Had Robert P. Millon’s book appeared even a year ago, many Mexicanists would have directed their English-reading students to it. They might have warned them that it is based entirely on printed materials, that it smacks of hero-worship, and that it is replete with Marxist rhetoric, but they would have rated it as considerably more useful than H. H. Dunn’s The Crimson Jester (1934) or Edgcumb Pinchon’s fanciful Zapata the Unconquerable (1941). After the appearance of John Womack’s excellent Zapata and the Mexican Revolution (1969), however, it scarcely seems worth the trouble to mention Millon’s book. Let the serious student spend a quiet weekend with the Womack study.

In six chapters Millon outlines the role of the Zapatistas during the initial decade of the Revolution. He traces their revolutionary tactics, analyzes the antifeudal character of the agrarian message they delivered, and, on more tenuous grounds, hypothesizes that their revolutionary program was also inherently anti-imperialist and bourgeois-democratic. Finally, he purifies the intellectual atmosphere of “misconceptions concerning Zapatista ideology” and offers historiographical commentary on the nature of the Zapatista-Carrancista schism.

Probably because this study was in press before the Womack book appeared, Womack entirely escapes the brunt of Millon’s attack. Others who have ventured opinions concerning his protagonist, however, do not fare so well. Howard Cline’s contention, for example, that the Zapatista movement was indigenista in orientation, Millon asserts, “can be disposed of most easily” (p. 83). But the contention is disposed of too easily. Rather than offering statistical evidence of the population make-up in Morelos or defining the Indian community either ethnically or culturally to support his case, Millon is satisfied merely to offer tidbits such as the fact that Zapata preferred the costume of the charro to the calzones of the Indian, and that his native village “was not an Indian community per se . . .” But who were dispossessed of their land? Who made up the rank and file of the Zapatista army? Who were to be the beneficiaries of the Plan de Ayala? If there is evidence to support the author’s argument, he does not present it.

Howard Cline escapes easily in comparison to Robert E. Quirk, against whom singular venom is directed. Millon is incensed that Quirk should describe the Zapatistas as provincial in outlook and concerned primarily with the local situation in Morelos rather than with the entire spectrum of national pressures. To illustrate the folly of Quirk’s reasoning (twice labeled supercilious), Millon wades uncomfortably into the swamps of military history. Attacking Quirk’s thesis that the Zapatistas returned to Morelos in late December 1914 rather than move on Veracruz, because for them the Revolution was over, Millon declares that military exigencies alone dictated this course of action. Obregón’s army was much too strong, and “Zapata was too good a strategist to risk losing his army in a suicidal adventure” (p. 91). But Obregón himself admitted that the Constitutionalists were never in a greater state of disarray than at this very juncture. Overlooking this fact, Millon still begs the question. Even if it were true that Zapata had insufficient strength to launch a major offensive (a hypothesis far from established), why did he withdraw the overwhelming majority of his troops from Puebla and return to Morelos leaving only a small garrison, vulnerable to a counter-attack by Obregón? Millon assures the reader that there is a lesson to be gleaned from his interpretation: “The acceptance of Marxist leadership by peasant movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America and the cooperation of the peasants in China and North Vietnam, for example, in the construction of a socialist order should make one wary of overly-simplistic and supercilious interpretations of ‘ the peasant mentality’” (p. 88).

Budding historians should be given the benefit of the doubt, especially when they are challenging interpretations which have gone too long unquestioned. But Millon’s brashness and doctrinaire surety ill become an author whose bibliography of secondary sources is embarrassingly scanty and who has yet to give evidence of having seen an archive from the inside.