Max Shachtman


The Civil War in Mexico

(March 1929)

From The Militant, Vol. II No. 6, 15 March 1929, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

CIVIL war, the bitterest one since the insurrection of De la Huerta in 1923, is sweeping over Mexico. On the part of the “rebels” it is an attempt to revive the rule of the military cliques and generals, allied with the reactionary feudal and clerical interests, dominating the country and extorting tribute at the pistol point from the bulk of the people. The militarists hope to anticipate the presidential elections in November with a successful uprising that will install them in the position of dictators.

The Calles-Gil regime is just as determined to suppress the uprising of the reaction in the interests of bourgeois “Order.” They stand for the regular processes of capitalist democracy under which the native bourgeoisie will have the opportunity to develop “peacefully” as a stepchild of their American imperialist masters.

United States imperialism is for “peace” in Mexico. That is why Hoover and Kellogg are giving the undisguised support of the American government to the Federals. They want no elements that will upset the halcyon equilibrium in which the United States has enrolled Mexico into its imperialist domain – whether these elements are represented by reactionary militarist cliques or a rebellious working class and peasantry, Those who elected Hoover want the enforced peace under which the workers and peasants of Mexico can be exploited to the maximum with the least possibility of resistance on their part.

The Mexican government will undoubtedly succeed in suppressing the uprising. The reaction, which does not possess any progressive social basis, is opposed by a fairly well centralized government which has, in addition, the powerful support of the American imperialists. Further, the Catholic reaction is by no means as firmly behind the uprising as it was in previous attempts. It is known, for instance, that General Roberto Crus, one of the “rebels,” was most active in suppressing the Catholics as chief of police in Mexico City under Calles; and that General J.G. Escobar was similarly occupied only a short time ago. It may be that the clericals will take advantage of the tumult to gain ground, but the religious element is less of a factor in the present struggle than at almost any other previous time.

At the same time, however, the disorganization and shift of forces attendant upon every war, gives the proletariat and the peasantry added possibilities to advance their own interests and weaken the position of their class enemy. The relation of forces in Mexico at the present time offers the Communist Party and the revolutionary proletariat unusual opportunities.

What shall be the attitude and activity of the Communist Party, which is the only force that can lead the proletariat and peasantry on the correct class road?

Up to now, unfortunately, the Mexican Communist Party – not to speak of the Party in the United States – has followed a confused and incorrect policy. The Party is still affected with the wrong policies followed for the past few years. In 1927, the Communist Party put up no presidential candidate but supported Obregon without conditions as against the reactionaries Gomes and Serrano, despite the fact that Obregon’s program was “based on the. desire to build a strong native bourgeoisie” having the “support of the petty bourgeoisie and a part of the larger bourgeoisie.” (The Communist, August-September 1927) In all critical moments, the Communist Party continued to give practically unconditional support to the bourgeois government of Calles and later Gil. It seems that all Calles had to do to insure himself against any attacks from the Communists was to send a meaningless, phrase-filled telegram to the headquarters of the Anti-Imperialist League which immediately advertized him as a militant warrior against American imperialism. As late as February of this year, the representatives of the Trade Union Educational League to the Congress that organised the Left Wing Mexican trade union center, Albert Weisbord, presented a program of 11 point in which no mention is made of the foremost necessity of a relentless struggle against the Calles-Gil regime as a strikebreaking agency functioning in the interests of American imperialism.

The Mexican Party, it is true, foresaw the present civil war. But the line it proposed in its thesis of a few months ago, and the line contained in its appeal to the workers and peasants on March 5, one day after the militarist uprising, while liberated to a certain extent from the policy of following at the tail of the Mexican bourgeoisie, continues to be dominated by uncertainty and lack of independence or knowledge of goal. The aim of the Mexican Party in the present situation was presented and apparently adopted by the Mexico City trade union Congress. “The goal of this conference,” writes Weisbord in his reports, “was the democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants, and they practically said so in so many words.” (Daily Worker, February 19, 1929.)

The democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants is bourgeois democracy in revolt against feudalism and the slogan of the bourgeois revolution. The bourgeois revolution, however, has already triumphed in Mexico. Its representatives now control the Mexican government. The “democratic” Calles-Gil regime has already demonstrated its anti-labor character by suppressing strikes and seeking to regiment the workers into semi-governmental, semi-fascist unions. It has failed to carry out agrarian reforms in the interests of the peasantry, It has followed a policy of abject servility to the American imperialists.

The perspective of a proletarian struggle for power in. Mexico which alone can “complete” the democratic revolution under workers rule is therefore postponed for an indefinite period by the advancement of the slogan of a democratic dictatorship. It means to transform the Calles-Gill regime into the rallying center of the “democratic revolution” with a sort of moderate pressure from the Left (the workers and peasants) that labors under the illusion that the Mexican bourgeoisie has still a great progressive role to play in the struggle against reaction and foreign imperialist oppression. Therein also lies the weakness of the Mexican Party’s manifesto on the civil war. When it urges that the workers and peasants be armed, it addresses this appeal to Gil and Calles as the leaders of the struggle against reaction. The appeal reads literally:

“This is the situation today, and the working class and peasants, therefore, must act forthwith as follows:

1. It must demand from the Executive federal power, and all the local power, that all available arms and military equipment be turned over immediately to the workers and peasant organisations which, together with the federal forces who remained loyal to the government, shall insure protection to the territories and cities attacked by the reactionary troops.” (Our emphasis)

To arm the workers and peasants for the purpose of fighting “together with the federal forces who remained loyal to the government” is to create a “popular defense corps” for the bourgeoisie of Mexico and nothing more. It means at best that the Communists must wait until the so-called victory over reaction, i.e., the insurrectionary militarists, is assured before proceeding against the bourgeoisie. It means the resurrection in Mexico of the infamous “united national front” of the C.P. of China subordinated to Chiang Kai-Shek & Co., which led inevitably to the victory of the counter-revolution. For when the Mexican bourgeoisie, supported by American imperialism, has accomplished its victory over militarist reaction they will at the same time have so strengthened their own position that they will be able to establish “Order,” to “deal with” the “menace from the Left,” that is, the workers and peasants. To postpone the struggle against the Calles regime, as has been the time-worn policy of the Mexican Party, until it has fortified itself with even greater security than it now possesses is to abandon the very idea of a struggle for power for an indefinite period. Naturally, it is not a question here of the Communist Party of Mexico calling the proletariat and peasantry to rise in revolution for the immediate establishment of workers’ power. This depends entirely on the development of the situation, the relation of forces, and the circumstances. The question here is one of line, perspective and action.

It is necessary that the Communist Party of Mexico should point out to the masses of workers and peasants that the Calles-Gil regime, whose progressive role is ended, can not solve the problems of the exploited people of the country. It must be repeated daily that the present government is the agent of American imperialism and the native bourgeoisie who have joined hands to oppress the workers and peasants of Mexico. The Party should emphasise that the proletariat leading the alliance with the peasantry must aim to seize power and that the chief obstacle in this path is the American-dominated, bourgeois, Calles-Gil regime. Instead of fostering illusions among the masses as to the “progressive role” the Calles regime is to play, (when it is certain that its role will be an even more reactionary one in the future), the Communists should root out these illusions. Otherwise it will never rise higher than playing the role of a “loyal opposition” from the Left to the Mexican bourgeois democracy.

The Mexican Party is – if reports in the Party press are to be relied upon – by no means an isolated sect. Weisbord reports that

“the Party has taken the initiative and actually leads all mass movements which I have described in my several articles, published before, movements which have a minimum of 500,000 actual adherents. [The population of Mexico is only a little more than 14,000,000 – MS] The Party not only leads the Workers and Agrarian Toilers Permanent Political Bloc, it not only leads the new trade union movements in Mexico, but when matters come to more direct and open clashes with the governmental and imperialistic forces, when the matter takes the form of a civil war, the Mexican C.P. without a doubt will be in the leadership as well.” (Daily Worker, February 27, 1929)

In addition, according to Weisbord, El Machete, the Party organ, has a circulation “closer to 175,000 than 15,000.” But now that matters have taken the form of a civil war, the Mexican C.P. is not “in the leadership as well.” And the Party will never be in the leadership of the struggle if it continues to follow its present line. All of its agitation for a “workers and peasants government” will be meaningless if it continues to be understood as a fight for the “democratic dictatorship,” that is, for “real” bourgeois democracy.

The work of the Communist Party of Mexico and the interests of the proletarian revolution will further be retarded if the Party continues to play with the dangerous, reactionary idea of a Workers and Peasants Party, the first steps toward which have already been taken. The “Workers and Agrarian Toilers Permanent Political Bloc” which the Party has formed is another name for a Workers and Peasants Party. A Workers and Peasants Parly in Mexico, with the slogan of a “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry,” will surely lead to a repetition on a smaller scale of the debacle of the Comintern with the Kuo-Min-Tang in China.

No progress will be made by the Mexican Communist Party toward the proletarian revolutionary goal unless it proceeds from the premise of unyielding antagonism to the idea – so prevalent in the Comintern of recent years – of a single Party in which two classes, the proletariat and the petty-bourgeoisie (peasantry) are merged. Such a course does not lead to the establishment of the leadership of the proletariat over the peasantry. It leads inevitably to the domination of the petty-bourgeois class interests of the peasantry who already out-number the proletariat three or four times in the above-mentioned “Permanent (!) Bloc.” Only if the proletariat, organised separately and independently on a class basis, leads the peasantry will it be able to prevent the latter from becoming the instrument of the bourgeoisie against the revolution.

The line followed by the Mexican Party has hampered its development but it is of course far from fatal. The present civil war, despite its relatively short duration offered the Party splendid opportunities for setting the masses into motion along the revolutionary road. There will still be numerous opportunities in the future, if the Party succeeds in correcting its policy. The Calles-Gil regime can establish “Order” not merely by defeating the militarist and clerical reaction but by the violent suppression of the workers’ and peasants’ movements. The manner in which even the yellow reformist C.R.O.M. was scuttled is an indication of the lengths to which the Mexican bourgeoisie will go to insure themselves – and their American imperialist masters – of a smooth, undisturbed course in the exploitation of the masses. The coming struggles in Mexico will advance the interests of the masses to the extent that the Communist Party is able to make the existence of the bourgeois regime precarious, and, finally, impossible.

The class conscious workers of the United States will follow events in Mexico with the keenest interest. Upon the revolutionaries here devolves the task of sabotaging and undermining all attempts that the United States will make to intervene against a genuinely revolutionary Mexico. Our warmest support goes to the Mexican fighters who are the pioneers of the final victory, feeling their way to the correct path, fighting with courage, and assured of the triumphant future of the toiling masses.

Shachtman button
Max Shachtman
Marx button
Marxist Writers’

Last updated on 12.8.2012