(Author's draft of "Porfirian Labor Politics: Working Class Organizations in Mexico City and Porfirio Díaz, 1876-1902," The Americas (Jan. 1981), pp. 247-298)

MOST studies of relations between government and organized labor in Mexico stand firmly on the supposition that the Revolution of 1910 marked a sharp break with the past. The labor policies of the Díaz regime have alternately been described as either brutally repressive or as neutral and aloof in keeping with nineteenth century liberal doctrine (especially before 1906). If either of these somewhat contradictory characterizations are true, then the case for discontinuity in labor policies is clearly confirmed.

This essay will argue that neither description of labor policies during the Díaz regime is accurate. Rather, patterns of interaction between the Díaz government and urban working class organizations, especially in Mexico City, shaped the evolution of the Mexican labor movement and national labor policy along lines followed ever since. The Díaz government developed a flexible and sophisticated array of labor policy instruments that was based upon cooperation with and subsidies to progovernment labor organizations as well as political rewards and the other fruits of co-optation for labor leaders loyal to the regime. With its labor allies, the Díaz government promoted modes of organization which retarded labor militancy, sponsored informal as well as official mediation between workers and employers during strikes and other conflicts, and disseminated propaganda and instituted educational programs, including pro-government labor newspapers and schools for the working class, designed to promote labor's identification of its own well-being with the interests of the state. While the Revolution of 1910 and the later developments of the Cárdenas era institutionalized state labor relations as never before, the objectives and instrumentalities of contemporary labor relations have their origin in the Porfiriato.

In the following pages, an outline of significant developments that prefigured the Porfirian period will be presented first. Then, the evolution of Díaz's labor policies out of a more or less traditional patronage system will be described along with a discussion of Díaz's treatment of conflict between labor and capital. Finally, the limits of the Díaz government's ability to maintain a satisfactory relationship with labor will be highlighted, with particular attention to the severe strains that became evident in the early years of the twentieth century.


The colonial experience in Mexico nurtured the development of a peculiar relationship between the state and the laboring classes. It committed artisans to political intercourse with a paternalistic state which protected their status in society through the promulgation of municipal ordenanzas regulating artisan guilds or gremios. The persistence of gremial organization even after their legal abolition gave to artisans a social cohesiveness with which to confront the adversity brought on by political and economic change in the nineteenth century. Several factors combined to assure the artisans' continued political involvement after Independence in l821. Municipal ordinances regulated the taller libre, the "free shop" which replaced the economic functions of the gremio while preserving its social organization. Thus political participation at the level of the municipio remained important. Higher up, shared interests cemented an enduring relationship between artisans and regional strongmen who, in the absence of a strong state, emerged as dominant political fixtures in early nineteenth century Mexico. Artisans wanted a tax structure which protected them against outside competition. Caciques needed tax revenues to secure their positions and to finance campaigns to enlarge their political bases. Ultimately, fear of competition from imported manufacturers mandated the artisans' involvement in national politics.

Because the state was so weak, political entrepreneurs found it useful to appeal to the masses of urban artisans and laborers for support. In contact with both employed and unemployed urban laborers, yet occupying a middle position, artisans owned superior leadership and organizational resources. By drawing on their influence with the urban masses, artisans became political brokers of no mean talent.

Led by artisans, the urban laboring classes looked to a paternal state for assistance and protection. Symptomatic of their point of view was the commentary of La Abeja Poblana in June of l841:

it must also be one of the responsibilities of a government to care for the working man who by no fault of his own finds himself in need ... this is especially necessary when the progress of industry causes some momentary problems in finding work, and it would be very worthwhile to provide temporary assistance to the worker without a job.

Artisans frequently initiated dialogue with the government and the state usually responded. For example, Santa Anna's government created in 1843 the Juntas de Fomento Artesano. These were state organs intended to replace the gremios. Besides serving as a medium in which to organize for the defense of common interests, the Juntas provided for the establishment of educational and welfare institutions for the laboring classes. Undoubtedly, such organizations afforded a means with which to recruit working class political support for Santa Anna.

Even as they were displaced by factory workers in the latter half of the nineteenth century, artisans conscientiously promoted themselves as the natural leaders among the expanding urban working class. José María Gonzáles, a prolific contributor to the working class press, commented in 1877: "We artisans are in continuous contact with the workers, we see their misery and understand their situation." Indeed, some labor leaders of artisan extraction such as Pedro Ordoñéz claimed superior enlightenment. While the leadership understood the great social problems of the day, "our people [the urban workers) are not yet of the aptitude to appreciate them [their problems]."A leadership of artisan origin continued to dominate labor organizations as late as 1920. Accustomed to their role as political brokers, they furnished commodities desired by political entrepreneurs, usually political support. In return, the político lent the artisan turned labor lider what he wanted, access to state resources. The early penetration of the state into the Mexican labor movement evolved out of their symbiotic relationship.

The dealings of Benito Juárez and Miguel Lerdo de Tejada with Epifanio Romero and Juan Cano showed how the process worked. Aid from Juárez and Lerdo, including a public building--the expropriated church of San Pedro y San Pablo--as a meeting place, an annual subsidy from the National Congress, and generous private donations enabled Romero and Cano to take control of various working class organizations in the Mexico City area such as the Gran Circulo. Subsequently, the Gran Circulo, originally founded to defend working class interests, cooperated with the Governor of the Federal District in breaking textile factory strikes in the mid-1870s. In addition, its leadership attempted to mobilize working class and popular support for Lerdo. The Gran Circulo's organ, El Socialista, became a political instrument supporting Lerdo's presidential aspirations. The newspaper prospered under the arrangement and soon boasted its own printing press.


Diaz's association with the Mexican labor movement pre-dated his assumption of power in l876. The Plan de Tuxtepec contained provisions attractive to the urban laboring classes." But the Plan was only one of Díaz's assets. His supporters in various Mexico City artisan and working class organizations diligently promoted and publicized his cause. As would often be the cause afterwards, the first attempt to found a national labor organization involved motives foreign to the nominal interests of the working class. Late in 1875, the lerdista dominated Gran Circulo called for the creation of an organization composed of delegates from sociedades de obreros across the nation. When the first Congreso Obrero convened in San Pedro y San Pablo in March of 1876, the lerdistas intended to drum up support for their patr6n. They failed to reckon with the strength of a coalition of non-aligned radicals and porfiristas. The opposition defeated the proposed lerdista officer slate and passed a resolution offered by Carlos Olaguíbel y Arísta denouncing the conscription of workers to combat Díaz's military challenge to Lerdo. The lerdistas salvaged what they could by circulating a manifesto calling for the working class to rally behind Lerdo and by publishing the Gran Circulo sponsored newspaper, La Bandera del Pueblo, which endorsed Lerdo. Their opponents responded by denouncing the manifesto and founding El Hijo de Trabajo, a newspaper which combined porfirista interest in building resistance to Lerdo with the desire of radical working class ideologues for a medium in which to proselytize.

After his military triumph in the Autumn of 1876, Diaz moved swiftly to destroy existing labor organization and to replace them with subservient ones. He seized San Pedro y San Pablo and dissolved the lerdista Gran Circulo. The following year, his labor allies fortified with the strategic defection of prominent ex-lerdistas such as Carlos Larrea, announced their intention to reorganize the Gran Circulo "in accordance with the wishes of the Jefe Supremo ... [who is] charged with harmonizing the interests of labor and capital." Consequently, in January of 1878 a new Gran Circulo loyal to Diaz moved into San Pedro y San Pablo. Olaguíbel y Arista, then occupying an important position in the Ministry of Hacienda, edited the organization's organ, El Periódico Oficial. The publicized objectives of the resurrected Gran Circulo stressed the "elevation of the worker by honest and productive work" and promised "no one need fear that is force ... [will be] directed against legitimate [property] rights." The organization promised that "far from condemning and attacking capital, it [the Gran Circulo] wants to march in accord."

Despite considerable friction, the rival Gran Circulos finally merged peacefully as Lerdo's chances for a political comeback waned by 1879. But a new political challenge to Diaz soon had the Gran Circulo's membership scurrying to take sides. General Trinidad Garcia de la Cadena, a regional strongman and the focus of opposition to Diaz, attempted to undercut Díaz's labor support. Replicating Diaz's methods, Garcia de la Cadena portrayed himself as a sympathizer of working class interests and sponsored a rival to Diaz's Gran Circulo, the Zacatecas Gran Circulo. The latter campaigned for its sponsor while the former endorsed the official candidate for President in 1880, Manuel Gonzáles. The political feud mortally weakened both organizations.

Its membership divided, the Gran Circulo collapsed in the early 1880s with its mission of harmonizing labor and capital unfulfilled. Installation of Diaz's designate, Gonzáles, and the failure of Garcia de la Cadena's campaign eased difficulties and made possible a reconciliation, but it came too late. The Zacatecas Gran Circulo, identified with a defeated political opponent faced official hostility and waned and finally succumbed without its political patr6n, Garcia de la Cadena, who fell before the ley fuga in l886.

In a similar manner, Alberto Santo Fé defied Díaz from his base in Puebla. Elected a delegate to the second Congreso Obrero which convened in 1879, Sante Fé's credentials included his proposed Ley del Pueblo, which urban and rural workers alike found appealing. In reporting maltreatment by factory owners, El Hijo de Trabajo, which had joined the political opposition against Diaz, warned in 1879: "Colonel Santa Fé has proclaimed socialism, do not complain ... if some day workers ask for an accounting ...." But Santa Fé, like the others, was vanquished and the labor movement itself felt the consequences as Diaz consolidated his position. The absence of challengers to Diaz's political hegemony meant the disappearance of the rivalries which had provided radical labor organizers the political "outs" as potential, if unreliable, allies. Left to themselves, the radicals faced the alternative of open and suicidal opposition or open and well rewarded collaboration. Many soon championed "evolutionary" approaches to labor problems with all the conviction that had accompanied their calls to social revolution in the years before.

The defection of Pedro Ordoñéz, Carmen Huerta, Juan B. Villareal, and others like them deprived the radical faction of leadership at the same time it reinforced Diaz's position. Once prominent in the Zacatecas Gran Circulo these defectors became the most efficient promoters of Díaz's labor program and soon replaced the ineffectual porfiristas associated with the Díaz Gran Circulo. They especially counted because Ordoñéz, Huerta, and José María Gonzáles had been elected to important positions in the second Congreso Obrero. Named to head the Permanent Commission formed as the Congreso broke up under the stress of the 1880 presidential election, Ordoñéz went on to take full control since the Commission remained the directing body of the Congreso. Under his guidance the Congreso slowly expanded its membership. By 1900 it boasted seventy-three affiliates in the Mexico City area and forty-six from elsewhere, including mutualist organizations in Laredo, Brownsville, and San Antonio, Texas. As elaborated by Ordoñéz, the mission of the Congreso was "Union, Peace, and Work" and would always remain such.

Organization of a new federation of sociedades de obreros in the Mexico City area filled in part the void left by dissolution of the Gran Circulo. Enrique A. Knight founded the Convención Radical Obrero in May of 1886. He soon lost control, however, to a rival group which had infiltrated his organization. Alleging that Knight had wanted to create "a practical school of republican institutions" that was "really impractical," they created instead a Junta Directiva headed by Ordoñéz to run the organization. Ironically, they justified their takeover with the charge that Knight had attempted to give the Convención Radical an "exclusively political character." The roster of the Junta Directive looked suspiciously like that of the Permanent Commission of the Congreso Obrero. Even so, Ordoñéz took control of an organization which claimed twenty-two sociedades as members representing fifteen thousand Mexico City artisans and workers. Exemplary of its internal politics was the election of officers in 1888. The Ordoñéz faction triumphed 450-0. The opposition charged foul play and tried unsuccessfully to organize a rival Convención

The "maintenance of public peace" headed the list of the Convenci6n Radical's publicized objectives in 1887, closely followed by the goal of "procuring the well-being of the working class." Its manifesto noted that the organization marched in accord with the program of the government because "that program is ours." Whatever their success in meeting their secondary objective, none other than La Semana Mercantil, the voice of Mexico's commercial and industrial interests, commented in 1888: "the influence of the respectable corporations Congreso Obrero and Convenci6n Radical has been such that Mexican workers are not like those [anarchist] workers of Europe and the United States."

High political functionaries acted as liaisons between the state and working class organizations throughout the period. Eulogized by the working class press as a "militar-obrero, "the Military Commander of the Federal District, General Hermengildo Carrillo, presided as Honorary President of the Convenci6n Radical in the late l880s and early 1890s. 27 When Ordoñéz's foes attempted to elect the Governor of the Federal District as honorary president of a rump Convenci6n Radical they were rebuffed. Guillermo Landa y Escand6n, Governor of the Federal District between 1902 and 1910 followed an established precedent in associating himself with "correct" labor organizations and promoting himself as a friend of the working class.

Porfirian interest in treating with the labor lider and his organization derived from the need for political support as well as the desire to contain and pacify the work force. The motivation of the lider to cooperate was equally complex and no less compelling. Frequently there was ideological consensus. Even so, practical and personal advantage firmly wed labor bureaucracies to the program of the government. Government aid in l877 to the Asociaci6n Artistica Industrial provided educational, cultural, and workshop facilities and financed installation of a printing press. Like its namesake, the porfirista Gran Circulo met in quarters supplied by the state and accepted a state subsidy. Through its connections with the Ayuntamiento of Mexico City and the Governor of the Federal District, the Gran Circulo secured funding for projects ranging from construction of a workshop to operation of a night school for workers. Criticizing obvious ties, La Tribuna, an opposition Mexico City newspaper, cynically predicted: "With time we will see the president of the Ayuntamiento as president of the Circulo.

The Gran Circulo was pleased by such a suggestion. On Christmas Eve of l880 the Governor of the Federal District allocated one thousand square varas of space in the new municipal cemetery, the Panteón de Dolores, for the use of the Gran Circulo. The Governor provided similar accommodations for the mutualistas Uni6n y Concordia and Sociedad Xicotencall in February and April of 1881. Later in the year the Governor also paid for the installation of water service to San Pedro y San Pablo and financed the purchase of reading materials for the Gran Circulo's library.3' The Convención Radical shared similar privileges. Its leadership praised the assistance of high government officials in securing "advantages we could never obtain isolated." 32 So far did the process advance that the Vice-President of the Congreso Obrero, Abraham Chavez, boasted to the Uni6n y Concordia in 1897 that the Congreso Obrero neither asked for nor needed financial support from its member sociedades in order to fulfil its mission "in a noble and disinterested manner."

Working class organizations gained access to scarce resources otherwise expensive or even unattainable without government largesse, but the richest rewards accrued to their leaders. Critics charged that the leadership of the porfirista Gran Circulo had accepted jobs with the government. Certainly, public employment represented a convenient way to repay faithful service and to insure it in the future. After concluding a term as editor of El Periódico Oficial, Olaguíbel y Arista, left labor circles for more substantial positions in the civil service. In the mid-1880s he obtained appointment as the general inspector of frontier customs, houses and railroads. In 1902 he served on the Monetary Whatever their own feelings, forces quite beyond their control shaped the outcome of their association with the Porfirian regime because the consolidation of a relatively stable Mexican state under Díaz's direction affected the established relationship between political entrepreneurs and working class political brokers. The absence of rival entrepreneurs gave the political apparatus headed by Díaz an effective monopoly. Since the state now offered the only market for their services, working class political brokers inevitably subordinated their organizations to the state. The genius of Díaz was the transformation of the entrepreneur-broker relationship into an effective mechanism with which to police the labor movement. Devoted to encouraging capitalist development in Mexico, Díaz anticipated the implicit threat of unrestrained labor organization to that goal. In practice, his regime recognized the maintenance of a cheap and compliant work force as an integral part of the state's responsibility in fomenting development. Repression, precisely orchestrated, unceasingly persecuted labor radicalism, but preserved unimpaired a cooperative, moderate labor bureaucracy dependent upon the state. To that bureaucracy Díaz delegated primary responsibility for disciplining the labor movement.

Organizations such as the Congreso Obrero and the Convención Radical actively promoted moderate alternatives to social revolution. They disseminated a copious amount of propaganda supportive of capitalism and the state and regularly exposed and denounced the nefarious subterfuge of socialists, communists, anarchists, and assorted malefactors. Typical was the admonition of Chavez to an attentive crowd at the meeting hall of the Uni6n y Concordia: "Beware of the false apostles of the worker and the bad counselors of the proletariat ... that painful way which more than once has failed those who followed it! Oh! Unhappily, some victims!'

Díaz's labor allies provided a source of reliable intelligence and an effective instrument with which to frustrate radical initiatives. Typical was the Congreso Obrero's role in blocking observance of the Mayday celebration in l891. Ordoñéz defended the action with the allegation that "the enemies of order and of the government had prepared extraordinary forces to convert it into a political demonstration in which blood would be shed." He conceded, however, that "there was no lack of individuals who wished to promote it." He claimed that the workers in the clothing factories around Mexico City were especially eager.

The Porfirian labor lider was only a part-time policeman, but he was a full-time patriot. To dramatize the "community of convenience" which united workers and government in the "same inspiration" the Congreso Obrero and the Convención Radical staged grandiose patriotic rallies. These ranged from celebration of Juárez's birthday in February and Cuauhtemoc's martyrdom in August to Independence on September 16 and the triumph of nationalism on El Cinco de Mayo. Whether parading majestically beneath the colorful banners of the many sociedades de obreros or listening reverently to epic Nahuatl poetry composed in honor of Cuauhtemoc, participation in the patriotic ceremony called for the worker to identify with the nation state. And most often agencies of the state footed the bill. Observance of Hidalgo's death on July 30, 1901 cost the Congreso Obrero's Comité Patriótica a total of $1,037.87. Of that sum, state governments provided $250.00. The Ayuntamiento of Mexico City and the Ministries of Hacienda and Gobernaci6n contributed an additional $275.00. Private individuals donated $249.50 and mutualist organizations made up the difference of $269.37.

Labor leaders showered live heroes with all the pomp and ceremony accorded dead heroes and birthday parties for General Díaz were second to none. Thirty-four hundred workers paraded through the National Palace on September l4, 1887 to honor Díaz. According to one account, presentation of a beautiful laurel from the Asociaci6n de Obreras Mexicanas caused the old soldier to be overcome with emotion. Díaz addressed those gathered around him, the leadership of the many working class organizations in the Mexico City area, and praised them for their contribution to national progress. He lauded the working class as "truly patriotic." He then embraced Ordoñéz, who had staged the affair and who warmly returned the gesture. Not to be outdone, Chavez led vivas for Díaz. Caught up in the emotional contagion, the President of the Republic responded: "Long live the sociedades de obreros!" Its promoters claimed afterwards that the demonstration proved that "the President ... the intelligent político understands perfectly that popularity ... is not found in the aristocratic salons ... but in the shop, in the factory, in the mine, in the countryside." Furthermore, Diaz saw first hand "with what ease the Congreso Obrero guides these multitudes and ... counsels peace, love of learning and work, respect of authority and of the police. Even if the lot of most workers remained unchanged by such demonstrations, Chavez would join Ord6iiez on the Ayuntamiento less than four months later.

The real test of the Porfirian labor lider's usefulness was whether or not he could mobilize working class support for Díaz. As the preparations for Díaz's critical reelection campaign for 1888 showed, labor's assistance could be requested most tactfully. For instance, General Carrillo hosted a banquet for the leadership of the various sociedades de obreros in the Mexico City area at the elegant Tivoli de Eliseo in May of 1887. The gala event featured enormous quantities of good champagne accompanied by just as much questionable poetry. Typical was this effort at eulogy: "As meritorious companions in immortal regards we will conserve engraved the gracious names, beloved of Ordoñéz and of Gonzáles."

Those in attendance also listened to speeches from José Barbier, the president of the first Congreso Obrero, and others who spoke in behalf of Díaz's candidacy. Wooed by wine and word, the labor leaders agreed to sponsor a mammoth political rally on June 3, 1887. The Congreso Obrero financed the manufacture of twelve thousand tricolor banners for the marchers and purchased eighty gross of skyrockets. Fired together at 10: 30 A.M. on June 3, the rockets signaled the start of the parade. The procession of 10,415 workers filed past the National Palace for one and a half hours. Whatever their effectiveness in containing labor radicalism, Diaz's labor friends made spectacularly visible allies. Organizers heralded the "spontaneous" demonstration as evidence of popular support for Díaz and proof that workers had rejected the utopians and their "beautiful theories." A cartoon which appeared in the opposition press soon afterwards reflected a more cynical estimation of such manifestations. It referred to the subsequent nomination of Ordoñéz as a diputado.The Convención Radical steadfastly campaigned for Diaz through its connections with its members sociedades de obreros and with its organ, La Convención Radical. Besides urging the working class to cast its ballots for Díaz, its newspaper boasted of having been the first of the national press to support reform of Article 78 of the Constitution of 1857 to permit Diaz's reelection.

Newspapers had been important disseminators of radical working class ideologies before Diaz seized power, but repression eventually gave Diaz's labor supporters exclusive use of that medium. El Periódico Oficial claimed to represent no less than all the workers of Mexico, but its ties to the mainstream of Porfirian politics were obvious. The weekly commented in August of 1879: "The influence of positivism ... has only begun to penetrate as far as the capital of the Republic ... only here can be found the true "amantes del saber. " Among the lovers of knowledge could be counted Pablo Macedo, an attorney for the Gran Circulo who helped edit and contributed to El Periódico Oficial. Two decades later Macedo would be recognized as an influential Porfirian economist. Even if the newspaper originated elsewhere, it aimed its message at the working class. Emphasizing the need to respect authority, it repeatedly counseled against criticism of the government. It aggressively argued that the working class, and especially the working class press, should not be associated with the political opposition. Condemning the "diatribe and calumnity" of the opposition press, El Periódico Oficial called for vigorous censorship under authority of Articles 6 and 7 of the Constitution of 1857. The newspaper survived a number of setbacks, but it could not weather the disintegration of the Gran Circulo.

A more successful and more authentic working class newspaper was La Convención Radical From 1887 and 1903 it faithfully promoted mutualism and education and preached patriotism and the Porfirian party. Like El Periódico Oficial, La Convención Radical preached unquestioning obedience to the state: "the respect of a people for the police is the thermometer which marks its civilization." The newspaper, which was edited by Ordoñéz after 1888, took special care to point out gestures which demonstrated the Porfirian regime's special concern for the working class.

Both the national government and its labor boosters agreed that education, not social revolution, was what the workers needed most. They advised: "For the victory of the worker in practical life, instruction is necessary as a principal element." At the night school of workers, one could heed the call: "To study, workers, instruction is the light and makes man free and happy." Beginning as a subsidy by the Federal District to a night school operated by the Gran Circulo, the Diaz regime's commitment grew into a government administered system of multiple night schools for men and women workers. Facilities such as "National Night School Number 7 For Men Workers" advertised free instruction and boasted: "The Supreme Government does not omit expenses in any of these establishments, showing its incessant concern for the instruction of the people."

A manifestation of the urban working class's resourcefulness and the usual organizational form for the sociedad de obreros, the mutualista collected dues from its membership to finance rudimentary social insurance such as sickness and old age pensions, medical care, and funeral benefits. Often it offered its members a social outlet in festivals and parties and sometimes sponsored night schools on a variety of subjects. Neither the state nor capital had reason to oppose mutualist organization since it forced the worker to shoulder the full burden of his own welfare. The management of some factories occasionally sponsored mutualist organizations for their employees. Direct government encouragement to mutualism ranged from pressure on local jefe políticos who opposed establishment of mutualistas to a decree by Díaz which exempted mutualist organizations from taxation.

Mutualist organization developed and expanded significantly during the Porfiriato and efforts to pacify the labor movement focused there. A spokesman for the Congreso Obrero stated bluntly: "In Mexico we count on an element that, by the excellence of its principles and by the morality of its institution, counters the anarchist doctrine ... This element is mutualism." Questions of morality aside, control of a mutualista provided a means with which to discipline labor since dissidents could be threatened with the loss of accumulated benefits. Juan N. Serrano y Dominguez, a member of the Junta Directiva of the Convención Radical and a frequent contributor to the working class press, assessed the role of mutualism in the development of the Mexican labor movement: "Comparing the worker of today [ 1897] with that of thirty years ago, we must admire his transformation ... Who can deny the part contributed by this peaceful evolution [mutualism], even if indirectly, to the pacification of the nation and to its development?"

When the regime's labor allies failed in their efforts to reconcile differences between labor and capital, they often advised the disaffected workers to form a cooperative. In collaboration with its supporters in the Congreso Obrero and the Convención Radical, the Díaz regime sponsored several cooperative ventures. The Ministry of Fomento appointed Ordoñéz as official inspector of the Colonia Sericicula de Tenancingo and financed that agricultural cooperative composed of textile workers from Mexico City who had been fired for refusing to pay cut. In a report on the progress of the cooperative in 1888, Ordoñéz urged the government to sponsor similar projects because "they affirm the peace." The workers' lack of resources and the government's limited commitment made it an unlikely alternative, but cooperativism did provide an ideological escape valve for those who fervently preached there was no conflict between labor and capital.


The ultimate test of Porfirian labor policy was, of course, its response to conflicts between labor and capital. Despite what the historiography might suggest, there is little evidence to support the contention that the Diaz regime reacted more brutally or intervened more frequently to put down strikes than the regimes it succeeded or anticipated. While the Constitution of 1857 and other legislation enacted by the Juárez and Lerdo administrations such as the Civil and Penal Codes of the Federal District sanctioned the use of force to break strikes, the Díaz administration seldom chose to act in that manner. To have done so would have indicated that its labor policy was failing and that was untrue before 1900. While it certainly did not encourage the strike, the regime tolerated such action under certain conditions. Most strikes in Porfirian Mexico were defensive reactions and seldom attempted more than to minimize the effects of a wage cut or to remedy an intolerable abuse. As such, they were an escape valve for working class, discontent and Diaz's labor policy sought only to contain such gestures, not to deny them. The peaceful striker had no reason to fear intervention, but because of sparse resources he could not hold out long and so threatened neither capital nor the state. Most often taking no notice, the state stood ready to mediate serious differences.

Seldom was repression of the working class so obvious as troops breaking a strike. Usually, it was visited in more subtle ways and almost always aimed at the radical vanguard and not the rank and file. Veracruz authorities, watching a strike which involved foreign-born dock workers, noted that some of the strikers were influencing their companions with "socialist propaganda." Under authority of Article 33 of the Constitution of 1857, the government expelled the "pernicious foreigners." Afterwards, officials reported that the remaining workers "dedicated themselves peacefully to work." In addition to its sources within labor organizations, the state could count on the assistance of private police forces maintained by the management of most of Mexico's developing industrial enterprises. Both the state and the industrial enterprises made extensive use of informants and spies.

Its responses to the Puebla Textile Strike of 1884 demonstrated that the Porfirian regime did not always play the role of strikebreaker. A Junta General organizing Pueblan textile workers in the summer of 1884 took special care to disclaim any association with radical ideas and pledged itself to work for "harmony between the interests of capital and labor." After textile factory owners declined an invitation to compromise on a substantial pay cut announced in September of 1884, the organized Pueblan workers walked out of the factories. By October more than six thousand workers joined the strike. Except for the apparently unauthorized harassment by rurales of workers from the La Tlaxcalteca factory, the federal government declined to act against the strike despite requests for intervention by some factory owners. With the assistance of food and money from workers in Mexico City and elsewhere, the strikers won concessions which included promises of fixed hours, payment in legal tender, no deductions or arbitrary fines, no reprisals, and slight wage increases at La Tlaxcalteca.

Local jefe políticos, governors, the Congreso Obrero, and even the President of the Republic offered their services when labor disputes threatened to disrupt harmony between labor and capital. When Mexico City cigarette workers struck in l887 after factory owners announced they would increase required daily production per worker from 2,000 to 2,600 cigarettes, the Congreso Obrero asked the Governor of the Federal District to arbitrate. Afterwards, the headlines in La Convención Radical read: "Splendid Triumph; In harmony capital and labor; industry prospers; the capitalist profits, the workers are content, and progress advances." The Governor's settlement stipulated that each worker would only have to produce 2,500 cigarettes a day instead of 2,600. Here was satisfaction for the government, honor to the nobility of the factory owners, and glory for the Congreso Obrero."

The Permanent Commission of the Congreso Obrero settled many strikes in the l880s and 1890s. Workers at the textile factory of San Antonio Abad in Mexico City struck in March of 1888. Their strike soon failed and management demanded a fine of two pesos per loom from each worker as a reprisal. Since each worker usually operated at least two looms, the sum might easily exceed a week's take home pay. Happily, the Congreso Obrero negotiated and each worker paid a one peso per loom fine, not to management, but to a charity. When criticized for its interference, the Congreso Obrero defended itself by confiding that "government authority was that which directed President Pedro Ordoñéz [to intervene]." Unabashed, the Congreso Obrero continued to arbitrate strikes.

The Congreso Obrero eliminated the problem of recurring strikes at the Mexico City textile factory of La Victoria in 1888 and 1889 due to bad feelings between the workers and the foreign manager by organizing the mutualista Victoria and making the manager its treasurer. Dispatched in May of 1898 to settle a strike by textile workers in Nogales, Veracruz, the delegation of Ordoñéz, Huerta, and Gonzáles y Gonzáles settled difficulties there easily enough. They registered dismay, however, at the "unpatriotic" atmosphere of Nogales. Conspicuously absent, they complained, were flags and banners to celebrate "el Cinco de Mayo." They hinted such negligence might be behind problems there.

The Congreso Obrero boasted, with some reason, of its greater resourcefulness in quickly settling labor disputes. When six hundred textile workers at La Colmena y Barron struck in January of 1898, the Congreso Obrero was called in after mediation efforts by local authorities in Tlalnepantla and the Governor of the state of Mexico foundered. La Convención Radical smugly reported that a delegation led by Ordoñéz had left for the scene "in order to end at once some small obstacles." While management at first refused to allow the strike leaders back to work, the Congreso Obrero settled the strike with promises of no reprisals and no pay reductions. After the textile factory owners reneged on the agreement less than a month later, the Congreso Obrero declared that while it did not advocate the strike the shortsightedness and greed of some capitalists sometimes left workers no alternative.

If all else failed, workers could appeal to the President of the Republic for assistance. When the Sociedad Fraternal de Costureras greeted Díaz on his birthday in 1902 with the complaint of poor pay and little work in the clothing factories, the President promised to intervene so that the seamstresses could earn an "honest living." When labor disputes affected railway workers, frequently their leaders solicited Diaz's intervention.


Díaz's friends in the labor movement defended their courtship of the government with the observation that the condition of most workers was improving, even if slowly, under the Porfirian scheme of development. Real wages for industrial workers did increase fifteen percent between 1877 and 1898.80 During the 1880s the demand for railroad construction workers and the influx of foreign capital to finance that construction considerably softened the impact of the decade's generally slow economic growth. Industrial expansion proceeded more briskly in the 1890s. Both wages and opportunities for employment increased while the cost of living remained fairly constant in the first two decades of Porfirian rule. Moreover, many urban workers welcomed the end to chronic political violence which the Pax Porfiriana seemed to promise. Yet even Díaz's stalwarts prefaced their endorsement, as did the Convención Radical with its subtle disclaimer in 1888: "We hope the peace and the astute government of General Diaz will be sufficient to better the condition of our workers, in order that we will never face the horrible specter of those countries [the United States and Europe], their workers resorting to the club, to gasoline, or to dynamite."

Unfortunately, the last decade of Porfirian rule brought not the expected improvements, but a national economic crisis and a sharp decline in the real income of urban workers. By 1910 their purchasing power approximated that of 1877.83 Taking note of the growing problems apparent as early as 1901, La Convención Radical pointed out that daily wages in the past thirty years had remained fairly stabilized between fifty centavos and one and a half pesos. That was adequate, the newspaper conceded, when "the goods of primary necessity were cheap." Now, it charged, food prices had risen 100 percent, rent had increased 500 percent, and clothing 75 percent, while wages remained static. Poorly paid urban workers were particularly vulnerable to increased food prices, since food costs ordinarily claimed three-forths of their income. Interestingly, La Convención Radical claimed that better paid workers were "even more oppressed ... because they had to sustain an outward position of decency, if they wished to avoid a loss of honor." At any rate, urban workers needed no newspaper to tell them a crisis was afoot. The exigencies of everyday living made that perfectly clear.

As dismay and demoralization spread among the working class, their sense of betrayal was shared by portions of the established labor leadership. La Convención Radical, so long the faithful booster of the Porfirian model of development, lamented in l90l:

What has the proletariat of the countryside gained with the increase of agriculture? Nothing, the status quo continues with the same demands and humiliations of two centuries ago. What have the mining workers gained with the immeasurable development that the mining industry has received? Nothing. Only the stagnation and lowering of wages ...What have the workers of all the mechanical arts gained ... ? Little, so little as to say the benefit is merely moral and counterproductive in a material sense.

Why now, Diaz's supporters began asking insistently, was labor faring so poorly after the government had encouraged progress "by all possible and imaginable means?"

While the reasons for the problems affecting labor were more complex, Díaz's nervous allies sketched a condensed model of dependency theory to account for the crisis. La Convención Radical argued in an intriguing series of articles published late in 1902 that "Mexico, so close to the colossus [the United States], necessarily has to be the one that soonest and most directly suffers the consequences." Commenting on an article which appeared in El Imparcial in November of 1902 that suggested workers did not need pay increases since they would only spend them on vices, La Convenci6n Radical charged that just because the United States was exploiting Mexico "the owners of the shops, factories, and other industries put into practice the advice of El Imparcial. La Convenci6n Radical grumbled: "That our neighbors are extorting us, that is not strange. But that our compatriots with equal despotism put shackles on the nation's progress, condemning to hunger los hijos de trabajo ... simply is antipatriotic." In a rare act of defiance, the newspaper also published a letter signed, "Various Workers," which in reply to El Imparcial's suggestion warned darkly: "Do not forget ... the quorum which the working class has ...."

Diaz's clients in the labor movement called on the government to take immediate and decisive action, warning that "the reduction of salaries ... produces a social disequilibrium that in the long run can be of dismal consequences to the nation ...." As an example of measures that could be enacted to alleviate the pressure on the working class, they proposed the establishment of a government commission to determine the actual value of labor and to compel shop and factory owners to pay such wages as to allow labor to achieve a "suitable equilibrium" with capital. Their proposals included suggestions that the state intervene to assure full employment and social security for the working class. Blaming monopolies and speculators for the rising cost of basic commodities, they warned that the misbehavior of "the everlasting vampires of the people... who call themselves merchants, manufacturers, or industrialists" constituted "revolutionary factors." Again and again they warned that wages must be increased and labor's relationship to capital redressed or else the consequences of misery would force the workers to "the precipice."

The inability of the Porfirian regime to halt the economic crisis cost Díaz and his labor supporters their credibility. Under generally improving conditions in the first two decades of Porfirian rule, 1876 to 1898, urban workers had adopted a wait and see attitude. As late as 1897, the Congreso Obrero had complained of difficulty in organizing labor due to "all the favorable aspects of our class." After 1898, economic stringencies began to erode the ability of Díaz's allies to maintain their hegemonic position in the labor movement. Compounding the problem, old age overtook many of the established labor leaders at the same time that the economic crisis worsened. Juan Cano, the "untiring evolutionary," was laid to rest in 1900 in the Gran Circulo's portion of the Pante6n de Dolores. Similarly, Pedro Ordoñéz and the entire generation which had been active in the labor movement since the 1870s faded from the scene in the early years of the twentieth century. With them went organizations such as the Congreso Obrero and the Convención Radical. New labor leaders would emerge in the last decade of the Porfiriato and attempt to recapture the magic of the old relationship with Díaz, but their position would be untenable in the hostile economic environment.

A bloody riot by miners at Cananea, Sonora, continuing disturbances among railroad workers, the appearance of militant labor organizations in the textile industry, and the proselytizing activities of the revolutionary Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) vividly testified to a full-blown revival of labor radicalism by 1906. Ironically, El Imparcial, the semiofficial government organ, complained that outsiders had penetrated and captured the labor movement and were "twisting it to fit their own needs."

Workers in an especially troubled industry organized the Gran Circulo de Obreros Libres (GCOL) in the Spring of 1906. Based in the giant textile mills near Orizaba, Veracruz, that organization manifested labor's return to the principles so loudly touted by the radical labor ideologues of the 1870s. The GCOL's program for dealing with the economic problems facing labor was straightforward: "In case of difficulty with the firms we will use the strike, if the strike does not accomplish anything we will resort to dynamite or revolution."

Díaz reacted to the growing labor problem as he had in the past; the year 1906 did not see any new innovations in labor policy. To counter the obvious radicalism exhibited by the textile workers, Diaz implemented a strategy that had worked well in the past. Force dispersed the radical leadership of the GCOL. Then government at all levels recognized a reorganized GCOL led by José Morales in return for pledges of loyalty and helped the more cooperative Morales remain in control, even refusing to recognize the election of a new leadership. At the national level, the subsidized press was ordered to take notice of the problems of Mexico's working class, high public officials reaffirmed labor's right to strike peacefully, and an effort was made to revive the defunct Congreso Obrero. With such encouragement, the moderate GCOL added affiliates at textile mills throughout Central Mexico. With organization came increasing strikes.

Mexico's textile factory owners were not idle either. The tempo of labor organizing alarmed many. While the regime saw the prospect of defusing labor radicalism with a policy of conciliation, the management of a depressed industry worried more about lowered dividends for their stockholders. Some were not inclined to tolerate any level of labor organization or to make any concessions, even to subservient organizations of the sort the regime had so successfully cultivated in the past. Possibly, Díaz's attitude toward labor frightened the textile factory owners. Accordingly, they decided to take matters into their own hands and so founded the Centro Industrial Mexicana (CIM) in October of 1906. A month later the CIM issued regulation for textile mills in the Puebla area which were intended to halt increasing labor agitation there.

The GCOL in Puebla, whose leader Pablo Mendoza had in the past communicated with Diaz, responded by calling a strike. By early December of 1906 approximately seven thousand textile workers had left their jobs. To outline its position, the GCOL drafted a counter set of work regulations which proposed that workers not be fined for broken tools, guaranteed workers the right to their choice of reading materials, called for union representation in the factories, abolished company stores, provided for disability compensation, and proposed pay increases. Significantly, El Imparcial, voicing the government's attitude, labeled the GCOL proposals as entirely reasonable. Unaffected textile workers in Mexico City, Orizaba, and elsewhere sent food and money to the Pueblan strikers, but with no end to the strike in sight and their limited resources dwindling Morales and the GCOL telegraphed Diaz in mid-December of 1906 to ask that the President arbitrate the dispute in Puebla. Díaz agreed, but the CIM refused and instead began on December 24 a nationwide lockout, closing mills as far south as Oaxaca and as far north as Guadalajara. A spokesman for the CIM made clear its intentions: "If this [the lockout] succeeds ... the strike is dead in Mexico ... we will not have any more trouble with our workers In a threat aimed as much at Díaz as at the striking workers, the C I M warned that "if the workers do not cease their activities ... we will retire from industry ... [and leave Mexico.]."

A GCOL delegation led by Morales consulted with Díaz on December 26. When interviewed by El Imparcial, a spokesman for the assembled labor leaders reiterated the GCOL's demands. Basic to the dispute was the question of increased wages. To put the GCOL position in perspective their spokesman asked:

With all the progress in the country, why has not the worker also progressed? If because of this the price of everything rises, housing, food, clothing ... and if the same progress benefits the factories and increases their profits, why are not the salaries of those who contribute the most also increased ...?

Not until December 31 did the CIM agree to allow Diaz to intervene. Even so, its maneuvers suggested the presence of preconditions. After assurances from its leaders that Díaz would come to their defense, the GCOL membership agreed to unconditional arbitration. Already some workers had become restless. On December 28 workers at a textile factory in Santa Rosa, Veracruz, where radical elements still controlled the GCOL local, had tried to force the factory there to reopen. Other workers had begun calling on Díaz to nationalize the textile industry.

Díaz announced his arbitration decision on Friday, January 4, 1907. It was not, as some have suggested, a settlement which solved most of the outstanding issues of the labor conflict. None of the principal GCOL demands were met. Labor gained so little that it was impossible for Morales and the other GCOL leaders to sell the settlement to the rank and file. While the Pueblan strikers probably gained slightly from provisions calling for a more uniform wage structure, workers in the areas which had not been out on strike, as was the case in Orizaba, lost substantially. Article 3 of Díaz's laudo was identical with provisions of the CIM's Puebla work regulations which required workers to present a passbook before they could be employed, allowing the CIM to effectively identify and blacklist even the GCOL's organizers. Article l prescribed rigid censorship of reading materials. Articles 5 and 9 prohibited workers from striking without fifteen days notice, allowing management time to make preparations. No mention was made of a pay increase, a matter at the very heart of the conflict.

Provisions of the laudo which one writer recently identified as concessions to labor amounted to less than textile workers had won in principle as far back as 1884. The arbitration accord did not eliminate fines and workers could still be charged for tools broken through negligence, with management deciding what constituted negligence. Article 7 outlawed child labor under seven years of age, although the practice was technically already illegal under the public education law. Moreover, child labor was a relatively minor problem in the Mexican textile industry since most factories preferred to hire poorly paid adult workers who were much more productive. The laudo made no mention of company stores or payment in company script, two illegal practices which robbed workers of their already eroded purchasing power.

Why such a decision from Díaz? Clearly, it represented a tactical retreat in the regime's on-going campaign to woo the labor movement away from radical tendencies. A partial explanation can be found in the attitude of the foreign capitalists in the CIM who sharply proscribed Díaz's freedom of action. Surprised by the lockout, he succumbed to their pressure. Also, José Limantour, the Minister of Hacienda, whom Díaz relied heavily for advice, had extensive ties to French capital and French capital dominated the textile industry. But more important, Díaz remained a prisoner of the economic theories which had guided his regime's effort to develop Mexico. As Díaz reiterated in 1906, he believed that the interests of capital had priority over the needs of labor, that "profits must be guaranteed to foreign capitalists in order to sustain national progress." An expanding economy before 1900 had allowed Díaz to avoid making serious demands on capital in the interests of social peace and yet still satisfy the minimum demands of his client relationship with the labor movement. In 1907--when confronted by demands from both capital and labor he could not satisfy one without cost to the other.The GCOL held nationwide meetings on Sunday, January 6, to announce Díaz's decision. El Imparcial reported that the announcements brought protest from those who "like disorder and want the strike to continue." Police jailed a worker in Puebla who was "incorrect" when the accord was read to the GCOL meeting there. Angry workers in Atlixco gathered outside the home of the local jefe político, who diplomatically agreed to postpone implementation of the laudo. Disgruntled workers in Orizaba sent Morales fleeing for his life. For all the disorder of January 6, the greatest protest was yet to come.

Worker revulsion with the laudo set off an explosion which unsettled the regime. The events of January 7 and the days which followed became popularly known as la huelga de Rio Blanco--the strike of Rio Blanco. That was a misnomer since the workers there had not struck. They had been locked out by the CIM. The story of Rio Blanco is well-known and does not need to be repeated in detail here. Most accounts begin with a disturbance early that morning at the company store in Rio Blanco. That was a logical location for a workers' insurrection to begin because the company store was an institution which symbolized not only the factory which denied them fair wages, but also the odious "speculator" responsible for the soaring cost of living. Aroused workers sacked and burned the store. Soon much of the business district of the canton of Rio Blanco was in flames. Some workers also tried to fire the factory. Others freed prisoners from the local jail, seized the railway and telegraph station, and cut electric lines. Caught up in the emotional contagion and commanded by an officer sympathetic to the workers, the rurales stationed in Río Blanco failed to fire on the workers. But troops moved towards Orizaba in anticipation of dissatisfaction with the arbitration decision began arriving the same morning. Soldiers killed seventeen workers and wounded eighty in an initial encounter. Retreating to nearby Santa Rosa and Nogales, workers sacked and burned company stores there. They returned to Rio Blanco that afternoon to burn down Morales' house. Disorder continued into the night. Factory supervisory personnel and their families fled into Orizaba for refuge. Rumors circulated wildly of plans to dynamite the hydro-electric installation above Orizaba. Troops rushed to defend the San Lorenzo factory from an anticipated armed assault by workers.

Confirming the worst predictions of Diaz's friends in the Convención Radical in the years before, circumstances finally forced some workers over the precipice. The revolution of class struggle prophesied by the radical working class ideologues of the 1870s had erupted in Río Blanco. But angry textile workers, even if armed, were no match for regular troops. 800 soldiers, 60 rurales, and 150 policemen began restoring order the following day. By January 11 the armed forces had unquestionably quashed the outbreak. The gesture cost workers dearly. As many as two hundred may have been killed, twice that many imprisoned, and many more wounded. Yet in a sense Rio Blanco cost Porfirio Díaz much more. Not a strike, the events of January 7, 1907 were a revolutionary repudiation by portions of an estranged working class of Diaz's regime and especially of those elements in the labor movement aligned with it. While the particulars of those violent days remain disputed, the meaning is clear - a workers' rebellion had occurred and Porfirian efforts to contain working class radicalism had failed.


A myriad of hostile forces, including an alienated working class, rose up and dismembered Diaz's regime in 1911. Yet its legacy could not be denied. The Revolution of 1910 and the social unrest and political instability which followed created openings for new political entrepreneurs and for working class political brokers brought new opportunities for collaboration. The políticos who succeeded Diaz also committed themselves to a program of economic development based on fomenting the expansion of industrial capitalism in Mexico. That consideration, married to the new political leadership's need for the popular base of support which organized labor could provide, meant that the new regimes would attempt to shape, contain, and control the Mexican labor movement with methods similar to those used by Diaz.

The new regimes contributed to the development of labor policy by institutionalizing the informal practices of the Diaz era. The creation of a Department of Labor during Francisco de la Barra's interim administration in 1911 set up a state bureaucracy to "encourage harmonious relations between labor and capital" and to arbitrate labor disputes, a matter which Díaz had delegated to a melange of federal, state, and local officials and to client organizations such as the Congreso Obrero. The Constitution of 1917 provided an institutional justification for the state's continued intervention in the labor movement. The enactment of enabling legislation such as the Ley de Trabajo gave the state a mandate to define legal strikes and legal organizations and constructed an apparatus with which to better integrate and subordinate organized labor. In operation, however, both the old labor politics and the new labor politics looked alike.

Promoting himself as a friend of labor, Francisco Madero bested Diaz in their contest for the working class vote in l9lO. Electoral fraud could not negate the significance of working class support since many workers subsequently joined Madero's successful revolt against Diaz. The new administration, however, continued to persecute radical working class organizations such as the Casa del Obrero Mundial while encouraging and subsidizing subservient moderate alternatives like the Comité Central de Obreros. Victoriano Huerta, who seized power through a military coup in which Madero was murdered, treated labor cautiously and sought, unsuccessfully, its support. His government expanded the Department of labor and made plans to resurrect a Congreso Obrero. Venustiano Carranza, who shared Huerta's personal antipathy for the working class, issued numerous decrees intended to attract working class support for his faction. Finally, he entered into an alliance with the Casa del Obrero Mundial in order to secure more troops in his military campaigns against Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. Besides helping to shift the military balance of power, the pact enabled the Constitutionalists to engage the superb propagandistic talents of the Casa's cadre. Once his position was secured, Carranza moved to crush the Casa in 1916 and to replace it in 1918 with a less threatening organization, the Confederaci6n Regional de Obreros Mexicanos (CROM). A Carranza crony, the Governor of Coahuila, sponsored the organizing conference in Saltillo and the Federal Government paid the travel expenses of the CROM delegates. State funds, not membership dues, continued to finance the CROM until it fell out of favor in the late 1920s.

The urban working class gave Carranza the winning margin in 1915, but their alienation in 19l9 meant his ruin. Carranza's links with labor had always been tenuous and subordinates had made contact with labor largely on their own initiative. The engineer of the pact with the Casa, Alvaro Obregón, used his contacts such as Luis Morones to mobilize organized labor support for Obregón's confrontation with Carranza in 1919. For Obregón's subsequent presidential campaign in 1920, Morones and the CROM leadership founded the Partido Laborista to drum up working class votes. Both Obregón and his successor, Elias Plutarco Calles, continued in the 1920s to exploit the CROM's political resource and to employ it as an instrument for diverse purposes ranging from combating the Catholic opposition to lobbying for support from organized labor in the United States. Another important task for the CROM was to discourage radical labor organizations like the anarchist dominated Confederaci6n General de Trabajadores (CGT). The CROM's tactics ranged from full-blown street battles with rivals such as the CGT to carefully orchestrated jurisdictional disputes in which the state formally recognized the CROM as the sole bargaining agent so as to eliminate independent labor unions. Morones followed Ordoñéz in getting the most from his labor and political connections. As the unchallenged lider of the CROM, Morones' lifestyle was one of legendary opulence. Along with the other members of the Grupo A cci6n, the informal ruling body of the CROM, Morones obtained appointments in the Carranza, Obregón, the Calles administration. These ranged from managing the government telephone company to directing the Ministry of Labor. The Constitutionalist Military Commander of the Federal District and later Governor of the Federal District, Celestino Gasca, himself had been an active labor organizer.

Close examination, then, shows few fundamental differences in labor policy before or after the Revolution of 1910. The crucial changes made by the new regimes which most affected successful execution of labor policy were not those between the state and labor but between the state and capital, especially foreign capital. As manifested in provisions of the Constitution of l9l7 calling for social justice, the new relationship meant the state would demand from capital the minimum resources needed to fulfill its client relationship with labor. After 1919, the Mexican state more often and more insistently forced capital to compromise in the interests of social peace. Hence the bitter denunciations of even Carranza's administration as "Bolshevik."

In arbitrating differences between his labor allies in the Conferderaci6n de Trabajadores Mexicanos (CTM) and a foreign owned oil industry in l938, Lázaro Cárdenas faced a decision similar to that which confronted Díaz in 1907. That time, however, Cárdenas and the state sided with labor. Ultimately, capital benefitted from the choice, as Mexico's subsequent and substantial industrial expansion aided in no small part by domestic political tranquility testified. Nor did foreign capital lose out in the long run, as shown by its continued importance in the Mexican economy. Who lost? Worker productivity has increased several times over since 1938. Yet beyond continuing to secure the minimum requirements which have made possible the CTM's enduring hegemony in the Mexican labor movement, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional's labor allies have been unable to increase labor's share of national income.