Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Class Lines Are Drawn- Solidarity With The Wisconsin Public Workers Unions- The Question Of A One Day General Strike Is Posed.

Markin comment:

The French workers (and others, like the volatile students, at times) have made an art form out of the one day political general strike (some, including this writer, would say too much of an art form to the exclusion of posing the struggle for power, as in May 1968, but that argument is for another day). The Greek workers are starting to get the hang of it, after the last year or so of episodic efforts. The Spanish, Portuguese and other working classes are not far behind. And, of course, the workers and students (well, better said, young people) of the Middle East have shown that even if it is not called a general strike they know how to use the form, and use it very effectively. So this is not some pipe dream proposition but reflects, or very soon will reflect, a felt need by the today’s front line class struggle fighters –the Wisconsin public workers unions- in order to survive.

Now what I propose is that every militant (proud leftist or just plain trade union proud, or both) go before their union executive boards, central labor councils, or whatever unified labor organizations are at hand and place the idea of a one day general strike before their memberships. For those not in unions start talking this idea up among your co-workers. Students, the unemployed, the retired, and everyone else who is not in that two percent of the population that controls ninety percent of the wealth of this country can go before their respective organizations as well. The lines are drawn, the class struggle is heating up whether we want it to or not, and there are many other states that are ready to emulate Wisconsin’s Governor Walker if he succeeds in his union-busting efforts. An injury to one is an injury to all. Fight for a one day general strike in support of Wisconsin’s (and other states’) public workers unions!

More later.

Hands Off The Girls Scouts!- In Georgia- And Everywhere

Click on the headline to link to an MSNBC-AP story about the plight of some Georgia Girls Scouts at the hands of local law enforcement.

Markin comment:

Sure, I know we still have at least the remnants of a bourgeois democracy that allows us, within shifting limits, to pursue our leftist political agenda. But on some days, and today is one of them, I am not as sure as the linked story to this entry describes in detail. It seems down in Georgia, old redneck Confederate state Georgia, that we will probably be hearing more about as we head closer to the observances of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War ( I will just say one thing about that here for now, William Tecumseh Sherman, and that name should put paid to that) some rogue cop decided to take a serious stand against rampant shopping mall crime and corral a bunch of Girl Scouts who were selling their cookies (yes, it is that time of years) at that site. Without a permit. All hell broke loose, or would have if cooler (and more public relations-conscious) heads had not prevailed. Now we leftist know, or should know, that our politics, especially our street politics are bound to bring us in confrontation with the police, the prime defenders of the bourgeois capitalist state. That comes with the territory. But Girl Scouts, under any probable scenario short one of the darling holding a gun to your face in order to get you to buy their damn cookies. Come on.

But see it never comes to that. Believe me it never comes to that last scenario. I, unlike that lightly-brained (and clueless) Georgia cop, figured out long along that in dealing with the Girl Scouts when they get into high selling mode come late winter the best course is surrender. And cut your losses. See, for the past several years I have bought my Girl Scout cookies exclusively from a family of sisters down the street as they, in turn, came of Girl Scout age. It’s automatic, as each winsome smiled girl comes knocking at the door and says (no sales pitch necessary) what kind and how many do I want. And I just hem and haw, and say oh I don’t know, peanut butter and mint. That, my friends is the secret. Order two boxes and be done with. No scowls about the cheap guy who only buys one crummy box to piece them off. Now, I am a respected repeat customer, and get an extra winsome smile and a thanks at the end of the transaction. And here is the beautiful part now when I am accosted by some other cookie sellers all I have to do is say that girl's family name and they back right off. Nice, right?

This whole transaction thing has got me to thinking though about what this primitive capitalist accumulation cookie-selling thing means in the big picture. Sure it is meant to get some funds for some worthy endeavor to keep these kids off the streets. And learning the rudiments of capitalist business procedure are an undeniable part but let me get a little dreamy here. Under our future socialist society where we collectively allocate plenty of resources for kids’ stuff, educational or adventurous, there will be no need for such quaint practices as winsome, smiling young girls stiff-arming people to buy some cheap jack cookies. Well, maybe, some future Young Pioneers will want to do so as a game to see how kids had to hustle for dough in ancient times. Sure, that might be fun. But until that day- Hands Off The Girl Scouts!

*Those Black Militants Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits-Cyril Briggs, Communist Writer

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Cyril Briggs.

February Is Black History Month

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. February is Black History Month and is a time for reflection on our black forebears who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this February, and in future Februarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (Labor’s Untold Story, Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, the black liberation struggle here and elsewhere, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.

From The SteveLendamanBlog- Hidden Provisions in Wisconsin Bill

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hidden Provisions in Wisconsin Bill - by Stephen Lendman

On February 25, AP said the Wisconsin Assembly, after days of debate, passed Walker's contentious bill, but the standoff is far from over. Senate Democrats remain absent in Illinois, vowing to resist ending collective bargaining rights for public workers. So far, Walker won't compromise, so resolution is on hold.

Much more, however, is at issue. On February 24, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman headlined, "Shock Doctrine, USA," saying:

"What's happening in Wisconsin is....a power grab - an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy." It involves much more than union busting, bad as that is.

Hidden in the bill's 144 pages are "extraordinary things," including a provision letting Walker appoint a health czar to make draconian healthcare cuts to Wisconsin's poor and low-income households unilaterally.

Another one states:

"16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss.196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49(3)(b)."

Call it the Koch brothers provision, multi-billionaire owners of Koch Industries, an industrial giant heavily invested in energy and power-related enterprises. According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Koch Industries PAC contributed $43,000 to Walker's gubernatorial campaign, second only to the $43,125 given by state housing and realtor groups.

Moreover, the Koch PAC helped Walker and other Republicans by contributing $1 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), that, in turn, spent $65,000 to support Walker and $3.4 million on television attack ads and mailings against his opponent, Milwaukee Democrat Mayor Tom Barrett. It made the difference between victory and defeat. Republican out-spent Democrats, sweeping many of their candidates to victory last November.

Significance of the Contentious Provision

Wisconsin owns dozens of small power plants, mostly for government facilities and University of Wisconsin's infrastructure. The bill lets Walker privatize them under no-bid contracts, claiming it serves the public interest.

Opinions differ on the provision's significance. The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association's David Hoopman sees no private enterprise bonanza. Executive director Charles Higley of the Citizen's Utility Board agrees, saying many state-owned plants are old, cold-fired, and heading toward failing to comply with environmental requirements. Others have already done so.

The Customers First! Coalition, however, wrote Walker, seeking "a more thorough evaluation of the value of the state's power assets and a comparison of whether state or private ownership is in the best interest of the taxpayer" as well as more time for debate.

Whoever's right, letting the governor use no-bid contracts to sell state assets raises serious red flag issues. If the above provision wasn't important, why was it included, and what does Koch expect for contributing, for sure, much more than it gave! Krugman puts it this way:

"Union-busting and privatization remain GOP priorities, and the party will continue its efforts to smuggle (them) through in the name of balanced budgets," other reasons, or none at all, aiming straight at the heart of democratic freedoms, affecting everyone directly or indirectly.

Koch Pretender Entraps Walker

For 20 minutes, blogger Ian Murphy fooled him, recording his provocative comments so we know. They included possible bogus felony charges against absent Democrat senators, as well as consideration given to "planting some troublemakers" among protesters to blame them.

He also praised one of Ronald Reagan's "most defining moments....when he fired the air traffic controllers." Moreover, he told his cabinet that today's confrontation is "our time to change the course of history," implying, of course, his intent to crush unionism in Wisconsin, stripping public workers of all rights, including decent pay and benefits, as well the right to bargain collectively for for better ones.

He also threatened to fire 12,000 state workers without passage of his overhaul bill, saying:

"I'd do almost anything to avoid laying people off. We need to avoid those layoffs for the good of those workers," but he'll do it anyway to show toughness to impress top Republican leaders and funders like the Koch brothers.

In so doing, he's at odds with 200 state mayors, school board presidents, and other officials, opposing eliminating collective bargaining rights. Walker, however, is hardline against any changes to his bill. His comment about Reagan is telling, wanting, in fact, to harm workers the way he did to all organized labor nationally.

When he took office, union membership was around 24%. When he left, it was 16.8%, two-thirds of its former self and headed lower. The latest January 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics, in fact, shows 11.9% of workers organized nationally, only 6.9% of private sector ones, heading for oblivion if what's going on isn't halted.

This is organized labor's last stand. Wisconsin is ground zero. As it goes, so goes America, so it's crucially important to resist, stay resolute, stand fast, and refuse to surrender rights too important to lose. It's their call and our obligation to support them.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

posted by Steve Lendman @ 1:48 AM

The Latest From The Wisconsin War Zone- All Out In Solidarity-

Click on the headline to link to an article about the labor struggle in Wisconsin (and soon to be elsewhere).

Markin comment:

No question that a one day general strike is posed in defense of the Wisconsin public workers unions. Which side are you on?

Friday, February 25, 2011

From The Archives Of The Spartacist League (U.S.)-Revolutionary Integration:Program for Black Liberation-The Work Of Richard Fraser-Resolution on the Negro Struggle(1957)

February Is Black History Month

Markin comment:

In October 2010 I started what I anticipate will be an on-going series, From The Archives Of The Socialist Workers Party (America), starting date October 2, 2010, where I will place documents from, and make comments on, various aspects of the early days of the James P. Cannon-led Socialist Worker Party in America. As I noted in the introduction to that series Marxism, no less than other political traditions, and perhaps more than most, places great emphasis on roots, the building blocks of current society and its political organizations. Nowhere is the notion of roots more prevalent in the Marxist movement than in the tracing of organizational and political links back to the founders, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the Communist Manifesto, and the Communist League.

After mentioning the thread of international linkage through various organizations from the First to the Fourth International I also noted that on the national terrain in the Trotskyist movement, and here I was speaking of America where the Marxist roots are much more attenuated than elsewhere, we look to Daniel DeLeon’s Socialist Labor League, Eugene V. Debs' Socialist Party( mainly its left-wing, not its socialism for dentists wing), the Wobblies (IWW, Industrial Workers Of The World), the early Bolshevik-influenced Communist Party and the various formations that led up to the Socialist Workers Party, the section that Leon Trotsky’s relied on most while he was alive. Further, I noted that beyond the SWP that there were several directions to go in but that those earlier lines were the bedrock of revolutionary Marxist continuity, at least through the 1960s.

I am continuing today  what I also anticipate will be an on-going series about one of those strands past the 1960s when the SWP lost it revolutionary appetite, what was then the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) and what is now the Spartacist League (SL/U.S.), the U.S. section of the International Communist League (ICL). I intend to post materials from other strands but there are several reasons for starting with the SL/U.S. A main one, as the document below will make clear, is that the origin core of that organization fought, unsuccessfully in the end, to struggle from the inside (an important point) to turn the SWP back on a revolutionary course, as they saw it. Moreover, a number of the other organizations that I will cover later trace their origins to the SL, including the very helpful source for posting this material, the International Bolshevik Tendency.

However as I noted in posting a document from Spartacist, the theoretical journal of ICL posted via the International Bolshevik Tendency website that is not the main reason I am starting with the SL/U.S. Although I am not a political supporter of either organization in the accepted Leninist sense of that term, more often than not, and at times and on certain questions very much more often than not, my own political views and those of the International Communist League coincide. I am also, and I make no bones about it, a fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, a social and legal defense organization linked to the ICL and committed, in the traditions of the IWW, the early International Labor Defense-legal defense arm of the Communist International, and the early defense work of the American Socialist Workers Party, to the struggles for freedom of all class-war prisoners and defense of other related social struggles.
Markin comment on this article:

The black question as it is called in the Marxist movement, the question of class and race intertwined in the class struggle in America, is central to the strategy for revolutionary. Period. The struggle to find a way to the black masses through the black workers, who have historically been among the most militant sections of the working class, has been long, hard, vexing, and in certain periods fruitless (due to apathy or the predominance of various black nationalist or liberal assimilationist ideolgies. Fraser's work was invaluable as a first step toward sorting things out. Forward!
25 May 1957
Resolution on the Negro Struggle

Written: 1957
Source: Prometheus Research Library, New York.
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman, Prometheus Research Library.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2006/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.


From SWP Discussion Bulletin Vol. 18, No. 11 (September 1957). Fraser’s document, dated 25 May 1957, was submitted for discussion at the SWP’s 17th National Convention. It was counterposed to “The Class Struggle Road to Negro Equality,” sponsored by the SWP Political Committee and largely written by George Breitman.

I. The Permanent Revolution in America

The objective conditions have matured for the eruption of the class struggle in the South. The task of this struggle will be to overthrow the fascist-like yoke of white supremacy.

Since the destruction of popular government in the South at the close of the Reconstruction, the Southern Bourbon oligarchy, in close alliance with the whole American capitalist class, adapted the social relations of chattel slavery to the requirements of property relations and capitalist production.

The capitalists and planters achieved this Jim Crow system by a method which has been copied by all the imperialist ruling classes of the world. They broke up the working masses into hostile racial groups by the use of organized murder and terrorism against the Negroes and all who would stand side by side with them. They degraded labor through the enforced peonage of the Negroes. They created a white middle class which derived special privileges from the degradation of labor in general and the Negro in particular. They eliminated popular government and substituted the rule of a small minority of the privileged, the rich, the powerful: the white supremacists.

By creating a living hell for the Negro people, the ruling classes were thus able to achieve a super-exploitation of all Southern labor, bringing in profits which could be compared with those from colonial exploitation.

Thus, a whole social system became organized around the degradation of the Negro—a system which became an integrated and indispensable part of the economic, social and political structure of American capitalism.

The emancipation of the Negro people through social, political and economic equality is the fundamental condition for this liberation of all the oppressed in the South. This requires the destruction of the whole Southern system. Short of this there can be little change and few democratic rights for anyone.

However, the permanent revolution in America reveals itself in the following manner: the Southern system represents massive survivals of chattel slavery. These survivals take the form of great social problems unsolved by the Civil War and Reconstruction: an antiquated system of land tenure, the absence of democratic rights, segregation and racial discrimination. The solution of these questions was the responsibility of the capitalist class when it took the national power from the slaveowners in 1860. But they proved incapable of this. So these survivals of an antique system of exploitation have become integrated into the capitalist structure and form a component part thereof.

Capitalism could not solve these problems during its youth and virility, even under conditions of waging a bitter war against the slave power. Now, when amidst the decay and death agony of capitalism, these problems have become integrated into its very structure, the capitalist class will positively not prove able to solve them. This circumstance leads to the inescapable conclusion that although the tasks of the liberation of the South are of an elementary democratic nature, they have no solution within the framework of American capitalism: they become a part of the socialist struggle of the proletariat to overthrow the whole capitalist system of production.

The second manifestation of the permanent revolution lies in the question of leadership of the Negro struggle. The goal of the Negro struggle has been determined historically: the elimination of racial discrimination lies through the struggle for economic, political and social equality. The axis of this struggle is the fight against segregation. At the present time the leadership of this struggle is in the hands of the middle class. This Negro middle class suffers social, economic and political discrimination because of skin color. It is a far more terrible discrimination than is the usual lot of privileged layers of an oppressed group. This circumstance has produced a great galaxy of Negro scholars who have brilliantly analyzed and plumbed the depths and sources of racial oppression.

But, at the same time, the position of the middle class as a whole derives from and feeds upon segregation, the axis of the social force which oppresses them as Negroes.

This conflict between their racial and class interests causes the middle class leadership to act in a hesitant and treacherous manner. They will prove totally incapable of giving adequate leadership to the movement as it develops on to higher planes of struggle.

But the Negro workers have no such conflict of interest. They receive no such economic privileges from segregation. On the contrary they are super-exploited at the point of production and in all economic spheres. Discrimination against them as Negroes is intimately connected with their exploitation as workers. Finding themselves below the standard of living of even the white workers, they must of necessity open up a struggle for racial equality as the key to raising their standard of living as workers.

So as it falls to the American working class as a whole to solve the basic contradictions of American society, so does it fall upon the shoulders of the Negro proletariat to take the lead in the struggle for equality.

II. The Significance of Montgomery

The successful struggle of the Negroes of Montgomery shows a changed relationship of forces in the South. This is the first successful sustained mass struggle of the Negroes of the South in nearly seventy years. It demonstrates the decay and disintegration of the power of white supremacy and reveals that the situation is ripening for the liberation of the people of the South from the Jim Crow system.

The changed conditions have been brought about by the industrialization of the South and the deepening of the penetration of monopoly capitalism into all spheres of life. The salient features of this change have been: (1) The urbanization of the Negro population which now finds its center of gravity shifted from the dispersed rural areas into powerful mass forces in the cities. (2) The undermining of the mass base of the Southern system through the partial destruction of the white middle class and the proletarianization of large contingents of this former mass petty bourgeoisie.

This changed relationship of forces results in the inability of the white ruling classes to crush at will the aroused and organized Negro masses. The magnitude of the Negro struggle, reaching national and even international proportions, has rendered the U.S. government helpless to intervene decisively in behalf of the white supremacists.

These objective conditions have been ripening for decades and provide the groundwork for the outbreak of the Montgomery masses. The immediate factor preparing the masses for the actual struggle was the [Emmett] Till case and its aftermath, which demonstrated to the Negroes that the Federal Government would do nothing against the Jim Crow system, that any feeling that the Negroes had an ally in the national capital was an illusion, and that if anything was to be done they would have to do it themselves.

The struggle is now beginning to unfold. As it develops, all the resources of the American capitalist class will be aligned against it: all the forces of reaction, all agencies of government, the army, the avenues of information and the schools, churches and courts. Yet, the victory of the masses will be assured under two conditions:

1. That the struggle of the Southern workers, led by the Negroes, will rekindle the fires of the class struggle throughout the country and bring into play the great powers of the American proletariat in solidarity with them.

2. That the Southern masses will produce a revolutionary socialist leadership fully conscious of its aims, the road of struggle, the magnitude of the task.

The Montgomery boycotters forecast the unfolding movement which will take the lead in the emancipation of the Southern masses.

We support the courageous internationalism of their sympathy for and self-identification with the struggles of the dark-skinned colonial masses. This kinship arises from the common bond forged by years of common struggle against white supremacy. It is our elementary duty, however, to warn the Negro people away from Gandhi’s program of “passive resistance” as a means of their liberation.

This program, fostered by the Indian bourgeoisie, paralyzed the action of the masses of people, kept the Indian capitalists at the head of the movement for Indian independence and made it possible for the native bourgeoisie to reap all the rewards of the struggle against imperialism at the expense of the masses.

In the United States this program has been super-imposed upon the struggle in Montgomery by its petty bourgeois leadership. By thus identifying a dynamic struggle with “resistance in the spirit of love and non-violence” they blunt the consciousness of the masses who require a program which corresponds with the reality of their militant actions.

We hail the emergence of the proletarian militants in the Montgomery struggle. They are the coming leaders of the struggle of all the Southern masses. It is they who have nothing to lose and the world to gain. Their class position gives them courage and insight, for it is they who have the fundamental stake in the struggle against the Jim Crow system.

We salute the women of the South both black and white for their heroic role in the struggle.

The unbounded revolutionary energy of the triply oppressed Negro women is making itself manifest in the initiative and leadership which they have given to the movement in its initial stages.

The decay of the Southern system which foretells its doom is expressed by the defection of the white women away from the forces of white supremacy and by their organized appearance in greater and greater numbers in joint struggle with the Negroes. This is the proof that they recognize that they, too, are the victims of the system of white supremacy. They understand that the so-called “chivalry” of Southern tradition degrades them: that the pedestal of “sacred” white womanhood is in reality a prison for chattels which denies independence, the rights of citizens and the status of human beings.

They are aware that the myth of “sacred” (i.e., segregated) white womanhood is one of the focal points of the ideology of white supremacy and ties the struggle for the emancipation of women directly to that of the Negroes.

Other large sections of the white population hide their disgust with the Southern system in fear of reprisal. We recommend the example of the women and urge them to give organized support to their courageous struggle.

III. The Labor Movement

The existence of the Southern social system is a constant mortal threat to the entire labor movement in the U.S. Every factor of political and economic life shows that the extension of unionism into the open-shop South is a life and death question.

But unions cannot exist on any mass scale in the total absence of elementary democratic rights. On the other hand labor unions will grow hand in hand with the successes of the Civil Rights movement. Consequently the labor movement must dedicate itself to the destruction of white supremacy as the only way to assure the extension of unionism into the South.

We call upon the officials of the AFL-CIO to begin the campaign to organize the South with a repudiation of their political alliance with the liberal Democrats who are the protectors and defenders of the Southern Bourbons. We call upon them to take the next step in the Southern drive: to declare for the formation of a political party of labor which would become the political and organizational center of the struggle against Jim Crow.

IV. The Advanced Position of the Negro Movement

The struggle for racial equality is an integral part of the struggle of the American working class for socialism. The connection between these two goals is so fundamental that one cannot be envisaged without the other.

This connection has been implicit from the very beginning of the anti-slavery struggle and found clearest expression in Karl Marx’s dictum to white American workers: “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.” The consistent logic which led many abolitionist leaders such as Douglass and Phillips to embrace socialist principles confirmed this connection.

The power of the ruling class and the pernicious influence of the Southern system has kept the American working class divided along color lines for long periods of time. However, the past twenty years have demonstrated again in life the identity of interest which had been implicit all along.

The close connection between the Negro struggle for equality and the labor struggle became one of the paramount features of the great struggles of the 1930’s. One of the greatest achievements of unionism during this stormy upsurge was the successful conclusion of the long struggle to build the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. This achievement was capped by the emergence of the CIO which represented the first mass joining of the two movements in modern times.

Together during the 30’s the two movements made giant strides. But with the preparation for World War II they diverged: the CIO under the pressure of a newly created bureaucracy capitulated to the bosses and the government and it wasn’t long before the Communist Party did likewise. Together they sacrificed the interests of the working class to the needs of the U.S. imperialist war machine. But the Negro movement, under the stimulus of workers arising from great depths of super-exploitation, refused to be taken in or intimidated by the patriotic hysteria.

Ever since the beginning of 1941 the unions have taken one backward step after another and the bosses have followed through with body blows. Although the labor movement was able to mobilize briefly in 1946 for a successful defense when mortally threatened, it soon gave in again and as a result has endured a never ending string of humiliating repressive measures inflicted on them by the government and the employers.

But all through this period and even at the height of the worst wave of reaction which has been unleashed against the American workers in many decades—the Negro movement has registered steady advances. The source of this difference in achievement lies in the divergent lines of development which were laid out in 1941 when the Negroes were organizing for a March on Washington in defiance of the needs of the government for domestic tranquility at the very time that the labor bureaucracy was giving no-strike pledges to this same government. The Negroes were able to withstand the patriotic pressure upon them and to see through the lies of American imperialism because of their advanced consciousness derived from super-exploitation and discrimination.

Upon this background the Montgomery uprising propels the Negro movement into a greatly advanced position which, coinciding with the ebb tide of the labor movement, approaches isolation.

And this poses a dual danger: First, that this great movement may remain isolated and be crushed for lack of needed support from the labor movement. Second, that such a defeat inflicted upon this dynamic sector of the working class would set back the development of the labor movement.

It is the duty of all socialists to spare no energy in rallying the working class and the labor movement to the aid of the Negroes struggling in the South and to connect and integrate the struggles.

But the decisive force in determining the future course of events, and relations of the Southern fighters with the labor movement in the North and West, is the Negro movement itself. In this vital movement just unfolding there is great attractive power: in the relations between the Negro movement and the labor movement the Negroes hold the initiative. But only a proletarian leadership of the Negro movement will be able to utilize properly this strategic advantage and to draw the labor movement into support and intervention. Such a leadership will grasp the political significance of the situation.

Above all, the Negro movement must beware of the “isolationist” feeling that if the labor movement doesn’t seem to move, and if, as a consequence, the working class as a whole appears unmoved by and unconcerned with the heroic struggle in the South, then the Negro movement can turn its back and go its way alone. Such a course would be disastrous, would end in the crushing defeat of the Negroes and retard the whole labor struggle.

Such proposals arise from an underestimation of the task ahead and from the dangerous illusion that racial equality can be achieved without the overthrow and complete destruction of the Southern social system. In this struggle, the Negroes will be the initiators, because of their super-exploitation and advanced consciousness. But the fight can be won only by the united struggle of all toilers.

V. What Political Road?

The advanced consciousness of the Negro movement expresses itself politically. First, by their refusal to be taken in by patriotic war propaganda. Second, by their willingness to launch broad struggles in spite of the reaction. This political understanding also encompasses the knowledge that the problem of civil rights is neither a moral question, one of law, or of the “hearts and minds of men,” but that it is a political question which must be fought by means of political party.

The Negroes are also quite aware that the Democratic and Republican parties are their enemies, and that serious advancement of the struggle for equality is impossible through these channels.

But the Negroes are the captives of the labor bureaucracy: the alliance between labor and the Negro people finds its degenerate expression in the captivity of the Negro middle class leaders in the Democratic Party. We have every sympathy with the Negroes in this political bondage and with the dramatic move of Roy Wilkins, shortly followed by Representative [Adam Clayton] Powell, to the Republican Party, as signifying a protest against the hypocrisy of the liberals and the labor leaders rather than support to the Republican bankers.

But this situation dictates bolder action by the Negro leaders: the isolation of the Negro movement demands that it give full scope to its advanced position to raise the workers in the labor movement toward it: we call upon the Negro leaders to reject the degenerate alliance with the labor fakers in the party of the Bourbons as well as the ineffectual bolts to the Republican Party. We urge them to join with the Socialist Workers Party in the demand upon the labor unions that they form a party of the working class.

We call upon them to emulate the qualities of leadership of a Frederick Douglass, who was not afraid to break even with William Lloyd Garrison and to split the abolitionist society when an opportunity appeared to prepare the way for the coming political party of emancipation.

VI. The Communist Party

The Communist Party, at one time the most successful of the socialist organizations in attracting Negro militants, has by now dissipated its influence in the Negro community and lost the large majority of its once powerful Negro cadre. This cadre was won by the prestige which the Russian Revolution commanded among peoples who seriously wanted a social change, and by years of devoted work by the rank and file of the party.

The basic reason for the present isolation of the Communist Party in the Negro community lies in the following political circumstance: the leaders of the CP have never hesitated to sacrifice the interests of the Negro people to the interests of maintaining alliances with privileged sections of the white population who might temporarily be of use in furthering the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy.

This was most horribly demonstrated during World War II when the CP openly denounced struggles of the Negro people as being disruptive of the “war effort” of American imperialism which was in alliance with the Soviet government. Betrayals of a like nature have followed the various twists and turns of policy until the Negro militants have become completely disaffected.

A second cause for the dissipation of the influence of the CP has been the persistence with which it clung to the erroneous idea that the Negroes constitute a nation and that their consequent political development would lead them to assert the right to nationhood and national self-determination. The authors of this doctrine envisaged that their theoretical contribution was, therefore, to prepare the ground for this inevitable separation.

This whole line of thought is in diametric opposition to the real nature of the Negro struggle and its historical tradition. It is segregation by skin color which is the traditional and present enemy of the Negroes, not national oppression.

The movement of the Negro people is the oldest social movement in existence in the United States. It is over 300 years old, and since 1818, the beginning of the struggle against the American Colonization Society, this movement has had a virtually uninterrupted existence and one fundamental direction: integration. Ever since then, the fundamental course of the Negro struggle has been to reject the demand of the ruling class that they become a separate subordinate nation, through segregation, and to demand the full rights of American citizenship and nationality. It will take a social catastrophe, more devastating than any yet visited upon the Negro people, to change the fundamental course of their struggle.

The Negroes considered that it was impudent, stupid and against their interests for the Stalinists arbitrarily to brush aside this great tradition of struggle and say to them in effect: “You’ll take self-determination and like it. When you develop out of your great political backwardness, the CP will be vindicated.” The Negroes replied that they already had segregation which was their worst enemy, and that the plans for a segregated socialism didn’t appeal to them. In spite of this almost universal reaction in the Negro community, the Stalinists blindly hung on to this theory.

Another consequence of this theory was that it created an almost gravitational attraction between the CP and sections of the Negro middle class. This was the only social group in the Negro community in which there seemed to be any expression of nationalism. This nationalism took the form of a willingness to accept segregation, the economic foundation of the Negro middle class and to confine the struggle to gaining improvements for its position within the framework of segregation.

Even during the “left” periods, this alliance between the CP leaders and the Negro middle classes resulted in the frustration of efforts of the rank and file communists, both white and black, to undertake serious struggle.

The present policy of “peaceful co-existence” is similar to the World War II jingoism in its betrayal of the Negro struggle. We call the attention of the Communist Party to the following actions and policies of the past year which tend to place the whole radical movement in bad repute in the Negro community:

1. Support of the “Louisville Plan.” This reactionary scheme to compromise the demand of the Negroes for immediate desegregation of the public schools, through “voluntary segregation,” was blatantly supported by spokesmen for the Communist Party. (See front page illustrated story People’s World, Sept. 21, 1956.)

2. Support of the Louisiana right to work law. This amended version of the original law was condemned by the National Agricultural Union and other spokesmen for Negro workers in Louisiana as a measure which gave to the largely white skilled workers certain immunities from the law at the expense of the Negroes and other agricultural, lumber, processing, etc. workers. The leaders of the CP committed the party to its support as an example of a “peoples’ anti-monopoly coalition” and even placed this support in its Draft Program. (See Draft Resolution for 16th National Convention of CP presented by NC, page 32, 1956.)

3. Support of the liberal betrayal of the civil rights struggle at the 84th Congress. This betrayal, now exposed by Rep. Powell and many others, consisted of devices whereby the liberal Democrats could guarantee the Bourbons that nothing would come of the Civil Rights legislation, but that the liberals should be permitted to appear as partisans of the legislation. In order to do this, however, they needed a smokescreen. The Daily Worker and the People’s World provided this admirably for them, and every time the liberals betrayed by giving in to the Bourbons, the CP leaders provided the smokescreen by endless fulminations against Eisenhower or the “Dixiecrats.”

4. Support of the “moderate” wing of White Supremacy. The so-called moderate wing of the Southern white supremacists, represented by such figures as Lyndon Johnson, is also part of the projected “anti-monopoly coalition.” (See Political Affairs, June 1956.) But this group is just as completely anti-Negro and anti-union as the rest of the Southern Bourbon politicians.

The support of these reactionary policies by the leaders of the CP disqualifies them completely from speaking with any authority on the civil rights struggle. We call upon them to repudiate these policies and join with us in a united front of action in defense of civil rights and the Negro struggle around the following propositions:

1. That we jointly memorialize Congress to refuse to seat the Southern Bourbon politicians, and continue to so refuse until it has been demonstrated that their elections are not carried out in violation of the civil rights of the people of the South.

2. That we demand of the president of the U.S. a second Emancipation Proclamation, proclaiming the workers of the South free from the white supremacist rulers and proclaiming an immediate and unconditional end to all segregation, discrimination, terrorism, etc.

3. For joint action in all local struggles against discrimination.

4. For a joint program for all socialists in the trade union movement on the civil rights question:

a. Demand of the international unions that they conduct a campaign in their Southern locals to bring them into conformity and support of the Negro struggle.

b. For the elimination of all Jim Crow locals and other discriminatory practices.

c. Against the extension of wage differentials and the privileges of skilled workers bought at the expense of the unskilled.

d. For a campaign to solve the discrimination inherent in the fact that Negroes are the last hired, first fired. This discrimination is perpetuated and frozen in most prevailing seniority systems. Seniority lists can be revised to advance the seniority of that number of Negroes required to maintain an equitable proportion of Negro workers in a plant at any given time, as is the policy of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers.

e. For all-out aid to the Southern struggles and to demand that the labor movement intervene directly, linking the problem of the organization of the South to the struggle against white supremacy.

5. To prepare for the overthrow of the Southern system by a continued democratic discussion of all issues at stake in the socialist movement with the object of creating a new revolutionary socialist party which is the only assurance of victory.

VII. Negroes and the SWP

The Negro people have long been preparing for the opportunity to open up the final struggle against white supremacy. Their preparations have been, in the South, painstaking and systematic. As their opportunity comes closer in time and more tangible in form, they must review their preparations and consider what element is lacking or in insufficient quantity or inadequate quality.

They must consider that they are a vital part of a great world revolutionary process which has as its goal the reorganization of the whole globe along lines of complete equality for all, through socialism.

They must recognize the crisis of this world revolutionary movement: that while the masses of the world have demonstrated their willingness to struggle for this aim, the leadership has not responded in kind, and therefore the movement fails to fulfill its historical goals. This has resulted in the historical crisis of leadership which is the basic problem of our epoch.

The critical point of all preparation for struggle in this era is the creation of adequate leadership. The struggles of all peoples and all classes require the organization of leadership into a political party. This is the means by which leadership can be tried and tested and is the means for unifying program with practice, leadership with ranks—and keeping them all in proper balance.

We call upon all socialist-minded Negroes to take advantage of the ideological ferment in the general socialist movement around the question of the regroupment of socialist forces. This discussion holds forth the possibility of clearing the political atmosphere and creating the foundation for a more powerful socialist party through the regroupment of the revolutionary currents.

We call upon them to participate in the discussions which are taking place. They will bring to these discussions the militance, realism and character of the Negro struggle and at the same time broaden their own understanding of it through a heightened consciousness of socialist ideology.

The Negro militants have the following ultimate responsibility in this situation: to determine the program which corresponds to the objective needs of the whole struggle and to make it theirs.

We call upon the militant Negro workers to join the Socialist Workers Party, the party of the American revolution. We stand before them as the party of the proletariat, of the poor and oppressed. We stand upon no economic, political or social privilege, but consider that the oppressed of the world must act together to gain peace, prosperity, security, equality; with abundance for all but special privilege for none. This is the only way to save the world from the catastrophes unleashed by decaying capitalism.

The SWP stands before the Negro people as the only party in the U.S. which has never under any circumstances forsaken or subordinated the needs of the Negro struggle in the interests of alliance with privileged groups or enemy classes.

We call upon the Negro intellectuals to cast their lot with the proletariat. This is the class which will lead the Negro struggle to victory. But this means, first of all, to adhere to the program of revolutionary socialism—which is the only road of the victorious proletarian struggle.
June 1957
Summary Remarks on Negro Discussion


Written: 1957
Source: Prometheus Research Library, New York.
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman, Prometheus Research Library.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2006/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.


From SWP Discussion Bulletin Vol. 18, No. 14 (October 1957). Dick Fraser debated George Breitman at the SWP’s 17th National Convention, held 7-9 June 1957. The Convention adopted the Breitman resolution with 54 delegate and 33 consultative votes in favor, although a number of delegates recorded objections to its support for “self-determination” and for the slogan “Federal Troops to the South.” Five delegate and five consultative votes were cast for the Fraser resolution.

A study of the first discussions of the Negro question in the American political movement reveals that the question which was originally quite simple has become extremely complicated. The Negro struggle for equality was an obvious type of movement, as viewed by the IWW, a matter of equality for all workers. They would not tolerate any ideas of segregation. They would go into the deep South and hold integrated meetings there. It was simple, but incomplete. It required Marxism to clarify the question.

Of recent years, since the introduction of the nationalist conception of the Negro question by the Stalinists, the problem has revolved around the question of what is the nature of the Negro question. Dan [Roberts] says it is a national question and it isn’t a national question. So, if it isn’t a national question, what is it? It is a racial question. It is a question of racial discrimination. This is a unique category of special oppression which is different from national oppression.

Religious oppression, which Dan relates it to, is closely associated with national oppression. It is oppression of a part of the culture of a people; but that is not what the Negro question is like. The Negro question is only like itself. That is, it is a unique phenomenon arising fundamentally in the United States, and emanating from there in various forms throughout the world.

Color discrimination is a unique problem and requires an analysis of its own. Upon close examination the first thing which you find in the Negro question is its diametric opposites to the national question. Not in the whole history of the national struggle of Europe or Asia, did you ever see a national minority or a nation, whose fundamental struggle was the right to assimilate into the dominant culture. You never saw it. It is the diametric opposite of all the national struggles.

The national struggle is characterized by the desire for self-segregation, the desire to withstand the pressure of the dominant nations to force them to assimilate, give up their economy, give up their language, their culture and their religion. All of the militant tendencies of the nationalist movement stress the requirements of the nation to organize itself and to segregate itself from the nation that oppresses it. The conservative, conciliatory elements are on the side of assimilation and integration. That is absolutely characteristic of the national struggle. That is one of the fundamental characteristics with which Marxists were historically confronted.

This was the problem in dispute between Lenin and Luxemburg, and Lenin and everybody else who dealt with this problem of nationalism. It is the precise opposite of the Negro struggle. From the very beginning of the modern Negro struggle 150 years ago, all tendencies of a militant, revolutionary, progressive nature in this struggle have tended to find as the axis of their struggle a resistance against racial separation because this is the weapon of racial oppression.

Comrade Dan, you say that you want to leave the door open for self-determination at some future time. Will you not permit the Negroes a self-determination now based upon 150 years of struggle? Everything points to this fact. They do not want to be designated a nation. Why do you demand to place this designation upon their struggle? It is not a national struggle. It is a struggle against racial discrimination. That’s from whence it derives its independent and dual character, i.e., its independence from and identity with the class struggle.

It is the feature of the permanent revolution in American life. What is involved is the vestigial remains of color slavery, an antique social system unsolved by the capitalist revolution in the Civil War and Reconstruction. These vestiges, the social relations of chattel slavery, color segregation, color discrimination, white supremacy adapted to and integrated into the whole economic, political and social life of capitalism, become one of the important driving forces of the movement for socialism because capitalism can no longer even be considered as a possible ally of the Negro people in the solution of this question. The capitalist class has decided this long ago. They integrated their system with the Jim Crow system, it is one and the same thing now.

Consequently, the Negro struggle for equality, in its independence, arises out of racial oppression, attacking a Southern social system which is the result of these vestiges incorporated in the capitalist system. This struggle begins on the plane of elementary consciousness. Equality is an elementary democratic demand which has no solution under capitalism and therefore becomes, because of its nature, a transition to the struggle for socialism.

Comrade Dot accuses me of accusing the P.C. of being pro-Stalinist and pro-reformist.

(Note by Kirk: The following interchange was not picked up in the transcription. I have reconstructed it as it occurred according to my memory:

Interruption from the Presiding Committee: That what you said yesterday?

Kirk: That’s not what I said.

Presiding Committee: Then you implied it.

Kirk: I implied nothing of the kind.

Presiding Committee: Let’s have plain speaking here.

Kirk: I say that your program is an adaptation to reformism.)

That means that you do not differentiate yourselves from the reformists in the Southern movement. The critical problem of the moment, the crisis of leadership in the Negro movement, revolves around the question of reformism or revolution, and the resolution does not differentiate between these two tendencies. If it did we would have a different situation today in the convention. I would not have written another resolution.

The resolution does not differentiate. It supports the basic line of the religious pacifist leadership of the Negro movement in the South.

Comrade Breitman and the resolution say that the Southern Leaders Conference is the differentiation, that this is the differential force in the Negro movement; and that’s not true. The S.L.C. is just another wing of the petty-bourgeois leadership. This is not the decisive differentiation. The differentiation will come as a result of our being able to inject the revolutionary proletarian program into that struggle. And the struggle will not have its over-all religious character then, as the workers take the power in the Negro movement.

Comrade Jones says we are not, never have, and never will be separatists. We had a resolution in 1939 which Comrade Breitman said was the guiding line of the party for 10 years, which is essentially a nationalist document on the Negro question. It is entitled “Self-Determination and the American Negroes.” And it is organized around the concept of self-determination. That was the program adopted by the 1939 convention. “It is not improbable, therefore, that the bulk of the Negroes have absorbed their lesson far more profoundly than is superficially apparent and that on their first political awakening to the necessity of revolutionary activity, the first political awakening, they may demand the right of self-determination, that is, the formation of the Negro state in the South.”

The 1939 Resolution analyzes the Garvey movement as representing the desire for a Negro state, and speaks about the opponents of the Negro state as follows: “The opposition to a Negro state comes mainly from the articulate and vocal but small and weak class of the Negro intellectuals concerned with little else besides the gaining of a place for themselves in American capitalist society, fanatically blind to its rapid decline.” This is the characterization in the resolution of the theoreticians of assimilationism who have been now vindicated by the whole course of the Negro struggle. That is a wrong formulation and it has not been vindicated by the course of events, but nevertheless this is an important part of our history and it is wrong to say that it never existed.

Now, Comrade George Lavan accuses me of twisting words when I say the resolution designates the Negroes as a national minority. That’s what it says and Comrade Dan agreed that it did; he said, what are you going to call it if you don’t?

Comrade George says that there is no such movement as I described as quoted in the Militant as a movement of Southern women. There’s no movement, there’s no struggle. There is! The item in the Militant is only one aspect of it, only one facet. There is a movement which has been in continuous existence since 1930, in overt struggle against the system of segregation.

A very exceptional book on the movement in the South, Lillian Smith’s The Killers of the Dream, describes this organization and what role it plays there. She speaks about the Southern women and what their stake in this struggle is. She describes them as follows: “Culturally stunted by a region that still pays nice rewards to simple mindedness in females they had no defenses against blandishment. The gullied land of the South, washed out and eroded, matched the washed-out women of the rural South whose bodies were often used as ruthlessly as the land; who worked as hard as animals; who were segregated in church, sitting in separate pews from the men; who were not thought fit to be citizens and vote until three decades ago and who, in some states in the South, cannot own property except in their husband’s name. Who even now cannot officiate as ministers in most of the churches though they are the breath of life of the church.”

These women, she says, decided to make a war upon their oppression. These “lady insurrectionists,” she calls them,

“these ladies went forth to commit treason against Southern tradition. It was a purely subversive affair but as decorously conducted as an afternoon walk taken by the students of a female institute. It started stealthily in my mother’s day. Shyly these first women sneaked down from their chilly places, did their sabotage and sneaked back up, wrapping innocence around them like a lace shawl.

“They set secret time bombs and went back to their needle work, serenely awaiting the blast. Their time bombs consisted of a secret under-ground propaganda movement which was developed from mothers to daughters and through the years spreading out to encompass vast sections of the white female population. And so degraded was the position of women in Southern society that white men of the South could not conceive of their women having ideas and had no inkling of the insurrection until it happened.

“The lady insurrectionists gathered together one day in one of our Southern cities. They primly called themselves church women but churches were forgotten by everybody when they spoke their revolutionary words. They said calmly that they were not afraid of being raped and as for their sacredness, they could take care of it for themselves. They did not need chivalry or a lynching to protect them, they did not want it. Not only that—they continued that they would personally do everything in their power to keep any Negro from being lynched and furthermore, they squeaked bravely, they had plenty of power and this was the foundation of the Association of Southern Women Against Lynching in 1930.”

It began a struggle against segregation, as the fundamental hereditary enemy. They claimed that the Lord’s Supper was a holy sacrament which Christians cannot take without sacrilege unless they also break bread with fellow-men of color. They systematically set out to break down one of the most important conventions of segregation and engaged in inter-racial feeding.

This organization has been in continuous existence since that time, has been active and has now become a tremendous factor developing support of the movement against segregation.

*Those Black Militants Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits-The Militants Of The African Blood Brotherhood (1920s)

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the African Blood Brotherhood.

February Is Black History Month

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. February is Black History Month and is a time for reflection on our black forebears who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this February, and in future Februarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (Labor’s Untold Story, Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, the black liberation struggle here and elsewhere, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.

From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"- A Marxist Anaysis of the Mexican Revolution of 1910

Markin comment on this article:

I often wondered, back in the old days of the late 1960s when I was first studying the question, why the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 never took on the same degree of revolutionary social change that the Bolshevik revolution in Russia during, roughly, that same period. This two-part series goes a long way to explaining that question, especially on the land question, peasant organization, guerilla warfare as a strategy, the relationship of the Mexican bourgeoisie to the budding imperial power to the North and, as always, for those who try to work through Leon Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution as applied to belatedly developed capitalist societies like Mexico how that theory applies in this case. Additionally for those who only know these days from some cinematic version of the Pancho Villa story, that done by the stool pigeon Elia Kazan on Emiliano Zapata, Viva Zapata, or even John Reed’s writings from down south of the border in the early 1910s this article takes some of the dust, the popular frontist dust at least, out of the eyes. That said, forward to the socialist revolution in Mexico as part of a socialist federation of Central American states.
Workers Vanguard No. 973
4 February 2011

A Marxist Anaysis of the Mexican Revolution of 1910

Part One

The following is a slightly edited translation of an article that first appeared in Espartaco No. 12 (Spring-Summer 1999), publication of our comrades of the Grupo Espartaquista de México. In 1999 Mexico’s ruling bourgeois party was the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, whose seven-decade reign would be broken the following year with the election of Vicente Fox of the right-wing Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN), since succeeded by the PAN’s Felipe Calderón.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910 was a long and bloody process that lasted almost a decade, during which more than two million people—almost 10 percent of the population—lost their lives. The gigantic peasant insurrection against the dictator Porfirio Díaz and its bloody suppression by the bourgeois reaction of Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregón are events that had a profound impact on the country and have delineated the features of the Mexican bourgeois regime to the present day. For decades, the Mexican bourgeoisie has benefited from using the symbolism of the Revolution of 1910 to legitimize its capitalist order of exploitation and oppression, promoting a pervasive nationalism that continues to be the main ideological basis for the political subordination of the working masses in the city and the countryside.

The 1988 split in the ranks of the governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI), which later led to the formation of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution—PRD) of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, reinforced the old nationalist symbols that had been successfully used for more than 70 years by the decaying PRI to derail and repress class struggle. Subordinated to this nationalism, the reformist left, which feeds illusions in the bourgeois PRD, tries to convince the workers that only “Yankee imperialism” or the current PRI president are their enemies, and not the entire Mexican bourgeoisie as a class. Thus, the bourgeoisie, the PRD and their pseudo-leftist followers try to prevent the workers, youth and poor peasants from struggling against capitalist exploitation, and the working class from turning toward a common internationalist struggle together with the powerful working classes of other countries, especially in North America.

The nationalism encouraged by the bourgeoisie, which seeks to tie the exploited to their exploiters, intoxicates the masses with the lie that there is a “progressive and patriotic” sector of businessmen, politicians and the armed forces that can unite with the exploited and save the country from bankruptcy. The nationalist left, within and outside of the PRD, also helps to encourage class collaboration through the illusion that it is possible to solve burning democratic and social questions within the framework of capitalism. Nevertheless, this confidence in “progressive” sectors of the bourgeoisie and in the possibility of pressuring and reforming the capitalist state is a fatal illusion and a dead end for the working class and the oppressed in the struggle for their emancipation from capitalism.

The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92 had a tremendous impact in the semicolonial countries of the so-called Third World, which have become even more subordinated to the imperialists and their bloodsucking financial institutions. In growing competition with its rivals in Europe and Japan, North American imperialism continues through its NAFTA pillage to transform all Latin America into its backyard and its supplier of raw materials and semi-slave labor for its manufacturing plants. The generalized discontent over the effects of NAFTA has been shown in increasing social turbulence in Mexico, weakening the control of the PRI and helping to feed the growth of new bourgeois oppositions like the PAN and the PRD.

The hegemony of bourgeois nationalism in the organizations of the workers movement, in the corporatist unions as well as the “independent” ones, is the main reason why there has been no authentic proletarian challenge to the capitalist order. Thus, while most of the unions are still captives under the iron control of the PRI bureaucracy and its enforcers, the leadership of the “independent” and dissident union movement (from the UNT [National Union of Workers] and STUNAM [National University workers] to the SME [electrical workers] and the CNTE [teachers]) feeds illusions in the bourgeois politicians of the PRD or even in “democratic” sectors of the PRI. Nor is it uncommon for meetings of these unions and student marches to end with the singing of the national anthem, which is the anthem of the bourgeoisie. In this sense, the 1994 EZLN Zapatista rebellion, which arose in protest against the annihilation of indigenous villages by the imperialist rape of NAFTA, also reinforced the old nationalist ideology. The petty-bourgeois leadership of the EZLN, subordinate to the PRD, asks [then PRI president] Ernesto Zedillo to “lead by obeying” and demands that the national anthem be sung and the flag honored at all the unions and assemblies they visit. This is the same flag that is carried by the Mexican Army that murders indigenous people and that was saluted by [former PRI president] Díaz Ordaz after he ordered the massacre of hundreds of students in Tlatelolco [in Mexico City] in 1968!

In intransigent opposition to bourgeois nationalism and its pseudo-left apologists, which block the development of conscious, decisive class struggle by the working class, the Grupo Espartaquista de México seeks to bring the program of communism to the vanguard of the workers and youth who want to struggle against the exploitation and oppression of capital. The GEM is dedicated to forging an internationalist Leninist-Trotskyist party to lead the proletariat to power. We struggle together with our comrades of the Spartacist League/U.S. and the Trotskyist League/Ligue Trotskyste of Canada, seeking to mobilize the powerful, multiracial North American proletariat against the imperialists and the Mexican bourgeoisie and in defense of all immigrants and the oppressed. As part of the International Communist League, we struggle to reforge the Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution.

The Permanent Revolution

With its nationalist, paternalistic ideology, the Mexican bourgeoisie justifies the social backwardness, rural poverty and illiteracy of millions of workers and peasants, blaming the victims themselves for the ravages of their exploitation. To redirect the dissatisfaction of the masses, the bourgeoisie also incites rotten xenophobic hatred, anti-Semitism, anti-indigenous racism, machismo and homophobia, relying on the willing help of the church. For their part, the bourgeoisie’s arrogant North American imperialist masters portray Mexicans as a weak and lethargic people, using all types of disgusting racist stereotypes, unleashing the terror of groups like the Ku Klux Klan and border vigilantes as well as the racist death penalty. Against all this garbage, the communist program explains that the backwardness and grinding poverty in the semicolonial world are not the result of some “cultural” cause but instead come from powerful historical factors in the development of capitalism.

We communists base our struggle for workers revolution on the program of permanent revolution developed by Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. In Trotsky’s perspective, because of the combined and uneven development of the world economy, the bourgeoisies in backward countries are strongly linked to imperialist interests, thus preventing them from carrying out the fundamental tasks of bourgeois revolution—democracy, agrarian revolution and national emancipation. In the face of peasant rebellion and a combative working class, each and every one of these goals would directly threaten the political and economic control of the capitalist class. The democratic tasks of the bourgeois revolution, then, can be resolved only by an alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry. Marxism maintains that there can only be one dominant class in each state. Because the proletariat is the only consistently revolutionary class, as the Communist Manifesto declares, this alliance must take the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, supported by the peasants.

Trotsky was unequivocal that the peasantry cannot play an independent political role. In carrying out the democratic tasks of the revolution, the proletarian state must inevitably make “despotic incursions into the rights of bourgeois property.” Thus the revolution passes directly to socialist tasks, without stopping at any arbitrary “stages,” or, as Lenin put it, without the existence of a “Chinese Wall” between the bourgeois and proletarian phases. The advent of a genuinely socialist society (that is, without classes) can only be achieved on an international scale, requiring the overthrow of capitalism in at least several advanced countries.

That is why we communists base ourselves on the central role of the proletariat and fight for the working class to arise as the leader of the oppressed masses in the cities and the countryside in order to overthrow the bourgeois order. But for the working class to be able to free itself from the exploitation of capital, it is necessary for it to sweep away the ideology of the bourgeoisie and draw its own lessons from the historical event that exploded in Mexico at the dawn of the 20th century. Without a materialist understanding of its own history, the working class, and with it all those oppressed under capitalism, would be condemned to suffer new bloody defeats at the hands of the bourgeoisie. The fundamental task of the Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard, as we intervene to change history, is to take this understanding and the revolutionary program to the working class, fighting to raise its consciousness to the level required by its historic tasks.

The Absolutist Spanish State and the Colonization of America

There was a time when the bourgeoisie played a revolutionary role against the old feudal order and the obscurantism of the Middle Ages. The classic bourgeois-democratic revolutions that broke out in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries had concrete results: the liberation of the peasantry, national independence and unification, the elimination of feudal constraints on markets and industry, etc. Marxism came to this generalization after analyzing the results of several bourgeois revolutions, such as the English Revolution of Cromwell in the mid 17th century, and especially the Great French Revolution of 1789, which is the archetype of the classic bourgeois revolution.

Marxism also pointed out that after this radical period the bourgeoisie stopped being revolutionary. The reactionary course of the bourgeoisie was clearly shown in the revolutions of 1848 in Europe and especially in France, where the bourgeoisie bared its counterrevolutionary teeth when it brutally smashed the proletariat. After that, one sees the European bourgeoisie repudiating its original political ideals, ceding power to the forces of reaction—all because of its fear of the working class.

Spain and Portugal are a special case, because they lagged behind the bourgeois development experienced in several other European countries during those centuries. Spain was the first great unified, absolutist monarchical state to arise in Europe after the Reconquest in 1492, marked by the taking of Granada and the expulsion of the Moors from Spain. The victory over the Arabs consolidated the power of the Spanish monarchy as well as the Catholic church, which played a central logistical role in the struggle against the Moors. The Spanish church was the pillar of the Inquisition, which was a reaction against modernization and the Protestant Reformation of Calvin and Luther. Torquemada’s Inquisition also proceeded with brutal terror against the Jews. (This is one of the origins of the anti-Semitism that is deeply rooted in Latin America and in the nationalist and centrist left of today.)

The monarchy unified the church and the army under its banner, and, with the conquest of the Americas, the Inquisition and colonization went hand in hand. Thus, the Spanish state experienced a brief flowering from 1500 to 1550, above all because of the vast plunder wrenched from the American colonies. But this plunder failed to strengthen commercial capital, which was now ascendant in the rest of Europe. The Spanish mercantile class used it for the consumption of luxury goods, and the Spanish monarchy used it to purchase aristocratic titles and vast landed estates. A popular saying from that time captures something of this social reality: “Grandfather, a merchant; father, a nobleman; son, a beggar.” The Spanish monarchy did everything in its power to keep the nascent Spanish bourgeoisie and feudal lords weak and in debt to the throne. Everything passed through the monarchy, which tried to interfere with and control all aspects of economic, political and cultural life.

For the Spanish Crown, the new colonies in the Americas did not represent commercial or settlement expansion but rather tribute-paying protectorates, new sources of royal income that were not much different from the various Spanish provinces. After the brief flowering it experienced through consolidating as a national state, Spain began a downward spiral toward stagnation and decadence. In a short time, the main function of the monarchical state became that of a simple mediator, extracting tribute from the colonies to purchase articles produced in other locations by the manufacturing capital of Britain, France, Holland, Belgium and Germany. The Spanish conquerors in the Americas soon became collecting agencies for the throne in Madrid, replacing the ancient Mexicas as collectors of tribute. But this extraction of tribute did not last long, owing to a catastrophic decline of the indigenous population in Mexico, which fell from some 16 million to about a million—in only two generations!

The annihilation of the indigenous population, the result of the brutal exploitation of the encomienda [peonage] system, famine and disease, was accompanied by a great influx of Spanish immigrants. With the impossibility of continuing to extract more tribute, other sources of exploitation appeared. Slowly, the development of a more diversified economy was achieved, one centered on mining, the textile industry and agriculture (dyes, sugar, and coffee, etc.) for the domestic market and for commercial export.

Thus, during the colonial period that lasted three centuries (1519 to 1821), we cannot speak of a capitalist Mexico in the Marxist sense of the term (contrary to the assertions of some pseudo-Marxist authors like André Gunder Frank and Nahuel Moreno, for whom the conquest and colonization of America was fully capitalist). What was implanted in the New World was a mixture of tributary, parasitic despotism with decadent feudal elements and an embryonic mercantile capitalism. All this was woven together and organized by the Spanish Crown in the world market of mercantilist capitalism. (This mixture of several elements is not exclusive to colonial Mexico.)

Colonial domination by a backward Spain stifled Mexico and Latin America at a decisive stage of capitalist development. That was why Mexico could not reproduce the pattern of booming commercial and industrial capitalist development that appeared in the most advanced areas of Europe, something that was also achieved by the English colonists in North America, for example. The fact that some elements of mercantile capitalism can be perceived in the Spanish colonies in that era does not mean that those societies were already organized on the basis of capital. For Karl Marx, capitalism was essentially a mode of production, not a network of overseas commerce (something that had already existed since the time of the Phoenicians).

The War of Independence of 1810

By the end of the 17th century, Mexico was nevertheless the richest of the Spanish colonies, responsible for more than 60 percent of the precious metals sent to Spain from the Americas, especially silver. Over time, the Mexican political economy developed beyond mining, unlike in the rest of Latin America. For example, during the colonial period the income of the wealthy criollo [Creole: Mexican-born of Spanish descent] landowning hacendados was several times greater than that of their alter egos in Peru. By the middle of the 17th century, Mexico City rivaled Spanish cities in size and wealth. The name given to colonial Mexico, “New Spain,” was not an accident.

As Mexico’s economy developed, creole landowners and artisans and the middle and lower hierarchies of the church and the army clashed against the Spanish viceregal power that mediated and blocked their access to international commerce and political power. Many hacendados complained about a law that prohibited indigenous Mexicans from putting themselves more than five pesos in debt. This regulation blocked the transformation of indigenous Mexicans into debt peons—i.e., semi-slave laborers who would toil on large agricultural estates where production was completely for export. This type of Spanish protectionism was consciously maintained as a counterweight to the development of a creole bourgeoisie in Mexico. The Creoles began to demand the right to export agricultural goods as well as free importation of manufactured products and other prerogatives.

This contradiction was the material basis for the War of Independence that broke out in September 1810. This first Mexican revolution (1810-1821) was an attempt to resolve the conflicts between the nascent creole bourgeoisie and the stifling government of the parasitic Spanish monarchy. In his Historia del Capitalismo en Mexico (History of Capitalism in Mexico), historian Enrique Semo points out:

“The despotic-tributary system did not cease to exist by itself. A revolution was needed to help it exit the historical stage, and this is a fact forgotten by those who argue that the revolution for independence contributed little or nothing to the development of the Mexican nation. The rule of the Crown and its viceregal bureaucracy constituted not only a system of external dependence but also an internal form of rule. The task of the turbulent years of 1810-1821 was to destroy it, and this was, to a large extent, achieved. The Spanish official who controlled down to the last detail a society divided into conflicting corporations, who intervened between the owners of the means of production and the laborers, who extracted riches from the colony to enjoy them in the metropolis, who opposed any local enterprise that went against his own or the Crown’s interests had to go, and with him went all vestiges of the encomienda, the repartimiento [system of forced labor], the tribute, and so on. His place was taken by the hacendado, the main beneficiary of the revolution for independence, the natural representative of large private property and local particularism who—in conflict with the church—had to make his interests prevail over those of other social classes.

“The revolution of 1810-1821 did not mark the victory of bourgeois trends over feudal modes, but rather the removal of all vestiges of tributary despotism with its bureaucratic centralism, and the victory of large semifeudal landed property with its parochially oriented caciquismo [cacique means local boss].”

As in all the Spanish colonies in the Americas, the push to declare independence in Mexico was accelerated by the fear on the part of the creole propertied classes and the church of the Napoleonic invasion of Spain in 1808. At the same time, news of the French Revolution arrived in Mexico very early. Its language may be found in the struggle for independence, although strangely refracted. The priest Miguel Hidalgo, who initiated the insurrection, roused the indigenous masses with his famous Cry of Dolores, with slogans such as: Long live Religion! Long live our most holy mother of Guadalupe! Down with the usurping government! Long live America! Hidalgo was an educated man and very familiar with the writings of the French Revolution. His letters include phrases like “the sacred fire that inflames us,” “sons of the fatherland,” and “days of glory,” all from the Marseillaise.

But separation from Spain did not come until 1821, when Agustín de Iturbide, who was assigned to smash the rebellion, went over to the side of independence, among other reasons because of his appetite to anoint himself as emperor of Mexico. His slogan was “Independence, unity and religion!” By “unity” he meant unity with the Spanish monarchy—temporarily overthrown by the episodic revolution of 1820 in Spain, which tried to institute the radical democratic constitution of 1812 that called, among other things, for the separation of church and state. By “religion,” he meant defense of the privileges of the Catholic church, the largest landowner and also the largest moneylender in Mexico. Thus, independence from Spain ultimately had a distinctive smell of counterrevolution.

War with the United States, 1846-48

The next 40 years of Mexican history were full of revolt and internal struggle. There were constant clashes between the regional liberal elites, tending to appropriate indigenous lands (which were often controlled directly or indirectly by the church), and a weak conservative center based on the church, the army and the state administration. Between 1821 and 1861, there were 56 presidents in Mexico! It was during this time that Mexico suffered the first intervention by the United States, ordered by President James K. Polk in 1846—an event that presaged the current U.S. colonialist domination and rape of Mexico.

From a demographic point of view, at the beginning of the 19th century Mexico and the U.S. were almost the same—each had about six million inhabitants. (The population of Mexico was actually a bit larger.) But the characteristics of the economic systems in both countries were very different. The political economy of the United States was a transplant of the developed commercial capitalist system in Britain, whereas that of Mexico, as we have seen, issued out of Spain’s backwardness and tributary despotism. U.S. capitalism was very dynamic, exactly the opposite of the Mexican economy. Thus, the northern border of Mexico was strongly attracted to the economic orbit of the U.S. More than 90 percent of the region’s commerce was with that country.

Political pressures on Mexico had already been seen with the settlement of U.S. colonists in the province of Texas. The war of pillage that was waged against Mexico also had much to do with the conflict between the North and the South in the U.S. over the issue of slavery. The Southern plantation slaveowning class, which dominated the weak federal government, feared that the territories acquired from France in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase would tip the balance of power, and the South would be in a subordinate position. Thus they looked to the north of Mexico for new slave territories. Under the pretext of “independence” for Texas, the U.S. intervened to seize half of Mexico’s territory from one of its many governments, that of Santa Anna. The U.S. Civil War’s prominent Union general Ulysses S. Grant fought in the war against Mexico as a lieutenant. At the end of his life he wrote his memoirs, wherein he wrote of the Mexican war:

“Generally the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war which resulted as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.”

The War of the Reform and the Porfiriato

The war with the U.S., and the constant interference of the European powers, sharpened the conflicts that had dragged on since Independence. In this context, the War of the Reform (1858-61) broke out, undertaken by President Benito Juárez in the name of radical bourgeois ideology and influenced by the principles of the French Revolution. This second Mexican revolution differed from its predecessor because it had more of the features of a movement of the dominant and semi-dominant classes fighting against one another, without the plebeian mobilization that took place during Independence. Juárez established the separation of church and state, forced the sale of the church’s great landed estates and also abolished many of the collective properties of the indigenous peoples. Juarism established secular education and some social services. The Reform aimed for the bourgeoisie to be able to acquire property on a capitalist basis. From the Vatican, Pope Pius IX angrily railed against Juárez and declared “null and void” the laws of the Mexican government, excommunicating Juárez himself.

Under the pretext of the Mexican debt and with the cry of “Religion and Privileges!”, France and Britain intervened militarily in Mexico in 1863, seeking to impose the monarchy of Maximilian of Habsburg. This new rapacious intervention was possible because of the proximity of the U.S. Civil War. France and Britain would not have intervened in Mexico if the U.S. had not been in the middle of a civil war. The North, which had already recognized the Juárez government, preferred to remain “neutral” for fear that France and Britain might recognize the Confederate slave power in the South. Juárez declared war against the invaders, and although at one point he was pushed into the north of Mexico, he finally won the war in 1867. Maximilian was captured and executed.

Juárez became a national hero. His conservative opponents, including the church, were discredited in the eyes of the masses because of their collaboration with the invaders. Nevertheless, in spite of the prestige Juárez gained, the climate of instability not only continued but was aggravated by the war’s bloodletting and a boycott by reactionary forces. Thus, in 1876, General Porfirio Díaz, at the head of a liberal alliance, abruptly took power, installing a military dictatorship that would last more than 30 years. The coup was planned in close collaboration with U.S. interests. Díaz’s peculiar motto was “Little politics and much administration.” And to restore “order” in turbulent Mexico, Díaz threw out the Jacobin ideology of Juárez and achieved an understanding with the church, instituting the so-called “peace of the tomb”: immediate military repression of any peasant or popular rebellion, jail and exile—including the massive exile of entire populations such as the indigenous Yaqui and Mayo of Sonora—to the death camps in Yucatán or Valle Nacional in Oaxaca.

The new Porfirian cabinet tried to shape a Mexican bourgeoisie that might enrich itself by riding on the coattails of the imperialists. To guarantee that the imperialist corporations and the weak Mexican bourgeoisie would benefit from the exploitation of natural resources, the Díaz regime promoted the construction of a vast system of railroads. Díaz tried to do a balancing act between the United States, Britain, France and Germany, setting them against each other in distributing investment concessions. The result was that toward the end of his rule, more than one-fourth of Mexican land was the property of foreigners, as well as 90 percent of industrial capital.

It was the age of the ascendancy of modern imperialism, and the imperialist powers were deeply involved in the Mexican economy. U.S. capitalists were particularly concentrated in mining, railroads and the great cattle haciendas in the north. Yucatán was basically a satellite plantation of the International Harvester Company. The British were involved in the petroleum industry in particular, while the Germans tried to dominate the banking system. For their part, the French had large investments in textiles and amassed large amounts of Mexican government debt in the form of bonds. But with the world financial crisis at the beginning of the 20th century, marked by a precipitous fall in the prices of raw materials, the Mexican economy, sustained by the export of those materials, suffered a tremendous blow, and the Díaz dictatorship became extremely isolated and discredited.

Madero “Unleashes the Tiger”

In 1910 Mexico was an overwhelmingly agrarian country, characterized by a marked particularism and regional parochialism, where the majority of peasants had no land. This development was a direct consequence of imperialist investments and the rapid expansion of the railroads during the Porfiriato, which, by opening up the interior of the country, unleashed an explosion of land speculation and growth of agricultural production for export.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910 began as a classic Mexican uprising by five northern governors. Representing the bourgeoisie in that region, which was most closely linked to the U.S. economy, they felt threatened by the decrepit central government of Díaz. With his extensive network of favoritism and cronyism, the dictator had become an obstacle for the bourgeoisie and the object of popular hatred. At the end of Díaz’s long reign, the country was shaken by a profound financial crisis, worsened by corruption, gigantic government debt and a fiscal policy that was intolerable for the population. In the years immediately preceding the revolution, a wave of combative strikes (Cananea, Río Blanco, etc.) and peasant restlessness swept the country.

Francisco I. Madero, the most representative figure in this stage of the revolution against Díaz, came from one of the richest families in the country, one which wanted to compete with companies from the United States. But Madero’s timid campaign to bar the president from running for re-election soon opened the door to a series of peasant revolts that swept like wildfire through the country, as unrest could no longer be contained by the dictator. Díaz soon capitulated to Madero and the northern revolutionary wave, which was powerfully reinforced by massive popular protests in Mexico City. In the elections that followed the fall of Díaz, Madero emerged victorious and anointed himself president. Like a good bourgeois politician, Madero left the military apparatus of the old regime intact, and the essence of his program was a colorless liberalism. Certainly, Madero had no intention of altering social relations in the countryside, nor did he grant any concessions whatever to the working class.

When Díaz left Veracruz to go into exile, he was heard to say in reference to Madero: “I hope he can tame the tiger he let out of the cage.” The tiger he was referring to was the immense peasant uprising. The intra-bourgeois conflict between Madero and Díaz had indeed opened the tiger’s cage. The agrarian question—the land hunger of millions of peasants—was revealed as the most burning and explosive question of the revolution. Madero’s unfulfilled promises quickly provoked conflicts with the forces of Emiliano Zapata, who controlled the state of Morelos. Meanwhile, various strikes broke out in industry.

By the end of 1912, the Madero regime, in power for a little more than a year, was already in deep crisis, trapped between popular discontent and reactionary forces, both domestic and imperialist, that were determined to re-establish “order.” In February 1913, in a coup plotted from the U.S. Embassy, Madero was overthrown and shot by General Victoriano Huerta. Huerta’s coup unleashed popular anger and energized the peasant forces of Francisco Villa in the north and the guerrillas of Emiliano Zapata in the south. Partly because of Huerta’s connections to Britain, the Americans later began to support the Constitutionalist forces of Venustiano Carranza and Villa, which had taken up arms against the new dictatorship.

The Taking of Mexico City and Bourgeois Reaction

With the fall of the Huerta dictatorship in July 1914, the victorious anti-Huerta forces immediately fell apart. The more conservative bourgeois wing of Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregón, representing the northern bourgeois elites and the radical petty bourgeoisie, was more adept than Villa. In a military race, Obregón’s forces occupied Mexico City on 15 August 1914, although not for long. With the definitive split between Villa and Zapata on one side and Carranza and Obregón on the other, after the Convention of Aguascalientes in November 1914, a new and acute phase of the Mexican Revolution began.

Lacking sufficient supplies to hold on to Mexico City, the Carrancistas withdrew to Veracruz. The victorious peasant armies of Zapata and Villa took the capital in December 1914. Veracruz had been occupied by the U.S. since 21 April 1913. In an agreement Carranza made with the occupiers, he obtained a large reserve of arms and provisions as the U.S. forces evacuated the city. It is significant that when the U.S. took Veracruz for the first time, Carranza made an impassioned nationalist speech and criticized them harshly for the occupation (although it was designed to benefit him), while Villa remained silent, not wanting the enmity of the U.S., which supplied him with arms.

In this regard, it is interesting to analyze the occupation of the capital by Villa’s and Zapata’s peasant armies, as well as their withdrawal. The regional, petty-bourgeois peasant perspective of Villa and Zapata meant that these radical leaders did not know what to do when, upon taking the capital, they had state power within reach. This is despite the fact that they had arms and the overwhelming sympathy of the population, which welcomed them with great jubilation (including many workers who months later would be joining Carranza’s “red battalions” to put down the rebellion). The limited demands for more democracy and land distribution in the villages, like the Plan of Ayala, were insufficient as a national political program and a means for Villa and Zapata to hold on to power in the urban centers. It was a movement based on the peasantry, and as such, was limited by that ideology.

Along the same lines, it is notable that during this conflict, which lasted almost a decade, none of the warring factions created a political formation—a party—with any consistency. The Mexican Revolution was led mainly by spontaneously arising peasant leaders or by regional military leaders. Trotsky explained the political inability of the Russian peasantry, as a class, to lead a revolution, a characteristic that can be extended to the Mexican peasantry:

“The peasantry is dispersed over the surface of an enormous country whose key junctions are the cities. The peasantry itself is incapable of even formulating its own interests inasmuch as in each district these appear differently. The economic link between the provinces is created by the market and the railways, but both the market and the railways are in the hands of the cities. In seeking to tear itself away from the restrictions of the village and to generalize its own interests, the peasantry inescapably falls into political dependence upon the city. Finally, the peasantry is heterogeneous in its social relations as well: the kulak [rich peasant] stratum naturally seeks to swing it to an alliance with the urban bourgeoisie while the nether strata of the village pull to the side of the urban workers. Under these conditions the peasantry as such is completely incapable of conquering power.”

— “Three Conceptions of the Russian Revolution,” 1939

An anecdotal but illustrative example of this inability of the peasantry to assume power in its own name happened during a meeting of the Villa-Zapata Convention in Mexico City. A large group of poor women was demonstrating against famine in front of this assembly, and the only answer the Convention could come up with was to pass the hat to collect a bit of money for them! In other words, Villa and Zapata did not have, nor could they have on their own, the program to use these latent forces for a victorious revolutionary—that is to say, proletarian and socialist—solution. When Villa and Zapata occupied the capital, they certainly did not touch the church, which was a bastion of the most reactionary elements of the ruling class in Mexico and an enemy of the poor peasantry. The upper ranks of the Catholic hierarchy in the capital certainly were a different animal from those humble village priests who were won to Zapatismo. This was one more nail in the coffin of the peasant rebellion.

The bourgeois wing of Carranza, conscious of the political weakness of the peasant armies, was able to reorganize and pursued the forces of the Zapatista Convention until finally defeating them. Obregón effectively avoided the capital in order to confront Villa, who had the principal mobile forces of the Convention, in decisive battles in the north and in El Bajío [lowlands of central Mexico]. By the end of 1915, Villa’s powerful División del Norte had been dismantled. On 10 April 1919, Zapata was ambushed and slaughtered.

In July 1923, bourgeois reaction caught up to Villa, who had retired to private life and become a well-to-do hacendado in Chihuahua. He was still a symbol for the peasantry. When he supported the local bourgeois Adolfo de la Huerta against Obregón’s group, Villa was massacred and his body decapitated. (It was a very different story on the other side of the world, when in October 1917 the gigantic Russian “peasant bear,” hungry for land and justice, found a revolutionary leadership in a young and resolute working class and the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky.)
Workers Vanguard No. 974
18 February 2011

A Marxist Analysis of the Mexican Revolution of 1910

Part Two

This part concludes this article, translated from Espartaco No. 12 (Spring-Summer 1999), published by the Grupo Espartaquista de México. Part One appeared in WV No. 973 (4 February).

When the Mexican Revolution broke out, the proletariat consisted of some 600,000 workers but was very dispersed and atomized throughout the country, particularly in the mines, on the railroads, in the textile industry and various artisanal trades. The list of organizations affiliated with the Casa del Obrero Mundial [House of the World Worker], founded only in September 1912, shows the still-rudimentary composition of the proletariat. Besides electricians and streetcar drivers, the majority of the list consisted of guilds such as bakers, drivers, tailors, leather workers, bricklayers, shoemakers, carpenters, etc. There was also some urban industry, such as textiles, but not nearly as modern or concentrated as in western Russia. Also, because of the limited migration of European workers, socialist thought was not as widespread here as in Chile and Argentina in the Southern Cone of the hemisphere.

Consequently, anarchism (imported from Spain) flourished and gained authority in the young working class. The anarchism of the Flores Magón brothers had emerged as a radical-liberal tendency in the ranks of the bourgeois opposition to Porfirio Díaz. During the Porfirian dictatorship, anarchist publications such as El Hijo del Ahuizote [Son of the Scourge], Revolución and Regeneración helped to organize sectors of society unhappy with the regime. From 1906 to the 1910 uprising led by Francisco Madero, the anarchists focused their strategy on the formation of guerrilla cells in the north. They even established a utopian anarchist “Socialist Republic of Baja California” in 1911, which was immediately crushed after an agreement between Díaz and Madero was reached. Díaz’s constant repression of Ricardo Flores Magón’s group, which eventually had to hide in the U.S., pushed the group to the left, and it began to build workers’ cells. During the Revolution, anarchist groups founded the Casa del Obrero Mundial.

Flores Magón and his Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) certainly presented the most radical program during the Revolution, even calling for the abolition of private property and for no support for the bourgeoisie. But its ideas and proclamations were extremely contradictory. In spite of its influence on the incipient unions, Magonist anarchism did not represent the historic interests of the working class; it had more to do with a type of petty-bourgeois “utopian socialism” that reflected the desperation of the artisans and the middle classes ruined under the Porfiriato.

The acid test of the Mexican Revolution showed the total bankruptcy of anarchism and its inability to draw an independent class line. Some anarchists in the Casa del Obrero (such as Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama) went over to the ranks of Zapatismo. But the majority of the anarchist leaders, such as Antonio I. Villarreal, who went from the ranks of the PLM to being governor of [the northern state of] Nuevo León and a mouthpiece for the bourgeois forces of Venustiano Carranza, reached agreement with Carranza and engaged in demagoguery to convince a sector of the working class to participate in Carranza’s infamous “red battalions” [armed forces arrayed against peasant insurgents].

The traitorous collaboration of the Casa del Obrero anarchists, who exchanged their “direct action” discourse for the demagogic “class struggle” offered by Carranza in his 1913 Plan de Guadalupe, guaranteed “social peace” in the capital for Alvaro Obregón while he pursued Pancho Villa. In the end, the Casa del Obrero leadership accepted without complaint Obregón’s order to dissolve their organization when it was no longer useful to him. Most of these anarchists would later have careers as union bureaucrats in the new Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM, Mexican Regional Workers Confederation), subservient to the bourgeois regime.

Here it is interesting to refer to the position of the centrist Internationalist Group (IG), a handful of deserters from Trotskyism who were expelled from our organization in 1996. The IG attempts a retrospective embellishment of the anti-revolutionary role of anarchism which, inciting the backward consciousness of the working class, mobilized it to actively support the suppression of the revolution under the Carranza’s orders. The IG writes:

“The anarchists withdrew into passive opposition to all sides. General Obregón, meanwhile, wooed the Casa del Obrero on behalf of the mistrusted landowner-general Carranza.... When Obregón appealed for the formation of Red Battalions of workers to fight Villa, the union bureaucrats finally agreed (despite continued opposition in the ranks).”

—The Internationalist, April-May 1997

In the IG’s centrist laundry room, the anarchist bureaucrats of the Casa del Obrero seem like confused, passive victims of Obregón’s intrigues. The IG uses the same lying description of “paralyzed” victims that [IG leader Jan] Norden used to clean up the image of the Stalinists of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany), who in 1990 led the counterrevolution and presented the East German workers state as a gift to imperialism.

As we have written, anarchism showed its complete bankruptcy during the Mexican Revolution. With their petty-bourgeois perspective, the pages of Regeneración and Magón’s correspondence were filled with bitter recriminations against the working class for being responsible for its destiny. Magón wrote to Gus Teltsch in 1921: “Man is a very stupid long as he has a crust of stale bread to put in his mouth, he thinks he lives in the best world, and everything is going well.” Years earlier, Magón even celebrated with strange justifications the imperialist slaughter of the First World War:

“Millions of men dead? Even better! The people are such imbeciles that they need these terrible blows, these formidable shocks, to wake up. Let us not give in to whining and sentimentality in the face of this spectacle of desolation and ruin. Let us accept with fortitude this result of human stupidity, and to those who wish to hear us, let us say: Brothers, here is the result of your obstinate refusal to heed our good counsel…. Long live the war! Let the horrible spectacle of death, the desolation, the hunger, the ruin, shock the peoples who are lethargic with the narcotic of flags, fatherlands and religions!”

—Regeneración No. 201 (undated)

Even earlier, the anarchist PLM went so far as to define a chauvinist, anti-immigrant, protectionist vision in its program. Regarding Chinese workers, the 1906 PLM Program stated: “Generally willing to work for the lowest pay, submissive, with paltry aspirations, the Chinese is a great obstacle to the prosperity of other workers. His competition is disastrous and we must avoid it in Mexico.”

It was Villa and the northern governors who took anti-Chinese chauvinism to its ultimate consequences. One can see this brutal aspect of the Villista troops in Friedrich Katz’s well-documented biography Pancho Villa, in which the historian exposes the visceral hostility of the Villistas toward Chinese immigrants, whom they plundered and murdered in the cities Villa’s forces occupied. The anti-Chinese chauvinist poison went hand in hand with the moth-eaten anti-Semitism propagated in Mexico since the Inquisition. It is no accident that today’s “Chinatown” in Mexico City occupies only half a block of Dolores Street.

The lack of an authentic revolutionary internationalist leadership during the Mexican Revolution would be felt again when the working class began to radicalize against Carranza, as demonstrated by an electricians general strike in Mexico City in 1916. One can understand the limited anarcho-liberal vision of Magón and many of its unresolvable contradictions, which led him to sordid extremes like the anti-Chinese chauvinism of his party. But it is pathetic that today reformist groups like the Partido Obrero Socialista (POS, Socialist Workers Party), heirs of the political chameleon Nahuel Moreno, and the Liga de Unidad Socialista (LUS, League of Socialist Unity), heirs of the pseudo-Trotskyist Ernest Mandel, which along with others promote nationalism, venerate Flores Magón and refer to him uncritically as a “fighter for the liberation of the proletariat” (El Socialista-Umbral No. 238, 1 May 1998).

The Petty-Bourgeois Vision of the Nationalist Left

The Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 is a clear example of one of those revolutions in which the proletariat, still socially weak, was incapable of acting as an independent contender for power and carrying out its revolutionary tasks. Generalizing from the experience of the Chinese proletariat’s bloody defeat, thanks to Stalin’s betrayal, in the Second Chinese Revolution of 1925-1927 at the hands of the bourgeois-nationalist Guomindang of Chiang Kai-shek, Leon Trotsky wrote in The Permanent Revolution (1930):

“Under the conditions of the imperialist epoch, the national democratic revolution can be carried through to a victorious end only when the social and political relationships of the country are mature for putting the proletariat in power as the leader of the masses of the people. And if this is not yet the case? Then the struggle for national liberation will produce only very partial results, results directed entirely against the working masses.”

Later, he continued:

“A backward colonial or semi-colonial country, the proletariat of which is insufficiently prepared to unite the peasantry and take power, is thereby incapable of bringing the democratic revolution to its conclusion.”

As subsequent history would show, what Trotsky wrote is completely applicable to the Mexican Revolution, whose results were partial and “directed entirely against the working masses.” This can be seen from the beginning in the Zapatista demand that “the land belong to the tiller”—a demand for which hundreds of thousands of peasants rose in rebellion and died. The land was completely stolen by the victorious bourgeois faction: almost all the land seized in the revolution was returned to the landowners or appropriated by elements of the new military caste. (Such a return of lands to the owners of the landed estates did not occur, for example, in France under Napoleon after the Great French Revolution, nor even under the restorationist monarchists that succeeded him.)

Besides the key agrarian question that the Mexican Revolution failed to resolve, there is the issue of imperialism and national liberation, which could not be resolved under bourgeois leadership, or under peasant leadership for that matter. The United States was able to increase its control over the Mexican economy, and the shackles of imperialism continued to tighten on the country, giving rise to the present situation.

With the bloody triumph of Carranza and Obregón’s bourgeois wing, ferocious repression was unleashed in the cities. Not surprisingly, many workers and anarchist leaders of the “red battalions” who returned from fighting the peasant armies were shot as soon as they began to demand that Carranza’s promises be kept. The old death penalty, which had been decreed in 1862, was restored along with other brutal punishments to be applied against the workers movement. A common practice of this new regime was to first send the army against strike picket lines and then, after carrying out repression, to concede a few of the workers’ demands...over their leaders’ corpses. This type of political practice, directed entirely against the working class, as Trotsky wrote, was crystallized in the famous Carrancista Constitution of 1917, which gives the bourgeois state the role of inspector and supreme arbiter in the life of the unions.

To achieve its consolidation, the bourgeois regime of Carranza’s successor Obregón, which had support among the petty bourgeoisie and intellectuals, began to use nationalism and an opportunistic anticlericalism as ideological battering rams in order to justify its continuing repression of workers struggles and regional uprisings of land-hungry peasants. In 1938, the nationalist regime of General Lázaro Cárdenas decreed the expropriation of the petroleum industry and carried out some land distribution, mainly as an escape valve for the pressure of peasant unrest that had been set loose by the church in the reactionary clerical Cristero movement. Cárdenas also used the land distribution as a way to deactivate workers struggles, offering pieces of land so that dissatisfied workers could become small peasant landowners.

With these measures and because of his occasional friction with imperialism, Lázaro Cárdenas gained popularity with the masses and gave a strong boost to nationalism. The Cárdenas regime was able to subordinate the most important workers unions to the PRM (predecessor of the PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party). This was thanks to the treason of the Stalinist Mexican Communist Party (PCM, founded in 1919), which, following the traitorous, class-collaborationist line of Stalin’s popular front, used its influence in the unions to support [the reformist] Lombardo Toledano and [quintessential pro-government bureaucrat] Fidel Velázquez. Thereafter, the leadership of these unions fell into the hands of the corporatist “charro” bureaucracy—labor lieutenants of capital and the bourgeois state in the workers movement. While opening schools and initiating some public works projects, Lázaro Cárdenas reinforced the army and also founded the hated anti-riot squad known as the “granaderos,” the fundamental instrument of the bourgeoisie for breaking strikes and beating students.

The reformist left failed to resist the increasing popularity of the caudillo Cárdenas and capitulated to the nationalism that was in vogue. This had its most well-known intellectual expression in the works of José Revueltas, a dissident member of the Stalinist PCM, and, later, those of the onetime pseudo-Trotskyist Adolfo Gilly. Influenced by the Stalinist schema of “revolution in stages” and “socialism in one country” and adding his own special philosophical gibberish, Revueltas extolled the terrible backwardness in the Mexican countryside in order to paint the economy during the Porfiriato as merely “semi-feudal.” He then characterized the Revolution of 1910 as a successful bourgeois-democratic “anti-feudal” revolution, which is false.

In the imperialist epoch of capital, as we have noted, it is impossible for the national bourgeoisie to carry a democratic revolution to victory and solve such burning issues as the agrarian question. The millions of landless peasants, including indigenous people, throughout the country are the strongest possible refutation of the Stalinoid vision of Revueltas, who embellished the meager achievements of the Mexican Revolution.

Inspired by the Stalinist concept, Revueltas feverishly looked for a “progressive” sector of the bourgeoisie, which he claimed to have found in Carranza’s forces. In his 1962 essay “Un Proletariado Sin Cabeza” (“A Proletariat Without a Head”), in which he supposedly differentiates himself from the PCM, Revueltas writes a defense of Carranza:

“Thus, carrancismo is actually more radical, more ‘advanced’ than maderismo, because the bourgeois-democratic ideology must widen its field of criticism.... Not only does Carranza promise from the beginning to establish a new organic legal statute for the country, but he also announces the beginning of the social revolution.”

Revueltas’ anti-Marxist revisionism is accompanied by his position on the role of the working class:

“Even when the proletariat does not carry out a leadership function in a bourgeois-democratic revolution like that of 1910, on its own, solely by its presence, it provokes a series of historical and revolutionary consequences. There is an immanent force in the proletariat that on its own becomes evident and leads to results within history.

“This occurred with the proletariat in the Revolution of 1910. And if this bourgeois-democratic revolution has such an advanced and progressive character, it owes this more than anything else to the working class.”

—José Revueltas, “La Revolución Mexicana y el Proletariado” (“The Mexican Revolution and the Proletariat”), 1938

This “objectivist” vision of the weight and role of the working class is typical of the revisionist current of Michel Pablo, which developed in the ranks of the Fourth International in the 1950s. (Perhaps that was why, at the end of his life, Revueltas considered joining the Pabloite United Secretariat of the late Ernest Mandel.) Trotsky polemicized strongly against the false position that the proletariat could effect revolutionary changes “solely by its presence” or its combativity. Trotsky affirmed that the fundamental condition for the proletariat to intervene as a revolutionary force is that it has the consciousness of its historical tasks and a communist leadership. Revueltas was hostile to this Marxist-Leninist perspective.

The Stalinist position of seeking a nonexistent “progressive” sector of the bourgeoisie, and its vision of the proletariat as a mass whose weight is revolutionary in and of itself, was consistent with the type of party that Revueltas wanted to build: not a Leninist vanguard party but rather an amorphous party of “the whole class.” In fact, the core of Revueltas’ critique of the Stalinist PCM was to reproach it for not having succeeded in becoming a party of “the whole class,” that is, a mass party. It is no accident that the majority of members who, with Revueltas, broke with the PCM to found the so-called “Liga Espartaco” in 1960 ended up joining the PRI, attracted by its “mass influence” and nationalist rhetoric. This summary of Revueltas’ work merits a correction in reference to what we wrote in the first issue of Espartaco (Winter 1990-91), that “our tendency has taken up again the key point of Revueltas’ break with Stalinism.” In reality, Revueltas never transcended his Stalinist political framework.

Gilly and the Pseudo-Trotskyist Left

The book La Revolución Interrumpida (The Interrupted Revolution) by the former pseudo-Trotskyist Adolfo Gilly is the bible of the revisionist left. In a merely formal way, Gilly accepted a key tenet of permanent revolution—that the stage of classic bourgeois revolutions had ended a long time ago—only to write that in the Mexican Revolution the peasantry played the socialist role that the working class could not undertake. For Gilly, the Mexican Revolution was an “interrupted revolution” because the radical peasant leaders like Zapata and Villa were assassinated. Thus, while the revolution was “temporarily” interrupted, Gilly finds that the bourgeois government of Lázaro Cárdenas in the 1930s took up socialist principles once again. This supports the bourgeois myth of the revolution that never ends and therefore justifies, from a supposedly Marxist viewpoint, subordination to Cardenismo and the current capitulation of the left to the PRD [the bourgeois-populist Party of the Democratic Revolution].

Taking his liquidationist logic to its ultimate consequences, Gilly became an official in the current [Mexico City] government of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. The same fate awaited his old Mandelite party, the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores (PRT, Revolutionary Workers Party), which liquidated into the PRD and the Zapatista EZLN.

A current archetype of the reformist left’s capitulation to the influence of bourgeois nationalism, also inspired by Gilly’s “interrupted revolution,” is the Partido Obrero Socialista. For the Morenoite POS as well, the Mexican Revolution could have continued...including even to socialism, if Zapata and Villa had not been assassinated. The POS writes:

“While Madero and his followers planned to throw Díaz out of power to establish, mainly, a bourgeois-democratic system based on the principle of no re-election and effective suffrage, hundreds of revolutionaries worked clandestinely to overthrow the dictator and generate a social revolution, which in essence would have socialist objectives....

“Anarchists, Zapatistas and Villistas understood this desire perfectly well, and not always agreeing on how to achieve it, nevertheless fought in the same trench....

“With this unprecedented event, and because of the objectives that inspired the Zapatista and Villista armies, the Mexican Revolution seemed to be headed toward a socialist revolution, which would finally destroy the bourgeoisie as the ruling class and establish a workers and peasants government. Nevertheless, in spite of the social conquests expressed in the Constitution of 1917, because the working class did not lead the revolution and because there was no revolutionary party to lead it, the Mexican Revolution fell into the hands of the national bourgeoisie, and at that point another dictatorship began to take shape: the priato [decades-long rule of the PRI].”

—El Socialista No. 182, November 1993

These last references to the lack of a revolutionary party and the working class are merely demagogic, serving as the POS’s red loincloth to cover its true nationalist and reformist program for the class struggle. It is sufficient to see what they wrote the previous year in referring to the capture of Mexico City by Zapata and Villa in December 1914:

“Without knowing it, the Mexican peasants were placing themselves at that moment in the vanguard of the world revolution. It is a fact that has been preserved in the historical memory of the masses, an event that we must always remember, since it demonstrates the possibility that an organized and decisive people can put the bourgeoisie and the government in check and take power in this country.”

—El Socialista No. 166, November 1992

Like Gilly, the POS considers that the peasantry was—even without knowing it—the vanguard of the world revolution, and that the Magonista anarchists, along with Zapata and Villa, could have been the equivalent of a revolutionary party of the working class in the struggle for socialism...if they had just had a little more time. Nothing could be further from the Trotskyist theory of permanent revolution!

The POS view of the Mexican Revolution is in accordance with its current reformist program and the patriotic language that fills the pages of El Socialista. If the peasantry was, according to the POS, “the vanguard of the world revolution” in 1914, it is logical that these reformists called for a vote for the EZLN in 1994. And if for the POS the anarchists, Zapatistas and Villistas were the vanguard of the world revolution, today they welcome without embarrassment any class-collaborationist front that emerges in this country—from its joint campaign with the PRD to “struggle” against NAFTA (El Socialista No. 182, November 1993) to its political support for the EZLN, the CND [pro-EZLN National Democratic Convention], El Barzón [a middle-class movement of bank debtors], etc., and its current petition campaign begging the Senate and the House of Representatives not to privatize the electric industry. The illusion of the POS that the bourgeois state can be reformed is shown in its call for the “democratic restructuring of judicial power” (“Draft Program of the Socialist Coalition, POS-LUS,” 1998) and in its treasonous calls on the bourgeois state to intervene into the unions. In 1997, for example, the POS called for “imprisonment without bail for union leaders who sell sweetheart contracts to businesses” (El Socialista No. 225, February 1997). The conscious workers movement should sweep away these types of fake “socialist” parties.

The LTS and IG: Centrist Confusionism

The centrists of the Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (LTS, League of Workers for Socialism), a 1988 split from the POS, differ from their parent party only because they want the end of the PRI to come through the advent of a “[revolutionary constituent] Assembly that develops out of the overthrow of the hated PRI regime” and struggles against imperialism (Estrategia Obrera No. 7, September-October 1998). But in Mexico the semi-bonapartist bourgeois regime adopted a thin cover of bourgeois democracy which, although unstable, allowed the PRI to govern for decades with the politics of “the carrot and the stick.” The PRD has shored up illusions in this discredited bourgeois parliamentarism, and today it governs Mexico City, several municipal governments around the country and the states of Baja California and Zacatecas. Calling here for a constituent assembly—a new parliamentary body—only serves to sow more illusions in the bourgeois PRD.

The fact that the LTS fetishizes bourgeois democracy is clearly seen in its assertion, in the same issue of its newspaper, that it would be a “Provisional Workers and Peasants Government” that would convene this assembly. As Trotsky noted in the Transitional Program:

“This formula, ‘workers’ and farmers’ government,’ first appeared in the agitation of the Bolsheviks in 1917 and was definitely accepted after the October Revolution. In the final instance it represented nothing more than the popular designation for the already established dictatorship of the proletariat.”

But for the LTS, the purpose of the dictatorship of the proletariat would be to convene...a bourgeois parliamentary body! Trotsky never proposed the constituent assembly as a possible organizational form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is an invention of the fake Trotskyists, who distort the Bolshevik call for a workers and peasants government, converting it into a call for a government to reform the bourgeois state.

The centrists—revolutionary in word, reformist in deed—frequently borrow small pieces of the genuine Marxist program to hide their real appetites. Thus, the LTS writes: “The main tasks of the Revolution of 1910 that were left unfinished, such as giving land to the peasants, national independence to break the yoke of imperialism and elementary democratic demands, can only be fully and effectively accomplished under a government of the victorious working class” (Estrategia Obrera No. 2, December 1996). However, this is nothing more than a fig leaf to hide the LTS’s illusions in the bourgeoisie. Trying to polemicize against Gilly and his old party, the LTS winds up kissing his hand:

“The PRT, far from raising a consistent Trotskyist strategy to fight for the program of the second Mexican Revolution, to conclude the anti-capitalist revolution begun in 1910 (interrupted by the triumph of the Carranza wing over the peasant armies of Villa and Zapata, imposing the reactionary Constitution of 1917 on the masses), ends up joining the Cárdenas government.”

—Estrategia Internacional No. 10, November-December 1998 (emphasis ours)

In the end, the LTS accepts Gilly’s revisionist schema by which the Mexican Revolution, “anti-capitalist” in its inner dynamic, was “interrupted” by the fact that Villa and Zapata were murdered.

The Internationalist Group is not very different from the LTS. The IG’s rejection of the perspective of permanent revolution is evident in the way it obscures the differences between the petty bourgeoisie, the peasantry and the working class—the only class with the social power and consistent historic interest to lead the fight against the rule of capital. In spite of its Trotskyist pretensions, every time the IG tries to paraphrase or put into practice the perspective of permanent revolution, it jumbles together workers with other oppressed sectors. The IG takes this centrist confusionism onto the historical plane. Trying to distinguish itself from Gilly on the Mexican Revolution, the IG finally bows to him:

“In its successive incarnations (PNR-PRM-PRI), this regime has presented itself as the ‘party of the Mexican Revolution.’ This is an enormous historical falsification. In truth it is the party of the firing squad against the revolution, the party of the northern ranchers who assassinated the radical peasant and plebeian leaders Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Villa, and put an end to the revolution before it could become a full-fledged social revolution.”

—The Internationalist, April-May 1997

Here we see how the IG, like the LTS, leaves the door open to the implication that if Zapata and Villa had not been murdered, the Mexican Revolution could have continued and eventually become a “fully developed social revolution.” The IG consciously uses this vague, classless phrase only to distinguish itself slightly from its pseudo-Trotskyist cousins.

But like good centrists, the IG tries to cover its tracks with apparently orthodox formulations. In the same article, it writes: “The Mexican Revolution was frustrated, above all, because of the absence of a proletarian vanguard with a program for workers revolution, the only way to complete the agrarian revolution and liberate the country from the yoke of imperialism.” In spite of the IG’s demagogic references to Trotskyism, its mystification of the peasant leaders and its defense of the anarchist bureaucrats of the Casa del Obrero Mundial are not isolated errors. With its frenetic passion to dilute the proletariat in an amorphous mass of “discontented sectors,” the IG’s rejection of permanent revolution becomes even clearer in its attempt to discover a nonexistent popular front around the PRD of Cárdenas in order to capitulate to this bourgeois formation.

As we explained in Espartaco No. 10 (Autumn-Winter 1997), a popular front is a bourgeois formation that ties the reformist organizations of the working class to the bourgeois parties. In Mexico, however, the subordination of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie has been particularly open, with the union movement directly tied to the bourgeoisie through bourgeois nationalism and its corporatist shackles. The dominance of this nationalism explains why mass reformist workers parties did not develop here and the pseudo-socialist left never overcame its marginalization in the workers movement.

In its insistence that a popular front exists in Mexico, which it uses as a lying argument that the Spartacists “abandoned” the struggle against the PRD, the IG presents as conclusive proof a paragraph from an article in La Jornada (2 May 1997), which reports:

“The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) yesterday released its final list of candidates for the House of Representatives to fill the seats assigned to the party based on the proportion of votes for the entire country. It consists of leaders of university unions, the SNTE and the FAT; also peasant organizations such as CIOAC, UNTA and CODUC; ex-CNC members; the UCD; leaders and activists from El Barzón and popular urban organizations.... In the leading places, more than 50 percent are not PRD members.”

And the IG fervently concludes: “Yes, there is a popular front in Mexico!” This jumble that the IG makes of the proletariat and the peasantry with organizations of renters and bank debtors recalls the old Stalinist concept of a “bloc of four classes.” As Trotsky himself explained in his devastating “Critique of the Draft Program of the Communist International” (printed in The Third International After Lenin), following the defeat guided by the Comintern in China in 1925-27:

“Those organizations which in capitalist countries label themselves peasant parties are in reality one of the varieties of bourgeois parties. Every peasant who has not adopted the proletarian position, abandoning his proprietor psychology, will inevitably follow the bourgeoisie when it comes to fundamental political issues.... The celebrated idea of ‘workers’ and peasants’ parties’ seems to have been specially created to camouflage bourgeois parties which are compelled to seek support from the peasantry but who are also ready to absorb workers into their ranks.”

Or, as Lenin once expressed it, urging the proletariat to organize separately from the peasantry:

“We stand by the peasant movement to the end; but we have to remember that it is the movement of another class, not the one which can and will bring about the socialist revolution.”

—“Revision of the Agrarian Programme of the Workers’ Party” (1906)

Against the efforts of the fake socialists and centrists who embellish bourgeois democracy and the current level of consciousness of the working class, we communists struggle for the political independence of the proletariat to advance the cause of socialism. This will happen in Mexico by building a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist party to sweep away the deep nationalism in the workers organizations that poisons and divides their struggles and to break the chains of the bourgeois state’s corporatist control of the unions—a legacy of Cardenismo.

An essential part of this struggle is winning the sectors oppressed under capitalism to the program of workers revolution. The struggle for the liberation of women is especially important in a society like Mexico, where the oppression and enslavement of women are strongly rooted and are buttressed by nationalism and the church. With a large percentage of the proletariat made up of women, especially but not exclusively in the northern part of the country in the maquiladoras, the proletarian revolution cannot triumph unless the working class wins the confidence of women workers, by acting as a tribune of the people.

The task we face is, as Trotsky noted, “a succession of social revolutions, transferring power to the hands of the most resolute class, which afterwards applies this power for the abolition of all classes” [“The Revolution in Spain,” January 1931]. The revolutionary-internationalist task Trotsky refers to is still before us today, and it is from the point of view of permanent revolution that we must evaluate the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Only then will the working class be able to take the correct path toward victory. Forge a Leninist-Trotskyist party! For new October Revolutions!