The Bourgeois Homeland and the Universal Homeland

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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 

 

Comrades,

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!

I do not want to be a tyrant

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Drawing by Thea Gar

By Ricardo Flores Magón

Translated by Duncan Riley

Originally published in Regeneración, no date given

 

I do not fight for government posts. I have received insinuations from many maderistas of good faith, those that there are, and there are quite enough, asking me to accept a position in the so-called “provisional” government, and the position they ask me to accept is that of the Vice-president of the Republic.[1] Above all I must say that I loathe governments. I am firmly convinced that that there is not, and cannot be, a good government. All are bad, whether called absolute monarchies or constitutional republics. Government is tyranny because it restricts the free initiative of individuals and only serves to sustain a social state improper for the integral development of human beings. Governments are the guardians of the interests of the rich and educated classes, and the executioners of the holy rights of the proletariat. I do not want, as such, to be a tyrant. I am a revolutionary and I will be until I breath my last breath. I want to always be at the side of my brothers, the poor, to fight for them, not at the side of the rich nor the politicians, the oppressors of the poor. In the ranks of the working people I am more useful to humanity than seated on a throne, surrounded by lackeys and bad politicians. If the people one day had the dreadful whim to acclaim me as their ruler, I would tell them: “I was not born to be an executioner. Look for another.”

I fight for the economic freedom of the workers. My ideal is that man come to possess all that is necessary to live without having to depend on any master, and I believe, like all the Liberals of good faith believe, that the moment for all men of good will to take a step towards true liberty, seizing the land from the claws of the rich, including Madero, in order to give it to its legitimate owner, the working people, has arrived.[2] This achieved, the people will be free. But this will not be if Madero is elevated to the Presidency of the Republic, for neither Madero, nor any ruler, will dare to make a step of that nature, and if they did, the rich would rise up in arms and a new revolution would follow the present one. In this revolution, the one which we are contemplating and trying to foment, we must take the land from the rich.

Translator’s notes

[1] Maderistas were the followers of Francisco I. Madero, a liberal reformist who led the initial effort to depose the Porfirio Díaz regime in 1910.

[2] Liberals, here, refers to Magón’s “Mexican Liberal Party,” which by this time had adopted an anarcho-communist position.

La república federal y comunal

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De Duncan Riley

4/14/2019

 

El pueblo español estableció la segunda república por revolución pacífica el 14 de abril de 1931, causando un gran levantamiento en la esperanza popular. Pero, sólo pocos años después, la república había perdido el apoyo de la gran mayoría de las masas, lo que llevó a la victoria de la CEDA en las elecciones de 1933, el poder creciente de las fuerzas reaccionarias, y, en última instancia, el golpe contrarrevolucionario de 1936. Entonces, esta república, tan llena de contradicciones y divisiones, da un ejemplo claro de los diferentes y contradictorios proyectos históricos de la clase proletaria y el ala progresiva de la clase burguesa.

Los obreros españoles salieron a las calles el 14 de abril para derrocar a sus tres enemigos naturales. Una, la monarquía, que representaba la centralización del poder político en Madrid, y en las manos de la aristocracia. Otros, los patrones, que centralizaban todo el poder económico de la sociedad en sus propias manos. Y, tercera, la iglesia, que monopolizaba las escuelas y universidades, para negar al pueblo los frutos de la educación. En todos estos casos, la lucha proletaria es la lucha en contra del centralismo político y económico, un anatema a los obreros y campesinos. Para ellos, el centralismo representaba un poder ajeno y elitista, el poder de un capital distante y distinto sobre el pueblo familiar y querido. Entonces, el proyecto más asociado con el proletariado es el federalismo, no en el sentido burgués, mas en el sentido libertario, de la devolución del poder a las comunas y a los ciudadanos. Por lo tanto, esto, la construcción de una federación de comunidades autónomas es la misión histórica y emancipadora de la clase obrera.

Pero, aunque fueron los trabajadores de la ciudad y el campo los que sangraban en las calles para forjar la república, la burguesía progresista o “radical,” fue la beneficiaria de esta sangre derramada en pos de la libertad. En contraste con el proletariado, la burguesía radical no quiere cambiar la sociedad completamente, sino modernizar la sociedad y borrar las desigualdades más odiosas, con el último objetivo de conservar las instituciones políticas y económicas de la sociedad capitalista. Por ello, la burguesía radical quiere igualar la sociedad sin revolucionarla – una propuesta de pura fantasía. La burguesía radical siempre queda atrapada entre el deseo de los trabajadores por la emancipación completa, y el deseo de la burguesía reaccionaria de que nada cambie. Entonces, los radicales corren frenéticamente de un lado al otro, tratando de aplacar a los dos sin lograr nada en el campo de la libertad humana. De esta manera, los gobiernos supuestos de ser defensores de los pueblos humildes se convierten en los asesinos de Casas Viejas.

Por ello, sólo el esfuerzo dedicado y eficaz de un pueblo consciente de su sus derechos y deberes puede lograr la revolución social. Cuando la república trató de empezar su reforma agraria, falló contra la intransigencia de la aristocracia. Pero, cuando los campesinos se apoderaron de los campos, y formaron sus propias comunas autónomas rurales, eso empezó un cambio verdaderamente profundo en la sociedad. Los códigos laborales de los reformistas sólo trataban de reconciliar a los obreros y patrones, mientras que las ocupaciones de fábricas y el establecimiento de control obrero constituyó un golpe de muerte contra la clase propietaria. Como tal, son sólo los trabajadores quienes pueden abrir el camino hacia la verdadera democracia económica y política, la república federal y comunal.

El pueblo trabajador no lucha por partidos ni habladurías, lucha por ideales y la emancipación. En toda la historia de las revoluciones, en ningún caso los trabajadores han erigido las barricadas en defensa de los autoritarios o las jerarquías sociales. El pueblo lucha con ojos llenos de esperanza de un mundo sin tiranos ni patrones. Son los que se llaman una “vanguardia” que traicionan a los obreros y construyen la república de palabras vacías de significado, que perpetúa las fallas de centralismo y explotación. Entonces, las vanguardias no pueden construir la democracia, se aprende la democracia al lado del pueblo, que en su lucha crea una democracia más fuerte de cualquier parlamento.  

La democracia verdadera es, por consiguiente, federal en su carácter y espíritu. La “democracia” burguesa de la república le permitió mantener colonias en África, una afrenta a la libertad y la antítesis de respeto a la voluntad del pueblo. También, la república continuaba el proyecto histórico de la élite española de construir un estado fuerte y centralista, quitando el poder de los trabajadores y campesinos. La democracia federal se constituye en la devolución del poder a las comunas, sembrando el poder entre los vientos del pueblo. Por lo tanto, la autogestión, en la política y lo económico ambos, es la expresión más radical de los principios del poder popular. Por ello, el federalismo revolucionario y libertario busca la abolición de los estados, y la propagación de la democracia comunal, como la comuna de París. Esta es la única república que España necesitaba, y la república que el mundo necesita.

Silba el viento

partigianos

Guerrilleros italianos después de la liberación de Florencia

De Duncan Riley

Versión en castellano de “Fischia il vento,” canción de la resistencia italiana

 

 

Silba el viento y ruge la tormenta

Zapatos rotos, pero marcharemos

Para conquistar la roja primavera

Donde surge el sol del porvenir

Para conquistar la roja primavera

Donde surge el sol del porvenir

 

En cada rincón hay patria pa’l rebelde

En cada calle un camino al futuro

En la noche lo guía la estrella

Hacia la lucha contra el capital

En la noche lo guía la estrella

Hacia la lucha contra el capital

 

Si nos espera la muerte cruel

Dura venganza tendrá el proletario

Ya está segura la dura suerte

Del fascista vil y traicionero

Ya está segura la dura suerte

Del fascista vil y traicionero

 

Cesa el viento, se calma la tormenta

Vuelve a casa el bravo proletario

Soplando en el viento su bandera roja

Victoriosa, somos libres ya

Soplando en el viento su bandera roja

Victoriosa, somos libres ya

Let us go towards life

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Image from the Partido Liberal Mexicano’s newspaper, Regeneración 

By Ricardo Flores Magón

Translated by Duncan Riley

Originally published June of 1907 in Revolución 

 

We, the revolutionaries, do not go in search of an illusion: we go in search of reality. The peoples do not take up arms now to impose a god or a religion; the gods rot in the holy books; the religions dissolve in the shadows of indifference. The Quran, the Vedas, the Bible, do not shine now: in their yellowing sheets the sad gods fade like the sun in winter twilight.

We go towards life. Yesterday the heavens were the objective of the peoples: now it is the earth. Now there are no hands that take up the lances of the knights. The scimitar of Allah lies in the glass cases of museums. The times of the god of Israel are made atheist. The dust of the dogmas disappears at the blowing of the years.

The great social commotions that had their genesis in religions have been left petrified in history. The French Revolution conquered the right to think, but it did not conquer the right to live, and the conscious men of all countries and races ready themselves to take that right.

We all have the right to live, say the philosophers, and this human doctrine has arrived at the heart of the clod like a beneficial dew. To live, for the man, does not mean to vegetate. To live means to be free and happy. We all have, more, the right to liberty and happiness.

Social inequality died in theory when it died metaphysically through the rebelliousness of thought. It is necessary that it dies in practice. To this end all the free men of the Earth direct their efforts.

Herein lies why, as revolutionaries, we do go in search of an illusion. We do not fight for abstractions, but for material gains. We want the land to be for all, and for all, bread. By force blood must run, so that the conquests that are obtained benefit all and not an established social class.

For that reason, the multitudes listen to us; for that our voices arrives to the masses and awakes them, and, poor as we are, we can raise a people.

We are the plebe; but not the plebe of the pharaohs, withered and sick; nor the plebe of the Caesars, abject and servile; nor the plebe that waves palms at the passing of Porfirio Díaz. We are the rebel plebe against the yoke; we are the plebe of Spartacus, the plebe with which Munzer proclaims equality, the plebe that with Camille Desmoulins overwhelms the Bastille, the plebe that with Hidalgo sets fire to Granaditas,[1] we are the plebe that with Juárez sustains la Reforma.

We are the plebe that wakes in the midst of the party of the fed up and throws to the four winds like a thunderclap this unforgettable phrase: “All have the right to be free and happy!” And the people, that now do not await the word of God to come down from some Sinai graven in some tablets, listen to us. Underneath course fabrics the hearts of the loyal are set alight. In those black pigsties, where those that produce the happiness of the upper class are piled up and rot, enters a ray of hope. In the furrows the peon meditates. In the belly of the earth repeats the phrase to his comrades in chains. Over all parts one hears the anxious respiration of those that are going to rebel. In the darkness, a thousand nervous hands caress their weapons and a thousand impatient chests consider the days that pass like centuries, until one hears this cry of men: rebellion!

Fear flees from chests. Only the vile keep it. Fear is a heavy bale, which undress the valiant that are ashamed to be beasts of burden. The bales obligate them to stoop but the valiant want to walk upright. If one must support some weight, let it be a dignified weight of titans. Let it be the weight of a world or of a universe of responsibilities.

Submission is the cry of the vile; rebellion is the cry of men.

We go towards life; for that reason, the clod improves, for that reason the giant has awoken, and for that reason the brave ones do not retreat. From his Olympus, built from the rocks of Chapultepec,[2] a Jupiter of Zarzuela puts a price on the heads of those that struggle. His old hands sign savage sentences, his dishonored grey hairs curl like the hairs of a rabid wolf. Dishonor of old age, this perverse old man clings to life with the desperation of shipwrecked man. He has taken the life of thousands of men and fights with tooth and nail with death not to lose his own.

It does not matter. We, the revolutionaries, go forward. The abyss does not stop us: the water is more beautiful falling over a cliff.

If we die, we will die like suns, giving off light.

 

Translator’s notes

[1] Granaditas is the name of a grain exchange building in Guanajuato that was burned down by the patriot armies at the outset of the Mexican War of Independence.

[2] At that time, the residence of the Mexican president.

Himno de Riego

De Duncan Riley

Originalmente de  José Melchor Gomis y el pueblo de España

 

Si la migra e ICE supieran,

Lo poco que van a durar,

Cantarían todos juntos,

¡Libertad, libertad, libertad!

 

Si los partidos burgueses supieran,

La paliza que les van a dar,

Cantarían todos juntos,

¡Libertad, libertad, libertad!

 

 

 

Notes on the Immigrants’ Rights Movement and the Social Revolution

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El grito de Hidalgo, mural by Juan O’Gorman

By Duncan Riley

1/15/2019

 

Traditional socialist analyses, particularly in Europe and North America, categorize immigrants as just another kind of worker. Of course, it is widely accepted on the left that immigrants suffer a greater degree of marginalization and discrimination, and face distinct problems, such as deportation. However, ultimately, the left has traditionally seen immigrants as just one more sector of the working class, the same as native-born workers. While it is absolutely true that workers of all nations are fundamentally members of the same class, the distinct obstacles and challenges that immigrants face cause their communities to develop differently, and forge unique forms of social struggle. The radical developments in the immigrants’ rights movement, more than just another response to the ever-deepening crisis of capitalism, carry within them the beginnings of the social revolution. Immigrants of all nations are already leading the way in constructing the new society, and it is vital that the left learn from these vibrant movements.

Immigrants, upon arrival in the United States, face significant challenges. The new cultural environment is overwhelming, particularly if they do not speak English. The citizenship process is drawn-out and extremely difficult, immigrants are left with limited political and civil rights and the threat of deportation and state repression hovering over their heads. Further, due to their vulnerable position within society, immigrants face severe economic exploitation by capital, as they fear contesting labor rights violations could lead to deportation.[1] Under these hostile conditions, immigrant communities are naturally drawn closer together and organize themselves. These communal organizations are generally based on kinship or national ties, as immigrants from the same national, regional, and local backgrounds naturally gravitate towards one another. These communal ties become the basis for mutual aid, and a collectivist spirit takes root in the community.

Often times, communal ties are related to social structures in immigrants home countries. The case of Mexican immigrants demonstrates this most clearly. The first working-class organizations that arose in Mexico were the mutualistas, mutual-aid societies and proto-unions that formed among artisans and proletarians during the mid-19th century. The societies provided protection and support to workers amidst the instability of industrialization throughout the Porfiriato and provided an organizing base for strikes.[2] As Mexican workers migrated for work to the Southwest, they brought mutualista organization with them. They also took root among the pre-1848 Mexican populations suffering dispossession of their lands and livelihoods by the North American state and capital.[3] Equally, as capitalist logic was applied to the countryside after the enforcement of the Ley Lerdo, indigenous communal agricultural structures, the ejidos, were dismantled, their members forced off their lands. Many migrated to the north or joined the ranks of the growing working classes in the cities, infusing it with the collectivist spirit of the ejidatarios.[4] Thus, a communal ethos and ideal of mutual-aid lies at the foundation of the Mexican working class on both sides of the border.

Just as mutualistas began as mutual-aid societies but transformed into vehicles of class struggle, immigrant communal structures have transformed into platforms for social struggle. In the Twin Cities alone, campaigns bring together various immigrants’ rights groups to fight for the rights to municipal IDs and drivers’ licenses, while opposing deportations and other forms of state repression. In these actions, immigrants exercise the rights so often denied to them, and fight for inclusion as citizens. In short, the communal organization of immigrants prepared the basis for collective action against the state to conquer new rights from the hands of the powerful. The movement thus relies on democratic ambitions which refuse to accept government limits on citizenship, and the repression which enforces them, asserting the primacy of popular participation.[5] The immigrants’ rights movement thus constitutes a significant challenge to the nominally democratic bourgeois state, opposing its authoritarianism and at times forcing it to concede new rights, democratizing the national community.

What is unique about the immigrants’ rights movement, is that this democratizing struggle is not directed by any one political party but is rather the organic development of communal structures. The movement thus becomes a space for direct democracy, where members express their opinions freely, and vote on their leadership, platforms, and objectives. This free and open process contrasts sharply with bourgeois democracy, which relies on the authoritarian power of the state, and is driven by the influence of the wealthy and powerful, rather than the voice of the people. Thus, within the immigrants’ rights movement the masses can gather to participate in true democracy, exercising control over their own destinies and making their own decisions, in what Guérin calls “their apprenticeship in direct democracy from the bottom up.”[6] Within the immigrants’ rights movement the process of social revolution is already developing, as a communal and socialist alternative to authoritarianism is put into practice.

At the same time, immigrant organizations alone cannot make the social revolution. Alliances between different communities of immigrants, and between immigrants and native-born workers will be vital to any revolutionary action. It was an alliance of Mexican and Japanese workers that challenged both white supremacy and economic exploitation in Southern California during the early 20th century.[7] In the same period, it was the union of Italian and Mexican mine workers in Arizona that caused both state and capital to tremble in fear.[8] Today, immigrants’ rights movements cooperate with a wide variety of anti-imperialist and radical groups dedicated to the democratization of society. This alignment of social forces thus provides the embryo of a communal and direct democracy, which is capable of mobilizing the masses both in defense of their rights and for the conquest of power through social revolution.[9]

This social revolution, at its core, is the struggle for autonomy. It is the struggle for the right of the plebeian classes to live without being imposed upon by oligarchs and authoritarians. Immigrants, who have often seen the worst of capitalism and imperialism, and who face deep injustices in their new homes, understand the value of autonomy perhaps more than any other segment of the working classes. As such, immigrants play a leading role in constructing this autonomy in their own communities and spreading the ideal of social revolution throughout the masses. As this ideal, fiery in its cry for justice, grows ever in strength, it becomes clear that true liberty can only be realized once the arbitrary divisions that empires create among the workers are erased, and all join together in the struggle for emancipation from tyranny.

 

References

[1] Levin, Sam. “Immigration Crackdown Enables Worker Exploitation, Labor Department Staff Say.” The Guardian. March 30, 2017. Accessed January 15, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/30/undocumented-workers-deportation-fears-trump-administration-department-labor.

[2] Chacón, Justin Akers. Radicals in the Barrio: Magonistas, Socialists, Wobblies, and Communists in the Mexican American Working Class, 36-8. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2018.

[3] Ibid., 104-5.

[4] Ibid., 30-31.

[5] Linera, Álvaro García. Plebeian Power: Collective Action and Indigenous, Working-class and Popular Identities in Bolivia, 95.  Leiden: Brill, 2014.

[6] Guérin, Daniel. For a Libertarian Communism, 75. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2017.

[7] Justin Akers Chacón. Radicals in the Barrio: Magonistas, Socialists, Wobblies, and Communists in the Mexican American Working Class, 76.

[8] Ibid., 93-5.

[9] Álvaro García Linera. Plebeian Power: Collective Action and Indigenous, Working-class and Popular Identities in Bolivia, 255-6.