The August 29th Movement (M-L) was a Chicano Marxist-Leninist organization in the U.S. from 1974-1978, when it merged with I Wor Kuen to form the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L). This was made available on the web by LeftSpot:
[QUOTE ON INSIDE FRONT COVER OF PAMPHLET:]
The liberation movement of the oppressed peoples and the proletarian revolution. In solving the national question Leninism proceeds from the following theses:
a] the world is divided into two camps: the camp of a handful of civilised nations, which possess finance capital and exploit the vast majority of the population of the globe; and the camp of the oppressed and exploited peoples in the colonies and dependent countries, which constitute that majority;
b] the colonies and dependent countries, oppressed and exploited by finance capital, constitute a vast reserve and a very important source of strength for imperialism;
c] the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed peoples in the dependent and colonial countries against imperialism is the only road that leads to their emancipation from oppression and exploitation;
d] the most important colonial and dependent counties have already taken the path of the national liberation movement, which cannot but lead to the crisis of world capitalism;
e] the interests of the proletarian movement in the developed countries and of the national liberation movement in the colonies call for the union of these two forms of the revolutionary movement into a common front against the common enemy, against imperialism;
f] the victory of the working class in the developed countries and the liberation of the oppressed peoples from the yoke of imperialism are impossible without the formation and the consolidation of a common revolutionary front;
g] the formation of a common revolutionary front is impossible unless the proletariat of the oppressor nations renders direct and determined support to the liberation movement of the oppressed peoples against the imperialism of its “own country,” for “no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations” [Engels];
h] this support implies the upholding, defense and implementation of the slogan of the right of nations to secession, to independent existence as states;
i] unless this slogan is implemented, the union and collaboration of nations within a single world economic system, which is the material basis for the victory of world socialism cannot be brought about;
j] this union can only be voluntary, arising on the basis of mutual confidence and fraternal relations among peoples.
[Stalin from Foundations of Leninism]
The August Twenty-Ninth Movement (Marxist Leninist) is extremely proud to publish this historic document. At a time when the world’s peoples are daily dealing blow after blow against the two superpowers of the United States and Soviet Union, this position stands as a signal declaration of war against U.S. imperialism in particular – a declaration from the class conscious proletariat and from the Chicano people. The national movement of Chicanos in the Southwestern part of the United States against national oppression has historically been of a profoundly revolutionary character. It is the duty of ALL communists, class conscious workers and revolutionary nationalists to fan the flames of this movement. At the same time we must be the hardest fighters for the right of the Chicano nation to political secession. The only way that there will ever be a united front of the struggle against imperialism is for communists to respect, advocate and FIGHT FOR the right of all oppressed nations to political secession. In the case of Chicanos in the Southwest, who have a history of development dating back over 200 years, there is no other just demand which speaks to their deepest aspirations than the demand for the right of self-determination (political secession). Communists anywhere and always stand for the complete equality and unity of all the oppressed peoples, and we are not advocates of secession. But every Marxist-Leninist who has ever lived has fought for the right of all oppressed nations to political secession as the only way of achieving unity of the peoples, and a voluntary union of nations based on equality.
The history of past political parties and even of communist organizations regarding their view of the Chicano movement has been shameful for the most part. Most clearly the “Communist” Party of the U.S.A. has been in the lead of attempting to take the heart out of the revolutionary character of this movement. By declaring first (in the 1930’s) that Chicanos were not an oppressed nation (with the right to political secession) because their territory was “separated by mountains and deserts” -the CPUSA chauvinistically sided with the U.S. imperialists who, of course, would agree 100% with such “logic”. The past several years have produced a number of documents on this same question – not a one of which can be called Marxist-Leninist.
In a future pamphlet we will analyze some of these positions. But what ties them all together – from the CPUSA to the October League – is the most shallow and superficial treatment of the question, a reformist solution to it, and the denial of the Chicano nation’s right to political secession.
The August Twenty-Ninth Movement (M-L) developed, in large part, out of the revolutionary Chicano national movement. We are proud of our history of striving to give that movement a CONSISTENTLY revolutionary direction. Through our years in that struggle and in joint struggle with revolutionaries from many other movements we eventually learned of the science of Marxism-Leninism, accepted this science and became communists. This document represents a concrete application of Marxism-Leninism to the struggle of the Chicanos and of the working class for liberation from the yoke of capitalism. It represents a much broader development of our political line on this most important of questions, and will contribute, we feel, in large part to the development of a revolutionary communist program – so necessary to the genuine unity of Marxist-Leninists and advanced workers into a single vanguard party of the working class. At the same time that we support and struggle to give revolutionary leadership to the Chicano national movement, we recognize that at the heart of the question is the class question and that the final “solution” to the national question, the key to the total liberation and unification of all oppressed peoples is the achievement of socialism. Under socialism every assistance will be rendered to the economic, political and cultural growth of the formerly oppressed peoples and nations.
Formerly oppressed nations will be given the right to either annex themselves to the socialist state in some suitable form, or to form their own separate state government.
But neither the right of political secession or the achievement of socialism and the dictatorship of the working class can be achieved peacefully. In order to smash the brutal rule of capitalism and to establish the armed rule of the working class and oppressed masses, the capitalist state, the entire capitalist system, must be overthrown by the armed working class. But such overthrow is impossible if the working class arid oppressed masses do not have their own leadership. A struggle against such a powerful enemy as we face requires that we have an organization of the most dedicated and staunch revolutionaries – a political party that exists for no other reason than to organize and lead the struggle of the masses for socialism and the establishment of state power of the working class. Only a Marxist-Leninist party, a party built on the basis of Marxist-Leninist theory, and practicing the self-sacrificing style of work characteristic of Marxism-Leninism historically – can lead such a revolution to a victorious conclusion. We do not now have such a party, so we must build one – this is the central and most urgent task of every communist and revolutionary in this country. We dedicate this position to the achievement of that task, to the working class, to the heroic Chicano people, and to all the oppressed and struggling peoples throughout the world.
“The proletariat cannot be victorious except through democracy, i.e., by giving full effect to democracy and by linking with each step of its struggle democratic demands formulated in the most resolute terms. It is absurd to contrapose the socialist revolution and the revolutionary struggle against capitalism to a single problem of democracy, in this case, the national question. We must combine the revolutionary struggle against capitalism with a revolutionary programme and tactics on all democratic demands: a republic, a militia, the popular election of officials, equal rights for women, the self-determination of nations, etc. While capitalism exists, these demands – all of them – can only be accomplished as an exception, and even then in an incomplete and distorted form. Basing ourselves on the democracy already achieved, and exposing its incompleteness under capitalism we demand the overthrow of capitalism, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, as a necessary basis both for the abolition of the poverty of the masses and for the complete and all-round institution of all democratic reforms. Some of these reforms will be started before the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, others in the course of that overthrow, and still others after it.
The social revolution is not a single battle, but a period covering a series of battles over all sorts of problems of economic and democratic reform, which are consummated only by the expropriation of the bourgeoisie. It is for the sake of this final aim that we must formulate every one of our democratic demands in a consistently revolutionary way. It is quite conceivable that the workers of some particular country will overthrow the bourgeoisie before even a single fundamental democratic reform has been fully achieved. It is, however, quite inconceivable that the proletariat, as a historical class, will be able to defeat the bourgeoisie, unless it is prepared for that by being educated in the spirit of the most consistent and resolutely revolutionary democracy.
Imperialism means the progressively mounting oppression of the nations of the world by a handful of Great Powers; it means a period of wars between the latter to extend and consolidate the oppression of nations; it means a period in which the masses of the people are deceived by hypocritical social-patriots, i.e., individuals who, under the pretext of the “freedom of nations”, “the right of nations to self-determination”, and “defence of the fatherland”, justify and defend and oppression of the majority of the world’s nations by the Great Powers.
That is why the focal point in the Social-Democratic programme must be that division of nations into oppressor and oppressed which forms the essence of imperialism, and is deceitfully evaded by the social-chauvinists and Kautsky. This division is not significant from the angle of bourgeois pacifism or the philistine Utopia of peaceful competition among independent nations under capitalism, but it is most significant from the angle of the revolutionary struggle against imperialism. It is from this division that our definition of the “right of nations to self-determination” must follow, a definition that is consistently democratic, revolutionary, and in accord with the general task of the immediate struggle for socialism.” (L.C.W., Vol 21)
ON THE REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE OF THE CHICANO PEOPLE
There is no force on earth which can conquer a people who are fighting for their freedom from oppression. The Chicano people are just such a people – tempered over the decades in the flames of their revolutionary freedom struggle. In our own time we have seen the courage, strength, determination and will to freedom of the Chicano masses, displayed in the stormy decade of the 60’s and up until the present.
Gaining inspiration from the thousands of Chicano students throughout the Southwest and California who organized into MECHAs and UMAs, and who fought for and won the right to study their own history, their culture and their revolutionary traditions – the Chicano students of the Southwest have formed their own revolutionary fighting organization, Fuerzas Revolucionarias de Aztlan (FRA) which pledges itself to fight for the deliverance of the Chicano people from the yoke of U.S. Imperialism, for the self-determination of their people.
In southern Texas, the Chicano rural proletariat in their thousands are living up to the example of Juan Cortina as they fight the capitalist patrones and the cowardly thugs of the Texas Rangers, the sordid protectors of oppression and exploitation. These heroic farm workers are answering, arms in hand, the violence of the capitalist land-owners and their state troopers. These campesinos are proving in the crucible of fire and violence that the Chicano movement contains within itself the seeds of a violent explosion for freedom from imperialist bondage.
In northern New Mexico the campesinos are again cleaning their weapons. Faced with never-ceasing imperialist robbery of their land, the campesinso are once more voicing the slogans of the Alianza -“Tierra y Libertad” – the Alianza which took up arms in struggle for their precious lands, that earth which gives physical and spiritual nourishment to the Chicano people. These campesinos are even now developing a new form of organization and struggle – La Federacion – a united Chicano front formed for the express purpose of fighting in defense of the land of the people. This organization, which included various classes and strata of the masses, has pledged itself to this defense – by any means necessary, including armed protection of the land. Circumstances of capitalist oppression, particularly savage persecution by the puppet forces of the state are forcing the campesinos to stand with their rifles in order to defend their national rights. The anger of the campesinos, seething and boiling for decades as the imperialist aggressor robs from them the very source of their nationhood, is erupting into open armed struggle in the mountains and villages of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.
The Chicano proletariat, many of them sons and daughters of the campesinos, are moving into the forefront of the national movement. The 3000 strong Chicano workers from the Farah manufacturing Company in Texas remained steadfast for almost two years against the blows of the industrialist, the bankers and the state; this bloody coalition of reaction used every weapon in their capitalist arsenal to keep these Chicano workers unorganized. Fearing like the plague the loss of the superprofits torn from the hands of the Chicano workers from Farah (and throughout the southwest), the imperialists used foreclosures, lies, scabs, arrests, tear gas and police dogs in a fruitless attempt to break their strike. Realizing that this was no ordinary strike, but a part of a MOVEMENT for freedom, the capitalists frenziedly fought to defend their crumbling edifice of oppression – to deny to the end to the Chicano people their basic democratic rights. This denial of rights lies at the heart of the Chicano national movement. Whether to struggle be for the right to organize into unions; to speak their native tongue; to regain their land; to stop the merciless police murder of Chicano veteranos like Roto Canales, Antonio Cordova, Ricardo Falcon, Florencio Granados, Luis Martinez and many, many others; or their right to an education, to study and learn their own revolutionary history – the Chicano people are again arising like an armed and angry Phoenix from the ashes of the “fire that refuses to die” in order to fight until victory for their right to self-determination.
What remains the same is the basis of the revolutionary movement – the severe national oppression of the Chicano people, the denial of their basic democratic rights. Like the 60’s the movement will again involve every oppressed class and strata of the Chicano people – the workers, the campesinos, the students, the intellectuals, the youth, the women, etc. What will make this movement different will be its even broader scope and depth. In addition the revolutionary Chicano proletariat is more and more fulfilling its historic mission as leader of all the oppressed. This class, in unity with all American workers, is now in a position to win the confidence and LEADERSHIP of the national struggle; a position assumed in the 60’s by the students. In any case the revolutionary leaders of the Chicano people have learned the bitter lessons of the past decade – particularly the sad result of following the path of the reformist. They have learned – in the factories, in the fields, in the mountains of the southwest, on the campuses, and in the jails – that only an armed Chicano people can win liberation from imperialism. The intensified repression of current years gives this new upsurge the potentiality for national rebellion – for an armed revolt of the people in the southwest. It is the duty, the obligation, of every communist, every Chicano revolutionary, to prepare for this onslaught, to win, the course of their everyday struggles, the leadership of this movement. The deaths of the Chicano patriots must not have occurred in vain. Their blood must wipe away all illusions of the people that their struggle can occur peacefully, within the confines of the system which robs them and attacks every aspect of their national identity. Let that innocent blood act like a wind upon the fire – fanning the spark of our revolution into a conflagration which engulfs the southwest with the mass rebellion of the Chicano people.
Annexations are acquired by fire and sword and the annexation of the southwest was so achieved. Historically Marxists have always held to the proposition that economically this was of a historically progressive character, i.e., that capitalism would develop the productive forces of the region, bringing the working class to the fore, the grave diggers of capitalism itself. But Marxists have historically opposed and led struggle in opposition to the brutal and violent oppression that followed the annexation. Even in its most progressive stage capitalism comes onto the scene dripping with blood from every pore – the blood of countless Indians massacred in greedy wars for land; blood from millions of Blacks kidnapped from Africa, branded and forced into brutal chattel slavery, the cannon fodder of its imperialist wars. Blood from the countless Chicanos who fought to defend their homes, their lands, their dignity.
That capitalism which was born under the slogans of “freedom”, “liberty or death”, and “all men are created equal” is today the parasite that brutally plunders and exploits not only Chicanos, but peoples throughout the world. Today as the Chicano movement surges forward, we must grasp the revolutionary lessons of the past in order to know what this movement means today and the direction in which it must proceed.
The pages of Chicano history are filled with the heroic struggles of the revolutionary people, who, despite the savage colonization of their homeland, have developed their culture, retained their language and their identity as a people. For thirty years after the annexation guerrillas roamed the southwest and west coast in open rebellion against the U.S. They fought to keep their lands, to be able to work their mines, to defend themselves from the racist terror which accompanied the colonization by the Anglo bourgeoisie. Their heroic exploits under the leadership of men such as Joaquin Murrieta, Tiburcio Vasquez and Elfego Baca set the tradition that lives to this day, a lesson we must never forget – that violent oppression must be met with armed resistance.
As the struggle continued, its scope broadened. Revolutionaries such as Juan Nepomuceno Cortina came forward. Angered by violent abuses against his people, Cortina called for a general uprising against this racist terrorism. For years his small army, with the support of the people, drove the forces of the U.S. out of south Texas until numerically superior Federal troops, under the colonel Robert E. Lee drove his troops south of the border. But even that didn’t stop this revolutionary. In Mexico he joined Benito Juarez in the fight against the French colonialists. When the U.S. Civil War broke out he organized a expeditionary army to fight on the side of the Union, in the struggle to smash the system of slavery which held power in Texas and the South. Returning to Mexico this undaunted warrior organized the early resistance against the vicious despot Porfirio Diaz. The internationalist traditions set by this revolutionary had struck roots in the movement of Chicanos against oppression.
Throughout their history, the central theme of the Chicano struggle has been the question of LAND! Whether the struggle was led by the rural proletariat against the capitalist land owners, or by the peasantry in its struggle to retain their lands, the question of control of land has been the heart of the question around which all other aspects of national oppression have evolved. The material basis for the national oppression of the Chicano nation lays in the annexation of the southwest by the U.S., the expropriation of the land and its wealth through fraud and brutal terrorism, together with the super-exploitation of the working class and the campesinos through whose toil the riches of the region and superprofits for the imperialists were realized.
But the campesinos have historically picked up their guns in defense of their lands. Las Gorras Blancas of Nuevo Mexico united with the Knights of Labor in the struggle against the monopoly capitalists whom both saw as the source of their oppression – the Knights of Labor as proletarians, Las Gorras Blancas as campesinos fighting to keep the monopolies from seizing their lands. Through their broad agitation the campesinos won the support of the masses and used armed self-defense as the basic form of struggle. To the extent that they did so they were successful in warding off the monopolies. Through this struggle they layed the basis for founding of El Partido del Pueblo. The armed struggle of Las Gorras Blancas was to continue, although sporadically, until 1926. It may be argued that the conditions for armed insurrection were not yet ripe, that their actions were premature, but this cannot in the least take away from the revolutionary character of that struggle in its early period. And this struggle has lessons for us today. First it shows us, in embryonic form, the strength of such an alliance between the Chicanos and the multinational proletariat (the Knights of Labor were mostly Anglos). But this alliance became eroded as the campesinos, in their justifiable anger against the ruling class, went from viewing the capitalists as the enemy to viewing Anglos in general as the enemy. This suspicion and hostility weakened the alliance and the struggle of both the campesinos and the workers. On the other hand the Anglo workers, still under the influence of reformist leaders, began to disassociate themselves from the movement due to the often violent character of the struggle. Secondly, the Anglo workers saw the communal land grants, not as the legitimate property of the campesinos, but as “public domain.” Under the influence of reformist illusions put forward by their populist leaders, the Anglo workers failed to recognize that under monopoly capitalism, public domain means monopoly capitalist domain. By failing to recognize this they weakened the Chicano struggle, their own struggle, and strengthened the calls which oppressed them both – the monopoly capitalist class.
The lesson to learn from this struggle is that in its struggle for liberation the movement must clearly see its enemy as imperialism and not Anglo-Americans in general; this is a political struggle for liberation, not a race war. In particular the movement must recognize the multinational working class, Anglos included, as the staunchest allies and supporters of this movement. At the same time, communists and workers of the oppressor nation must recognize the legitimate national rights of Chicanos including their right to the land, governmental unity and the right to political secession, i.e., the right to form an independent republic, if Chicanos so choose. The workers of the oppressor nation must be brought to view this question from the stand of the proletariat and not from the standpoint of bourgeois legality. As the struggle continues to intensify, as rebellions grow toward a national revolt in the southwest, communists must educate the working class of the oppressor nation as to the legitimacy of such a revolt, its wholly justifiable character and the proletariat must support this struggle, regardless of who fires the first shot. As Marxist-Leninists we take the class stand of the proletariat on this question as layed out by the greatest revolutionary of this century – Lenin:
“National self-determination is the same as the struggle for complete national liberation, for complete independence, against annexation, and socialists cannot – without ceasing to be socialists – reject such a struggle in whatever, right down to an uprising or war.”
“Socialists have regarded wars for ‘defense of the fatherland’ or ‘defensive’ wars, as legitimate, progressive and just only in the sense of overthrowing alien oppressors’…. These would be just, and defensive wars, irrespective of who would be the first to attack; and socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressor, slave-holding and predator ‘Great Powers’ .” (Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 23)
The final lesson to be learned from the struggle of Las Gorras Blancas, is on the question of electoral politics. So long as Las Gorras Blancas kept electoral politics in the background, as a subsidiary, at best a secondary, form of struggle, they were able to make gains in their struggle for the land. When EI Partido del Pueblo came to the fore as the primary form of struggle, the gains made and the struggle itself were doomed to fail. Electoral politics and mass organizations such as EI Partido del Pueblo have a role to play in the revolution, one of education and mobilization of the masses for militant political actions. But never should electoral politics come to the front as the leading form of struggle. This does nothing less than to condemn the movement to become an appendage of the very system that exploits and oppresses the people.
In the struggle of oppressed peoples we usually find a small group of opportunists who sell their people out to the oppressor nation. Such were the ricos like the Oteros of New Mexico. This class of feudal landlords became transformed into a comprador bourgeoisie, who acted as middlemen for the imperialists in selling the region’s resources and the people’s labor for super-exploitation. They developed into capitalist businessmen and traveled widely to the east coast in order to attend bourgeois schools to be groomed as puppets and to convince Imperialist corporations to exploit the resources of Nuevo Mexico for a cut of the action. Today we still find their successors in the southwest such as the Chavez’s and Mondragons. It will be the task of all revolutionaries to expose and isolate these traitors to the national movement in the course of struggle and to win the people away from their political puppets – the Jerry Apodacas, the Joe Montoyas, the Henry Gonzalez’s, whose treachery seeks to condemn the Chicano nation to perpetual oppression.
At the turn of the century, the Chicano working class was young and small. It had not yet reached the maturity to lead the national movement in the Southwest. Instead the revolutionary elements from the petty-bourgeoisie came forward with EI Plan de San Diego. This plan was drafted in 1915, while the world raged in the throes of an imperialist war when the revolutionary working class in Russia, Germany and Hungary was preparing their onslaught against the capitalist oppressors; when the great Chinese masses were raging open rebellion against their colonial masters; when Mexico seethed with the tempest of revolution. This plan set before the movement revolutionary tasks and traditions which we must never forget. They also raised, as part of their program, race war against Anglos and this aspect must be totally and firmly rejected today. But this cannot take away from the revolutionary anti-imperialist character of their program.
After pledging their lives to carrying out EI Plan these revolutionaries stated in clause 1:
“On the 20th day of February, 1915, at two o’clock in the morning, we will arise in arms against the Government and country of the United States of North America, ONE AS ALL AND ALL AS ONE, proclaiming the liberty of the individuals of the black race and its independence of Yankee tyranny which has held us in iniquitous slavery since remote times’ and at the same time and in the same manner we will proclaim the independence and segregation of the States bordering upon the Mexican Nation, which are: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and upper California, of which states the Republic of Mexico was robbed in a most perfidious manner by North American imperialism.”
The transition of capitalism to its imperialist stage has layed the basis – The conditions for a revolutionary national movement. The Plan reflected this, the emergence of a new people, evolved under the conditions of, and struggle against national oppression. This movement called for an independent republic.
“10. The movement having gathered force, and once having possessed ourselves of the states above alluded to, we shall proclaim an INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC, later requesting (if it be thought expedient) annexation to Mexico, without concerning ourselves at that time about the form of government which may control the destinies of the common mother country.”
And so, while recognizing the special relationship with Mexico, the Plan called for an independent republic which could later decide upon its relationship to Mexico. But these revolutionaries sought not only the liberation of Chicanos as necessary but also the liberation of other oppressed peoples:
“8. The Apaches of Arizona, as well as the Indians (Red Skins) of the territory shall be given every guarantee; and their lands which have been taken from them shall be returned to them at the end that may assist us in the course which we defend.”
This plan, drafted when the capitalist world was engaged in its rapacious war for re-division of the colonies and oppressed nations of the world, stands out as a shining example to the movement, naming its army the “liberating Army for Races and Peoples.” It went on:
“11. When we shall have obtained independence for the Negroes we shall grant them a banner, which they themselves be permitted to select and we shall aid them in obtaining six states of the American Union, which states border upon those already mentioned, and they may form from these six states and Republic that they may, therefore, be independent.”
and it ended:
“15. It is understood among those who may follow this movement that we will carry as a singing voice the independence of negroes, placing obligations upon both races, and that, on no account will we accept aid, either moral or pecuniary, from the government of Mexico, and it need not consider itself under any obligations in this, our movement.” –EQUALITY AND INDEPENDENCE, San Diego, Texas January 6, 1915
Inspired by this Plan, insurgents arose throughout the Rio Grande Valley (and throughout the Southwest) engaging in raids, destruction of bridges and armed encounters with the Texas Rangers, posses and the U.S. army, (they did not, however, carry on a race war). The U.S. government responded with an orgy of violence, arresting Chicanos for treason, lynching and shooting them, jailing them, burning their homes and forcing the rural population under arms to the urban areas. During that year over half the population of the Valley was forced to leave through brutal terrorism.
But no amount of violence has stopped these heroic people from continuing this valiant struggle. No violence of any form has caused Chicanos to disappear as a people, to lose their language, their revolutionary traditions, or their culture. If anything the struggle against oppression has reinforced their determination, molded their revolutionary leaders, and so long as imperialism oppresses them Chicanos will continue to rise, with rifles in their fists to struggle for self-determination. From EI Plan de San Diego to EI Plan de Aztlan, Chicanos have recognized their legitimate right to political secession, their national rights to land and to form an independent republic. Those social-chauvinists claiming to be Marxist-Leninists who interpret these heroic struggles as the “scheme of petty-bourgeois nationalists” must be exposed as traitors, imperialists and enemies of the working class and oppressed peoples and nations. The Chicanos, A REVOLUTIONARY PEOPLE, long ago recognized their right to political independence. It is time that the U.S. communist movement break with its chauvinist past and recognize the legitimacy of this movement and demand for self-determination.
We live in an era of storms and revolutions. The watchwords of the world’s peoples are “independence, liberation and revolution”. Since the end of the 2nd imperialist world war the numerous countries of the Third World have risen up in fury against their former colonial and imperialist masters. The last two years has seen the peoples of Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, and Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and other countries win their liberation in the furnace of people’s war. At the same time the fires of revolution are scorching the imperialist empires as the peoples of Zimbabwe, Azania and Namibia stand on the threshold of liberation. Elsewhere the masses of East Timor, the Philippines, Thailand, and in Latin America are engulfing their imperialist masters in the smothering embrace of revolutionary struggle.
Standing against this mighty current are the two corrupt watchdogs of capitalist reaction – the imperialist United States and the social-imperialist Soviet Union. These two bulwarks of oppression, while girding themselves for a world war with the winner becoming the supreme master of national plunder, are rushing about the world in a frenzy, attempting by hook or by crook to douse the flames of the national liberation movements.
Set against this violent panorama of wars and revolutions is the national movement of Chicano people. This movement is a component part of the world revolutionary movement. It derives its significance both from its century-long history of armed struggle and mass upsurge, and from the fact that it is directed squarely against U.S. imperialism from within the very heart of that monster.
What is the significance of this struggle for communists and revolutionary nationalists?
We are people who have dedicated ourselves the task of overthrowing imperialism. Today it is the revolutionary national movements around the world which are dealing the sharpest blows to imperialism, as they put it directly UNDER THE GUN. It is not hard to understand, for instance, the effect upon the imperialists of 200 American cities being put to the torch by the Afro-American national movement of the 60’s. As revolutionaries we know the vital importance of a national movement, such as that of the Chicano people, having a CONSISTENT HISTORY of armed struggle. As communists we stand for the interests of the revolutionary working class. This class supports any and every movement which tends to weaken imperialism. The Chicano movement does more than “tend” to weaken imperialism, it stands ready to drive a stake through the heart of U.S. imperialism. A movement with such a history of struggle, with a rapidly growing working class, with a campesino movement with such revolutionary traditions, stands as the direct ally of the U.S. working class in its struggle for proletarian revolution. It is clear that the national movement and the working class movement are already “linked” – they are linked in the sense that every blow by the Chicano people against imperialism brings the proletariat a step closer to its goal of socialist revolution. Therefore, we must FAN THE FLAMES of the Chicano revolution, support it, and strive to give it the consistent and determined revolutionary leadership that it demands from us.
Only to the extent that communists prove themselves as fighters for the genuine interests of the Chicano people, only to the extent that they fight and give consistently revolutionary direction in the struggle for land, state unity and the right of the Chicano nation to political secession, only to the extent that communists prove themselves selfless and devoted fighters in the storm of revolutionary struggles will they win the confidence of the toiling and oppressed masses of the Chicano people.
It is only in the course of revolutionary struggle that the people come to learn that it is not a lack of rights which lies at the root of national oppression, but the system of imperialism whose economic and political essence is the plunder and exploitation of nations and peoples. Only in revolutionary struggle do the people learn that capitalism which was born in the genocidal warfare with Native Americans, founded on the back of Black slave labor and which grew through the plunder, exploitation and oppression of the Southwest, it’s capitalism which is carried on the backs of the working class and oppressed masses is the root cause of oppression.
Only in the course of revolutionary struggle can communists point to socialist revolution as the final solution to the question of national oppression; to show the Chicano masses that only socialism guarantees them their full equality as a people with the unhindered right to the full development of their economy, their language and their culture. However, we must NEVER make our support for the Chicano national movement contingent on its being a movement consciously directed towards socialism. It is up to the Chicano masses themselves to decide their own destiny. While we must, in the course of the struggle, do the widest agitation and propaganda for socialism, we cannot abandon that movement, abrogate our responsibility to struggle to win the leadership of it, nor oppose it because it is not directed towards socialism. We cannot predict exactly what direction the Chicano struggle will take in the future – whether for independence, for federation, or as a part of the a direct struggle for proletarian state power. IN ANY CASE, we are duty-bound to support and to lead that movement.
THE BASIC DEMANDS OF THE CHICANO MOVEMENT
The root cause of the oppression of the Chicano people is the loss of their land, its control by the Anglo-American imperialists. Control of the land gives them also control over the timber, the agriculture and the mineral wealth of the Southwest. Economic control and political control go hand-in-hand. Utilizing their political control they have been able to systematically wrest more and more land from the Chicano campesino through an oppressive system of taxes; their power of eminent domain, etc., (this in addition to outright violence and robbery of the lands, as well as squeezing many small farmers out through control of water, timber and grazing rights). In turn, with the wealth gained from the land, the oppressors can expand and strengthen their political rule which finds its expression in the denial of democratic rights to the Chicano people. To end this vicious system we must raise the following demands in the Southwest:
(1) Expropriation of the land and all natural resources of the Anglo-American capitalists as well as all those belonging to the federal and state governments. As we have pointed out the loss of their land forms the basis of Chicano oppression. Loss of their land forces the Chicano farming masses into the factories of the oppressors – to increase his wealth and, consequently, HIS POWER over the Chicano people. Land taken from the Chicano people produces tremendous mineral, timber, animal and agricultural wealth for the U.S. imperialists. This control allows these imperialists to keep the Southwest unorganized and therefore a tremendous source of capitalist superprofits – at the expense of the Chicano people, of course.
(2) State unity of the Southwest. To maintain their rule, the capitalists have systematically gerrymandered the areas of Chicano majority (roughly from Southern Colorado to New Mexico through to South Texas and Southern Arizona and possibly the southeastern part of Southern California), combining into counties huge areas of territory, much of it sparsely inhabited by Chicanos and Native Americans, with the metropolitan centers that have large Anglo majorities. To make effective the possibility of the Chicano people putting their right to political secession into force it is required to unite into one governmental unit all areas of the Southwest where Chicanos constitute a majority of the population. This is to ensure the effective democratic exercise of their right to self-determination.
(3) Right of Political Secession (Self-determination). This is our central demand in the Chicano liberation struggle in the Southwest. In order to guarantee a revolutionary direction for this movement and in order to harness the vast revolutionary potential of the Chicano masses we must raise this demand in opposition to all bourgeois integrationist schemes which preach that “hard work”, or bourgeois “education'” can win Chicanos equality. We must also oppose those forces who say that “there is no Chicano people” – that the Chicano movement is a “CIA plot”. These forces, (who refuse to make these assertions in front of the movement, or in a printed public document), claim that Chicanos in the southwest are actually Mexicanos, a part of the country of Mexico. They desire, therefore, not the right to political independence, but re-annexation to Mexico. This is the only conclusion to be drawn by thinking people. To these forces, it must seem that the Chicano people have not yet “earned” their right to be called a people – perhaps more centuries of bloodshed and suffering are required? We must also struggle against calls for “Chicano Socialism”. This cover for narrow, cultural nationalism tries to accommodate the striving of the Chicano people towards socialism with reformism and cultural nationalism.
No, against all this, as well as against those chauvinists who would deny freedom to the Chicano people because it would “split the working class” (!), we must call for the complete and unequivocal right of the Chicano people in the Southwest to exercise political control of their territory as well as to decide upon the relation between their territory and other nations, including the U.S. The right to self-determination means that the Chicano majority in its united territory exercises the right – of administering executive, legislative and judicial authority. It is presently the U.S. imperialists who control this power, the Anglo-American capitalists and land owners. They select all appointive officers, control “public domain”, levy and collect taxes and make all the laws. It is this rule which must be smashed and overthrown if self-determination is to be exercised. ONLY if the Chicano people lift the burden of imperialism off their backs, to the point of determining for themselves their national relationship with all other governments will it win real self-determination. Being that the U.S. imperialists rely, ultimately, on military force to preserve its rule we must demand that all U.S. imperialist armed forces be removed from the Southwest.
(4) The full democratic rights of all Native Americans in the southwest must be upheld and fought for, including the right to self-determination where it is applicable. They must be guaranteed the complete right to all their lands and full water rights for them.
(5) Full Democratic Rights for all Chicanos. This is our main demand in areas of Chicano concentration (or wherever Chicanos reside and are denied their rights) outside the Southwest. In the course of our work we must show that this lack of democratic rights of the Chicano people flows from the forced domination of their homeland.
A revolutionary armed rebellion by the Chicano people would have an electrifying effect on the other national movements here at home, as well as the movement of the revolutionary proletariat. Looking back at the 60’s we can see that the Afro-American liberation movement gave inspiration and impetus to ALL OTHER progressive movements in this country. The slogans, demands and tactics of Afro-Americans, were adapted in varying degrees to the struggles of Puerto Ricans, Native-Americans, Chicanos, students, women, veterans, and working class, etc. The Chicano movement contains this same potential for inspiration and guidance.
Particularly would the Afro-American struggle in the Black-Belt South be affected by a Chicano national revolt. Two great peoples, whose nations border in part, united by their oppression and their struggle, living in the heartland of their enemy, both with revolutionary histories, with the thread of armed resistance running throughout; both with a growing and militant working class, toiling in the major strategic industries of their enemy. No one can deny the galvanizing effect that armed land seizures by Chicanos would have on the Afro-American people in the south. Beyond U.S. borders such a rebellion would shine like a torch of freedom to all the national liberation struggles of the Third World – but most especially to those movements in the Latin American countries. These peoples share much by way of history, language, and even aspects of culture. A determined and broad Chicano revolutionary movement will give both inspiration and direction to the revolutionary struggles of all the Latin peoples of the Western Hemisphere much as did the Cuban revolution of 1959.
To no less an extent will a Chicano revolt inspire the revolutionary working class if systematic agitation and propaganda is done among them – particularly combating all vestiges of chauvinism, explaining the aims of the Chicano struggle. Lacking such work by communists the racist and reactionary politicos and trade union bureaucrats may succeed in temporarily arousing the hostility of sectors of the Anglo-American workers toward the Chicano struggle, or of channeling their sentiments towards indifference and passivity, precisely when the most resolute supportive actions will be required.
OUTSIDE THE SOUTHWEST.
(1) The thrust of the struggle must be around democratic rights and equality. The areas of struggle should be within the working class, among students and against police repression. The forms of organization will arise in the course of the struggles themselves. It is not necessary to draw up blueprints or lists of demands now. The demands will flow from the character of the struggle in line with the general line of ATM.
(2) The basic demands of the Chicano movement will not be the starting point of our mass work among Chicanos. The starting point will be the immediate economic and political demands of the specific struggles in line with ATM’s program. In the course of struggle the source of the oppression of Chicanos will be raised as well as their basic demands.
WITHIN THE SOUTHWEST.
(1) The thrust of our work will be around the three basic demands. These demands are not to be raised in a preaching or artificial manner, but are to be patiently explained to the masses in the course of our everyday work with them around the various economic and political issues which they are fighting.
(2) We must pay special attention to the struggle of the Chicano peasantry for their land. These struggles have the potential to galvanize and inspire the entire movement. At the same time, they will draw forth the sharpest resistance from the imperialists, as their control of the land lies at the heart of their power. We must train cadres, as a special area of work, for this task – to be prepared to win the leadership of ALL FORMS of this struggle. Preparation and training must include a working knowledge of the history of the area, its traditions, culture – and especially what issues form the central focus of the struggle (taxes, water, timber or grazing rights, etc.).
(3) The Chicano working class in the southwest is often little more than a generation or more removed from the peasantry. As such they have a strong sense of feeling for the peasant struggle, as well as sharing the revolutionary traditions of that struggle. At the same time, they bring with them into the proletariat some of the inertia and vacillation of the campesinos. We must utilize their ties with the land to rouse them to resolute support for the campesinos. We must, as well, fight against every manifestation of national oppression which the Chicanos face as workers – denial of the right to organize, to use their native language, etc. Our basic demands must be raised in the course of leading the struggles around these issues.
(4) Chicano women are a rapidly growing sector of the industrial and rural proletariat in the southwest. They face the triple oppression of class, nationality, and sex. As such they suffer to the extreme from the yoke of capitalist slavery. We must be the hardest fighters against this oppression – championing every demand aimed against this oppression. We will be required from time to time to formulate these demands ourselves. We must do so without hesitation, combining our organizing work with broad agitation and propaganda among all workers. Chicano women must learn (especially through our work), of the indispensable role they must play in the liberation struggle of their people and in the movement of the working class.
(5) Chicano students played perhaps the largest role of any sector of the people in the Chicano upsurges of the 60’s. Due to the present capitalist crisis many of the gains that they made are being snatched back by the imperialists. We must give direction to the struggle of the students against this, arousing in the course of this work their revolutionary ferment – drawing them actively into the broader struggle of their people -particularly their strong sentiments of support for the struggles of the Chicano workers and campesinos.
(6) We must not disdain work in the various mass organizations which are (or have) arisen in the southwest. Particularly should we be prepared to work within the mass political parties (such as La Raza Unida Party) which many of the Chicano masses see as their own. We must turn these organizations into fighting organizations directed towards militant mass actions, and not allow them to become mere electoral machinery or appendages of bourgeois politicians. The tradition of political parties goes back in history to the time of Las Gorras Blancas. These mass organizations are a potentially excellent source of struggle and revolutionary education. We must not counterpose the vanguard communist party to this form of organization, as we would not counterpose the communist party to the trade unions.
Comrades, this resolution is our battle cry, our declaration of WAR against the U.S. imperialists! It is up to us to make it a living reality – to give it life by integrating its truth and direction with the historic revolutionary struggle of the Chicano people.
 CONFISCATION OF ALL THE LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES IN THE SOUTHWEST FROM THE U.S. CAPITALISTS
 STATE UNITY FOR THE SOUTHWEST
 THE RIGHT OF POLITICAL SECESSION OF THE CHICANO NATION
CHICANO NATIONAL QUESTION, PART II – THE NATIONAL QUESTION IN THE ERA OF IMPERIALISM
The national question in the era of imperialism differs radically from the first period. In the first period, the national question was seen as part of the general question of the bourgeois democratic revolution, an internal state question as part of the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the second period of the national question, after W.W.I and the October Revolution, the national question assumed wider scope and became a question of colonies. When it became transformed from an internal political question into a world question, it came to be considered as part of the general question of the proletarian revolution, as part of the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Stalin, “Concerning the National Question in Yugoslavia”)
With the development of capitalism to its imperialist stage all the contradictions of capitalism are further intensified, including national oppression, Imperialism, characterized by the export of capital cannot exist without enslaving whole peoples. it cannot survive without exploiting and oppressing nations, this is precisely why the political essence of imperialism is the oppression of nations (LCW Vol. 21 pg. 409). This then is what changes the character of the national movements, from a struggle between the bourgeoisie of the oppressor and the oppressed nations for the “home” market into a struggle of the oppressed masses against imperialism. The conditions of national oppression under imperialism create the basis for the development of national movements, for national revolts and wars of national liberation.
In presenting a solution to a national question we proceed from an investigation of the national movement, as a movement embracing all classes and strata, in its historical development. We analyze the economic and political basis for that movement, its objective relation to imperialism and social-imperialism and what the stand of the proletariat must be. In presenting a solution then, we proceed on the basis of facts not on the basis of formulas, we proceed on the basis of what concretely confronts the proletariat, not on the basis of trying to make reality fit definitions.
In an earlier polemic with the Revolutionary Union on the national question we raised a number of valid criticisms of their position on the Afro-American National Question, and exposed them as chauvinist and revisionist (Selected Speeches 1974-75 A.T.M.). We dealt on a number of questions including their revisionist positions on imperialism (a “new third period in the national question”) and on their “new” definition of what constitutes a nation. We showed how their “new” definition was not new but simply an old attempt to liquidate the national question. This was valid but the stress of our polemic should have focused on the national question in the era of imperialism and R.U.’s distortion of Marxism-Leninism on this question. Instead, while raising this and many other questions, we zeroed in on the “definition” of a nation, on “criteria” for nationhood as laid out by Comrade Stalin in the first period of the national question. This reflected our incomplete grasp of the question at the time. Through struggle we arrived at the approach reflected in this resolution.
This is especially important to grasp today, when the principle contradiction in the world is the national question, i.e., the struggle between imperialism and Soviet-social imperialism on the one hand and the oppressed peoples of the world on the other, when the third world is the storm center of the world revolutionary movement.
CHARACTERIZATION OF THE CHICANO NATIONAL MOVEMENT
As we have pointed out, the Chicano National Movement is objectively a revolutionary movement directed at imperialism, the solution to the national oppression of the Chicano people cannot proceed except through a revolutionary struggle to overthrow the rule of imperialism and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is precisely why the movement places before the communist movement the obligation to support it and to lead it.
The character of the movement has centered around democratic demands – for land, jobs, equality of languages, an end to discrimination in housing, education and jobs, for the right to organize unions for “economic opportunities” (by bourgeois and petty bourgeois forces), etc. The struggle to attain these demands has often flared up into armed confrontations with the state, but this movement today cannot be characterized as a national liberation struggle – a struggle for secession and the formation of an independent state. Nevertheless, the question of secession has run like a thread throughout the history of this national movement from the time of the annexation to this very day and it is not now for communists to stand in the way of the aspirations of the Chicano people if they choose the path of secession. Rather it would be our task to lead that movement and connect it to the general proletarian struggle and our ultimate aim of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Over the last decade the issue of secession has been a burning question in the national movement and has been one of the main focuses of discussion at conferences and national meetings of the national movement. At no time has the national movement given up this right, but it instead has consistently upheld it time after time, even to the point of guerrilla warfare. What has been lacking is the leadership role of communists in that movement and a genuine communist party to weld the movements of the oppressed nationalities and the multinational proletariat and lead them on the path of proletarian revolution.
What has steered the movement away from a revolutionary course, down the path of reformism? It has been the social props of imperialism, the reformists and revisionists, who have exerted great influence in the national movement and who have used everything in their power to shore up the crumbling role of the imperialists. These enemies of proletarian revolution have tried different tactics and cover themselves with every ‘revolutionary’ mask imaginable to do their dirty work. We will unmask these traitors in future polemics, for now it is enough to point out their evil ways and to reaffirm the role that reformism plays in the Chicano national movement – that it represents the main danger to that movement. Leading the pack of these reformists and revisionists is the CPUSA which negates the existence of a Chicano nation, posing the ‘solution’ to the oppression of the Chicano people as a struggle for reforms. Falling in step behind the CPUSA are the “Revolutionary” Communist Party (RCP) and the October League (OL) – neither of which have much real influence in the Chicano national movement at this time – both of them raise the call for ‘regional autonomy in the Southwest’ as a way of throwing crumbs to the oppressed masses of the Chicano nation who hunger for an end to imperialist rule in the Southwest, only to tell the masses that they must await the socialist revolution to practice that autonomy and until then that they will have to be contented with the long list of reforms which these groups always raise. Only somewhat different is the ‘Communist’ Labor Party (CLP) – which does have some base in the Southwest – and which pays lip-service to ‘regional autonomy’ only to embrace the labor bureaucrats and reformists in order to concentrate on building their infamous ‘united front’ against fascism.
Within the national movement itself, the reformists have found that the growth of revolutionary consciousness among the masses has made it impossible to hold sway in the movement with their old bag of tricks. Previously it was enough to ‘denounce’ white people as the enemy to keep their leadership in the movement. Masking their reformism with nationalism and mysticism the cultural nationalists today, often attack the Marxist-Leninists who are in fact the only ones capable of leading the Chicano people out of their oppression. Some of these, the more militant reformists, even go so far as to call for “Chicano socialism” in a futile attempt to postpone the formation of a revolutionary alliance of the movements of the oppressed nationalities with that of the multinational working class. These forces even use a little terrorism (sometimes aimed at the oppressors and sometimes aimed at honest revolutionary elements which they see as a threat) to make them appear genuinely revolutionary and to make more appealing their own package of reforms. Even the poverty pimps whose very existence depends on the continued survival of imperialism often speak of revolution (“it’s just not time yet”) while telling the masses to patiently wait for handouts from their imperialist oppressors. Posing a real danger to the revolutionary direction of the movement are also the centrists and right opportunists who have become the mouthpieces of revisionism in the Chicano national movement. They claim that the Soviet Union is still a socialist country, that social imperialism does not exist, and that the movement should tie itself to this ‘natural ally.’ They praise the aggressions of this enemy of the world’s peoples (for example they laud the role played by the Soviet Union in Angola) and climb into bed with the CPUSA, offering Chicanos only a reformist line disguised with revolutionary phrases (going so far as to call for a ‘Mexican’ communist party in the hopes of weakening the genuine party-building movement and diverting the national movement from revolution). The leading proponent of this line is C.A;S.A. (Centro de Accion Social Autonomo) which tries its best to infect honest elements with its rotten line.
What is the common thread flowing through all these various lines? Reformism – the vile lie that somehow the oppression of the Chicano people can be brought to an end without the armed overthrow of the rule of the imperialists, without the seizure of state power, without the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Instead of this the reformists offer the Chicano people a long list of partial demands – which at best can only make life under imperialism ‘more bearable.’ Precisely because of this, and because of the influence which reformism holds on the national movement we say that it is reformism and not narrow nationalism that constitutes the main danger in the Chicano national movement.
It has been in spite of these forces that the national movement has upheld its right to political secession and a common thread of armed struggle to the present day, that armed struggle has however been restricted to guerrilla or terrorist tactics and as yet the national movement as a movement has not taken to armed struggle for political secession, although it has supported it within its ranks. Yet it has a history of such struggle and the conditions for a national revolt have not diminished but have increased, making the upsurge of a national liberation struggle a very strong possibility in the near future. If communists are to do their utmost for the revolutionization and building of this movement and to direct it towards socialism, they must lead the struggle against reformism and revisionism within the national movement.
ECONOMY OF THE CHICANO NATION
The statistical data provided in this document shows that there exists a thin layer of small capitalists within the Chicano Nation as well as outside the Southwest and that they are into almost every area of the economy from agriculture to manufacturing and banking. However their share of the home market is fractional, $2.3 billion in annual revenues (with, the imperialists in firm control of this market). Within the boundaries of the U.S. multi-national state this is precisely what is to be expected, we are talking after all of an oppressed nation, oppressed in every sphere of social life. To make the right to self-determination contingent upon the consolidation of the home market is to fall into imperialist economism and chauvinism. If one were to be consistent on this question we would then have to reject the legitimacy of the majority of the national liberation struggles throughout the world over the last 20 years. For where would we find the imperialists and colonialists allowing the free development of the characteristic features of a fully developed nation such as common economy developed and consolidated by the colonized peoples. Nor would we find in many African countries one common language but many different languages, etc.
To hold to such an absurd proposition would be to liquidate the national question on a world scale.
When Comrade Stalin outlined the development of modern nation states in Western and Eastern Europe he showed how nations were a historical category belonging to the epoch of rising capitalism. In the second period of the national question, in the era of imperialism, the national question is broadened out to include the question of colonies and oppressed nations outside of Europe. In this new era the national question is part of the general question of the proletarian revolution, and as we pointed out above, it is no longer a struggle over the home market which characterizes the essence of the question but the struggle of the oppressed peoples against imperialism, that system which cannot survive except by exploiting and oppressing the majority of the world’s peoples – the oppressed nations and colonies.
“What significance can the competitive struggle between the bourgeoisies of different nationalities have when the national question is presented in that way? Certainly not decisive significance, and, in certain cases, not even important significance. It is quite evident that the main point here is not that the bourgeoisie of one nationality is beating, or may beat, the bourgeoisie of another nationality in the competitive struggle, but that the imperialist group of the ruling nationality is exploiting and oppressing the bulk of the masses, above all the peasant masses, of the colonies and dependent nationalities and that, by oppressing and exploiting them, it is drawing them into the struggle against imperialism, converting them into the allies of proletarian revolution.” (Stalin, “The National Question Once Again”)
An argument that some have used to restrict the right to self-determination is to claim that this right can only be exercised where capitalism has developed the nations and given rise to bourgeois and proletarian forces. Lenin viewed the matter differently: “But even with regard to colonial countries where there are no workers, only slave-owners and slaves, etc. the demand for “self-determination,” far from being absurd, is obligatory for every Marxist.” (L.C.W., Vol. 23, pg. 64)
Isn’t it clear here that Lenin is speaking of countries where there obviously is no capitalist class fighting for the home market but where the masses of the people still have the right to overthrow the alien rule of the imperialists? It was precisely for holding such views that Lenin was attacked by the social-chauvinists of his day for “inventing” cases for the application of the right to self-determination. But let’s look to see what actually exists in the Southwest. What we find is that economic cohesion in fact exists. The export of capital into the Southwest broke down the isolation and self-sufficiency of the scattered towns and villages, established commercial and manufacturing centers, trade between town and country, class divisions corresponding to the development of capitalism, transportation and communication of the towns throughout the Southwest.
The second argument raised by social-chauvinists in the U.S. in that Lenin is speaking of colonies, not of oppressed nations. Yet they cannot point to any fundamental difference in the presentation of the question of colonies and oppressed nations with regard to the right of self-determination (L.C.W., Vol. 23, pg. 21). In Lenin’s day, the social-chauvinists opposed the right of self-determination of the colonies because they were not fully developed, “civilized” nations (L.C.W., Vol. 23, pg. 23). In the U.S. today social-chauvinists reject the right of self-determination of the Afro-Americans and Chicano nations because they are not colonies (!!!) and must be treated fundamentally different. We see that social-chauvinism is very flexible, adaptable to the service of imperialism regardless of time and place.
DO CHICANOS CONSTITUTE A NATION OR A COLONY?
The period following the annexation of the Southwest found the Chicano masses under the heel of military rule. During this period Chicanos were not assimilated into the Anglo-American nation as was the case with European immigrants, (nor has this assimilation taken place today in the historical homeland of the Chicano people, contrary to the C.L.P. ‘s claim). Instead what we find is barbaric national oppression, military rule, and direct rule by the oppressor nation. Economically, the Southwest was not yet assimilated into the economy of the U.S. to any great extent. This can be characterized correctly as the time when Chicanos did in fact constitute a colony of the U.S. to some extent, vestiges of this colonialism existed until 1912 when New Mexico was admitted into the union as the 48th state.
The case today is different. Formally, Chicanos are not under military rule, they have the “legal” right to elect representatives to legislative bodies on local, state and federal levels, to serve on juries, etc. In actual fact however, what we find is gerrymandering, repression of the Spanish language and the Chicano culture, police terrorism, job and educational discrimination, robbery of Chicano lands, etc. This in fact characterizes the political relationship between the oppressor nation and the Chicano people. Economically, the export of capital to the Southwest and the consolidation of the border-region market show us that the economy of the Southwest does not represent an integral whole, distinct from the economy of the U. S. For these political and economic reasons, Chicanos do not constitute a colony but an oppressed nation within the boundaries of the U.S.
WHAT ARE THE BOUNDARIES OF THE CHICANO NATION?
This decision is not one which the communist movement can decide today. As comrades Lenin and Stalin laid out, this is to be decided by the inhabitants of the region on the basis of their common culture, economic, political and language characteristics, etc. But there are a few questions we will now raise in this regard. First, the basis for the boundaries of an oppressed nation within the U.S. borders cannot be decided on the basis of a “nose count.” To do so is to often restrict that nation to the most economically under-developed regions, depriving it of industrial center, ports, etc. The basis for the defining borders must be democratic and in the spirit of proletarian internationalism. This implies that the actual boundaries of the Chicano nation extend further than simply those areas where Chicanos or Afro-Americans constitute majorities in their historical homelands.
WHAT IS A CHICANO?
Generally this question would not arise, but one of the particularities of Chicanos is that they inhabit a border region which shares considerably with Mexico by way of history and culture. Given this, Bundist forces like C.A.S.A., have laid out that Chicanos are in fact part of the Mexican nation, and the implications flowing from this is the need for a Mexicano Communist Party in the U.S. (which of course is to be duty bound to sleep with the “C”PUSA, ala P.S.P.) and the obligation of Chicanos to organize solely Chicanos.
This preposterous proposition, whose chief exponents (CASA) are the puppets of the “C”PUSA, in the Chicano National movement, flies in the face of the historical development of Chicanos as a people and the development of the Mexican nation. The Mexican nation is the result of three revolutions – the war of independence of 1811-1821, the liberal-bourgeois revolucion de la Reforma led by Benito Juarez, and the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. Chicanos in the Southwest were not a part of these revolutions and only a handful minimally participated in the 1910 Revolution. Chicanos as a people developed under different historical conditions, those of colonization and national oppression within the borders of the U.S. The Mexican masses, for example, do not suffer from racial or national discrimination, the Spanish language is not suppressed in Mexico but is the “official” language, the Mexican culture is not systematically attacked by the State, the Mexican masses study their own history in their native language, etc. Further, the Chicano masses are much further removed from feudalism than the rural Mexican population. All of these form part of the material conditions of “life” which are reflected in the psychological make-up of a people, reflected in their culture.
These particular conditions of oppression have given rise to a distinct psychological make-up (although there are some similarities to Mexican culture), reflected culturally in their language, their art, their music, etc.
This second part of our resolution is meant to be taken together with part I of the resolution and the historical exposition of the question. We merely wanted to deal here specifically with certain specific questions which will help to put our position into proper perspective.
WE COMMUNISTS ARE CONCERNED WITH EVERY IMPORTANT QUESTION, NOT ONLY OF THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE, BUT ALSO OF THE PAST OF OUR OWN PEOPLES.
We communists do not pursue a narrow policy based on the craft interests of the workers. We are not narrow-minded trade union functionaries, or leaders of medieval guild of handicraftsmen and journeymen. We are the representatives of the class interests of the most important, the greatest class of modern society – the working class, to whose destiny it falls to free mankind from the sufferings of the capitalist system, the class which in one-sixth of the world has already cast off the yoke of capitalism and constitutes the ruling class. We defend the vital interests of all the exploited, toiling strata, that is, of the overwhelming majority in any capitalist country.
We communists are the irreconcilable opponents, in principle, of bourgeois nationalism in all its forms. But we are not supporters of national nihilism, and should never act as such. The task of educating the workers and all working people in the spirit of proletarian internationalism is one of the fundamental tasks of every Communist Party. But anyone who thinks that this permits him, or even compels him, to sneer at all the national sentiments of the broad masses of working people is far from being a genuine Bolshevik, and has understood nothing of the teaching of Lenin on the national question.
Lenin, who always fought bourgeois nationalism resolutely and consistently, gave us an example of the correct approach to the problem of national sentiments in his article “On the National Pride of the Great Russians” written in 1914. He wrote:
“Are we class-conscious Great-Russian proletarians impervious to the feeling of national pride? Certainly not. We love our language and our motherland; we, more than any other group, are working to raise its labouring masses (i.e., nine-tenths of its population) to the level of intelligent democrats and socialists. We, more than anybody, are grieved to see and feel what violence, oppression and mockery our beautiful motherland is being subjected by the tsarist hangmen, the nobles and the capitalists. We are proud of the fact that those acts of violence met with resistance in our midst, in the midst of the Great Russians; That this midst brought forth Radishchev, the Decemberists, the revolutionary intellectuals of the seventies; that in 1905 the Great-Russian working class created a powerful revolutionary party of the masses…
“We are filled with national pride because of the knowledge that the Great-Russian nation, too, has created a revolutionary class, that it, too, has proved capable of giving humanity great examples of struggle for freedom and for socialism; that its contribution is not confined solely to great pogroms, numerous scaffolds, torture chambers, severe famines and abject servility before the priests, the tsars, the landowners and the capitalist.
“We are filled with national pride, and therefore we particularly hate our slavish past … and our slavish present, in which the same landowners, aided by the capitalist, lead us into war to stifle Poland and the Ukraine, to throttle the democratic movement in Persia and in China, to strengthen the gang of Romanovs, Bobrinskys, Purishkeviches that cover with shame our Great-Russian national dignity.”
This is what Lenin wrote on national pride.
“I think, comrades, that when at the Reichstag Fire Trial the fascists tried to slander the Bulgarians as a barbarous people, I was not wrong in taking up the defence of the national honour of the working masses of the Bulgarian people, who are struggling heroically against the fascist usurpers, the real barbarians and savages, nor was I wrong in declaring that I had no cause to be ashamed of being a Bulgarian, but that, on the contrary, I was proud of being a son of the heroic Bulgarian working class.
Comrades, proletarian internationalism must, so to speak, “acclimates itself” in each country in order to strike deep roots in its native land. National forms of the proletarian class struggle and of the labour movement in the individual countries are in no contradiction to proletarian internationalism; on the contrary, it is precisely in these forms that the international interests of the proletariat can be successfully defended.
It goes without saying that it is necessary everywhere and on all occasions to expose before the masses and prove to them concretely that the fascist bourgeoisie, on the pretext of defending general national interests, is conducting its selfish policy of oppressing and exploiting its own people, as well as robbing and enslaving other nations. But we must not confine ourselves to this. We must at the same time prove by the very struggle of the working class and the actions of the Communist Parties that the proletariat, in rising against every manner of bondage and national oppression, is the only true fighter for national freedom and independence of the people.
The interests of the class struggle of the proletariat against its native exploiters and oppressors are not in contradiction to the interests of a free and happy future of the nation. On the contrary, the socialist revolution will signify the salvation of the nation and will open up to it the road to loftier heights. By the very fact of building at the present time its class organizations and consolidating positions, by the very fact of defending democratic rights and liberties against fascism, by the very fact of fighting for the overthrow of capitalism, the working class is fighting for the future of the nation.
The revolutionary proletariat is fighting to save the culture of the people, to liberate it from the shackles of decaying monopoly capitalism, from barbarous fascism, which is laying violent hands on it. Only the proletarian revolution can avert the destruction of culture and raise it to its highest flowering as a truly national culture – national in form and socialist in content – which is being realised in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics before our very eyes.
Proletarian internationalism not only is not in contradiction to this struggle of the working people of the individual countries for national, social and cultural freedom, but, thanks to international proletarian solidarity and fighting unity, assures the support that is necessary for victory in this struggle. The work – national proletarian solidarity and fighting unity, assures the closest alliance with the victorious proletariat of the great Soviet Union. Only by struggling hand in hand with the proletariat of the imperialist countries can the colonial peoples and oppressed national minorities achieve their freedom. The sole road to victory for the proletarian revolution in the imperialist countries lies through the revolutionary alliance of the working class of the imperialist countries with the national liberation movement in the colonies and dependent countries, because, and Marx taught us, “no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.”
Communists belonging to an oppressed, dependent nation cannot combat chauvinism successfully among the people of their own nation if they do not at the same time show in practice, in the mass movement, that they actually struggle for the liberation of their nation from the alien yoke. And again, on the other hand, the communists of an oppressing nation cannot do what is necessary to educate the working masses of their nation in the spirit of internationalism without waging a resolute struggle against the oppressor policy of their “own” bourgeoisie, for the right of complete self-determination for the nations kept in bondage by it. If they do not do this, they like-wise do not make it easier for the working people of the oppressed nation to overcome their nationalist prejudices.
If we act in this spirit, if in all our mass work we prove convincingly that we are free of both national nihilism and bourgeois nationalism, then and only then shall we be able to wage a really successful struggle against the jingo demagogy of the fascists.
That is the reason why a correct and practical application of the Leninist national policy is of such paramount importance. It is unquestionably an essential preliminary condition for a successful struggle against chauvinism – this main instrument of ideological influence of the fascists upon the masses.
(Dimitrov, On the United Front)
HISTORICALLY CONSTITUTED COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE
The Chicano people evolved in the Southwest out of years of colonial and imperialist oppression. Their history is rooted in the history of capitalism, which as Marx teaches us emerged on to the world scene “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” (Capital, I, p. 760). The Chicano people were forged in the struggle against national oppression following the conquest and annexation of the Southwest by U.S. capitalism.
Spain set about to colonize the New World in hopes of finding gold and other sources of wealth, such as copper and silver. These precious metals were taken from the native peoples who were enslaved at the point of a sword to work the mines and plantations for their colonizers. It was the quest for silver and the fabled ‘seven cities of gold’ that brought the Spanish to explore and eventually colonize the Southwest. In 1536 Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca reached Mexico City on an expedition that had taken him and others from Florida across Texas, through the Pecos River, into the Rio Grande Valley and westward before they found their way back to the Spanish settlements of Sonora and Chihuahua. The tales of their expedition, and the stories they heard of the existence of villages covered with roofs of gold and jewels brought new expeditions, such as that of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1540. At the village of Tiguex north of Albuquerque, Coronado found that the ‘cities of gold’ were only pueblos of the natives built high in the mountains. As punishment to the natives for the reality of their way of life, Coronado burned two hundred natives at the stake – an act which the native people never forgot and which would be avenged by them in the decades to come.
The first colonization effort in the Southwest began in 1598 and grew out of the discovery of silver in Zacatecas and the founding of a mine there in 1548. The discovery of silver there and in the southern regions of what is now Chihuahua brought a demand for labor to work those mines – which meant raids on the native tribes throughout the Southwest region. Between 1560 and 1821 when Mexico declared its independence from Spain, the mines of the Americas produced $2,000,000,000 and another $2,000,000,000, in ingots which were sent to Spain. In this period two-thirds of the world’s silver passed through the port of Veracruz and 20% of the world’s silver supply came from the mines of Zacatecas alone! This plunder of the New World by Spain and by the other European nations amassed huge quantities of wealth in Europe and rapidly accelerated the development of capitalism in those countries, especially in England where Spain and Portugal had amassed immense debts. (McHenry, Short History of Mexico, pg. 51)
“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black skins, signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production.” (Capital, I, pg. 751)
In 1598, two hundred and fifty years before the U.S. would forcibly annex the Southwest, the first efforts to colonize Nuevo Mexico began. Juan de Onate, one of the four richest men in Mexico who had made his wealth off of the mine in Zacatecas left with 7,000 head of stock and 83 carretas (wagons) for El Valle del Rio Grande. When the Spanish entered the Southwest to begin colonization efforts, what did they find? The native peoples in the Southwest, unlike those of central Mexico, had not developed elaborate civilization or empires rich in gold and gems which the Spanish could plunder. Instead, they found in California mostly hunting and gathering peoples; only in the Rio Grande Valley and surrounding area did they find settled peoples who used farming and irrigation techniques. The Rio Grande was the life-blood of their existence.
In the south at the edge of the desert was the Seneca, at the north near the foot of the mountains was the Taos pueblo. On the east of the river, beyond the mountains lived the Gran Quivira, Manzaon and Galisteo pueblos. And to the west were the widely separated clusters, often built near the top of a prominent mesa where the residents could see any possible intruders for many miles. Here lived the Acoma, Hopi, and Zuni.
In the half dozen or so villages of the Rio Grande there were probably 40,000 native peoples living at the time of the Onate expedition with another six or seven thousand living in the mesas to the west. Surrounding the Pueblo natives were the Apaches, who roamed the vast stretches of land hunting, gathering, and raiding the settled peoples. Unlike the Apaches, the Pueblos, Hopis, Zunis, and other settled peoples lived in peace. They lived in a form of primitive communalism, that is, there were no classes in society. Instead, the villages operated on co-operation with a division of labor (based mostly on sex and age) in which all participated. The villages existed as self-contained economies and were autonomous from each other politically. Each had its own irrigated field, its own village council, and its own tools of production.
Autonomous politically, and independent from each other, the village peoples still came in contact with each other and did trade goods between themselves. Each tribe and locale had its artisans and it was these products rather than tools that were usually traded. “There was trade … which extended widely through the region, but there was no system of markets to encourage individuals or area specialization . . . The trade goods were rarely food or basic tools, but rather luxury and ceremonial items such as paints, feathers, shells, semi-precious stones, and other unique produce and handicrafts, trading was small-scaled and rather sporadic enterprise.” (Spicer, Cycles of Conquest, pg. 9)
This life changed abruptly with the advent of the Spanish. The tools and animals as well as the way of life which the Spanish brought with them would revolutionize the existence of the native peoples, bringing them from one way of life, from one mode of production – that of primitive communalism – to another, that of feudalism and class society. Even those that would keep their mode of production such as the Apaches and Comanches (who would continue to hunt and gather) would be affected, for they would now be able to raid the surrounding native and Spanish villages on Spanish horses.
When colonization efforts began in the Southwest, the Spanish brought cattle, horses, goats, pigs, barnyard fowl, and cats. From Europe, by way of Mexico, they brought the first hoes, spades, grinding stones, clamps, plows, files, and pliers used in the region, and the first wheels that turned on the soil of the Americas, as well as the first wagons. (McWilliams, North from Mexico, pg. 32) The colonizers made improvements on the farming system of the natives, showing them new techniques for irrigation (some which they themselves had learned from the natives of the interior of Mexico). They also brought to the Southwest region new crops such as wheat, orchard fruits, tobacco, and vineyard fruits.
The settlements which the Spanish developed in the Southwest needed artisans to repair and replace worn-out hoes, plows, wheels, and gears and so they trained the natives and the mestizo offspring of the Spaniards and native peoples to be blacksmiths and to construct buildings in the architectural designs of New Spain – and so the natives learned carpentry and masonry skills. They were also taught to operate gristmills, raise cattle and sheep, tan hides, make wine, shoes, soap, and candles. (Simpson, Many Mexicos, pg. 154)
And so all the productive forces characteristic of feudalism that were not already present in the Southwest were introduced by the Spaniards – “the smelting and working of iron, the spread of the iron plough and the loom, the further development of agriculture, horticulture, viniculture and dairying; the appearance of manufactories alongside of the handicraft workshops.” (Stalin, D & H Materialism, pg. 36) But it takes more than the introduction of new techniques of production to transform a society from communal to feudal, it requires a transformation in the various relations which people have in production, a transformation to a division of society based on classes. In central and northern Mexico two institutions were used to accomplish this transformation, the encomienda and the mission system. In the Southwest (then the Northwest of New Spain) the mission system was fundamental to Spanish rule and colonization.
The encomienda consisted of temporary grants made by the Crown to private individuals over territories which had been claimed in the name of the Crown. The grants included the responsibility of ‘protecting’ the natives living on or near the granted territory, instructing them in Christianity, and in general ‘civilizing’ them. In return the encomendero received from the natives tributes in the form of goods or labor services on the land granted to him. (Elliot, Imperial Spain, pg. 61) In areas of New Spain where native populations were concentrated the Spanish also used the enforced labor system of the repartimiento where natives were drafted for labor for a seasonal period to work on ranches, in mines, and sugar mills.
Originating in the Americas with Columbus (who assigned to the settlers of Hispanola a number of natives who were expected to perform labor services for them), the encomienda system was tried with lesser success in northern New Spain and was brought to the Southwest with the Onate expedition. Onate took his 400 soldiers, wagons, and livestock northward from Zacatecas up the Rio Grande to a point near Santa Fe. Several settlements were established and Onate’s principal soldiers were rewarded with encomiendas assigned on land near the pueblos where natives could be assigned to perform labor or provide tributes.
Onate’s early capitals were too close to established native settlements and so the capital was moved thirty miles south to La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco, with the country to the north designated as “Rio Arriba” the the area to the south of the capital designated as “Rio Abajo.” With the new settlements established the encomienda and repartimiento system began in the area. Through the encomiendas, the Pueblo villages contributed an annual tribute to the encomendero, usually consisting of maize and cotton blankets. Settlers living on surrounding farms and ranches made use of the repartimiento to acquire necessary labor for the growing of crops and raising of sheep and cattle.
The second major institution which had the effect of establishing feudal relations in the Southwest was the church, specifically, the mission system. The church was the educational and scientific center of Feudalism and the priests and missionaries were its Intellectuals. When the encomienda system failed to work out in northern Mexico with the Chichimecas, it was the mission system that carried through on the task of colonization. Using the missionary colleges of Jalisco and Zacatecas as a base (really as centers for training in techniques of colonization), Franciscan missionaries began establishing settlements and missions northwards. In the early 1600’s the Jesuits also came northward. The Jesuits built a line of missions which ran through the mountainous country of northern Durango up into southwestern Chihuahua and up the eastern slope of the Sierra Madre. This helped to secure the left flank of Spanish intrusion into the north and allowed the Franciscans to concentrate in the Pueblo lands and to the valleys and plains of the Rio Conchos system. (Bannon, The Spanish Borderlands Frontier 1513-1821, pg. 73)
The church ‘domesticated’ the hunting and gathering peoples in the Southwest, particularly in California, pulling the natives into subsistence in the mission lands, bringing into existence the ‘Mission Indians’ who were totally dependent on the feudal mission economy. This process was accomplished mostly by means of coercion, putting the many Indians who tried to flee into chains, and through the regular use of the whipping post.
Under feudalism, the lord “discards the slave as a laborer who has no interest in work … and prefers to deal with the serf, who has his own husbandry, implements of production, and a certain interest in work essential for the cultivation of land and for the payment in kind of a part of his harvest to the feudal lord.” (Stalin, D&H Materialism, pg. 36) How did this work with the mission system?
The strongest influence can be seen in California. There conditions giving rise to the establishment of encomiendas were practically non-existent. Instead, the friars provided the natives with cattle and sheep; with seeds for sowing and implements with which to till the soil. As soon as returns of the harvest were more than sufficient to meet the needs of the natives, they were taught to exchange the surplus for blankets, clothes, animals, tools, household utensils, etc., most of which were controlled by the missions at rates determined by them. In addition, the natives were expected to give a certain amount of their produce to the Church for its needs. (Blackwell, Spanish Institutions of the Southwest, pg. 98)
When the colonizers felt they had broken the spirit of the natives and trained them in the new ways of life (enough so that they wouldn’t run away) the new converts were given a piece of ground, a yoke of oxen, and a few farming utensils. “Their” soil remained in the hands of the Church which simply gave them the right to work it and usually the missionary or someone from the Church carefully supervised its cultivation. In addition to cultivating his own plot of land, each native worked a set amount of time (e.g. two hours a day or three days a week) on a farm belonging to the village, the produce of which went to support the Church (this is called the corvee system). (Bourne, Spain in America, pg. 305)
In the fan of settlements throughout the Southwest, the missions played the leading role in California while in New Mexico the encomienda system predominated. An important difference was that in New Mexico, the Spaniards found the natives living in already established settlements which could provide tributes or labor to their new masters. In Texas both methods were used, but with a century of effort the Spanish succeeded only in producing three sparsely populated settlements (at San Antonio, Goliad, and Nacogodches).
By 1670 the Spanish population of the upper valley of the Rio Grande was only about 2800. The priests, in order to effect conversion, ruthlessly suppressed the religions of the native peoples. Native ‘priests’ that refused to convert or help in the conversion of their pueblo or tribe and religious ceremonies not sanctioned by the Church were forbidden. Many times the natives pretended to ‘convert’ by Christianity while awaiting some chance to rally the native tribes against the Spanish. In 1680 Pope of San Juan led a revolt of the Pueblo Indians against the Spanish. Throughout the valley, tribes joined the uprising. Pope’s plan even accounted for the use of the traditional enemy of the Pueblo, the Apaches, against the Spanish. On August 10th the revolt began. Acting in unison, the Pueblos put to death 21 of the 33 Franciscan missionary ‘priests’ as well as some 390 settlers of the province. For 12 years the Pueblos were again free, having driven most of the Spanish settlers to the lower Rio Grande Valley, to a settlement near what is now El Paso.
Under Diego de Vargas the Spaniards reconquered the territory and in the early 1690’s began resettling the area. After the Pueblo Revolt the encomienda system was discarded for a new form of land distribution. The new form of land holdings really made official a process of concentration of land into the hands of a few landlords that had been taking place since the early 1600’s. Three types of land grants were now made: (1) individual grants to a few prominent or wealthy persons; (2) joint grants given to groups of individuals; and (3) community grants for groups of settlers. Through this method of distribution of land the basic feudal classes of patron and peon (lord and serf) emerged.
The individual grantees made up the patron class. Common lands used (or intended for use) by all inhabitants of the area as pasture land, were gradually taken over by two or three of the largest live stock owners in the villages and area residents became the laborers of peones on the land of the patrones. This happened because the individual plots of land which most village residents held were small, too small for succeeding generations. And all families depended on the communal lands for grazing of sheep and cattle. When these common lands were taken by the large stock owners most village residents were forced to depend on the large livestock owners to supply them with meat, wool, etc. And to get these necessities they had to work on the land of the patrones. Thus, came into existence the haciendas in the Southwest.
Another type of patron-peon relationship that existed in the Southwest was the Partido system. Under this system the peon was given a breeding herd by the patron for which he was required to return to the patron at the end of each year twenty lambs for every hundred ewes in the original group of sheep given to him. The renter (peon) would rent rams to breed his ewes from the patron and would sell lambs and wool exclusively through the owner (patron). In addition, the peon was required to return, upon demand, a breeding herd of the same size and age he had been given and was responsible for all costs and losses. From the vast lands which they controlled the patrones would grant the peones grazing rights to graze their newly acquired herds. In this way the patrones expanded their herds, extended their actual use of lands under their domain, and succeeded in further squeezing out independent livestock operators. The tenant received profits from the sale of wool, excess lambs, and earned future grazing rights as the herd under his supervision expanded, which he could rent at a set price from the patron.
Despite the differences between the settlements in the Rio Grande Valley and in California, the resulting concentration of land holdings and use of labor was essentially the same. In California, the missions monopolized grazing lands and labor while in New Mexico (which then included much of Texas, Colorado, and Arizona) the encomienda and later the hacienda formed the basic land unit. The missions in California however acted as an obstacle to the expansion of the hacienda system, to private ownership and control of the land, and to debt-peonage as opposed to other feudal relations. This hold by the Church in California would be broken in 1833 with the secularization of mission lands and the distribution of lands and livestock to private land grant holders. Even so in both areas Spanish domination meant the enforced labor of natives and their mestizo offspring to hacienda and mission feudal lords.
In the last hundred years or so of Spanish rule in the Southwest, the settlers themselves changed. At first, Spain sent only soldiers, priests, and some families which had come from Spain by way of Mexico. After the defeat of the Pueblo revolt, however, this changed. For example, sixty-seven families listed as Espanoles Mexicanos came with Diego de Vargas to resettle the area. It appears that all were born in Mexico and many, if not most, were descendants from the native peoples in Mexico. (Swadesh, Los Primeros Pobladores, pg. 20-21)
The significance of this is that on the one hand, these families were not ‘Spanish’ as many in New Mexico have referred to themselves, but mestizo, and came not to rule over feudal estates but as needed artisans and laborers. They were weavers, blacksmiths, hatmakers, leatherworkers, and were experienced in irrigation farming, care and breeding of livestock, and in mining techniques – all skills necessary for the developing feudal economy.
The Spanish conquest of the Southwest brought with it the language and culture of the colonizer. Since the Spanish were the minority population in the Southwest (as they were in the New World) it was necessary to indoctrinate the native population with an outlook of the world which would accept and justify this rule. The Church (particularly the missions) were crucial in this role. Not only did they gather the natives into the sphere of feudal production (as they did in California), but they ‘educated’ the natives and mestize offspring in the worldview of the Spanish and prepared them to be ‘good’ (i.e., docile) peons to their feudal lords.
In the period of Spanish rule (till 1821) the common culture of the people living in the northern territory of New Spain was a blend of Spanish and native culture, but a blend which served the maintenance of feudalism and the ricos or patrones which represented the ruling class under feudalism. In all facets of culture, the class content of the culture was feudal and the dominant culture served the Church and the rest of the landed class.
As in the rest of New Spain, when the Spanish entered an area for colonization they destroyed whatever religious centers there were, usually killed the native priests, destroyed any religious icons, and prohibited any native religious ceremonies. Often the Church built in a village was on a site previously worshipped. Many times the Catholic priests and missionaries would maintain the form of religious ceremonies of the native peoples (such as dances, masks, etc.) but with a new content (the worship of the Catholic god). The Church sought to make the laboring masses (whether native or mestizo, whether mineworkers, ranch-hands or peones) accept the Church and make it their own. All were required to give a tithe to the Church and in addition all were expected to make other forms of contributions to the Church. And so the peones and village artisans handcrafted furniture and metal works for the Church. They made intricate woodcarvings such as retablos (flat panels) and bultos (carved in the round) which depicted religious scenes or contributed paintings (often showing the natives kneeling before the cross or before a missionary) or they carved wooden figurines called santos to honor the saints, Christ, or the virgin. (Houghland, pg. 293)
The culture of the patrones, which was the dominant culture of Southwestern society under the Spanish, consisted of the music and art from the old country or from the interior of Mexico (esp. Mexico City). Naturally, the culture of the peones was not the same as that of the ruling class. Usually lacking formal education, most were unable to write their own literature; instead the peones expressed themselves through the versos populares and ballads. These musical forms described in song the lives and struggles of the peones and small sheepherders. They described the raids made by the Apaches or the revolt of the Pueblos or experiences in the travels along the trade route to Chihuahua.
The natives, of course, had their own culture too, which the missionaries sought to suppress for fear that the native population would rise up against them. They outlawed, for example, the use of the kachina masks and ceremonial dances of the Pueblos. But despite everything they attempted the natives kept many of their traditional practices (often holding religious ceremonies in secret and far away from the Spanish villages). In the whole time of their rule in the Southwest the Spanish were never able to consolidate their rule and were kept out of areas east and west of the Rio Grande Valley which were controlled by the Apaches and Comanches and which connected the settlements of California and Texas to those of New Mexico.
THE MEXICAN PERIOD AND ANGLO-AMERICAN CONQUEST
The independence movement in Mexico was influenced by world-wide events. The 18th and 19th centuries saw the decline of Spain as a leading international power. Unlike England which had undergone the transformation to capitalism, Spain stagnated under feudalism. Its ruling class had been unable to unite the various principalities within its borders and the wealth taken from New Spain was not used for industrialization, but for paying off debts to England and other European countries and for the luxury of its feudal ruling class.
In 1810 Padre Hidalgo, a liberal creole priest, rallied mestizo peasants and natives in an armed uprising which was violently suppressed by forces close to the Church and the feudal landlord classes. A short time later Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon, a priest of mestizo descent, led a second uprising, advocating the distribution of Church lands to the masses. The Morelos uprising was also suppressed. It was only when the Church and landlords themselves joined the ‘side’ of the independence movement that independence from Spain was finally declared. This move was prompted by changes in Spain which forced the Spanish king to accept a liberal constitution which attacked the landholdings of the Church.
The Mexican independence set the stage for the rise of the Mexican bourgeoisie, and for the consolidation of the Mexican nation. This was the beginning of that movement which would reach its culmination with the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Independence, however, had very little effect on the Southwest initially. Growing impact would be felt with the struggles for power between the Centralists (composed of the feudal landlords, Church officials, and the old order in general) and the Federalists (which were made up in large part of merchants, liberal priests, and the developing bourgeoisie). Several times in the coming decades, one force or the other gained political control of Mexico and this did have influence on the northern states.
Shortly after independence the Federalists passed a lenient colonization law in Texas to encourage colonization of the vast territory which was being ‘eyed’ with greed by the Southern slaveocracy in the U.S. The new law would allow immigration by Anglo-Americans for the purpose of settlement in the area, provided that they agreed to: (1) obey Mexican laws; (2) become Mexican citizens; and (3) adopt the Catholic faith. These actions were taken in the face of an objective reality: since 1716 when the first missions were established in eastern Texas, the Spanish had failed to colonize the area. Despite huge expenditures (over 3 million pesos spent from 1722 to 1744) the number of colonials in the area was less at the end of Spanish rule than it was at the beginning. The new Mexican government found themselves faced with governing a vast territory bordering on the expansive slave South with only three settlements with a population of about 4,000.
In 1821 Stephen Austin founded the settlement of San Felipe de Austin. The Mexican government gave this grant with the dual purpose of fending off attacks by natives on the settlements between the Rio Nueces and Rio Grande and on San Antonio, on the one hand and the “filibustering” raids of the Southerners into Mexican territory. Soon Anglo-Americans were receiving grants and settling in Texas in great numbers. By 1830 there were about 20,000 Anglo-Americans in Texas, along with 2,000 black slaves.
The new settlements were introducing into the area production of cotton, and most importantly, the use of slave-labor. In 1830 the Centralists came to power in Mexico. They saw the potentials of cotton production in Texas and trade between Mexican and the United States with cotton. Such trade was already going on and Texas (north of the Rio Nueces at least), was already becoming integrated into the economy of the U.S. To stop what they feared as a certain seizure of the land by the Southerners, the Mexican government outlawed slavery (1829), and in 1830 the Centralist government outlawed further immigration by Anglo-Americans.
The actions of the Mexican government only hastened the aggressions of the slaveocracy. There had already been several attempts by Southern-backed Anglo-Americans to “liberate” Texas. This “filibustering” as it was called, stepped up with the new Mexican laws. Using as a pretext the Centralists’ repeal of the Federalists’ liberal constitution, the Texans (Anglos) held a convention to demand repeal of the restrictive immigration laws. In 1933 they met again, this time writing a constitution for a virtually autonomous Texas. In 1835 a provisional government was established and “independence” declared.
To suppress the latest drive of the slaveocracy the Mexican government dispatched an army of 4,000 led by Santa Ana which, after several victories, was defeated by the Texan forces at the battle of San Jacinto. Shortly thereafter, the newly independent Texas Republic legalized slavery and quickly sought admission into the U.S., something it would not achieve for nine years (due to Northern opposition in the Congress). During this entire period, the new Texas Republic would claim territory extending far west of its actual boundaries, deep into New Mexico and far south of the Rio Nueces and into the Mexican territory of Rio Grande. It was this disputed claim that would later be the pretext used by the U.S. for its expansionist war with Mexico.
The reaction of the Californios to independence and what it meant for the intervention into the territory by the Anglo-Americans was much different than it was in Texas. Rather than the slaveocracy, it would be the Yankee merchant (the rising capitalist class in the U.S.) that would extend its influence under the Mexican regime to California. It would mean eventual Anglo-American control of trade as well as the transfer of lands from the missions to the haciendas.
Prior to 1810 the missions, presidios, and scattered villages in California were supplied by ships from San BIas which brought the settlements plows, hoes, and other utensils in exchange for hide and tallow (both essentially the monopoly of the missions). However, in 1810 independence wars engulfed New Spain, especially in Mexico and so the Spanish vessels at San BIas were dispatched south. To fill this void, Yankee shippers from New England stepped in and illegal trade with U.S. merchants began.
When independence was declared it shook Alta California. In 1822 a junta was called of representatives of the presidios, missions and villages and allegiance was sworn to the new government. Ravaged by the independence struggles and a treasury drained by Spain in the closing days of its rule, the Federalists negotiated huge loans from England and France and adopted the policy of trade with foreign countries. They opened up a small number of official ports of entry through which all goods had to pass for inspection and taxation. Despite the fact that California was cut off from communications with Mexico, it immediately instituted the new policy of trade with foreign countries, granting trade rights with the U.S. and England.
In 1822 agreements were signed with the English partnership of McCulloch and Hannell and the same year Bostonian merchants Henry Gyzelaar and William Gale (already well known in the area as smugglers) began official trade between California and the U.S. The trade in hides and tallows with the U.S. opened a new market for California goods and increased demand for cattle. However, much of the best grazing lands were held by the Church, especially the missions. This restricted the further development of the ranchos and brought pressure on the Federalist government for seizure of the holdings of the Church.
The secularization of the mission lands (that is, their seizure and sale or grant to private individuals) was the result of this pressure on the Federalist government by the rancheros in California. With the rising cattle trade as impetus, the huge mission tracts were carved up into ranchos, often stocked with cattle taken from the missions. The law allowed for the sale of the land as well as for its distribution in small plots to the natives (so-called ‘Mission Indians’). These small plots fell into the hands of large landowners that controlled grazing lands and water rights and in a short time the newly ‘freed’ natives found themselves once again as peones on the new ranchos and haciendas.
The sale of the mission lands came a full decade after the opening of trade with the Anglo-American merchants and nine years after the Mexican Congress passed a law allowing foreigners to settle in California, conduct business, and own land. Many Anglos did just that, using profits from their trade they bought land and made loans (with interest) to the new rancheros and haciendados who raised the cattle the merchants bought. Later, during times of economic crisis for the rancheros, these Anglo-American merchants and usurers gained much control of the land.
Of the three regions, el estado de Nuevo Mexico was the most isolated of the three Mexican states. But as with the other areas the new trade laws of the Mexican government would have profound effects on New Mexico.
Within New Mexico various types of trade had developed under colonial rule. The settlers had conducted trade with the Apaches and Navajos and many New Mexican merchants traveled deep into native lands to trade with the Kiowas and Comanches. The second type of trade was between New Mexico and the interior of New Spain, especially with Mexico City by way of Chihuahua. In exchange for fabrics, blankets, candles, and drapes the New Mexicans received supplies which they could not produce. By the mid-1700’s independent trade between Chihuahua and New Mexico developed with caravans arriving in New Mexico at the time of the annual Taos trade fair. In the Spanish period the economy of New Mexico (at least in terms of trade) was monopolized by merchants from Chihuahua who made great profits from this trade. In addition, large sheep rancheros drove their herds to markets in Chihuahua. By the time of Mexican Independence these sheep drives to Chihuahua had reached the proportions of 400,000 head of sheep a year.
During the colonial period there was also brutal trade in slaves who were sold to the interior to work in the mines. In the Mexican period this trade was outlawed. what became more profitable was the trade in furs. In 1804 Zebulon Pike’s expedition reached Santa Fe and shortly afterwards other trappers and fur traders followed. Beaver skins could be sold in Eastern markets for $6 to $8 apiece and there was great profit to be made by the skillful trader. The effects of this type of trade was two-fold: (1) to stimulate the internal economy of New Mexico (particularly of Taos which became the center for trappers); and (2) it laid the basis for the establishment of formal trade routes with St. Louis, bringing New Mexico into the sphere of the U.S. and world trade.
The fur traders mapped the easiest routes for Missouri to Santa Fe travel. An overland path which allowed wagons to travel from Independence to Santa Fe was discovered by William Becknell in his travels in 1822. These different routes to Santa Fe became known as the Santa Fe Trail and soon caravans of wagons, each carrying up to 5,000 pounds of merchandise, were making the trip to Santa Fe.
The expanding trade with New Mexico also opened trade with other areas of the Southwest and with the northern states of Mexico. This quickly led to competition with the merchants of Chihuahua. Key in this competition of markets was the superiority of productive techniques in the U.S. Because of more advanced technology the same product could be produced faster and cheaper (and many times better) in the U.S. than it could be produced in Mexico. In this way, the U.S. merchants captured markets in New Mexico and penetrated into California, connecting for the first time the two Mexican states of California and New Mexico.
But there were other consequences of this trade. The expanding commerce gave rise to New Mexican merchants and storeowners who sold to the traders or bought their wares, reselling them to the local population. These merchants often sold their goods to small landowners or sheepherders on credit and acquired their land and stock when they could not pay. Their business advanced stride-by-stride with the expansion of U.S. trade and it is no wonder that many New Mexican merchants came to see their interests lying with the Anglo-Americans rather than the very distant Mexican government.
The rise of mercantilism in the Southwest and the growing influence of the Anglos in New Mexico did not go unnoticed by the patrones. Prominent families such as the Chavez’ and Ortero’s had already come to see mercantilism as the wave of the future by the early 1830’s and began venturing from ranching in to the growing trade industry. In fact, some New Mexican families sent their sons to parochial schools in St. Louis to learn English or to be trained at Westpoint Landing and Independence. This reflected the increasing importance of English in commerce and the understanding of the more far-seeing (more ‘far-seeing’ vendidos) that the Anglo-Americans were taking over the land as well as its economy. When J. Francisco Chavez, for example, was sent to school in Missouri in 1841 it was with the following words from his father: “the heretics are going to overrun all this country. Go and learn their language and come back prepared to defend your people.” (Lamar, The Far Southwest, pg. 49)
The merchant class and small handicrafts production which existed in the Southwest, particularly in New Mexico prior to the conquest of the Southwest and its annexation by the U.S. did not represent a national bourgeoisie. Production was not conducted by workers receiving a wage from a capitalist that owned the tools and other means of production. Instead, artisans owned their own tools and the merchants were more content with the sale of those goods rather than their production. The Chicano bourgeoisie that did develop did so after the conquest by the U.S. and grew up hand-in-hand with the Anglo-American capitalist class. Although some merchants and rancheros did oppose the penetration of Anglo-American capital into the area and fought the annexation tooth-and-nail, many New Mexican merchants willingly sided with the invaders and aided the occupation forces. This group of ricos who sided with the Anglo-Americans (such as Ortero and Armijo) were the forerunner of today’s vendido – they play the role of social props for the U.S. monopoly capitalists.
Even in the 1830’s, however, there was that segment of the ricos that represented a national bourgeoisie in embryo – that is, one that opposed the feudal order (especially the Church) and that was for self-rule rather than domination by the Mexican government or Anglo-America. Padre Antonio Jose Martinez, for example, who owned several small ranches and a flour mill, fought the power of the Church despite his ties with it. He saw the Church-owned lands as the source of its power by which it dominated the New Mexican peasants and natives. In 1834 he published the newspaper, “El Crepusculo de la Libertad” in which he called for the elimination of the tithe (by which the Church claimed one-tenth of the produce and livestock in the area) as a source of oppression of the small peasantry. He also opposed the Mexican government’s policy of large land grants to individuals and instead advocated the distribution of land to the masses (which falls within the realm of bourgeois-democratic revolution).
Despite the actions of Martinez and others like him, the Mexican government and the Church had no intention of yielding power in New Mexico. The New Mexican merchants were angered by the monopoly practices of the Chihuahua merchants and sought assistance from the Mexican government. However the Centralist government feared the growing influence of Anglo-American merchants and so tightened the grip of Mexican control over the northern territory. Following the lead of the ricos, New Mexican peasants and natives overthrew and beheaded the Mexican governor, and elected or appointed peasants and natives to all government posts including the election of a Taos native as governor. (Note – these oppressed people definitely did not see themselves as part of the Mexican nation). Realizing that the alliance between the peasantry and natives spelled doom to their own rule, the ricos suppressed the revolt.
Leading the rico reaction was Manuel Armijo, a wealthy pro-U.S. merchant who installed himself as governor. Armijo would later play an important role in assisting the Anglo-American forces in their seizure of New Mexico.
In this period of Mexican rule prior to annexation, what was the culture of the people in the Southwest? As in the Spanish period, feudalism was the dominant mode of production in the period of Mexican rule – particularly, in the haciendas and ranchos, debt-peonage. Under this system the peon was born into debt, inheriting the past debts of his or her parents as well as the costs of his or her baptism. The isolation of the ranchos, sitios, and settlements and, especially in New Mexico, the hostility of surrounding native tribes (such as the Apaches and Comanches) made escape difficult. In such a system ideology and culture played important roles in the rule of the patrones. As under the Spanish, the Church indoctrinated its wards in the legitimacy of authority and the “natural order of society.” Those that ruled did so by “God’s will.” This sanctified the patron’s authority over his peones, the priest’s hold over his parish, and the father’s dominion over his wife and children in the family. Each person had his or her place in society and should never question that place. In this way the family and the Church served the maintenance of the feudal order, locking the peon into almost perpetual servitude to his master. (McWilliams, pg. 66)
This seemingly immutable relationship was disrupted by the growth of trade. The artisans of the Rio Grande Valley, for example, originally carved their santos, hand-crafted their wrought-iron design, and wove their blankets and shawls – for the use of members of the community, especially the Church and the patron. But after the opening of the Santa Fe Trail and the Old Spanish Trail to Los Angeles (1829) and with growth of trade with the U.S., some artisans began producing solely for trade and for sale. Thus, trade in santos and fine-woven goods from New Mexico expanded with the growth in trade to St. Louis, reaching its peak between 1830 and 1835.
THE U.S. – MEXICAN WAR AND THE RISE OF CAPITALISM IN THE SOUTHWEST
The period from 1846 to 1880 is one of great upheaval in the United States and the Southwest. Not only is it the period of the annexation of the Southwest by the U.S., it is also the period in which the slavery was defeated in the South and the Northern capitalist class gained complete political control of the country. The annexation of the Southwest by the United States aided the capitalist class in its defeat of the slaveocracy and the contradictions between these two classes played a decisive role in the war of 1846 that led to the annexation (the South wanted it in order to expand slavery; the North wanted it for its land, and to export capital and commodities).
After its independence in 1776, the population of the United States grew significantly, primarily due to expanded immigration. Constant genocidal wars with the Indians expanded the territory westward and opened up vast stretches of “virgin” land for farming, which drew more immigration. But the endless waves of immigration from Europe “leaves behind a stationary sediment in the east … throwing men on the labor-market there more rapidly than the wave of emigration westwards can wash them away.” (Marx, Capital, I, pg. 773) Without means of production, these immigrants and their descendants were forced to sell their ability to work (their labor-power) in order to survive. Thus, wage-labor came to the United States. As the textile industry expanded and as new developments were made in the techniques of production, wage-labor extended its influence. The South, however, was a barrier to this expansion because as Marx explained, “slavery of Negroes precludes free wage labor, which is the basis of capitalist production.” (Theories of Surplus Value, Pt. n, pg. 303) In the plantations of the South the capitalist mode of production existed but “only in a formal sense” (ibid) – the slavemaster and landowner intended all production on the plantation for the world market. But the relations of production between the landowner and the plantation slaves were not wage-labor but slave relations.
What was the significance of this for the Southwest? Slavery is an inefficient mode of production in which the slave has no concern with what he produces and has no incentive to increase productivity. In addition, the plantation crops such as cotton quickly exhausted the soil; this meant that the growers continually needed to seek new lands. Marx described this as an “economic law” which meant that unless slavery could continuously expand its domain it would be “doomed to gradual extinction.” (On America and the Civil War, pg. 58) The slaveocracy represented only a handful of the white landowners in the South, who themselves were a minority compared to the Black population. The slaveowners realized that they could not maintain their political sway even in the South without “constantly throwing out to their white plebeians the bait of prospective conquests within and without the frontiers of the United States.” (ibid.) And this they did – first with Texas in 1835 and then with the rest of the Southwest a decade later.
After the “independence” of Texas was declared, the South pushed for its admission into the U.S. as a slave state. For years the South had held political power in Congress and with the Presidency, but they were losing that power. Immigration in the North meant a greater population there, and since the House of Representatives was based on population, the North was gaining dominance. The South hoped to divide the Texas Republic into several states and admit them all as slave states. The North fought this plan for years but finally admitted all of Texas as one state with its borders being those claimed by the Republic and not those recognized by Mexico.
Conflict was certain if the U.S. attempted to forcibly claim South Texas. In 1846, the U.S. government did just that. Newly inaugurated President James Polk ordered U.S. troops under General Zachary Taylor to cross the Rio Nueces and hold the disputed territory. A short time later Taylor’s troops engaged a Mexican patrol. The war had begun, the United States held superiority in terms of technology and fire-power. The outcome of the war was clear from the onset. Despite numerous victories for the Mexicans and great bravery in defense of their country, the U.S. troops continued to advance, raping, looting, burning, torturing and brutally murdering everything in their path. Children were murdered in front of their parents and churches were desecrated or destroyed by the mostly protestant Anglo-American forces. So atrocious were the actions of the troops that 250 Irish-Americans went over to the side of Mexican troops to help them in their just cause. (Eighty of these 250 were executed for their actions after the war.)
On Sept. 13, 1847 U.S. troops led by General Winfield Scott attacked Mexico City. A short time later the war was over and on Feb. 2, 1848 the Mexicans agreed to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in which the present borders of Texas were agreed to and the entire Southwest was ceded to the United States in exchange for $15 million.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is an important document. Other than the Native Americans no other people living within the boundaries of this country have a formal treaty with the U.S. government concerning the treatment of its people by the government. Articles Ill and IX of the document concern the treatment of Mexicans remaining in the territory after occupation by the U.S. Significantly, Article X, which guaranteed protection and validity of “all prior and pending titles to property of every description” was deleted by the U.S. Senate before the Treaty was ratified. (Acuna, pg. 28-29) The treaty would again become important in the history of the Chicano people in the late 1960’s when the Alianza Federal de Mercedes would demand a return of land taken after the war to those holding rightful deeds.
In the Southwest, the annexation would mean colonization, economic development, and the rise of capitalism within the area. And for the United States the victory would mean new sources of wealth which poured into the pockets of the rising capitalist class and would mark a shift in the balance between the slaveocracy and the bourgeoisie in favor of the latter.
The possible consequences of the war had not gone unnoticed by the merchants and industrialists of New England at the outbreak of the war. Even before Texas was admitted to the U.S. many on the East Coast were eyeing the Pacific Coast (especially California) and the access to trade routes to India and China that would come to whoever controlled its ports. (Ruiz, pg. 50) While the North originally opposed entering into war with Mexico, once the war began it was the Northern Capitalist class that pushed hardest for victory and annexation. In the last days of the war, Northern papers were debating how much of Mexico the U.S. should take (or even if the U.S. should be content with just Mexico when the opportunity could be used to claim everything north of South America!). Nicholaus Trist was sent to arrange a treaty with the specific task of gaining for the U.S. Upper and Lower California, New Mexico, and a right of transit across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec for construction of a canal to link the Pacific with the Atlantic, shortening the distance to trade routes opened up by the victory. (Merk, pp. 112-114)
In order to justify this expansionism the capitalist class and slaveocracy resorted to the notion of “Manifest Destiny” – i.e., that the U.S. was much more enlightened and democratic than the rest of the hemisphere and that it was the destiny of its people to rule over the entire continent. Along with the notion of the “White Man’s Burden” i.e., to protect and govern the “helpless” nonwhite people, Manifest Destiny would again come into play a half-century later in the Spanish American War. Both are variations of “white supremacy” which is the distinct form that great nation chauvinism has taken in the U.S. Manifest Destiny was the rallying call (and land the prize) which united all regions of the country against Mexico.
The colonization of the Southwest by the U.S. had international consequences as well. As Engels wrote in 1849, the conquest and resultant exploitation of gold mines in the territory would certainly increase the means of circulation: within a few years concentrate a large population and an active commerce of the west coast . . .; establish steamship lines; create large cities; begin a plan for a railroad from New York to San Francisco; open the Pacific Ocean to civilization, in reality for the first time; and, for the third time in history, imprint a new orientation on world commerce.” (Marx and Engels, 1972, pgs. 189-190) By this last statement he meant that, “The center of gravity of world trade – in Italy in the Middle Ages and in England in modem times – is now the southern half of the North American hemisphere.” (America and the Civil War, pgs. 14-15)
And what were the consequences in the Southwest: The most immediate effects were felt in California. In the region from the Rio Nueces to the Pacific Coast there were about 80,000 Mexicans in 1846, most of which lived along Rio Grande Valley. In California there were about 10,000 Californians and 3,000 Anglo-Americans when the war began. The gold rush in the late 1840’s changed all of this almost overnight. By 1850 there were 100,000 people living in California, only 13,000 of which were Mexican. (Acuna, pg. 104).
The change in population meant that there would quickly be a change in landholdings as well. To make certain that gold mining would be exclusively the right of the Anglo-Americans the Foreign Miner’s Tax was adopted in 1850 which forced Mexicans and others to pay a flat fee for the ‘right’ to mine gold even on their own land. A year later, William Gwinn pushed through the California legislature the Land Law of 1851 which required Mexican landowners to prove title to their land and to pay outrageous legal fees to do it. This law encouraged Anglo-American homesteading on Mexican land and allowed squatters to challenge titles in court.
Of course, land that was not taken ‘legally’ or by fraud was often taken at gunpoint and Mexican miners and small farmers were terrorized and their homes burned to ashes to force them off the land. But what really proved decisive in the takeover of lands by the Anglo-Americans was defaults on loans borrowed by Mexican rancheros from Anglo merchants. After the gold rush began (1849) the market for beef grew with the sudden increase in population. To expand their herds many Californios borrowed money from Anglo-American merchants who were made wealthy through increased commerce during the gold rush. Decline in demand for California calltel after 1860 and competition from New Mexican sheep producers plus a series of heavy droughts all hit the rancheros hard. Loans taken at exorbitant interest rates and the sudden increase in property taxes in those years strangled the rancheros forcing them to sell their land to Anglo-American land syndicates.
This period also saw the end of Mexicans holding any kind of political power. By 1851, all native Californios had been excluded from the state senate; by the 1860’s only a few remained in the Assembly and by the 1880’s none would be found in public office in the state.
Where there is oppression, there is resistance. Throughout the state, miners, peasants, vaqueros, and rancheros took up arms against the brutal oppression of their people. Labeled as “bandits” by the Anglo-American press, they represented heroes to the Mexican population. Persons like Francisco Ramirez, Joaquin Murrietta, Tiburcio Vasques, and Juan Flores. Vasques, for example, was given the name “El Patrio” (“The Native”) by his people and ballads and coiridos were Written about him and the others. Seeing what he was doing as a defense of his people and as part of a struggle against the forcible take over of California, he told his followers, “Given $60,000 I would be able to recruit enough arms and men to revolutionize Southern California.” (Jacobs, I. p, 296). But despite the heroic struggle of the Mexican people there, California was taken and quickly made a state.
“If I was given $60,000 I would be able to recruit enough arms and men to revolutionize Southern California.” – Tuburcio Vasques
In the 1869 the Anglo-American capitalist class succeeded in building the Transcontinental Railroad. Several things resulted from this: (1) California markets were opened to the East coast; (2) it stimulated the rise of manufacturing and industry in the Southwest, especially in California; (3) it further concentrated the wealth and land of the Southwest in the hands of the capitalist class and gave rise to a class of wage laborers there. All-in-all this meant that California was integrated into the economy of the U.S. and that semi-feudal relations of production were replaced by capitalist relations (i.e. wage labor).
In New Mexico, the struggle for political control has a long history. Anglo-American merchants were entering land speculation and with the help of New Mexican ricos like Gov. Manuel Armijo and Cornelio Vigil (Taos Justice of the Peace) they began to conspire for land grants. Charles Bent and others formed the American Party to run candidates for political offices which would help them to secure land and rights for exploration of minerals.
Opposed to the American Party were the hacendados and clergy (such as Padre Martinez). When the war broke out, many of the New Mexican merchants (like Armijo) sided with the Anglos while the landlords and Church prepared for resistance. When U.S. troops led by General Stephen Kearny did enter New Mexico, Armijo “led” the official “resistance”. He betrayed the New Mexicans by dismissing the troops before the first battle (charging them up to $100 to leave).
Unlike California, colonial rule in New Mexico was based on the domination of the majority population (Nuevo Mexicano) by the minority colonizers (Anglo-Americans). To rule the Anglo-Americans required the co-operation of the comprador segment of the New Mexican population, the ricos. Just as the Spanish used the tribal chieftains of various tribes to colonize the Southwest and introduce feudal relations, the Anglos used the ricos and those patrones that would cooperate to replace feudalism with capitalism. In order to keep social prestige and political privileges the boot-licking patron “was said to have voted his sheep as well as peons” for laws and politicians favorable to the Anglo-American rule. (McWilliams, p. 122). For such assistance the 20 most prominent families of the old order were allowed to govern politically for the real masters of New Mexico.
From the beginning there was opposition to the new rule of the foreigners. In 1847 peasants and natives in Taos began a rebellion that ignited New Mexico. All over the state Anglo-Americans were attacked and killed with the hope of driving them out of the state. Governor Charles Bent was one of the first to die at the hands of the armed peasants. The revolt was finally crushed by U.S. troops and in Taos alone 150 natives and Nuevo Mexicanos were slaughtered at the hands of the troops and settlers like Kit Carson and traitor, Domiciano Vigil.
After the rebellion was suppressed colonial rule settled into place in New Mexico. The Catholic Church was “Americanized” when a new vicar general was appointed to administer the Church’s affairs in New Mexico. Fray J.B. Lamy reinstituted the tithe (which had been suspended) under Martinez and his followers. Its collection meant special hardship on the peasantry who were barely able to survive under the new taxes. This made it all the easier for the large land speculators to squeeze them off their land and take possession of it.
In the late 1860’s in New Mexico the “Santa Fe Ring” came into existence. It consisted of Anglo merchants, bankers, lawyers, politicians, and of course ricos (such as Miguel Ortero). The Santa Fe Ring’s conspiracies included land speculation, seizures of cattle ranches, public lands, minings, treasury notes, the manipulation of the Indian Bureau, the allocation of contracts to supply army posts, control of the courts and territorial government and almost everything else which could help it to plunder the territory of its wealth. (Acuna, p. 67; McWilliams, p. 122) The ring consisted of such people as Thomas Catron, Stephen Elkins (president of the First National Bank of Santa Fe) and Le Baron Bradford Prince (who became Chief Justice of New Mexico in 1879).
To give some sense of the extent of the Ring’s operations, Catron alone acquired more than one million acres of land through its swindles. One of their most infamous land robberies was their takeover of the Maxwell Land Grant (formerly the Beaubien-Miranda Grant). From the time of the original grant was made in 1841 it was contested by natives and New Mexican peasants of the Taos area because part of the grant was on land which belonged to the people of Taos. In the following years the grant changed hands several time-to the Maxwell family, then to a British-Dutch land combine, finally to the Ring. The original grant was in the area of 30-100,000 acres. But when the Ring finally took it they had expanded the claim to 1.7 million acres. Not content with this they forced people on the edge of the claim to leave the land under threat of death. In the battles that followed between the Ring and New Mexican peasants more people were killed than the Lincoln County War. When the dust had cleared and the Ring held the grant secure there stood comprador Miguel A. Ortero at the helm of the corporation they set up to administer the grant’s land.
The Lincoln County War (1876-78) showed the way the Chicano peasantry fought the Ring. The “War” is usually seen as a range war between Cattlemen and sheepherders. Actually it began when other Anglo-American capitalists began to compete with the Ring and the struggle between the two opposing camps engulfed the local Chicano peasantry. The conflict started when John Chisum and John Tunstall opened a bank that competed with a store of a Ring member (Laurence Murphy). The competition led to armed conflict with many New Mexican sheepherders and peasants siding with Tunstall against the Ring. Their leader, Juan Patron helped organize the people to defend themselves. But the Ring kept its power and expanded it in the coming years with the development of the railroads.
The Lincoln County War and Colfax County rebellion over the Maxwell Land Grant represent the brutal way that capitalism entered the Southwest and the way the masses fought its oppression. Patron and others like him could only defend themselves against the brutalities of the Anglo-American capitalists and their paid vigilantes but they could not forestall the inevitable victory of capitalism which these struggles signaled.
A similar experience befell the Chicanos of South Texas. There it was large cattle ranchers such as Richard King (of the King Ranch empire) and Charles Stillman that conspired to rob the tejanos of their lands. Stillman founded a trading post in South Texas about the time of the U.S.-Mexican War. Four years later the site drew to it other merchants and settlers and Brownsville was born as a center for trade for the South Texas area. Fearing that the majority of the Mexican population might secede and rejoin Mexico, Stillman tried to convince the tejanos to form a separate state with him and insure economic and political power in the area. Although the masses were in favor of separation at this time, they were not fooled by Stillman’s ploy and rejected his plan.
Foiled in his attempt Stillman joined forces with King and a steamboat operator named Kenedy that monopolized water-borne trade from Texas into northern Mexico. Between them they controlled the area economically. From this stronghold they squeezed the tejanos off their land. When they couldn’t take over the land by the courts or through loans they resorted to thievery, robbing the Chicano ranchers of their herds. They even robbed other Anglo ranchers, blaming the robbery on Mexicans. To put a “stop” to the cattle rustling King called together the other Anglo ranchers and formed the Stock Raisers Association of Western Texas to “protect” their herds against the tejanos. Since the tejanos made up a majority in South Texas the Association needed armed protection and so the Texas Rangers were formed. The Chicano peasantry saw the Rangers as what they were, paid terrorists of the big ranchers (to this day they call the rangers, “los rinches de la kinena” – literally, “the ranchers of the King Ranch”).
The Texas Rangers, marshalls, deputies, and other “peace officers”, were nothing more than an army of occupation in South Texas. They shot down Mexicans in the street for sport and their law consisted of lynching the closest tejano at hand whenever cattle or horses were stolen. Viewed only with contempt by the Chicanos of South Texas, the rangers knew that their only means of controlling the Chicanos was with terrorism. Even so there were many Chicanos that fought their oppression.
Juan “Cheno” Cortina was one of those. In 1859 Cortina came to the rescue of a tejano who has worked on his mother’s ranch and was being beaten by a marshall. He shot the marshall and took off with the old man. Hounded by the marshall’s posse and later by the Texas Rangers, Cortina took to the hills, gathered others around him, and raided Brownsville replacing the U.S. flag with the flag of Mexico and demanding justice for the tejano population. In the following years Cortina formed an army of 1200 tejanos that fought and defeated time and time again the Texas Rangers, the Brownsville militia, and the Mexican army at Matamaros (which also oppressed the Mexican population on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande). Cortina formed a secret organization, las aquilas negras, in South Texas, issued a proclamation calling for Chicanos to join it, and demanded that the rights guaranteed by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo be respected. For thirty years Cortina and his group defended their homeland against the colonizers. Their bravery set an example for others that fought for the liberation of the Southwest for years to come.
As in South Texas, Chicanos in El Paso also fought conspiracies to take their land from them. In 1870 the population of El Paso had grown to 12,000, and was about 80% Chicano. Still, all political positions were held by Anglo-Americans. About 100 miles from the town were salt beds which were traditionally held communally. W.E. Mills and Charles Howard, part of the El Paso Salt Ring claimed the salt beds and began charging the tejanos for right to use them. Led by Chico Barela the Chicanos armed themselves and seized the beds, killing Howard and his guards, Texas Rangers. Hearing of the defeat, Rangers stormed EI Paso and quickly suppressed the movement there, making the salt beds once again safe for Anglo-American exploitation.
“On November 23, 1859 in a proclamation, [Juan N. Cortina] suggested the organization of a secret society to right these wrongs by force of arms, or, at least, to stand ready to retaliate where necessary.”
In the first thirty years after Mexico’s defeat by the United States and the annexation of the Southwest, we find capitalism and its rise in its basest form. Using Texas and Arizona Rangers, the courts, tax laws and every other part of the state apparatus, the new ruling class in the region was tearing down the remnants of feudalism in the Southwest and attacking the traditional society of the Southwest by ripping the Chicano peasantry and ranchers from the soil. Politically, this process was reactionary to the core as Chicanos were deprived of their democratic rights at every step. But economically, the destruction of feudalism in the Southwest and the laying of the infrastructure for capitalism was undoubtedly progressive.
In order for capitalism to take root on the soil of the Southwest, the haciendas and patron-peon relationship had to be broken and Chicano peasants had to be stripped of their land and forced to sell themselves as wage slaves to the capitalists. As Marx teaches us, “One of the prerequisites of wage labor and one of the historic conditions of its realisation – is the separation of free labor from the … means and material of labor. This means above all that the worker must be separated from the land, which functions as his natural laboratory, This means the dissolution both of free petty landownership and of communal landed property …” (Marx, Pre-Capitalistic Economic Formations, p.67) This is precisely what was done by forces such as the Santa Fe Ring and the Salt Ring. By their actions they amassed huge wealth with which they and others like them would build up the mines, construct railroads, build factories – and bring into existence for the first time that class which is the only one capable of bringing liberation to Chicanos and all oppressed people, the proletariat.
The culture of the Chicano people in the Southwest in this period reflected the changes that were taking place in their lives. Broken off from Mexico, they found themselves (with the exception of California) a majority population dominated by the Anglo-American minority. First and foremost on their minds was their oppression which connected the people of the Southwest and which burned in their hearts. To express their desires for liberation and to pass on from one community to the next the victories of their people against this foreign rule, Chicanos developed the corrido (later passed down from the border region to all of Mexico). The corridos sung of the successes of heroes of the people such as Tiburcio Vasquez in California and Juan Cortina in Texas. When the Civil War broke out the corridos told of the victories of the enganchados (Chicano guerrillas) who fought the Confederate troops hoping to drive them out of the Southwest. They told of the resistance struggles and served as inspiration to all Chicanos living as an oppressed people in the Southwest.
Such was the condition of the Chicano people on the eve of construction of railroads in New Mexico. The Chicano nation had not yet developed. This would come in the next period, the era of imperialism, the era of proletarian revolution.
THE EPOCH OF IMPERIALISM AND THE RISE OF THE CHICANO NATION
The defeat of the plantation owners in the South during the Civil War had meant the end to production based on slavery and the victory of production based on free wage labor. Politically it meant that the rule of the northern industrialists was insured and that the state would be used to concentrate wealth and power (especially in the form of means of production) in the hands of the capitalist class. In a few short years “free, competitive” capitalism would give way to restricted, monopoly capitalism.
The Civil War had stimulated the growth of industry as the demand for war products (blankets, armaments, uniforms, etc) increased. From 1860 to 1870 the number of industrial workers rose from 1.3 to 2.7 million and the value of manufactured goods increased from $1.9 to $3.4 billion. (Foster, 1951, p. 226) The Civil War also spurred the development of railroads (to transport troops and supplies). At the height of the war the first transcontinental railway, the Union Pacific, was commissioned. Making use of the war situation to its fullest and the need of the North to be linked with ports on the Pacific, the capitalist class induced the Congress to make huge subsidies to pay for the cost of construction of the railway and to grant huge tracks of land along the railroad path to the railroad companies. “All told, some 160 million acres of valuable farming, grazing, timber, and mineral lands were donated to the railroad kings.” (ibid, pg. 227)
The construction of the Transcontinental railway and, later, the spurlines branching throughout the western half of the country linked the Southwest to the industrial north. At the same time it accelerated the growth of the proletariat in the Southwest as farmers and ranchers forced off their lands hired on as laborers in the work gang that built the railroads. For the capitalist owners of the railroads this railway expansion meant a monopoly on transportation – which they used to extort from ranchers, merchants, and farmers outrageous shipping fees. “The result was that from the middle 1870’s to 1910 the major share of the profit of virtually every business and industry on the Coast was diverted … into the hands of the railroad and its controlling group.” (Oscar Lewis, The Big Four, pg. 264)
Monopoly ownership was emerging not just in transportation, but in all facets of business and finance as trusts, syndicates, and monopolies replaced the small competitive enterprise. In banking and in industry the largest enterprises either forced their competitors to sell out of to enter into “trusts” dominated by the few giants such as the Standard Oil trust in petroleum and the Dupont trust in chemical products or the House of Morgan in banking. In a short time “finance capital” emerged as bank capital and industrial capital merged – that is, as the large trusts in banking began to dominate in industry and the other way around. The House of Morgan was the guiding hand in the formation of electrical equipment and steel trusts; the Mellon Bank played the leading role with the aluminum trusts; and the Rockefellers used its wealth from oil to purchase controlling interest in the National City Bank and Chase Manhattan.
Finance capital poured into every sector of the U.S. economy gobbling up companies and bringing them into the grips of the trusts. In a few short years, a handful of capitalists had gained control of the major portion of the U. S. economy. This complete the monopoly capitalists looked for new markets and sources of raw materials. They exported huge quantities of capital to Mexico, the Southwest and the Black-Belt area of the South. In Mexico, for example, from 1800 to 1910 U.S. investments increased at such a pace that by the eve of the Mexican Revolution (1910) the U.S. imperialists controlled 44 % of the combined capital of the big “170” companies and industries of the Mexican economy. (Cecena, pg. 62)
The era of imperialism is the era of monopoly capitalism. It is a new stage in the development of capitalism which has grown out of competitive, industrial capitalism. As Lenin teaches us, “Imperialism is capitalism in that stage of development in which the domination of monopolies and finance capital has established itself; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun; in which the partition of all territories of the globe among the great capitalist powers has been completed.” (Lenin Imperialism pg. 85)
The U.S. was a newcomer on to the small club of great capitalist powers. Most of the world had already been carved up between the more established capitalist powers (especially England and France). And so the U.S. imperialists tightened their grip on those oppressed nations and regions closest to it – the Southwest, the Afro-American nation, Mexico. In 1893 the U.S. imperialists marched westwards taking Hawaii and in 1898 the first war for the redivision of the world’s territories among the imperialist powers was fought, the so-called Spanish-American War (in which the U.S. fought both the Spanish and independence forces throughout the Spanish colonies in order to lay claim to Spain’s old colonies). When the war was over, the U.S. imperialists had brought Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines into their domain.
This was the emerging world scene when the first railroads entered New Mexico in 1879. The construction of the railroads throughout the Southwest represented the export of capital by U.S. monopoly capitalism into this oppressed region in order to extract minerals and open the territory as markets for goods produced by the monopolies in the East coast. The first lines built in the area were those running north and south – the Denver & Rio Grande Railroads and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (AF&SF) – which connected Topeka and Denver with Las Vegas, Albuquerque and EI Paso. By 1885 track had been laid along the most famous trader routes of the area.
The new railroads had immediate impact on mining and lumbering. By 1900 mining in the Southwest had been built up into large-scale, mechanized industry controlled by Eastern capitalists. Industrial capitalism had turned the mining industry from its minor role under Spanish and Mexican feudal rule to a cornerstone of the new Southwest economy. This shift was brought in large-part because of new industrial processes and the discovery of large copper deposits in the area. By 1900, five major copper districts had emerged: Jerome, Blebe, Bisbee, Clifton-Morenci and Santa Rita. Each attracted to it thousands of workers (many of them recent immigrants and many more Chicanos who had been kicked off of their farms and ranches and west to the mines and railroads to find work). In the coming years these mining towns would be the scene of great proletarian struggles.
The railroads also brought the development of cattle ranching as a large scale industry in Arizona and New Mexico. From the Southwest, cattle could quickly be transported to slaughter-houses in other parts of the country. The railroad companies formed land-holding companies to develop the large grants of land given to them by the government. Some of these entered cattle ranching. ATSF officials, eastern bankers, and Texas cattlemen, for example, formed the Aztec Land & Cattle Company which purchased a million acres of Atlantic and Pacific Railway land in northern Arizona and shipped in about 40,000 head of cattle from Pecos, Texas to Holbrook.
U.S. imperialism by its construction of railroads and by its laying of telegraph lines and other means of transportation and communication in the Southwest created a common economic bond in that area. It tied together the Southwest and created a division of labor between the towns and agricultural areas surrounding them, influencing the rise of commercial centers in the area. Areas like Santa Fe and Taos that were either by-passed or connected to the major railway lines only with small spur-lines fell by the way-side as center for trade and commerce, while cities such as El Paso and Albuquerque became major ports for imperialism.
(Note: Later in the paper we will discuss conclusion on questions of economic life, territory, language, and culture.)
The penetration of imperialism into the Southwest had other effects too. For the Chicano people it would mean the rise and development of new class forces and the beginning stirrings of a national movement in that area – a movement of an oppressed nation – demanding its liberation from imperialism and its right to political secession. On the one-hand imperialism quickly crushed the small handicraft class in the Southwest while allying itself with the comprador bourgeoisie. On the other hand, the growth and expansion of capitalism throughout the Southwest gave rise to an oppressed Chicano petty-bourgeoisie, peasantry, and proletariat that became the source of the Chicano national movement.
This process was not unique to the Southwest but corresponds to an objective law of history. Imperialism oppresses and exploits nations for the huge super-profits that it can make. But, in exploiting these countries imperialism is compelled to build there railways, factories, and mills, industrial and commercial centers. The appearance of a class of proletarians, the emergence of a native intelligentsia, the awakening of national consciousness, the growth of the liberation movement, such are the inevitable results of this ‘policy.’ ” (Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, pp. 5-6)
How were the various classes of the Chicano people affected by imperialism and what was their role in the new national movement? Prior to imperialism’s invasion of finance capital small artisans such as Manuel de Los Reyes and Isidrio Martinez dominated the weaving industry of the area. Martinez had even developed a loom which could make blankets of one solid piece 12 feet wide (a feat which is impossible with the pedal type loom of today). But this small artisan and handicrafts class was unable to compete with the price and variety of products brought into the area by Anglo-American capitalism. (Espinosa,pg.248)
By contrast, those New Mexican and Texan merchants that threw in their lot with the imperialists grew wealthy and powerful. In the period of rising capitalism in the Southwest (prior to 1880) several partnerships and trading firms were established between Anglos and New Mexicans – Otero and Sellar, Brown and Manzanares, Tully and Ochoa. (Lamar, pg. 107) Some of these grew into large concerns such as that of the Ortero, Sellar & Co., which became one of the largest wholesaler grocers, forwarding and commission houses in the country and which operated solely on the western frontier.
Setting up shop in Las Vegas in 1879 with Sellar, Ortero foresaw the effects of the railroads on the New Mexican economy and was determined to grow with it. As the tracks moved South and Westwards they followed it, buying up land along its path. Joining the Santa Fe Ring and in a short time Ortero became head of the Maxwell Land Grant Co., Vice-President of the AT&SF Railway, and sat on the board of directors of businesses and batiks throughout the Southwest. Following in his father’s footsteps, his son (also named Miguel Antonio) became governor of the state (1896-1906) and along with the Chief Justice of New Mexico (Frank Parker) obtained controlling interest of the Manhattan group of mines and the Santa Fe mines of Arizona (among the largest producers of copper in the state).
Ortero and others like him, willingly served the imperialists, consolidating that rule. The rise to power (both economic and political) of the Chicano comprador bourgeoisie rested with imperialism and so they became its staunchest defenders. Governor Ortero, for example, was among those in New Mexico that rallied support to U.S. imperialism’s entrance into the Spanish-American War and he personally recruited volunteers among the Chicano people to fight the imperialist war. (Lamar, pg. 199)
While a small stratum of the Chicano people benefited from the conquest of finance capital in the Southwest, the majority were oppressed by imperialism and fought its onslaughts at every step. Communal land grants were being robbed by the Santa Fe Ring and others and communal grazing lands were being fenced off (with barbed-wire) by Anglo-American cattle ranchers. The Chicano peasantry in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado was losing the land to syndicates or because of failure to pay taxes saw their land sold in public auctions (sometimes for $1.50 an acre).
From 1889-1891 Chicano peasants rose up against the railroads and land syndicates to stop these land seizures. Groups such as Las Gorras Blancas and La Mano Negra (which operated in the northwestern part of the territory) fought this robbery. In March of 1890 in East Las Vegas 1500 members of Las Gorras Blancas (the White Caps) fought irrigation projects that would monopolize water in the hands of a few wealthy Anglo ranchers. Joining with some Anglo workers and natives of the area, Las Gorras Blancas issued a proclamation saying, “We are down on race issues and will watch race agitation. We favor irrigation enterprises, but will fight any scheme that tends to monopolize the supply of water sources to the detriment of residents living on lands watered by the same streams.” (Acuna” pg. 74) La Mano Negra and Las Gorras Blancas also fought the railroads. In one night in 1889 for example, a force of 300 nuevo mexicanos tore up 9,000 ties of track of the AT&SF. (Meier & Rivera, pg.105)
These armed revolts of the Chicano peasantry against the railroads and land syndicates were objectively anti-imperialist as they represented the struggle of the toiling masses of an oppressed nation against the rampages which imperialism was bringing to it. At this point, however, the struggle for land was not yet consciously linked to the struggle for self-determination but it would only be a short time before such a call was made.
Despite their heroic struggles, imperialism quickly took control of the entire territory. What was not taken out-right by the railroads and land syndicates was seized by the federal government. Attacking the communal land grants of the Chicano people, the U.S. government claimed and took into possession huge tracts of land for parks and (more importantly) for lumber and mineral reserves. Since the early 1850’s Chicanos in the Southwest lost more than two million acres of private lands and 1.7 million acres of communal lands. Another 10 million acres of lands was taken by the U.S. government for national forests (one-eighth of the total land area of the present state of New Mexico) and millions of acres claimed by the government were used for irrigation projects in Arizona and New Mexico and for public grants to the railroads. (Gonzales, pg. 52)
The development of the Southwest which imperialism brought encouraged the immigration of Anglo-American settlers. For some time the comprador bourgeoisie, such as Pedro Perea (the most powerful sheep rancher in the state), along with the Santa Fe Ring had been pushing for statehood while the ranchers, peasants, and Chicano petty-bourgeoisie had opposed the move, instead pushing for continued territorial rule where they felt they would have more say in the governing process. However, with the influx in Anglo-American settlers this attitude changed. In 1906 in the Chicano newspaper La Voz del Pueblo an editorial called “Now or Never” expressed the sentiments of the Chicano petty-bourgeoisie. Fearing that in 10 years or so Chicanos might constitute a minority in the New Mexico-Arizona area and that if the territory was then admitted as a state that a constitution would be written which might attack their democratic rights, the Chicano petty-bourgeoisie called for statehood. (Weber, pgs. 246-247)
Behind this call for statehood was the real fear of the petty-bourgeoisie that any constitution not written by them would require the Chicano population to learn English in order to become U.S. citizens and that this would be bad for two reasons. First, it would mean that those that did not learn English would not be able to vote (and elect the ricos and petty-bourgeoisie to office) and secondly, that what limited home market they didn’t have access to because of the Spanish language, would be eliminated.
In 1912, (when the imperialists felt their control of the area was secure), New Mexico and Arizona were admitted as states and the first constitutional convention held in which many Chicano delegates fought for and won protection of democratic rights for Chicanos and the right to bilingual education in the New Mexican Constitution.
In South Texas, the situation was somewhat different than it had been in either New Mexico or Arizona. The railroads did not enter the region until 1904. For that reason, much of the old semi-feudal relations remained strong there. Anglo ranchers or large landowners in some cases simply replaced the tejano patron. Until the coming of the St. Louis-Brownsville-Mexican rail line, the area south of the Rio Nueces remained relatively isolated from the United Stated economically. A small business sector, mostly of merchants developed in the area independent of the Anglo-Americans as a result of this isolation. Goods brought to the area for sale in stores owned by the tejanos often were brought from Mexico by tejanos. The entrance of the railroads into the area meant a rising market in the area as Chicano peasants were pushed off of their lands and as Mexicans crossed the border to work on the railroads.
At first the Chicano petty-bourgeois prospered by the railroads and the growth of the internal market in South Texas. Quickly, however, this changed as Anglo-American capital rushed into the area. The oppression of the petty-bourgeoisie, peasantry, and proletariat in South Texas by imperialism intensified and gave rise in increased resistance. In 1915, during the height of the Revolution in Mexico, EI Plan de San Diego was issued and armed insurrection began in South Texas led by the petty-bourgeoisie. The Plan called for secession and supported self-determination for the Afro-American nation. It was the first document to call for the separation of the Southwest from the United States and for the establishment of an independent nation state. In the years to come many more such calls would follow. Imperialism had set the class forces of the Chicano nation in motion; those classes were to determine the direction of their national movement: national liberation.
In the years from 1836-1915 (from the founding of the “Republic” of Texas to the call for independence in San Diego) the Southwest had undergone profound changes. The trade routes established by Anglo-American capital connected for the first time what had been islands of settlements in California, Tejas, and Nuevo Mexico. The Chicano population was then divided into five states – with the vast majority living in New Mexico and spilling over into what now became South Texas, Southern Colorado, and Western Arizona. The isolation of the towns and villages under the patron-peon relationship and the central role of a few small trading centers such as Taos, was broken down with the expansion of capitalism and the seizure of land by the Anglo-Americans. But what proved decisive was the flood of capital into the area in the 1880’s. The merger of banks, land syndicates, railroad companies, mining and lumber trusts, and large agricultural concerns meant the tremendous concentration of wealth in the hands of the imperialists. The growth of industry and the laying of the infrastructure of capitalism (railroads, telegraph, etc.), meant the rise of the new market in the Southwest. Labor power itself was now a commodity to be bought and sold on the market as the campesinos lost their bind and were forced to work for the capitalists. At the same time, this new class of proletarians represented a market for goods produced by the imperialists.
But it also represented a market for the Chicano petty-bourgeoisie who produced or sold goods and services which the campesinos produced themselves on their own land (sheep and wool products, meat, gram, hides, clothing, etc.). In New Mexico this market was firmly in the grips of the imperialists and the comprador bourgeoisie who even held trade fair merchants from the East Coast and Midwest bragging of the extent of this market. (Prince, 1890). In Texas, the home market had been developed by the Chicano petty-bourgeoisie and the intense competition with the imperialists and the brutal oppression of the tejanos (including the petty-bourgeoisie) at the hands of the Texas Rangers gave rise to the liberation movement that issued the Plan de San Diego. Imperialism had thus laid the basis for the Chicano nation. It laid the infrastructure of capitalism in the Southwest connecting all areas economically. It broke down the isolation of the towns and villages making a division of labor between town and country there. It brought into existence a class of proletarians (both rural and industrial), but most of all, its intense oppression of the Chicano people wielded together the progressive classes and strata of that nation into a strong and powerful national movement that was now demanding its independence.
And what was the culture of the Chicano people at this time? It was the culture of an oppressed people rising up against imperialism. Throughout South Texas and New Mexico, corridos flourished which told of the victories of Chicanos against the Texas Rangers, and Arizona Rangers, and sheriffs. They sung of Elfego Baca in New Mexico and Gregorio Cortez of Texas who fought and won many battles against the rinches. The corridos told of the battles between Las Gorras Blancas and the militia and immortalized heroes of the Mexican Revolution as well, such as the corrido “La Persecucion de Villa” which describes Pancho Villa’s victories against General Pershing’s troops on both sides of the border. (Parades, pg. 147) Bound together by their oppression, the Chicano people now developed a common psychological make-up. They thought of themselves as one people and the culture expressed this fact.
PROLETARIAN STRUGGLE IN THE CHICANO NATION
Imperialism had not only awakened the peasantry and the petty-bourgeoisie. Throughout the Southwest the expansion and concentration of capital had two effects: the increasing proletarianization of the Chicano people and the rise of the multi-national proletarian movement in the Southwest.
The first attempt by Chicano workers to organize took place in Texas in 1883 with the formation of an agricultural union and the organization of a strike (which was brutally suppressed). Soon there were other strikes in Colorado and New Mexico. There, first skirmishes between the proletariat and the imperialists quickly engulfed the whole Southwest.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, Chicanos were involved in railroads, mining, manufacturing, construction and agriculture. Representing 70-90% of the work force in the railroads from the West Coast to the Midwest, Chicano workers were massed in the most oppressed sections of the work force in the Southwest. They worked “as track men, in maintenance, construction, and yard gangs, cleaned cinder pits, iced cars, cleaned cars and occasionally worked as boilermakers, machinists, and section bosses.” In New Mexico and Arizona they also worked in the silver and copper mines where they did the dirtiest and most dangerous work – opening the mines, tunneling, and digging deep in the mine shafts. (Gomez-Q., 1973, pgs. 21-22)
Although the Chicanos worked side-by-side with the Anglo workers, the imperialists used every scheme to drive a wedge between the workers of the oppressed nation and the oppressor nation. Anglo-American workers received some privileges from the oppression of the Chicano nation and the super-exploitation of the Chicano workers. Jobs for them were often safer and many times they were section bosses. But even when the Anglos performed the same job as the Chicano he was paid more. This “dual wage system” (one wage for Chicanos and another for Anglos) meant millions in super-profits for the imperialists while feeding white chauvinism and holding back unity between Chicano and Anglo workers against their common enemy, the imperialists. Even so, much unity was reached, especially in the mines.
In the 1880’s Chicanos formed Los Caballeros de Labor (patterned after the Knights of Labor). In New Mexico and Arizona they fought for the rights of Chicano workers in the mines and railroads, especially against the dual wage rate. But Los Caballeros did not restrict itself to hours and wages. It became a political force in the Southwest and was the first proletarian organisation to take up the struggle for land, fighting the land schemes of the imperialists.
Just before the turn of the century the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) began organizing in the Southwest and recruited many Chicanos into its locals. In 1903-4 the WFM led strikes by Chicano miners in the copper fields of Clifton-Morenci, Arizona and the coal fields of Colorado. In Bisbee, Arizona in 1903, the first major strike in the territory took place. Chicano mutualistas (mutual aid societies) led a strike of 3,500 and massive demonstrations of workers and their families to support the demands of the strike. Frightened by the significance of this great strike, the imperialists brought in the national guard, using an army larger than it had taken to drive the Apaches from their lands.
One of the most far reaching strikes occurred just south of the border – it would have the effect of a clarion call on the revolutionary forces in Mexico. The same imperialists which owned the mines in the Chicano nation and who built the railroads there to extract those riches, owned the mines and railroads in Mexico.
In Cananera, Sonora a company owned by Anaconda Copper closed down several of its mines when the price of copper dropped on the world market. Thousands of workers (like their Chicano brothers and sisters, paid half of what Anglo workers were paid for the same job) were suddenly thrown out of work. A strike was called of those still working who joined with the other workers – 10,000 in total – demanding the re-opening of the mines. Hand-in-hand with the army of the semi-feudal Porfirio Diaz regime, the imperialists sent in a small army of Arizona rangers to suppress the strike. The Mexican workers burned down the company stores and administration buildings. The role of the Diaz government in attacking the miners fanned the flames of revolution throughout Mexico and set the stage for the anti-imperialist revolution of 1910.
In the following years the growing revolutionary struggle in Mexico and the proletarian struggle in the Southwest influenced each other. Active in the Cananea strike was the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) led by Ricardo Flores Magon. An anarchist organization (that believed Mexico could pass from semi-feudalism to a classless society without the dictatorship of the proletariat) the PLM was one of the first groups in Mexico to take up the struggle against the Diaz government. Under the banner of “Tierra y Libertad” the PLM formed chapters throughout the Southwest, raising money to overthrow the imperialist-backed Diaz. Publishing newspapers in the Southwest, they called for an end to imperialist exploitation in Mexico and in 1910 organized a force of Mexicans, Chicanos, and Anglos (mostly members of the anarcho-syndicalist I.W.W.) with the purpose of seizing Baja California, setting up an anarchist society and using it as a base for the revolution. The plan failed and many of its leaders were jailed in the U.S. After 1910 many members of the PLM became active in Chicano struggles and some were involved in the South Texas Revolt of 1915.
Throughout the Chicano nation socialist ideas began to take root. At first utopian notions spread by the Socialist Party and the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) passed through the mines and railroads of the Southwest. In 1894 the Chicano newspaper EI Gato was published in Santa Fe denouncing imperialist exploitation in the mines and railroads and its editorial, “The Capitalist and the Worker” called for class solidarity against the capitalists. In 1905 the Founding Convention of the IWW was held with several Chicanos attending as delegates. Lucia Gonzalez de Parsons (who organized demonstrations for the eight-hour day and rallied support for the Haymarket Martyrs all over the country) spoke at the convention and called on delegates to draw their inspiration from the revolutionary struggle then going on in Russia. (Foner, V. 4, pg. 36)
In Laredo, Texas, EI Defensor del Obrero (1905-1907) was published by railroad workers. It saw socialism as the only solution to the oppression of the Chicano people, but at the same time preached reformism. The paper took up the struggles of Chicanos and Mexicans, supporting strikes on both sides of the border. Although printed only in English, the Socialist Party’s paper, The Rebel, had wide distribution in the Southwest. The Socialist Party’s Land League of America in Texas was headed by F.A. Hernandez and its chapters had about 1,000 Chicano workers and peasants as members. The league fought for land for the poor and in Texas was brutally suppressed. Throughout the Southwest many anarchist and socialist newspapers were being published at this time. There was the PLM’s Regeneracion, Punto Rojo, (The Red Point), Lucha de Classes (“Class Struggle”), and El Amigo del Pueblo (“The Friend of the People”). Each of these papers identified the capitalist class as the enemy and called for unity of all workers against that class. (Zamora, 1975; Gutierrez, 1976)
In the United States the working class at this time was groping for scientific socialism. As early as 1867 affiliates of the First International (the International Workingmen’s Association) had been set up in the U.S. and played an important role in the fight for the eight-hour day. Within the IWA there had been intense struggle between Marx and Engels on the one hand and the utopian socialists and anarchists on the other such as Lasalle and Bakunin. When the IWA moved to the U.S. in 1872 it brought this struggle to the U.S. with the ultra-leftist views, leaving their mark on the working class movement in the form of the International Working People’s Assoc., the IWW and the petty bourgeois Socialist Labor Party.
The utopian socialists and anarchists (especially the IWW) popularized the ideas of class struggle and socialism with mass agitation. Joe Hill, for example, wrote many songs and poems of the struggles of the working class and Jack London wrote novels and essays such as The Iron Hell, “The Class struggle” and “The Scab,” but the working class can’t find its liberation guided by the notions of utopian socialism and anarchism. Utopian socialism plays down the need for class struggle along revolutionary lines and tries to fool the working class by telling it socialism can be achieved by gradual reforms rather than violent revolution. Anarchism is equally dangerous because it rejects the need for the rule of the working class, for the dictatorship of the proletariat over the exploiting classes. Instead, it puts forth the immediate abolition of the state and ignores the fact that without the armed rule of the toiling masses and exploiting classes will attempt to seize power once again and will enforce their armed rule.
Anarcho-syndicalism such as put forth by the IWW and PLM disarms the working class because it tells them that revolutionary unions rather than a party made up of the most advanced elements of the working class would be able to lead the class struggle.
The struggle against anarchism and utopian socialism and for scientific socialism in the United States was aided by the revolutionary struggle in Russia and by the leadership role which Lenin and Stalin were playing in the International Communist movement. In attacking the reformists of the Second International, Lenin provided the working class movement worldwide with clarity on the need for a vanguard party (made up of the most advanced of the working class) to lead the struggle for socialism, on the necessity of armed revolution (as opposed to gradual reforms) and on the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat to keep socialism once it was won. In 1918, key theoretical works by Lenin were published in the U.S. for the first time – State and Revolution, Imperialism, and “The Soviets at Work.”
The writings of Lenin and Stalin clarified the burning questions in the working class movement in the U.S. “Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder” hit the closest to home by attacking the ridiculous notion of the IWW that revolutionaries should ignore reactionary unions and build “revolutionary” ones. As Lenin taught the working class movement this in effect meant leaving the masses of workers to be preyed upon by the capitalists and by the labor aristocracy that serves the capitalist class. It was in attempting to cut all ties with the rotten ‘leftism’, opportunism and social chauvinism of the 2nd international of the anarcho-syndicalists and chart a genuine path for revolution that the Communist Party, U.S.A. (CPUSA) was formed.
In the Southwest, advanced workers followed the intense ideological struggle going on in the international communist movement. Mexican newspapers along the border carried articles on the progress of the revolution in Russia. The revolutionary struggle in Mexico was advancing and with it grew interest in the revolutionary struggles going on all over the world. Translations were made of Marx’s works into Spanish and some of these found their way across the border with Mexican immigrants. These advanced workers led study groups in which the writings of Marx & Engels were read and discussed. Many of them were leaders of the growing working class movement in the Chicano nation and some later joined the CPUSA.
World War I had brought intense opposition from communists who saw it correctly as an imperialist war to divide up the world. In the Southwest many Chicanos took up opposition to the war and used the war to intensify the struggle against the oppression of the Chicano people.
The war had other effects too. Increased production in the U.S. and the increased demand for labor meant increased immigration from Mexico. In the first ten years of the decade, 40,000 Mexicans legally immigrated to the U.S. and about twice that number entered without legal documents. Under the Diaz regime, U.S. imperialism ravaged the Mexican economy – throwing thousands of Mexican peasants off their lands. The construction of railroads by the imperialists in Mexico attracted many Mexican workers and offered avenues northward. Immigration increased during the years of the Mexican Revolution and increased again when the U.S. entered WWI. From 1910 to 1914 legal immigration to the U.S. from Mexico was 82,588; from 1914 to 1919 it was 91,075 for a total of 173,663 for the decade. “Illegal” immigration was even higher, at least 200,000. (Acuna, pg. 132; Meier and Rivera, p. 146)
Many of the Mexican immigrants came to the agricultural fields of California and Texas following crop harvests from one area to another. The war also meant increased industrial production and many Chicanos migrated to Chicago, Detroit, and other large industrial centers. In 1923 an affiliate of U.S. Steel in Lorain, Ohio brought 1500 Chicanos to that city to break a strike at the National Tube Co. That same year Bethlehem Steel brought 1,000 Chicanos northwards for the same purpose. But wherever they went Chicanos quickly joined in the class struggle against the imperialists.
In the late 1920’s and early depression years, Chicanos joined the Mexican laborers in the winding paths of the migrant farm laborers. Migrant families would spend the first two months of the year picking lettuce in Arizona, then go to California’s Imperial Valley in March and June to pick carrots, and then to apricot and peach counties in the summer. From there they would move on the Fresno in Sept. and end up back again in Arizona by December. In California, Chicanos and Mexicans found huge ’factories in the fields’ that had been set up by monopoly capitalism. Agriculture trusts like the sugar beet trusts or citrus fruit trusts came to dominate the agricultural industry driving out small farmers, monopolizing the lands, and hiring hundreds and sometimes thousands of workers during peak harvest.
Chicanos then as now constituted an important part of the rural proletariat and throughout the western part of the United States were active in farm labor struggles. In the late 1920’s, 10,000 Chicano beet workers from Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska banded together to form the Beet Workers Association. Meanwhile, at the AFL Convention in Los Angeles in 1927, chauvinist trade union leadership was attacking Mexican labor as harmful to American workers and rallied for racist immigration laws which would limit immigration from Mexico.
Many Chicano workers, by contrast, took steps to organize themselves and their brothers and sisters from Mexico. A federation of mutual aid societies in Los Angeles held its own convention the same year as the AFL’s convention and formed several labor unions. La Confederacion de Uniones Obreras Mexicanas (C.U.O.M.) was organized with the purpose of organizing all Mexican and Chicano workers in the United States; of fighting for parity with Anglo-American workers and an end to the racist dual wage system; and for an end to discrimination against Mexicans and Chicanos. (Meier and Rivera, pg. 174) C.U.O.M. was modeled after Mexican labor organizations such as the Confederation Regional Obrera Mexicana which sent a representative to the founding convention of CUOM. Within a year, CUOM had 3,000 members in 20 locals.
C.U.O.M. like the Confederacion Uniones de Campesinos y Obreros Mexicanos (C.U.C.O.M.) which followed it led several strikes such as the Imperial Valley Mellon Strike of 1928 and the EI Monte Berry Strike of 1933. These organizing efforts between 1928 and 1933 were brutally attacked by the state’s full powers of repression. Workers were shot, many were jailed, leaders were imprisoned or deported (under the Criminal Syndicalist Act), and sympathizers were constantly harassed. (Weber, 1972)
C.U.O.M. and C.U.C.O.M. had the positive effect of organizing Mexican and Chicano workers. But their efforts were doomed to failure. Affiliated with the Mexican government and in good part formed by the mutualistas, the union was guided by the petty-bourgeois leadership and by diluted forms of anarchism. At critical points in key struggles, the workers were held back by the vacillations of the mutualistas (many times led by small business) and the out-and-out class collaboration of the Mexican consul with the imperialist growers. (Lopez, pg. 101)
The collapse of the capitalist world market in 1929 shook the entire country. For Chicanos it meant intensified exploitation and oppression. It also meant intensified resistance. Chicanos and other nationality workers joined together by thousands in strikes in every sector of agriculture and industry. At this key point in the history of the working class movement in the United States, the CPUSA was active and in leadership of many of the spontaneous struggles of the class, but failed to bring Marxism-Leninism to those struggles, to fuse the working class movement with socialism.
For example, it was not until 1933, at the height of the deportations of almost a million Mexican workers and their families (and also many Chicano families), that the CPUSA even sent a Spanish-speaking organizer to South Texas! In San Antonio the CPUSA gave some aid to a strike at the Fink Cigar factory. Although the strike was crushed, cadre made contact with some workers and students who were invited to Party meetings. Usually these meetings were held in Spanish and English and along with some pamphlets by Marx and Lenin (in English) the Chicanos were given the Daily Worker (the organ of the CPUSA). Because of the chauvinism of the CPUSA, the Daily Worker was only published in English at this time. Despite this fact, many Chicanos, who were actively seeking out socialism, joined the CP and led strikes such as the San Antonio Pecan Shellers Strike. By 1934, through the advanced workers it had won to its side, the CPUSA was able to organize a May Day Celebration in Laredo. Masses of Chicano workers from the U.S. side of the border joined with thousands of workers organized by the Mexican Communist Party (PCM) carrying banners which opposed deportations and upheld the international solidarity of the proletariat.
At the same time that the Chicano proletariat was defending the rights of Mexican workers and joining hands with Anglo-American workers against the imperialists, the Chicano petty-bourgeoisie was cowering in fear before their oppressors. Seeing the ruthless oppression of the Chicano peasantry and proletarians at the hands of the Texas Rangers and the brutal treatment of Mexican immigrants by the Border Patrol, the Petty-bourgeoisie did everything to separate itself from the oppressed masses, snuggling up as close as it could to the imperialists.
After WWI with the influx of Mexican immigrants, the Chicano petty bourgeoisie stopped referring to themselves as Mexicans in the hopes that this would free them from the racist and chauvinist treatment of the Mexican and Chicano masses at the hands of the imperialists. In New Mexico they called themselves “Spanish”, in Texas it became “Latin”, in California it became “Spanish” or “American of Mexican Descent.”
Trying desperately to be liked by their masters, the Chicano petty-bourgeoisie opposed the common practice of calling Anglo-Americas “white”, saying, “We’re ‘white’ too.” As the 1930 census was being taken (in the middle of the deportations hysteria) they refused to identify themselves as part of the “Mexican race” and joined with the Mexican government in opposing the use of the term ‘Mexican’ as a racial designation. This, at the same time that they were supporting tougher immigration laws which would restrict Mexican immigration!
But despite all of its efforts to reject its people, even the petty-bourgeoisie was oppressed and was forced to band together to fight for its interests and protect its existence. While the revolutionary nationalist sectors of the petty-bourgeoisie had taken leadership of the movement in 1915, now more reformist and conciliationist leadership had come to the fore. This would be the case until the late 1960’s when revolutionary intellectuals and petty-bourgeois forces would wrest leadership from their hands (many of them later fell into reformism with a nationalist tinge.)
In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s several groupings of petty-bourgeois elements were formed. Groups such as the Orden Hijos de America and the League of United Latin American Citizens (formed in South Texas in 1929) restricted membership only to “U.S. citizens of Mexican descent.” LULAC’s constitution made English the official language of the organization and stated that the purpose of the organization was to develop “within its membership of our race the best, purest and most perfect type of a true and loyal citizen of the U.S.A.” (Tirado, pg. 57-8) This “pro-America”, really “pro-imperialist” mentality reached its highest expression when the Denver chapter of LULAC endorsed a proposal by the governor of the state to deport 50,000 Mexican workers.
This move by the Denver chapter and others like it brought intense struggle within the organization. More progressive forces saw the isolation of the petty-bourgeoisie from the masses and fought to make LULAC an organization that would take up the struggle for democratic rights of the Chicano people. By the mid-1930’s LULAC chapters in Texas and New Mexico began to join forces with other Chicano organizations, including predominantly Chicano unions and jointly fought segregation in public schools, parks, etc. on behalf of Mexicans as well as Chicanos. By the end of the decade, statewide conferences of Chicanos had taken place all over the Southwest to discuss these issues. And in March 1939 the First Congress of the Mexican and Spanish People was held in Albuquerque, bringing together broad sectors of the Chicano nation, representing all progressive classes. Representatives of trade unions, groups like LULAC, religious groups, students, and mutualistas came together to organize against the national oppression of the Chicano people.
On October 13, 1935 in San Antonio, La Convencion Constitutivo Pro Derechos Mexicanos de Texas was convened. Delegates from labor unions, Worker Alliance branches, unemployed councils, and sociedades beneficias came together from all over Texas and the Southwest. Mostly proletarian, it adopted resolutions on all subjects; including the land questions, and adopted a resolution which called for the right to political secession in South Texas and Border Region. (S., pg. 3)
Cadre from the CPUSA played an important role in this Conference. Having reached the conclusion that Chicanos in the region constituted a nation with the right to secession, and having drafted a resolution for the Party Congress to that effect, cadre began raising the demand in their political work. The Conference overwhelmingly adopted the resolution and began implementing it in all organizations and areas that they represented.
Despite the fact that the Chicano people had already recognized their right to self-determination and made the call for independence in 1915 and now Chicano proletarians were taking up this call, the CPUSA denied the existence of a Chicano nation; instead it took up the struggle for democratic rights of the Mexican national minority. This chauvinist stance came on the eve of the U.S. entrance in to WWI and set the stage too for the later liquidation of the Afro-American national question. It would mean that in the years to come the CPUSA would work in the national movement of the Chicano people only to divert it from its genuinely revolutionary path down the road of partial reforms and compromise with the imperialists.
The first forty years of this century saw a tremendous growth in the ranks of the proletariat in the Southwest. The culture of the Chicano people was tremendously influenced by this change. The revolutionary struggle in Mexico gripped the Southwest. Mexican muralistas such as Jose Clement Orozco, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siquieros and Rufino Tamayo came to the United States in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Their murals influenced Chicano artists of the time and left their mark on Chicano and working class communities as they painted walls and ceilings in social service buildings, post offices, public schools, and libraries. Some of these murals, such as Siquieros’ “America Tropical” painted in East Los Angeles, depicted the oppression of the Chicano people here in the United States and the oppressed nations of Latin America by U.S. imperialism. Because of their revolutionary character, many such murals were destroyed. Rivera’s paintings at the New Workers’ School of New York show the class struggle and the oppression of the working class by capitalism. At the Rockefeller Center in New York he painted a mural which showed the oppression of the masses and showed them turning to Lenin for direction. This mural, like many others painted in this period, was destroyed.
In the Southwest, Chicano muralistas inspired by the work of Mexicans began painting works which depicted the oppression of Chicanos as well. Wall paintings and posters filled the Chicano barrios of the 1930’s, just as many such paintings have been made by Chicano artists today. The corridos too took on a proletarian character as songs were written by strikers to tell of their hardships and victories and to pass on the lessons of those struggles to others. Mexican immigrants too wrote of their oppression and their struggles, such as the corrido, “El Enganchado” which tells of a migrant worker in the town and camps of the Southwest.
But most important was the growth in class consciousness among the Chicano workers. The multinational character of the work force in most of the industries in the Southwest brought Chicanos together with workers of other nationalities. It brought them into unions like the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing and Allied Workers – made up of Filipinos, Arabs, Blacks, Anglo-Americans, and of course, Chicanos. There they took part together with other workers in struggles against the capitalists and made leaflets, wrote poems, painted posters, and composed songs and skits telling of their struggles. They came into contact with socialist ideas and some began to apply those ideas to their lives, beginning to break down barriers between men and women and workers of the oppressed nation and oppressor nation. But this process had only just begun.
THE RISE OF THE CONTEMPORARY CHICANO NATIONAL MOVEMENT
During World War II, Chicanos migrated from the Southwest to industrial centers in the Midwest and California. They entered the military and fought in the imperialist war, encountering great racism in the ranks of the army. In the barrios, Chicanos were subjected to the most barbarous oppression and discrimination. In some cities of Texas and Colorado they could not enter public pools or movie theaters except once a week on “Mexican Day.” In Los Angeles, sailors attacked Chicano youth in the Zoot Suit Riots and were egged on by the press. When a young Chicano was killed in Los Angeles in 1942, the press fanned suspicions of ‘gang warfare’ among Chicano youth from different barrios and 17 Chicanos were paraded before a court and then marched off to prison. This famous “Sleepy Lagoon Case” as it was called, was nothing more than a racist attack on the Chicano people and it was seen as that all over the world. A committee (the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee) was formed to defend the accused and received support from Chicanos in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and even in battlefields in the Philippines and Guam.
After the war, barrio defense committees were formed all over the Southwest to defend Chicanos against attacks by the police in their communities and to provide legal defense for Chicano youth charged with assault on police officers when they tried to defend themselves against these terrorist attacks.
When the troops came home after the war, Chicano veterans, sickened by the contradiction of fighting for democracy abroad when there was national oppression at home, began to take up the fight against discrimination against Chicanos. Organizations like the American G.I. Forum (a Chicano veterans organization), the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), and the Unity Leagues and Community Service Organization (CSO) in California formed in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. These groups fought for political representation of Chicanos in the Southwest, organized voter registration drives, fought to end gerrymandering of districts (which divided Chicano barrios politically so that in no single voting district would Chicanos represent a majority), and backed candidates which supported their programs.
In the years between 1940 and 1965 the Chicano movement was led by the reformists, particularly the petty-bourgeoisie forces which sought assimilation into the Anglo-American nation. Positively, these groups took up many struggles of Chicanos for democratic rights. But the struggle for reforms and for democracy was never connected to the struggle against capitalism. The period of McCarthyism and the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950’s brought many Chicano activists to wrap themselves in the ‘American’ flag to protect themselves against persecution. So, for example, the Chicano vets group called itself the American GI Forum. Abandoning most of its illegal apparatus (such as cells of the party in the factories and mass organizations), the CPUSA took up the “peaceful path to socialism” of legislative reforms and petitions. The “peaceful” road was nothing less than class collaboration and represented the real effort of these agents of the bourgeoisie to steer the working class and national movements away from revolution and to insure that they would remain the slaves of the imperialists. The actions of the CPUSA followed step-by-step the seizure of power in the Soviet Union by revisionists that have dismantled the workers’ state and restored capitalism there. As the restoration of capitalism took place in the USSR and as state monopoly capitalism developed in the Soviet Union, the CPUSA increasingly stripped itself of all ties with Marxism-Leninism, firmly consolidating as a revisionist party by 1960. Despite these setbacks, revolution proved to be the main trend in the U.S. and the world.
The mid-1960’s saw the rise of revolutionary movements all over the world. The liberation forces in China led by Mao Tse Tung had thrown out the puppets of the imperialists and begun the road to socialist reconstruction. In the 1950’s Korea, Indo-China, Cuba and much of the African continent had risen up against imperialism and colonialism. By 1960 the U.S. was taking steps to march into Indo-China and by the mid-1960’s, U.S. troops were actively suppressing the just struggle of the Vietnamese people for their national liberation. In China, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was waging, led by Mao Tse Tung against the forces in the Party that would have held back the revolution and steered it down the road of capitalist restoration.
In the U.S., the struggle of the Afro-American nation was boiling. Black students in the heart of the Afro-American nation began the sit-in movements to take up the fight against racist segregation and the most vile forms of oppression. Students, Black and White, from the north, came in busloads to the South to join the struggle and lend their material assistance to the struggle against the armed rule of the imperialists in the South through the present-day descendants of the old slave masters and plantation owners. As the war intensified and billions of dollars were poured into the imperialists’ futile attempt to save ‘their’ puppet regime in South Vietnam, the oppression and exploitation of the working masses, especially the oppressed nationalities, increased and their resistance burned in fires of rebellion in every major urban center of the country as well as in the Black Belt South. From the national movements and anti-war movement came such groups as the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords Party, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, I Wor Kuen, the Brown Berets, and many other organizations.
In the Southwast, the growing revolutionary upheaval world-wide shook loose the national movement from the hands of the comprador bourgeoisie and class collaborationist petty-bourgeoisie. The revolutionary peasantry, intelligentsia, petty-bourgeoisie and most importantly, the proletariat, began to steer the direction of the national movement away from reformism and towards revolution. Student groups like UMAS (United Mexican American Students) and MAYO (Mexican American Youth Organization) and later MECHA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano De Aztlan) grew up on the campuses to fight for increased Chicano enrollment and for programs that would be geared to serving the Chicano communities. In New Mexico, the campesinos (Chicano peasantry) once again took up the struggle for land and their armed revolts were suppressed only with the use of tanks, helicopters and several divisions of the national guard armed with automatic weapons.
The Alianza Federal De Mercedes based in northern New Mexico and led by Reis Lopez Tijerina, pulled together Chicano peasants in growing numbers, reaching a membership of 60,000 at its peak. The Alianza issued proclamations in New Mexico declaring that the “U.S.A. Has Not Title for New Mexico” and that “All Spanish and Indian Pueblos are Free Forever.” The Alianza movement flew in the face of the reformists and the revisionist CPUSA who were telling Chicano peasants to put their faith in the good judgments of the imperialists who would certainly compensate them for the loss of their lands or telling them to rely in liberal Democrats that would oppose the monopoly ‘policies’ of the imperialist owned corporations that owned the mines, lumbering areas, water rights, and land of the Southwest. Willing to re-take the land by armed struggle if necessary, the campesinos of New Mexico and their struggle shines as a powerful example to the entire Chicano nation and for that reason it had to be stopped. Using all the powers of the state apparatus (the FBI, courts, legislature, etc.) they attacked the Alianza and jailed its leadership. But as present struggles in New Mexico have shown, they would not be able to stop the revolutionary character of that movement or stop the aspirations of the oppressed masses for liberation.
Groups like the Brown Berets and Black Berets also began to form in the Chicano nation and in urban centers outside of it. Chicano youth, influenced by the revolution in Cuba and by the growth of such forces as the Black Panther Party, formed these groups to patrol the barrios, to protect the Chicano communities from attacks by the police and to put a stop to the fights between Chicano youth from rival barrios. Most significant of these organizations was the Black Berets of Albuquerque, New Mexico, that published a Twelve-Point Program which called for “Self-Determination and Liberation For All Chicanos in the U.S.A.” (Point 1) and “Community Control of Our Institutions and Land” (Point 3). Forces like the Berets supported the struggle of the campesinos and took up opposition to the imperialist war demanding: “U.S.A. Out of Vietnam, Latin America, and Aztlan!” (Point 6) In their Program the Black Berets was one of the First contemporary Chicano groups to raise as a principle the struggle against capitalism and to uphold armed self-defense and armed struggle “as the only means to liberation.”
In Denver, the Crusade for Justice led by Corky Gonzales played a leading role in bringing together activists from all over the Southwest to discuss the direction for the Chicano national movement. Organized first to take up the struggle for democratic rights of Chicanos in Denver, the Crusade quickly found that even these struggles would be suppressed by the imperialists and their police thugs who several times attacked Crusade members and ransacked the offices. In the early 1970’s it hosted a series of Youth Conferences in which students and youth from all over the country came to discuss the struggle for Chicano liberation. Out of these conferences came cohesion of the national movement and its consciousness of itself as a revolutionary movement struggling for national liberation. For the first time people all over the Southwest began calling themselves Chicano and connecting it to an oppressed nation. In the Plan de Aztlan, which came out of the first National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in March 1969, Chicanos declared themselves a nation struggling to be “autonomous and free.”
Out of these first conferences came a commitment to break with the two-party system and to form an independent political party, EI Partido de La Raza Unida. La Raza Unida Party caught on like a wild-fire throughout all of the Southwest. In South Texas, Jose Angel Gutierrez led students from MAYO in building the Partido there. In the overwhelmingly Chicano “Winter-Garden” area of Texas, the Partido won many electoral victories and soon Chicanos were organizing chapters in Denver, Albuquerque, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, and many other major cities in and out of the Southwest.
The struggle for leadership of La Raza Unida Party gave rise to great struggle within the organization to determine the path that the party and the whole Chicano movement would take. Two-lines emerged in that struggle. On the one hand stood the reformists – many of them poverty Pimps – who wanted to make the Partido an electoral party and place all emphasis on wheeling-and-dealing with the Democrats and Republicans and on electing Chicanos to office. On the other hand stood the Marxist-Leninists and revolutionary nationalists who sought to make the party a fighting organization that would stand up to every form of oppression and prepare the masses for armed struggle to overthrow the rule of the imperialists.
The progressive forces of LRUP sought to base the partido in the proletariat and to support and organize the struggles of the proletariat. Many Chicanos, especially in California, began their political activity through support work for the United Farm Workers, correctly seeing the struggle of the farm workers as part of a national movement. What was not then realized was that the farmworkers of California, Arizona, and South Texas represented a rural proletariat and that their struggle was also part of the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Under the leadership of such forces as the Labor Committee of LRUP in Los Angeles, the leading role of the proletariat was now opened discussed and recognized by the progressive sectors of the partido. Labor committees and collectives were formed in California and in the heart of the Chicano Nation, New Mexico. These forces actively took up the struggles of Chicano workers in factories and fields in their areas.
One struggle which the Marxist-Leninists in LRUP took up and popularized in and out of the Southwest was the Farah Strike. In EI Paso and later in New Mexico, thousands of workers walked off work and began a struggle for union recognition that lasted for two years. Mostly Chicana (Chicano women) the strike was significant not only because it was the struggle to unionize the Chicano Nation (where so-called “right to work laws” and the brutality of the Texas and Arizona rangers have been used to crush union drives), but also because it meant that throughout the country (especially outside of the Chicano nation) that workers and students of all nationalities joined in support work for the strike. For its part LRUP (through the Labor Committee) formed support committees to agitate about the strike, to raise oppression of the Chicano people, and the significance of the struggle against national oppression. (The chauvinist Revolutionary Union – now the RCP – also set up such committees but diluted agitation by refusing to expose imperialism as the enemy, refusing to raise the right of self-determination, even though at that time they “recognized the existence” of a Chicano Nation, and refusing to link the Farah strike to the struggle for liberation of the oppressed nation and to proletarian revolution.)
The Farah Strike was also significant because it exposed the role of U.S. imperialism in Mexico and the oppression of the border region. After the Revolution of 1910 in Mexico many of the major corporations owned by the U.S. in Mexico were nationalized, such as the holdings of Standard Oil which became PEMEX (the Mexican national petroleum corporation). But U.S. imperialism continued to restrict the development of the Mexican economy and to control major sectors of it by use of Presta-Nombres (corporations owned by the U.S. but operated by Mexican nationals under Mexican incorporation laws). So U.S. imperialism continues to hold sway in automobile production, electrical energy, finance, etc. U.S. imperialism also has purchased huge stretches of land (such as Anderson Clayton and Co.) on which crops are grown and harvested using large-scale production techniques for export to the U.S.
Increasing proletarianization of the Mexican peasantry has meant huge immigration to the U.S. which during times of boom have been encouraged only to be stopped (and in fact for wholesale deportations to take place) during times of economic crisis and recession. During the 1930’s between 550,000 and 750,000 Mexicans (and many Chicanos) were deported; and in the first five years of the 1970’s (during the post-Vietnam recession) 4 million have been deported. The imperialists have used the Mexican people as an important sector of the reserve army of labor which all capitalists need. The importation of Mexican labor has driven down wages in the Southwest, been used to stop unionization drives, and to help them out during times of ‘labor shortage’ (especially during imperialist war when much of the working class is off dying for the profits and expansion of power of the imperialists).
The imperialists formalized the importation of Mexicans under the Bracero Program. When that came to an end, in the mid-1960’s the Border Industrial Program began. Under the BIP, U.S. corporations have set up about 400 assembly plants within 12 miles of the border where they can take advantage of the low cost of labor (about $4.00 a day) and reap huge super-profits (profits over and above what they could make if the same goods were produced by Anglo-American workers). During the Farah strike capitalist owner Willie Farah threatened to close down his plants and ‘runaway’ to Mexico or some part of the world if the union drive succeeded. He attempted to import Mexican workers and hire undocumented workers (so-called ‘illegal aliens’). But the consciousness of the workers in Mexico was such that many Mexican workers refused to scab on their Chicano sisters and brothers. Mexican workers (mostly women) in a paint factory in Mexico that was also on strike even sent a statement of solidarity to strikers in El Paso.
Just as the oppression of the Vietnamese people and the U.S. aggression in Vietnam by U.S. imperialism brought thousands upon thousands of students and workers to take to the streets in opposition to the war (such as the great anti-imperialist demonstration, the National Chicano Moratorium of August 29th 1970 in East Los Angeles), the Chicano people have rallied to the side of the Mexican people to oppose deportations. National Moratoriums have been organized against deportations and thousands have marched against the brutal oppression of the ‘inmigrante sin papeles’ (undocumented immigrant workers).
The demonstrations against the war, against deportations, against police brutality, have been heroic stands by the Chicano people against imperialism. But these spontaneous struggles alone cannot bring an end to the exploitation of the Chicano people and the oppression of the working masses. The lack of a genuine Communist Party during the upheavals and rebellions of the 1960’s meant that the revolutionary potential of the Chicano national movement was not realized. The powerful anti-imperialist struggle of the Chicano nation for liberation was not joined with the struggle of the multi-national working class for the overthrow of the rule of the imperialists and the establishment of socialism.
Rather than being guided by the only science of the working class and oppressed masses, Marxism-Leninism, the Chicano national movement of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s was guided by the bourgeois ideology of cultural nationalism. While raising the call for self-determination, many of the leaders of the Chicano movement gutted its revolutionary essence by interpreting it to mean community control. The Chicano petty-bourgeoisie and intellectuals led the national movement toward partial reforms rather than resolution. They restricted the struggle solely to a fight for more Chicano professionals (doctors, lawyers, teachers, even small businesses) and general fought for their own class interests rather than for the class interests of the masses of working people. Just as the reformists of Lenin’s day in the Second International called for cultural autonomy (i.e., control of cultural and educational institutions). The nationalists fought for Chicano schools, hospitals, media, and businesses – even for Chicano police, while leaving intact the real class relations under capitalism. For Chicano workers it does not matter whether the capitalist that exploits them is Chicano, Afro-American, or White, the class relations between capitalist and worker remain the same and the only path to end that exploitation remains the same – the overthrow of the wage-slavery system!
Although revolution was always talked about, in fact reformism was the path actively taken by many nationalists. While stating “nationalism is the key to organization and transcends all religions, political, class and economic factions or boundaries” (EI Plan de Aztlan), the nationalists made deals with the imperialists (such as the Texas LRUP bartering with the Nixon-backers to exchange votes for Nixon for a medical clinic) and drove wedges between the Chicano and Anglo-American worker. Chicanos were told that the ‘gringo’ was the enemy and could not be trusted and that the only form of organization must be national. The proletariat, however, has not been fooled by such schemes.
While the reformist nationalists have been exposed to the Chicano masses through the process of their treachery, many reformists now have taken up the disguise of Marxism to hide their real nationalist and reformist leanings. Groups like CASA, for example, attempt to hold back the desires of the advanced for a genuine communist party made of all nationalities that can lead the struggle of the working class and oppressed nationalities to victorious proletarian revolution. Instead, they tell the working class that they are not ready for multi-national forms of organization (this despite the fact that the Chicano proletariat has been the leading force historically in the Southwest in forming multi-national organizations, especially trade unions). The modem-day nationalists of CASA tell Chicanos that what is needed is a “Mexican Party” (under CASA’s distorted view of the world Chicanos don’t exist and the Chicano movement is a CIA front). These nationalists are being rejected by the most class conscious revolutionaries who do desire socialist revolution and who realize that it can only be accomplished under the leadership of a multi-national communist party.
The narrow nationalists saw that culture was playing an important role in the national movement and sought to maintain and develop Chicano culture. However, their class stand made it impossible for them to distinguish between revolutionary and reactionary aspects of Chicano culture – instead, all were embraced. The reactionary male supremacist notion of machismo, for example, was held up as an ideal for the Chicano movement. Women were objectively held back in Chicano organizations from leadership despite the fact that they formed the backbone of many Chicano groups (particularly on the campuses). Chicanas courageously stood up to this male supremacy in the Chicano national movement and demanded that the role of women in that movement be transformed into a revolutionary one. Groups like Las Hijas de Cuahtemoc and La Comision Feminil Mexicana were organized to take up the struggle against oppression of Chicanas. Conferences were organized and statewide and region-wide groups formed to lead that struggle. In the absence of a revolutionary position on the woman’s question, many Chicanas began to see men as the enemy and (particularly petty-bourgeois feminists) began to demand more Chicana bureaucrats, government officials, even capitalists. However, the struggles of working class women, such as the Farah strike, helped many working class Chicanas to see that their triple oppression (as women, as members of an oppressed nation, and as members of the working class) can only be won through socialist revolution.
The tremendous and powerful struggles of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s began to wane by 1972, peaking with the anti-war march and rally of August 29th 1970. But the oppression of the Chicano nation and the Chicano national minority living outside of the nation continues to give rise to resistance and the struggle has once again picked up throughout the Southwest and in the barrios of California and Chicago. The struggle against police terrorism has developed stride by stride with the attempts of the imperialists to shift the present economic crisis on the backs of the working class and to intensify the oppression of the oppressed nationalities and women. The growing danger of war between the two superpowers and of fascism at home has meant that the imperialists have unleashed their own armed thugs, the police, to terrorize working class and oppressed nationality communities and to insure the continued oppression and exploitation of the Chicano nation and the Afro-American nation.
This oppression has meant the rise of such groups as the Danny Trevino Committee to Stop Police Brutality in San Jose, the Coalition Against Police Crimes in Oakland, the Coalition Against Police Abuse in Los Angeles to oppose police terrorism and take up the fight to defend Chicano and working class communities against these attacks. In the Southwest, in the heart of the Chicano Nation, we’ve seen the formation of groups like La Federacion which are once again leading the struggle for land on a revolutionary path. We’ve seen the upsurge of revolutionary forces in the Southwest, such as the historic Alamosa Conference of January, 1976 which took up the revolutionary demands of “Government Unity of the Southwest!” and “Confiscation of Land and Natural Resources owned by the Bourgeoisie of the Oppressor Nation!” We are witnessing too the growth of the revolutionary student movement, such as Fuerzas Revolucionarias de Aztlan (FRA) which is taking an active role in supporting the struggles of the peasantry and proletariat. And we’ve seen too the rise of proletarian struggle in the Southwest and the growing revolutionary sentiments of the proletariat of the Chicano nation.
In this period too we’ve seen the rise of a Chicano culture in the Southwest that places emphasis on the democratic and progressive features of culture and which reflects the revolutionary aspirations of the masses. Corridos have been written (by such composers as Rumel Fuentes) glorifying the accomplishments of the UFW, of La Raza Unida Party, and of the Alianza. Some of the best known of these are “Yo Soy Chicano,” “Corrido de Aztlan” “Corrido Chicano,” and “La Bamba Chicana” which tell the story of the Chicano and Mexican people and which call for the liberation of the Chicano nation (“Aztlan”). Many revolutionary poems have been written by Chicano activists (such as “Yo Soy Joaquin” by Corky Gonzales) and Chicano teatro groups such as the early Teatro Campesino, Teatro de la Gente and Teatro Del Barrio of Chicago have written and performed actos (skits) which describe the struggles of the Chicano people. Chicano artists have painted murals and posters which tell the history of the Chicano people. Chicano artists Malaquias and Juan Fuentes have made many posters for the Chicano movement which have shown the anti-imperialist character of the Chicano national movement, posters like the one by Malaquias which called for unity between the Vietnamese and Chicano people.
Even the term “Chicano” itself came to be used throughout the Southwest really for the first time only in this period. The use of one name to describe the people and the use of “Aztlan” to describe the Chicano nation played an important role in influencing the common psychological make-up of the people at this time for them to consciously see themselves as an oppressed nation struggling for its liberation.
Led by Chicanas the struggle against machismo has also influenced the Chicano national movement and has made the revolutionary bond between men and women within the ranks of the national movement much stronger. By no means is the struggle against male supremacy ended. It has only just begun. But the process is strengthening the ranks of that national movement to permit Chicanas to take their place as active participants and leaders of the struggle for liberation and socialism.
THE TERRITORY OF THE CHICANO NATION
The earliest settlements of Spanish were in the Rio Grande Valley. Only sparse settlements were made in California, along the coast, and in South Texas. By the time of the War of 1846, when the Southwest was taken by the United States, 80% of the hispanic population lived in what was then the territory of New Mexico. It was in this territory that historically the population has lived in a compact mass and has made up a majority of the area. In northern and Eastern Texas the majority population after 1821 was always Anglo-American, while in California the Mexican population represented about 75% of the population in 1846, where less than 5 years later it was only 13%.
Throughout the region, Chicanos have formed a stable community that continues to have close ties to the land. Despite immigration from Mexico and of Anglo-Americans into the Southwest, the Chicano people living in the territory can often trace back their generations living in the same general vicinity for more than five generations. This is especially true in northern New Mexico and Colorado (the San Luis Valley). Migration from Mexico has been concentrated in California and Texas. In New Mexico only the southeastern and south central mining areas have attracted large numbers of Mexican, immigrants. In both Colorado and New Mexico over 80% of the Chicano population in the census reports of the last three decades were natives of the state born to parents who were native to the state. Only about 4% of the population of these two states was born in Mexico and in Texas it was about 1 out of 6 in 1960. (Grebler, pg. 107)
While imperialism has developed large irrigation and agricultural lands in some parts of New Mexico and Colorado, it has been at the expense of the campesinos in those states and has meant that many campesinos have been forced to migrate from their rural homes to urban centers of production. Between 1950 and 1960, for example, the rural Chicano population in the Southwest as a whole declined only slightly but in New Mexico it fell by 23% and in Colorado by 17%. Not only has the migration been from the rural areas to the cities, it has also been to industrial centers outside of the Chicano nation – particularly the West Coast (California) and Midwest (especially Chicago). This migration out of the Southwest as well as the influx of Anglo-Americans has increased. This does not mean that the Chicano nation ceases to exist (just as migration from Mexico, Puerto Rico, or the Afro-American nation does not destroy those nations). Nor does it increase the size of the Chicano nation (unlike the line of CASA or PSP which attempts to convince us that wherever Mexicans or Puerto Ricans migrate the Mexican nation or Puerto Rican nation exists).
The Southwest has large areas which are only sparsely populated (for example in Arizona and New Mexico – particularly the northern parts). It is in many of these areas that the Chicano peasantry continue to exist and to attempt to eke out a living from land farmed by their ancestors from many generations. In 1960 there were only four counties in the entire Southwest with close to or more than 100,000 Chicanos living there (this excludes Los Angeles County which is outside of the Chicano nation). These are EI Paso, Bexar County (San Antonio), Cameron County (with Bronsville), and Hidalgo County (see attached map).
In 1970 the Chicano population in the entire Southwestern part of Texas was over 50% in every county but three. In New Mexico from Dona Ana County northward to Archuleta, Conejos, Costilla, and Huerfano counties of Colorado and westwards to Greenlee county in the Eastern section of Arizona, the same is true. Bordering these counties where the majority population is Chicano and which represent more or less a continuous area are many more counties with populations of about 20%-50%. In this area alone the population is 1.7 million and is over 60% Chicano.
Several urban centers lie on the edges of this core region of the Chicano nation, such as Tuscon in Pima County, Denver and Pueblo, Colorado, San Antonio and Corpus Christi. Each plays an important role in the economy of the area and has strong ties to the rural areas of the region.
This general description of territory of the Chicano nation makes no attempt to specify its borders or to limit the territory only to those areas of majority population. The Southwest was taken at the force of arms and it will be the force of the toiling masses of the Chicano nation that will determine the exact area in which the call for self-determination would be exercised.
ECONOMIC LIFE OF THE CHICANO NATION
Having ripped the Southwest out of the hands of Mexico, the U.S. capitalist class quickly set out to develop it, and in the era of imperialism built there great railroad lines, transportation systems, means of communication, etc. This meant the development of select urban areas (such as Albuquerque and EI Paso) as centers for commerce within the Chicano nation and through them with the imperialist centers on the West and East Coasts. Traditional trade centers such as Taos fell by the wayside and the isolation of towns under semi-feudalism was broken and a network of trade relations and divisions of labor between small towns and rural areas and between large cities and small towns were established. The three most important urban centers in the Chicano nation (from the standpoint of connecting the region economically) are Tuscon, Albuquerque, and EI Paso. EI Paso is especially important because of its location on the border next to the large commercial center of Ciudad Juarez. This has meant the development of strong ties between the two oppressed nations, the Chicano nation and Mexico, and particularly between the Mexican and Chicano proletariats which are usually employed by the very same imperialist corporations and exploited and oppressed by the same enemy. The Chamber of Commerce of EI Paso, for example, estimates its immediate market at 1.8 million consumers living in West Texas, Southern New Mexico, Southern Arizona, and the Mexican State of Chihuahua. (EI Paso Area Fact Book, Sec. IX, pg. 1)
The imperialists dominate all major aspects of the economy of the Chicano nation. An example is the New Mexico and Arizona Land Company. Owned by the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (The Frisco), the land holding company was established in 1890 from land grants by the old Atlantic & Pacific Railway. The “Frisco” holds 50% of the landholdings of the company (totaling 1.4 million acres) and is one of the largest absentee landowners in the Chicano nation. Owning mineral rights to this huge area (twice the size of the state of Rhode Island), for years it granted exclusive exploration rights to the Arkansas-Louisiana Gas Co. on the land. In Arizona, Arkla found and has developed deposits of potash, copper, molybdenum and uranium. Since 1970 exploration on NM & AL Co. holdings have been extended to other giants of mining and energy. A Phelps Dodge subsidiary (Western Nuclear) recently discovered deposits of about one-half million pounds of uranium oxide. In western New Mexico the company owns coal reserves totaling 160-million tons. To develop the reserves the Peabody Coal Co. is using slurry pipeline from Black Mesa to Four Corners which is draining the entire region of its limited water table. The process requires 2500 gallons of water per minute in an area that is mostly desert. Finally, the NM & AL Co. owns 600,000 acres of land which it leases (at a per acre fee) to individuals and corporations for cattle grazing. (Rowen, pg. 17-18)
The Chicano nation is extremely rich in minerals. In New Mexico alone, in 1970 mineral production was over $1 billion and increased $138 million from the year before. Production of petroleum reached 130.3 million barrels (each 42 gallons) worth $420 million and 1,117 billion cubic feet of natural gas valued at $162 million. It ranks number one in the U.S. in production of uranium, potash, and perlite and ranks high in production of natural, petroleum, copper and molybdenum. Its mine fields are owned by Phelps Dodge, Anaconda, Kennecott and Kaiser Gypsum among other giants while its petroleum and coal reserves are owned by Exxon, Tenneco, Standard Oil, etc.
While the imperialists monopolize the natural resources and land of the Chicano nation (along with banking and industry), a small but influential Chicano bourgeoisie exists in the Chicano nation. Having risen with the imperialists they serve the interests of imperialism. This bourgeoisie has close ties with the imperialists politically (as for example Romona Bunelos as Treasurer under the Nixon regime). Existing inside as well as outside of the Southwest, its foothold in the barrios of the Southwest allows for very limited access to the home market of the Chicano nation (as well as to barrios outside of the Southwest) and has focused in on “Chicano” banks (such as the Pan-American Bank) as well as Spanish-language media, production of Chicano foods, etc. But even here the market is dominated by the imperialists (as for example INASCO’s marketing of frozen and canned Mexican foods through S&W and Toltec Tortilla factory or Heublein, Inc. production of canned and frozen foods through Ortega Chiles).
With very few exceptions the Chicano bourgeoisie is really a petty-bourgeoisie and most of its holdings are in retail and wholesale trade and construction rather than manufacturing or banking. Of the Chicano owned businesses in 1969, only 50 employed more than 50 employees and only 15 employed more than 100. (Minority-owned Businesses, pg. 148-150) In contract construction there were just under 400 firms with gross receipts of more than $100,000, eight of which earned more than a million. In manufacturing just over 200 firms with gross receipts of over $100,000 and 12 had more than $1 million. (Ibid., pg. 156) In finance there were 85 with over $100,000 and 4 with more than a million in gross receipts. Throughout the Chicano nation there are about 30,000 Chicano owned firms with another 23,000 in California. Gross revenues (excluding California) total just under $900,000,000. (Ibid., pg. 72-73) As is quickly apparent the holdings of the Chicano petty-bourgeoisie and bourgeois form only a drop in the bucket to the billions of dollars extracted from the mines and oil fields of the Southwest and the huge super-profits taken up by the imperialists by their exploitation of the Chicano working class.
The Chicano peasantry lives mostly in northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado but there are also many small farmers in the South Texas area. The land is poorly irrigated and only sparsely populated in these areas. In Tierra Amarilla, a mountain village in Northern New Mexico, for example, there are only about 300 residents but it has been the center of struggles of the peasantry as shown by the Alianza in 1967 and La Federacion right now. Costilla County of Colorado, particularly San Luis Valley, has also become a center of struggle over land. There the ‘Association’ has taken up the struggle against the Taylor Ranch (which lays claim to over 77,500 acres of communal lands) and absentee landlords, such as the Arizona Land and Cattle Company (which also owns the Alamosa National Bank and Baca Grande).
The land struggle between the peasantry and the imperialists is also intensifying in the Grants Mineral Belt which stretches from Albuquerque to Gallup. In this area (which belongs to the Native Americans), over 50% of the uranium supply of the U.S. is located and the region is being torn up by Gulf, Exxon, Conoco, and Anaconda. In small towns such as Marquez, grazing lands and farm lands are slowly being eroded and the entire area is being surrounded by mining construction. Recently tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency have found dangerous levels of radioactivity in the area’s water supply – levels which make the water unfit for livestock or irrigation. (Guardian, March 31, 1976. Dec. 21).
Through the State and federal government, millions of acres of land in the Southwest has been transferred to the imperialists. National Forests (while closed for use to the Chicano peasantry) are handed over to the timber industry or mining industry. The Bureau of Indian Affairs also works hand-in-hand with the imperialists to make certain they reap huge super-profits from the exploitation of the native peoples of the region. On the gigantic Navajo reservation which overlaps the borders of four states of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah, is a case in point. While only one in three Navajo homes have electrical lighting and only one in five have running water, the imperialists have built several coal gassification plants (each is one hundred times larger than the average gassification facility) to burn Navajo coal and pollute Navajo water while carrying electricity to Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque and Los Angeles. (Awkesanne Notes, Early Spring, 1976, pgs. 22-23)
As with the Chicano people, the construction of mines and utilities on native lands has intensified the struggles of the native peoples. While a small strata of the native people have become wealthy off the gassification plants, the average income of the Navajo people is $900 per year. The mines and factories built on native lands to take advantage of the high unemployment of the area has meant the rise of proletarians among the native people and has connected the struggle for land of the native people in the Southwest with the proletarian movement (witness the recent take-over of a Fairchild plant on reservation land by Native American revolutionaries during a strike).
The tremendous oppression of the Chicano people in the Southwest means that in many sections of New Mexico – particularly in Mora County which is 94.6% Chicano – over half the families in the area live at below poverty level. Counties such as Rio Arriba, Taos, San Miguel and Mora have unemployment rates triple the national average. Similar conditions exist in South Texas where Chicanos represent more than 60% of the population. Throughout the core region of the Chicano nation the average family income in 1970 was less than $3,000. In Brownsville for example, the average annual income in 1975 was $2,413; in McAllen it was $2,574; in Laredo it was $2,488; in Hidalgo County (75% Chicano) it was less than $3,000 with a per capita annual income of only $625!! (LA Times, June 9, 1975)
The imperialists have used the Texas Rangers, the national guard, police dogs, and riot squads, mace and bullets, injunctions, and anti-worker ‘right-to-work’ laws throughout the Chicano nation to break strikes and cripple the trade union movement. Even so they have not been able to defeat the proletarian movement there. As the Farah Strike taught workers throughout the Southwest, the struggle to unionize the Southwest is on the rise. Workers in ports and oil fields of Southeast Texas, in the mines of New Mexico and Arizona and the large farms of agribusiness as well as the garment and electronics industry along the border have intensified union struggles.
Outside of the Chicano nation, the Chicano national minority is highly urbanized. In 1950 throughout the country as a whole, 60% of the Chicano people lived in urban areas; by 1960 the ratio was 7 out of 10, today it is about 3 out of 4. Highly proletarianized, the Chicano people living in and out of the Southwest are found in basic industries – steel, auto production, petro-chemical, mining, etc. Chicanos make up 32% of all steelworkers in the eleven Western states and account for one-third of the membership of District 6 of the UAW (Arizona, Utah and California). In addition, Chicanos work in meat packing, transportation, warehouse and longshore, construction, garment, electronics, and aerospace industries. Chicanas too are highly proletarianized. Of the almost two million Chicanas 16 or over in the five Southwestern states, 40% are in the labor force. One out of every four Chicanas (Chicano women) works as an operative or transportation worker; about the same number work as clerical workers, and one out of five works as a service worker. In urban areas in the Southwest Chicanas are concentrated in the canneries and garment and textile industries. (Arroyo, pg. 20, pg. 24; Nieto-Gomez, pg. 357)
Within the Chicano nation the imperialist monopoly of the land and natural resources and the intense oppression and continual resistance of the peasantry has made the land question a burning one in the region. The Chicano bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie have shown their incapacity to lead the national movement. They have either openly sided with the imperialists in the oppression and exploitation of the Chicano people or they have capitulated to that oppression in the hopes of themselves escaping its brutalities. Only the Chicano peasantry and the proletariat will deal resolutely with the land question in the Southwest. It is the task of communists to lead the struggle for land in the Southwest against the imperialists and provide a revolutionary solution to the land question. The new communist party will ultimately lead this struggle to the successful overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat – laying the real basis for “solving” the national question.
LANGUAGE OF THE CHICANO PEOPLE
Since the Spanish colonized the Southwest, the Spanish language became the dominant language of the region – even many natives were forced to learn Spanish by the missionaries and to adopt Spanish surnames (to this day many Navajos, Zunis, and Pueblos have Spanish surnames and some are tri-lingual, speaking their native tongue, some Spanish, and English). Spanish reached dominance in the area with the growth of trade between Taos and Chihuahua and its importance as the language of commerce. By the 1830’s the use of the English language was becoming more common in the area as a small group of merchants and traders came to New Mexico and Colorado and as English began to rise as the language of commerce. Still, however, Spanish remained the dominant language. After the war of 1846 and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 the use of English increased significantly in the Southwest (mostly because of increased influx of Anglo-American settlers). With the establishment of the Bureau of Indian Affairs near the end of the last century, English rather than Spanish became the language of instruction on all native reservations.
Of all the areas of the Southwest, New Mexico retained its use of Spanish the most completely in the period of imperialist expansion into the Southwest. By the 1876 the first public schools were established in the state, soon there were 133 of which 111 were conducted in Spanish, 12 in both Spanish and English, and only 10 in English. By contrast, in Texas, Spanish language instruction was practically non-existent (except for the ricos who set up their own schools or sent their children to be educated in parochial schools in Mexico). For the masses of tejanos “English Only” was the rule and children were often beaten or expelled from school when they spoke Spanish.
Because of the stable nature of the Chicano population in New Mexico (firmly rooted to the soil) Spanish predominated among the population while both English and Spanish were used within the state government. It was not until 1915 that the first English only trial was held in the state. In the 1930’s at the same time the Chicano petty-bourgeoisie through LULAC was organizing ‘American’ citizens groups and requiring the use of the English language in their meetings, Senator Chavez of New Mexico pushed for English only education in public schools. This has meant too, a slow but still apparent decline in the Spanish-language newspapers and printed materials in the area.
Because of the increased Anglo-American population in the Southwest and because of the enforced use of English by Chicanos, English is now the dominant language of the region. However, it is not the dominant language within the Chicano population of the region. Spanish continues to be the language of the people of the Chicano nation. In fact, the Spanish language population has actually increased in the Southwest since the 1930’s. In Northern New Mexico, and Southern Colorado, for example, 80% of the Chicano population is Spanish-speaking and in the 1970 census 69% of the Chicano population in the region listed Spanish as their mother tongue. In Texas and Arizona, 91% of the Chicano population reported their native language as Spanish. In the core of the Chicano nation, Spanish is the dominant language of 85% of the Chicano population. The imperialists have tried hard to wipe out the use of Spanish among the Chicano people. In Texas (which is more influenced by Mexican immigration than New Mexico), Spanish is prohibited on school grounds. This rule applies not only to students, but also to teachers, deliverymen, custodians, cafeteria workers, etc. (who in South Texas are usually Chicano). As recently as 1970 a Chicano teacher in Crystal City, Texas was indicted for conducting a high school history class in Spanish. Despite the fact that the case was later dismissed, law prohibiting the use of Spanish remain in effect. (The Excluded Student, pg. 15)
In many sections of the Southwest the majority of children entering public education speak little or no English. In 1967 in seven counties of South Texas for example, 70% of the Chicano population could speak only Spanish when they began school. (Moore, pg. 122) This fact, coupled with the brutal oppression of Chicanos and the suppression of the Spanish language has made the struggle to use Spanish in the schools an important one in the Southwest and outside of it. Thousands of students have walked out all over the nation demanding bilingual-bicultural education, demanding the right to use Spanish as their own language in the schools and to be educated in that language.
The petty-bourgeoisie have attempted to divert the struggle for the democratic right to use Spanish on an equal footing with English solely to the struggle for bilingual education – and equated that struggle with a struggle for more Spanish-speaking teachers, lawyers, doctors, etc. As for bilingual education, the imperialists make use of it solely for the purpose of phasing out Spanish and replacing it with English rather than placing both on an equal status. Thus, Chicano children can learn subjects in Spanish their first year and then slowly learn English until their fifth year when they are expected to be operating in an English only environment.
While the petty-bourgeoisie are concentrating on small reforms, the revolutionary elements of the petty-bourgeoisie and intellectuals have connected the struggle for the right to use Spanish to the struggle for the right to self-determination. Groups like the Crusade for Justice have put forward that Spanish is the language of the Chicano nation and Chicanos have the right to use it and practice it. But even here many of these groups have only set-up ‘Chicano schools’ and have concentrated on establishing control of institutions rather than focusing in on the real solution to the oppression of the Chicano people and the suppression of the Chicano language, the question of overthrowing the power of capital. It is the task of communists to connect the struggle for democratic rights such as equality of languages to the basic demands of the national movement and to connect the aims of the national movement with the aims of the whole proletarian movement, proletarian revolution.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL OUTLOOK OF CHICANO PEOPLE
The outlook of the Chicano people has been conditioned by their history of oppression and resistance. The people itself is a blend (enforced) of the peoples and cultures indigenous to the area with those of Spanish. The culture of the people of the Southwest has changed with the changes in the mode of production of the region.
The semi-feudal relations brought to the Southwest by the Spanish, particularly the patron-peon relationship was accompanied by the ideology of that period which preached docility and absolute authority of the patron, the clergy and in the family, of the father. Remnants of semi-feudal relations which continue in the Southwest along with influx of peones from Mexico during the years immediately after and during the Mexican revolution has meant some hangovers of feudal culture persist in the culture of the Southwest, especially of machismo which is being staunchly opposed by Chicanas active in the national movement.
As capitalism rose in the Southwest, particularly in the era of imperialism, the culture of the Chicano people reflected a people suppressed and forcibly subjugated by foreign rule. The development of the corridos and muralista movement told the history of the Chicano people and of their struggle against the imperialists (especially against the vigilantes of the imperialists such as the Texas Rangers). With the appearance of the Chicano nation, the resistance and the common oppression throughout the nation gave rise to a common psychological outlook throughout the Southwest – people began seeing themselves as an oppressed nation, and calling for self-determination (as seen in the various calls and planes since 1915).
The contemporary Chicano movement has seen a further development of this common psychological outlook with the use of a common name to designate the people – “Chicano”, and the development of a name to refer to the territory (“Aztlan”). It has also seen the emergence of a distinct cultural flavor, with the rise of Chicano publications and media, Chicano theater groups, Chicano musicians, playwrights, artists, and poets, which for the most part focuses in on the oppression of the Chicanos in their artistic work.
Rising with the national movement and with the development of Chicano culture has also been the influence of proletarian culture. The liberation struggles waged against imperialism (especially in Cuba, China, and Vietnam) have contributed many works of art describing these victories which have influenced the art forms and styles of Chicano artists. However, without the guidance of a revolutionary party to encourage this development, many revolutionary artists have degenerated into bourgeois art forms.
It is the task of communists to encourage the development of the most democratic aspects of the Chicano culture and to lead the way in eliminating outlooks and practices which do not promote the full equality of women with men or of the various nationalities. In addition, communists and revolutionaries must foster the development of revolutionary art and culture which will move forward the revolutionary struggle of the Chicano people and of all oppressed people.
This is the oppression of the Chicano nation under imperialism. It suppressed their language, culture and history. It denies the existence of the nation and attempts to obliterate them as a people. Imperialism subjects the Chicano people to super-exploitation in the sale of their labor-power and through forced sterilization of Chicanas it even takes the lives of unborn children. These are the objective conditions of oppression of the Chicano nation.
As the Chinese comrades teach us, “Where there is oppression, there is resistance.” It is from these objective conditions that the great revolutionary upsurge of the 1960’s came. It did not fall from the sky as the imperialists would have us believe or spring out of the heads of the worshippers of the Aztecs as the opportunists would tell us – but came as a direct result of the oppression and subjugation of the Chicano nation. The national struggle of the Chicano people is without a doubt a powerful anti-imperialist movement and is inseparably bound up with the proletarian struggle in the U.S. As communists, we must intensify our struggle to build a revolutionary communist party to lead the Chicano national movement and the movements of other oppressed nationalities and to unite these struggles under the leadership of the multinational proletariat of the U.S.
We have tried to show the historical development of movement. We learned that the basis of that movement lies in the severe imperialist oppression of the Chicano nation in the Southwest. Imperialist rule is founded on (1) Their control of the land and natural resources of the Southwest; (2) The complete lack of democratic rights of the Chicano people in the Southwest perpetuated by the division and gerrymandering of the areas of Chicano majority; (3) The imperialists political and economic control of the Chicano nation – it is in order to smash that rule and overthrow these foundations of power that we put forward:
PROVISIONAL DIRECTORATE OF THE PLAN OF SAN DIEGO, TEXAS
PLAN OF SAN DIEGO, TEXAS, STATE OF TEXAS, JANUARY 6TH, 1915
We who in turn sign our names, assembled in the REVOLUTIONARY PLOT OF SAN DIEGO, TEXAS, solemnly promise each other, on our work of honor, that we will fulfill, and cause to be fulfilled and complied with, all the clauses and provisions stipulated in this document, and execute the orders and the wishes emanating from the PROVISIONAL DIRECTORATE of this movement, and recognize as military Chief of the same, Mr. Augustin S. Garza, guaranteeing with our lives the faithful accomplishment of what is here agreed upon.
1. On the 20th day of February, 1915, at two o’clock in the morning, we will arise in arms against the Government and country of the United States of North America, ONE AS ALL AND ALL AS ONE, proclaiming the liberty of the individuals of the black race and its independence of Yankee tyranny which has held us in iniquitous slavery since remote times; and at the same time and in the same manner we will proclaim the independence and segregation of the States bordering upon the Mexican Nation, which are: TEXAS, NEW MEXICO, ARIZONA, COLORADO, AND UPPER CALIFORNIA, OF WHICH States and Republic of Mexico was robbed in a most perfidious manner by North American imperialism.
2. In order to render the foregoing clause effective, the necessary army corps will be formed, under the immediate command of military leaders named by the SUPREME REVOLUTIONARY CONGRESS OF SAN DIEGO, TEXAS, which shall have full power to designate a SUPREME CHIEF, who shall be at the head of said army. The banner which shall guide us in this enterprise shall be red, with a white diagonal fringe, and bearing the following inscription: “EQUALITY AND INDEPENDENCE” and none of the subordinate leaders or subalterns shall use any other flag (except only the white flag for signals). The aforesaid army shall be known by the name of: “LIBERATING ARMY FOR RACES AND PEOPLES.”
3. Each one of the chiefs shall do his utmost by whatever means possible to get possession of the arms and funds of the cities which he has beforehand been designated to capture, in order that our cause may be provided with resources to continue to fight with proper success. The said leaders each being required to render account of everything to his superiors, in order that the latter may dispose of it in the proper manner.
4. The leader who may take a city must immediately name and appoint municipal authorities, in order that they may preserve order and assist in every way possible the revolutionary movement. In case the capital of any state which we are endeavoring to liberate be captured, there will be named in the same manner superior municipal authorities, for the same purpose.
5. It is strictly forbidden to hold prisoners, either special prisoners (civilians) or soldiers; and the only time that should be spent in dealing with them is that which is absolutely necessary to demand funds (loans) of them; and whether these demands be successful or not, they shall be shot immediately without any pretext.
6. Every stranger who shall be found armed and who cannot prove his right to carry arms shall be summarily executed, regardless of his race or nationality.
7. Every North American over sixteen years of age shall be put to death; and only the aged men, the women, and the children shall be respected; and on no account shall the traitors to our race to spared or respected.
8. THE APACHES of Arizona, as well as the INDIANS (RED SKINS) of the Territory, shall be given every guarantee; and their lands which have been taken from them shall be returned to them to the end that they may assist us in the cause which we defend.
9. All appointments and grades in our army which are exercised by subordinate officers (subalterns) shall be examined (recognized) by the superior officers. There shall likewise be recognized the grades of leaders of other complots which may not be connected with this, and who may wish to cooperate with us; also those who may affiliate with us later.
10.The movement having gathered force, and once having possessed ourselves of the States above alluded to, we shall proclaim them an INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC, later requesting (if it be thought expedient) annexation to MEXICO, without concerning ourselves at that time about the form of Government which may control the destinies of the common mother country.
11. When we shall have obtained independence for the negroes, we shall grant them a banner, which they themselves be permitted to select, and we shall aid them in obtaining six States of the American Union, which states border upon those already mentioned, and they may form from these six States a Republic that they may, therefore, be independent.
12. None of the leaders shall have power to make terms with the enemy, without first communicating with the superior officers of the army, bearing in mind that this is a war without quarter; nor shall any leader enroll in his ranks any stranger, unless said stranger belong to the Latin, negro or the Japanese race.
13. It is understood that none of the members of this COMPLOT (or anyone who may come in later), shall, upon the definite triumph of the cause which we defend, fail to recognize their superiors, nor shall they aid others who, with bastard designs, may endeavor to destroy what has been accomplished by such great work.
14. As soon as possible, each local society (junta) shall nominate delegates who shall meet at a time and place beforehand designated, for the purpose of nominating a PERMANENT DIRECTORATE OF THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT. At this meeting shall be determined and worked out in detail the powers and duties of the PERMANENT DIRECTORATE, and this REVOLUTIONARY PLAN may be revised or amended.
15. It is understood among those who may follow this movement that we will carry as a singing voice the independence of the negroes, placing obligations upon both races; and that, on no account will we accept aid, either moral or pecuniary, from the Government of Mexico, and it need not consider itself under any obligations in this, our movement.
“EQUALITY AND INDEPENDENCE”
San Diego, Texas, Jan. 6, 1915
President, Signed, L. Farrigno
Signed, Augustin S. Garza, Com.
Signed, Manuel Flores
Signed, B. Ramos, Jr.
Signed, A. Gonzales, Lawyer
Signed, A.A. Saenz, Saloon Keeper
Signed, E. Cisneros
Signed, A.C. Alamraz
SAN ANTONIO LA CONVENCION CONSTITUTIVO
PRO DERECHOS MEXICANOS DE TEXAS
(A document of a former member of the CPUSA)
On October 13, 1935 in San Antonio La Convencion Constitutivo Pro Derechos Mexicanos de Texas was convened. Delegates from labor unions, Worker Alliance branches, unemployed councils, and sociedades beneficias came together from all over Texas and the Southwest. Mostly proletarian, it adopted resolutions on all subjects including the land question, and adopted a resolution which called for the right to political secession in South Texas and Border Region.
Thus, we in the Party recognized the similarity of the status of the Mexican people in Texas with that of the Negro people in the South and concluded that the remedy would be a similar one. We reached the conclusion that the struggles of the Mexican people in Texas must embrace the demand for the return of the land, for language and cultural rights and the right for political self-rule, even to the point of separation in the South Texas area where Mexican people constitute a large percentage or the majority of the population. These conclusions were elaborated into the form of a Draft Party Resolution and it was decided to implement it with action. A date for a conference was set to which were invited delegates from various organizations, sociedades beneficas, unemployed councils and Worker Alliance branches and labor unions. This conference, known as the “convencion constitutivo Pro Derechos Mexicanas de Texas” met in a hall on the West Side of San Antonio in an all day session on October 13, 1935. With minor amendments, the Conference voted approval of the Draft Resolution and delegates were pledged to report, discuss and popularize it to their organization membership and people in general. I regret not to be able to include with this a copy of this Resolution; many of our papers were lost or disposed of during the repressive McCarthy years and FBI harassment.
The early part of 1936 found us running the circuit like a revivalist along the Rio Grande Valley, halting in the towns like McAllen, Pherr, Weslaco, Mercedes, La Feria, Harlinger, San Benito and down to the large center of Brownsville. In all these, advanced workers who heard oa activity in San Antonio organized meetings of workers, some places in the neighborhood or town plaza, and others in mutualist halls. At these meetings we brought the message of unity and organization; we reported of our experiences in San Antonio and Loredo, and that the favorable New Deal times made it possible even for agricultural and Mexican workers to organize and press for their demands. In the cannery towns of Harlingen and Brownsville we were able to discuss with workers there the nature and role of the Communist Party as the vanguard Party of the working class and leader in the struggle against national oppression. Since some of our listeners were familiar with the role of the Communists on the Mexican side, they were eager to form a Party organization on this side. A valley-wide Party group was created, centered and meeting regularly in Harlingen. Talk of organization of field workers spread quickly along the length of the Valley. With the coming of grapefruit picking, committees of pickers came to us to help them formulate demands for increased picking rates. With the help of local comrades we were able to formulate a list of demands as asked for and approved by the workers in mass meetings held.
Despite the fact that the Chicano people had already recognized their right to self-determination and made the call for independence in 1915 and now Chicano proletarians were taking up this call, the CPUSA denied the existence of a Chicano nation; instead, it took up the struggle for democratic rights of the Mexican national minority. This chauvinist stance came on the eve of the U.S. entrance into WWII and set the stage for the later liquidation of the Afro-American national question.
EL PLAN DE AZTLAN
El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan
In the spirit of a new people that is conscious not only of its proud historical heritage but also of the brutal “gringo” invasion of our territories, we, the Chicano inhabitants and civilizers of the northern land of Aztlan from whence came our forefathers, reclaiming the land of their birth and consecrating the determination of our people of the sun, declare that the call of our blood is our power, our responsibility, and our inevitable destiny.
We are free and sovereign to determine those tasks which are justly called for by our house, our land, the sweat of our brows, and by our hearts. Aztlan belongs to those who plant the seeds, water the fields, and gather the crops and not to the foreign Europeans. We do not recognize capricious frontiers on the continent.
Brotherhood unites us, and love for our brothers makes us a people whose time has come and who struggles against the foreigner “gabacho” who exploits our riches and destroys our culture. With our heart in our hands and our hands in the soil, we declare the independence of our mestizo nation. We are a bronze people with a bronze culture. Before the world before all of North America before all our brothers in the bronze continent we are a nation, we are a union of free pueblos, we are Aztlan.
Por La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada.
El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan sets the theme that the Chicanos (La Raza de Bronze) must use their nationalism as the key or common denominator for mass mobilization and organization. Once we are committed to the idea and philosophy of El Plan de Aztlan, we can only conclude that social, economic, cultural, and political independence is the only road to liberation from oppression, exploitation, and racism. Our struggle then must be for the control of our barrios, campos, pueblos, lands, our economy, our culture, and our political life. EI Plan commits all levels of Chicano society – the barrio, the campo, the ranchero, the writer, the teacher, the worker, the professional – to La Causa.
Nationalism as the key to organization transcends all religious, political, class, and economic factions or boundaries. Nationalism is the common denominator that all members of La Raza can agree upon.
1. UNITY in the thinking of our people concerning the barrios, the pueblo, the campo, the land, the poor, the middle class, the professional – all committed to the liberation of La Raza.
2. ECONOMY: economic control of our lives and our communities can only come about by driving the exploiter out of our communities, our pueblos, and our lands and by controlling and developing our own talents, sweat, and resources. Cultural background and values which ignore materialism and embrace humanism will contribute to the act of cooperative buying and the distribution of resources and production to sustain an economic base for healthy growth and development. Lands rightfully ours will be fought for and defended. Land and realty ownership will be acquired by the community for the people’s welfare. Economic ties of responsibility must be secured by nationalism and the Chicano defense units.
3. EDUCATION must be relative to our people, i.e., history, culture, bilingual education, contributions, etc. Community control of our schools, our teachers, our administrators, our counselors, and our programs.
4. INSTITUTIONS shall serve our people by providing the service necessary for a full life and their welfare on the basis of restitution, not handouts or beggar’s crumbs. Restitution for past economic slavery, political exploitation, ethnic and cultural psychological destruction and denial of civil and human rights. Institutions in our community which do not serve the people have no place in the community. The institutions belong to the people.
5. SELF-DEFENSE of the community must rely on the combined strength of the people. The front line defense will come from the barrios, the campos, the pueblos, and the ranchitos. Their involvement as protectors of their people will be given respect and dignity. They in turn offer their responsibility and their lives for their people. Those who place themselves in the front ranks for their people do so out of love and carnalismo. Those institutions which are fattened by our brothers to provide employment and political pork barrels for the gringo will do so only as acts of liberation and for La Causa. For the very young there will no longer be acts of juvenile delinquency, but revolutionary acts.
6. CULTURAL values of our people strengthen our identity and the moral backbone of the movement. Our culture unites and educates the family of La Raza towards liberation with one heart and one mind. We must insure that our writers, poets, musicians, and artists produce literature and art that is appealing to our people and relates to our revolutionary culture. Our cultural values of life, family, and home will serve as a powerful weapon to defeat the gringo dollar value system and encourage the process of love brotherhood.
7. POLITICAL LIBERATION can only come through independent action on our part, since the two-party system is the same animal with two heads that feed from the same trough. Where we are a majority, we will control; where we are a minority, we will represent a pressure group; nationally, we will represent one party: La Familia de La Raza!
1. Awareness and distribution of EI Plan Espirtual de Aztlan. Presented at every meeting, demonstration, confrontation, courthouse, institution, administration, church, school, tree, building, car, and every place of human existence.
2. September 16, on the birthdate of Mexican Independence, a national walk-out by all Chicanos of all colleges and schools to be sustained until the complete revision of the educational system: its policy makers, administration, its curriculum, and its personnel to meet the needs of our community.
3. Self-defense against the occupying forces of the oppressors at every school, every available man, woman and child.
4. Community nationalization and organization of all Chicanos: EI Plan Espiritual de Aztlan.
5. Economic program to drive the exploiter out of our community and a welding together of our people’s combined resources to control their own production through cooperative effort.
6. Creation of an independent local, regional, and national political party.
A nation autonomous and free – culturally, socially, economically, and politically – will make its own decisions on the usage of our lands, the taxation of our goods, the utilization of our bodies for war, the determination of justice (reward and punishment), and the profit of our sweat.
El Plan de Aztlan is the plan of liberation!
RAZA UNIDA: PREAMBLE AND PRINCIPLES
La Raza Unida Party proclaims the people of La Raza to be a nation within a nation endowed with the right and obligation to struggle for self-determination.
For over a century in the United States La Raza has been a victim of political and economic exploitation and oppression, one of the tools of that oppression being the two party political system – the Democratic and Republican parties. We recognize the two party system as being sham democracy serving only the needs of our exploiters and oppressors.
Our party refuses to recognize the state and national electoral process as an effective means for Liberation. Our primary emphasis will be focuses on the local level, on those issues which affect La Raza and which are ignored by the traditional political parties.
La Raza Unida Party recognizes that the needs of La Raza, (and in fact, of the majority of the American people), can never be met within the present political-economic structure of the United States. All our daily action is geared towards taking from the rich and powerful that wealth and power which justly belongs to poor and working people in order to create a new society which ends the exploitation of man by man.
I. Self-Determination of La Raza: We, the people La Raza, have the right to control those institutions which affect our lives. By La Raza we mean those people from, or descendants of people from Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Antilles, and those individuals who identify culturally with La Raza.
II. Our Relationship to Other Oppressed Peoples: La Raza Unida Party supports the struggles for self-determination of all oppressed peoples. We will participate in coalitions on the basis of principle when it is in the interest of all parties involved.
La Raza Unida Party does not work within other political parties or endorse other political parties or their candidates.
III. Sexism: La Raza Unida Party is opposed to the domination of one sex by another. The Partido recognizes no distinction between men and women in the common struggle for self-determination. Both women and men of La Raza must provide leadership.
IV. Labor: La Raza Unida Party will struggle for full employment and the end of exploitation of all working people. The working people must struggle and organize on every front for complete industrial democracy.
V. Health: Medical care is a basic right of all people. La Raza Unida Party will fight for free medical care for all people. This includes preventive medicine, industrial safety, and community control of all medical facilities.
VI. Housing: Decent housing is a basic human right which should be denied no one. Overtaxation, racial exclusion, discriminatory denial of funds by credit institutions must be attacked by La Raza Unida Party.
VII. Education: All education should be free with open admissions. Bi-lingual, bi-cultural education is a right of La Raza. We must fight for alternative education based on co-operation not competition, sharing not selfishness, and above all a love for all humanity.
VIII. Penal and Legal System: La Raza Unida Party does not recognize the legitimacy of the Anglo/American system of laws and punishment. We seek a system of laws determined and defined by the working people. We will work to abolish the present penal system which confines and brutalizes the victim of an exploitative society. Prisons and jails should be converted into schools and hospitals. The entire concept of prison as punishment should be abolished and replaced with a concept of true rehabilitation, education, and health.
IX. The Land: While we support the right of the campesinos to organize to attain their basic rights, and while we oppose all those who exploit their labor, La Raza Unida Party believes that the land must belong collectively to those campesinos who work it.
X. Imperialism: We call for an immediate end to United States imperialism and colonialism, as epitomized by the United States presence in Indo-China and Puerto Rico. We demand the independence of Vietnam and all Asian, African and Latin American countries victimized by imperialism. We recognize a particular solidarity with the liberation struggles of the Latin American peoples.
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[QUOTE ON BACK COVER OF PAMPHLET]
Formerly, the bourgeoisie could afford to play the liberal, to uphold the bourgeois-democratic liberties, and thus gain popularity with the people. Now not a trace remains of this liberalism. The so-called “liberty of the individual” no longer exists – the rights of the individual are now extended only to those who possess capital, while all other citizens are regarded as human raw material, fit only to be exploited. The principle of equal rights for men and nations has been trampled in the mud; it has been replaced by the principle of full rights for the exploiting minority and no rights for the exploited majority. The banner of bourgeois-democratic liberties has been thrown overboard. I think that it is you, the representatives of the communist and democratic parties, who will have to raise this banner and carry it forward, if you want to gather around you the majority of the people. There is nobody else to raise it.
Formerly, the bourgeoisie was regarded as the head of the nation; it upheld the rights of independence of the nation and placed them “above all else.” Now not a trace remains of the “national principle.” Now the bourgeoisie sells the rights and independence of the nation for dollars. The banner of national independence and national sovereignty has been thrown overboard. There is no doubt that it is you, the representatives of the Communist and democratic parties, who will have to raise this banner and carry it forward if you want to be patriots of your country, if you want to become the leading force of the nation. There is nobody else to raise it.
That is how matters stand today.
–Stalin’s speech, 19th Congress
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Great ML article, Fan the Flames of the Chicano Revolution!