Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Interview with a Chicano communist: ’Chicanos must unify to meet the challenges of the 80’s’


First Published: Unity, Vol. 4, No. 7, April 24-May 7, 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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UNITY recently interviewed Bill Flores, a member of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L) and a veteran activist in the Chicano Movement. In this interview Flores discusses the League’s views on some important questions facing the Chicano Movement.

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Q: How would vow characterize the present situation facing Chicano people and the tasks of the Chicano Movement?

A: The situation tor Chicanos today is very serious. The ruling class has launched one of the most far-reaching attacks since the 1930’s on the social, political and economic gains made by the Chicano Movement. Affirmative action in hiring and higher education is on the way out. The federal government will no longer fund bilingual education, which could cause the elimination of all such programs in the next five years. In fact, the Supreme Court just ruled that a company can fire a person for speaking Spanish on the job; and Senator Hayakawa wants to pass a law making English the official language of the country. There has been a staggering rise in police brutality in our barrios. It was even filmed for history in South Texas, where they videotaped sheriffs regularly beating Chicano and Mexicano men and women for no reason. Police murder of Chicanos is not only growing: it’s becoming a lucrative source of income for some people. The city of Longmont, Colorado, recently paid $25,000 of city money to the attorney for a cop who shot and killed two unarmed Chicanos.

Our land struggle faces the most serious threat in its history. Interior Secretary James Watt has given the oil, gas and mineral corporations the green light to plunder and destroy Chicano lands in the Southwest. The immigration service has resumed its gestapo-style raids into our barrios and work places. Reagan is attempting to eliminate all social service programs which help minorities.

This is only a partial listing of the unprecedented oppression facing the Chicano people today.

Naturally our people are fighting these attacks in any way that they can. People are organizing throughout Aztlan around all of these issues and more. Unfortunately, though, the resistance at this time is mostly local, scattered, and the movement itself is relatively fragmented. Many of the militant Chicano organizations of the 60’s, which exerted a powerful influence on the movement at that time, are either gone or are having serious problems and are unable to provide the comprehensive leadership which is now needed.

Given all this, we think that the main task facing the Chicano Movement today is to build its unity. The avalanche coming down upon us now calls for us to join forces as much as possible. It is especially important, in our opinion, for the communist and revolutionary nationalist forces to unite. I am talking about ourselves and groups such as La Raza Unida Party, the Committee on Chicano Rights, the Brown Berets, El Comite Contra Represion, the Crusade for Justice and others. These were the forces which in the main determined the character of the movement in the 60’s and 70’s and which upheld the revolutionary demand for self-determination. We can once again have a positive and broad impact if we can build our unity. Of course this unity must be around concrete issues such as the struggle for bilingual education, for immigrants, etc., and it does not mean that all of our differences will automatically disappear. But we had better reserve those differences for now, in the interests of helping the Chicano people to preserve the precious gains they won through so much suffering and struggle.

Right now certain of the reformist forces are becoming very active and are growing. I’m talking about groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens which is very active in Texas, like the United Neighborhood Organization in Los Angeles, the Communities Organized for Public Service in San Antonio, and the Ecumenical Sponsoring Council in San Jose. Unity should be built with these forces too. They are part of the Chicano united front, and they are objectively fighting against different aspects of the people’s oppression. At the same time we don’t think that it is in the best long-term interest of the Chicano liberation struggle for such forces to gain a dominant position since they tend to restrict the struggle strictly within the confines of what is acceptable to the capitalist system. Liberation can never be won in this way.

One other important task facing the movement is to take up in a broad way the fight for bilingual education and for the rights of undocumented Mexicanos. The ruling class wants to wipe out bilingual education so that it can demoralize the Chicano Movement by destroying its national pride, identity and culture – essential parts of any liberation struggle. The attacks on the undocumented affect millions of people who form the fastest growing and most oppressed section of our movement. While of course the movement should try to take up all of the issues which confront it, we think that these two are key because of their potential long-term impact and because they hit at the heart of such important questions as Chicano-Mexicano unity, the strength of the Chicano-Mexicano working class and so forth.

Finally we think that the Chicano Movement should continue, as it has in the past, to build unity with other working and oppressed people. The basis for this unity is broader and stronger than ever now, what with the sweeping attacks the capitalists are making on everyone.

Q: You mentioned the importance of the struggle for the rights of undocumented Mexicanos. The Reagan administration has talked recently about “limited amnesty” for undocumented immigrants already living here. Also some forces call for “open borders” to deal with this question. What is the League’s position on each of these views?

A: Reagan’s so-called solution of limited amnesty is really no solution at all. The notion of “amnesty” implies that you did something wrong. There is nothing wrong with immigrants coming to the U.S. to seek employment. The real culprit is U.S. imperialism, which robs the third world countries. It is certainly not the Mexicano worker.

Reagan’s amnesty is a charade anyway because it would only grant legal residency to a very small number of people who are here now, while stepping up attacks against those who enter after the designated date or who are not fully “qualified” under the provisions of the proposed program. Such an amnesty will only divide people and benefit a tiny handful. Mostly it will benefit the capitalists.

We are not opposed to an amnesty program, as long as it applies to at least a significant number of undocumented people and if it is not used as a device to attack the rest. Such a plan could be a positive step forward, although we think that the best demand is for unconditional legal residency for all immigrants. This demand applies to all, including those who might immigrate in the future. It best safeguards the rights and interests of the immigrant population, and it sets no preconditions on their being able to live and work in the U.S.

As to the slogan of open borders, we think that it is not as good as it seems on the face of it. As we see it, open borders would mainly benefit the U.S. In fact Mexico has been fighting to safeguard its borders from U.S. encroachment for decades. Mexico is immediately at a greater disadvantage in relation to the U.S. if the borders are completely opened, because it is so much weaker economically and politically and militarily. The U.S. imperialists would like to link any opening of the borders with reciprocal concessions from Mexico. There has been talk about possibly extending the tariff-free trade zones, of special trade agreements which would allow the U.S. to get large quantities of Mexican petroleum and natural gas at discounted rates, of establishing a “work permit” program, etc. We believe that the demand for immediate unconditional residency addresses the concerns of Mexicanos who come to the U.S. without having the drawbacks of the demand for open borders.

Q: How does the League view the struggle of Native Americans in the Southwest, and how is this related to the struggle for Chicano self-determination?

A: Both the Indian and Chicano peoples have legitimate national rights in the Southwest, and their struggles are very closely connected. The Chicano Nation occupies only a part of the Southwest, an area stretching along the Mexican border from South Texas to California. The various indigenous peoples also have legitimate claim to territories in Colorado, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and California.

The Chicano people are fighting for self-determination for their nation, and obviously we support that demand.

The Indian peoples are demanding sovereignty. We understand this to mean the right to control their lands, to exercise political power – to be able to make all decisions affecting the use of their lands and natural resources, the right to practice their cultural, religious and spiritual traditions, and to use and be educated in their native languages. This demand is completely just and we support it.

We don’t see a conflict between the demands of Native Americans and Chicanos. It could happen of course that in the future after liberation is won, there could be some disagreements with regard to claims to certain territories. Such disagreements are a product of imperialist history and would best be resolved in a spirit of respect and compromise. But this is certainly not a practical question now, not when the capitalists are viciously attacking both peoples.

In actuality there is a rapidly growing unity among Chicanes and Native peoples in the Southwest in the fight against the nuclear destruction of their lands. This unity is based on a mutual respect for each other’s national rights. Obviously this unity has important implications for the liberation struggles of both Chicanos and Indies.

Q: You spoke earlier about taking up key issues and building Chicano unity. What role did the 10th Chicano Moratorium play in this regard?

A: The 1980 Moratorium was an important occasion for the Chicano Movement. Not only was it one of the largest Chicano demonstrations in years with over 5,000 people, but it had a clear and progressive political orientation for self-determination. It was also broad, with more than 100 groups participating, representing a wide spectrum of the Chicano Movement, it was a tremendous inspiration to see all of those forces addressing the burning issues of the day and demanding self-determination for Aztlan in such a powerful way.

For our part we tried to help build a unified Moratorium in which the movement could broadly take up such issues as the land struggle, police repression, cutbacks, barrio unito among our youth, the fight against the migra and so on.

We thought that unity for the Moratorium could best be achieved through a process of democratic discussion among all the groups involved, on the basis of mutual respect. We felt that such a process could build a unified Moratorium which could have a very positive impact on the Chicano Movement. After quite a bit of struggle, a unified Moratorium did happen, with a relatively good impact.

But the Moratorium was not the success that it could have been. And the main responsibility for this falls on the leadership of a group called the National Chicano Moratorium Committee. These elements are associated politically with the Communist Party USA (M-L) (formerly MLOC), a neo-trotskyite group with no history or roots in the Chicano Movement. There were a small number of honest groups in the National Committee, but it was dominated politically by the CPUSA (M-L).

The National Committee leadership for the most part had no desire to really build the Moratorium to help the Chicano struggle. They only wanted to dominate it and to restrict the participation of others. They demanded for months that the only way to have a unified Moratorium was for other Moratorium groups to liquidate themselves and join the National Committee. They refused all principled proposals to sit down and work out ways to build a unified Moratorium based on the principles of equality and mutual respect.

In fact, the National Committee’s main activity throughout all of last year was not to mobilize for the Moratorium. They put out very little publicity and did little active outreach. Mainly what they did was to go around to different forces in the Chicane Movement to spread lies about other groups, to fan up anti-communism and to create the impression that the 10th Moratorium was nothing but a “movida” or power play between different groups. Their overall impact was to create division and disunity in the movement, and to generate an atmosphere of suspicion which still lingers today in some parts of the movement. They went so far as to block with the Communist Workers Party in splitting last year’s National Chicano Student Conference. They later tried, unsuccessfully, to split the California statewide MEChA organization.

We think that it is a tribute to the Chicano Movement that the Moratorium went as well as it did, given the practice of the National Committee. We think that this was mainly due to the principled stand towards unity and the hard work of groups like MEChA, the August 29th Chicano Moratorium Coalition, the Colegio de La Tierra, the United Mexican American Students organization from Colorado, and others.

But the main lesson of the Moratorium is the potential strength and power of the Chicano Movement. Despite the efforts of groups like the National Committee to downplay the Moratorium or restrict its impact, over 5,000 people did participate. Many of these forces were new to the movement. The stands which they took reflect the genuine desire of the Chicano people for self-determination and reflect the overall correctness of the slogan “Tierra, Libertad y Unidad.” This lesson must be brought out sharply throughout the movement to further inspire the current struggle. It is these sentiments that will prove the real revolutionary potential of the Chicano Movement.