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“Americans” and the Mexican Revolution. Modern Mexico Lecture, week 2, S pring Term. Plan. Mexican revolution: Global Crisis US Mexican Relations Sonoran Dynasty and Organised Labour US “Political Pilgrims”: Travellers, Journalists, Academics Katherine Anne Porter and “Flowering Judas”

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americans and the mexican revolution

“Americans” and the Mexican Revolution

Modern Mexico Lecture, week 2, Spring Term

  • Mexican revolution: Global Crisis
  • US Mexican Relations
  • Sonoran Dynasty and Organised Labour
  • US “Political Pilgrims”: Travellers, Journalists, Academics
  • Katherine Anne Porter and “Flowering Judas”
  • Roberto Haberman: Socialist or Spy ?
seminar 2 week 2 the mexican revolution and the us left
Seminar 2, Week 2The Mexican Revolution and the US Left
  • Account for Mexico's appeal to the “political pilgrims” (Reed, Gruening, Beals, Tannenbaum, Katherine Anne Porter, Haberman...). Did the Mexican Revolution measure up to their expectations ?
  • Assess the contribution of American Leftists to the improvement of relations between Mexico and the United States during the 1920s
  • Discuss the representation of the Revolutionary in Katherine Anne Porter’s “Flowering Judas”.
mexican revolution global crisis
Mexican Revolution: Global Crisis
  • Mexican Revolution was part of a global crisis resulting from a prolonged & unbroken period of capitalist expansion, economic and territorial imperialism, and, in former colonies such as Mexico, “reconstitution of oligarchies”.
  • Pax Porfiriana (1876-1910) formed part this... Mexico as “informal empire”, outcome of Matias Romero’s invitation during the 1860s to the US to “peacefully annexe” southern neighbour through trade and investment, rather than further territorial expansion.
global crisis
Global Crisis
  • Global crisis manifested in:
  • 1914-1918 Great War: would 1919 Peace of Versailles & League of Nations herald a new world order ?
  • 1917-1919, US entry to the 1st W War: would the US emerge as world power ?
  • 1917 Revolution in Russia: would this become a World Revolution ?
  • 1917 Constitution Article 27 - would Mexico become a new model of 3rd World economic nationalism/”informal decolonisation” or even a Communist Revolution ?
1920 s and 30 s
1920’s and 30’s
  • New world order ? : empires and old balance of power survived until 1945
  • Emergence of the US as an active world power ?: isolationism
  • Soviet Union: World Revolution under Lenin became “Socialism in One Country” under Stalin
  • Mexico: Nationalist or Communist Revolution ?: “labourist”, “populist”, economic nationalist (3rd Worldism) but only gradually…coexistence and popular front against Fascism
us mexican relations
US Mexican Relations
  • President Woodrow Wilson (1912-1921):
  • understood events in Mexico “liberty is always attained by force working from below” (1914)
  • clumsy interventions in 1914 and 1917 yet resisted pressure for full-scale intervention
  • After 1917, State Dept and US business perception of Mexico changed: Bolshevism, proven by Article 27 of 1917 Constitution
  • Diplomatic recognition granted only in 1923 in Bucareli Agreement: Mexico agreed – informally – to restrict claims under Art 27.
  • Yet in 1924 Calles legislated Art 27 leaving US Mexican relations tense - over land reform and oil - throughout 1920s and 30s.
early to mid 1920s us mexican tensions
Early to Mid 1920s US-Mexican tensions
  • Mexico recognised the USSR in 1924
  • Ambassador Sheffield (1924-27) v close to US business interests and convinced that Mexico’s was spreading Bolshevism in the region (Calles supported Sandino’s uprising against US Intervention in Nicaragua in 1926-7)
  • Yet US never seriously considered armed intervention, in part thanks to the pro-Mexican propaganda of US radical in Mexico (Haberman, Porter, Beals, Tannenbaum and Gruening)
  • Both Obregon and Calles strove to cultivate good rels. with sympathetic US journalists through “techniques of hospitality”
mexico in the late 1910s
Mexico in the late 1910s
  • 1917 Constitution, radical promise in Articles 27 (Land), 123 (Labour)
  • Yet massive corruption reactionary government under Carranza as triumphal Carrancistas occupy the country (“carrancear” = to exploit)
  • Suppression of Zapatismo and Villismo
mexico in the late 1910s10
Mexico in the late 1910s
  • Economic recovery 1918-1919:
    • Wartime (1st WW) demand and growth of mineral and agricultural exports
    • Oil production: 3.5 million barrels in 1910, 193 million barrels in 1921
    • Massive US claims for damages led to breaking of formal relations with US in 1919
    • Constitutionalists turned to urban labour for support – the start of the Mexican Revolution’s “middle way” implicit in Article 123 (Boards of Arbitration and Conciliation)
casa del obrero mundial
Casa del Obrero Mundial
  • Anarchist Casa del Obrero Mundial (COM/House of World Workers), f. Mexico City 1912, represented Mexican labour during the Revolution until 1918
mexican labour 1912 1920
Mexican Labour, 1912-1920
  • 1918, COM becomes CROM (Regional Confederation of World Workers) at Carrancista Congress of labour delegates in Saltillo. Leader, Luis Napoleon Morones abandoned Anarchist stance and adopted Nationalist (ie pro-government) position.
  • Nov. 1918 Samuel Gompers establishes Pan American Federation of Labour in New York with Morones as vice-president
  • Aug 4 1920, CROM backs Obregon’s revolution of Agua Prieta against Carranza in exchange for ample concessions.
history of labour in the us
History of Labour in the US
  • 1886 f. American Federation of Labour (AFL), craft union.
  • 1905 f. Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) “Wobblies” Leader: Bill Haywood “industrial” rather than craft unions, work place democracy, tactic General Strike (100,0000 members at peak in mid 1920s) (influence on Mexico’s PLM and COM)
  • 1913 AFL leader, Samuel Gompers, secured the establishment of a US federal Department of Labour in Washington charged with protecting the rights and welfare of all U.S. wage earners.
mexico emulates labour in us
Mexico emulates labour in US
  • 1914: the Clayton Act emphasized that "the labour of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce" and legalized peaceful strikes, picketing, and boycotts.
  • 1914-19, rapid growth of union membership and AFL used to break IWW strikes (John Reed active in 1913 Paterson Silk strike before parting for Mexico in 1914 and Frank Tannenbaum jailed in New York in 1917 for organising homeless/tenants strike)
  • 1914-20’s, repression of Wobblies and Communist unions (extended to Mexico where CROM would be used to bully independent unions)
the sonoran dynasty 1919 1934
“The Sonoran Dynasty, 1919-1934”

Alvaro Obregon (1920-24), Adolfo de la Huerta (rebels in 1924), Plutarco Elias Calles (1924-28 & power behind throne, 1928-1934)

(Sonoran style of government: see online lecture, week 10, term 1)

- Sonora: rich state (copper and chickpeas/garbanzo) … “the Gringos of Mexico” ….anti-oligarchical, anticlerical, democratic manner…

- Obregon: winning general, pragmatic – Yaqui forces - , agarian reform in order to pacify (Morelos and Puebla)

- Yet Federal Government was in 1920:

- US hostile

- authority Mexico City weak….no “monopoly of violence”

socialism in the states
Socialism in the States

Sonorans faced radical Socialist agrarian/labour experiments in several states under assertive agrarian and labour leaders:

- Manuel Montes in Puebla (killed in 1926...Calles?)

Timothy Henderson, The Worm in the Wheat &

The Rosalie Evans Letters (1927)

- Yucatan under Felipe Carrillo Puerto (killed 1924)

Gilbert Joseph, Revolution from without

socialism in the states20
Socialism in the States

- Tamaulipas under Emilio Portes Gil (Ligas Agrarias)

- Michoacan under Francisco Mujica (Primo Tapia, Paul Friedrich, Agrarian Revolt in a Mexican Village)

- Jalisco under Jose Guadalupe Zuno (Painter & Pistolero)

- Veracruz under Adalberto Tejeda (Ligas des Resistencia)

See D A Brading, ed., Caudillo and Peasant & the Mexican Revolution, (1980)

1920s mexico multiple sovereignties versus sonoran dynasty
1920s Mexico: “multiple sovereignties” versus Sonoran Dynasty
  • Also faced rapid growth in Catholic Unions, 1919-1926
  • and leftist – pro-Soviet – Communist unions allied to PCM founded in 1918 (CGT)
  • Intelligentsia drawn to the PCM: muralists - Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Javier Guerrero - and Tina Modotti, Italian/US photographer……
US “Political Pilgrims” in Mexico (from Paul Hollander, Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society 1981)
  • Additional problem for Sonorans – at first - was the attractiveness of Mexico to US Radicals
  • “For decades Mexico had attracted the Empire Builder; now it would loom as a haven for the flotsam of alienation – Wobblies, socialists, artists and finally refugees of the Depression.”
  • Henry Schmidt, "The American Intellectual Discovery of Mexico in the 1920's.“ South Atlantic Quarterly 77 (Summer 1978): 335-51
  • .
us political pilgrims reading
US “Political Pilgrims”: reading
  • See Ch. on “Political Pilgrims” in Helen Delpar, The Enormous Vogue of Things Mexican Cultural relations between the United States and Mexico, 1920-1935, 1992.
  • Britton, John A. "In Defence of Revolution: American Journalists in Mexico.1910-1929." Journalism History 5 (Winter 1978-79): 124-36
  • John A Britton, Revolution and Ideology Images of the Mexican Revolution in the United States 1995
  • John A Britton, Carleton Beals: A Radical Journalist in Latin America
us political pilgrims
US “Political Pilgrims”
  • Frederick Pike:
  • “commenting on Mexico was a kind of pioneering venture for US observers, their first experience with a revolutionary movement outside the more familiar territory of North America and Europe”
  • "Latin America and the Inversion of United States Stereotypes in the 1920s and 1930s." The Americas 42 (October 1985): 131-62
us political pilgrims journalists
US “Political Pilgrims”: Journalists
  • 1909 John Kenneth Turner (Barbarous Mexico),
  • 1914 John Reed (Insurgent Mexico) ,
  • 1916-17 Lincoln Steffens (Radical progressive journalist in US but a Carranza fan in Mexico)
  • 1919-20, Carleton BealsBrimstone and Chili (1927) 1919 journey, from Romantic traveller - early Kerouac figure - to pundit on all things Mexican, see Mexican Maze (1931)
  • 1920, Katherine Anne Porter
  • 1923, Ernest Gruening (Mexico and Its Heritage 1927, wonderful inside view of revolutionary Mexico)
john reed on pancho villa 1914
John Reed on Pancho Villa (1914)

In 1914 John Reed observed a parallel in Villa to US IWW (Wobblies) leader Bill Haywood:

“Watching him (Villa) was like watching Bill Haywood – both men were decisive, forceful and willing to take the consequence of their actions. In a away, government under Villa was what government under the Wobblies might be, a clean, swift turning of the tables on the exploiters of the people.”

us political pilgrims political agents advisers
US “Political Pilgrims”: political agents/advisers
  • Robert Haberman, 1917 to join Carrillo-Puerto in Yucatan (more later)
  • Bertram Wolfe: 1918 helped create the Mexican Communist Party, close friend and biographer of Diego Rivera, organised home for Leon Trotsky in Mexico during the 1930s
  • Ernest Gruening: unrestricted access to Calles’s Ministry of Government: See Ch on “Politics” in Mexico and Its Heritage (declined Calles’s invitation to pay his hotel bills in 1924 !)
  • Wolfe, Beals and Haberman all taught English as a cover and to make ends meet,
us political pilgrims academics and intellectuals
US “Political Pilgrims”: Academics and Intellectuals
  • Frank Tannenbaum (Charles Hale, "Frank Tannenbaum and the Mexican Revolution," HAHR, 115, 75, 215-46) Austrian-American, anarchist (Wobblies), labour leader, prison reform, specialist in Mexican educational, labour and agrarian reforms Peace by Revolution (1933) source of “populist” (and later post-revisionist..Alan Knight, etc.) view of the Mexican Revolution.
  • Tannebaum saw Revolution as a continuation of Indian rebellions: 1810, 1850-76, 1910….“his chief protagonists were unknown peasants”, noted the absence of a controlling Robespierre or Lenin……saw this as a virtue
us political pilgrims academics and intellectuals35
US “Political Pilgrims”: Academics and Intellectuals
  • Robert Redfield, University of Chicago anthropologist
  • Completed Mexico’s first “community study” in 1926:
  • Tepoztlan A Mexican Village A Study of Folk Life
  • influenced by Franz Boas (University of Columbia cultural anthropologist who set up the American School of Ethnology in Mexico City in 1911) and by Robert Park, founder of the Chicago School of Urban Geography (Centre-Periphery)
  • Chan Kom, A Village the Chose Progress (1933)
  • - “folk-urban continuum”: geographical model of cultural modernisation
  • The Folk Culture of Yucatan (1941)
us political pilgrims academics and intellectuals37
US “Political Pilgrims”: Academics and Intellectuals
  • Elsie Clews Parsons, Boas student, Feminist, mid 1920s moved from New Mexico to Oaxaca:
  • Mitla The Town of the Souls (1926)
  • see Desley Deacon, Elsie Clews Parsons , Inventing Modern Life (1997)
us political pilgrims academics and intellectuals39
US “Political Pilgrims”: Academics and Intellectuals
  • Eyler Simpson, progressive economist, Fulbright scholar late 1920s and early 30s:
  • The Ejido, Mexico’s Way Out (1937)
  • “posited state socialism as the solution to the nation’s problems”
  • Stuart Chase, progressive economist, compares active, neurosis free, “machineless man” in Tepoztlan during the recession with the mass unemployment of neurotic “modern man” in Depression ravaged Muncie, Indiana, in
  • Mexico, A Study of Two America 1931, best-seller in the US
katherine anne porter 1890 1980
Katherine Anne Porter, 1890-1980
  • Arrived in Mexico in 1920: wrote short stories and reported for The Nation, Scribener’s Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Oil Journal, The Century

A Texan, KAP saw Mexico as part of the “borderlands” of the US, “merely an element in the nation’s plural cultures” (Henry Schmidt)

  • To Carleton Beals 1923: “I do as others do in Mexico, develop unexpected talents for curious chores, and willingly live in poverty for the sake of being there”…
katherine anne porter 1890 198042
Katherine Anne Porter, 1890-1980
  • Attended the 1st congress of the Pan American Federation of Labour congress in Mexico in 1920.
  • Friendship with US archaeologist uncovered Carrancista plot to assassinate Obregon.
katherine anne porter 1890 198043
Katherine Anne Porter, 1890-1980
  • In 1920-21 would meet at the “Cafe Colon” on Mexico’s Paseo de la Reforma with friends:
  • -Joseph Retinger (a Pole opposing Soviet influence on Morones),
  • -Winold Reiss (American painter of Zapatistas),
  • -Mary Doherty, prison reformer and daughter of Texan oil tycoon,
  • Mexican artists such as Alberto Best-Maugard, Jorge Enciso (Director of National Museum), Javier Guerrero and Angel Gomez (both the latter proposed marriage)
  • -Felipe Carrillo Puerto, radical governor of Yucatan
  • and Roberto Haberman (a gun runner for Indian Nationalist Manabendra Nath Roy, among other things)
katherine anne porter kap flowering judas 1928
Katherine Anne Porter (KAP) “Flowering Judas” (1928)
  • Based upon KAP’s life in Mexico 1920-1923, claimed in 1942 that all the characters based on “real persons and events”.
  • Inspired by the assassination of Obregon in 1928 (presidential candidate)
  • Focuses upon the “courtship” of a young American woman Laura (“a complex blend of her friend Mary Doherty, Alma Reed and principally Katherine Anne Porter”) by an obnoxious Mexican labour leader, Braggioni (“four or five objectionable characters rolled into one” including Carrillo Puerto, Luis Morones and Samuel Yudico - both CROM leaders – and Angel Gomez )
flowering judas
Flowering Judas
  • Story symbolise KAP’s loss of belief in the Mexican Revolution
  • In 1943 she recalled Mexico in 1920 “Mexico was new to us, and beautiful, the very place we wanted to be at that moment. We believed a great deal – though I remember that my childhood faith in the Revolution was well over in about six months.”
reading on katherine anne porter
Reading on Katherine Anne Porter
  • Thomas Walsh, “The Making of ‘Flowering Judas’” , Journal of Modern Literature XII, 1, March 1985.
  • Thomas Walsh, "Braggioni's Songs in 'Flowering Judas,"' CollegeLiterature, 12 (1985), 147-152
  • Thomas Walsh, Katherine Anne Porter and Mexico. The Illusion of Eden Austin, 1992
roberto haberman socialist or spy
Roberto Haberman: Socialist or Spy ?
  • 1917 goes to Yucatan to work with revolutionaries, Salvador Alvarado and Felipe Carrillo-Puerto, organising field and port workers to take on “henequenero” landowning elite
  • 1919 repression in Yucatan, fled to Mexico City
  • 1920, persuades Linn A E Gale, owner of radical (pro-Soviet) Gale’s Magazine and founder of the Mexican Communist Party to promote a favourable image of Luis Morones and CROM
  • 1921, enlisted by Calles, Obegon’s Minister of Government, to help gain US recognition of Mexico in the face of “red scare”. On trip to US Haberman was to intimate that Mexico might back down on Article 27.
roberto haberman
Roberto Haberman
  • While in US Haberman provides information on US and Mexican Radicals to the US Justice Dept under Herbert Hoover (future FBI chief)
  • Established links with AFL-approved producers of machinery in US to assist Mexico’s economic recovery. Used trips to US to publicise investment opportunities in Mexico.
  • Gregg Andrews, 'Robert Haberman, Socialist Ideology, and the Politics of National Reconstruction in Mexico, 1920-25', Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Summer, 1990), pp. 189-211.
roberto haberman51
Roberto Haberman
  • Iate 1921 Haberman appointed by Carrillo Puerto to state henequen marketing body, Comision Reguladora del Mercado de Henequen
  • Helped Calles design a strategy to break the hold Mexico’s Communist union (CGT) by encouraging strikes that would then be repressed, CGT workers fired and replaced by CROM strike-breakers (stock AFL tactics in the US).
opinions of haberman
Opinions of Haberman
  • “Haberman adjusted his radicalism to accommodate the situation at hand” (Gregg Andrews)
  • Linn A E Gale describes him in November 1921:
  • “While Haberman is an active socialist and is sincere, he is not anti-American but on the contrary is distinctly friendly to the US in many too much an opportunist to do anything against the US government.”
roberto haberman 11924
Roberto Haberman 11924
  • In 1923, after Haberman’s help in getting US recognition in the Bucareli agreement, Obegon fires him and other US radicals
  • Yet, following Obregon’s rift with fellow Sonoran, Adolfo de la Huerta, over the presidential succession (Obregon chose Calles), Haberman and the AFL connection once more become a strategic assets.
  • Haberman and AFL now promote Calles’s campaign ands help prevent rebel De la Huerta from getting military supplies from the US.
  • Many disaffected labour elements now backed de la Huerta’s rebellion.
roberto haberman54
Roberto Haberman
  • Haberman acknowledged the contribution the AFL and CROM to Calles’s election in October 1924 at an AFL convention in El Paso, describing “Brother and Comrade Calles as the first chief executive of a nation on this continent elected by organised labour, and only be organised labour”
  • Much talk at this conference of a “Monroe Doctrine of American Labour” (i.e. keeping Communist/Soviet influences out)
roberto haberman55
Roberto Haberman
  • 1924, Haberman overstepped the mark when he ordered 100 Mexican troops to accompany AFL rep. from border to Mexico City to attend Calles’s inauguration.
  • Obregon promptly ordered Haberman’s expulsion “If I should permit that damned gringo to move a hundred troops this time, he might move a thousand next time”
  • But Hab’s close ties with Calles save him from deportation.
  • In Dec 1924 Haberman became a Mexican citizen and continued in the “rough and tumble arena” of Mexican labour politics until his retirement in 1954.
was robert haberman a double agent or merely a good socialist
Was Robert Haberman a double agent or merely a good Socialist ?
  • “Haberman was as committed to the defeat of rival left-wing forces in Mexico as he was to the defence of the Revolution against reactionary elements. While left-wing critics accused him of being an instrument of US imperialism and the AFL, right-wing forces complained that he was trying to implant Bolshevism and that he succeeded in duping AFL leaders” Discuss……