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Remembering Ricardo Flores Magón November 21, 2019

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Decolonization, Uncategorized.

Ricardo Flores Magón died 97 year ago in Fort Leavenworth Penitentiary while serving time for writing against WWI & for anarchist revolution. Whether directly by a guard’s hands or indirectly by medical neglect, the prison killed him.

Despite various contradictions, RFM’s thought & life continue to inspire me & to shape my convictions. I believe that RFM receives insufficient attention as an anarchist theorist, especially for his insurrectionism & articulation of Mexican Indigenous communal traditions.

RFM adhered resolutely to anarchist principles to the end. In the 1918 manifesto to anarchists & workers worldwide that the US government used to charge him under the Espionage Act of 1917, he & Librado Rivera wrote the following:

In order to ensure that unconscious rebellion doesn’t form with its own arms the new chain that will again enslave the people, it’s necessary that we, those who do not believe in government, those who are convinced that government, whatever its form and wherever it shows its face, is tyranny, because it is not an institution created to protect the week, but rather to protect the strong, place ourselves at the forefront of circumstances and fearlessly proclaim our holy anarchist ideal, the only human, just, and true ideal.

RFM likewise criticized the Bolsheviks in February 1921:

I fully understand your disappointment at seeing so many comrades supporting the Lenin-Trotzky’s government. I am not, of course, in favor of allied intervention in Russia; we must oppose it, but we must refrain from showing Marxian tyranny as means to gain freedom. Tyranny cannot breed but tyranny. It is better to intensify the propaganda of our Ideal to the utmost.

& in June of the same year:

I have been watching day by day the compromising and killing of the revolutionary principles in Russia. It is grievous, of course, to see the wanton assassination of the vague hopes of the peoples, but nothing is lost in the long run. If they believe to-day that Freedom can be gained through Dictatorship, they will be wiser to-morrow, and will conquer Freedom by breaking all shackles. Cheer up!

Born in Oaxaca, RFM developed his ideology from experience in Indigenous & land-based mestizx communities, from facing state repression as a student protester, & from extensive reading of anarchist texts such as Peter Kropotkin’s *The Conquest of Bread*.

RFM rose to prominence in the movement against the de-facto dictator Porfirio Díaz. Persecution forced him into exile in the USA in 1904. The Partido Liberal Mexicano began as broad opposition party but grew steadily more anarchist as time went on.

The PLM included Indigenous members like Fernando Palomares (Mayo) & Primo Tapia de la Cruz (Purépecha). The party focused on solidarity with Indigenous peoples in & the Yaqui in particular. Yaqui leader Luis Espinosa described the Yaqui struggle as aligned with anarchism.

RFM defended the Mexican Revolution against ignorant & racist attacks by European anarchists, including from Luigi Galleani. RFM stressed the communal past & present when making the case that the Mexican people were well-suited for anarchist communism.

Scholars continue to debate RFM & his family’s exact social position; Claudio Lomnitz, for instance, counsels caution about any claims of Indigenous identity. Regardless of the details, there’s no question of his familiarity with & ties to Indigenous communities.

The depth of RFM’s thought defies summary. I encourage folx who’re interested to read his writings, which you can find for free via archivomagon.net. Most of them are in Spanish, but some are in English. *Dreams of Freedom* has English translations of key pieces.

Disclaimer: Like many radicals of the era, RFM was overbearingly ableist, stridently antiqueer, & rather masculinist. He tended to denounce anyone who disagreed with him as a traitor. The PLM was at times anti-Chinese & the 1911 Baja California campaign was a disaster.

I finish for now with the concluding lines from that 1918 PLM manifesto:

Let every man and every woman who loves the anarchist ideal proclaim it with tenacity, with stubbornness, taking no notice of taunts, without fearing dangers, without regard to the consequences. Shoulders to the wheel, comrades, and the future will be the unfolding of our ideal. Land and Liberty.


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