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In The Spirit of the Anti-imperialist Victory of Cinco de Mayo: For Anti-racist Working Cl
[Photo: Reenactment of the Battle of Puebla during Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Mexico City. Photo by Eduardo Verdugo]
Happy Cinco De Mayo!
In The Spirit of the Anti-imperialist Victory of Cinco de Mayo: For Anti-racist Working Class Unity
by Steven Argue
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican defeat of French imperialist forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. This victory, viewed as unlikely at the time, is similar to the victory of Vietnamese liberation forces against the French imperialists at Dien Bien Phu. The victory at the Battle of Puebla had profound repercussions both in defending Mexican sovereignty from France and also in United States. It was the goal of the French imperialists, after turning Mexico into a colony, to then move north and assist their Confederate allies against the Union in the Civil War. Thankfully, we will never know how useful that military aid to the Confederacy would have been due to the heroic struggle of the Mexican military against against the French invasion. While Joan Baez sings with sadness "The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down", at that time, from Karl Marx to Fredrick Douglas, the understanding of the legitimate left was that a northern victory over the Confederacy was an essential step in ridding the United States of slavery.
Fact is, the multiracial working class of the United States owes an eternal debt to the Mexican people for their defeat of the French imperialist forces at the Battle of Puebla. Yet, the U.S. imperialist ruling class, with far different interests than the American working class, has terribly mistreated the Mexican workers and farmers for nearly 170 years. This started with the U.S. invasion of Mexico (1845-1847) which annexed half of Mexican territory to the United States (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Nevada, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Kansas). This devastating war for Mexico helped the United States rise to the level of a world imperialist power, building great wealth not just on the sweat of slaves and bones of Native Americans, but also moving on to exploit the working classes and resources of the world through unfair economic policies, military interventions, and the imposition of capitalist dictators that are friendly to U.S. imperialist exploitation. U.S. aggression and theft perpetrated against Mexico, on the other hand, turned Mexico into one of those weak and exploited nations under the thumb of U.S. imperialism.
U.S. imperialist relations with Mexico include IMF dictates, unfair prices, foreign investment and employment at low wages. It also includes U.S. assistance to capitalist politicians, the military, and death squads, to keep the price of Mexican labor and resources low. Imperialist political and economic interference includes NAFTA which destroyed many of the gains of the Mexican Revolution, including the removal of the tortilla subsidy that helped keep even the poorest Mexicans fed. In addition, the IMF, a key finance tool of U.S. imperialism around the world, has taken strong-arm steps against Mexican independence including their pressure that introduced tuition to Mexican schools.
The capitalists of the United States also mistreat and exploit those people made so desperate by imperialist exploitation that they feel a need to come to the United States looking for work. Often titled illegal, Mexican Americans work long hours with low pay. Racism and more limited legal rights allow capitalists to get away with paying many Mexican Americans less. For instance, often lacking even the meager rights of citizen workers, Mexican workers can be deported if they attempt to fight back and form a union. Under these conditions, the capitalist class is able to pit one group of workers against the other, making claims that Mexican workers are taking American jobs and driving down the price of all labor. To the extent there is some truth in this, obviously it is a situation caused largely by the discriminated status of immigrant workers. For U.S. workers, then, the solution, therefore, lies not in more discrimination and deportation, but in eliminating the discrimination that allows the capitalist class to carry out super-exploitation of immigrant workers.
To be effective the labor movement must stand for the rights of the most exploited workers from the job site to ending support for the racist and imperialist Democrat Party. While Obama's skin does appear to be Black, he, like many other Blacks in similar positions of power including Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, works to serve the racist imperialist capitalist class that rules America. That ruling class profits greatly from the super-exploitation of immigrant workers. Therefore, it should be no surprise that Obama continues the abuse of Mexican Americans that has been found under all of the capitalist regimes in America, Democrat and Republican alike. In fact, Obama has deported more Mexican Americans than any other president. These police actions tear families apart and hurt the security and ability of an important section of the working class to struggle against the capitalists for a better life. Obama's racist anti-immigrant policies, like his war policies and failure to act in a significant way on global warming, once again give lie to the myth of the Democrats being a "lesser evil".
America's 12 million undocumented immigrants deserve far better than the crap American capitalism dishes out on a daily basis. Yet, the large numbers of immigrant workers in the United States does point to potential strength as they are an essential component of the capitalist economy. Much can be accomplish through labor action.
Racist anti-immigrant policies and sentiments are not acceptable. For human beings, the location of a birth on one side of an artificial line on the map or the other should mean nothing. As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels state in the Communist Manifesto, “the workers have no fatherland.” Leninist-Trotskyist parties need to be built on both sides of the border that struggle for militant labor action by the multiracial working class to end racist discrimination and fight for better conditions, pay, and benefits. To be effective, unions must rely on the power of labor itself and end support for our class enemies in capitalist parties like the Democrats and Republicans of the U.S. and PRD, PAN, and PRI of Mexico as we also fight to end U.S. imperialism, racism, and capitalist exploitation through proletarian socialist revolution. While the struggle for working class unity is essential today, the only way to fully resolve the competition for scarce resources found under capitalism will be a planned socialist economy that guarantees everyone a job, housing, education, and health care.
-Steven Argue of the Revolutionary Tendency
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