Revolutionary Ideology & Political Destiny in Mexico, 1928-1934: Lazaro Cardenas and Adalberto Tejeda

Revolutionary Ideology & Political Destiny in Mexico, 1928-1934: Lazaro Cardenas and Adalberto Tejeda

by Eitan Ginzberg


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781845196943
Publisher: Sussex Academic Press
Publication date: 07/01/2015
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Eitan Ginzberg is the author of Lázaro Cárdenas, gobernador de Michoacán, 1928-1932 (1999), and Genocide. Encounter and clash: The destruction of the Indian nations in Latin America (2009). His research focuses on questions of infra-political resistance, history and culture of Latin America, and the study of genocide. Dr. Ginzberg serves as a researcher at the Sverdlin Institute of Latin American History and Culture at the University of Tel Aviv.

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Revolutionary Ideology and Political Destiny in Mexico, 1928â"1934

Lázaro Cárdenas and Adalberto Tejeda

By Eitan Ginzberg

Sussex Academic Press

Copyright © 2015 Eitan Ginzberg
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84519-694-3


Veracruz and Michoacán on the Threshold of a New Era


A combination of land, precipitation patterns, and climate has given Veracruz the most bountiful agricultural heritage in Mexico. In 1930, it had more arable land and richer pasturage than any other state in the country, as well as particularly extensive plantations. Beginning in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Veracruz had enjoyed an unprecedented economic and demographic boom. During those years of prosperity, a liberal policy on foreign investment provided the stimulus for the exploitation of oil fields in the north of the state, as well as the establishment of large textile industries in the center and enormous new agricultural concerns (latifundia) producing coffee, sugar, tobacco, tropical fruits, and rare woods. This accelerated economic growth attracted a massive influx of workers, making Veracruz the most populous state in Mexico in 1930, with 1,377,293 inhabitants living on an area of 72,815 square kilometers,. It also had the highest rate of demographic growth, and, by some measures, of economic growth (after the federal district).

Nature had been less kind to Michoacán (a Nahuatl name meaning "land of fishermen"), which in 1930 had a population of 1,048,381 inhabitants living on an area of 60,093 square kilometers. It had only half the annual precipitation rate of Veracruz, and its rainfall was limited to a single season; climactic conditions were harsh, and the topography made agriculture difficult, since some 52% of the state was mountainous (compared with only 20% of Veracruz). In addition, both its subterranean resources and its geopolitical location were very much inferior to those of Veracruz. Owing to these circumstances, at the end of the 1920s Michoacán was primarily an agricultural state in which eight basic crops — corn, wheat, sesame, barley, sugar cane, beans, rice, and tomatoes — constituted about 94% of total agricultural production (1950 data). Corn alone accounted for 51.3% of that figure. The economic and demographic boom in Veracruz had no parallel in Michoacán, where the population grew by only 12% during the years 1900– 1930, as opposed to Veracruz's 40%. In Michoacán income per unit of cultivated land was about a third lower than in Veracruz, and dependence on subsistence farming was double the rate in Veracruz.

When Cárdenas and Tejeda took office, 71% of the population in Veracruz and 74% of the population in Michoacán lived in villages or small communities inhabited by fewer than 1,000 people. At the time, Michoacán had 6,123 population centers, including 11 cities — only one of which had more than 20,000 inhabitants. There were 7,991 population centers in Veracruz, 24 of them cities, of which three had 20,000 or more inhabitants. Compared with Michoacán, Veracruz was an "urban" state, with about 14.5% of the population living in seven cities with populations exceeding 10,000 inhabitants; Michoacán, in contrast, had only four cities with populations greater than 10,000, and a mere 8% of the total population lived in them. á

Villages in both states suffered the same characteristic pattern of poverty — a low standard of living, a high illiteracy rate, and deep religiosity — but in Michoacán conditions were worse in all respects: nutrition, housing, wages, purchasing power, and land access. In 1930, rural wages in Veracruz were some 40% higher than in Michoacán, and purchasing power was almost double. The proportion of peasants able to obtain land in Veracruz was about 20.5%, as compared with 12% in Michoacán. Although the two states were similar in many respects, their differences — particularly in measures of urbanization, access to land and income — were all in Veracruz's favor.

Indices of Industrialization and Political Sophistication

The two states differed widely in their levels of industrialization (excluding the mining and oil industries). Slightly more than 35,000 workers were employed in industry in Veracruz in 1930, producing 101.3 million pesos' worth of goods yearly, while Michoacán had fewer than 12,000 industrial workers, producing goods worth 19.6 million pesos yearly. The average daily industrial wage in Veracruz was 1.77 pesos, compared with less than 0.70 pesos in Michoacán. Mexico's first industrial survey (1935) confirmed Veracruz's marked industrial advantage over Michoacán across the board, recording ratios of 2:1 in industrial installations, 9:1 in invested capital, 2:1 in labor employed in industry, at least 10:1 in monetary yield, 5:1 in economic value of the industrial product, 2:1 or more in the average wage, and 8:1 in energy use. Similar disparities characterized the mineral industries of the two states — particularly gold, silver, copper, and lead in Michoacán, and oil in Veracruz. These differences reflected not only Veracruz's much higher degree of industrialization and standard of living, but also its workers' greater bargaining power, which derived from their high level of organization and their developed political and class consciousness.

The great disparities in agricultural, industrial, and mineral production reflected Veracruz's much greater sociopolitical dynamism, as expressed in the development of a local labor movement shaped by various competing organizational and social ideologies. By the same token, Veracruz became the headquarters of a number of labor organizations: the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM — Regional Confederation of Mexican Labor), the largest labor organization in the Republic; the Confederación General de los Trabajadores (CGT — General Confederation of Labor), the labor union of the anarchist movement; and the communist labor organizations sponsored by the Partido Comunista Mexicana (PCM — Mexican Communist Party). This political sophistication facilitated the establishment in Veracruz of one of the first and strongest agrarian organizations in Mexico, the Liga de Comunidades Agrarias y Sindicatos Campesinos del Estado de Veracruz (Veracruz League of Agrarian Communities and Peasant Unions), which in 1926 spawned the Liga Nacional Campesina (LNC — National Peasant League), a national federation of regional peasant leagues that boasted 310,000 members in the year of its establishment.

Agrarian Structure as an Index of Revolutionary Dynamism

A comparison of the agrarian status quo in the two states in 1930 indicates that conditions were much more difficult in Michoacán, as reflected in Table 1.1

The most important fact reflected by this table is that agrarian division in Veracruz was double that of Michoacán in all parameters, even though Veracruz's total area was only 20% larger than that of Michoacán (72,000 square kilometers as compared to 60,100 square kilometers). The table also shows different land -tenure patterns in the two states: In Michoacán land-holdings tended to range from large to very large, while in Veracruz large and medium-sized properties were most common. In Veracruz 158 haciendas larger than 5,000 hectares accounted for some 32% of total land area, whereas 97 haciendas of that size took up about 42% of the land in Michoacán; the 40 haciendas measuring over 10,000 hectares in Michoacán accounted for 31% of total landholdings, while the 59 haciendas of that size in Veracruz constituted "only" 22% of total holdings in the state. Thirty-one percent of agrarian property in Michoacán consisted in medium -sized and small holdings, as opposed to about 41% in Veracruz.

These different patterns of land distribution were also reflected in the status of the peasantry and their access to land: More than 60% of the peasants of Michoacán were peons residing on hacienda grounds (peones acasillados), as opposed to only 9.4% in Veracruz, according to 1921 data (these figures had dropped considerably by 1930). Moreover, in Veracruz, where there were more independent peasants working for a daily wage (peones alquilados), it was customary to rent out even large private plots, thereby giving more peasants access to land. In Michoacán, with its more restricted peasantry, landowners preferred to entrust the management of their property to administrators, or to set up sharecropping arrangements.

The preference for land leasing in one state and sharecropping arrangements in the other reflected two different labor cultures and different levels of social and economic consciousness. These differences would later influence both the nature and the quality of the agrarian reform instituted in each state. Where sharecropping was the custom, the reform tended to follow the ejidal pattern. Where land leasing was preferred, the reform tended to take two other forms: the creation of private smallholdings and the compulsory leasing (arrendamiento forzoso) of uncultivated lands that were expropriated for a limited time. This type of reform was best suited to the relatively free use of land embodied in the rental system.

The patterns of land distribution in Michoacán and the traditional system of agricultural production there were not conducive to the development of a labor or class consciousness nor to the arousal of any special enthusiasm for agrarian reform. Not only was there little pressure for land, but the political weakness of its governors blocked all possibility of any agrarianist boom until 1928. In Veracruz, however, the situation was completely different. Just before Tejeda took office as governor, demand for land was high and agrarianism was strong, a trend that had been encouraged by every governor of Veracruz since Cándido Aguilar, the first constitutional governor.

Agrarian reform statistics for the years 1915–1927 reflect these differences. During those years 134 ejidos were established in Michoacán (on a provisional basis) on 172,666 hectares, while during the same period 299 ejidos were set up in Veracruz, on an area of 294,171 hectares. In Veracruz, with a population 31% larger than that of Michoacán, the extent of the reform was 45% greater than that implemented in Michoacán. This imbalance was also reflected in the volume of petitions for land (solicitudes), which expressed substantially different levels of receptiveness to change: Whereas during the period in question 707 petitions were filed in Veracruz — the highest number in the Republic — only 266 were filed in Michoacán.

Grassroots Organization and Its Influence on the Development of Agrarianism

In Veracruz agrarian reform had begun in the early 1920s. During the Porfirio Díaz years (1876–1911) the local economy enjoyed rapid growth, which created many employment opportunities and facilitated access to land. The resulting population increase, the famine engendered by the warfare of the Revolution, and the Revolution's pioneering agrarian law (in January 1915) gave rise to the first significant demands for land. The first petitioners were Italian day laborers in the sugar refineries in central Veracruz, who had been initiated into syndicalism in their land of origin. This underlined a fact that was to become increasingly clear: Regardless of circumstances, agrarianist policies could not be implemented in the absence of a class and worker consciousness.

The return to Veracruz of the agrarianist leaders who had served in the Revolutionary army — for example, José Cardel, a ranchero, and Marcos C. Licona, a tenant farmer — helped spread the agrarianist message among the small tenant farmers in central Veracruz, who were hard-pressed to pay the high rents demanded of them. The peasants acquired the ideological foundation they had hitherto lacked from Communist propagandists who had gained experience in 1922 in a violent tenant campaign, headed by Manuel Almanza, Ursulo Galván and "a handful of other founding members of the Veracruz Syndicate" (Revolutionary Syndicates of Tenants — Sindicato Revolucionario de Inquilinos), for fair rental and living conditions in the city of Veracruz. The landowners' organized resistance in the framework of the Junta de las Uniones de Propiedades y Agricultores del Estado de Veracruz and the ensuing series of bloody clashes between the two groups — which reached a climax in the Puente Nacional episode on 9 March 1923 — radicalized the principle of struggle in the peasant consciousness, a consciousness that was bolstered by the myths and symbols engendered by the conflict.

The establishment of the Liga de Comunidades Agrarias y Sindicatos Campesinos del Estado de Veracruz (hereafter Veracruz Agrarian League) on 23 March, 15 days after the Puente Nacional affair, was a direct expression of months of organizational activity, peasant struggle, and ideological maturation. Its foundation created a basis for expanding the circle of land petitioners to include independent peasants, who were generally unlikely to develop the consciousness necessary for political struggle and organization. The agrarianist camp now began to take on the shape of a mass movement. The League's success in mobilizing agrarianists against the Adolfo de la Huerta revolt that lasted from October 1923, to May 1924, earned it the prize of an alliance with the state government of Veracruz that continued throughout Tejeda's second governorship.

The creation of the Veracruz Agrarian League, its role in the rebellion's suppression, and the agricultural crisis of 1924–1925 all expedited the appearance of rural unions organized under the aegis of the CROM and the CGT. Conditions were ripe for a joint struggle by workers and peasants in which each group reinforced the other: The workers could threaten to call up the agrarianists if they did not receive better working conditions, and the peasants could threaten worker strikes if they were prevented from organizing to qualify for land grants. The overall result was a marked increase in the rate of reform. In the first phase of agrarian reform — up to 1920 — 64 communities were founded; in the second (1920–1924) 154; and in the third (1925–1928), 184.

In Michoacán, however, the agrarian reform stagnated. Its structural weakness and the ideological and political limitations of Michoacán's successive governors, further compounded by the Cristero Rebellion and an efficient opposition mounted by the rural oligarchy and urban business sectors reduced it to almost nothing. The meager 53 petitions for land filed in the years 1925–1927 (compared with Veracruz's 207 for the same period) clearly indicated the dismal state of agrarianism in Michoacán.

In contrast to the dynamic agrarianist organization in Veracruz, the Liga de Comunidades y Sindicatos Agraristas del Estado de Michoacán (the Michoacán Agrarian League) — founded in December 1922, by Primo Tapia of Naranja — could not provide any real support for the weak local agrarianist base. It was not strong enough to contend with the powerful Noriega family, who owned land in the Zacapú area, where the League was based; it could not suppress the fierce infighting among its own leadership and develop a clear operational strategy; and it was unable to compete with the Church's militant social Catholicism and win the support of the state, which would not forgive Tapia for sitting on the fence during the De la Huerta revolt. The peasants' fear of both the Church and the Noriega family was so great that on one occasion, when Primo Tapia was trying to organize an agrarian committee to sign petitions for land, he was forced to pretend that the purpose of the meeting was to draft a letter to the Church administration in Morelia asking it to send a priest to tend to the community's religious needs. Once he had obtained 109 signatures by this ruse, he changed the letter into an agrarian petition which was then duly sent off to the Comisión Local Agraria (CLA — Local Agrarian Commission, the state branch of the Comisión Nacional Agraria). In short, the Michoacán League lacked the Veracruz League's two outstanding advantages: a unified leadership and political and unionist support. Tapia's murder in April 1926, apparently on Calles's orders, put paid to the modest beginnings of an agrarianist movement in the state, and, of course, to any organizational continuity such as the Veracruz League enjoyed. When in April 1928, Cárdenas returned to Michoacán to wage his election campaign after three years as the divisional military commander in Huasteca in northern Veracruz, he found only remnants of the old Michoacán Agrarian League — still kicking, if feebly, but completely insignificant politically.


Excerpted from Revolutionary Ideology and Political Destiny in Mexico, 1928â"1934 by Eitan Ginzberg. Copyright © 2015 Eitan Ginzberg. Excerpted by permission of Sussex Academic Press.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements viii

List of Maps and Tables xi

List of Illustrations xiii

Introduction 1

Background 1

The Main Characters 3

The Conceptual Framework 6

Methodology and Sources 12

1 Veracruz and Michoacán on the Threshold of a New Era 16

Background 16

Indices of Industrialization and Political Sophistication 17

Agrarian Structure as an Index of Revolutionary Dynamism 20

Grassroots Organization and Its Influence on the Development of Agrarianism 22

Tejeda's Road to Power 24

Cárdenas's Road to Power 27

Towards a New Era? 30

2 Towards Reform: The Development of Leadership Patterns and a Political Infrastructure 32

Priorities and Modes of Operation 32

Organizing the Masses 32

The Veracruz Agrarian League: Organizational and Ideological Bases 32

The Veracruz League as a Lower Base 34

Why Veracruz Had No United Proletariat! Front 36

The Basis of the Michoacán Labor Confederation 39

Organization as a Reflection of the Concepts of the State and of the Nature of Social Change 43

Taking Over the Sphere of Local Government 44

Rationale and Techniques 44

Integration of Power in the Michoacán Municipios 45

Integration of Power in the Veracruz Municipios 50

The Takeover of the City of Veracruz 52

Reaping the Fruits of Success 57

Politico-Administrative Reclassification of Villages 61

Establishing Personal Authority in the Local and National Spheres 63

Political Power and the Test of Recognition 66

3 The Shaping of a New Civil Consciousness 70

Motives for Developing a New Consciousness and a Revolutionary Ethos 70

The Education System before the Advent of Cárdenas and Tejeda 72

Cardenist Education as a Revolutionary Mission 75

The Rehabilitation of the Veracruz Education System 82

The Ideological Orientation: Socialist Education in Veracruz 85

Tejeda and Cárdenas: A Parting of the Ways 93

The Battle against the Church 94

4 The Salvation of Agrarianism: The Ejido Issue 103

Introduction 103

Missed Opportunities for Agrarian Reform 104

Saving the Ejido: The Ideological Dimension 105

Cárdenas and the Ejidal Ethos 105

Tejeda and the Ejidal State 109

Saving the Ejido: Organization and Consciousness-Raising 112

Reinforcing the Administrative Framework 112

The Battle over Ejidal Petitions 115

Protecting the Nascent Ejido 124

Implementing the Reform in the Field 125

Arrangements to Help Potential Ejidatarios Survive the Waiting Period; Veracruz 127

Arrangements to Help Potential Ejidatarios Survive the Waiting Period: Michoacán 129

The Implementation of the Ejidal Reform: Quantity and Quality 131

Defending the New Ejido 133

The Cooperative Basis: Veracruz Did More 133

Easing the Ejidos' Tax Burden: Conflicting Trends 136

The Salvation of the Ejido: A Pyrrhic Victory? 138

5 From Ejidal Agrarianism to Total Agrarianism 141

The Importance of Private Land 141

The Return of the Forest Land to the Meseta Tarasca Communities in Michoacan 143

Preparing the Way for the Creation of Private Smallholdings in Michoacan 146

Back to the Old Laws 146

Law #75: Towards a New Definition of "the Public Interest" 148

On the Way to Another Revolution: The Creation of Private Smallholdings in Veracruz 151

Workers and Peasants in a Definitive Battle over Property 151

The Birth of the Tenant Movement (1929-1930) 151

Extending Land Reform to Rural Property (1930-1931) 153

Crossing the Rubicon: Towards Total Agrarianism (June 1932) 157

The "Tejeda Law" Undergoes the Test of Public Opinion 160

The Motives for Alternative Reform: Between Ideology and Politics 165

6 The Eradication of Tejeda's Power and the Contest for the Presidency 167

The Eradication of Tejedism and the Consolidation of Cardenism 167

The Elimination of the Tejedist Ideology 173

The Elimination of Cárdenas's Power Bases in Michoacán 175

The Contest for the Presidency 176

Conclusion 182

The Triumph of the Agrarianist Ethos and the Fading Away of Participatory Democracy 182

Notes 187

Sources and References 247

Index 263

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