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The Mexican Revolutionary Movements

One may hardly recall the more successful uprising of the twentieth century other than the Mexican Revolution. The dramatic event resulted in the complete change of regime that determined the country’s future. Between the 1910s and 1920s, the social base and the goals of the four major Mexican revolutionary movements considerably differed, but many of their aspirations served as the basis for the Constitution of 1917.

The social base of the Mexican Revolution represented the various mobilized groups of citizens that strived to topple the illegitimate government. According to Brian Hamnett, there are two sources of the Mexican Revolution: the election turmoil and the clash between the small and large enterprises. In 1913, the murder of the head of the Mexican state, Francisco I. Madero, led to the rising backlash against the new federal government of General Victoriano Huerta that strongly resembled the dictatorship regime and undermined the constitutional order of the Mexican Republic. The economic recession of 1907 caused the tense relations between the rural population and haciendas and mining corporations due to rapid transformations. Therefore, the mentioned factors provoked the negative reaction of the new generation of politicians that rose to the significant positions during the Madero administration. One of the first to argue against the legitimacy of the Huerta rule was Venistiano Carranza, the governor of Conahuila. The future leader of the state gained support of the middle-class population of Chihuahua who occupied the military and civil high-rank positions after the Revolution. With a few hundreds of supporters from the loyal ex-Madista battalions and the financial loan from his state bank, Carranza launched the campaign against the federal government. Carranza’s act of defiance inspired the uprising in the northern state of Sonora. In fact, the social base of the Sonorense movement consisted mainly of merchants, managers, farmers and teachers, led by Alvaro Obregon, a small landowner with the reputation of the machinery expert. In the central south of Mexico, the peasantry formed the 20,000 revolutionary movement, led by Emilio Zapata, and occupied Morelos, Tlaxcala, south and west Puebla, northern Guerrero, and the southern sector of the Federal District by 1915. The most intense and massive insurrection, led by the former Maderista soldier Francisco Villa, originated in Chihuahua. Unlike the Zapatista movement, the Villa insurrection attracted the hacienda workers, war veterans and dispossessed ranchers. Overall, the mentioned movements represented the interests of the various and numerous layers of the Mexican population.

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The ideological base of the Mexican revolutionary groups was equally diverse. The difference became especially obvious after the defeat of the Huerta regime and the Federal Army in August 1914. Venistiano Carranza outlined his vision of the future state in the 1913 Plan de Guadalupe that negated the power of the Huerta administration. The key point of Carranza’s political agenda was the establishment of the functioning state authority with the strong executive branch. For the sake of securing the support of villista and zapatista forces after Huerta’s surrender, the 1915 version of the document mentioned the implementation of the agrarian reform and the improved conditions for urban workers. The Carranza movement actively persuaded the economic nationalization and the elimination of the foreign companies’ control over the mining industry in the northern regions of Mexico. Emilio Zapatista persistently advocated the 1911 Plan of Ayala that suggested the large-scale agrarian reform that benefited the dispossessed rural population at the expense of the large private estates. The provisions of the Zapatista Plan presupposed a set of concrete measures: confiscation of lands and enemies’ assets in the public favor as well as redistribution of the land among the dispossessed peasants. The Sonora leaders did not support the economic transformations, but were eager to obtain control of the state resources. However, Alvaro Obregon strongly upheld the idea of the anticlericalism and the secularized system of education. Villa’s objectives were the most radical as the former soldier was inclined to establish the extremely militarized, egalitarian state. According to Aguilar Camin, Villa and Zapata did not develop the solid vision of the prosperous state and were incapable of organizing the stable government according to their revolutionary goals. Nevertheless, most of the mentioned objectives became the basis for the new Constitution later on.

The Constitution of 1917 was to a great extent the aim, result, and logical conclusion of the Mexican Revolution. One of the principal accomplishments was the establishment of the strong executive branch, capable of taking action in case of necessity and upholding the optional balance between the other branches. The article 123 of the document reflected the achieved compromise on the labor regulations. The Constitution established the minimum wage and the mandatory holidays as well as the eight-hour working day and the six-day working week. It prohibited women and child night labor in industry. The second high point of the Constitution was the establishment of the maximum size of the estates, preventing the emergence of large properties and the state ownership of the natural resources. The promise of the land redistribution did not remain just words written on the paper, as between 1915 and 1920, the government divided more than 400,000 acres among 44,000 of citizens. The profound novelty of the Constitution was its anticlerical character and the mandatory and secularized education. The articles of the new law proclaimed that the property of the Catholic Church and the right to manage the religious affairs belonged to the state. Moreover, the Catholic Church could no longer supervise the elementary schools and perform the religious services outside the church buildings. The anti-clerical provisions of the Constitution provoked the extremely violent reaction of the religious rural population of the western part of Mexico. The armed peasant rebels of Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and Durango rose against the government anti-Catholic policy in 1927. The estimated number of 20,000 men launched the Cristero Rebellion on January, 1. The uprising resolved on the agreement, signed by the Mexican government and the Catholic hierarchy on June 21, 1929, providing the extensive concessions for the church. Moreover, the Constitution provisions had profound effect on the Mexican educational system. Free from the religious influence, the officials strived to use education as the tool of political unification, incorporating “the early-twentieth anarchist ideas, some simplistic Marxist ideas, and even spiritualist trends”. Moreover, the government-sponsored muralism movement emerged in the 1920s. This movement was meant to convey the official history of Mexico, encourage social and political engagement among the representatives of the different revolutionary movements as well as shape the original national style. The Constitution of 1917 comprised the solution to numerous political and social issues of the contemporary period as well as incorporated the goals of the revolutionary movements.

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The Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910, is a rare example of the massive and successful regime change. The revolutionary movements advocated the interests of the different layers of the Mexican population: peasants, workers, and middle class. The western peasants represented the counterrevolutionary uprising in the 1920s that fought for a free choice of religion. The Constitution of 1917 reflected the main political, economic and cultural goals of the Mexican Revolutions including the strong executive branch, land redistribution, and secularized society. As a result, it became the logical conclusion of the numerous battles for better future.