Emblem of the Mexican Liberal Party
By Ricardo Flores Magón
Translated by Duncan Riley
Originally given as a speech on the 19th of September, 1915, it was published in Regeneración
Humanity finds itself in one of the most solemn moments of its history. In the Universe, nothing is stable: everything changes, and we find ourselves at a moment when a change in what is referred to as the way in which human beings organize themselves with regards to the entirety of the economic, political, social, moral, and religious institutions which constitute what is called the capitalist system, in other words the system of private or individual property, is at the point of being carried out.
The capitalist system dies, wounded by itself, and humanity, amazed, witnesses its formidable suicide. The workers are not those who have dragged the nations into throwing themselves upon each other: the bourgeoisie itself has provoked the conflict, in its eagerness to dominate the markets. The German bourgeoisie realized colossal advances in industry and commerce, and the English bourgeoisie felt jealous of its rival. That is what is at the bottom of this conflict called the European War, jealousies of money-grabbers, enmities of traffickers, quarrels of adventurers. In the fields of Europe, they do not litigate the honor of a people, race, or homeland, but rather what is disputed in this struggle of wild beasts are everyone’s wallets: they are hungry wolves that try to seize a prisoner. It is not about wounded national honor nor an offended flag, but rather it is a struggle for money, for the money that the people sweated for in the fields, in the factories, in the mines, in all places of exploitation, and that today they want the same exploited people to guard with their lives, keeping it in the pockets of those who robbed it.
What sarcasm! What bloody irony! The people are forced to work for a bread crust, the masters keeping the profit, and later the people are forced to destroy each other so that this guarantee is not snatched from the nails of their executioners. Protecting ourselves, the poor, that is good: that is our duty, that is the obligation that solidarity imposes on us. Protecting ourselves, one to another, helping each other, defending each other mutually, that is a necessity we must satisfy if we do not want to be destroyed by our lords; but to arm ourselves and throw ourselves at one another to defend the pockets of our masters is a crime of stupidity, it is a felony we must indignantly reject. To arms, yes, but against the enemies of our class, against the bourgeois, and if our arm has to cut off any head, let it be a rich head, if our dagger must stab any heart, let it be a bourgeois heart. But we the poor must not destroy one another.
In the fields of Europe, the poor destroy each other for the benefit of the rich, who make them believe that they fight for the benefit of the homeland. Well, what homeland to the poor have? He that counts with nothing more than his arms to win his sustenance, sustenance that he lacks if the cursed master does not desire to exploit him, what homeland does he have? The homeland should be something like a good mother that shelters all of her children equally. What refuge do the poor have in their respective homelands? None! The poor man is a slave in all countries, he is unfortunate in all homelands, he is martyr under all governments. Homelands do not give bread to the hungry, they do not console the sad, they do not wipe the sweat from the forehead of the worker surrendered to fatigue, they do not put themselves between the weak and the strong so that the latter does not abuse the former; but when the interests of the rich are in danger, they call on the poor to risk their lives for the homeland, for the homeland of the rich, for a homeland that is not ours, but rather belongs to our executioners.
Let us open our eyes, brothers in chains and exploitation; let us open our eyes to the light of reason. The homeland is for those who possess it, and the poor do not possess anything. The homeland is the loving mother of the rich and the stepmother of the poor. The homeland is a cop armed with a garrote, who kicks us to the depths of a dungeon or who puts the noose around our neck when we do not wish to obey the laws written by the rich for the benefit of the rich. The homeland is not our mother: it is our executioner!
And for defending that executioner, our brothers, the proletarians of Europe, snuff out each other’s existences. Imagine the space that more than 6,000,000 corpses would occupy; a mountain of corpses, rivers of blood and tears, that is what the European War has produced up until this very moment. And those dead are our class brothers, flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. They are workers who from their childhoods were taught to love the bourgeois homeland, so that, when the time came, they would be ready to kill for it. What of their homelands do these heroes own? Nothing! They possess nothing more than a pair of robust arms to secure their own and their family’s sustenance. Now the widows, the mourners of those workers, will have to die of hunger. The women will prostitute themselves to bring a piece of bread to their mouths, the children will rob to bring something to eat to their aging parents, the sick will go to the hospital and to the tomb. Brothel, prison, hospital, miserable death: there is the prize that the relatives of the heroes that die for their homeland will receive, while the rich and the rulers squander at parties the gold for which the people sweated in the factories, the workshops, and the mines. What a contrast! Sacrifice, pain, and tears for those that produce all, for the selfless creators of wealth. Pleasures and joys for the idle who are upon our shoulders. Let us shake ourselves, toss ourselves, and work so that the parasites that end our existence fall to our feet. Let us place our hands resolutely on the neck of our enemy. We are stronger than them. A revolutionary said this immense truth: “The tyrants seem large to us because we are on our knees; let us stand up!”
And so: as horrible as the foolish slaughter that turns the Old World into a slaughterhouse is, it has to produce immense benefits for humanity, and in place of resigning ourselves to sad reflections considering only the pain, tears, and blood, let us take heart, let us rejoice that such a disaster has taken place. The worldwide catastrophe that we contemplate is a necessary evil. The people, debased by bourgeois civilization, no longer remember that they had rights, and a great shake was needed to awake them to the reality of things. There are many who need pain to open their minds to reason. Poor treatment debases the poor-spirited and timid; but in the chest of an ashamed man it awakes feelings of dignity and noble pride that make him rebel. Hunger vanquishes the coward and turns him over on his knees to the bourgeois; but at the same time, it spurs the people to anger. Suffering can lead to resignation and patience, but it also can put the dagger, bomb, and revolver in the hands of the valiant man. And this is what will happen when this infamous war ends, or what will make it end. The great battles in the open fields will end with the barricade and the mutiny of the rebellious people, and national flags will vanish into air to make space for the red flag of the disinherited of the Earth.
As such the revolution that was born in Mexico, and that yet lives as a whip and punishment for those that exploit, those that trick and oppress humanity, will extend its redeeming flames over all the Earth, and in place of the heads of proletarians rolling over the soil, the heads of the rich, rulers, and priests will roll, and a single cry will rise up into space, escaped from the chest of millions and millions of human beings: Hurrah for Land and Freedom!
And for the first time the Sun will not be ashamed to send its glorious rays to this withered Earth, dignified by rebellion, and a new humanity, more just, more wise, will convert all of the homelands into a single homeland, grand, beautiful, and good: the homeland of all human beings; the homeland of man and woman, with a single flag: that of universal brotherhood.
Let us salute, comrades in hardships and ideals, the Mexican Revolution. Let us salute this epic of the peon made into a free man by rebelliousness, let us do our part, give our money, our energy, our goodwill, and if it is necessary sacrifice our well-being, our liberty, and even our lives so that that Revolution does not end in the rise of any man to power, but rather, continuing in its revendicating course, ends with the abolition of private property, and the death of the principle of authority, for as long as there are men that possess and men that have nothing, well-being and liberty will be a dream, they will continue existing as nothing more than a beautiful illusion never realized.
The Revolution should not be a method for the wicked to elevate themselves, but rather the righteous movement that deals death to misery and tyranny, things that do not die by electing governments, but rather by ending the so-called right of private property. This right is the cause of all the evils from which humanity suffers. It is not necessary to search for the origin of our evils in anything else, for because of private property there are governments and there are priests. The government is charged with ensuring that the poor do not rob the rich, and the priests have no other mission than to fill proletarian chests with patience, resignation, and the fear of God, so that they will never again think of rebelling against their tyrants and exploiters.
The Mexican Liberal Party – a revolutionary workers union – understands that liberty and well-being are impossible while capital, authority, and the clergy exist, and all its forces are directed at the death of these three monsters, or of this monster with three heads, and the fact that there is no stable government in Mexico, that a new tyranny is not made stronger, is owed to the efforts, consciousness-raising, and action of the members of this party. We do not want the rich, governments, or priests; we do not want idlers that exploit the strength of the workers; we do not want the bandits that sustain the law of those idlers, nor the wicked who in the name of any religion make out of the poor man a lamb to be devoured by the wolves without resistance or protest.
Those of you who would like to understand more deeply why the Mexican Liberal Party fights, you do not need to do anything but read the Manifesto of the 23rd of September of 1911, promulgated by the Organizing Board of the Party.
Just as the European War is a necessary evil, the Mexican revolution is a positive. There is blood, there are tears, there are sacrifices, it is true; but what great conquest has been obtained through parties and pleasures? Liberty is the greatest conquest that a dignified heart can desire, and liberty is only obtained sweeping away death, misery, and dungeons.
To think there is any other way to conquer liberty is to be lamentably incorrect.
Our liberty is in the hand of our oppressors: from there we cannot acquire it without struggle or sacrifice.
Forward! If in Europe they still fight for the homeland, that is, for the rich, in Mexico they fight for Land and Freedom! Forward! The moment is solemn. In Mexico the capitalist system is collapsing to the blows of the dignified plebe, and the clamors of the rich and the clergy arrive to Washington to disturb the brain of that poor plaything of the bourgeoisie called Woodrow Wilson, the dwarf president, the official of a one-act farce that, as an irony of destiny, has been called to be an actor in a tragedy that only characters of iron should take part in.
Forward! The remedy is within our reach. To end the capitalist system, we need do nothing more than lay our hands on the goods found in the claws of the rich and declare them the property of everyone, men and women. The man who risks his life to raise up a government, regardless of how much of a friend of the poor he professes to be, will never be as much a friend of the poor as of the rich, as now his mission is to keep vigil so that the law is respected, and the law orders that the right of private or individual property be respected. Why should you kill yourself for a government? Would it not be better and more concordant with reason to sacrifice yourself to abolish government, since the force that is necessary to overthrow one government and replace it with another is the same force necessary to tear from the hands of the rich the wealth they hold unlawfully?
Expropriation is the remedy, but it should be expropriation for the benefit of everyone and not of the few. Expropriation is the gold key that opens the doors of liberty, because the possession of wealth gives economic independence. He who does not need to rent his arms in order to live, he is free.
Forward! It is not possible to stop yourselves and be simple spectators of the formidable drama. Let everyone join with those of their class, the poor with the poor and the rich with the rich, so that everyone is with their own side and in position for the final battle: the battle of the poor against the rich; the oppressed against the oppressors, the hungry against the full, and when the smoke of the last volley has dissipated, and of the bourgeois edifice there does not remain a single stone upon rock, may the sun illuminate our ennobled foreheads, and the earth fill with pride to feel itself tread upon by men and not flocks.
Let us learn something of our brothers, the expropriator revolutionaries of Mexico. They have not hoped to raise up anyone to the Presidency of the Republic in order to begin an age of justice. Like men they have destroyed all that opposed their redemptive action. True revolutionaries have broken the law to pieces, the law, protector of injustice, the law, permissive of the strong. With a robust hand they have broken the bars of prisons into pieces, and with the bars have destroyed the skeleton of judges and pencil-pushers. They have caressed the necks of the bourgeois with the noose, and with a heroic gesture, never before witnessed throughout the centuries, they have put their hands over the land which palpitates emotionally at the sensation of being possessed by free men.
Forward! May in this solemn moment everyone complete their duty.
Long live anarchy! Long live the Mexican Liberal Party! Hurrah for Land and Liberty!