Labor Movement in Mexico

(20 April 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 34 [16], 26 April 1923, p. 293.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In Mexico heavy industry is but little developed. The greatest percentage of workers are occupied in the naphtha industry, the remainder on the large landed estates.

The characteristic features of the labor movement in Latin America are: an exceedingly confused ideology; ill-considered and rapid action; and complete inconstancy of organization. In Mexico these negative aspects of the labor movement are further greatly influenced by the unceasing civil wars and uprisings, which effect a large section of the population.

For some years the reformist labor federation was the sole trade union centre. This organization maintains the most amicable relations with the government, and with Gompers’ American Federation of Labor. The leaders of the Federation of Labor founded a special “Labor Party” for their personal aims, but this does not prevent them from talking of their neutrality in political questions, or from preaching independence and autonomy in the trade unions ...

The workers, disappointed at the opportunist policy of their leaders leave the trade unions in masses, so that the membership of the federation dropped from 200,000 to 80,000 within two years.

The federation belongs to no international. It informed the executive bureau of the R.I.L.U. of its intention to send a delegation to the 2nd world congress of the R.I.L.U. Put on the other hand, Morcheo, the leading Mexican reformist leader, took part in the conference at The Hague, and Oudegeest reported almost simultaneously on the impending affiliation of this organization to the Amsterdam International.

The reformist policy pursued by the federation leaders was inevitably bound to lead to a schism. In 1919 a revolutionary organization was formed, but the collapse of the general strike put an end to its existence. In 1920 a communist Federation was founded on the initiative of the young Communist Party, and 35,000 to 40.000 workers have joined it. In February 1921 this organization convened a congress, and invited the representatives of all the trade unions in the country to take part, for the purpose of creating a united centre for the labor movement. Sabotage on the part of the reformists prevented the realization of this plan. But some independent trade unions joined the Communist Federation; it comprised 50,000 to 56,000 members, and belonged to the R.I.L.U.

Unfortunately this organization was strongly influenced by the anarchists from the time of its founding. These soon opened up a desperate campaign against the Russian revolution and against the R.I.L.U. In consequence of this agitation our best comrades are sitting behind prison bars, or have been forced to flee, and the executive committee came into the hands of the anarchists. By a series of machinations they succeeded in bringing about a rupture between the General Federation of Labor and the R.I.L.U. At the same time their methods plunged the workers into a number of ill-considered and unprepared strikes, which ended in complete failure.

All this led to a severe crisis within the General Federation of Labor, threatening its existence. The most important trade unions have left it, its membership has dropped to 30,000, and continues to sink.

Beside these two central organizations, there are a number of Independent Trade Unions in Mexico (railwaymen, textile workers, transport workers, etc.) counting about 200,000 members in all.

If it were possible to unite these independent trade unions, the Mexican labor movement might be saved by one central body, consisting of the united independent trade unions, the General Federation of Labor, and the National Labor Federation.

Last updated on 14 October 2021