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Ricardo Flores Magon: Magonism, Biography & Quotes

Instructor: Joshua Sipper

Dr. Sipper holds a PhD in Education, a Master's of Education, and a Bachelor's in English. Most of his experience is in adult and post secondary education.

Ricardo Flores Magon was a Mexican intellectual who promoted anarchy in the early twentieth century. His ideas were a catalyst for the Mexican Revolution.

Defining An Anarchist

Have you ever considered where you rank within your country's system of government? In the United States, there are three branches of government - executive, legislative, and judiciary - at the federal level. Then there are state, local, and city governments. Finally, there are the people who are governed. This is where most of us fall in the hierarchy of government.

Anarchy is basically the opposite of hierarchy. In general, anarchy refers to a government with no central leadership. The concept is closely related to socialism and communism in that it seeks to level the social standing of all people by not allowing the rise and eventual control of one person or group of people. It is in this way that Ricardo Flores Magon sought to overthrow and supplant the dictatorship of Mexico.

In this lesson, we will discuss a type of anarchy called Magonism. We'll also look at the life of Ricardo Flores Magon and some of his most significant quotes.

Magon and some members of the Liberal Club.
Magon and Liberal Club

What Is Magonism?

Magonism is a word created directly from the name of Ricardo Flores Magon. As a political activist and leader, Magon became so well-known for his philosophies concerning anarchy that his name was used to define how he and his followers thought and acted. At the center of this philosophy was a desire to do away with the governmental status quo in Mexico during that time.

During the early and midlife of Magon, Mexico was under a dictatorship, ruled by one person who wielded supreme power, oppressed the people, and amassed riches for himself. This system of government was seen by Magon and his followers as evil and improper, prompting them to form a new group called a Liberal Club. Soon after, he and his group began a political journal called Regeneracion, which was aimed at promoting anarchist ideals and attacking the dictatorship that was in place.

Much of Magonism amounted to three strategies:

  • anarchist idealism for the people
  • demonstration and rebellion
  • overthrow of the current regime

The first component of Magonism was all about equality for the people. Magon disagreed with the idea of one or a few people holding all the power and riches in Mexico. Anarchy, Magon believed, was the remedy for this inequality. He and his followers also demonstrated against the corrupt, totalitarian government, even going so far as to enact armed rebellion. Eventually, Magonism led to the complete overthrow of the Mexican government, resulting in the Mexican Revolution.

Regeneracion was a publication from Magon and his followers that promoted anarchy and castigated the dictatorial regime.
Magon Regeneracion

Who Is Magon?

Ricardo Flores Magon was born in 1874 in San Antonio Eloxochitlan, Oaxaca. His father and mother were both of Native Mexican (Indian) descent, and his father was committed to the concept of communal ownership of land, a philosophy directly counter to the dictatorial government of the time. When he was 18, Magon participated in demonstrations against the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz and was imprisoned for five months as a result. However, this only steeled his resolve further, prompting Magon and his brother, Jesus, to begin their anarchist publication Regeneracion.

Magon's politically influential career is usually divided into three sections. The Magonist Movement began and established itself as a serious political force from 1904-1906. Rebellion in the form of protest and civil unrest were the overarching characteristics of the second division, further solidifying the movement's influence and strength between 1906-1908. Finally, between 1910 and 1913, the third Magonist period saw the rise of the Mexican Revolution, based on the philosophies of Magon, that eventually led to the overthrow of the Diaz dictatorship.

In the early 1900s, the increasingly oppressive Mexican government caught on to Magon's tactics and imprisoned him. After imprisonment and the government outlawing Magon's writing, he decided to continue his fight across the border in the United States in 1903. After initially moving to Texas, Magon and his group of loyal followers moved their operation to St Louis, Missouri, and began publication and dispersal of Regeneracion once more. However, after a few weeks of running the journal from this location, the Magonists came under oppression from forces within the United States, where they were arrested and released on bail. During the release period, Magon and his group fled to Canada.

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