Friday, July 29, 2016

Socialist Colony in Mexico, article in The Dublin Review 1894

Socialist Colony in Mexico, article in The Dublin Review 1894

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An article in Frank Leslie's Monthly describes the experiment of a colony on the harbour of Topolobampo on the Pacific coast of Mexico, founded some seven years ago on strictly Socialist principles. A company was then formed which took up a quarter of a million acres in that locality, chosen for its remoteness from legislative interference or the example of differently constituted communities. Ten-dollar shares were issued to the number of 100,000, each representing a town lot in the future city. No shares can be sold except to the company itself, which holds the land in perpetuity, selling to its settlers only the right of occupancy. Company scrip exchangeable for perpetual leases of blocks of land forms the currency of the colony. All produce is pooled, each receiving a share proportioned to his labour and original investment, and workmen are paid in scrip representing three dollars a day. The first 400 colonists fared badly. Arriving at the end of a long drought, they could barely extract a livelihood from the soil, while the subsequent rainy season found them imperfectly sheltered in ill-roofed houses. About half returned to their former homes, while the remainder, reinforced from time to time by occasional arrivals, struggled on. Their ranks were increased in 1890 by a fresh contingent of 200, raising their number to 500, to which a large increase was expected in 1893. Women and children are in the ascendant, the men forming only 40 per cent of the population. No golden dream of prosperity has been realised by the settlers, whose life continues to be a hard one. The regulations of the company, which were at first very strict, have been relaxed since the first colonisation, and the community now formulates its own rules on democratic principles. Churches and public worship are forbidden, but families and individuals are allowed to practise their own forms of religion privately. Marriages receive the sanction of the director, and are recognised without further ceremony, and it may be presumed that divorce is equally easy of attainment. The qualifications of the teacher in the school for the rising generation may be measured by the fact that he receives the same wages as the hedgers and ditchers. Families live apart, but the unmarried men are housed in a large building where cooking is done for all on the co-operative system. The result is summed up in the statement that "the lack of religious feeling, the endless grind for material things, and the years of demand for hopefulness upon the spirit of each colonist, have been productive of discouragement for many."

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