Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

necessary to comfort and happiness, yet compelled to suffer and die from sheer lack of the necessaries of life. Common humanity dictated a change, and it is this change that Mexico has made. We stand to-day on the principle that the natural resources of a nation belong to the nation. Never again will the people of Mexico tolerate a Government that does not support this principle. By no means does this imply a hermit-nation policy. Mexico is not so foolish as to think that she can live alone or work alone, nor is any such wish in her heart; but what Mexico will ask in the future is a fair partnership in development. We are through for ever with the policy of gift, graft, and surrender.'

But the oil companies protested. What they had acquired they would keep, irrespective of new Constitutions and old precedents to the contrary.

And the Washington Government endorsed their claims and announced its resolve to have them enforced. Accord ingly, it asked for an assurance from the Mexican Government that in the execution of the new law American rights would suffer no curtailment. Subsequently two further demands were made, the acceptance of which by Mexico would, it was stated, suffice to warrant the recognition of the Government and the resumption of normal diplomatic relations between the two States: the recognition of the national debt and an undertaking to indemnify foreign residents for the losses they sustained during the Revolution. President Carranza, who made no attempt to avail himself of this offer, was deposed in the year 1920 by the men who had planned and carried out the campaign against revolutions, civil wars, and banditry, and his successors forthwith gave the undertaking demanded of them. Their advent to office marked the close of a period of internal troubles and the beginning of an era of genuine recon. struction. Democratic rule at home, neighbourliness abroad, and the substitution of morality for politics, constitute the essence of the programme of the party now in power. And these are not idle words. President Obregon and his political friends are not versed in the 'glib and oily art, to speak and purpose not.' They mean what they say.

0

.

* Telegram of President Obregon, published in the World' (New York) on June 27, 1921.

Last year

Already they have made short work of banditry. And what was much more difficult, they have crushed in the bud revolts and revolutions, financed and favoured by interested foreign millionaires, adventurers, and politicians, without jeopardising international relations. They have solved the problem of disarmament and reduced the effective strength of the Republic to fifty thousand men, and are proceeding to cut it down still further. They have put an end to favouritism and maintained the supremacy of law. Recognising the cardinal fact that a people cannot be made virtuous or law-abiding by Acts of Parliament, they have tackled the all-important problem of education with a thoroughness which no European State has as yet displayed. In the year 1920 the sum allotted by the Federal Government for public education was two million pesos.* it was increased to nine millions, and this year it has been raised to forty-five millions. Mexico is thus the only country in the world which devotes fifteen per cent. of its total outlay to public education.

A remarkable campaign against illiteracy has been inaugurated by Obregon's Government, under the direction of a man whose devotion to the work is a besetting passion. The Minister of Public Instruction, Don José Vasconcelos, has enlisted thousands of individuals in the army of volunteers who are gratuitously teaching children and adults to read, write, and count. These apostles of culture travel from place to place at their own expense and prepare others to carry on the work. The University of Mexico publishes the masterpieces of the literature of all nations, distributes copies gratuitously throughout the Republic, and sells the remainder at nominal prices. A monthly review is published by the Federal Government in which the urgency and the methods of social advance are impressively taught and the supreme importance of collective effort. In the first number of this review one reads :

The main principle which may serve for the guidance of contributors to this publication is the conviction that culture, ideas, and art are worthless unless pressed into the general interest of humanity, unless their aim be to secure the

6

* A Mexican peso is half a United States dollar. Vol. 238.-No. 472.

L

[graphic]

general well-being of all; for, unless they tend to insure liberty and justice, individual capacities cannot be duly developed nor the spirit elevated to the region of high ideals.' *

The labour laws, too, are undergoing a beneficial change. The President is about to introduce a Bill levying on employers of every kind of labour ten per cent. of the wages and salaries paid. The proceeds of this tax are to form a reserve fund from which the State will grant allowances in case of injuries, annuities to the relatives of breadwinners who die leaving young children, aged parents, sisters, etc., and pensions to those who are too old to earn remunerative wages.

It is with men of this new type, apostles of universal peace and brotherhood, not with infatuated nationalists or wily politicians, that foreign governments and individuals have now to deal in Mexico.

The leader of this group of public workers and First Citizen of the Republic has given publicly and without ambiguity all the guarantees which the Democratic Administration of the United States demanded.

Every private right acquired prior to May 1, 1917, when the new Constitution was adopted,' writes President Obregon, will be respected and fully protected. The famous Article 27, one clause of which declares the nation's ownership of subsoil rights in petroleum, will never be given retroactive effect, nor has it ever been given retroactive effect.' †

With like emphasis the President has repeatedly recognised the national debt and committed himself to the statement that it will be paid to the last farthing. Incidentally, it is worth noting that the total unpaid interest on Mexico's foreign debt is less than nine millions sterling. Respecting the obligation to compensate foreigners for losses sustained during the Revolution, it was open to President Obregon to take the stand which Tchitcherin took at Genoa and to challenge the claim of foreign residents to more favoured treatment than is accorded to natives. But, spurning all subtleties, the President of Mexico solemnly declared that the State would indemnify all those who had suffered losses. In

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

* °El Maestro,' N.L.

+ Telegram of President Obregon, published in the World' (New York) on June 27, 1921.

a word, he met the demands of the United States Government squarely and fairly at every point.

But, in the meanwhile, the Democratic Administration had been followed in the United States by the Republican; and the new men took a stand which differs from that of their predecessors. The conditions which would have satisfied the former were declared inadequate by the latter. Secretary Hughes, departing from all diplomatic precedent and brushing international usage aside, laid it down that the recognition of the Mexican Government must be the outcome of a bargain and the price asked was a 'treaty of commerce and amity, which can be concluded only by violating the Mexican Constitution. The recognition of the national debt, the promise of compensation for losses inflicted by the Revolution, the exemption of foreigners from the provision of the Constitution which nationalised petroleum, went for nothing. President Wilson would have considered those guarantees amply to justify him in recognising the Obregon Government and wishing success to its Chief. But Mr Harding insists upon a condition which embodies the strange doctrine that the choice and confidence of the Mexican people are not of themselves sufficient to give them a Government. Unless their choice is hall-marked by the State Department in Washington - and the stamp duly paid for — their President has no international status, their Government is not the organ of the nation, and they are living as anarchists and outlaws. An eminent American writer remarked that the Monroe Doctrine is at bottom an arbitrary claim of the Washington State Department to define the rights of other countries; and the attitude of Mr Hughes and President Harding fully bear out the definition.

I recently questioned some of the most celebrated authorities on international law to whether Mr Hughes' demand for a treaty of commerce as a condition of recognition could be supported by precedent, or indeed by any consideration, political or ethical, that would appeal to a jurisconsult, a statesman, or even a fairminded politician, and the answers were emphatically in the negative. It is a monstrous claim,' exclaimed one Professor of International Law, which will not stand

[ocr errors]

6

[graphic]

the test of examination. It can be upheld only by the right of might.'

It would not perhaps matter very materially whether or no the reformers who are now busy reconstructing Mexico were formally recognised by the Washington Government, were it not for the issues which depend on the formality. In this case, recognition means financial credit and its refusal involves a financial blockade. For the Governments of France and Great Britain follow the lead of the United States, and all three constitute a bloc which withholds loans for any purpose whatever from the Mexican Republic. And now that that Republic is recovering from the terrible effects of a long period of internal strife and destructiveness, funds are peremptorily needed for the work of reconstruction which is being carried on systematically, zealously, and with a marked degree of success. If, at Genoa, Tchitcherin had assented to one-half of the conditions which President Obregon solemnly accepted and set about executing, the Bolshevist régime, despite its condemnation of private property and suppression of personal liberty, would have been recognised. Why should a principle applicable to Bolshevist Russia be repudiated in the case of Mexico ?

The explanation of this apparent incongruity is simple and humiliating. A European statesman volunteered it recently at Genoa when he remarked that international politics have degenerated into oil politics. An American, Mr N. D. Clark, Vice-President of the International Commercial Exposition, stated that: Oil interests are financing revolution. As long as oil men can keep Mexico in a state of chaos they will not have to pay production taxes which amount to 75 centavos a barrel.'* In the United States this transformation is already complete; and, as politics in that country in their loftiest flights are frequently flavoured with the spice of religion, two disparate currents are set free which combine to sweep away the independence of Mexico and all the Carribean Republics. Groups of American capitalists and politicians, desirous of securing to themselves all the oil of this or that country, plan schemes for provoking military intervention by the United States, such as has already

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

* The Nation' (New York), March 1, 1922.

« PreviousContinue »