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Revolutionary Ideology and Political Destiny in Mexico, 1928–1934

Lázaro Cárdenas and Adalberto Tejeda

Eitan Ginzberg xxsxis the author of Lázaro Cárdenas, gobernador de Michoacán, 1928-1932 (1999), and Genocide. Encounter and clash: The destruction of the Indian nations in Latin America (2009). His research focuses on questions of infra-political resistance, history and culture of Latin America, and the study of genocide. Dr. Ginzberg serves as a researcher at the Sverdlin Institute of Latin American History and Culture at the University of Tel Aviv.

Lázaro Cárdenas and Adalberto Tejeda, veterans of the Revolution and prominent governors of Michoacán and Veracruz from 1928 to 1932, strived to make Mexico a modern and just state on the basis of the revolutionary Constitution. Three key obstacles confronted them: the conservative approach of the political Center; the political weakness of their own power base; and the great opposing power of the farmers and their supporting elements, especially the Church and the army.

This book discusses the different avenues to reform these leaders took and their short- and long-term implications. Cárdenas sought to strengthen his position through the ruling party (PNR), while reinforcing local agrarian forces and opening channels of direct empathetic communication with the Church and the army. Tejeda attempted to strengthen his position in the federative arena, bypassing the political Center via the National Peasant League (LNC – Liga Nacional Campesina), whose establishment he was deeply involved in, making a sweeping radical reform while attacking uncompromisingly all the traditional elements of Veracruzan society.

Both political projects had unprecedented success but totally different implications. The Cardenista power base led its author to the next Presidency, during which he implemented a remarkable agrarian project. Tejeda’s power base, however, led to the utter annihilation of his political power structure and many of his agrarian achievements, as well as to his failure in the struggle for presidency. From that point of view, only a heavy bureaucratic, center-based reform initiative could succeed, while a local, radical, adventurous transformation was doomed to failure. The fate of the two governors corresponded to the fate of national revolutionary reformism and thus to the destiny of Mexico.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-694-3
Hardback Price: £60.00 / $74.95
Release Date: March 2015
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-777-3
Paperback Price: £27.50 / $39.95
Release Date: March 2016
Page Extent / Format: 320 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: es, plate section and maps


List of Tables, Maps and Illustrations

1. Background
2. The Main Characters
3. The Conceptual Framework
4. Methodology and Sources

Chapter 1: Veracruz and Michoacán on the Threshold of a New Era
1. Background
2. Indices of Industrialization and Political Sophistication
3. Agrarian Structure as an Index of Revolutionary Dynamism
4. Grassroots Organization and Its Influence on the Development of Agrarianism
5. Tejeda’s Road to Power
6. Cárdenas’s Road to Power
7. Towards a New Era?

Chapter 2: Towards Reform: The Development of Leadership Patterns
and a Political Infrastructure

1. Priorities and Modes of Operation
2. Organizing the Masses
i. The Veracruz Agrarian League: Organizational and Ideological Bases
ii. The Veracruz League as a Power Base
iii. Why Veracruz Had No United Proletarian Front
iv. The Basis of the Michoacán Labor Confederation
v. Organization as a Reflection of the Concepts of the State and of the Nature of Social Change
3. Taking Over the Sphere of Local Government
i. Rationale and Techniques
ii. Integration of Power in the Michoacán Municipios
iii. Integration of Power in the Veracruz Municipios
iv. The Takeover of the City of Veracruz
v. Reaping the Fruits of Success
vi. Politico-Administrative Reclassification of Villages
4. Establishing Personal Authority in the Local and National Spheres
5. Political Power and the Test of Recognition

Chapter 3: The Shaping of a New Civil Consciousness
1. Motives for Developing a New Consciousness and a Revolutionary Ethos
2. The Education System before the Advent of Cárdenas and Tejeda
3. Cardenist Education as a Revolutionary Mission
4. The Rehabilitation of the Veracruz Education System
5. The Ideological Orientation: Socialist Education in Veracruz
6. Tejeda and Cárdenas: A Parting of the Ways
7. The Battle against the Church

Chapter 4: The Salvation of Agrarianism: The Ejido Issue
1. Introduction
2. Missed Opportunities for Agrarian Reform
3. Saving the Ejido: The Ideological Dimension
i. Cárdenas and the Ejidal Ethos
ii. Tejeda and the Ejidal State
4. Saving the Ejido: Organization and Consciousness-Raising
i. Reinforcing the Administrative Framework
ii. The Battle over Ejidal Petitions
5. Protecting the Nascent Ejido
i. Implementing the Reform in the Field
ii. Arrangements to Help Potential Ejidatarios Survive the Waiting Period: Veracruz
iii. Arrangements to Help Potential Ejidatarios Survive the Waiting Period: Michoacán
6. The Implementation of the Ejidal Reform: Quantity and Quality
i. The Cooperative Basis: Veracruz Did More
ii. Easing the Ejidos’ Tax Burden: Conflicting Trends
8. The Salvation of the Ejido: A Pyrrhic Victory?

Chapter 5: From Ejidal Agrarianism to Total Agrarianism
1. The Importance of Private Land
2. The Return of the Forest Land to the Meseta Tarasca Communities in Michoacán
3. Preparing the Way for the Creation of Private Smallholdings in Michoacán
i. Back to the Old Laws
ii. Law #75: Towards a New Definition of “the Public Interest”
4. On the Way to Another Revolution: The Creation of Private Smallholdings in Veracruz
i. Workers and Peasants in a Definitive Battle over Property
ii. The Birth of the Tenant Movement (1929-1930)
iii. Extending Land Reform to Rural Property (1930-1931)
iv. Crossing the Rubicon: Towards Total Agrarianism (June, 1932)
v. The “Tejeda Law” Undergoes the Test of Public Opinion
5. The Motives for Alternative Reform: Between Ideology and Politics

Chapter 6: The Eradication of Tejeda’s Power and the Contest for the Presidency
1. The Eradication of Tejedism and the Consolidation of Cardenism
2. The Elimination of the Tejedist Ideology
3. The Elimination of Cárdenas’s Power Bases in Michoacán
4. The Contest for the Presidency

The Triumph of the Agrarianist Ethos
and the Fading Away of Participatory Democracy


Herewith a major study of two towering political leaders of the Mexican Revolution: Lázaro Cárdenas and Adalberto Tejeda. Based on extensive original research, the book perceptively analyses the careers, ideologies, and political strategies of two leaders known as notable radicals, who mobilized powerful popular movements in their respective states, Michoacán and Veracruz. Eitan Ginzberg sheds a great deal of light on processes of popular mobilization and state-formation in the 1920s and ’30s, with detailed analyses of both land reform and anticlericalism; he also offers a provocative contrast between the two leaders, suggesting why Tejeda’s intransigence led to ultimate failure, while Cárdenas’ pragmatic approach carried him to the presidency.
Alan Knight, Professor Emeritus of Latin American History, University of Oxford, author of The Mexican Revolution (CUP 1986)

Ginzberg offers a view of the post-revolutionary period and the institutionalization of the Mexican Revolution through the formation of the National Revolutionary Party (PNR), later Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). This is a micro view of the revolution through a comparative analysis of Lázaro Cárdenas and Adalberto Tejeda, governors of Michoacán and Veracruz, 1928 to 1932 — two radical governors who struggled to modernize Mexico and fulfill the promises of the Constitution of 1917. It is a fascinating story of how the governors struggled to institutionalize and empower the agrarian and proletariat sectors, and their approaches to the conservative political center as they built their own power bases. Tejada, the more radical of the two, incorporated Marxist theories. His downfall was that he ignored the dictates of the Jefe Maximo, Plutarco Elías Calles, who neutralized Tejada. Cárdenas, although a staunch reformer, strengthened his position through the ruling party (PNR), his organization of local agrarian forces, and by opening channels of direct, empathetic communication with the Church and the army. In contrast, Tejeda attempted to strengthen his position in the federative arena, bypassing the political center via the National Peasant League (Liga Nacional Campesina—LNC). Tejeda’s failure doomed political transformation and affected the fate of national revolutionary reformism. Highly recommended.
Choice, R. Acuña, California State University, Northridge

Ginzberg's careful analysis of archival sources provides insights into revolutionary politics at all level of government, sheds light on the tactics and careers of Cardenas and Tejeda, and details the struggle to implement progressive policies, particularly agrarian reforms and democratization.
Michael J. Gonzalez, Northern Illinois University, in Estudios Interdisciplinarios de America Latina y el Cribe

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