign human-rights observers from Mexico; to organize congressional delegations to the Mexican state of Chiapas and the city of Ciudad Juarez; to engage in grassroots congressional lobbying; and to participate in human-rights observer delegations. As its first project in the summer of 1998, the Network sponsored an 80-person delegation to Chiapas to investigate “increasing militarization and human-rights abuses” in the region.
In 1999 MSN began to dedicate a significant amount of its financial and human resources to local work on behalf of immigrants in Albany Park, a barrio on Chicago’s north side.
In the early to mid-2000s, MSN was a steering committee member of both the International ANSWER coalition and the now-defunct Not In Our Name project. Also a leading member of the (now-defunct) National Coalition for Amnesty and Dignity for Undocumented Workers, MSN, in the wake of 9/11, lamented that the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had derailed the amnesty movement that had been gaining traction in the United States. “Before September 11,” said the Network, “the Coalition was having a great deal of success promoting the legislation calling for a general amnesty for undocumented workers. In the aftermath of September 11, we altered strategies somewhat and are promoting a legislative initiative that would normalize the status of undocumented workers.” Particularly troublesome to MSN was what it described as a rise in “immigrant bashing” and the negative impact that “new anti-terrorist legislation” was having on illegals.
In 2005, MSN's steering committee decided unanimously to strengthen the group's relationsip with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, an armed, revolutionary, underground Marxist-Leninist guerrilla organization in Chiapas. The tightening of this bond with the Zapatistas came “at the expense” of MSN's relations with nongovernmental organizations in the region.
That same year, MSN developed, in coordination with Zapatista women's cooperatives, an Alternative Economy Program. Founded on the premise that capitalism exploits poor people everywhere in the world, this anti-globalization initiative was built around “principles of justice and the search for genuine alternatives to the predominant capitalist model.”
Also in 2005, MSN launched its Mexico Study Abroad Program, a 14-week, 16-credit course of study focusing on the theory, practice and context of Mexican social movements. The long-term aim of this initiative is to cultivate a new generation of activists who can “be effective organizers in the U.S./Mexico context.”
In 2007 MSN opened its Albany Park Autonomous Center, which it now describes as the “heart” of its immigration work. In this 6,000-square-foot facility, the Network offers classes and programs in English literacy, community development, and computer skills; sponsors movie nights and cultural events as forms of entertainment; and gives community members a venue where they can engage in “constant discussions and analysis” not only about “their roles as active agents of social change,” but also about such issues as housing, employment, education, healthcare, discrimination, and “police abuse.”
Though MSN started out as a white, middle-class organization, today its staff, steering committee, and community base are largely composed of Latinos. These constituents, says the Network, are “divided between middle-class university students, working-class undocumented workers, and indigenous, campesino and urban working-class Mexican organizations.”
A major emphasis of MSN's work continues to be its vehement opposition to “neoliberalism” (i.e., free-market capitalism), which it views as a system rife with “exploitation ... resulting in vast inequalities of wealth and power, and rampant individualism.” Consigning “the majority of the world's people” to nothing more than “a savage 'race to the bottom'” of the economic ladder, “neoliberal policies,” says MSN, “have had a dramatic impact in rural areas throughout Latin America, particularly in Mexico,” where they have placed “nearly one-quarter of the Mexican population in dire circumstances.” “The result,” elaborates the Network, “is massive migration, either to urban centers in Mexico or as undocumented workers to the United States.”
As an alternative to such an unhappy arrangement, MSN calls for the establishment of “collective and non-capitalist” communities where people “control their own means of production”; where land “is held collectively”; where “production (work) is for self-consumption or consumption of the family or extended community”; and where “extra production” is not used for the pursuit of superfluous wealth, but rather to fund such things as “schools and ... health care.”
To disseminate its anti-capitalist, anti-American message as broadly as possible, MSN periodically organizes speaking tours that pass through various states across the U.S.