Plotino Rhodakanaty

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Plotino Constantino Rhodakanaty (Greek: Πλωτίνος Ροδοκανάκης) was a Greek socialist and anarchist and a prominent Mormon pioneer who was an early activist in Mexico's mid-nineteenth century labor and campesino movement, foreshadowing the Mexican Revolution in 1910.

Biography[edit]

Rhodakanaty was born on October 14, 1828 in Athens, Greece to a member of Greek nobility and his Austrian wife. Rhodakanaty's father died during the Greek war for independence against the Turks, and his mother took him to Vienna. In 1848, Rhodakanaty traveled to Budapest to assist in the failed Hungarian uprising of that year. He traveled next to Berlin where he was exposed to the ideas of Hegel, Fourier, and Proudhon. In 1850, he visited Paris specifically to meet Proudhon after reading the latter's What Is Property? While in Paris, he learned of Mexico's rural system of relatively self-governing agricultural communities and of the threat to them presented by capitalism and privatization. He supported the effort to save them and went to Barcelona where he lived for at least two years in the large anarchist community there. Rhodakanaty planned to help save that way of life in Mexico.[1]

In 1861, the same year he arrived in Mexico, he wrote Cartilla Socialista and began propagating the ideas of contemporary European thinkers, particularly Fourier, Proudhon, and Bakunin. He published other radical essays, characterized by his famous quote "Down with all governments" (abajo con todos los gobiernos). including Neopanteísmo, founded journals, and in 1870 helped establish an "escuela libre" at Chalco. The term "escuela libre" was used by anarchists to distinguish themselves from government- and church-influenced education. The school was run by his disciple Francisco Zalacosta who went on to lead peasant insurrections involving as many as 1,500 fighters at a time in central Mexico. To support himself, he taught at the Colegio de San Ildefonso in downtown Mexico City, where he organized like-minded students.[1] A circle of followers emerged, including Santiago Villanueva, Francisco Zalacosta, Julio Chávez López, and José María Gonzales. These people and others would later form an important nucleus in the early Mexican labor and peasant movements.[2]

In 1875 Rhodakanaty read some translated sections of the Book of Mormon, a scripture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and gained a conviction about it being "the word of God".[3] In addition to the values advocated by the LDS Church, he was also attracted to their communitarian practices at the time, which included communal property and an emphasis on self-reliance. His petitioning the Church's leadership in Salt Lake City for missionaries to be sent to Mexico, as well as his efforts to convert his friends and acquaintances, were instrumental in the subsequent establishment of the LDS Church in Mexico.[4] Plotino Rhodakanaty was baptized a Mormon on November 20, 1879 along with several other converts, and was appointed to lead the local congregation. After not receiving the Church's support for his plans to create the utopian communities he envisioned in Mexico, Rhodakanaty resigned as the head of the congregation in August 1880 and became disengaged from the LDS Church. There is no indication, however, that he also rescinded his membership.

In his older age he moved to Ajusco in the mountains southwest of Mexico City. He taught in that small school throughout the time that Otilio Montaño, the author of Emiliano Zapata's famous Plan de Ayala, attended as a young student. The Plan de Ayala closely related Rhodakanaty's goal of a democratic and self-governing society in rural Mexico.

Rhodakanaty eventually returned to Europe in 1886. The time and place of his death remains unknown.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hart, John M. Anarchism & The Mexican Working Class, 1860-1931. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1987. 29-42.
  2. ^ Rubio, José Luis. Las internacionales obreras en América. Madrid: 1971. p. 35
  3. ^ Jason M. Brown and Christopher J. Nielsen: "Plotino Constantino Rhodakanaty: Introduction to a Mormon Anarchist"; available at https://themormonworkerdotnet.wordpress.com/past-issues/mw-issue-8/plotino-constantino-rhodakanaty-introduction-to-a-mormon-anarchist/
  4. ^ Gerry R. Flake: "Mormons in Mexico: The First 96 Years"; available at https://www.lds.org/ensign/1972/09/mormons-in-mexico-the-first-96-years