Thursday, 6 February 2014

GENERAL EMILIANO ZAPATA.

(BY W. F. A.) 

The other day the cables informed us that General Emiliano Zapata had entered Mexico City and taken charge of the affairs of Mexico. The ordinary reader would naturally believe that Zapata is one of the numerous upstarts anxious to control the affairs of that unhappy land. But, strange to say, such is not the case. Zapata does not dream of stepping into the shoes of Diaz, Madero, Huerta, or Carranza. His fight is somewhat unique being a fight against the landlord system of Mexico.

Some few weeks ago I received from a revolutionist in Mexico a translated copy of a booklet entitled "The Mexican Revolution of 1906-1914," from which I have gleaned some facts that might be of interest to Australian readers. At any rate it reveals Zapata in a light totally different from what is usually believed here.

Emiliano Zapata is a social revolutionist who has been up in-arms since 1911, and has a following of 60,000 armed men, and is credited with having the consent of three millions of people in six States of Southern Mexico in the fight he is waging in that country. He states that he stands for the collective ownership of all the land, forests, water powers, oil wells, and the means of production and distribution. Roughly, we would term him a socialist of the most radical type. It may be said in justice to him that no man possesses the genuine love of the workers more than this man. He is in turn both loved and hated—hated by the landlords and capitalists of Mexico, and loved by the working people of that same unhappy land. The workers believe in him because he, being a man of great organising capabilities, has formed a strong party that has fought four successive Governments for the rights of the working man. It is admitted by even unbiassed observers that he is hated by the capitalists of both Mexico and the United States. It is even said that they fear him, and there is perhaps a reason for this, seeing that he has put to death many high officers of the military, Attorney-Generals, Premiers, wealthy landowners, and high dignitaries of the Church, because they have been guilty (rightly or wrongly) of various crimes that be says are detrimental to the working man.

The revolt that Zapata headed first began in 1906. The people he represents in that year rose to overthrow the triple form of government. They aimed at downing the dictatorship, the clergy, and the holder of capital at one fell blow. Naturally the Mexican peon (farm worker) followed the standard of Zapata because he worked under conditions that certainly would not be tolerated in this country. The seeds of discontent, too, had done their work, for we find that the peons throughout the Southern States swore revenge on the landlords, the tax-gatherers, and any kind of oppressors at all.

I should mention here that Zapata, like Madero, is not a bandit. Certainly he had seen hard times, for we note he records that after working for 17 successive landlords he was still poor, and had suffered the hardships, poverty, and misery incidental to the life of a Mexican peon. Even at the age of 25, when he took the field with an armed force, he records that he never received more than 2s 1d per day of 14 hours. After he had passed through several battles and performed many acts of heroic bravery, he set to work to organise an army to prevent Madero from taking advantage of the position he had won in Mexican politics. And since the fall of 1911 it must be recorded that Zapata and his men have driven out the Federal army from Southern Mexico and taken possession of all the property he could lay his hands on. That is why he is both hated and feared by the wealthy class. His operations cover the State of Moroles, and parts of the States of Mexico, Puebla, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Hidalgo, and Tlaxcala, and the Federal district. He owes his following to the fact that he represents the one great idea rooted in the Mexican peasant's mind, namely, that the land and all its products should belong to the man who works the land. It is said that Madero, in answer to a deputation of American landowners who desired that he be put under, said : "It won't be with guns that we will quieten Zapata; he is not a bandit, but a revolutionist, and revolutionists have always a principle of justice."

It is only fair to the rebel leader to say that in the huge territory he holds sway over he has introduced the co-operative system, and the change has been accepted by thousands upon thousands of workers. They believe that under him, the days of slavery are over. They refuse to produce any more for the land owners, but go on producing for themselves. Wherever he carried his flag he proclaimed the stores of all kinds public property, and all sales are under his military jurisdiction. He commandeered the tools of production and ploughs for the workers, be appropriated all the lands, and burned the title deeds. He destroyed all the records in the courts and law offices under his sway. He abolished the prisons, and has a summary way of dealing with breakers of the law, as be has made it, by his "Committee of Public Safety." In a word, he has introduced a new society in Southern Mexico.

The war that he is engaged in is not an ordinary one for power. It is, in a word, a war of extermination—a war against the domination of aristocracy and landlordism. He asks no quarter, and be gives none. The United States army refused to have anything to do with him, despite all the urgings of Wall-street, because the United States War Minister saw grave consequences. As he said, "If we fight Zapata, it means that the flower of our army would perish in the gigantic mountains and great deeps of the Mexican Sierras, for they are the strongholds of this man." And it is fairly safe to say that Zapata, with three million people behind him, would never surrender to any Government.

 The Sydney Morning Herald 5 December 1914,

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