24 julio, 2024

Six-Year Plan: background, characteristics, proposed points

What was the Six-Year Plan?

The Six-Year Plan of Lázaro Cárdenas was the beginning of the distancing with the policies carried out in Mexico by Plutarco Elías Calles and the maximum during the previous decade. The Six-Year Plan was how the electoral proposal of Cárdenas, candidate for the 1934-1940 legislature, was baptized.

The name comes from the length of presidential terms in Mexico (6 years): the message was that Cárdenas intended to comply with this. His candidacy was announced by the National Revolutionary Party —created by Calles—, but his proposals broke with the policies of Calles and the governments in which he had influence.

Among his points were economic policies to support workers, as well as proposals to increase the country’s industrial and agricultural growth.

The most important elements of this plan can be named the agrarian reform carried out in northern Mexico and the expropriation of the oil industry.

Background of the Six-Year Plan

Plutarco Elías Calles and the Maximato

Before the arrival of Lázaro Cárdenas to the presidency, Mexico had lived a few years in which the government was dominated by Plutarco Elías Calles.

Although he left office at the end of his legislature, his influence on subsequent leaders was notorious and he was considered the real power.

Calles was the creator of the single party, founding the National Revolutionary Party. This period is known as the maximato and was opposed by sectors more to the left, despite the clashes with the Church.

Ortiz Rubio Plan

Although there is no unanimity among historians, some consider that the direct precedent of the Six-Year Plan presented by Cárdenas was the General Planning Law of the Mexican Republic. This had been proposed by President Ortiz Rubio and approved in 1930.

Candidacy of Lázaro Cárdenas

The National Revolutionary Party proposed Lázaro Cárdenas as a candidate for the presidency in 1933. That is when the term Six-Year Plan was born, since it was how he named the political platform with which he ran for office.

This plan consisted of a series of points, a kind of electoral program that immediately won the support of the peasants and workers. Thanks to this he was able to win the votes very easily.

As he had already announced, Cárdenas soon tried to distance himself from his predecessors. Thus, he did not want to reside in Chapultepec and soon took some measures against businesses of Calles supporters.

Characteristics of the Six-Year Plan

As previously mentioned, in this Six-Year Plan presented by Cárdenas a government action was established to which an attempt was made to adjust. Among the most important aspects were the promise of land reform and the expropriation of the oil industry.

One of the fundamental characteristics of the plan was the attempt to reduce economic dependence on Mexico. According to what was written, he intended to «adopt the policy of economic nationalism as a legitimate defense resource without incurring any historical responsibility.»

Apart from the nationalization of oil, the Mexican Railways stood out in this regard.

In the political sphere, beyond the Six-Year Plan, Cárdenas ordered the exile of Calles. It is then that he has a free hand to develop his policy, without supporters of the ex-president in his government.

To combat the socializing measures that he undertook, conservative sectors founded the National Action Party (PAN) and the National Sinarquista Union.

Protection of the most disadvantaged

Another of the points that Cárdenas favored with his decisions was to strengthen the educational system. He tried to get schools to many previously ignored rural areas and built institutions like the National Polytechnic Institute or the Technical Council for Agricultural Education.

The distribution of land was one of the most important foundations of his period of government, seeking to favor the poorest peasants. In this aspect he also highlighted the expansion of irrigation systems.

In foreign affairs, Cárdenas clearly supported the Spanish republic in its war against Francoism. He hosted a large number of refugees, both adults and children.

Points and proposals

Ejidos and agrarian reform

Part of the Six-Year Plan dealt with the way in which he intended to promote agriculture, also favoring small producers and peasants.

For this there was a large distribution of land. The Banco de Crédito Ejidal y Agrícola dedicated itself to offering loans, while the different departments distributed up to 25 million hectares during his tenure.

To this must be added the great agrarian reform that he carried out in the north; it was the one that Emiliano Zapata had planned decades ago and it meant a revolution in the sector. The main intention was to create small productive units, capable of supplying those who worked them.

favor unions

The Six-Year Plan offered clear support for the exclusion clause. Likewise, he rejected the so-called “white unions”. This meant that the workers and unionists were totally on his side during the six-year term.

In the same way, a Solidarity Pact was launched, with which it was intended to create a great worker and peasant organization.


The points referring to education were abundant in the Six-Year Plan, since Cárdenas took as a reference the educational socialist current.

This current wanted all Mexicans to have access to education in centers where, apart from educating, the little ones were fed. In this way, he tried to create more job and social opportunities.

Lastly, he projected and founded institutions such as the National Polytechnic Institute. His goal was for Mexico to have its own researchers and stop depending on the outside world.

Petroleum Expropriation

Among all the policies included (and carried out) in the Six-Year Plan, the expropriation of the oil industry and its nationalization is the most important for the economy.

Cárdenas took advantage of a moment of US and British weakness —generated by the effects of the Great Depression— to recover the extraction and commercialization of crude oil.

Since there was a confrontation between the workers and the foreign companies that dealt with the sector, the expropriation had the support of the trade union organizations.

The expropriation decree was signed on March 18, 1938, creating at the same time PEMEX, the national company.


National Revolutionary Party. Six-year plan for the presidential period 1934-1940. Recovered from manifestosdelpueblo.wordpress.com
Presidentes.mx. Lazaro Cardenas. Obtained from presidentes.mx
Sixtos Niniz, Francisco. Lázaro Cárdenas and his legacy in education. Obtained from linking.org
Brook, Louis. Mexico’s Lazaro Cardenas, ‘The Perfect Politician’. Retrieved from telesurtv.net
Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. Petroleum Expropriation Of 1938 (Mexico). Retrieved from encyclopedia.com
Mexican History. The Presidency of Lazaro Cardenas 1934 – 40. Retrieved from mexicanhistory.org
Wikipedia. Land reform in Mexico. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org

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