From 1876 to 1911, the massive and violent seizing of land from peasants and indigenous communities was central to the policy of Porfirio Díaz, who ruled Mexico during the period. The acquisitions provided not only land for the modern haciendas but also labor, as peasants became dislodged from their means of sustenance. The Porfirian hacienda produced sugar, livestock, cotton, henequen, and coffee for the expanding world market (Gilly 2005:15-19).
The inability of the urban commercial bourgeoisie to create a class of smallholders, which would have strengthened the domestic market, resulted in the limited expansion of industry. There was some development in light industry under Mexican ownership, such as the food and drink industry. There also was some development of textile and steel industries, but through a combination of foreign investment and Mexican capital. Mexican capital was primarily concentrated in the estate bourgeoisie (Gilly 2005:25-26).
Thus, although Mexico in the Porfirian era was ruled by large landowners and industrialists, the former were far more powerful (Gilly 2005:38, 41, 93). The elite classes shared a common interest in protecting their privileged position above the popular classes, but there were conflicts of interest between them. The aggressive acquisition of land by the large landholders undermined the intention of the urban commercial bourgeoisie to create a class of agrarian smallholders, which would have provided a social base for industrial expansion. This provided the social foundation for a reformist opposition among the bourgeoisie. Although the bourgeois opposition stimulated the peasant revolution in 1910, bourgeois interests were fundamentally opposed to those of peasants, and the reformist bourgeoisie made various efforts to end, constrain, and direct the peasant revolution.
In addition, the inadequate social base for a domestic market limited the possibilities for the petit bourgeoisie, giving rise to reformism as well as revolutionary and Jacobin currents in this class (Gilly 2005:41, 99). But the revolutionary sector of the petit bourgeoisie was not sufficiently advanced in its understanding to be able to lead an alliance of peasants and workers in the taking of power by the popular sectors, an issue that we will discuss in subsequent posts.
Although the liberal reform that began in 1855 and accelerated in the Porfirian era of 1876 to 1911 was opposed to the long-range interests of the urban bourgeoisie and the petit bourgeoisie, the liberal reform was above all an attack on the peasantry and the indigenous villages. As a result, the Porfirian hacienda became the object of peasant revolutionary fury in 1910, such that in popular oral tradition, the revolution is treated as a series of hacienda seizures (Gilly 2005:17).
Thus we can see that the liberalism and Porfirianism of 1855 to 1910 established the conditions for the peasant revolution of 1910. In the Mexican Revolution, the peasants would form the unwavering revolutionary force, enabling them to take military control by 1914. But they did not have the social base that would have made possible an understanding of how to consolidate power at the national level. This is a theme that we will discuss in subsequent posts.
Gilly, Adolfo. 2005. The Mexican Revolution. New York: The New Press. (Originally published as La Revolución Interrumpida by El Caballito, Mexico, in 1971).
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