Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Armed Libertarian Revolution in Mexico (Part 4)

Part 4: One of the finest libertarian moments of the Revolution

Revolutionary generals Zapata (center-left) and Villa (center-right) occupy Mexico City

One of the most libertarian moments of the Mexican Revolution came when Zapata and Villa occupied Mexico City.  For the first time ever, the residents of the Federal District saw genuine people’s armies.  Pancho Villa’s troops all wore distinct uniforms, had northern accents, and were known for partying and looting.  The Zapatistas were a bona fide peasant army and shocked the nation with their self-discipline and good manners.  They wore large straw hats, the clothing in which they worked the fields, sandals on their calloused feet, and carried whatever hunting rifles, muskets, or enemy weapons they could scrounge.  The Zapatists were remarkably respectful of private property, noted for knocking on doors and asking if the residents could spare a tortilla or a cup of water.

During the brief occupation of Mexico City, Villa and Zapata sat in the Presidential Palace.  Both revolutionary generals agreed that neither one of them should be President of Mexico.  As Villa said, “This ranch is too big for us.”  While Villa arguably craved some degree of power and prestige, he was happiest among his troops in the North and had no national political ambitions.  Zapata had no desire whatsoever to rule over Mexico.  Both generals and their armies left the capital and went home.  George Washington is praised for setting the precedent of stepping down from the presidency, but Villa and Zapata literally had it under their seats and chose to walk away.

Scholars and veterans of the Mexican Revolution agree that the Revolution was hijacked and corrupted.  Article 27 of the 1917 Constitution promised significant land reform to the peasants, but the Constitutionalist regime had no intention of expropriating the land from their wealthy backers.  The national revolutionary labor union, the CROM, mirrored the large unions in the U.S. and transformed from a platform for improving wages and working conditions into a cattle pen for delivering workers to state-backed enterprises.  The extreme anti-clerical measures against the Catholic Church went beyond justice against a politicized religious organization, and went so far as to outlaw the practice of Catholicism.  The vast and overwhelming majority of the population is devoutly Catholic, so it’s hardly a surprise that persecuted Catholics would rebel against the Plutarco Elias Calles regime in the 1920s.  Today, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) dominates most of the government, although both Revolutionary (PRI) and National Action Party (PAN) candidates and elected officials are often bought and threatened by drug lords.

Today, there are three fronts for advancing liberty in Mexico.  One is formed by the guerrillas, including the Zapatista National Libertion Army (EZLN) in Chiapas, who continue to resist eminent domain and illegal forced evictions. Another is formed by libertarian organizations like the Libertarian Party of Mexico (PLM), which openly advocates for limited governments and free markets, and organizes networks of people sympathetic to libertarian ideas.  These people are usually those with grievances against the government or against government-backed cronies in the private sector.  Finally, the third front for liberty in Mexico is formed by the various Community Police and self-defense militias operating throughout Michoacan, Guerrero, parts of Chihuahua, and in other Mexican states.  The most effective civilian militias with the greatest success in fighting the violence and predation of the drug cartels have been those who have not cooperated with the government.

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For further reading:

"The Uprising in Baja California"

Frank McLynn, Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution

Friedrick Katz, The Secret War in Mexico: Europe, the United States, and the Mexican Revolution

The Storm That Swept Mexico (documentary film available on YouTube)

The Last Zapatistas: Forgotten Heroes (documentary film available on YouTube)

And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (HBO biopic available on YouTube)

Zach Foster, "Civil War in Mexico: Re-Examining Armed Conflict and Criminal Insurgency"

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