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A 5 Pages Term Paper on US Role in Mexican (1910-1920) and Cuban Revolutions

Samuel Huntington, "Revolution and Political Order," in Goldstone, ed., Revolutions, stated:

"A revolution is a rapid, fundamental, and violent domestic change in the dominant values and myths of a society, in its political institutions, social structure, leadership, and government activity and politics. Revolutions are thus to be distinguished from insurrections, rebellions, revolts, coups, and wars of independence. A coup d'etat in itself changes only leadership and perhaps policies; a rebellion or insurrection may change policies, leadership, and political institutions, but not social structures and values; a war of independence is a struggle of one community against rule by an alien community and does not necessarily involve changes in the social structure of either community. What is here called simply 'revolution' is what others have called great revolutions, grand revolutions, or social revolutions. Notable examples are the French, Chinese, Mexican, Russian, and Cuban revolutions."

During the decade of 1910-1920, the United States and the Mexican border was a volatile area. The region was continually interacting, both societies coming into direct contact with one another. Individuals, families, and larger groups from both sides, freely moved from one country to the other. Two very different cultures were exchanging events and ideas that led to permanent influences in both countries. These influences had a huge impact on the political, economical and social effects in both societies. During times of extreme and rapid change, like the Mexican Revolution from 1910-1920, these influences were profoundly affected. Essentially the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution had spawned an era of violence as well as political and economic radicalism in Mexico. This was the beginning to the threatened interests and lives of the United States citizens, specifically North Americans living in the border regions as well as in the interior of Mexico. This eventually led to political and military intervention from the side of the United States.

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One thing is certain about the outcome of the Mexican Revolution. The United States influenced the revolution at every turn. The United States became heavily involved with Mexico during 1910-1920. Political pressure caused the highest powers to seek interaction. President Taft and President Wilson were both driving forces behind the US military involvement during the Mexican Revolution. The common US citizen got involved through associations like the Women's groups, Religious groups and The Red Cross. On the other side, Mexican citizens of all classes were fighting for their own political and economic strives. The Mexican women were the most overlooked and underrepresented group in the revolution. These women were, rich as well as poor, educated, as well as uneducated, and went often into combat on the front line carrying their children on their backs. The Mexican Revolution was a period of contrast and conflict between two nations.

The Cuban revolution has confronted what is referred to as its "special period" for about half a decade. This describes the severe economic crisis precipitated by the collapse of preferential trade with the Soviet Union, and exacerbated by the effects of the criminal economic and trade embargo organized by the U.S. government.

In this strategy foreign investment would continue to play a key role and every attempt would be made to attract such investment in a competitive market (Lambie, (1998). This would mean presenting Cuba as a country with good infrastructure, cheap labor, liberal rules on the repatriation of capital, an educated workforce etc. Investment on these terms has been essential to bring collapsed and undercapitalized sectors of the economy back to life and develop new sectors like tourism, however how far should this process be allowed to grow? What is the critical point where Cuba begins to seek foreign investment as a habit and forgets to assess whether it is still a viable vehicle to achieve socialist objectives?

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The effect of the disintegration of communism and the breakdown of the CMEA was catastrophic for Cuba and perhaps no other country in peacetime this century has suffered such a dramatic and sudden downturn in its economy. Between 1988 -1993 there was a total fall in the island's imports from $8 billion to $1.7 billion, a decline of over 80 percent. Faced with unprecedented economic and social problems, in 1991 the Cuban government launched the "Special Period in Peacetime", which contained a "zero option" contingency plan for total isolation of the economy. In the medium term Cuba has began to reorient its economy towards the market, which includes a drive to attract foreign investment and increasing emphasis on hard currency exports such as tourism and bio-technology products, combined with a series of internal reforms, including the legalization of certain areas of self employed private enterprise, the re-introduction of food markets, granting permission for the population to transact in US dollars and the establishment of Western style taxation and budgeting systems.

According to Lambie (1998) unquestionably those in charge of economic strategy have done an outstanding job to rescue the Cuban economy from total collapse and the measures that have been taken so far have in the main been essential and unavoidable. For Cuba to have overcome the immediate crisis and now be registering modest levels of economic growth is a testament to the strength of its political and social system and distinguishes the revolution from the fragile socialist experiments of its former allies. While not out of the woods yet, the workers and farmers of Cuba are in a better position to address the host of challenges they face. Contrasting this with what working people in the rest of Latin America are coming up against.

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In December, presiding at the so-called Summit of the Americas - which excluded representatives of the Cuban government - U.S. president Bill Clinton was giddy over the profits boom resulting from imperialist investment in Latin America. "These are remarkable, hopeful times," Clinton said, asserting that capitalist investments "are working wonders" in Latin America.

A week later, the peso was devalued and all hell broke loose in Mexico. The subsequent shock waves have devastated the lives of millions from the Rio Grande to Buenos Aires. The bourgeois regime in Mexico, egged on by Wall Street and Washington, has unleashed a draconian austerity program that has already resulted in hundreds of thousands of layoffs. Prices have soared, real wages are falling, and the banking system is shaky. Resistance in city and countryside has begun. Working people in Cuba are in a much better position to combat the world economic crisis than those of us living in Mexico, Argentina, the United States, or France. In Cuba, a workers and farmers government is in power. In the capitalist world, the administrations of the exploiters reign.

The first signs of economic recovery in Cuba result from the leadership role taken by Cuban workers in meeting this challenge. And despite shortages of everything from oil and soap to foreign exchange, hospitals, schools, and child-care centers are not being closed. Contrast this with the measures being proposed and implemented by the governments of Mexico or the United States, in order to satisfy the demands of wealthy bondholders.

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The road taken by the workers and youth of Cuba - seizing power out of the hands of the exploiters and building socialism - is the example of how working people the world over can move forward in these tumultuous times (The Militant, 1995).

The United States was involved politically and socially with the Mexican revolution from 1910-1920. The US had attitudes and interests among the Mexican population. The attitudes stem mostly from common American people including religious groups and women groups. These organizations were socially involved with Mexico during the revolution because of the harsh times that many Mexican people faced economically and socially. The Mexican people were devastated by the revolution and had no work, adequate food and sheltering. The attitude of American organizations like the religious and woman’s groups was that they could not just let the Mexican people suffer, they had to help them. Numerous groups like the Red Cross were able to help the Mexican people out during the revolution, (see photo on the right of the group of Red Cross volunteers). The interests among the US citizens in Mexico during the revolution on the other hand were mostly representative of the US politicians. The economic interest in Mexico during 1910-1920 had decided US policy toward Mexico and thus the US response and involvement with Mexico during this time.

The US economic interest in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution assured revolutionary nationalism and also xenophobia, which had determined that the US economic policies towards Mexico would be unsympathetic, hostile, and even interventionist. The economic interest in Mexico was so great that many Americans were investing in Mexico through capital investments, indirect and direct investments. These investments included government bonds and real estate investments. The biggest economic investment that the US made with Mexico during the revolution was the exportation of oil.

Many of the attitudes of the American religious and woman’s group, as well as the economic interest of the politicians, correlated into military response and at the time, President Woodrow Wilson’s response and involvement in the Mexican revolution.

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Military Involvement of America

Decisions made prior to the breakout of the Mexican revolution and during the beginning of the war, proposed that the United States would only aid civil authorities in enforcing the neutrality laws. The secretary of war Jacob Dickinson, authorized American Military commanders to only warn the Mexican militaries about the actions that would be taken if American lives and property were ever threaten. Mexican Military commanders were warned that only if the military endangered the lives and property of North Americans, then the US military would intervene. Otherwise the US had no intention to further disrupt the relations in Mexico.

As the situation in Mexico deteriorated along with the viability of the Diaz administration, US president Taft took action, which was an early departure from his non-intervention policy. President Aft in March 1911, ordered the creation of the so-called, "Maneuver Division." This was a division of American men designed to provide field training and assume the official role of enforcing neutrality laws. The division was centered in San Antonio, Texas and became quickly known as a division that would essentially be used to intervene with Mexico. President Aft hoped that the military division would be available if there was substantial deterioration in the Diaz regime that might pose threat to American lives and property. Non-intervention and military action remained challenged until President Aft was out of office and the newly elected President Wilson was in. Then the non-intervention plan seemed to go the other way (Hall & Quaver).

Mexican Politics in Wilson’s Era

President Wilson and his policy towards Mexico have received bad press from Americans and Mexicans. Wilson's policy has been seen as narrow-minded, patronizing and hypocritical. Despite being committed to representative government and self-determination, Wilson was said to have, carried out more armed interventions then any of his predecessors. While interventions by other administrators were carried out because of real politic or profit, Wilson's motive to intervene was of peer desire. Wilson tried to get constitutionals, including the once Mexican leader Carranza, into power. When Wilson succeeded at this he then attempted to control the party. Wilson felt Mexico, (according to the "Wilsonism critique"), was meant to be educated along liberal, constitutional, and North American lines. Wilson himself declared to be the self appointed tutor of Mexico.

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Wilson’s policies and their premises were false. The policies involved a fundamental misreading of Mexican reality, and therefore were bound to fail in practice. Wilson's initial intervention in Mexico was not wrong but his reasons for the intervention were wrong. Wilson’s Policy included dreams of constitutional government in Mexico. Wilson also envisioned what many of his predecessors wanted; to restore order, to protect American lives and property and to avert European interference. Wilson's policies combined liberal moralist with long term real politics for the United States. Wilson’s policies for the US individual allowed for short-term morality with long term self interest. Wilson's policy addressed the need for representative government in Mexico because it was conducive to political stability and capitalist development. This was especially true in Mexican societies struggling to get rid of old, corrupt, dictatorial regimes. Wilson's policy tried to convince Mexican dictators of short-term stability and profit. Wilson's policies were aimed at an idea of an orderly and righteous government but also his policies addressed Mexico’s social strivings as well. All of Wilson’s policies would fail because they all compromised sincerely held Mexican values. Wilson's "good neighbor" policy had failed (Knight, 1987, 1994)

Works Cited

Hall, Linda B. and Don C. Quaver. (1988) Revolution on the Border, The United States and Mexico, 1910-1920. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988.

Knight, Alan. (1987) US- Mexican Relations, 1910-1940, An Interpretation. Monograph Series, 28. San Diego: Tinker Foundation, 1987.

Knight, Alan. (1994) "Popular Culture and the Revolutionary State in Mexico", 1910-1940. Hispanic American Historical Review, 74, May 1994. Pg. 394-414.

Lambie, George. (1998) Prospects for the Cuban Revolution in the Post-Communist Era. Mar 8, 2002 <http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/43b/164.html>

Samuel Huntington, "Revolution and Political Order," In Goldstone, ed., Revolutions.

The Militant. (1995) Contrast Cuba with the Americas. Editorial from The Militant. 1995


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