Struggles and Contributions are narrated in The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón
** They praise the first transnational network of Mexican and US revolutionaries in a book
** The anthropologist and historian Claudio Lomnitz emphasizes that the theme has current resonance
By: David Brooks, Correspondent
New York, March 10, 2014
The first transnational network of Mexican and US revolutionaries –of which Ricardo Flores Magón formed a part– its participants, its struggle and ideological contributions within the context of the Mexican Revolution are told in the book The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón, from the anthropologist and historian Claudio Lomnitz.
“This is the narration of a transnational revolutionary network that thought of itself as the servant of an ideal. It could be told in the mold of Don Quijote, it is the story of a group of men and women that read books and acted on them, only to confront a society entrenched en its most vulgar preoccupations,” Lomnitz writes in the introduction to the extensive text that explores the political, social and individual dimensions of an extraordinary list of anarchists and socialists of both sides of the border ambos.
Lomnitz, professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Mexican Studies at Columbia University and a La Jornada collaborator, tells how exiles Mexicans came to Texas in 1904, where they began to elaborate plans to impel a revolution in Mexico. “They did not perceive themselves as creators of a new nation, but rather as a regenerative force (…) If they perceived themselves as planting something, it was the seed of revolution (…) For their part, the Americans that worked with these men and women perceived themselves as collaborators in ‘the Mexican cause,’ a movement that had taken the leadership in the universal struggle for emancipation,” he added.
For 1908, two circles –one of Mexicans with Ricardo Flores Magón at the center, almost all anarchists and communists in exile, and the other a circle of US socialists committed to the “Mexican cause”– were linked together around the legal defense of those exiled from Mexico and from there they developed what Lomnitz calls “the first big grass roots US-Mexican solidarity network.”
Ricardo Flores Magón, with his brother Enrique and those around him, are erroneously categorized as “precursors” de la Revolución, Lomnitz writes, and adds that they were contemporaneous with that whole stage. At the same time he points out that the bi-national dimension of that revolutionary network is almost never fully emphasized. The book narrates the experience of Flores Magón and his comrades, among them John Kenneth Turner, Ethel Duffy, Lázaro Gutiérrez de Lara, on both sides of the border before and during the Revolution.
At the New York presentation of the book, professor Renato Rosaldo, of New York University, commented that: “this is a very dangerous book.” He remembers that Flores Magón became a “hero of the Chicano Movement,” just because of his bi-national presence, something that continues having echoes today. “He is a reminder that Mexicans in the United States, the migrants, are not numbers or ants, but rather that they come with very well formed ideologies muy, with political projects and more.” He indicated that Flores Magón was key “in offering a vision of Mexico in and from the United States,” and that he personally suffered repression and persecution on both sides of the border. He emphasized that the text reveals “the role of the US and Mexican revolutionaries in the United States during the Mexican Revolution.”
Professor Arcadio Díaz, of Princeton University, emphasized that the book offers data about the “importance and search for allies” in the bi-national history of the Revolution, the role and particular vision of the anarchists and their devotion to the “worldwide revolution,” as well as the internal conflicts and disputes around this ideal. At the same time, history offers details of, for example, the “complicity of the United States and Mexican governments to spy on and infiltrate the networks” of these revolutionaries. Díaz praised Lomnitz for his exploration of the philosophical debate, the revolutionary practice in exile, the language and culture of the “transnational experience of exile.” He also argued that in some measure this work shows that: “Mexicans and US citizens generated together part of the ideology of the Mexican Revolution.”
Lomnitz explained in the presentation that before the “ideological incoherence of the Mexican Revolution,” manifested in the contradictory poles between Zapatismo, Carrancismo and Villismo, the influence of Magonismo was notable, having emerged from “a movement inside and outside of Mexico,” despite its irrelevance in military terms. The author added that the circle around Flores Magón in the United States was composed of a broad list of revolutionaries with international origins –Irish, Italians, Jewish– who used to sing La Marsellesa in English, Spanish, Italian and Yiddish in their meetings in Los Ángeles.
Lomnitz considered that all of this has current resonance, where a “profound critique of the State” as is expressed in this history, “is what we need today.”
The book was published in English by Zone Books and distributed by MIT Press. The Spanish version will be announced soon.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Tuesday, March 11, 2014