International Solidarity in the Mexican Revolution

Flores Magon, the “precursor of the revolution,” was a mestizo anarchist, of whom played a huge part in launching the Mexican Revolution . What is less known of the whole ordeal is the the impact and the composition of the revolution, factors that are ignored and superimposed in Mexican nationalism it’s non-mainstream components. Predating the international battalions like the POUM in the Spanish Civil War, or the International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces in Rojava, the Mexican Revolution is truly a radical chapter that ought to be reviewed critically and enthusiastically.

Eugene V. Debs himself, a socialist, supported US involvement to aid the Mexican government instead of the revolutionary forces. Unfortunately, his orthodox Marxist beliefs in the need to industrialize prevented possible links of solidarity between American socialists and Mexican Revolutionaries. I think this is telling of the socialist position versus the anarchist one; a disagreement of achieving economic development, “modernization”, or with working achieving an economic plateau.

Despite these factors that are ignored and forgotten, the Magonista forces were able to create an alliance between mestizos, Yaqui indigenous and American volunteers. Mutualista committees sprung fourth in California, as Mexican Americans poured support in the form of money and helping refugees from the war to begin anew. The Mutualista societies achieved this by being self-help groups, working as a type of mutualist and cooperative for the general public who was apart of them. Not all of them were political. Some of them would eventually become the basis of assimilationist groups like LULAC, etc. Despite the direction some mutualista orgnaizations took, it is worth their impact in not just the Mexican Revolution, but also future pro-capitalist organization that would deride anti-assimilationism.

Taking parts of Baja California as well as Tijuana in the Battle of Tijuana in 1911 (which was easier to take, as it was less populated than today), the Magonistas connected with areas that could get American help – and this was the case. Solidarity committees in Los Angeles were in touch and coordinating. American socialist solidarity in some cases helped smuggle the anarchist newspaper Regeneracion to the US for disbursement. Radicals here not merely ‘allies’ – they were accomplices.

The Yaqui indigenous too joined ranks. Having their leaders killed by the Porfirio government, Juan José Sibalaume turned to guerilla tactics, advocating for autonomy and recognition of the Yaqui indigenous law for themseslves. It was clear that the Magonista ambitions for anarcho-communism and sydincalism aligned with the Yaqui desire for freedom.

The First Battle of Tijuana was effective. Tijuana was Magonista-held for a month, until the Mexican government arrived with reinforcements. Out numbered and running low on supplies, Magonista controlled areas were defeated. The Emiliano Zapata’s forces, as well as that of Pancho Villa, were ambushed, killed, and the Mexican Revolution, coming close to the destruction of the Mexican government, fell apart. Thomas Scharf believes that the taking of Tijuana was insignificant – I’ll disagree. Tijuana is strategic for being a border city, allowing volunteers to join if they so desired.

It would be wrong to conclude the defeat of the Mexican Revolution led to nothing of note, or even accuse anarchist ideology or tactics are responsible for its defeat. Many socialists supported the Magonistas, but Debs position on the war probably undid possible support from radicals right up north. Scharf believes that the defeat came upon the ‘lack of organization’; typical responses from capitalist or authoritarian leftists, conflating anarchism with its stereotypes and being ignorant of its most basic premises. This is not true; there were plenty of groups, and commanders of the battalions were elected.

The political mistake that might have been a main problem was the deception of Flores Magon in using an umbrella liberal party, the PLM. As they provoked the revolution under liberal semantics, Magon unleashed the true composition of the party – an anarchist, anti-government, anti-US organization. This lost support of the mainstream liberals, and might have been a case of confusion for American radicals. Even Scharf admits, “their well-publicized presence among the Liberals did not improve the Magonista stature in the eyes of Mexicanos.”

Ignoring the role of the lack of ammunition and supplies, Magon’s deceptive ruse might have cost of him political support. It would have been better to be open about the project, slowly organizing and delve into self-defense when the time finally came. It is easy to criticise of course. Magon went through a lot, and the brutality of the regime probably undermined elements of patience. However, it was a revolution that had many of its program institutinalized, up until the enforcement of NAFTA. The Zapatista rebellion is contemporary proof of how the Mexican Revolution is not over and goes on to this very day.

Magon Drawing.jpeg

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