FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Death of the Chicano Left

Prior to 1986 a clear Left voice could be heard on immigration reform. Among its priorities was that there would be no guest worker program, there would be no employer sanctions, there would be a more humane border enforcement policy, and there would be a clear path to citizenship with an absence of penalties and fees. For the most part we lost, and the only real victory was that proposals for a guest worker program died.

The truth be told, immigration reform has never been a high priority among American progressives; as a consequence, no clear vision of what immigration reform was developed outside the Mexican American community. This lack of understanding and consensus has led to the probability of compromise — that invariably leads to a negation of meaningful and just reform.

The question has become so muddled that not even the so-called Latino leadership knows what it wants. Having been invited and having sat at the Democratic Party table as guests of honor, they don’t want to rock the boat –or like my mother used to say quieren quedar bien con todo mundo.

As it is shaping up liberals seem committed to a path to citizenship for the undocumented, but they also seem willing to ignore the abuses of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), and are going along with the increased enforcement of immigration laws — a grotesque and massive immigration apparatus that spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement last year.

It is obvious that large chunks of the Latino leadership is willing to forget the extensive and rich literature on the bracero program, and are disposed to place their trust in President Barack Obama. The hard Left – what is left of it — opposes a guest worker program that excludes a clear pathway to citizenship for the bracero.  They don’t want to go back to the days where American farmers rented Mexicans at will, and repeat a program that was full of corruption and abuses.

As a matter of fact, historically the U.S. has refused to deal with guest workers as “free labor” with the rights enjoyed by other workers.  Consequently, the U.S. has engaged in a cut your nose to spite your face policy that has weakened American agriculture, with the nation importing food from China and other countries because it cannot get its crops picked.

As conservative columnist Richard M. Estrada testified in in 1995: “One must …insist that the absence of slavery does not imply the presence of freedom. As commonly understood, the term free labor also implies that an individual can sell his or her labor on the open market to whomever will contract for it. It is in this regard that guest worker programs are, by definition, unfree labor arrangements or, at the very least, not totally free labor arrangements…To be specific, the agricultural guest worker is explicitly obligated not to sell his or her labor anywhere else but to the agricultural employer who sponsors entry. Employers tend to prize guest workers for their abilities, true. But they also value them because they have no options and are, therefore, more malleable. (Employers tend to prefer the term ‘disciplined.’)”

It is difficult to talk to Democrats about “free labor;” they prefer to concentrate on the globalization, which is important. However, globalization has always been with us, and not presuming to argue with the great theorist Immanuel Wallerstein, global capitalism is part of world history, beginning before the time of Christ. Numerous transformations caused the uprooting of entire societies.

We must keep in mind that population growth in China and India caused the migration of ideas into the Middle East, Egypt, and Greece. The growth of the Chinese population and its markets moved the exploitation of the Americas, and the movement of “unfree labor.”

Another transformation took place during the Industrial Revolution, and as Oscar Handlin makes clear in his classic The Uprooted global changes in production and population growth led to the uprooting of entire societies – dispersing people not only to the United States but globally.

However, at this point, I am more concerned about what is happening today in the Latino community, and how can we cope with it? In my view, ideas are important, and the role of a Left voice is vital in counteracting the contradictions of capitalism that lead to unbridled exploitation and the loss of liberty.

At one time, the Soviet Union served as a brake on the imperial obsessions of U.S. foreign policy. Left ideas in this country have made this society more democratic by initiating major reforms. This contribution is obvious when you consider that the American right wing has not introduced a single reform. The Right’s myopic worldview seems unique to the U.S.; witness that even ultra-conservative German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck initiated universal health care in the 19th century.

In recent times, Mexico was developing a Left voice, but it was muffled by the absorption of the left parties into el Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD, in the late 1980s. The oalition of left parties then became a social-democratic political party, and electoral politics softened its voice.

History suggests that a similar process has occurred within the Mexican American community. As we have become more invested in electoral politics, our electoral gains have softened the voice of the Left within the community on issues ranging from identity to police brutality. Our elected officials seem more willing to make arrangements, and at the national level our organizations often move to the right to accommodate the interests of other middle class Latinos.  Witness that there was no outcry when Marco Rubio pretended to speak for “Latinos” on immigration.

Because of the size of the Latino community, 70 percent of which is Mexican American, it is inevitable that we have been drawn into the game of politics. Without a doubt, the 2012 Presidential Election is a watershed in Chicana/o History. It is a recognition of our numbers not our skill at playing the political game. In my view, in order to survive the game, we must play it collectively and have clear principles.

Not wanting to sound cynical, it will become more difficult for the Left to be heard because of the transformations brought about by the 2012 election.  It is significant that a cadre of wealthy Latino business owners, entertainers, lawyers and financiers formed a PAC and collected roughly $30 million for Obama’s re-election.

The sum contributed is not significant, but the emergence of the Latino PAC is. Its bundlers sit or will sit on the boards of national Latino organizations.  As a group they will represent Latino interests and collectively their political clout and leverage will increase – neutralizing left of center views. Necessarily their schooling and class interests will diverge from positions of the Left on questions such as immigration.

I am not questioning the good faith of the members of the Latino PAC members; however, how they acquired their knowledge and life experiences often form their views and how strongly they feel about them. Attending an Ivy League is an accomplishment but it also acculturates you, and may even make you more willing to compromise on issues such as immigration. You rationalize that a half a loaf is better than none.

Consider that for a time our voices could be heard through massive demonstrations such as those in 1994 and 2006. If history teaches us anything, we should study why after 1994 they diminished in size largely due to the 1996 Presidential Election and again after 2006 due to the 2008 Election.

RODOLFO ACUÑA, a professor emeritus at California State University Northridge, has published 20 books and over 200 public and scholarly articles. He is the founding chair of the first Chicano Studies Dept which today offers 166 sections per semester in Chicano Studies. His history book Occupied America has been banned in Arizona. In solidarity with Mexican Americans in Tucson, he has organized fundraisers and support groups to ground zero and written over two dozen articles exposing efforts there to nullify the U.S. Constitution. 

More articles by:

RODOLFO ACUÑA, a professor emeritus at California State University Northridge, has published 20 books and over 200 public and scholarly articles. He is the founding chair of the first Chicano Studies Dept which today offers 166 sections per semester in Chicano Studies. His history book Occupied America has been banned in Arizona. In solidarity with Mexican Americans in Tucson, he has organized fundraisers and support groups to ground zero and written over two dozen articles exposing efforts there to nullify the U.S. Constitution.

February 20, 2019
Anthony DiMaggio
Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse
Charles Pierson
When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb
Doug Johnson Hatlem
“Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)
Kenneth Surin
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia
John Feffer
The Psychology of the Wall
Dean Baker
Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich
Russell Mokhiber
Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool
George Ochenski
Unconstitutional Power Grabs
Michael T. Klare
War With China? It’s Already Under Way
Thomas Knapp
The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers
Manuel García, Jr.
Two Worlds
Daniel Warner
The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity
Norman Solomon
What the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign Means for Progressives
Dan Corjescu
2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage
Matthew Johnson
Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail