Mexico: The Land Question

From A World to Win

Revolutionary Worker #916, July 20, 1997

The following analysis of the importance of the peasant/land question in Mexico is taken from the article "The Peasant Uprising in Chiapas," by Meche Sierra Rojas, which appeared in the internationalist magazine A World To Win (1995/20).

For a long time, a lot of the so-called "left" in our country has argued that, because of capitalist development, neither the struggle for land nor the peasants are very important as a revolutionary force and that semifeudalism no longer exists, or never did exist. It's true that there has been an important growth of bureaucrat capitalism, i.e., of capitalism subordinated to imperialism. Especially in the northern part of the country this has created a modern agriculture that appears to be predominantly capitalist in its internal relations. However, the basis for this sector is the peasant economy, which is still subjugated with semifeudal forms and which provides the more capitalist sector with a superexploited labor force and which is also exploited and oppressed with more openly semifeudal forms by the landlords and "caciques" (the reactionary landlord chieftains).

This is why, as Isidro Serrano analyzed in his 1991 pamphlet, Revolución agraria y semifeudalidad (Agrarian Revolution and Semifeudalism),* "Taken as a whole, the system of exploitation in the countryside is predominantly semifeudal." Moreover, in the past, "ardent and ferocious legions have arisen from among the peasants that have ignited the entire country with the flames of revolution, while official society staggered with shock and fear. They tell us that this is all a thing of the past; Mexico is no longer an agricultural country; much of the land has already been divided up; now everything is capitalist (or a "mixed economy"); now the peasants are only a sector that can either provide the PRI with captive audiences or the opposition with votes.

"Those who think this are mistaken. There are innumerable signs that indicate that the country is approaching a decisive moment once again. The downtrodden will arise again from the shadows and in their ranks the bitter cry from the countryside will be heard once more. If the revolutionaries know how to act correctly, that cry will herald a new revolutionary storm, and the peasants, in firm unity with their proletarian brothers in the city, will finally find their own voice in the melody of people's war."

The armed rebellion in Chiapas has confirmed these conclusions, as well as emphasizing the revolutionary potential of the land struggle. The growth of bureaucrat capitalism has not lessened the importance of the struggle for land: on the contrary, it has sharpened that struggle by taking away the best lands from the peasants and accelerating their impoverishment and ruin. Here it is worth mentioning the best contributions of the EZLN's agrarian law: "The big agricultural enterprises will be expropriated..." This shows how the growth of bureaucrat capitalism in the countryside has not eliminated the revolutionary struggle for land and has been creating a firmer material basis for the consciousness on the part of the peasants of the need to struggle, not only against the landlords and caciques, but also against the big bourgeoisie and imperialism. Although the EZLN's program doesn't reach the point of calling for confiscating the property of the imperialists, big capitalists and landlords, which is necessary for the New Democratic Revolution, their demand against the big agricultural enterprises is the fruit of repeated experiences on the part of the peasants, who have found that even when they are able to take back part of the land, it doesn't help them much without the means to make it produce, which are concentrated more and more in the hands of the big capitalists and landlords.

* Key sections of this pamphlet also appear in A World to Win 1995/20--RW

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.) 2