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The New International, March 1938


The Class Struggle in Mexico

From New International, Vol.4 No.3, March 1938, pp.85-87.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


CAPITALISM IN ITS imperialist stage has created a world economy. In so doing, it threw the more backward countries, the colonies and semi-colonial countries, into the orbit of capitalism, thus carrying the class struggle into the most remote corners of the globe. In Mexico, under the direct influence of Yankee and English imperialist penetration, the industrial development of the country was begun, starting with the extractive industries and railroads and extending very soon even to local provisions. The effect has been that the manufacturing industries have been deformed since their very birth by this imperialist penetration. In 1910, the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie under the protection of Yankee imperialism (vitally interested in the fall of the Porifirist [1] aristocracy, the protector of English imperialist penetration) began the bourgeois-democratic revolution. They as well as imperialism needed and need to convert a part of the millions of peasants, half-enslaved by the soil, into day laborers and salaried workers who, as producers of surplus value, would make possible the existence of an internal market and cheap labor, with the consequent development of industry. They must further create in the country a social base of small landowners to lean upon, thus imitating the mirage of agrarian reform which became the safety valve for providing a release to the desire for land by the peasantry, who participated in the revolution under the banner of “Land and Liberty”.

In the year 1910, 2% of the rural population possessed 80 per cent of the land. In 1930, 3,915 people, or one-fourth of one per cent of the 1,621,110 agrarian landowners possessed 65% of the land while 65% of the rural population owned nothing. Such is the work of 27 years of bourgeois revolution.

The Classes in the Country

Large Absentee Landowners: 297 own estates with a value greater than 700,000 pesos [1 peso = ap. $0.28] and a total value of 445.5 million pesos, i.e., 18% of the total value of rural land.

Among them there are 26 estates with a value of 40 million dollars each, which are not being fanned. If one takes into account the fact that in the majority of cases land is very cheap it will be seen why almost all of these estates are larger than 10,000 hectares and all together constitute about 77 million of the 121 million hectares [1 hectare = 2.471 acres] counted in the census.

Rich Peasants and Landlords: They own 6,544 estates, valued at from 50,000 to 700,000 pesos and with a total value of 983,258,249 pesos or 37% of die total value of all agrarian land, consisting of 20 million hectares.

The Middle Peasants: They own 35,129 farms with a value of 5,000 to 500,000 pesos and a total value of 513 million pesos.

Small Landowners: There are 56,042 whose lands are worth not more than 5,000 pesos and have a total value of 313,185,679 pesos.

The Poor Peasants: 244,108 own farms of less than a hectare. As the parcels of these extremely hungry and miserable peasants are less than a hectare in size, the income of each one of these is about 63.17 pesos and 17% of the crop is generally lost.

Day Laborers: 2,780,260 day laborers form the core of the proletariat which the proletarian revolution will have to awaken and activize as the shock brigade of the class struggle in this country. To them may be added the numerous ejidatarios [petty land grant owners] and small landowners who combine the cultivation of their parcels with their salaried jobs.

The Agrarian Movement

The native bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie have performed a great piece of deception in the problem of handing over the land to the peasantry. The fact is that while 3,915 landlords own 65% of the soil, millions of peasants only possess their misery and ignorance. The bourgeoisie, desirous of forming a social base for itself in the country, has created a cloak of small landowners to whom they have handed over some of the land (ejidatarios). The results obtained are miserable; only 896,152 peasants have received land with a total area of 12 million hectares of which hardly 4 million have soil which can be cultivated. Of these, one-half are not tilled for lack of economic and technical aid and because of the high cost of adequate soil preparation. At the rate followed in the years 1935-1937, they may perhaps in a hundred years reach the point of dividing the land (supposing the bourgeoisie were capable of doing so). The native bourgeoisie is incapable of accomplishing the agrarian revolution. Like its state apparatus and imperialism, it finds itself bound to agrarian land as closely as the finger-nail to the flesh; and it cannot change the situation beyond the limits in which it has already acted without affecting itself at the same time. For this reason, the possibilities of agrarian reform may be considered as practically terminated. The lands which were distributed recently in Laguna belonged mostly to Spaniards and natives and the division was accomplished precisely at the time when intervention by the Spanish government was impossible. In addition, imperialism, principally the Yankee brand, has profited by the measures adopted in Laguna and Yucatan since cotton and henequen, which constitute the chief vegetable exports of Mexico, are the principal products of these lands. The incorporation of these lands into intensive and industrialized cultivation improves the export business for imperialism.

The division of the land divides the gains obtained between the native bourgeoisie and the foreign investment financiers. The banks, in compensating the ejidatarios, became the beneficiaries of the profits which previously belonged to the Spaniards. The division of Laguna permitted the government to de-proletarianize the workers who constituted a menace, a menace which disappeared upon their being converted into small landowners attached to the umbilical cord of the national and foreign bankers.

The Development of Agriculture

The development of agriculture is being carried on almost exclusively in the interests of export trade and imperialism. Capital flies from the section producing food materials for the masses of the country and is concentrated in the exportable vegetable products henequen, cotton, ixtle, etc.). This phenomenon is of first and foremost importance in explaining the rise in the price of prime necessities.

The agrarian problem is the motivating force which impels the proletariat to power.

The native bourgeoisie has been and continues to be incapable of solving the agrarian problem. Millions of day-workers and an imposing mass of poor small landowning peasants and ejidatarios expect the revolution to solve their problems. The non-existence of a revolutionary party capable of leading these peasants in struggle has made it possible for the Partido Naconal Revolucionario [National Revolutionary Party] and Cardenism to capitalize on the peasantry’s discontent and desire for land, utilizing it at the same time as political food for the proletariat.

The whole development of the Mexican revolution with its stages of Zapata and other agrarian leaders confirms the fact that the peasants constitute an enormous revolutionary force, but are incapable of crystallizing their own policies and their own party. For 27 years, they have marched in the rear of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. The future of the Mexican revolution depends for the most part on the changing of this situation.

Only the power of the dictatorship of the proletariat will give all the land to those who have futilely awaited it The backwardness of the millions of peasants, their desire for land, their hunger and misery, in a word, the gigantic proportions of the agrarian problem sharpened to the extreme by imperialism, together with the backwardness of the country and its semi-colonial character are the motive force for the inevitable workers’ and peasants’ alliance which will raise the proletariat to power. The Stalin-Lombardist policy, which abandons the peasants in the hands of the bourgeoisie and its present party, the PNR, is a policy of sabotage and betrayal of the revolution. It divorces the proletariat from the forces capable of raising it to power. In the face of this policy, there can be only one correct policy, i.e., to work untiringly for the revolutionary alliance of the proletariat with and at the head of the peasants; the irreconcilable struggle to snatch them from the claws of the bourgeoisie, the PNR and imperialism.

Industrial Development

The capital invested by industry has jumped in the five-year period of 1930-1935 from 979.5 million to 1,822.8 million pesos, that is, an increase of 83%. The value of production increased still further since, from 900.3 million in 1930, it reached 1,718.6 million pesos in 1935, increasing by 90%. In contrast, the sum total of wages rose from 181 million to 212.9 million or an increase of only 14.76%. Within the same time, exports increased from 458.6 million to 775 million pesos and the imports from 180.9 million in 1932 to 465.1 million in 1936, an increase of 156%.

Superficially, these figures seem to prove the Menshevik theory of the consolidation of a national bourgeoisie, born in the growth of industry and internal and foreign trade and a commercial balance which will increase the nation’s “riches”, the theoretical basis for the policies of the Stalinist party and of the reformist of the Lombardo type. Support of the national bourgeoisie whom the growth and consolidation of the “national” economy dialectically force to collide with imperialism, becoming therefore revolutionary and anti-imperialist and grouping the proletariat as a simple force and opposition in support of the national bourgeoisie. From this, also follows the theory of economic democracy which deduces from the increase of investments, production, exports, etc., an uninterrupted and progressive increase in the workers’ standard of living with a tendency towards stabilization.

Such things are false. Since its birth, the bourgeoisie was a product of the transformation initiated by imperialism with its investments of capital in mines and railroads. Recent data prove that the United States is day by day reenforcing its hegemony in this country and show that its investments are concentrated in the petroleum, mining and transportation industry. The role of English imperialism is equally enormous. The investments of the United States jumped from 185 million in 1900 to 1,325 million dollars in 1931.

The greatest portion of capital is devoted to extractive industries. Of the 1,872.8 million invested, 1,036 million are devoted to them. All of them are in the hands of Yankee and English capitalists and their progressive growth proves that Mexico is being converted more and more into a country producing raw material, into a semi-colonial country.

Petroleum and its derivatives, silver, gold, lead and other minerals, constitute 73% of the exports. The growth of the extractive industries, which go to make up almost the whole of exportable materials (93%), forms the basis for the actual prosperity of the country. On this is based the Cárdenist “democracy” and the illusions of the progressivism of the faction in power. This growth means nothing less than the increase of imperialist penetration and the daily increasing oppression of the country by the imperialists.

At the same time sections of small industry are developing which furnish the basis for petty bourgeois illusions in a struggle of the native bourgeoisie against imperialism; but actually despite this incipient development) it is imperialism which is being consolidated.

The Development of the Proletariat

Imperialism cannot develop industry without developing the proletariat. The growth of small industry also contributes to its growth and the population is thus displaced from the country to the city. In 1921 the rural population was 9,869,276; in 1930, 11,012,091 with a definite increase of 1,142,815. The urban was respectively 4,465,504 (1921) and 5,540,631 (1931), with a definite increase of 1,075,127. The urban population grew by 24.2%.

These growths demonstrate that the development is toward the strengthening of the position of the proletariat. In the Federal District [Mexico City and vicinity], there are located the vital organs of the country. Its population has tripled in 30 years (341,516 in 1900 and 1,229,575 in 1930) and is today 6.3% of the total population of the country. If, in the Mexican revolution begun in 1910, matters were decided in the country, in the future, the cities, and among them the Federal District, with its 165,355 industrial proletarians (1930), calculated for 1937 at more than 200,000, will play a decisive role and the peasants will effect the consolidation of the results gained. The Federal District will be for Mexico what Petrograd was for Russia in 1917.

The army of the revolution grows. In the year 1921, the industrial proletariat numbered 620,000 and in 1930, 850,000 with a definite increase of 230,000 (37% in 9 years) and constitutes 16.46% of the economically active population. More than 300,000 proletarians work in small industries whose production does not exceed 10,000 pesos annually. It can definitely be stated that the proletariat exceeds a million. On the side of the toiling masses are to be found 5,390,908 domestic workers, semi-proletarians and an urban petty bourgeoisie which in 1930 reached a figure of 479,878.

Industrial development in recent years has assembled the proletariat in those places which are vital for the economic system. This localization enormously facilitates its role as the great future leader of millions of day-workers, poor peasants and small landowners and the millions of domestic workers (semi-proletarians) in the country and the city who constitute a powerful mass which the proletariat must and will be able to mobilize for the revolution.

In the last three years, there has been an awakening of the working class movement. In some cases and despite the betrayal by the leadership, the workers unwittingly have been the mainspring of mass action in the country (Laguna). At present all the workers of the extractive industries, transportation and almost all the important manufacturing industries are unionized.

In the federal industries, the organized workers exceed 300,000 and the effective total of union members can be calculated as more than 650,000 workers. The principal unions are: the Confederación de Trabajadores de México [Confederation of Workers of Mexico], led by Lombardo Toledano and plagued by Stalinists, controls the majority of the Mexican proletariat and can count on more than 400,000 workers; the Confederación General de Trabajadores [General Confederation of Workers] and the Confederación Regional Obrera de México [Regional Labor Confederation of Mexico].

Anti-Imperialist Character of the Struggle

The struggle in Mexico since its origin has been anti-imperialist. With the leadership of the principal labor unions in the hands of native bourgeoisie, agents of imperialism and without the existence of a revolutionary workers’ party to lead the struggle, it stagnated and could not go forward. The only revolutionary road is the struggle for the elimination of the reformists and treacherous leadership in the CTM, of the masked fascists in the case of the CROM, or of the unmasked reactionaries in the CGT. The CTM is in the hands of the Cárdenist faction. The CROM is led by Morones and was the reactionary instrument of Calles when his chimerical attempts of June and December 1935 failed. The CGT, officially “anarchist”, actually vacillates between Callesism and Cárdenism. It is impossible to wage this struggle victoriously without the formation of the revolutionary workers’ party of the masses of Mexico, which will gather up the heritage of revolutionary Marxism and lead them.


For the time being, Yankee and English imperialism are satisfied with the present Bonapartist dictatorship, covered with the mantle of democracy. For the time being, they do not favor fascism in Mexico. On the other hand, Germany, Italy and Japan finance, at a daily increasing rate, the formation of fascist groups. (Middle Class Confederation, Veterans of the Revolution, Anti-Communist United Fronts, etc.). For this purpose, they collect the refuse which the movements have dropped since 1910, thieves without luck, fanatic Catholics encouraged by priests. Some reactionary sections of the bourgeoisie follow in their footsteps, since they see in the action of Hitler and Mussolini the remote but only possibility of growth and consolidation which Yankee imperialism never will permit them.

Native fascism is an expression of imperialist reaction. In the absence of a big bourgeoisie, imperialism exists. In place of a big urban bourgeoisie, there are the peasants, who, hungry and hopeless, are already tired of the “democracy” which does not accomplish an agrarian revolution and who only wait for someone who might guide them in their struggle. As a consequence they can become a fascist mass, if the proletariat does not know how to attract them to itself. For want of democratic parties, with the tradition and active political life of the petty bourgeoise and proletarian masses and of a traditional democratic state, fascism can come to power as it did in Brazil through the medium of the same Bonapartist state which was transformed into totalitarianism. The anti-fascist struggle here as in all of Latin America is to a great extent a struggle for agrarian concessions, is the struggle for the construction of the party of the Fourth International.

MEXICO, D.F., January 1938



1. Group of landowners headed by Porfirio Diaz, who maintained power during the last decades of the past century until the year 1910 when he was overthrown by the revolution.

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