Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

October League (M-L)

Chicano Liberation

Resolution of OL’s Third Congress


The Chinese comrades say: “Since World War II, Asia, Africa and Latin America have become the focal point of the contradictions of the present-day world and are seething with struggles on an unprecedented scale against imperialism and colonialism and neo-colonialism. The ever-growing national democratic revolutionary movements in the heartland of capitalism, such as the Afro-Americans against racial discrimination and the struggle of the people of Northern Ireland for independence, all have profound historical origins.”[1] The Chicano people’s struggle for national rights and against all national oppression is also a part of the growing national-democratic revolutionary movements in the heartland of capitalism and like the Afro-American and Irish peoples’ struggles it also has profound historical origins.

The Chicano people constitute a national minority inside the U.S. The O.L. raises the demand for regional autonomy for the Chicano people in the Southwest U.S. and in other areas of large concentrations as well as the demand for full democratic rights. These demands can only be realized as part of the proletarian socialist revolution in this country, therefore making the struggle of the Chicano people a component part of the revolutionary struggle of the masses of the people in the U.S. against imperialism.


The Chicano people’s history is one of struggle. The Chicano people first developed from the Mestizos, a mixture of Spanish and Indian peoples, during the era of colonialism in Mexico. This era marked the very beginnings of the national development of Mexico. The independence movements, the peasant revolts, the bourgeois revolutions, all gave a revolutionary character to the history and culture of the Mexican people. The rise of U.S. monopoly capitalism, its push to expand westward and its conquest of Mexico blocked the national development of the Chicano. Finally, with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Mexican national minority in the Southwest was born. Subsequently, millions of immigrants left the land in Mexico and were forced into the big cities and farms of the Southwest in search of jobs. In this way, the Chicano people developed as a distinct national minority, a part of the Mexican nation now living within the borders of the U.S. with their own character in the fight against subjugation, chauvinism and all forms of national oppression. As Stalin said:

...the persons constituting a nation do not always live in one compact mass; they are frequently divided into groups, and in that form are interspersed among alien national organisms. It is capitalism which drives them into various regions and cities in search of a livelihood. But when they enter foreign national territories and there form minorities, these groups are made to suffer by the local national majorities in the way of restrictions on their language, schools, etc. Hence national conflicts.[2]

This national minority, the Chicano people, are also distinct from the Mexican nationals who are living in the U.S. only temporarily–the millions who cross the border back and forth daily, the thousands in the cities who “legally or illegally” are in the U.S. only temporarily, for a short period of time. These people, distinct from the Chicano people, will be referred to as Mexicanos in this resolution.

This is the history of the Chicano people, scattered among an Anglo majority as an oppressed minority, fighting for the day when they would finally win their full national rights and freedom.

In the late 15th and early 16th century, the natural development of the peoples in America was interrupted by the European colonizers, in particular the Spanish. During this period, fundamental changes were taking place in the class structure of society. Trade and industry were developing and capitalist relations of production were rising within the feudal society of western Europe. This profound change required the opening up of new trade routes; capturing new lands-to plunder, enslave and oppress the native peoples of these lands.

It was this process which, on the one hand, stifled the emergence of class society within the indigenous population while on the other, put the contradiction of social development on a higher plane. The Spanish colonialist plunder and exploitation lasted over 200 years. In the early parts of the first century many rebellions took place. In her book, Elizabeth Martinez points out that: “...the Indians were often joined in revolts by Black slaves, whom the Spaniards had brought to Mexico.”[3]

Even in these early years of social development, there existed objective bonds of unity between Black slaves and the Indians of Mexico. During this period, capitalism became consolidated in many parts of the world and became the dominant social system. In particular, the nationalist movements of the colonial peoples in Latin America and North America were revolutionary movements that were directed against feudalism and slavery and aimed at bringing in capitalism. They dealt a severe blow to the old European feudal aristocracies, much in the same manner that the victories of the Vietnamese and Cambodian people have dealt telling blows to the system of imperialism.

The main characteristics of the period (1810-1821) in Mexico were the movements for independence from Spanish rule. Independence movements throughout Latin America took place in this same period while the European colonial powers waged war against each other.

In Mexico, the peasantry initiated a revolt against Spanish rule. The young bourgeois class was quick to take up the struggle begun by the peasants and adapt it to meet its own needs. This was facilitated by the fact that the leaders of the revolt, Miguel Hidalgo and (after Hidalgo’s death) Jose Morelos, had no clear-cut program.


This period marked the beginning of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Mexico. The objective of the revolutionary forces was to overthrow feudalism as epitomized by Spanish rule. The leading force of the revolution was the rising bourgeoisie and their military chieftains; the immediate reserves were the peasants. The main blow was directed at the representatives of Spanish rule: the Viceroy (and his bureaucracy) and the Church, representing the most reactionary force in the colony. The Church attempted to spread the fear of excommunication among the masses to rob the independence movement of its fighters.

The first period of Mexico’s bourgeois democratic revolution ended in 1821 with the victory of a bourgeois faction that leaned toward centralism and tight control. The other faction favored federalism with more democracy and reforms. The contradictions between these two contending factions brought about most of the quantitative change in Mexico at this time.

This contradiction divided the Mexican nation, especially during the 1830’s and 1840’s, and weakened the country, so making it vulnerable to an imperialist war (in planning stages as early as 1836 or before). This war, the Mexican-American War of 1848, stifled the political and economic development of Mexico and its bourgeoisie. The serious blow it dealt to the bourgeois-democratic revolution is being felt to this day.


When we say that the Mexican-American War was in the planning stages even before 1836, we refer specifically to the Monroe Doctrine, published in 1821, which laid the foundations for U.S. imperialist expansion in the Western Hemisphere. As early as 1825, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico strongly suggested the sale of Texas to the U.S. for one million dollars. The Mexican government refused, but allowed Americans to settle in Texas. By 1834, Americans outnumbered Mexicans in Texas 300,000 to 5,000.

Relations between the two peoples were continually clouded by war, as U.S. expansionist forces advocated open defiance to Mexican authorities in Texas. Many individuals advocated Texan independence, but the slaveholders (who had great influence) pushed the entire bourgeoisie into expansion westward. U.S. land companies had agents, both in Washington, D.C. and Texas and they lobbied for a change. Prominent among these companies was the Texas Land Company of New York, and the Galveston Bay Company, which was in collusion with the U.S. Minister to Mexico.

The war with Mexico wasn’t just a case of expansionist forces in the U.S. prevailing, but pro-slavery forces as well. These pro-slavery forces wanted to in crease their influence in the government, which was being led more and more by the rising northern industrial bourgeoisie. The Southern pro-slavery forces wanted to admit Texas and California as slave states and thus increase their role and power in the government. This further antagonized relations between the two countries, as Mexico had outlawed slavery in 1829.

In April 1836, the army of Santa Ana (made up mostly of unwilling and ill-equipped Mayan Indian conscripts, who spoke no Spanish, who had been marched hundreds of miles through the desert, and who were sick and ill-prepared for a fight following the victory at the Alamo) were defeated by slave-holder Sam Houston and his army. Santa Ana, captured at this battle of San Jacinto, was forced to sign over the territory of Texas. This marked the opening of a campaign which led to the war of 1848.

The period following the cession of Texas to the U.S. was one of constant maneuvering, both diplomatic and military, by the U.S. ruling class. The immediate cause of the war was a dispute over the border between Texas and Mexico. The area involved about 150 square miles of territory. Before the dispute could be resolved through negotiations, the U.S. army occupied the territory. When the U.S. finally offered to negotiate, Mexico refused to see the U.S. representative, who then returned to Washington to convince the ruling class representatives that Mexico would have to be dealt with militarily. When the Mexican army sought to remove the U.S. army from its territory, the U.S. ruling class used this as its long-awaited pretext to declare war on Mexico.

The outcome of the war was almost a foregone conclusion. The U.S. army was well equipped and infused with propaganda about “Manifest Destiny.” It committed many acts of wanton destruction and murder, for example at the town of Matamoros, which was leveled by cannon fire. On the other hand, Mexico was a divided nation, wracked with internal conflicts. The Mexican army was poorly led and poorly equipped. On Feb. 2,1848, Mexico agreed to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexico accepted the Rio Grande as the Texas border and ceded the Southwest (which incorporates the present day states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and parts of Colorado) to the U.S. for $15 million. The war had not been without a show of solidarity between American people and Mexicans. Many deserters from the U.S. army and sympathizers were executed for joining bands of Mexican guerrillas. Many Irish immigrants, as well as other Anglos, formed the San Patricio Corps (St. Patrick’s Corps) which fought valiantly alongside the Mexican army. It’s intimated that some 270 Anglo-Americans fought with the Mexican army at Churubusco in 1847.

The Mexican negotiators of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo took care to protect the democratic rights of Mexicans remaining in the Southwest. They were alarmed that the American negotiator could demand so much territory but completely overlook the rights of Mexicans. Articles 8 and 9 of the Treaty deal specifically with certain democratic and property rights, which to this day have not been honored. Some of the rights include protection of the culture; all rights under the U.S. Constitution and subsequent legislation, etc.

In summing up this period, contradictions within the bourgeoisie weakened the country and made it very susceptible to the expansionist aims of the U.S. bourgeoisie.


The imperialist takeover of the Southwest, which comprised the richest lands of Mexico (nine days before the signing of the Treaty, gold had been discovered in California) dealt a crushing blow to the developing bourgeoisie as well as political and economic development of Mexico.

This imperialist takeover also marked the beginning of the national oppression of the Chicano people and their development into an oppressed national minority. The U.S. not only acquired huge territories rich in minerals (such as gold, silver, copper, etc.) but now there existed an army of laboring people in the Southwest to work their mines and fields. The labor of these and other oppressed national minorities (building the railroads, digging the mines, planting and harvesting the crops, and herding the cattle) was mainly responsible for making the Southwest an integral part of the U.S. economy and strengthened the U.S. imperialists to the point where they could embark on other expansionist ventures.

This began a process which forged the Chicano people, that is, those who stayed within or migrated to the territory seized by the U.S. into a distinct national minority. The ensuing settlement of the Southwest by huge numbers of Anglos subjugated the Chicano people, and made them into a minority. Thus began in earnest the super-exploitation of Chicano labor, and the suppression of their culture and language. The later years only increased this super-exploitation and national oppression.


The next 28 years of Mexican history were years of turmoil in which the liberal bourgeoisie (or the reformists) initiated and defended laws curtailing the traditional privileges of the Church, and charted a new economic and political course for the nation–this was the period called “La Reforma”. This stormy era comprised the popular uprising that unseated Santa Ana in 1855, the anticlerical edicts of 1855 and 1856, the rewriting of the Constitution in 1857, civil war between the two factions of the bourgeoisie from 1856-1860, a breathing space under Benito Juarez in 1861, the intervention of France and the imposition of a foreign monarch from 1862-1867 and the reconstruction presidency of Juarez from 1867 until his death in 1872.

1876, the year in which Porfirio Diaz came to power in Mexico marked the end of another era, one where a section of the bourgeoisie consolidated and further impoverished the peasantry. The attempts of the liberal bourgeoisie to influence Mexico’s direction failed. The agrarian reform was a fiasco, leaving the landed aristocracy more numerous and more wealthy than before, and landless peasants poorer and more miserable. Progress toward democratic control was negligible. Education of the masses had made little progress and there was little, if any, improvement in the living conditions of the people. The one positive gain was the separation of church and state, which was written into the basic law of the land and generally accepted by the people.

The history of the Porfirista dictatorship, as it is called, shows that Diaz and his followers were in fact, direct agents of the U.S. and the British imperialists. From the 1880’s, Mexico had already been delivered to the foreigners. Imperialism came down on the country in a great reactionary torrent, undermining, breaking and deforming the national economy. From a dictatorship of the reactionary landlord class, the government of Diaz became increasingly the agency for selling the national wealth to the foreign imperialists.

Under Diaz, the large and medium land owners grew bigger at the expense of the small proprietors. All idle land was divided among foreign land owners who used thousands of acres for sugar and banana plantations. Small farmers were wiped out and became wage laborers to the imperialists overnight. It was this forcing of thousands of people from their land and into the cities and mining towns which laid the basis for the formation of the Mexican industrial proletariat. It was also responsible for the mass immigration of Mexican people into the U.S. in the first two decades of this century.

With the increased repression of the people came the increased resistance. Peasant revolts were common. Mexico’s own oppressed minority nationalities, especially the Yaquis in Sonora and the Mayas in Yucatan, were part of a heroic struggle against genocidal oppression. Workers rose in massive strikes best exemplified by the Cananea strike in 1906, where thousands of Mexican miners struck for equality of wages with those of the Anglo miners. The strike was smashed with the help of the U.S. imperialists and hundreds of miners were murdered.

1910 marks the date of the bourgeois revolution in Mexico, which brought political independence to that country, forming it into a Republic. During these revolutionary days, which coincided with the First World War and with the tide of revolutionary struggle sweeping the world, thousands of Mexicans began a massive migration to the U.S. Just as thousands of Afro-Americans moved in a mass exodus from the plantation South, so did masses of Mexican laborers flee the turmoil and upheaval of the bourgeois revolution. Thousands of landless peasants, finding no work in the cities of Mexico, made up the bulk of the immigrants.

While the U.S. monopolies with their banks and heavy industries, smashed the old rancho cattle empires and bought the land from the Mexican owners for a measly 25 cents an acre, they needed a large supply of cheap labor to work their holdings. After 1939 more than 750,000 persons emigrated from Mexico to the Southwestern states.[4] As conditions varied in the U.S. and Mexico (jobs, stability, etc.) so did the migration pattern back and forth across the border vary.

The rise of cotton cultivation in Texas, the growth of mining in Arizona and agriculture in Colorado and the rapid expansion of the citrus and vegetable industries in California–all created enormous demands for cheap labor which the Anglo population could or would not supply.


Manpower shortages in WWI redoubled these demands. Mexican immigrant laborers became the principle workforce for California agriculture and also concentrated themselves in places like El Paso, Texas and San Antonio. The cotton boom spread into Arizona, drawing substantial numbers of Mexicans there. When the demand dropped after 1918, many returned to Mexico. But a considerable number stayed on to work the copper mines. By 1930, Mexican-Americans represented 25 per cent of Arizona’s population.[5] According to government reports:

The displacement of Anglo tenant farmworkers by cheaper Mexican immigrant labor fed prejudices in Texas. Mexican-American children were often sent to separate schools and discrimination was widely practiced. Violence against Mexican citizens and Mexican-Americans became so widespread that, in 1922, the Secretary of State warned the Governor of Texas that action would have to be taken to protect Mexicans.[6]

But despite all the hypocritical talk about “protection” the government only intensified its support of the profit-hungry businessmen who used this reactionary violence to keep the Chicanos down and split the working class.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910 served as an inspiration to the Chicano people in the Southwest. For the first time in over 100 years, the masses of Mexican people, with leaders such as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata were playing a major role in determining the course of Mexico’s history and were dealing severe blows to the chains of feudalism and colonialism. For the first time ever, the Mexican proletariat took part in an organized form in a nation-wide movement. This period served as an example and as a lesson both to the people of that time and to the Chicano people today that the time is coming when the working class, rather than being the army for another class’ revolution, will champion their own cause the cause of socialism.


Intense poverty, joblessness, and discrimination drove many people from the Southwest in hopes of a better life. Many were migrant farmworkers and worked their way east with the crops, settling in Chicago or Detroit to work in the steel mills and auto plants. Many joined relatives who had been recruited to work in heavy industry by corporations looking for cheaper labor. Once settled in the midwest, large barrios developed; cities like Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Gary, Indiana, have significant sections of majority Chicanos. In 1960, for example, there were more Chicanos in the state of Illinois than in Colorado and New Mexico combined. These barrios are oppressed areas, with higher unemployment, crime, worse schools, housing, medical care, and police brutality. The threat of a sudden attack by immigration authorities is a reality; in the largest barrio in Chicago, for example, “la migra” has indiscriminately held Latinos, even shipping a Puerto Rican worker “back to Mexico” last year!

The struggle of the Chicano people during the 20th century saw the proletariat growing in size and influence. The U.S. ruling class (which controlled agriculture, mining and railroads in the Southwest) knew that cheap labor was essential to extending and consolidating their power and profits. It was mainly in these industries that the Chicano proletariat distinguished itself. They resisted their exploiters with militant actions, fighting against the full weight of national oppression coming down on them in the form of deportations, jailings, beatings and lynchings.

Labor struggles involving Chicanos dealt with more than just trade union issues. In reaction to the opportunist, class-collaborationist and chauvinist leadership of the AF of L, many of the labor struggles involving Chicano laborers were led by radical or communist organizations, such as the I.W.W., Western Federation of Miners, Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union (CAWIU) and some independent Chicano workers’ organizations like the Union de Obreros Libres, Union de Jornaleros Unidos, Confederation de Uniones Obreras Mexicanas (COUM) etc...[7]

While there were many national forms of organizations, multi-national unity was significant in many of these workers’ struggles. At the turn of the century, Chicano and Japanese workers united to form the Japanese-Mexican Labor Assoc. This unity and organization proved to be decisive in strikes in agriculture in 1903. Multi-national unity became the trend throughout the following years as Chicanos united with other workers, under revolutionary-minded leaders to do battle against the imperialists.

One of the most significant struggles involving Chicanos and other nationalities in the early part of the century was the UMW strike in Ludlow, Colorado in 1914. Chicanos, as well as Italians, Slavs and others were part of the work force. Of the 18 people who died in Rockefeller’s “Ludlow Massacre”, nine were Chicano. The Ludlow strike ushered in a new period in the labor movement along with hundreds of other strikes against the monopoly giants.[8]

The Great Depression of the 30’s heightened capitalist competition and drove down agricultural prices. Again thousands of small farmers were driven to ruin and the imperialists sought to maximize their profits by drastically cutting the wages of workers and through speed-up. Many of the struggles of this period were directed against imperialist attempts at placing the burden of the crisis on the working class and the displaced small farmers. The minority workers played a central role in this struggle of laboring people.

The Communist Party at that time, was instrumental in the organization of Chicano and other minority workers. In 1929 it formed the Trade Union Unity League (TUUL) and waged a militant struggle against the reactionary policies of the A.F. of L. which turned its back on Chicano and Black workers. They established the Agricultural Workers Industrial League which led four important Chicano strikes. In 1931 it changed its name to the CAWIU. For several years this union dominated Chicano strike activity (see London and Anderson, So Shall Ye Reap, N.Y. Times, 1970).[9]

Joan London and Harry Anderson report on the strikes in 1933: “No one knows how many small, local work stoppages went unrecorded that year; 37 strikes were important enough to appear in the records of government agencies. An estimated total of 45,575 workers walked off their jobs, or were locked out, with 669,400 man-days lost. Of these 37 major strikes, 24 came under the leadership of the CAWIU, including all the major ones’.” (p.29)[10]


Despite severe repression and red-baiting, the communists played the leading role in the strike of agricultural workers in the El Monte, Calif, berry strike of 1933. In their effort to unite Japanese and Chicano workers, the Party faced a joint attack from the growers and the government. The Mexican council was brought in, using nationalism to denounce the leaders of the strike as “reds.” The strike was broken when eight of the CAWIU organizers were imprisoned on conspiracy charges (see “The El Monte Berry Strike of 1933,” Ronald Lopez, Aztlan, Spring, 1970).[11]

There is evidence that the CPUSA was susceptible to these kind of nationalist attacks because of their weakness in theory on the Chicano national question. It seems that they viewed the question almost exclusively as a class question and did little to develop the national aspect of the struggle of the oppressed national minority people or push forward their demands against national oppression and for regional autonomy.

Although the CAWIU led ten more strikes in 1934, it died that year, following the arrests of the top leadership under California’s criminal syndicalism laws (London and Anderson, p.38).[12]


But the struggle of the Chicano workers did not end there. The San Antonio pecan shellers’ strike in 1938 marked a high point in this struggle. Led by the CIO with its CP and radical leadership, this strike succeeded in organizing half of the 12,000 shellers. Despite injunctions, the jailing of hundreds of workers, and the betrayal of the Catholic church, an important if short-lived victory was won in that for the first time the workers’ union was recognized as the sole bargaining agent.

During WWII many Chicanos volunteered for the armed forces and were drafted in large numbers. WWII also brought on a severe labor shortage, which the growers and mine owners dealt with by initiating the Bracero Program. Braceros are temporary contract workers on loan from Mexico. The Braceros worked under the most hideous conditions imaginable. While the big unions opposed the program, it was a low point on its list of priorities.

This program was used to smash the union drives in the Southwest, including the famous Arvin, Calif, strike against Di Giorgio Fruit Corporation in 1947. This strike was important for exposing the collusion between the government and agribusiness. It involved Chicanos, Filipinos, and Anglos. Because of this collusion, the strike lost and the union, the National Farm Labor Union, was dealt a serious blow. However, at the end of the Arvin Strike came the modern-day movement of the UFWA.

The last 10-15 years are filled with struggles of Chicano workers for democratic rights and an end to national oppression. The UFWA has been in the forefront of this movement, and served as an example to other oppressed people in this country. Other significant struggles involving Chicanos were the Farah strike, which was led by Chicano women, and the Sloane strike.

There are several important features about the UFWA struggle that should be noted. First of all, it is a struggle that represents better than any other, the merging of the class and national questions. This feature has given the farmworkers’ struggle a special character unlike most union strike struggles. It has served as a call to all oppressed workers and nationalities to unite together and rise up against imperialism.

Secondly, the UFWA movement has demonstrated clearly the division within the labor movement which imperialism has caused, between the basic stratum of the proletariat on the one hand and the labor aristocracy (the bribed strata of the proletariat) on the other. “La huelga” has met with resistance, not only from the big growers and agri-monopolies, but most directly from their lackeys in the leadership of the Teamsters Union. The efforts on the part of the imperialists to build their fascist front of labor has seen the Teamsters’ violent war against the UFWA as one of its central features.


While open terror and fascist-like attacks are a constant feature of the labor struggle against imperialism, the most deadly effects of the labor aristocracy have come as a result of the reformist, sell-out approach of this bribed strata. Through the AFL-CIO leadership, monetary support has been used as a weapon to influence the UFWA into unnecessary compromise and opportunist policies. Also within the UFWA leadership itself, the aristocrats tied to the Democratic Party as well as the revisionists of the CPUSA have used their influence to push electoralism and division among the workers of different nationalities. An important example has been the question of deportation of Mexican workers.

Mexican workers as well as other workers have often been used as strikebreakers by the growers. In response to this, the Chavez leadership has put forth the policy of uniting with the Immigration Service to deport all undocumented workers. Boycott staff members have also been forced to go along with the cooperation with the fascist deportations or face loss of their job. This policy has been very destructive in dividing the workers and separating the UFWA from the Chicano community.

It should be clear from just these few examples that the aristocracy of labor with its dual policies of fascist attacks and reformism, is no friend of the Chicano people and that the Chicano worker is a leading force in overturning this bought-off section of the trade union leadership and replacing it with revolutionary leadership.

Another high point in the history of Chicano labor struggles was the Farah Strike in 1973-74. This nearly two-year-long battle played a decisive role in the fight to bring union organization to the Southwest. Like the South, the Southwest has long been an area of backwardness in unionization. Long a sanctuary for runaway shops, the Southwest has the lowest percent of organized workers as compared with the rest of the country.

The Farah Strike, with Chicana women playing the main role, broke through the chain of union-breaking policies in the garment industry. Despite the efforts of Willie Farah to use every means at his disposal, including violence to keep the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America out of El Paso, a nationwide campaign of support including a massive boycott paved the way for a workers’ victory.

The recent history of the labor movement in the Southwest shows that unity is needed between Mexican and Chicano labor. This question has been used by the monopolists to break strikes and weaken the entire labor movement. Most of the various labor misleaders have used the question of Mexican labor to spread chauvinism, class division and to tie the workers to imperialism’s plunder of Mexico and the rest of the underdeveloped countries.

But the ties between the Mexican and Chicano workers go back hundreds of years and are an important weapon in unifying the working class and advancing the fight for socialism. A clear example of this unity could be seen in the recent (1975) strike at the High Tide Manufacturing Company in Los Angeles where undocumented workers joined with Chicano and white workers in organizing the union in this garment plant. Immediately the company and union leadership cooperated in calling in the “migra” to deport the Mexican strike leaders. This brought on a battle in which workers of various nationalities, assisted by revolutionary and progressive forces in the community, fought side by side in defense of the “illegals.”

This united spirit of struggle also spread to places like Tolteca in Richmond, California, where again undocumented and Chicano workers fought together with progressive forces and communists to win a three-week strike as well as to defend the rights of the Mexican workers.

Those who try to paint the Mexican workers as “strikebreakers” or someone trying to steal jobs from ”American” workers are doing a disservice to the whole working class and to the workers of all countries who have a common interest and a common struggle.


Throughout the past 75 years, Chicanos have been faced with the most intense and brutal repression, both as workers and as a people. The imperialists have used a variety of methods to try to smash the struggles of the Chicano people for liberation. Police repression in the Chicano community has been severe. The Texas Rangers alone have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of Chicanos. Lynchings have been used, especially in the Southwest. There have been pogrom-like attacks on the Chicano community, like the so-called “zoot suit riots” of June, 1943, where units of the U.S. Navy attacked the Chicano community of East L.A., beating and terrorizing the people (including Blacks and Filipinos).

In the 50’s another strike significant to the Chicano people’s struggle took place in New Mexico. The workers of the 95 per cent Chicano local 890 fought police and thugs in the now-famous “Salt of the Earth” strike led by Juan Chacon against the Empire Zinc Co. With revolutionaries and leftists in the lead, the copper miners won a great victory. They are still fighting for their rights in Silver City, N.M. in a struggle needing support from all of us.


The last 20 years has marked a qualitative leap in the struggle of the Chicano people for liberation. It is now taking on an increasingly anti-imperialist form. This period shows every sector of the Chicano people joining in the anti-imperialist struggle, from workers to students. This mass upsurge began in earnest with the struggle of the UFWA at Delano, Calif, in 1965. Since then, their struggle (mostly Chicanos and Mexicanos) has been taken up by the masses of Chicano people, who have joined the Boycott Committees, picket lines and militant demonstrations in support of this struggle for democratic rights in the Southwest.

The farmworkers movement initiated the anti-imperialist struggle of the Chicano people, directed at the basis of imperialist rule in the Southwest, and at the oppression of the Chicano national minority.

A most significant struggle occurred in northern New Mexico during the late 1960’s, led by Reies Lopez Tijerina. After studying the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Tijerina and his followers became convinced the U.S. government had no legal claim to the national forest in Tierra Amarilla. This area of northern New Mexico was the historic homeland of thousands of poverty-stricken people going all the way back to the communal period. Instead of protecting the rights of these people (as called for in the Treaty), the U.S. ruling class and government participated in frauds that deprived the people of their lands. Said Tijerina:

We are angry because they have stolen our land and language. They gave us the ’freedom’ a man gives to a bird in a cage. They took the scissors and clipped both wings (land and language). Language is our freedom – language which is the result of the accumulated centuries - the food left us by our forefathers. (1968 speech at UCLA)

After years of frustrated legal efforts to return the land at Tierra Amarilla to the people, La Alianza Federal de Mercedes, led by Tijerina, physically occupied the forest on Oct. 15, 1966. When police, sheriffs’ deputies and Rangers moved in, La Alianza captured two Rangers and tried them for trespassing and for being a public nuisance. The people’s court fined them and handed down a sentence of 11 months and 21 days in jail, then “mercifully” suspended the sentence (Richard Gardner, Grito! Reies Tijerina and the New Mexico Land Grant War of 1967).[13]

While out on bail, Tijerina led the famous raid on the Tierra Amarilla courthouse in 1967. Tracked down by national guard planes and helicopters, La Alianza was subject to mass arrests and shootings. But the movement continŽued. On June 5,1969, Tijerina and his followers occupied the Kit Carson National Forest where he was arrested and jailed. La Alianza was ultimately smashed, but the struggle in Tierra Amarilla serves as an inspiration to all those who fight for the national rights of the Chicano and Mexicano people in the Southwest. A major reason for the intense repression faced by Tijerina and La Alianza was its close fighting unity with the Black liberation movement. It represents another page in the united struggle of Black and Chicano peoples against imperialism.

The anti-imperialist struggle of Chicanos spread to the youth, as Chicano students began forming their own organizations on college campuses to wage a militant fight for the democratic right to a decent education, denied them by the imperialists. These student struggles were by no means confined to the college campuses. In 1968 in East L.A. there were militant walk-outs involving several high schools. The main issues were the racist educational system, the complete lack of any relevant programs for Chicano students which would teach them of their history and culture, and the racist teachers.


The period since the end of WWII shows the growth of political awareness and national and class consciousness among the Chicano people. During this period dozens of militant political organizations grew up, such as The Political Association of Spanish Organizations (PASO) in Texas, The Mexican-American Political Association (MAPA) in California, The Denver Crusade for Justice, National G.I. Forum (started because Chicano veterans were excluded from the veterans’ organizations), The Brown Berets, La Raza Unida Party and others which reflected the beginning stages of consciousness.

In 1970 the Chicano Moratorium brought tens of thousands of people into the streets in the highest development of anti-imperialist consciousness yet among the Chicano masses. It drew the link between the imperialist plunder of the peoples of Indochina and the national subjugation of the Chicano people in the Southwest. Despite the violent suppression of the Moratorium, it still serves as an inspiration to the Chicano people and oppressed peoples everywhere.

The late sixties and early seventies saw a marked development of the Chicano struggle and political development, as out of the ranks of Chicano activists developed a core of Marxist-Leninists. This was a break with the reformist line of the Democratic Party politicians, and a turn toward Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought and the task of building a new communist party in the U.S. Within either separate Chicano communist collectives, or the multinational organizations, these cadre have made significant contributions to the cause of spreading revolutionary thought and action to the masses.


[1] Shih Chun, On Studying Some World History

[2] J.V. Stalin, Marxism and the National Question

[3] Martinez, Longeaux, and Vasquez, Viva La Raza

[4] U.S. Bureau of Census, 1933

[5] Ibid.

[6] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Mexican Americans and the Administration of Justice in the Southwest

[7] London and Anderson, So Shall Ye Reap

[8] October League, The Call, February, 1975

[9] London and Anderson, So Shall Ye Reap

[10] Ibid.

[11] R. Lopez, “The El Monte Berry Strike of 1933,” Atzlan, Spring, 1970

[12] London and Anderson, So Shall Ye Reap

[13] R. Gardner, Grito! Reies Tijerina and the New Mexico Land Grant War of 1967