Skip to main content

Prison Letters of Ricardo Flores Magon to Lilly Sarnoff

  • Paul Avrich

The career of Ricardo Flores Magón, the foremost Mexican anarchist of the twentieth century, involves a curious paradox. On the one hand, he must be counted among the leading inspirers and martyrs of the Mexican Revolution. His movement, embodied in the Partido Liberal Mexicano, set in motion the forces that, in May 1911, drove Porfirio Díaz into exile; and his journal, Regeneración, which in the early stages of the Revolution reached a circulation of nearly 30,000, played an important part in rousing Mexican laborers, rural as well as urban, against the Díaz dictatorship and in pushing the Revolution in a more egalitarian direction than it might otherwise have taken. Under the banner of “Land and Liberty”, the Magonista revolt of 1911 in Baja California established short-lived revolutionary communes at Mexicali and Tijuana, having for their theoretical basis Kropotkin's Conquest of Bread, a work which Flores Magón regarded as a kind of anarchist bible and which his followers distributed in thousands of copies. Today the memory of Flores Magón is honored throughout Mexico. His remains rest in the Rotunda of Illustrious Men in Mexico City. In all parts of the country streets and squares bear his name, and Mexicans pay him homage as a great “precursor” of their Revolution, which was one of the major social upheavals of the twentieth century.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Prison Letters of Ricardo Flores Magon to Lilly Sarnoff
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Prison Letters of Ricardo Flores Magon to Lilly Sarnoff
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Prison Letters of Ricardo Flores Magon to Lilly Sarnoff
      Available formats
Hide All

page 380 note 1 Owen, W. C., “Death of Ricardo Flores Magón”, in: Freedom (London), 12 1922.

page 380 note 2 Cleyre, Voltairine de, “Written-in-Red (To Our Living Dead in Mexico's Struggle)”, in: Regeneración (Los Angeles), 12 16, 1911.

page 381 note 1 The Blast, March 15, 1916.

page 381 note 2 Ricardo Flores Magón to Gus Teltsch, December 15, 1920, in Epistolario revolucionario e íntimo (3 vols in 1; Mexico City, 1925, reprinted by the Ediciones Antorcha, Mexico City, 1975), I, p. 30.

page 381 note 3 Chaplin, Ralph, Wobbly: The Rough-and-Tumble Story of an American Radical (Chicago, 1948), pp. 255, 278.

page 382 note 1 Raymond, Lilly, Miscellaneous Poems (Stelton, N.J., 1971). For further information about the Raymonds see Vicisitudes de la lucha (Calgary, Alberta), 1975, No 8. I am extremely grateful to them for their help in preparing these letters f⊙r publication.

page 382 note 2 Epistolario revolucionario e íntimo, op. cit. Flores Magón's extensive correspondence with Weinberger is preserved in the Sterling Library of Yale University.

page 382 note 3 Ricardo Flores Magón: Su vida, su obra y 42 cartas escritas en ingles durante los dos ultimos años de su prisión y de su vida, translated by Proudhon Carbó (Mexico City, 1976). Only one of the letters, the first, had been previously published in the orginal English, a photographic facsimile appearing in Tierra y Libertad (Mexico City), No 326 (Numero Extraordinario), November 1973, a special issue devoted to Flores Magón and his movement. The English original of one of his letters to Rose Bernstein, dated January 4, 1922, was printed in Behind the Bars, January 1924, an organ of the Anarchist Red Cross Society in New York.

page 382 note 4 List of letters omitted: November 30, 1920; January 11 and 25, March 8, April 5 and 20, May 17, June 28, July 12, August 16, November 1, 1921; February 6 and 21, April 18, May 23, June 19, July 17 and 30, August 15, September 3 and 17, 1922.

page 383 note 1 “Death of Ricardo Flores Magón”, loc. cit.

page 383 note 2 The Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti, ed. by Frankfurter, Marion Denman and Jackson, Gardner (New York, 1928).

page 383 note 3 Flores Magón to Nicolás T. Bernal, December 6, 1920, Epistolario revolucionario e íntimo, I, p. 24.

page 383 note 4 Chaplin, Wobbly, op. cit., p. 310.

page 383 note 5 Alexander Berkman to Dr Michael A. Cohn, December 14, 1922, Cohn Papers, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York City.

page 384 note 1 Blaisdell, Lowell L., The Desert Revolution: Baja California 1911 (Madison, Wis., 1962), p. 204.

page 385 note 1 “Erma Barsky”, pseudonym of Rose Bernstein, a young New York anarchist and textile worker, later (under the name of Rose Mirsky) an official of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

page 385 note 2 Harry Weinberger, Flores Magón's lawyer. A Single Taxer and libertarian, he defended Emma Goldman and other anarchists during and after the First World War.

page 389 note 1 John Reed, the well-known American journalist, died in Moscow of typhus on October 17, 1920.

page 389 note 2 The principal anarchist journal in England, founded by Kropotkin and his circle in 1886.

page 392 note 1 Goldman and Berkman were deported to Russia on the Buford (not Bufford) on December 21, 1919.

page 394 note 1 Thomas H. Keell, editor of Freedom, and William C. Owen, former editor of the English page of Flores Magón's Regeneración and now a contributor to Freedom, having returned to his native England in 1916.

page 395 note 1 Mollie Steimer, Jacob Abrams, Hyman Lachowsky and Samuel Lipman were convicted in New York in October 1918 for violating the Espionage Act by distributing leaflets opposing American military intervention in Soviet Russia (their comrade Jacob Schwartz died before the trial after being beaten by the police). The three male defendants were sentenced to twenty years in prison and Mollie Steimer to fifteen years. Weinberger argued their case unsuccessfully before the Supreme Court. All four were deported to Russia on November 24, 1921.

page 396 note 1 of Warren G. Harding.

page 397 note 1 Harry M. Daugherty.

page 401 note 1 Flores Magón's wife and daughter.

page 402 note 1 See p. 403 and note 1.

page 403 note 1 The execution in 1909 of Francisco Ferrer, the Spanish anarchist educator, touched off a worldwide movement to establish libertarian schools modelled after his Escuela Moderna in Barcelona. Both the Walt Whitman School in Los Angeles and the Stelton School in New Jersey were of the Ferrer type. William Thurston Brown, though not a founder of the Stelton School, had been its director from 1916 to 1919 and had founded similar schools in Portland, Oregon, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

page 406 note 1 In March 1906, under threat of extradition to Mexico, Flores Magón fled from St Louis to Canada, remaining in Toronto and Montreal for six months before returning to the United States.

page 408 note 1 Graham, Fred S.Graham], [Marcus, Anarchism and the World Revolution: An Answer to Robert Minor (New York, 1921).

page 409 note 1 The Industrial Workers of the World.

page 412 note 1 American suffragist, reformer, and translator of Russian and Spanish literature, who was active on behalf of political prisoners, including Sacco and Vanzetti as well as Flores Magón.

page 413 note 1 A founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and sympathizer with the ideas of Kropotkin and Goldman.

amanuscript exanching

afragment of manuscript missing, probably claim

bfragment of manuscript missing

cfragment of manuscript missing

page 421 note 1 Bessie Zoglin, an anarchist in Kansas City, Missouri, founded a committee to aid political prisoners at Leavenworth.

page 422 note 1 Nine days later Flores Magón was found dead in his cell. Rivera was released a few months afterwards and returned to Mexico, where he died in 1932 after being struck by an automobile.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Review of Social History
  • ISSN: 0020-8590
  • EISSN: 1469-512X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-review-of-social-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed