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The New International, May 1941


Joseph Arnold

Counter-Revolution in Mexico


From New International, Vol. VII No. 4, May 1941, pp. 89–91.
Transcribed & marked up by Damon Maxwell for ETOL.


IN MEXICO, the word “revolutionary” is popular. It is devoid of content and conveniently used by rich and poor alike. It suffers the same fate that the word “socialism” does in Russia. Every petty politician, every trade union bureaucrat runs for office under the banner of this revolutionary party or that revolutionary party. Every reactionary deed is accomplished under the banner of “the revolution.” Truly, Russia and Mexico have, in their own peculiar fashion, answered that cynical question, “What’s in a word?”

The petty bourgeois agrarian and anti-imperialist revolution, which began in 1910, swept through successive stages of development that culminated in the high water mark reached by the Cardenas administration. Here, a liberal and, to some extent, historically conscious regime, trying to rest on the social pillars of a class conscious proletariat organized into militant trade unions and a land hungry peasantry of Indian stock, awakening from centuries of oppression, attempted to carry through a belated democratic bourgeois revolution – a bourgeois revolution which is not to be identified with the classic example of France of 1789, nor even with the February to November regime in Russia, but one that was to be adapted to the conditions o! a decaying internationalist capitalist system. The agrarian problem to be settled in part by the division of the large estates among the individual peasants and in part by the communal division and ownership of large tracts of land. As for the new factor in society, the class conscious proletariat, which was not on the scene in 1789, it was to have some of its demands realized through the securing of certain social legislation and through the nationalization of the most highly trustified sections of capitalist economy, these being in Mexico, namely, the railroads and the oil industry. In short, Mexico attempted to put into practice the theory of “the democratic dictatorship of the peasantry and proletariat.”

But, scarcely has the Mexican nation begun moving in the direction of such a goal, when the iron laws of capitalism in a higher stage than that of 1789, namely in a period of imperialism, have returned with redoubled fury to begin the relentless smashing of the historically anachronistic stage of Mexican development. This historic development has worked itself out through men in the election year of 1940.

Camacho – Agent of Reaction

To the Mexican people, the election of 1940 seemed to resolve itself swiftly into a choice of but two alternatives – one to support Avila Camacho, the candidate of the Mexican Revolutionary Party, and to carry forward or, as Camacho so neatly put it, “Consolidate the gains of the revolution”; or, on the other hand, vote for Almazon, the independent rightist candidate, who had the support of all the rightist and fascist elements in Mexico. Almazon, the bogey man, who was to destroy all the gains of the 25 year old Mexican revolution.

To the “realists,” there was no other choice. Thereupon, the peasants, the small farmers, the trade unionists, cooperatives, small trades people and intellectuals of all grades and qualities plumped for Camacho. In short, all the elements that go toward building that modern but short lived political phenomenon known as the people’s front rallied behind Camacho. And, to top off the concoction, the Communist Party of Mexico, with the blessings of the C.I., raised its voice above all others in acclaiming Camacho as the savior of Mexican revolutionary people’s progress. And, roared the C.P., anyone who opposed Camacho was, consciously or unconsciously, an agent of Almazon, thereby, ipso facto, being a fascist, a Hitlerite, an agent of imperialism or, what was worse, a Trotskyite!

And it came to pass that, by dint of great labor and much noise and some ballot stuffing, Camacho was elected as president, and the Mexican revolution was saved from the fate of falling into the hands of fascist Almazon. Under Camacho, “the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the peasantry and proletariat” was to march onward. True, Camacho had received the backing of Washington, always an ominous sign to the people of Latin America, yet Almazon had been defeated, and the future was rosy if not quite red.

Early in the fall – after the election and before he was inaugurated as president – Camacho let go his first salvo. He proclaimed, “I am a Catholic, and I am neither socialist nor communist, but a democrat.” This avowal burst like a bombshell upon the long ears of his faithful electorate.

In Mexico, to proclaim oneself a Catholic is not like the President of the United States saying he is a Protestant. For Catholicism in Mexico has played the same kind of reactionary role that it has played in Spain or any other unfortunate country where it has gained a foothold. Fountainhead of reaction, prop of every Mexican military dictatorship since that of Cortez, evil opponent of every upward step of the Mexican people, blocker of every reform, instigator of the assassination of Obregon and other revolutionary leaders, forbidden in many parts of Mexico by the demand of the peasantry, enemy of the rural schools which now dot the Mexican countryside, instigator of the lynchings of the teachers of these schools, the Catholic church retains all its potency for evil in Mexico today and, when Avila Camacho says, “I am a Catholic,” everyone in Mexico, from the lowliest Indian peasant to the highest government bureaucrat, knows what he means and what he means to do. And, when he says, “I am a democrat,” while it is true that only a few really know what lies behind that bombastic and pleasant sounding word, the class conscious workers of Mexico instinctively feel that his democracy extends only to the limits of the capitalist class.

The New Decrees

But still, the faithful had elected him, and so, although they moved uneasily, they awaited his next pronunciamento. They did not have long to wait. Early in December, the Ministry of Railroads recommended to the Executive that the control of the railways of Mexico be taken out of the hands of the trade union. Charging incompetence, neglect, etc., on the part of the Mexican Railway Union, the Ministry proposed a drastic reorganization of the entire railroad system and recommended that control be vested in more efficient hands. The consolidation of the revolution seemed to have begun.

In the last few months, in swift succession, have come new decrees and proposals, dearly indicating the direction of the Camacho regime.

He recently issued a decree ordering the division of communal land among the individual peasants. The effects of this decree will be far reaching. He is creating a land owning class of small proprietors, a group which has always been the backbone of conservatism and the prop of a Bonapartist regime. This decree almost automatically puts an effective stop to the further division of the large landed estates, since die newly land rich peasantry will frown upon actions that lead to expropriation. The decree will be the cause for the creating of a Schism between the landed and landless peasantry. And, finally, the decree effectively breaks the community of interest between the proletariat and the peasantry. Once more, the land of Mexico is thrown upon the open market, subject to the capitalist laws of accumulation and the consolidation of the land through the operation of these laws in the hands of the banks.

The civil service code is to be amended, prohibiting government employees from organizing into unions and from going on strike!

Camacho has proposed an amendment to the constitution, making supreme court judges life appointees. At present the judges are appointed by the President for the six year duration of his administration. Avila Camacho explains lamely that judges will thus be removed from political control and thereby justice (!) will be assured to all. What the calibre of this justice would be can be seen when the Mexican Senate refused to confirm three of Camacho’s choices for supreme court justices. The men whom Camacho wished to appoint to dispense justice for life have a public record for reaction and pro-fascism. So bad did these appointments smell that they were unpalatable even to the conservative Mexican Senate, whose chief note of distinction is the flashy new Buicks in which the senators disport themselves. But Camacho put his foot down, and next day the three were confirmed!

His latest action has been the proclamation of an amnesty to the fascists arrested by the Cardenas regime. In Texas, Calles, a living symbol of reaction, announces that he is returning to Mexico. Almazon is already there. The Catholic nun imprisoned as the instigator of Obregon’s assassination leaves prison loaded down with roses. All the buzzards are assembling for the feast.

Cooperation with American Imperialism

What do all the above portend for Mexico, once more at the crossroads? Rumors emanate from Washington over a future satisfactory agreement over the oil controversy. Sumner Welles praises the judgment of the new regime. Heaven help the workers under a regime that Welles extols! Mexico is once more ripe for the ravenous maw of American imperialism. The Catholic church is going to be given a free hand to inoculate the Mexican masses once more with its morphine. With the return of the Catholic church, the schools will go. As the executive branch of the government comes into conflict with the relatively more democratic legislature, the Bonapartist regime will begin to take form, supported by Washington, the Catholic church, the army and the capitalist class of Mexico. With the growth of the Bonapartist regime will come the greater restriction of all forms of social progress, the trade unions, the cooperatives, etc. In the political field, the C.P. is already receiving payment in full for its support of one bourgeois candidate against another. It is being hacked to pieces, and the masses, whom it led in support of Camacho, stand sullenly to one side and do not interfere.

Does this mean the end for Mexico? Will it once more sink into darkness and slavery? To believe this is to underestimate completely the revolutionary forces that the social upheaval of 25 years has awakened. Mass movements are not stopped by pronunciamentos. No revolution which has been deepening and developing for 25 years can be abruptly brought to a halt by the issuance of decrees. Physical force, the fundamental adjuster of decisive questions, will come to the fore.

Behind Camacho, the legions of armed men of the counter-revolution are in the process of formation. There is the great landed gentry, the Catholic church, the new bourgeoisie, the army and police bureaucrats and all others who have something to gain by holding on to the status quo or even pushing back the clock of history a few years.

Sharp Struggles Loom Ahead

The disinherited have also, in the surge forward, built their weapons of defense. There are the communal collectives of the peasantry and the peasants union, all well armed 1 There are the power trades unions and the cooperatives; there are the “socialist” schools and there is some semblance of a workers militia. This group, when the decisive hour of struggle approaches, as it surely must, can yet win out if one all important factor arrives on the historical scene – a Marxist Revolutionary Party.

The vestigial appendage of the C.I. is hopelessly bankrupt. Its line is thoroughly rotten and can only lead the revolutionary people of Mexico from one defeat to another. In it, however, are good elements, and an enormous proportion of the rank and file are militant revolutionists. A fundamental task of the new Marxist party that will arise in the stormy period ahead will be to win this rank and file away from its venal leadership. With the knife at its throat, the Mexican proletariat may not hesitate to break any emotional ties that bind it to the Comintern! They must not hesitate to do so, if they are to live and fulfill their duty to the international proletariat! Great class struggles are in the offing in the republic to the south. And the workers of the United States must not fail them in their hour of crisis.

Once more, the majestic and illuminating theory of the permanent revolution emerges as a beacon light to revolutionists as a guide to action. In the epoch of imperialism, a mass insurrectionary movement begun cannot stop halfway. It must go on to the end with the proletariat as leaders of the people of the nation. Only through thoroughgoing socialist measures can the threat of reaction be ended and the way paved for the advancement of humanity.

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