Revolt Library Anarchism The Mexican Revolution: Its Progress, Causes, and Probable Results
British-American Anarchist and Magonista Editor
: William C. Owen was a British-born Anarchist who was active in California with Ricardo Flores MagÃ³n. William Charles Owen (1854–1929) was a British–American anarchist best known for his activism during the Mexican Revolution and English-language translations of Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón. (From: Wikipedia.org.)
The Mexican Revolution: Its Progress, Causes, and Probable Results
First, as to the existence of the revolution. As to this one would suppose there could be no doubt; and there would be none, were it not that an immense number of persons, who control nearly all the avenues of publication, tire interested vitally in representing all as lovely in the country ruled until recently by Diaz. According to the apparently careful investigations of John Kenneth Turner, as set out in "Barbarous Mexico," American capitalists have a trifling stake of $900,000,000 in Mexico. The Southern Pacific Ry., Standard Oil, Morgan, the Guggenheims, Hearst, all those we sum up habitually as the "interests" and "Wall Street," have gigantic holdings; to say nothing of Great Britain, Germany, France and other European countries. They are on the market with stock to sell, and they are not going to admit that the goods are damaged or in serious danger of going up in a general conflagration, any more than a Los Angeles real estate boomer is going to telegraph East that .discontent is. rampant and the city .fi'll^oj-t^an^ps,"
Tims, the* nev/spapers,' corttrolled absolutely by our plutocrats, are silent on the immense fact that in the one State of Morelos alone thousands of federal troops are campaigning against Zapata; that in two States and several territories constitutional rights are about to be suspended; that Madero is trying to raise an army of 350,000 by the dangerous experiment of conscription, and that the initial steps were to have been taken January 14 but have been postponed to March t an account of "the enor
mous difficulties." On all this they are silent because they dare not be otherwise.
What Zapata Wants.
Similarly, they do not tell you that Zapata's operations cover not only the State of Morelos but also large portions of the States of Mexico, Puebla, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Hidalgo and Tlaxcala, and the Federal district, and that, so far as can be learned from the reports of leading Mexico City papers, he is steadily gaining ground. For example, one reads in the "Los Angeles Times" dispatch this morning, (Jan. 20) that three thousand striking cotton textile workers have joined Zapata's forces, but, with characteristic mendacity, the statement is made that his quarrel with Madero is due solely to disappointment in the matter of promised office. This is done, of course, to belittle the Zapata movement, for "Rewith the principal landowners in the generacion" published in full his statement—under date of Dec. 1, 1911 —that he had taken up arms because Madero had broken his promises to restore the land to the people, and we have published columns of extracts from leading Mexico City papers, which all acknowledge that Zapata owes his following to the fact that he represents the one great idea rooted ineradicably in the peasant's mind, viz., that the land and the products of the land should belong to him who works the land.
That is what is known to sociologists as the Free Land theory, but the organs of the great landowning syndicates in this country do not enlarge on the fact that all Mexico is honeycombed with this, to them, most dangerous theory. Still less do they tell you it has been bred into the people's bones, because it was the system under which they and their ancestors lived for untold centuries, prior to the money conquest. They naturally do not tell you that, for it would expose at once the economic character of the revolution, and might add materially to the discontent existing in this country, which already is serious enough.
Vasquez Gomez Also.
Again, the capitalist papers do not tell you that Vasquez Gomez, who was Madero's right hand man in that first stage of the Revolution which swept him into the presidential chair, and was made a member of the first cabinet, is also in revolt, and that official orders for his arrest have been issued, on the ground that he is in alliance with Zapata. Even as I am writing there comes along the "El Paso Morning Times," of Jan. 13, with an interview with Zapata on its front page, in which he says: "In no manner will I take the amnesty, in case it is declared; but will stay up in arms, for the cause of Emilio Vasquez Gomez." The interview closes with these words: "I will respect and make respected the small towns and their inhabitants of peaceful character, but will be inflexible with the hacienda owners and the rest of the rich proprietors, and with the foreigners, especially with the Spaniards."
In other words, Zapata's revolt, which is admittedly most formidable, is against the native land monopolists, the foreign and absentee landlords and the Spaniards, who have a bad name as labor exploiters. It is essentially an economic and not a political revolt; but monopoly does hot find it prudent to trumpet abroad that fact.
Of the operations of Gomez we do not hear so much, for he work's" quietly beneath the surface; but there is good reason to believe that they embrace a large area that Zapata has hot touched, and his influence is acknowledged as being great. What Gomez' ideas arc may be gathered from the official statement of his or
gan, "La Voz de Juarez," which is: "We hoist a banner that has three symbols in three colors—Land, Liberty and Fraternity." We quoted at some length from that statement in "Regeneracion" of Dec. 30, 1911, one of the sentences being that the Vazquista Revolution will have to realize "the creation of a citizenship settled on the land, because the people is sovereign and can be master only when it treads its own soil." Need one point out that such a position is tantamount to confiscation of the landed interests of the foreign syndicates, and that their organs are not going to play up news of any such alarming character?
Likewise the Yaquis.
The case of the Yaquis, who waged bitter war for the return of their lands under the Diaz regime, has excited world-wide attention, for they have been the victims of almost 'tinparalleled cruelty and have shown fighting qualities that have excited universal .admiration. They still insist on the return of their lands, comprising the entire Yaqui valley, and iri our issue of Dec. 9 we reproduced the dispatch that admitted "the total failure of Gen. B. J. Viljoen, whom Madero sent as a special envoy to pacify them. They insist on the whole valley being given back to them, and unfortunately it is^ now the private property- of i^r/verioa/is, some of whom are no'.v"jnlthe I»'qs1" Angeles market, trying to dispose of their interests.
As' we showed in the same issue, another rebel chief, Salgado, had come to terms with the government, but only on the express stipulation that the land should be restored to those he represented.
In short, the land question—the determination of the masses to bring about a restoration of the time-honored system under which the land was at the disposition of the cultivator— is at the root of aJ! this revolutionary movement, and you cannot place your finger on a State or Territory in Mexico that is not feeling its influence. Lack of fpacc renders it impossible to enter into further details, but the news given in this week's issue—or, for that matter, in any issue of "Regeneracion"—is such as to give any unprejudiced reader ample satisfaction on that head. Note also that in rec ommending the withdrawal of constitutional guarantees Madero mentions the armed movement for "agrarian communism" as his impelling motive.
Lack of space also makes it impossible to review in detail the countless strikes that are an entirely new feature in Mexico's industrial life, and testify alike to profound discontent and the awakening of hopes that may have lain smoldering for years but hitherto have never ventured to break into flame. One of these strikes has been mentioned incidentally already, and I desire here merely to call attention to three points in which the Mexican strike differs from those with which we are familiar in the United States. First, the Mexican strike is seldom a game of who can starve the longest. Very frequently the strikers have armed themselves beforehand, and conflicts with the federal troops, in which many were killed and woiinded' on_!e'jher side, have been conlriiqn," 'Se£o!(x}Ty, the strikes have been largely by agricultural laborers, who in other countries do not seem able to combine. Thirdly, the workers of an entire district, and even of an entire State, have united forces. For example, in "Regeneracion" of Jan. 13, 1911, we reported the following, on the authority of "El Monitor," a Roman Catholic and most conservative paper: "All the peons of this State have come to an agreement and declared a strike, demanding that they work only until
live o'clock in the evening and be paid thirty-six cents an hour, getting' pay moreover for the time allowed for rest and dinner." We have had nothing like that in the United States.
As a. later and suggestive illustration I take the following, clipped from the "El Paso Morning Times:"
"Mexico City, Mexico, Jan. 21.— The working delegates from the Orizaba factories stated to a reporter who interviewed them that they would get in touch with their companions in other factories which exist in the other states. In case their demands are not granted they will then inaugurate the general strike movement which will involve a total of forty thousand men. Twenty thousand will be from the State of Orizaba and the other twenty thousand from the Federal District and the States of Pucbla and Tlaxcala."
Also it would be impossible to give any adequate account of the guerrilla warfare being carried on, ceaselessly and at many hundred points, by the rebel chieftains described as "bandits." But one cannot dismiss them by the use of any such opprobrious term, for, whether they are merely men whose instincts lead them naturally to war or whether they are men intellectually convinced that it is useless to work any longer for the sole benefit of the monopolist, they are facts. They weaken incomparably the central government, and by so doing they bring nearer the possibility of realizing the masses' dream—possession of the land and its products by the producer.
Many of these guerrilla bands are little armies in themselves—often poorly armed, but armies. "The revolutionary agitators go from town to town recruiting rebels, who, in one guerrilla alone, number 1,500," writes the Oaxaca correspondent of "El Pais"—Mexico's leading Roman Cath [ocr errors]
olic daily—as quoted in "Regeneracion" of Jan. 20. We are beginning to talk a good deal in these United States about the coming economic revolution. What a fluster we should be in if we learned that in California, for example, 1,500 armed revolutionists were marching through the State! Yet, surely the proper way of judging any event is to put yourself mentally, as far as possible, in the other fellow's place.
Such, within the narrow limits of the space at my command, is the evidence in favor of the existence in Mexico of what may be called, with perfect honesty and truth, an economic revolution.
PART II. What Caused the Revolution?
What happens when an irresistible force meets an irremovable obstacle? In Mexico capitalism's greed and lust for power have been the force; the character, time-honored traditions and habits of the Mexican people the obstacle. It is questionable whether history records so preposterous an instance of the attempt to force the fusion of elements that, by the very law of their being, cannot be compounded.
Capitalism would compel the Mexican to toil, and toil incessantly, for the profit of absentees whose very names are unknown to him and of whom he hears only with instinctive hatred.
Character, traditions, climate and the simplicity of his daily habits all inspire the Mexican with an ardent longing to toil only for himself, and not toil excessively at that.
Capitalism thinks it entirely just and proper to buy up the whole country, reducing the population to the position of tenants-at-will.
Throughout the rural districts of Mexico there prevailed for centuries a system that sociologists would define as Anarchist-Communism; the
people grouping themselves in their own self-governed communities and having free access to the land, free use of water—so all-important in a semi-tropical and tropical country— and free use of wood and other raw material necessary to the conduct of their daily lives.
To impose its institutions, so incomprehensible and odious to the native mind, upon the people, capitalism has been compelled to set up in Mexico, as in every other country, a strongly-centralized government, endorsed by complicated laws utterly unintelligible to the masses and upheld by a large police and military force.
The Mexican, true to the promptings of his Indian blood, loathes centralized authority, detests the soldier, regards the rent collector and the tax-gatherer as robbers, and looks with profound suspicion on all who appear to be making a living without occupying themselves in productive labor.
I have written "rural districts" and "Indian blood." To understand a quarrel one should study the circumstances and characters of the quarrelers. There can be no adequate comprehension of the Mexican Revolution until there has been grasped the fact that the vast mass of the population «is . agricultural by habit and iitfipc£,* apd/t^tl in its veins the Indiah'bFooti predominates. It is safe to say that of the fifteen millions who constitute the population of Mexico, about four million are of unmixed Indian blood, about eight million "Mestizos," of mixed Indian and White blood, and the remaining four million what are known as "Blancos,"' who are supposed to have in their veins no Indian blood. The inclination of the "Mestizos" is naturally and strongly toward the free communistic life to which the full-blooded Indians are wedded; and the customs, economjc arrangements and modes of thought associated therewith dominated, for centuries the life of the rural districts and the innumerable small .towns that dot the map of Mexico.
The Lazy Indian.
For my part I do not believe that, in... the long run, you can force the stream of a nation's life into channels foreign to it, although I grant that with' sufficient money, and the armed force, money can hire, you may appear to be able to do so for a time. I emphasize, therefore, the charactei arid inherited habits of the Mexican masses as the powder of which is composed the train that has led to ,a series of explosions, the end of which no one can foresee. To drive my point more securely home I quote from an article contributed recently by. VoUairine. de Cleyre to "Volne Listy," in which, examining this special phase of the situation, she writes:
"The Indian's 'laziness' is proverbial among white .men; but, far from its being what the white man thinks it is, it is rather the intense protest of .a free soul against a useless and degrading waste of life. He wishes to feel himself a child of the sun and sky, a being through whom moves the breath of life, a thing of the soil and the air, and not a tool for the aimless production, pf heaps of .goods at some one elst's> t>rde*s»' * *'
V . . * * * , .*
"The half-breeds? t>n-the wnrte side again, are the descendants of Latins; and. while the Latin peoples work, they have never hungered and thirsted after purely commercial gain as have northern nations; they have, always preserved a devotion to the beautiful (even, the useless beautiful) and the mere joys of life-—song, dance and festival—unknown to the AngloSaxon. .
."Add to all this the enervating climate of much of Mexico, and you have an understanding of what our
grab-and-get S3'stem of life stigmatizes as 'Mexican laziness.'
"These people want the land; they do not want to live , in cities; they want to use the land in their own way, according to their inherited communal customs.
"Time and time again they have rebelled, and their rebellions have been murderously put down, but this instinctive hunger for the free field of life is so essentially a part of their being that the only way to kill it is to kill the entire agrarian population. At the present time it has risen, up more invincible than ever; and although the people are ignorant—less than 20 percent being able to read and write—they need no book learning to convince them that the land is theirs by right."
The Capitalist Invasion.
What are thirty-six years in the life of a nation as compared with customs originating in a past that ante-dates written history? Less than thirty-six years ago Diaz came into power, and it is only with him that the capitalist invasion of Mexico begins. It was Diaz who, in the phrase used by William Archer, in "McClure's" of August, 1911, invited foreign plutocracy to "rifle the national treasure house,'' and it is to be noted that his predecessor, Benito Juarez, specifically declared himself opposed to railroads, saying that they would annihilate the desert barrier that alone protected Mexico from invasion by alien capitalists. To this day the memory of Benito Juarez is worshiped in Mexico as is no other memory, and Mexican public opinion views foreign capitalism not as a constructive but as a fatally destructive force. That is also the opinion of a well-instructed and rapidly-increasing school of thought, which endorses in its entirety the simple political economy of the unlettered Mexican peon. I say most emphatically that to toil for the foreign taskmaster is the death of individual and national life; that absentee landlordism is an unmitigated curse that every nation ultimately will have to expel from its system, even if it has to bleed copiously to do so; that nowhere has the imposition of the foreign taskmaster's yoke been more brutal and remorseless than in Mexico. So naturally rich is Mexico that for centuries she has roused to frenzy the greed of the freebooter; but the sword of Cortes was to the methods of modern high finance as a toy pistol is to the monstrous siege guns of today. All over the world the aristocrats of finance are reveling on the dividends wrung from the Mexican toiling in mines and factories, on sugar, hemp and tobacco plantations, on ranches over which it takes days to ride.
Parasites Every One. I have no space to relate in detail the story of the rape of which Mexico has been the victim, and content myself with reproducing what I wrote in "Regeneracion" of October 7, 1911. It runs as follows:
"Most eloquently suggestive of existing conditions is the article on which the "Los Angeles Times" spread itself Sunday, Oct. 1, congratulating this city on 'the sudden influx of members of the oldest and proudest families of Mexico;' families, as it remarks, that 'ranked right along with that of Diaz in the olden days.' 'The names,' it says, 'belong to former governors, statesmen, wealthy planters, mine owners and land operators who will in the future direct the development of their vast properties in Mexico from Los Angeles, bringing here a wealth that cannot be estimated. Los Angeles will actually rival Mexico City in the control of estates, giving pleasant and safe residence where all that is the best in American civilization can be enjoyed.'
"Among those singled out for spe
cial notice are the former governor of Guerrero, the former governor of Sinaloa, Luis E. Torres, former governor of Hermosillo and a notorious land monopolist, Jesus Almada, who recently sold one of his estates for $3,000,000, and Bernardo Garcia, a multi-millionaire bachelor. However, dozens and dozens of others are mentioned casually,
"The spokesmen for these people all declare they are out of politics; the former governor of Guerrero, who has properties valued at $50,000,000 for sale, goes out of his way to shower compliments on Madero, and all announce their intention of living in Los Angeles on the labor of their fellowcountrymen. Every one of them looks forward to a life of luxury without doing a stroke of work; every one of them is confessedly an absentee landlord and glories in it, and the "Times" congratulates Los Angeles on the influx of this horde of pirates. Is it any wonder that those who, like the Mexican Liberal Party, are urging the Mexican workers to make these pirates walk the plank, are being hounded down by the wealth and power of the United States, which gazes on the Mexican peon with disgust while idolizing the parasites that feed upon him? Have we not here the social problem in a nutshell? On one or other side of the Mexican Revolution must not every one of us take his stand?"
Often a handglass will reflect as faithfully as would a ten-foot mirror, and Los Angeles gives us the measure of thLs entire conflict between the dollar and the Man. I walk the streets of Los Angeles and see flaringly displayed in the windows of real estate firms such advertisements as this: "Peace. The war in Mexico is over and now is the time to get you a few acres of land. Where Mexico is today California was forty years ago. Where California is today Mexico will be ten years hence, and remember that the best investment on earth is the earth itself." You see at once that such dealers—and from New York City to Los Angeles their name is "Legion"—have every reason in the world for representing the war as over, since they wish to dispose of enormous properties at the best price obtainable. That their statement is a lie I shall now proceed to prove.
What Are the Prospects of the Revolution?
As to that one may say, in the first place, that at the present moment those who should be in the best position to judge, and are vitally interested in crushing the revolution, are showing greater alarm than at any previous time. I have referred already to the suspension of constitutional guarantees and the preparations for conscription, both of which betoken governmental fear, and there now comes into my hands ''Nueva Era" of January 19. That paper is recognized as distinctively Madero's special organ, and it devotes to Zapatism a leading article which begins thus: "El Tiempo has just published two articles dwelling on the importance of Zapatism and conceding that it has assumed the proportions of a true social, agrarian revolution. In one of the articles it says that Zapatism has increased so greatly that it is the dominant power in several States, and that in others it is spreading with great rapidity. It calculates that more than three million persons sympathize with the idea of certain recoveries that, as it supposes, figure in his program, and that many of them are disposed to follow and fight in its ranks."
Naturally "Nueva Era" deprecates that statement—although "El Tiempo" is a conservative, Roman Catholic daily of acknowledged weight'—•
and expresses the opinion that Zapata does not know what he wants. It says: "He is an absolutely uncultivated man, who springs from the humblest of the peasantry, among whom he was reared and brought up. He has had no lecture-hall or book instruction, he has not mixed in good society, and he cannot have any idea of what Socialism is or what must be the legitimate foundation of the recoveries he is said to be seeking."
In my humble judgment "Nueva Era" talks like a college professor who imagines that without a degree no one amounts to anything. That is not the teaching of history, which furnishes us with countless examples of unlettered men who, in troublous times, have swept everything before them. It is probably true that the great thoughts and discoveries that pave the way for another step forward have their birth in the scholar's brain, but it is also probably true that the action necessary to incorporate them in a people's life is taken far more vigorously and effectively by those whose brains are not weighed down by books. The fighting qualities Zapata has inherited, and the close, sympathetic touch with the masses that must come natural to him, are assets of infinitely greater value, at this particular epoch, than are Madero's college courses.
Peasants His Allies.
"Nueva Era's" article concludes with the declaration that suspension of constitutional guarantees "has become indispensable because it alone can prevent the deceived peasants from lending Zapata a certain amount of cooperation, by acting as his spies, that he may make a mock of and surprise his pursuers, and by supplying him with the necessaries of life." It adds that at present "there are peasants who work during the day, like honorable and useful subjects, and at night take part in the disastrous enterprises of the ferocious Emiliano." There lies the trouble—for Madero and his government. Despite all their efforts to ridicule and depreciate Zapata and other so-called "bandits," those gentlemen have the sympathy of the common people, who keep them informed as to the enemy's whereabouts and provide them with food. It is easy to say that the peasant is naturally a law-abiding citizen, but in Mexico it is false, as I myself believe it to be false as regards the working class in the United States. As I have said before, the Mexican peasant loathes the central authority of government, which means to him the tax gatherer and the soldier. I could fill pages with extracts from the most reliable works on Mexico, all bearing out the statement that the feeling among the Mexican masses is that he who is not engaged in productive labor is, of necessity, a parasite. That is their reason for looking on the idle foreigner with so much suspicion and dislike; but, on the other hand, the best critics all agree that when the country people have made up their minds that a stranger does not mean to impose on them, nothing can exceed their kindliness and hospitality. They are naturally the most hospitable of people. Their inherited communistic traditions lead them to share their last cupfull of beans with the famished, and no workingman goes hungry while others beside him are eating their noonday meal, as not infrequently happens in these United States.
Guerrilla Warfare. In addition to the aid on which they can rely the Zapatists and other rebels have the enormous advantage of knowing the country thoroughly, and as they follow guerrilla tactics exclusively—"fighting and running away, that they may live to fight another day"—it is most difficult for the federal troops to crush them. Perhaps
the best proof of that is the fact that, if one had believed the government and capitalistic papers, Zapatism should have been buried out of sight months and months ago. It is also stated now that the federal troops are suffering intensely from cold and disease, and the Mexican government has never been famous for the perfection of its commissary arrangements. I myself have heard those who have a most intimate knowledge of the country say that one Zapatist is equal to ten federal soldiers.
That last statement may be an exaggeration, but it is certain that Diaz' hired troops proved themselves no match whatever for the enthusiastic, free-riding rebels, and things cannot have changed materially during the last few months. On the other hand, all the evidence is in favor of the position that, with his in-born, Indian hatred of authority, the Mexican makes one of the poorest hired soldiers in the world; whereas in free, guerrilla warfare it is hard to find his match. He is apt to be a splendid horseman; he is very hardy; he can subsist on what would spell starvation to a European soldier, and he has little respect either for his own life or those of others. As for ability to shoot—the Boer war proved conclusively that shooting to kill is learned far better in frontier life than on the practice range.
I am advancing general arguments and attempting to give a general view of the situation because, as it seems to me, that method is more reliable than isolated reports which often are contradictory and open to dispute. If we get at the main factors in the problem we shall have a good chance of reaching a correct conclusion, and the main factors appear to me to be that the Mexican is inflamed to the fighting point against existing economic arrangements; that he can fight, especially in the guerrilla style. which the mountainous character of the country favors greatly; that he is fighting on a progressively larger scale. His government disputes this last statement and claims to be now engaged in stamping out the last embers of revolt, but, judging from the events reported in the leading Mexican papers, it would seem that his government is lying. Our American magazines and periodicals are beginning to publish the evidence that supports that charge, although I am satisfied they do so most unwillingly.
The Revolution Has Grown. If the facts given in Mr. Richard Barry's article, entitled "Bandit-Governed Mexico" and published in the January issue of "The World To-Day" are true, how comes it that we have not had those facts before, except indeed through "Regeneracion," which has published many more? The story told by Barry is so striking that the editor prefaces it with a note which runs: "The facts contained in the following story, which has been carefully verified, show that neither life nor property is safe in Mexico. The so-called revolution has never ceased. It has grown. Almost unbelievable outrages are of common occurrence. The situation is intolerable. The present regime seems helpless. What is to be done?"
The article in question covers a term of less than seven months, beginning with the resignation of Diaz. May 23, 1911, and ending December 12, 1911. "It is safe to state," writes Mr. Barry, "that since Diaz resigned fully 5000 people in Mexico have lost their lives by violence and two-thirds of them have been killed since Madero was elected president, although during the interregnum he virtually held the reins of power." He compares this with the fact that during the war with Spain the United States lost in action only 350 men, and he adds that the press of this country
has kept silence because the capitalists already interested in Mexico wish to attract more capital and consider that publication of the truth would be injurious to business. I conceive it to be utterly impossible to give accurate figures, but in the opinion of the editors of "Regeneracion" the foregoing estimate is not exaggerated.
Large Cities Captured. Furthermore, Mr. Barry's article presents photographs that cannot lie. You see the Zapatists looting Puebla in what appears to be the most orderly, military and systematic manner. Puebla is a city of 110,000 inhabitants. You see them raiding Cuautla, which is the largest city in the State of Morelos, on the main line to and about 100 miles from Mexico City. Such incidents are suggestive of warfare rather than brigandage.
The article is furnished with a map, of which the shaded portions "represent the districts in which the lawlessness is rampant." The shading covers about three-fourths of the map, and one notices that it does not include Lower California or Yucatan. Within the last few days the government has been dispatching troops to the former, and since the map was drawn Mexico City papers have been publishing charts of the war district in Yucatan. That in "El Imparcial" of Dec. 6, 1911, showed that there had been uprisings in no less than nine of the State's divisions. Yucatan lies at the very farthest extremity of Mexico, and the tragedy of the peon enslaved on its henequen plantations has • been described with awful eloquence by Turner and other writers.
I have given much space to Zapatism, but it will be understood that, apart from him and Gomez, there are innumerable small chiefs operating at countless points. All writers admit this and usually treat it as a sign of weakness, assuming that the government will be able to crush in detail
these separate uprisings. But there is another standpoint which, it is submitted, may be reasonably held, viz., that these independent uprisings are the best of all proofs that the revolution is spontaneous; not engineered by any one man or set of men, but springing naturally from the. intolerable economic conditions prevalent. I believe history will bear me out when I say that of. all r.evplutions the spontaneous is incomparably the hardest to suppress.
Under the Red Flag.
It appears to me .also that while such writers as those to whom I have , alluded emphasize the scattering nature of the revolution they do not realize that there may be a great central thought which kmts it into one and gives it tenacity of purpose. Names, which are only the labels we use to economize language, count for nothing. The idea is .everything, and it has been more than intimated in the earlier portions of this pamphlet that the governing idea among the Mexican masses is that the land and its products belong of right to him who works the land. In support of this position I quote from, an article entitled "The Situation in Mexico," by John A. Avirette, which appeared in "Collier's" of Jan. 27, 1912, Toward the close of his study the writer says: "Socialism also has invaded Mexico, where it was first known as Magonism, and has had a wide spread among the peon class, who only understand that it treats of a redivision of all lands among the people. The outbreaks in the South and Southwest of Mexico are due directly to this propaganda. They have called themselves Reyists, Zapatists, Gomists, etc.—yet, in fact, their flag is always the red flag." '•
It is believed, and most devoutly hoped, that the Mexican peasant cares only about the thing itself—the land, to which he was born and without
which he cannot live. Whatever may be said against him Zapata insists? that he is in arms to enforce the plan of San Luis Potosi; to compel fulfillment of Madero's broken promise to give the people back their lands. There is every reason for supposing that he speaks the truth, and it is certain that he owes his following entirely to the general conviction that he is the unswerving champion of that cause.
Begging for Their Lands.
As the dramatic side of a conflict attracts journalists we hear far more of the revolution's fights than of its other activities. But, however deeply in earnest a people may be, it cannot be fighting all the time. With most men the appeal to arms is usually the last resort, and skins are risked only after negotiations and attempts at compromise have failed. So it has been and is still in Mexico. Being anxious to demonstrate the rapidity with which the agrarian question had forged ahead in Mexico I devoted much of two recent issues of the English section of "Regeneracion" to reports of the innumerable committees that were waiting on the various State and on the national government, all with one unanimous demand—the restoration of the land. That was a month ago, and in "Regeneracion" of January 27 the Spanish editor, who makes a specialty of compiling data relating to that special phase of the situation, wrote: "Commissions from nearly all the States continue to arrive in the City of Mexico, to confer with Madero with reference to the rer turn of their lands to the inhabitants of their various localities."
Every political party and every aspirant for office today dwells on the necessity of settling, somehow or other, the land question; individual States have legislative committees sitting on the subject, and the central government has appointed a special commission and pledged itself to the expenditure of $200,000,000 on agriculture and irrigation. BUT—the Mexico City press points out, with cynical skepticism, that the commission consists of immensely wealthy men, such as Braniff, Hernandez and Araoz, or old followers of Diaz, such as Gayol, Marroquin and Palacios. Meanwhile the author of the "Collier's" article previously referred to writes: "The land barons do not want, nor will they willingly tolerate, any subdivision of their landed holdings, in order to provide home plots for the indigent peons." That is the difficulty and the further question naturally suggests itself—Will the foreign syndicates, the American and British and German and other European investors, tolerate any such interference with the "sacred" right of property?
The Doctrine of Self-Help. The Mexicans seem to be answering very directly that most portentous question, for the spokesmen of visiting committees frequently declare their constituents will not desist from their present warlike attitude until such rights have been secured. Meanwhile the bolder spirits, preferring self-help to an appeal to government, have not only taken possession of the soil but have divided the crops on hand and often sowed fresh ones. For example, we cited recently a case in which the peasants rooted out the sugar cane and set the land to chilies and maiz, having a practical eye to the necessities of life. This is the course the Mexican Liberal Party has recommended, its manifesto of September 23, 1911, dilating at great length on the necessity of maintaining the constructive work of agriculture simultaneously with the armed conflict, that supplies may be kept up and the country saved from famine. Such a program is far more easy of realization in Mexico than it would be
in Northern countries, for the tropical sun and fertile soil bring to quick maturity the crops that satisfy the people's simple wants.
In the limited space devoted to the strike problem attention was directed to the solidarity exhibited by the peons of entire States, and even of several States combined. Surely it is a most significant feature of the present upheaval, and it should be added that a similar solidarity between the city and country workers has made itself apparent. For, it is to be noted particularly that the peon strikes occur most frequently in the neighborhood of cities in which there have been, industrial conflicts, and beyond all question there is a fraternizing between city and" country workers such as hitherto has been entirely lacking in the labor movement of the United States and Europe. In the early part of this pamphlet I have cited a "Los Angeles Times" dispatch of January 20, according to which 3000 cotton textile strikers had joined the Zapata forces. That is typical.
A Revolutionized Press.
My object being to give, as briefly as possible, a bird's-eye view, that the reader may calculate for himself what are the prospects, of the revolution, I cannot omit notice of the marked change in Mexican public opinion, as mirrored by the press. I do not believe the capitalist papers of Mexico are discussing Socialism and the land question willingly, but I know they are discussing them at a length and with an earnestness that puts our own United States press to shame. Many of the articles are most intelligent, but it is needless to remark that they favor the cautious methods of the evolutionary school as opposed to quick and drastic methods. Practically all acknowledge that to the masses Socialism means possession of the land.
The cartoons directed against Madero and his family are extraordinarily bitter, especially in the suggestion that the Maderos have used and are using their official positions to accumulate new fortunes. In this connection I quote from an article by Ernest T. Simondetti which also appeared in the January issue of the "World To-Day." He denounces most caustically the electioneering methods of Madero, enlarges on the callousness with which he has broken all his promises, and says: "Now the masses are clamoring for the promised land, higher wages, and effective suffrage. While many are hungry and disappointed, most of the hundred and more relatives of the president have found their way into public office, an uncle and two cousins being in his cabinet." It should be explained that Mr. Simondetti was editor and publisher of the influential "El Diario," that he had the temerity to oppose the election of Madero and was forced to flee the country.
Should Augment His Army. Once more I refer to the article in ''Collier's," because it is the latest review by a reputable United States publication which really makes an apparently honest and intelligent attempt to forecast the future. Mr. Avirette considers that Madero will retain his hold on the great mass of the proletarians "so long as they still hope that he will split up the holdings of the Haciendados (land barons) and materially alter the unfortunate conditions of the poor;" but he evidently considers that a slender reed on which to lean for he remarks immediately that the land barons will not consent, and makes this ominous reflection: "The one chance of Madero is that he temporize with the people until he has reorganized and augmented the army. Let him then quietly disarm all the ranchers and also prohibit the introduction of ammunition into the county." His article ends as follows: "The writer believes in the future of
Mexico. He thinks that the Mexican people will emerge from the ordeal better, cleaner and more fit for the trial; yet he believes that we have simply seen the beginning of the ferment that, Deo volente, will eventuate in the strong wine of Justice and true Freedom."
That is the position of the Mexican Liberal Party and "Regeneracion." Nearly a year ago it denounced Madero as a mere political aspirant, and declared the struggle not political but economic. It holds that even now the struggle is in an early stage, and that it never can be settled until settled right. That can be done only by Justice and Freedom; by giving the hitherto enslaved masses of Mexico the economic mastery of the means whereby they have to make their living, thereby making them masters of themselves. Dull and unimaginative indeed must be the man who, knowing the late history of Mexico, cannot see that to win such a goal is worth a battle to the death.
PART IV. Failure or Success. "The Mexican people arc in arms because they must play the game to the finish in order to save themselves and future generations from that economic slavery whence spring all tyrannies. Neither Madero nor any other man can give the people what they need—Bread. They can decree liberty of speech, liberty of assembly, liberty of conscience, etc., etc.; but who can decree the abolition of misery? No one. No one; because it would be a decree at which the rich would laugh. The abolition of misery means the abolition of the rich man's right to retain in his possession the land, the machinery of production and the means of transportation. All this the rich man will not let go of from kindheartedness but only through being forced."
The quotation is from an article headed "Intervention," published in "Regeneracion" of November 25, 1911. I can think of no better introduction to this portion of my study, for it expresses exactly the position in Mexico; at any rate as the Junta of the Mexican Liberal Party and "Regeneracion" view it. Like the disinherited everywhere the Mexican worker is cornered, and the only difference between him and his brother proletarians in other lands is that he knows it and they apparently do not. To all alike the land—indisputably the primary source of all supplies—is lost. That he must get it back again, at all and every cost, has become to the Mexican self-evident. As for the others, they are only beginning to think it may be a desirable thing to do. In many cases it does not even figure in their economic platforms.
No Compromise Possible.
This, as it appears to me, differentiates the Mexican upheaval from the economic revolts so universal nowadays, and differentiates it sharply. This gives it an infinitely more dangerous or an infinitely more promising1 character, according to the side you take. On the general labor question, in the incessant disputes between employers and employed, it is often possible to stand conscientiously with a foot in either camp, for hitherto the entire struggle lias been one wearisome, never-ending compromise. To get better terms from the employers is the dominant idea, as may be seen in every strike and platform. Compromise is the pervading note, and where there is a possibility of compromise there is always a possibility of temporary peace.
The Mexican Revolution is different. It presents the land question in its crudest, most unyielding form. "You have got the land; we want it." —"It is useless to explain how yon got it, for, whatever you may say, we
deny your right to get it in that way. We deny your right to buy up our country and enthralled or expatriate us." Do you think I am putting my own thoughts into the peon's mouth? The proof that I am not is furnished by the peon's own actions, which havebeen far more eloquent than words. Read the accounts of governmental centers captured by the revolutionists and almost the first thing you will notice is that the real estate records were burned. They do not recognize the paper titles through which the landlord, be he Mexican or foreigner, collects his tribute. Just as Henry George declared—it runs through every line he wrote—that lapse of time can confer no validity on so-called titles granting, monopoly of land, so the Mexican revolutionist says simply: "The land is ours; we take it. God never meant we should be tenants-at-will of men we never saw and never expect to see. From the time of the Spanish conquest to the present hour we have been enslaved by force. Today the force is ours and we throw off our chains. We take back the land and become once more economically free."
Modern Illustrations. "You have it. It is mine. I want it back." That sort of quarrel cannot be compromised; that always has been settled by appeal to force; that has produced the bloodiest wars, the most ruthless invasions, the world has known. One need only instance, in our own times, the Russian Revolution, the Irish Land League, the Boer war. Any textbook on the subject will give you other examples by the score. The hunger for land is not an avarice but the hard, practical recognition of a basic want. Men who are fighting for the land have ceased to be dreamers. They have come down to earth.
Such a quarrel cannot be compromised, and all history proves the statement. But, of course, the tide of war often goes against the rebels, and often they accept concessions. Napoleon found it imperative to create a landed peasantry; the British government has adopted measures the main object of which is to stifle revolution without injuring the landlords; the Czar bamboozled his own starvelings into temporary harmlessness by giving them the plaything of a Douma. Modern governments, with immense wealth and vast destructive powers behind them, have been able often to crush the aspirations of the masses. They have been incomparably more successful in this than were the governments of the Middle Ages, for they are incomparably stronger, the short-sightedness of the proletariat having furnished them with powers such as never came into the Caesars' wildest dreams. Holding purses to the filling of which millions are forced to contribute such governments are able to equip huge armies, and dictate orders at the bayonet's point. It is the first thing every new ruler attends to, and even now we see Madero trying to create an army of .350,000 by resorting to conscription.
Why have the Mexicans been able to put up a fight that has lasted more than a year, overthrown Diaz and resulted already in thousands of the disinherited getting back their lands? Simply because, as compared with the popular indignation, the Mexican government has been singularly weak. If Madero can make it stronger he will snap his fingers at public opinion, just as the Southern Pacific, Standard Oil and other financial Czars spit contemptuously into our faces.
If Madero Cannot?
The first practical question, therefore, is whether Madero himself can establish a government strong enough to thrust the masses back into their economic dungeon. The second ques
tion is whether, should he prove too weak, other powers will come to his assistance. On the answer hangs Mexico's immediate future. As throughout the world-wide social war, the situation is a military one, and the moneyed interests seek to command it by grasping the governmental power. So long as that exists and is controlled by their agent it is immaterial to them who that agent is, although he who can do the work most effectively and cheaply is, of course, in favor. Every absentee landlord, fattening his bank roll at the expense of the Mexican peasant, knows this and prays that if Madero fail to protect him the United States will step into the breach. Every broker with Mexican lands for sale is in the same boat; and so, unhappily, are the thousands who have invested in Mexican securities, hoping to get rich quick by the labor of the peon. Getting rich by the unpaid labor of the masses is the rotten cornerstone on which our entire social edifice is reared, and successful revolution in any one country sets it crumbling to pieces. It increases incalculably the enormous sum of existing discontent, because that discontent is rooted in the general consciousness that others are enriching themselves at* our expense. To expose the methods by which labor is robbed in Mexico is to lay bare the innermost workings of our capitalist system everywhere.
If you ask whether Madero will be able to form the strong government so essential to his own safety, and that of his employers, I reply that this pamphlet is an attempt to set you guessing on that riddle. To the Mexican Liberal Party it seems that Madero's power is weakening, since the storm appears to be gathering from every side. Yet we should not be too sanguine; for, while popular indignation is a power, he who has ca'ptured the government occupies a position of great natural strength. He can move quickly, whereas it takes much time to bring the masses into line.
The one thing certain is that the success of Madero'-s attempt to form a strong government and gather at his back a powerful army will mean an indefinite continuation of the present system; an indefinite continuation of the wholesale exploitation of the workers; an indefinite postponement of economic freedom. We are not confronted by a theory but by an irrefutable fact.
Money is Alarmed.
Ask me whether the United States government would like to intervene and I answer—"Will a cat drink milk?'' In Mexico property interests are in the gravest peril, and the chief business of our government is to protect the interests of property. Twice within the last twelve months United States troops have been hurried by the thousands to the border, and if intervention is deemed advisable there will be plenty of excuses. In every country the life or property of some foreigner is ajways in danger. It is the gate through which governments inarch their armies when bent on annexation.
Nevertheless the United States government may well hesitate to intervene, for intervention will unite as one man the Mexicans and Spanishspeaking nations of the South, and the invader will find himself faced with a task harder than that Great Britain tackled in the Transvaal. It .took an army of some half a million to subdue the Boers, and half a million soldiers cannot be raised in the United .States without conscription; although it is true that for conscription the Dick law has paved the way. But it is safe to say that conscription will produce a storm which might easily swell into a most disastrous hurricane.
On the other hand, there are foreign investments in Mexico valued at about two thousand million dollars, and two thousand million dollars—to say nothing of the even richer pickings in sight—can exercise tremendous pressure. They are clamoring even now for intervention, as in Mr. Barry's article in the "World ToDay." If Madero falls they will pound frantically at the doors of Congress.
For our part we stand with the disinherited as against Madero and the money power, of which he is the agent. Let him fall. Let the lines be drawn clearly and the dice cast boldly on the table. The game is Man vs. the Dollar.
Lloyd-George declared recently that, in England alone, there were twelve millions on the verge of starvation and two millions actually starving1. His official position as Chancellor of the Exchequer of the British Empire gives that terrific statement tremendous weight. But everywhere it is the same, and, with infinite capacity of production, humanity crouches paralyzed beneath a leaden pall of fear, caused by want and the fear of want. That cannot last. Somewhere a desperate break was bound to come and it has come in Mexico. The avalanche has begun to move.
Los Angeles, Cal., U. S. A.,
Jan. 30, 1912.
From : Google Books
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