E. V. Debs

The Crisis in Mexico

Written: 1911
First Published:July, 1911
Source: International Socialist Review July, 1911
Online Version: E.V. Debs Internet Archive, 2001
Transcribed/HTML Markup: John Metz for the Illinois Socialist Party Debs Archive & David Walters for the Marxists Internet Archive Debs Archive

Now that Diaz is overthrown and his administration is a thing of the past, what of the Mexican revolution and the future? Will the substitution of Madero or some other landed aristocrat and bourgeois political reformer placate the people and end the revolution? Let us hope not, and yet it takes but very little in the way of concession to satisfy the ignorant and oppressed masses.

The mere overthrow of Diaz of itself means little to the Mexican people. Their condition will remain substantially the same under the new regime, and yet this change of administration with its attendant circumstances marks an epoch in the history of the Mexican nation. Certain political reforms will be instituted as concessions to the people and while economic conditions will be instituted as they have been inspirited by the revolutionary movement and the concessions made to them will but stimulate their ardor in the struggle to overthrow not merely their political dictators but their economic exploiters, and they will never cease their agitation until they have achieved their emancipation.

The real crisis in Mexico, as it seems to me, is now at hand. What the results of the approaching election may be or what the successor of Diaz may or may not do in the way of political reform are of little consequence compared to what the revolutionists will do in this crisis. Will they be able tot keep their forces intact and unite in carrying on the fight along lines leading most directly to their emancipation? Most earnestly do I hope so and yet it is almost too much to expect. Already there are signs of dissension among the revolutionists themselves which threaten grave results to their movement.

As one who realizes in some measure the gravity of the situation our comrades are facing in Mexico and the vital concern of the entire working class of America in that situation, and as one whose whole heart has been with the Mexican revolutionary movement since its inception, I feel moved to declare what I believe to be the only safe course for our Mexican comrades to pursue to reach the end they have in view. It is with no desire to obtrude myself and in no spirit of dictation that I now speak, but solely from a desire to do my duty toward our Mexican comrades as I understand that duty.

First of all, the masses of Mexican workers and producers, like those of other countries, are ignorant, superstitious, unorganized and all but helpless in their slavish subjugation. In their present demoralized state economic emancipation is simply out of the question. They must first be reached a aroused, educated and organized, and until this work is accomplished to at least some extent all hope of successful revolution is doomed to disappointment.

It is well enough for the leaders of the Mexican Liberal Party to declare that this is an “economic revolution,” but do the masses so understand it, and are they consciously aiming at such an end? And until they are in some degree class conscious and fitted by training and discipline for economic mastery, is not the success of such a revolution utterly out of the question?

If I read aright the manifesto recently issued by the Mexican Liberal Party all political action is tabooed. “Direct action,” so-called, is relied upon for results. Reading between the lines I can see nothing but anarchism in this program and if that is what the leaders mean they should frankly say so that there may be no misunderstanding as to their attitude and program. Of course they have the right to take any position they may think proper, the same right that I have to disagree with them, and frankly, if I correctly understand their position it is not calculated to promote but rather to put off the revolutionary end they have in view.

The anarchistic attitude the leaders seem to have assumed and the “direct action” they contemplate, if persisted in, will eventuate, in my opinion, in a series of Haymarket sacrifices and the useless shedding of their noblest blood.

The battle-cry of the Mexican Liberal Party is, “Land and liberty,” and its leaders declare that “the taking away of the land from the hands of the rich must be accomplished during the present insurrection.” If the land can be taken from the rich in this insurrection so can also the mills, factories, mines, railroads, and the machinery of production, and the question is, what would the masses in their present ignorant and unorganized state do with them after having obtained them? It would simply add calamity to their calamities, granting that this impossible feat were capable of achievement.

It seems to me that the leaders of the Mexican Liberal Party, whose honesty is unquestioned and whose ability and attainments are of a high order, underestimate the magnitude and malignity of the power they are dealing with. They propose to take the lands from the rich, dispossess them at one swoop, when they are scarcely organized, while the rich control all the armies and navies of the world. The present insurrection has accomplished much but it can not be expected to accomplish everything, least of all economic revolution over night.

When the leaders of the Mexican Liberal Party undertake to transfer the lands from the rich to the poor, that hour they attack the armed forces of capitalism, which means the United States as well as Mexico. The lands in Mexico belong in large part to American capitalists and they will fight for them to the last ditch and with all the powerful resources at their command.

Let no the Mexican revolutionists depend too much on the “International Committee of the Mexican Liberal Party Junta” which they propose organizing “in all the principal cities of the United States and Europe.” That some effective co-operation may thus be secured is entirely probable, but our Mexican comrades who saw their own leaders thrown into American prisons with scarcely a protest except among the Socialists are apt to be disappointed if they rely to any great extent upon the enslaved working classes of other countries whose energies are all absorbed in their own struggle for existence.

The right course for the Mexican revolutionists to pursue in this crisis, in my opinion, is to lay the foundation for economic and political organization of the dispossessed and enslaved masses, throughout the republic. This may seem to be too painfully slow in such an extreme exigency, but it will prove in the end to be not only the most direct road but the only road out of the wilderness.

The historic process must be taken into account by our Mexican comrades. There is no short cut to economic freedom. Power is necessary to achieve it, the power that springs from right education and organization, and this power in the present struggle is both economic and political, and to refuse to develop and exercise either is folly that is certain to end in disaster.

When the Mexican revolutionary leaders renounce all political action as unclean and demoralizing and when they express their abhorrence of all class-conscious political activity as simply vicious illusion “dreamed of in the opium den of politics,” they align themselves with the anarchists and virtually repudiate and renounce the international Socialist movement.

If this is not their attitude I must confess I do not understand it; if it is their attitude, their dream of establish anarchist-communism in Mexico at this stage of its industrial and social development will be rudely dispelled before many days.

The workers of all other countries are turning to the international Socialist movement and developing their economic and political power to carry out its program of emancipation and that is what they will have to do in Mexico. Other countries have had their insurrections and revolutions, their dreams and hopes of sudden emancipation, but they have all had to settle down at last to the education and organization of the masses as the only possible means of attaining that end.

The overthrow of Diaz will mean at least, I take it, the right to organize the working class and this is the work that should be taken in hand with all the energy that can be brought to bear upon it.

Here is virgin soil for industrial unionism and all the workers should be organized as speedily as possible within one great industrial organization and at the same time united politically within the Socialist Party. This is the most direct action I know and I have had experience enough to be satisfied at least in my own mind that what is now so urgently advocated by some as direct action is the most indirect and fruitless action that could possibly be taken.

If the leaders of the Mexican revolution will in this crisis align themselves with the international working class movement, accept its principles, adopt its program, and then proceed with all their energy to educate and organize, economically and politically, the masses of Mexican peons and wage slaves they will mark the most important era in Mexican history and blaze the way direct to emancipation.