Monday, March 27, 2017

The Armed Libertarian Revolution in Mexico (Part 1)

Part 1: A revolution of libertarian and anarchist grievances

The Mexican Revolution is likely the most important chain of events in the history of Mexico, perhaps more so than Mexico’s war of independence.  Its crowning achievement is the 1917 Constitution, still in effect today.  One of the leading attributes of the Mexican Revolution is the rise of citizen armies, what U.S. legal tradition recognizes as the ‘unorganized militia’ of able-bodied armed men organizing into military units.  Though the grievances, politics, motives, and goals of the different revolutionary factions and leaders differed, there’s much about the Revolution to be seen from a libertarian point of view.

One of the central themes of libertarian political theory is that government is at best inefficient and incapable of adequately governing and providing for the people, and at worst a predatory criminal organization.  This is why the minarchist libertarians believe in a very limited ‘night watchman’ government under a strict interpretation of the Constitution that favors the liberty of the people, and why anarchist libertarians prefer no government at all and all power to the individual.  The minarchist grievance against the thirty-five-year Porfirio Diaz regime is the lack of free elections, repression of dissident press, and crony capitalist policies favoring well-connected big businesses over independent honest businesses. 

The anarchist libertarian scholar Murray Rothbard breaks down the state to its most basic components in Anatomy of the State.  The example he gives is the bandit gang that occasionally robs an unarmed village population, which then decides they would profit more if they lived among the conquered people as rulers and collected regular payments.  The bandit chief declares himself king, his bandit leaders are the lawful nobility of the realm, and a new state is born.  This is what Columbus was to the Arawak people, what Cortez was to the Mexican Indians, and what the Mexican state was to the peasants and the Indians.

While Americans debate over the issue of women in combat, the Mexican Revolution sorted out that issue over a century ago with the ‘soldaderas’, the women soldiers of the revolutionary armies.  The soldaderas served as rear-guard militia, nurses, couriers, spies, sentries, regimental cooks, and frontline light infantry.  Without the participation of women in logistical and combat roles, the revolutionary armies wouldn’t have been able to mount prolonged resistance against the federal government and later, against the corrupt revolutionary state.  The prevalence of revolutionary wives and sweethearts, especially Francisco “Pancho” Villa’s Northern Division, is likely the reason why desertion was so low in revolutionary armies.  Women’s participation made them equal stakeholders in the Revolution, and evidence that gun rights and the natural right to self-defense aren’t restricted to one country, gender, or one special class of people.

The anarchist grievances of the Mexican Revolution include the rampant state using eminent domain to steal land from its rightful owners, federal military conscription as kidnapping, taxes as institutionalized theft, and the constant imprisonment and murder of dissidents.  One faction of outright anarchists rose up in 1911.  The Magonistas were a battalion-sized volunteer army of anarchist Mexicans and Anglo-Americans who conquered several cities and towns independently of the Maderista’s war against the Diaz regime.  Although they were anarcho-communist, their attempts to establish a micro-state in northern Baja California represent the libertarian ideals of secession and political decentralization.  Moreover, the wary and apolitical general population were likely to receive better representation and public services under the Magonistas' micro-state than under the Mexican government.

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Continued tomorrow in Part 2. 

This article was originally published in one piece by the Libertarian Party of Nevada.

'From the Dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz to the Revolution' painting by David Alfaro Siquieros

'Las Soldaderas' (1938) painting by Antonio Gomez.

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