Mexico's Battle for Economic Freedom And Its Relation to Labor's World-Wide StruggIe
Selected from Writings of
RICARDO FLORES MAGON, A. DE P. ARAUJO AND WM. C. OWEN
MEXICAN LIBERAL PARTY
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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, U. S. A.
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Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, in the tenth instalment of his "New Freedom," declares as follows:
"The facts of the situation amount to this; that a comparatively small number of men control the raw material of this country; that a comparatively small number of men control the water powers that can be made useful for the economical production of the energy to drive our machinery; that that same number of men largely control the railroads; that by agreements handed around among themselves they control prices, and that that same group of man control the larger credits of the country."
The junta of the Mexican Liberal Party, speaking on behalf of those who, under its banner are fighting and agitating for the Economic Revolution now in process of development in Mexico, declares that word of President Wilson's pronunciamento applies with equal, if not greater, force to Mexico, that no nation can, by any possibility, be happy or prosperous under such conditions; that we have reached a point in economic development which justifies us in saying that the abolition of poverty in both feasible and necessary, and that the overthrow of the conditions described by President Wilson has become an imperative duty, to be performed at all costs. The situation and the causes that have created the situation are identical everywhere, and the fight is the same. whether it is being waged in the United States, Mexico, Europe, Central and South America, Africa or Australasia.
LAND AND LIBERTY
This, the first volume of our "Land and Liberty" series consists of translations from the Spanish of Ricardo Flores Magon and Antonio de P. Araujo, and articles by Wm. C. Owen, editor of the English section of "Regeneracion." They are submitted to the public in the hope that they may help to bring about a better understanding of the revolutionary movement, not only in Mexico but throughout the world. It is believed that the reader will find the contents frankly revolutionary; that is to say, dealing with causes, and the quickest method of removing causes, rather than with effects. The translations from the Spanish are marked with the initials of the original contributors, and the volume is placed on the market at the low price of ten cents, our desire being to make the propaganda as extensively as possible.
Organizing junta, Mexican Liberal Party,
Los Angeles, Cal., U. S. A.
THAT EVENING AT THE BEACH.
Do you remember that evening at the beach? The golden moon hung full-orbed in the sky, and a road of silver stretched across the softly- undulating sea. At your feet the surf broke gently, a wall of phosphorescent fire. How beautiful it was, and how you both enjoyed it! You talked in low tones, at intervals only, and in the fewest words. "What an enchanting night!" "Could there be a more lovely scene?" "What a beautiful world this is!" You walked home in silence; your hearts beating with emotion; in thought too deep for words. You felt at peace with all the world, and yet your blood ran hot with passion, for you trod on air. It would have been hard then to have done a shameful deed, or harbored an ignoble thought. The poetry of the universe had crept into your soul.
Every man and woman should have the memory of some such evenings locked amid his or her most cherished treasures. In every life, however rocked and wrecked by trouble, there should have been hours in which all the world seemed good; in which the noble seemed to be the, natural thing; in which there was confidence in truth; in which there was, at least, one of whose interest and loyalty no doubt was felt and through whom the divine became visibly clothed in flesh and blood. Whatever the later record may have been, such hours we never can forget. However brutally life may have stamped upon those golden moments, it never stamps them out entirely. They stand, a lighthouse in a storm-tossed sea, reminding us that we are never far from port, a spring in the desert, assuring us that there is water in abundance, if we have to but pluck and sense to reach it.
Like Elbert Hubbard, or any other New Thought Apostle, I might well be writing for the so-called "rich," who, planting their existence in the arid soil of living off their neighbors, condemn themselves to hopeless poverty in essentials and rob themselves of the true poetry of life. Well might I write especially for them, since they, fo all others, any seem to need compassion. A class that finds our greatest treasure, Time--that is to say, Life itself--the deadliest enemy and strives continually to kill it; a class that hunts the wide world over for sensations wherewith to whip into new activity its jaded appetites; a class that traffica constantly in sexual aberrations, because its natural instincts have withered prematurely; a class that prays eternally to be amused, and values those alone who can satisfy that unhealthy craving-such a class might well eaU for sympathy if we had sympathy to waste. We have not. We cannot cure the hopelessly and wilfully corrupt. We cannot restare organs paralysed by abuse. Whethor the rich are to blame, or whether they are the victims of circumstances, we do not care to ask. We are dealing with a military situation that has to be faced immediately and we cannot squander time unravelling the 'causes that begot it. Let the rich make their own lives hell, if they choose, since that is their own business. They shall not continuo to make ours as bad, or worse, if we can help it.
Let us take Mexico as an illustration, and only as an illustration, inasmuch as things are everywhere very much the same. Since the revolution began, three years ago, Los Ángeles has been crowded with the refugee rich, and doubtless other pleasure resorts have suffered invasion from the same swarm of locusts Except for destruction they have no capacity whatevor. They are chronic idiers and would be run into jail but for the fact that they still have certain means of subsistance, in the shape of lands and houses from which it is still possible to extract some rent, or deposita in bank which represent the extortions of the past. Through ignorance of our language they are compelled to live largely among themselves, and they lounge away the time dreaming of the re-coming of the golden days when others shall have saved their chestnuts from the fire and fought successfully the battle on behalf of special privilege which they themselves are too cow- ardly to fight. Their one activity, outside of the satisfac- fion of their carnal appetites, is to plot; to interest fellow- parasites in the common cause, since ali exploiters travel in the same boat; to lionize any specially prominent pirate, such as Terrazas or Torres, who may happen to come along, and to make a God of such as Felix Diaz, who has shown himself the type of treachery and personal cruelty, and is himself the nephew of the man whose personal ambition and corruption were the parents of their present sorry plight. 1 defy the world and history to show me a moré pitiable crew; a set of human beings more irreme- diably worthless when judged from the standpoint that Life is a great and glorious opportunity, to be turned to a gloriously happy account. Any self-respecting community of bees would kill such good-for-nothing drones remorselessly to the last one of them. Our own worthless rich show their own worthlessness by sheltering these drones and falling on their spineless necks; publishing their photographs in the journals they control and chronicling their vaporings in the columns devoted to "society" news.
Life should be full of poetry; full of the fire of passion runs through veins which function actively because opportunities for functioning abound on every side. Life never was meant to be put in the straitjacket with which monopoly has bound it, or to be cabined, cribbed and confined by the restrictive legislation which the philosophy of monopoly begets as inevitably as the swamp will breed mosquitoes. There is no sense in condemning the naturally light-hearted and most loving Mexican to the loveless slavery of the Valle Nacional, the henequen plantations of Yucatan, the mills of Rio Blanco, or the every of the mines, that a small and unspeakably worthless percentage of his countrymen may yawn their heads and endeavor to kill time in profligacies paid for with sweat and blood. There is no sense in the American or European workingman who tamely wears out his existence on some grimy bench, producing baubles for the bored-to-death when a seat is waiting him at Life's rich table. There is no poetry in that, which means there is no sense, no conprehension of what life should be; no grasp of possibilities; no power to recognize facts that strikeone in the face.
Why should it interest any reasonable man to learn what the diamond cutters have organized and are getting more decent wages for supplying gems to deck some pirate's light-o'-love? Let the diamond cutter say: "I find Life too important to waste on nonsensical occupation of this sort." How comes it that apparently sensible people can read with profound interest the story of hunters who risk their lives, year after year, to cloth prostitutes with furs? Let the furs go and the animals that own them rest in peace, while we weave clothing for the really naked backs. Let us get down to business and take stock; let us see how large a proportion of our race is slaving in poverty for the spoiled and idle few, and how small is the percentage which is producing the limited range of articles to which the consumption of the masses is confined. That stock-taking is more wanted than anything I know, for, if we could put it through and ascertain the facts, it would lead instantaneously to such a reorganization as this world has never seen. There would be no need then for Mr. Gompers' or Mr. St. John's or Mr. Debe' machines, which hope to organize industry completely within the next few centuries. We should simply say, with one accord: "To Hell with such a state of things, in which ninety-nine hundredths of our race are toiling at the useless, and all are robbed of Life!"
Walkinq homeward and asking myself why Life should not be habitually one "evening at the beach," I was hailed by en old newspaper friend who has become Chief of Police in this by no means unimportant burgh. He dragged me into his den and the talk fell on a book, "Crime and Criminals," which I was guilty of writing some four years ago. The Chief thought it had done much good, and spoke of reforms recently effected. I replied that, except as to possible improvement in the treatment of prison inmates, it had done no good at all, and could do none, since our economic conditions, with the unnatural and unequal struggle they engender, hatch crime faster than all the books in the worid can remedy it. He agreed empliatically, and, after exchanging some experiences, he rapped out a professional opinion. "Damn it," he said, "that Los Angeles has become nothing but a city of detectives! Everybody is spying on everybody else, and I hate to set foot in the place."
It is even so. We are being starved of Life, and instead of a meal that should be clean and sweet and nourishing, are given an ill-smelling, poisonous mess. The maggot of slavery has eaten its way into and putrified the mass so utterly that only by the most violent efforts can we make it hold together. Never was talk so cheap and action in accordance with our talk so hard to find. Under the loudly-voiced assumption that the people at last are in the saddle and that Dernocracy io triumphant, the masses are bound to the chariot: wheels of Money as they never were before. The worid rings with fine sentiments, but those who mouth them have no thought of being held responsible and always it is tacitly understood that Money is to speak the final word. China is once more rent by Revolution in its most violent, gigantic and apparently unprofitable form, and over every battlefield as vultures waiting for their glut, hover the syndicated European bankers. The Balkans run knee-deep in blood, and the European bankers boss the job. As I write, the despatches tell me that "Senator Bacon of Georgia, chairman of the foreign relations committee and a man of well-known conservative tendencies, characterizes the present emergency--the Mexican Revolution-as the gravest that has confronted ;e United States in his nineteen years of service." Once ore the Money Power is responsible for afl the trouble; e Money Power which created the conditions that forced the Revolution; the Money Power which has prolonged it, by protecting its monstrous privileges against e opposition of the masses; the Money Power which seeks now to embroil the United States and ultimately ay embroil the nations of the world.
The Mexican Revolution is only one little corner of is Titanic, world-wide struggle-the struggle for the right to live; the struggle for the rich and fully-rounded civilization to which the knowledge and capacity of the man race entitle it, and for its equal, clean and sensible enjoyment. This world is incalculably rich, with a richness that means the possibility of happiness for all; but the richness is under lock and key. It must be freed. Monopoly must disgorge. It must give up the key. The slavery by which the many must toil when and as the few, o very few, decide, must go and go forever. The human hive must purge itself of drones. Its members must be free to suck life's honey to the full; to garner it in freedom and to feast, secure against invasion by the idler, on the product of their toil. Such evenings at the beach as I endeavored to describe at the beginning of this article are all too few, and it may be doubted if millions catch even such a single ray from Life's great reservoir of light to cheer them on their long and tragic way. That cannot, should not, last. That slavery must be broken. Those prisoners must he set free. Life must be released, however great the cost and desperate the struggle. To the conquest of "Land and Liberty" our race must rally, conscious of the dignity of its claim and of the omnipotent forces latent in ite too-long slumbering limbs. The threads with which the Lilliputians of Monopoly have bound it are only threads. Gulliver has only to collect his wits and rise.
ON ITS KNEES GOVERNMENT OFFERS AGRARIAN REFORMS
Considering the government of Mexico's capital as lost and seeing that the millions of dollars spent in armies and armaments are of no avail to smother the Revolution -whose character is evident from the features that have continually marked the various uprisings which continue to shake Mexico-they are once more putting forward measures such as Madero would never have proposed and much less carried into effect.
Nevertheless, it is now late for the implanting of social reforms and for the partition of the lands. In the heart of the Mexican proletariat there are beating today antiauthoritarian and anti-capitalist sentiments, and they will not allow themselves to be deceived as they have been in the past. They will not swallow the hook of a repartition of the lands at the hands of Government.
The Republic's government has confessed that in Mexico there is a war of classes. By the mouth of the Minister of Regulation, Dr. Urrutia, who calls attention to the selfishness of the rich in the matter of contributing funds with which to carry on the struggle against the proletariat, it has said as follows: "The war which is destroying us implacably is not a civil war; it has no political ends in view. It is the war of the poor man- of the man who possesses nothing against the rich Wan. And it is a curious, not to saw an immoral, fact that in the combats recorded daily, in which so many fall, those who fall are all of the disinherited class, those who have nothing to lose and who are fighting only because those who give them orders take them to the battlefield. The well-to-do are helping in this frightful war without taking any actual part in it. They expect us to defend them against assaults, against incendiarism, against pillage, but, with a few honorable exceptions, they do nothing to bring about peace and a definite equilibrium. And I think that the hacienda owners, those who possess much, those who do not know where their haciendas end and who can ride for days without coming to the boundary posts that mark the limits of their holdings, could contribute something, some few acres of land, without reducing to any great extent their capital; and that would be the first step, a gigantic step, toward the solution of the future and the scattering the black clouds that now involve it."
Again, from the secretaries' offices of the Departments of Public Works and Regulation orders have been sent but for the immediate splitting up of the lands belonging to the nation, with instructions to grant permission for the working and exploitation of the national lands neighboring on towns. Here is what "El Imparcial," a bourgeois Mexico City paper, says in one of its last issues respecting these orders:
"The Secretary's office of the Department of Regulation has just sent out a circular to the Political Prefectures of the Federal District, ordering that, without delay, the inhabitants of towns and municipalities where national lands are situated be allowed to work and exploit them. Thus, all the timber lands of the Federal District and the lands which belong to the nation, as well as the bottom lands of lakes Xochimilco and Chalco, will be worked and their products exploited-wood, fodder, sand and other mineral deposits, etc., etc., by the inhabitants of the different towns, registered as paying taxes I without any restriction other than that of the morality of the individuals concerned.
"We are informed that this measure is to be put into immediate effect, having in view the special circumstances through which the country is passing, with a view to facilitating the re-establishment of peace while reserving for a later date more detailed legislation. At the ministerial council held last Tuesday night the Secretary of the Department of Regulation proposed this transcendentally important measure, and it met with the approval of the President of the Republic.
"We are informed also that at a meeting of the various great landed proprietors of the Federal District it was agreed to cede a portion of their lands, to be cultivated by the workers of the respective municipalities.
"In Xochimilco a well-known man is willing to divide up for the benefit of the natives a large tract of very fertile moor land whose cultivation and products will be henceforth for the benefit of the poor and industrious of the neighborhood.
"We know also that the wealthy proprietor, Senor Don Amigo Noriega, will cede an important portion of his Xico haciendas and their annexes, with the same noble end of favoring the native working class.
"We conceive that alike the disposition shown by the government and the altruistic proposition of the great landowners constitute a great step toward the work of pacification, and, as we have said repeatedly, we should not trust solely to military action. It is very probable that the realization of the new measure dictated by the Secretary of Regulation may meet with obstacles and hindrances in the matter of carrying it into effect, but no one can doubt that such an arrangement has been inspired by a self-evident spirit of patriotism, and that it will contribute largely toward the re-establishment of peace by providing means of livelihood and subsistence to the native class which today the rebel chiefs and highwaymen are making use of, that they may drag it to revolt and banditry."
And, immediately after the issuance of the order of the Secretary of Public Works, the same paper expresses itself thus:
"In view of the fact that, at the ministerial council held in the National Palace last night, the Secretary of the Board of Public. Works, Engineer Alberto Robles Gil, offered to make known a plan for the repartition of the lands, an 'Imparcial' representative interviewed him at noon yesterday and requested him kindly to furnish us with some details on a subject of such importance.
"Sr. Robles Gil showed us that, inasmuch as the law prohibits the Government from alienating its lands until they have been surveyed by the Government's own engi- neering commission; and inasmuch as the Mexican Repub- lic comprises 197,000,000 hectares, more than ten per cent of which-that is to say, 23,000,000 hectares-are the nation's property; and inasmuch as the Agrarian Section of the Department has not a staff adequate to the task of surveying and dividing up the lands which must be partitioned; with a view to carrying out the splitting up of the lands as speedily as possible, the Department of Public Works has entered with the President of the Republic into the agreement we publish hereafter, to the end that the Governors of the various States may occupy themselves with the division of the said lands, at the cost of the Federal Government." (Here follows a somewhat lengthy order by President Huerta to the Governors and "Jefes Politicos" of the different States, directing them to divide up without delay such portions of the national domain as may be susceptible of cultivation, in tracts of not less than ten and not more than 'one hundred hectares, and to put them into the possession of small agriculturists, "in order to alleviate their necessities and contribute to a partial satisfaction of the popular aspirations in the matter of the land." The order is somewhat lengthy and Mr. Araujo has given it verbatim, but the present translator thinks it sufficient to reproduce its general purport, (which he has done quite faithfully.) Mr. Araujo proceeds:
Minister Urrutia's declarations, as well as the decrees the Executive, issued without waiting for authorization by Congress or even by what calls itself the law, show how great is the Government's agony, and its anxiety to extract to itself the proletariat and induce it to renounce the Revolution, which goes on marching forward in its work of general expropriation.
The splitting up of the lands, while the Government helped the principle of private property remain alive, does not mean the helping of the worker on his road to the conquest of well-being, nor would it be practicable; for, as we have said often, the acquisition by ALL the towns in the Republic of the land necessary to provide them with commons, would necessitate the buying out of the hacienda owners at increased prices, since it comprises the lands and forests surrounding the towns, the titles to which are in the hands of private landowners, since they are not the nation's property. Such a purchase is an impossibility, because the Government, although it would force the workers to contribute substantial sums, would need millions and millions of dollars for such an expropriation, and no banking syndicate in the world would be able to accomodate it with the monstrous amount of cash needed. Today the national lands which Huerta orders given to the disinherited are those which the foreign speculator and native hacienda-owner have rejected and declined to take over because of their aridity, their marshy character or for other reasons that make their working full of difficulty.
No system of agrarian laws can be adopted in Mexico. Legal measures or governmental orders--which, lacking the sanction of Congress, proclaim themselves illegal--cannot solve a problem which, as the Minister of Regulation himself says, is social and has no political end in view.
The social problem can be solved only by each and all taking possesion of that which belongs to all. The land, which is the gift of nature, and the machines, the plows. the houses, the industries, the trains and all that has been the common work of the past and the present generations, should be expropriated. With the expropriation of the now-usurped common patrimony, bequeathed to man by nature and his ancestors, the right of all the inhabitants of Mexico to the enjoyment of existing wealth will be secured.
It is this method of solving the problem which is making the Government tremble; and, being lost, it is now pretending to be interested in the disinherited and is playing its last card, hoping that thereby it will induce the Social Revolution to commit suicide.
This method of solving the problem-that is to say, expropriation by violence-is causing the most important bourgeois paper of Guadalajara to exclaim, in tears and with dismay:
"Who knows with what the future may present us? We shall say simply that never, during all the Republic's life, have revolutionary 'movements exhibited a character so sanguinary and vandalistic as they do today, when even private houses are dynamited and there is nothing which can inspire the bandits with respect or restrain their passion."
It is now too late for the government to talk. The time has gone by for it to show itself interested in a proletariat that, during four centuries, suffered in slavery. Its weak voice is lost in the clamor of the revolutionary forces, now enured to war, which are moving from victory to victory, from triumph to triumph, from expropriation to expropriation, and are now well- nigh surrounding the Republic's capital, not that they may shout, with the inevitable fall of President Huerta: "The President of the Republic is dead; long live the President of the Republic!" but the great cry of proletarian redemption: "The Capitalist system is dead! We have killed the Republic! Long live the Commune!"
A. DE P. A.