Revolution within the Revolution: Cotton Textile Workers and the Mexican Labor Regime, 1910-1923

By Jeffrey Bortz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Labor Conflict in the Early Institutional Period,
1917–1923

BETWEEN 1910 AND 1917, revolutionary cotton textile workers achieved two institutional breakthroughs: proworker labor law and strong unions. The workers' revolution, however, did not end with Article 123 or with the establishment of a formal labor relations system. The structure of the informal labor relations system, the unwritten social rules that governed work and the social relationships of work, remained to be determined. This chapter looks at three areas in which the workers' revolution moved forward during the early institutional period from 1917 to 1923: labor violence, trade unions, and the shop floor. Workers and unions continued their revolution, albeit not unchanged, during an unsettled period in Mexico's revolutionary history.

The country remained deeply conflictive in the years following the 1917 Constitution. The Constitutionalists did not liquidate Emiliano Zapata until 1919 and Francisco Villa until 1923, both falling to assassins' bullets. They managed to elect Carranza president in March 1917, but he suffered an unsuccessful assassination attempt in April 1920 and a successful one in May. Alvaro Obregón then became president, though he too would fall to the assassin in 1928. These were only the most famous victims of early postrevolutionary violence, as thousands of other Mexicans also died in the fighting and infighting that characterized the public sphere. On the other hand, the Constitutionalists had effectively won the revolution and civil war; they enjoyed a new Constitution, and economic recovery was relatively rapid.

If high politics was unstable in the extreme so was the labor regime. The new Constitution and subsequent state labor codes ushered in a

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