The Mexican bourgeoisie in the history of imperialism

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There are many factors that confer on Mexico a particular importance within imperialist relations: its role as a reserve of raw material (minerals and oil), and especially its geographic position - a large frontier with the United States - all of which means it is a "priority" for the world's first power. In our article on the NAFTA treaty[1], we have already pointed out that the treaty's fundamental aim is the preservation of stability in Mexico (and throughout Latin America via the "Initiative of the Americas"), since all situations of chaos or war will affect the United States. At the same time, there is also the necessity for the United States to stop some Latin American bourgeoisies flirting with other powers, such as Germany or Japan. But an even greater priority for the bourgeoisie of the United States is to guarantee a stable government on its southern border (and also its northern one, Canada), a government that will be an unconditional ally and not suffer from too much disorder.

It is clear that the capitalist class in Mexico is allied to that of the United States. Nevertheless, in the light of a situation where in other countries, including in Latin America, governments are questioning, to a lesser or greater extent, their loyalty to the United States, where bourgeoisies are inclined more towards Germany (or Japan), or where internal divisions are provoking political crises which shake the unity of the capitalist state, we have to ask ourselves whether Mexico could find itself in a situation of destabilization and even come to question its submission to the United States, as is occurring in other countries; or, on the contrary, is Mexico a territory that is 100% secure for the United States?

In the final decades of the last century, the United States ascended to complete economic and political domination over the countries of Latin America. This domination has not been free from disputes and difficulties. In fact, the application of the so-called "Monroe Doctrine", according to which "America is for the Americans" (which is to say, Latin America is for the bourgeoisie of the United States) primarily meant the liquidation, by the beginning of the century, of the influence of the old powers, who throughout the 19th century had predominated in Latin America, with Britain in first place. Later, in the first half of the 20th century, the struggle was against those trying to take a piece of American's cake. Finally, after the Second World War, the United States had to fight the destabilizing influence of the USSR. Throughout the 20th century, the political crises which have occurred in the countries of Latin America, violent changes of government, assassinations of rulers, coups and wars, have had as their backdrop - when they are not the fundamental cause - these squabbles. The attitude of Latin America bourgeoisies cannot be seen as being passive, but as seeking to take the best advantage; on more than one occasion, spurred on by the other great powers, they have more or less seriously questioned the supremacy of the United States, although of course without shaking it off. Mexico is a classic example.

The so-called "Mexican revolution", or, where does the loyalty of the Mexican bourgeoisie come from?

One of the most important results - if not the most important - of the war of 1910-1920, the so-called "Mexican revolution", was the definitive weakening of the national bourgeoisie which had grown up in the shadow of the old powers, and its substitution by a "new bourgeoisie" submissively and unconditionally allied to the United States. In fact, during the second half of the 19th century and especially during the 30 years of the presidency of Porfirio Diaz, an aggressive and vigorous national capital had arisen (in the mines, railways, oil, textiles, etc as well as finance and commerce) under the influence of such countries as France and Britain. At that time, the Mexican bourgeoisie was preoccupied by the advances and aspirations of the United States towards Latin America and Mexico in particular and tried to counteract it by opening its doors to the other powers, in the vain hope that by increasing the investments and political influence of Europe no power would be able to pre-dominate.

However, by the turn of the century, Diaz's iron dictatorship was beginning to break up. The form of military dictatorship was already too narrow for the advance of economic development and various factors were pushing for its modification. These were expressed by faction fights within the capitalist class in the struggle for the succession of the already old Diaz, especially by the vigorous faction of the landowner\capitalists in the north, who aspired to a predominant role in the government, in accordance with their economic power. At the same time a profound discontent was growing amongst the exploited classes of the countryside (peons on the haciendas throughout the country, rancheros in the north, communeros in the south) and amongst the young industrial proletariat who already could not bear its pitiless exploitation. These factors produced a social upheaval that lead to ten years of internal war, though, contrary to what the official histories say, this did not constitute a real social revolution.

In the first place, the war in Mexico between 1910 and 1920 was not a proletarian revolution. The young and dispersed industrial proletariat did not constitute a decisive class during it. In fact, its most important efforts at rebellion, the wave of strikes at the beginning of the century, had been completely crushed on its eve. To the extent that some sectors of the proletariat participated in the war, they trailed behind some of the bourgeois factions. As for the agricultural proletariat, without the lead of its industrial brothers and still chained to the land, it was integrated into the peasant war.

The peasant war, at the same time, didn't constitute a revolution. The war in Mexico demonstrated for the umpteenth time that the peasant movement is characterized by the lack of its own historical mission, and could only end up by being liquidated or integrated into the movement of the historic classes (the bourgeoisie or the proletariat). In Mexico, it was in the south where the peasant movement acquired its "classical" form, where the peasant masses, still living in the old traditional communities, destroyed the Porfiristas haciendas; however, once they had taken over the land they abandoned their arms. They could never form a regular army or a government capable of controlling for any time the cities they took. These masses end up being attacked as much by the new "revolutionary" regime as by the old one and were finally cruelly defeated. The northern rancheros' war suffered a similar fate. Their tactic was to take cities through assault by cavalry: this had been an effective tactic in the previous century against the Porfirista Federal army, but was a noisy failure against modern trench warfare, barbed wire and the machine guns of the new regime's army. The defeat of the peasants (communeros in the south and rancheros in the north) led to the recovery of their land by the old landlords and the formation of new latifundias in the first years of the new regime.

Finally, it is not possible to see this war as a bourgeois revolution. It did not lead to the formation of a capitalist state, because one already existed and all that happened was that one form of this state was replaced by another. Its only merit was to have put in place the basis for the adoption of capitalist relations in the countryside, with the elimination of the system of "tiendas de rayas" which tied the peons to the haciendas and therefore impeded the free movement of the labor force (although, in general, rapidly developing capitalist relations of production had already fully existed and were predominant even before the war).

The great powers in the Mexican war

The so-called "Mexican Revolution" was not only an internal social conflict, it was also fully inscribed in the imperialist conflicts which unfolded throughout the world at the beginning of the century and which led to the First World War. In fact, the succession of governments that followed the fall of Porfirio Diaz, the government (and assassination) of Madero, then the government and expulsion of Huerta, and then the government and assassination of Carranza, that the official histories call a succession of misfortunes caused by "good" and "bad" men, "traitors" and "patriots" - all this can be explained much more logically by the struggle between the great powers for economic and political predominance in Mexico via control of the government; the sometimes 180 degree turnabouts that took place were thus the result of inter-imperialist struggles. To be exact, behind the scenes, we find the United States trying to establish a government in Mexico that supported and was subordinated to it[2].

The United States actively pushed for the disintegration and fall of the Diaz government, through its support for the northern landowner/capitalist fractions (led by Madero), with the aim of gaining economic and commercial concessions and weakening the influence of the European powers. However, Madero did not seek to destroy in favor of the US the "balance" of forces between the different powers that had existed in the days of Diaz, nor did he really improve the situation of the exploited classes. Unable to deal with the peasant revolts, Madero became an obstacle to the US's plans, who then backed Huerta's conspiracy to assassinate him and to take power.

Then, Huerta tried to use the struggle between the great powers to his own ends. The only result of which was that he ended up being abandoned by them all. Concurrently, the peasant movement reached its peak and Huerta was also cast aside. At the same time, the First World War erupted in Europe and from then on the situation in Mexico began to be influenced by another power: Germany

Germany was struggling with the other powers in order to gain a place in the imperialist arena for the division of the world market, to which it had arrived late. As regards Mexico, though it did have some economic interests there, these were not their main concern. Germany understood Mexico's strategic importance and sought to make good use of it in order to obstruct the United States. Germany's secret and diplomatic services first of all tried to use Huerta and then with better judgment Carranza, as a means of provoking an armed conflict between the United States and Mexico. Through this Germany intended to divert the military efforts of the United States, which was already supplying arms to the "Allies" and was preparing to enter the war. At its peak, the German bourgeoisie dreamt of a Japanese-Mexican-German alliance which would confront the United States in America. However at this time Japan was more concerned about seizing power in China and was not strong enough to challenge the United States. In the end, the "Allies" were able to foil Germany's plans. After this, understanding how close it was to defeat, Germany changed its policy and, through economic treaties, it tried to maintain a certain influence in Mexico, in the hope of better times.

At the beginning of the 1920's, the First World War being over and the internal conflict having died down, a new bourgeoisie was to be found in power in Mexico, whose "original" capital was derived from war profits. The United States was in the ascendant throughout the continent, and the influence of the old powers, Britain and France was in full retreat, although not totally liquidated. For example, Britain would continue to contest the control of oil, with the US, for another two decades. While the governments "emanating from the revolution", after that of Carranza (who was certainly assassinated) did not again call into question the supremacy of their neighbor in the north.

Nevertheless, the old bourgeoisie of the Porfirista period, although profoundly weakened, was not totally defeated. And before accepting it had to adapt it to the new situation and that it had no other option than to live and fuse together with the "new" capitalists, some of its sectors still had enough strength to call into question the new government.

The war of the "Cristeros"

The war of 1910-1920 did not totally settle accounts between the two parts of the national capital: this meant that between 1926-1929 a new and bloody war broke out between them. The war embraced the republic's central and western states (Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacion) and once again the peasants served as cannon fodder. As for the influence that the great powers exercised over Mexico, it is very interesting to observe that the "old" faction once again received support from some sections of European Capital (France, Spain, Germany) via the Roman Catholic church. In fact, this faction had "religious freedom" as its slogan, because this was supposedly being infringed by the "revolutionary regime" (in reality, what it was doing was seizing the "old" faction's areas of economic power, including those inside the Catholic church). And behind this slogan was the ideology of "Synarchy". Behind the "old" faction's cry of "Viva Cristo Rey" (from which the name Cristeros is derived) was the idea of the search for the new "world kingdom" led by the old powers (France, Germany, Italy, Spain...) - the ideological antecedent of European fascism in the 30's. Hence, once again we find European capital (or at least sections of it) trying to use an internal conflict to destabilize the country: only a few years later the same countries would confront the US on the military terrain. The Cristeros were defeated and the "old" fraction had no option but to change colors, integrate themselves with the others and bury its pro-European aspirations. The governments of the 30's and 40's served at the United States table, turning Mexico into a supplier of raw materials during the Second World War. This was the case, not only with the government of Avila Camacho who "declared war" on the Axis powers, but also his predecessor and elector (in Mexico the president is decisive in the election of his successor): Lazaro Cardenas, a distinguished general in the war against the Cristeros, whose mythical "expropriation of oil" in 1938 fundamentally led to the definitive expulsion of the British oil companies and the conversion of Mexico into an exclusive energy reserve for the United States.

The interlude of the Stalinist imperialist bloc

The end of the Second World War opened up what could be called a historical "parenthesis" in the world struggle that the United States and Germany had sustained throughout the century. For more than 40 years Russian imperialism challenged the world supremacy of American imperialism[3]. The formation of a new alignment of imperialist blocs found the old enemies on the same side: Germany on the same side as the United States.

In Latin America, the United States strengthened its economic and political domination, despite the USSR's intensions and intervention in the region (via some guerrilla movements and flirtations with "Socialist" governments). However, given the relative weakness of the USSR, these were - with the exception of Cuba[4] - no more than attempts to destabilize the region, as Germany had tried to do in an earlier period.

Nevertheless, this digression finished at the turn of the present decade, when the eastern imperialist bloc collapsed, the western bloc dissolved and the USSR fell apart. And contrary to what the bourgeois media says, this did not mark the end of the conflicts between the great powers, the "end of history" or anything like it.

Today, imperialist relations are a morass of destabilization, chaos and wars, which covers the whole world. No country, no matter how great or small can escape the sinister logic of imperialist struggles, especially the one around the two great powers, rivals throughout the century: the United States and Germany. However, the "New World Disorder" blunts the tendencies towards the formation of a new pair of imperialist blocs with these two powers as their axes, around which all the other countries would polarize. The allies of yesterday have become today's enemies, in an endless whirlwind of chaos, which does not stop these tendencies but feeds them, while the latter, at the same time, further increase chaos. And there is no way that Mexico can escape this dynamic of international capitalist relations.

Mexico "always loyal"?

We will now try to answer the questions we asked at the beginning of this article about the Mexican capitalist class' "loyalty" to the United States.

The American bourgeoisie has been assured the loyalty of Mexican bourgeoisie throughout the last seven decades, and in general terms, it will continue to receive it.

There are still some sections of the Mexican bourgeoisie who have never adjusted to domination by the United States. However, we would not call them a fraction (that would imply a deep fissure in the ruling class and that is not the case). These sections, although a relative minority, were still able to get one of their men into the president's seat, which was the situation with President Diaz Ordaz in the 60's. This was clearly only possible in a period when the tensions between the "pro-Europeans" and the "pro-Americans" were secondary to the confrontation with the "main enemy", Russian imperialism, and an alliance existed between Western Europe and the United States.

Nothing like that will happen again in the future. The United States will seek a guarantee of absolute loyalty from the Mexican executive, in order to avoid any "mistakes" which could bring to power a representative of the sections more inclined to the powers of the old continent.

Despite this, we can expect to see these minority sectors, fired up by the Germans, showing their heads, getting worked up, "protesting" and "demanding", creating further problems for the pro-American government. Likewise, we can expect to see the United States' rivals using these sectors, not to dispute control over Mexico, but in order to create social instability in its backyard, on the principle that everything that hinders the US and causes it to divert resources (economic, political, military) is a move they can use to their advantage.

We can already see signs of this. For example: the reanimation in recent months of the heirs of Synarchy (the Partido Democrata Mexicano and other similar regroupments). In the split of the Partido Accion Nacional - never more than a secondary electoral force in the country - one part aligning itself with the Salinas government, while the other, which contains the "historic leaders", decided to remain and form another party, that is ideologically closer to the Synarchists. The struggle in the Catholic Church is also significant. It is between one part which is seeking to reconcile itself with the government and the other which constantly attacks it from the pulpit. And finally, there is the resurgence of the ceremonies of "Cristo Rey" and the "Cristeros"; it is no accident that these are being pushed by the Vatican (which, according to the evidence, is drawing closer to Germany). There has been a religious rally in Guanajuato on the hill which symbolizes the Cristeros movement, which was presided over by the governor (a member of PAN). In Mexico City a rally took place in order to celebrate the beatification by the Pope of some thirty martyrs of the War of the Cristeros ...

We want to underline that these minority sections of capital favorable to an "anti-American" and therefore "pro-European" attitude cannot put into question the supremacy of the United States. However, they will certainly be able to create problems, of more or less gravity. We will see this in time.

Should the proletariat support one side or other of the bourgeoisie?

It is vital that the working class understands that its interests have nothing in common with these imperialist struggles. That it has nothing to gain from supporting one faction of the bourgeoisie against another and everything to lose. Two world wars between the different imperialist gangsters for the redivision of the world market have left the working class with tens of millions dead. In Mexico, the wars of 1910-1920 and 1926-1929 have also left it with millions of dead and its chains of oppression strengthened.

The proletariat must be aware that behind the calls for the defense of the "homeland" or "region" lurks the aim of dragging workers into defending interests which are not their own, including killing each other for the benefit of their exploiters. These calls are certainly going to increase in vehemency, until they become deafening, as the bourgeoisie's search for cannon fodder for its struggles becomes increasingly urgent. The proletariat must reject these calls, and oppose the continuation of these imperialist struggles, through developing its own class struggle, which is the only way of definitively putting an end to the capitalist system, which has nothing to offer humanity other than wars and chaos.

Leonardo, July 1993

Some Spanish terms used:

Haciendas and Latifundias: large landed estates

Peon: landless peasants forced to work on these estates

Ranchero: small independent farmer found in north of Mexico

Communero: peasants still working on a communal basis

[1] Revolucion Mundial no 12, "TLC: El gendarme del mundo asegura su traspatio" (TLC are the Spanish initials for NAFTA)

[2] F Katz' book La Guerra secreta en Mexico is a very full study and reveals the level of the influence of the great powers in the "Mexican Revolucion". We have taken from it much of what we have presented here.

[3] We are not able here to develop on our analysis of Stalinism. Thus, we recommend reading our "Manifesto of the 9th Congress of the ICC" and the International Review.

[4] On Cuba read Revolucion Mundial issues 9 and 10

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