Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist League

Regional Autonomy for the Southwest

Appendix: Critical Remarks on the Chicano Nation Paper

This statement will deal with certain theories as expressed in the Report of the Communist Collective of the Chicano Nation on the Chicano National Colonial Question which appeared in The Proletariat, Volume 4, Number 2. This document first of all played a very positive role in helping the Communist League deepen its analysis of the national question in the Southwest. This pamphlet is qualitatively different from the pamphlet put out by the revisionist CPUSA. It is an honest and analytical attempt to apply Marxism-Leninism on the National Question.

However, there are some serious errors and conclusions in the document that if not analyzed correctly can lead to some deviations.

First of all, Engels once said that there are no problems that cannot be solved; there are only problems that are stated incorrectly. So it is with this paper; the main thrust is that there is a nation in the Southwest. It is to this central point that we must address ourselves in order to have a more thorough understanding of the Southwest region, the Mexican National Minority, and imperialism.

Stalin’s pamphlet Marxism and the National Question explains that “a nation is not merely a historical category but a historical category belonging to definite epoch, the epoch of rising capitalism.”[1] According to the Chicano Nation paper it is claimed that the Chicano nation was formed before the Anglo-American conquest, that is, before 1846. There are no facts to support this conclusion except that on page seven the authors state:

During this period a number of important economic events took place which contributed greatly to the development of the Chicano Nation. Copper was discovered in the Sierra del Oro and the Ortiz mine alone produced three million dollars worth of gold by 1846. The production of sheep increased greatly and some 4,000,000 head of sheep were sent down yearly to Chihuahua.

And finally, trade with the United States brought about increased trade with Chihuahua and in the quest for the accumulation of agricultural surplus, handicraft goods, the Chicano bourgeoisie developed quickly. Contemporaneous with the bourgeoisie’s development was the development of the proletariat which first appeared as miners, teamsters, and wage-laborers in small manufacturing enterprises.”

What is being said is that capitalist production relations existed in northern New Mexico in 1846. Which they did to a minor extent, but capitalist relations can exist side by side with feudal relations and for that matter with slave relations until they become antagonistic to each other. The point is: what production relations were the basis of the society. In North from Mexico it is pointed out how New Mexico was feudal:

Holding the reins of social, economic, and political power–the beneficiaries of the large land grants–the ricos of the population owned all that was worth owning and were autocrats in every sense of the words. Theirs were the great estates and the vast herds of sheep in the Rio Abajo section. The soldiers, artisans and peasant farmers were allotted small family and community grants in the Rio Arriba and worked, often as peons, on the large estates.[2]

In regard to California and Texas the same holds true:

In the lower Rio Grande Valley a way of life developed that was quite similar to that which had prevailed in early California. Here was to be found the same patriarchal set-up in which a few large Mexican landowners lived an idle and lordly existence based on a system of peonage, vestiges of which still survive in the region.[3]

It is obvious that the northern provinces of New Mexico, Texas, and California had had feudal relations of production. Just because it had a merchant class which was a petty-bourgeoisie does not make it a capitalist society with a capitalist base and a capitalist superstructure. For instance, northern Italy developed capitalism in the 14th century, but the over-riding basis of the society was still feudalism; the same holds true for the Netherlands. But neither one of them became nations until the 1800’s. The same holds true for northern New Mexico which was jelling as an economic unit as a part of the Mexican nation through trade with Chihuahua. Regarding the use of the terms “proletariat” and “bourgeoisie” in this report, a study of Engels’ Principles of Communism shows why the terms are incorrectly used:

The proletariat arose as a result of the industrial revolution which unfolded in England in the latter half of the last century and which has repeated itself since then in all the civilized countries of the world.[4]

With respect to the working classes that existed before the industrial revolution, Engels remarks:

In the Middle Ages they (the working class) were serfs belonging to the landowning nobility.... In the Middle Ages and up to the industrial revolution there- were in the towns also handicraftsmen in the service of petty-bourgeois masters...[5]

And, further:

The manufacturing worker of the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries almost everywhere still had the ownership of his instrument of production, his loom, the family spinning wheels, and a little plot of land which he cultivated in his leisure hours. The proletarian has none of these things. The manufactory worker lives almost exclusively in the country under more or less patriarchal relations with his landlord or his employer; the proletarian dwells mostly in large towns, and his relation to his employer is purely a money relation.[6]

These “proletarians” referred to in the report were craftsmen or workers in small manufacturing. Just because sheep were traded to Chihuahua which by the way were raised in large feudal estates does not make northern New Mexico capitalist. It was feudal and its historical roots of the inhabitants lay with the Mexican people who today comprise the Mexican Nation.

Comrade Stalin emphasizes:

...a nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the bases of the common possession of four principal characteristics, namely: a common language, a common territory, a common economic life, and a common psychological make-up manifested in common specific features of national culture.[7]

Thus the settlers in New Mexico, Texas, and California were Mexicans who were evolving into the Mexican nation, but whose development was stopped when the Southwest was annexed by the USNA.

Stalin further explain:

...the elements of nationhood, language, territory, common culture, etc., did not fall from the skies, but were being formed gradually, even in the pre-capitalist period. But these elements were in a rudimentary state and, at best, were only a potentiality, that is, they constituted the possibility of the formation of a nation in the future, given certain favourable conditions. The potentialities became a reality only in the period of rising capitalism, with its national market and its economic and cultural centres.[8]

Thus, the Mexican people in the northern provinces would have comprised part of the Mexican nation but USNA expansionism stopped this national development by annexing the Southwest and forging it into the Anglo-American nation. This mainly occurred after 1876 with the completion of the railroads, the expansion of the cotton industry, cattle raising, mining, and large-scale agriculture The native Mexicans thus became a national minority. As to the expansionist nature of rising capitalism, Stalin states:

... expansion of the territory of one’s own nation by seizure of the national territories of others; distrust and hatred of other nations; suppression of national minorities; ...such is the ideological, social, and political stock-in-trade of these nations.

Such nations must be qualified as bourgeois nations. Examples are the French, British, Italians, North-American and other similar nations.[9]

It was the Anglo-American nation that was capitalist and brought capitalist relations of production into the Southwest region by separating the tillers of the soil from their lands in Texas, New Mexico, and California.

In Capital, Karl Marx illustrated how the process of primitive accumulation negated small-scale commodity production by expropriating the means of production and creating large-scale industry.

The spoliation of the Church’s property, the fraudulent alienation of the State domains, the robbery of the common lands, the usurpation of feudal and clan property, and its transformation into modern private property under circumstances of reckless terrorism, were just so many idyllic methods of primitive accumulation. They conquered the field for capitalistic agriculture, made the soil part and parcel of capital, and created for the town industries the necessary supply of a ’free’ and outlawed proletariat.[10]

In the Outline Political History of the Americas, W. Z. Foster explains:

The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralization. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class interest, one frontier and one customs tariff.[11]

As the Southwest Region became consolidated into the Anglo-American nation the Mexican people that resided in this region became part of the Anglo-American working class thereby becoming a national minority.

Because of the fact that the northern provinces of Mexico were feudal and were isolated from each other the Chicano Nation paper has a hard time defining the territory of the “Chicano Nation.” First it encompasses southwest Texas and excludes California but in its entire presentation it excludes Texas in its historical, economic, and social data. The problem is that these areas were all provinces of Mexico and none of these provinces had developed a separate people, economic life, territory, language, or psychological characteristics manifested in a common culture. All of these criteria existed only as the Mexican people.

As to this so-called Chicano bourgeoisie it defines it in the following way:

The Chicano bourgeoisie is based in small businesses such as bars, gas stations, franchises of all types, etc. Many Chicanos own construction companies and loan associations. A few also deal in real estate and a good number are large landholders and stockmen.

This is not a bourgeoisie but a petty-bourgeoisie; in the Communist Manifesto Marx says:

The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as factions of the middle class.[12]

The historical fact that the northern New Mexico area was isolated for so long caused a great deal of confusion. But this isolation would not cause New Mexico to be a nation, a nation has to be brought into commodity exchange, only in this manner does it create a market and the industrial capacity to forge itself into a cohesive economic unit and nationhood.

However, the internationalism of these comrades in their enthusiasm to resolve this burning problem is beyond question. As communists and as internationalists we must be emphatic on the question of national oppression: that oppressed people do not have to be a nation to demand freedom; that the Southwest region having been annexed by conquest from Mexico is an oppressed region; that it does not have to be a nation to be free. Lenin spelled this out in the following way:

However you may twist and turn, annexation is isolation of the self-determination of a nation, it is the establishment of state frontiers contrary to the will of the population.[13]

Isn’t this what happened in respect to Mexico, that its frontiers were violated, its northern half of territory annexed contrary to the will of the population; that since the dismemberment of the Mexican nation the Mexican National Minority has been subjected to oppression. No matter how minute the population of a particular nationality may be, no national oppression can be tolerated. Whether the Mexican people who reside within the USNA are a nation or not the Anglo-American proletariat must fight for their emancipation.

All of the writings of the Communist leaders, Karl Marx, Frederich Engels, V.I. Lenin, and Joseph Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung on the question of the general strategy and tactics of the revolution are basically addressing themselves to one central point. That is: what are the necessary moves that must be taken to unite the working class, establish the leadership of the proletariat over the rest of the toiling masses, overthrow the capitalist class, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and proceed to build socialism. It is with this in mind that we communists call for Regional Autonomy for the Southwest! And Equal Rights for the Mexican National Minority!


[1] Op. Cit., Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question”, pg. 13.

[2] Op. Cit., McWilliams, pg. 65.

[3] Ibid., pg. 85.

[4] Op. Cit., Marx and Engels, Collected Works, “Principles of Communism”, p. 83.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., pg. 84.

[7] Op. Cit., Stalin, Collected Works, Vol. 11, pg. 348.

[8] Ibid., pg. 351.

[9] Ibid., pg. 353.

[10] Op. Cit., Marx and Engels, Capital, pg. 757.

[11] Foster, W. Z., Outline Political History of the Americas. International Publishers, New York, 1951, pg. 113.

[12] Op. cit., Marx and Engels, Collected Works. “Communist Manifesto” pg. 117.

[13] Op. Cit., Lenin, National Policy. “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, pg. 133.