The Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution
In the Mexican Revolution multiple ideologies were involved at once, all competing with each other. None of them was clearly associated with an image of triumph or defeat, which downplays the image of ideology associated with this process, or rather, has made a nebulous identification of them. Catholics and those clericals who were related to the church, clashed against the property of land and against the traditional oligarchy (francisized and bourgeois), often addicted to Porfirio Diaz.
This process commonly describes the oligarchy as the big loser and victim of the process of modernization caused by the revolution. For instance, the current level of popularity of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the number of times that the Pope (John Paul II) visited one of the largest Catholic nation on earth. Mexico remains perhaps, today in the XXI century, as Catholic as on early twentieth century. Another ideology that starred in the revolutionary process, and possibly suffered the biggest defeat was the positivist thinking.
Dominant in Mexico since the second half of the nineteenth century, it served to provide of theoretical grounds to the extensive dictatorship (more than three decades) of Porfirio Diaz, and helped to justify (with its racist determinism) the inferiority of the natives and the mestizoes, or the Mexican. In fact, Porfirio considered the people of Mexico as immature for democracy, which was another argument for his more convenient and permanent re-election. Positivism was also tied to the landowner oligarchy, but more to the urban and conservative bourgeoisie, which was a permanent aspirant to social advancement.
It was common to find their exponents in the huge state apparatus loyal to Diaz, in the universities and in the army. This thought often decanted in other ideology that is liberalism, also dragged from the nineteenth century, but which takes a great strength in the new urban middle classes and in part of the bourgeoisie that was jaded of the eternal dictator’s regime, it is liberalism which articulates the initial criticism to the Porfiriato, being hostile to the excessive exploitation by which the Mexican countryside was being submitted.
It is this ideology that accelerates, according to general opinion, the revolutionary process. It is from this speech that, after the dialogue had failed, the mass was led to rise against the tyranny of the dictator, an invocation which proved to be for the sole purpose of the use of force and rage of the people, because it didn’t empathize with the demands of the peasants (most of the Mexican population of the time) or those of the emerging urban industrial working class or of the mining class in the province (usually linked to oil).
With a marked influence of American liberalism (as opposed to European positivist ideas), liberalism enables to articulate and launch the first serious calls for uprising (for example, the “San Luis Plan” was launched by Madero from his exile in San Antonio, Texas). In addition there was a presence of anarchist ideology and to a lesser extent of socialism, which in some way guided the illiterate peasant forces, without actually entering them (there were only sketches of these ideologies in the proposed policies and actions of the major peasant leaders, namely Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata).
Anarchism and socialism, sometimes separately, and many other times combined, strongly caught on the working class of Mexico City and other industrial centers of the country, they helped enormously in the turmoil of the pre-revolutionary process of 1910, usually operating from exile (for instance, associations of anarchists in California and socialists in Mississippi) and then vaguely reflected in the agreements of the Convention of Aguascalientes, which approved the Ayala Plan, a cornerstone of the subsequent Mexican agrarian reform.
And finally we can define a last ideological factor, often ignored or downplayed, always misunderstood from the classical analysis, this is the native-peasant thought that is present throughout the whole history of Mexico and is the main foundation of the current Mexican nation. Many believe that without the discontent of these masses, accumulated over centuries of exploitation and absolute subjugation, the outbreak would not have occurred with the magnitude that it had.
Most of the military conflict was made up of disgruntled peasants (in the case of the rebels) or peasants enlisted by the drafts (federal army). The main slogan of the armies led by Zapata and Villa is the division of land, not by ambition, but for their attachment to it. It is the awareness that all is owed to it, the place to which they have always belonged to, that has always been in the atavistic memory of the community, and is also the land which gives the fruit, which represents the yoke of slavery, that ties to the employer, to work for others.
The land represents the entire universe of native peasants; everything good and bad that can happen to them is linked to it. But if we must define the ideology of revolution, or the one that has mobilized and convinced the masses to revolt, to slaughter, to fight, and often to death (1,000,000 approximately), this is not definable, even non-existent for many. Because the Mexican peasantry faithfully and blindly followed to warlords, who were not clear how to design a speech or an organization to legitimize their demands.
This is reflected in the attitude of Zapata and Villa to take and occupy Mexico City, when they have taken hold of the city they don’t know what to do, they do not locate in that place that represents the power and therefore appoint a “lawyer” as president, which was Gutierrez, to enact laws to carry out their demands. But the peasants followed their leaders with almost messianic devotion, without a clear ideological conscience. It can be said that there was not a revolution in Mexican politics.
There was a rearrangement, a modernization, but the resulting political system merely replicated and deepened, in a more sophisticated way, the old monopoly of power that was criticized to Porfirio Diaz. The PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) ruled the country for nearly seventy years, and as its name suggests, it proclaims by itself the institutionalization of the revolutionary process. During the lengthy period of years that this party dominated, there were countless electoral manipulations for the sole purpose of retaining power.
It is true that land reform was carried out, but access to the command remained restricted to many and split between a few. Peasants did not access to this apparatus of power, and they were who, basically, carried out the revolution (after their leaders Francisco Villa and Emiliano Zapata). The Mexican politics did not follow the expansive course usually followed after a revolutionary victory, to put it briefly; there was not even an attempt to export the revolution. In fact, Mexico remained in the relative seclusion in which it was.
Society, in contrast, showed a little better this revolution. Peasants agreed, but not throughout the country, to own the land for which they fought and yearned for so long. The modernization is evident in several aspects, the country gradually loses the image of rural indigenous nation that traditionally held, and becomes one of the most modern in Latin America, not yet being clear whether this is because of the magnitude of its population, or due to a real modern vocation of Mexican society.
Mexico is a society of contradictions and polarizations, where indigenous communities coexist with rich ancient traditions (perhaps prosperous) with developed urban communities, which in turn contrast with very poor and extensive slums, which often receive indigenous and mestizo peasants from uprooted and impoverished communities. But it is doubtful to believe that the Mexican society and its political expression did assimilate the revolution, or inherited a tradition of this.
Mexico is a fairly conservative country in many respects, being perhaps its ultimate expression the passivity with which it accepted and took over half a century of “institutional revolutionaries” in power, but very early it became clear that these “revolutionaries” only reproduced the political corruption that was previous to the revolutionary period. Mexicans seemed to assume with usual indifference the electoral manipulations and political gatopardisms.
The revolution seems to be more an expression of a highly curbed energy, which springs from the bowels of the earth after centuries, a release that does not mostly renew the landscape, which covers with its centenary magma, but it gives to it more vigor in the germination of an order within the apparent chaos that is the Mexican society. Mexico did not change radically its political and social order, as in other post-revolutionary societies.
What actually happened is that Mexican society shocked its dust off (during the revolution) in order to fully receive the coming century, leaving behind those most unpleasant elements inherited from the colony. The Mexican Revolution was a conservative revolution, which really did not intend to renew the Mexican society, as they didn’t know clearly what they were fighting for, or more simply, there was no clarity about general goals.
Subject: Mexican Revolution,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 25 September 2016
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