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On Cesar Chavez's Birthday
Photo: Cesar Chavez speaking in front of American flag.
Today is Cesar Chavez's birthday, a day officially celebrated by the governments of California, Colorado, and Texas. Yet, farm workers still lack many fundamental rights that other workers have won. In California, for instance, farm workers still do not have the eight hour day.
Nor are American children protected from child labor on farms. In 2012, the Obama administration, through the Labor Department, announced their continued support for the exploitation of children through child labor by aggro-businesses. Their opposition to laws against child labor were hypocritically defended saying, "The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations."
Cesar Chavez is hailed as liberal icon for his role in founding the United Farm Workers. Instead of effective union methods like solidarity strikes, and hot-cargoing struck produce; Cesar Chavez turned to passive protests, consumer boycotts, the Democrat Party, Catholic Church, and capitalist state for solidarity. As was widely known in 1974, and published in the San Francisco Examiner, Chavez even went so far as to finger undocumented workers to federal agents when the bosses were using undocumented workers as scabs. Chavez snitched these workers out to the feds rather than trying to organize them.
Cesar Chavez even marched to the Mexican border in 1969 in protest of "illegal" immigration. For this, Chris Simcox, co-founder of the racist Minutemen, hailed Cesar Chavez as "the original border Minutemen".
With Obama now setting records for deportations, breaking up families and causing massive hardship for poor working class families, liberal icons like Barack Obama and Cesar Chavez lend new irony to the slogan "Si se puede!".
Only socialism can give the freedoms and meet the needs of the oppressed people of the world. The destruction of national frontiers and the right to move freely will become a reality only under socialism, as a result of the abolition of material scarcity.
Effective union organizing is a key in the fight for socialism and in the fight for immediate changes. Critical in this struggle is not buying into the bosses' divide and rule tactics as Cesar Chavez did. Militant workers must embrace all workers as brothers and sisters, no matter what side of a border they were born, and no matter what their legal status is under the capitalist state.
Far from Cesar Chavez's liberal pacifist tactics showing the way, far more effective are the tactics that were used when reds led the unions in the 1930's and 1940's. Before 1934, the labor movement of the United States was unable to effectively fight back due to the conservative leadership of the labor unions. It was a situation very similar to today. In 1934 this all changed when socialists took the leadership of three important unions and, unlike the entrenched union bureaucrats, were able to lead successful strikes. These were the San Francisco longshoremen’s union led by the Communist Party, the Minneapolis Teamsters led by the Trotskyist Communist League of America, and the Toledo Auto-Lite Strike led by the left socialist Workers Party. General strikes also took place in San Francisco and Minneapolis.
These victorious strikes were the three most important strikes in U.S. history. These 1934 victories (along with the militant tactics used) inspired the great labor upsurge that formed the CIO and made many gains against the employers. This is what created the climate that forced one of the parties of the ruling rich, the Democrats, to give the working class the “New Deal”. Besides the gains made directly through collective bargaining, gains for the working class included the first minimum wage, Social Security, a federal jobs program, and the 40 hour week.
Today, the type of liberal pacifist tactics used by Cesar Chavez have led one strike after another to defeat in the last five decades. Instead, the tactics of 1934 must be resurrected to defend and extend gains like social security, the eight hour day, the right to collective bargaining, and the rights of all workers, including the undocumented.
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