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Magonism and Zapatism
brazil/guyana/suriname/fguiana | the left | opinion / analysis Tuesday November 25, 2008 21:59 by Felipe Corrêa - Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro
Latin Paradigm of Resistance
Unlike the attempts at change that take place inside the state, there are those alternatives which are outside the state. It is inevitable that we talk in dispute of power, but understanding power as political space, and not as the power of the state and as domination. Power does not necessarily imply domination. Therefore, it is clear that social movements, although generally constituted outside of the state, dispute political space with the state and the representatives of representative democracy. The movements that have or have had, in history, the objective to provide a change of status-quo, and give it a more libertarian direction, certainly disputed political space with reaction and with the state. In the vast majority of cases, to claim something in an organized fashion, constituted them a movement.
MagonismIn 1876 the dictatorship of Porfírio Diaz was initiated; a government characterized by the exploitation of the worker and peasant classes, concentration of wealth, political power and access to education, basically in the families of latifundists and foreign companies, coming principally from France, England and the United States. The concentration of land in Mexico was absurd, and the ranch owners were “absolute masters of men and things”, with immense power and resources. Although the people were living in extreme poverty, the dictatorship of Diaz ensured large profits for capitalist investment from abroad. Nine million Mexicans were illiterate. According to Pier Francesco Zarcone:
“The two main pillars of the system of rural properties were:
Some years later, already in the beginning of the twentieth century, Ricardo Flores Magón would be one of the major representatives of libertarian ideals in the fight against the Diaz dictatorship. “The apostle of the Mexican social revolution” as he was called by Diego A. de Santillán, began his campaign against a new Diaz candidature a few years before the turn of the century, and little by little he became increasingly oriented towards libertarian socialism. In 1900 he founded the journal Regeneración [Regeneration] that soon became one of the largest vehicles of the workers press and whose goal was the overthrow of the dictatorship and the establishment of libertarian communism, which Magón so well learn from the readings of Kropotkin. In Diego Abad de Santillán's description:
During the entire period of dictatorship, the PLM and the periodical Regeneración – both very influenced by Magón – were major opponents of the regime, advocating an end to dictatorship and the Porfirista regime. Moreover, by virtue of this libertarian influence present in the party from the second half of the 1900s, the PLM radicalized, turning to a more combative discourse and creating an internal tension within the party, which repelled the less radical elements. It is worth emphasizing that the party did not compete in the elections, and served only as a space for horizontal articulation of the libertarian revolutionaries of the time, without the objective of taking the state and establish a dictatorship, but to put an end to the government of Diaz, establishing libertarian communism in its place. In 1906 the PLM launched its program and also the Manifesto to the Mexican Nation, a document of great importance to the revolutionary movement of the time and which proposed a strategy to end the dictatorship of Diaz and the land structures. The PLM turned clandestine and organized more than 40 groups of armed resistance throughout Mexico and also had indigenous members, known for their struggle for the rights of communities and against capitalist property. After radicalization, Francisco Madero – a businessman who sympathized with the social reforms and who came, still in 1905, to give his blessing to the PLM – established disagreement that peaceful means to take Diaz's power would be exhausted.
The electoral fraud of 1910 commanded by Diaz, gave initiative to the explosion of the Mexican Revolution. With the arrest of Madero, his opponent in the elections, he succeeded to be re-elected again. Exiled in San Antonio, in Texas, Madero drew up the Plan of San Luís, calling for an armed uprising on November 20, in addition to declaring void the elections of 1910, rejecting the election of Diaz and instituting himself as provisional president. Many rebels responded to the revolutionary call, among them Emiliano Zapata, who played an important role in the organization of the indigenous of the Morelos region, and Pancho Villa, a former cattle thief and bank robber, very recognized by the humble of the regions of Durango and Chihuahua. They were united in an anti-re-electionist front, which gave each group a relative degree of autonomy and independence.
Already in 1911, in the midst of revolution and with support from the U.S. IWW union, the anarchists, who had Magón at their front, occupied the region of Lower California, taking cities of importance such as Mexicali. At the end of the month of January, they constituted the “Socialist Republic of Lower California”, the first socialist republic in the world. The Magonists also had victories in cities like Novo León, Chihuahua, Sonora, Guadalupe and Casas Grandes; spaces that would be lost after the repression occasioned by the Madero government. Incidentally, we remember that before the rise to power of Madero, Magón was invited to become vice president of Mexico, which he refused, in honor of his libertarian communist flag.
A large part of the revolutionaries broke with Madero by reason of the amply bourgeois constitution of his government and that he did not have any aspirations to go beyond liberalism. One of these revolts, organized by Zapata in the state of Morelos and the Plan of Ayala launched in November 1911 (and that demanded the overthrow of the Madero government and proposed a land reform process with control by the peasant communities) formed themselves as tools in the struggle of the peasants for the social revolution in the country, always inspired by the motto Tierra y Libertad [Land and Freedom]. As the historian Alexandre Samis emphasized,
After that, Mexico sank into a period of civil war and tried to establish a Convention, already at the end of 1914. The facts that happened in sequence, like the attempt by Villa and Zapata to take Mexico City, the convening of the Constituent Assembly by Carranza, who afterwards was elected president and then murdered, and the conflicts that followed in the country ended up constituting the context of the decadence of the revolutionary period in the country.
ZapatismInspired openly in this context of the Mexican Revolution, already at the beginning of the 1990s, arose the new Zapatista movement. Unsatisfied with the policy of devotion to neo-liberal capitalism adopted by the world, indigenous peasants in the south of the country – more specifically the region of Chiapas in Mexico – concentrated themselves in the Mexican jungle and began a process of discussion and an attempt to unite forces and membership in their struggle against neo-liberalism and the consequences of the policies of NAFTA, which was scheduled to come into force on the first of January 1994. According to the indigenous, the signing of NAFTA would be a death sentence for them, a treaty that would further benefit the rich in Mexico by increasing the concentration of wealth in the country and prejudicing the poorest. For the same day as the beginning of NAFTA this group of Indians, who called themselves the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), planned an uprising, which ended up taking quite a severe form, the whole world over. Its assessment of the Mexican context indicated that the EZLN saw the situation in Mexico as a colonial country dominated by the USA, and that to be able to make the transition to democracy and socialism would require a revolution. Thus the name of the EZLN was chosen.
The EZLN sent, from then on, communications to the whole world, criticizing neo-liberal capitalism and accounting the realities of the uprising which occurred and the autonomous community that had formed in Chiapas. In this way, the story of Chiapas went beyond the borders of Mexico. Even though the EZLN was an armed national liberation movement, it did not receive repulse from the global population and internationalized itself, being sympathetic to the causes of other places in the world.
Even though much of the Mexican population is not fully prepared to join the armed struggle, the Zapatista uprising ended up inspiring groups and movements around the world. About the fact that it is an armed movement, the EZLN justifies:
With the objective of fulfilling the demands created by the establishment of the autonomous municipalities, arose the Good Government Juntas which constitutes another interesting example of politics made by contemporary social movements. The Juntas have an objective to function as a school of direct democracy, giving space to and encouraging the public to take decisions in a non-hierarchical manner and without corruption: proper self-management or self-government. As the Zapatistas said, they “command obeying”, and then, they stimulate discussions and collective decision-making. The Juntas were constituted to reorganize the old Zapatista autonomous municipalities, taking into account the demands of the Zapatistas, the peasants and indigenous Mexicans. Thus, they serve as a bridge for the articulation between the diverse Zapatista municipalities, preserving the autonomy in relation to the state controlled by Vicente Fox.[*]
A Paradigm of Actual ResistanceI believe it’s important to highlight the “neo-Magonism” in increasing development in Mexico. In the same way inspired by the principles raised by the Mexican Revolution, and to a great extent by the Zapatistas, the contemporary Magonistas are also working for the creation of alternatives to state power, stimulating the autonomy to be able to exercise their rights in practice. Thus, the Magonistas and Zapatistas of today have established a dialogue that takes place in the organizational foundations of left-wing thought, outside the institutional framework, which meets the demands of the indigenous issues on a revolutionary, non-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian basis. Fruit of this exchange, the Aliança Magonista Zapatista [Zapatista Magonista Alliance] (AMZ), which consists of indigenous groups and militant organizations, surged in 2000, declared its fight against the injustices that occur against the poor and oppressed people, again bringing to light the slogan “Land and Freedom”, symbol of the Magonista-Zapatista cooperation of a not so recent past. Moreover, they point out the importance of “another way of doing politics” and of the rejection of state power, saying: “we do not aspire to exercise power, but to build a free, fair and democratic world.”
For those who hope to trace a paradigm of struggles from the 21st century, which has as its objective the ending of exploitation, it is worth knowing that even within our Latin America, movements of great importance are taking place, and that they have in their midst much more democracy and freedom than all the state projects in vogue today. Mexican Magonismo and Zapatismo are just two examples of so many mobilizations that, like sectors of the piqueteros in Argentina, sectors of the landless and homeless movements in Brazil, the Free Pass Movement, among others, question, outside of the state, the status-quo and offer a libertarian perspective on transforming the world. The question is whether the libertarian socialists of today will accompany these movements, and try to influence them as much as is possible, or if they will simply abandon the train of history, leaving them only to the tentacles of the state, the alienation of capitalism, and the ill-elements that seek every day to use them, clearly in a bad way.
Notes: Pier Francisco Zarcone. The Anarchists in the Mexican Revolution. I used this great article to lead this text about the Mexican Revolution. Zarcone’s article, with a new appendix from the author discussing Zapatismo and Magonismo today, was published by Faísca Publications in 2006. The name “stripe stores” was used because the larger part of the workers was illiterate and in the payment register books, instead of a signature, they used to put a stripe.
 Diego Abad de Santillán. Ricardo Flores Magón: the apostle of the Mexican revolution. Rio de Janeiro / São Paulo: Achiamé / FARJ/ Faísca, 2006.
 Alexandre Samis. “Presentation” In: Ricardo Flores Magón: The Mexican Revolution. São Paulo: Imaginário, 2003 p. 19.
 Emilio Gennari. Chiapas: Zapatista communities rewrite history. Rio de Janeiro: Achiamé, 2002 p. 60.
 Ibid. pp. 58; 59; 13.
* This article is an excerpt from Social Mobilizations in Latin America: from the nationalization of Bolivian resources to the resistance in Mexico.
* Felipe Correa is a militant from the Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro (FARJ).
[*] This article was originally written in 2006, and Vicente Fox is no longer state president.
[Translated for Anarkismo.net by Jonathan-ZACF]