Wednesday, May 02, 2007


"The ruler, the capitalist, and the priest rested that afternoon in the shadow of an ash tree whose leaves shined brightly in the mountain canyon.
The capitalist, visibly agitated, mashed a red booklet into pulp with his hands, and said between sighs:
"I've lost everything: my fields, my cattle, my mills, my factories; everything is under the power of the ragged bums."
The ruler, trembling with rage, said:
"This is the end. Nobody respects authority anymore."
And the priest raised his eyes to the sky and said remorsefully:
"Damned reason! It has killed faith!"
The three estimable persons thought, and thought, and thought...The previous night had seen fifty revolutionaries storm into the village, and the working people who lived there had welcomed them with open arms; and while the revolutionaries were searching for the ruler, the capitalist, and the priest to demand of them a strict account of their acts, they had fled to the canyon seeking refuge.
"Our domination of the masses has ended," said the ruler and the capitalist in a single voice.
The priest smiled and said, in an assured tone:
"Don't worry yourselves. It's certain that faith has lost ground, but I can assure you that, through the means of religion, we can recuperate everything that we've lost. At first glance, it appears that the ideas contained in this damned booklet have triumphed in the village, and they will certainly triumph if we do nothing. I don't deny that these evil ideas enjoy a certain sympathy among the common people; but others repudiate them, above all they repudiate those that attack religion, and it is among these that we can foment a reactionary movement. Fortunately, we three could escape, because if we'd have perished at the hands of the revolutionaries, the old institutions would have died with us."
The capitalist and the ruler felt as if a great weight had been lifted off their backs. The eyes of the capitalist flashed, burning with greed. How? How could it be possible for him to return to enjoying the possession of his fields, cattle, mills, and factories? Had it all been nothing but a cruel nightmare? Could he return to having all of the people of the region under his power, thanks to the good offices of religion? And, rising to his feet, he shook his fist in the direction of the village, whose country houses shined brilliantly white beneath the sun.
The ruler, emotionally, said with conviction:
"I have always believed that religion is the firmest support for authority. Religion teaches that God is the primary boss, and that we rulers are his lieutenants on Earth. Religion condemns rebellion because it holds that the rulers are above the people by the will of God. Long live religion!"
Fired up by his own words, the ruler snatched from the hands of the capitalist the red booklet, tearing it to shreds and throwing the scraps in the direction of the village, as a challenge to the noble insurrectionary workers.
"Dogs!" he cried. "Recieve this along with my spit!"
The scraps of paper flew happily away, blown by the wind, like big toy butterflies. They were the Partido Liberal Mexicano manifesto of September 23, 1911.
The first shadows of night began to fall in the valley, and in the twilight one could see waving, above one small house in the village, a red flag bearing in white letters this inscription: "Land and Liberty." The ruler, the capitalist, and the priest screamed, waving their fists at the village:
"Nest of vipers! We'll soon crush you!"
The final rays of the sun still shone in the west as it set; the frogs began their custormary serenade, free, happy, ignorant or the miseries that men suffer. In the ash tree, a pair of songbirds sang their song of free love, free of judges, priests, law clerks. The peaceful beauty of the hour invited the human heart to manifest all of its tortures, and for those sentiments to materialize in a work of art.
Making even the rocks shake, a formidable cry rolled up the canyon: "Who is there?"
The ruler, the capitalist, and the cleric trembled, anticipating their end. Night had finally laid all of the rays from the sun to rest; the songbirds grew quiet; the frogs fell silent; a gust of wind agitated frighteningly the branches of the ash tree; and in the darkness, frightfully, returned the ominous cry: "Who is there?"
The three estimable persons remembered in a single second their crimes: they had enjoyed all the good things of life at the cost of the suffering of the humble; they had maintained humanity in ignorance and misery in order to satisfy their appetites.
The sound of energetic footsteps grew louder: they were those of the soldiers of the people, of the soldiers of the social revolution. A round of gunfire left rolling in the dust, without life, the representatives of the hydra with three heads: Authority, Capital, Clergy."

-Ricardo Flores Magon, Regeneracion, November 13, 1915.


gregra&gar said...

Some of the people were enriched by taking their homes back from the capitalist. Some of the people felt justified in regaining authority over their own lives. Some of the people were inspired by regaining faith in the righteousness that threw out the priest. What do you suppose the people did with that enrichment, authority and faith they just regained? Did they invent a new way of walking?

troutsky said...

Unless the people had been taking some time to analyze the structural nature of their oppression, they would just fill the old roles with new actors.By analyzing I mean identifying which modes of thought, which aspects of their own consciousness, which ingrained traditions or cultural expressions,were going to sabatoge their emancipation.They would have to have agreed on why the old structure was unjust and which new processes to try to come up with new institutions.All difficult work, it seems to me, much more difficult than picking up a gun.

They would also have to hope the next village over was experiencing the same revolution or "contra" forces would easily exploit their vulnerability.

Ché Bob said...

"Did they invent a new way of walking?"

Yes, they walked with full strides being freed from their chains.

Liberal White Boy said...

No matter who rules there are always chains. The only real question is who will wear them. It always seems it is the same people who rule. I often wonder if they care about their political stripes.I cannot separate the three things they are all bull shit. Don't you think Robert? In the end I'm starting to think it is all about humanity and how we best serve the interests of most. That seems like the best we can do.

troutsky said...

I think the important discussion is "what is the State?"
In the liberal view it is an efficient way to govern but it's citizens must be vigilant in maintaining limits. The American revolutionaries dreamed of a government "of the people" but in the end it is simply another organizational structure for implementing certain functions of society. It can happen in the industrial realm (libertarian socialism) or the civil (classical liberalism)but either way they are attempting to convert coercive power into a contractual form.

What collective tasks need to be administered? How much can be handled privately?

In a meritocracy,a certain "vangaurd" of naturally endowed are "called" upon to lead.We know the problems with this, and yet so many cultural factors feed into this, both religious (the chosen) and secular (social Darwinian).

Libertarian socialism has to find that synthesis that works equally well for post-industrial as well as industrial and neo-agrarian society.(neo-agrarian being post-industrial as well, the return to a simpler ,more "natural" production etc..)

Ché Bob said...


Thatcher said "there is no alternative" to capitalism. Fukuyama wrote about the "end of history." Are you seriously joining company with these two and saying this is "the best we can do"?

You also said that "no matter who rules there are always chains," but Magon was an anarchist arguing for no rulers. While in the strictest sense there may always be restrictions to our freedoms for sake of the common good, we might agree that we don't know that much about human nature except as manifested through historical structures. That is to say, when a system is in place that rewards greed and self-interest, these elements of human nature are likely to be nurtured. But what happens if this system is replaced by a system that rewards solidarity and cooperation? Isn't it possible that compassion and selflessness could be drawn out from our "human nature"?

Anarchists such as Flores Magon go beyond capitalism as the sole source of oppression. As a libertarian socialist, he believed that the classical liberal ideals could not be realized by state capitalism or state socialism. The idea is to distribute power horizontally among individuals that freely associate.


"What do you suppose the people did with that enrichment, authority and faith they just regained?"

In the case of the Mexican revolution (to which Flores Magon was referring), they weren't able to do much of anything. This had very little to do with the people though (as is the common case historically after most all revolutions), because wealth and power remained in select hands. In Mexico, in particular, power and wealth stayed in the hands of the few. "Revolutionary" Mexico earned the quotation marks!

There are no examples of revolutions that ultimately resulted in "new ways of walking." The most advanced social revolution in human history was the Spanish Revolution. Historical research revealed unprecedented liberty and equality, and perhaps an entirely new way of walking, which lasted only a very short time. This mostly anarchist revolution was brutally crushed by socialists, communists and fascists alike. That which Flores Magon describes in his work was never realized in Mexico since the priest, the capitalist and the ruler have never gone away!