By Javier Rodriguez from Los Angeles 8 Feb 2015
TRUST ME, the recent essay by Communist Party Chairman John Bachtell, published last week in the People’s World newspaper, is not necessarily a surprise. It is a continuing historical pragmatic position geared towards driving a war knife into the heart of the American far right, including the country’s extreme reactionary leaders now embedded in the federal government, the House of Representatives and the US Senate which, as is widely known, are today the driving force behind the Republican Party’s political and organizational strategies and direction.
To provide you with several vivid examples, for the last 6 years, in detriment of our country and the 99%, the ultra right has persistently obstructed the liberal and progressive wing of the political class and President Obama from effectively governing the country and turning the country and the economy around. This, if you recall, has been done with a smack of cynical hypocrisy because it was the George W. Bush’s administrations of 2000-08 which left the country’s economy in shambles and saddled with two fabricated and bankrupting wars that grotesquely enriched the fascist Neo-Con’s favorite corporations. As Barack Obama took the reins of the nation in the historical election of 2008, on immigration, which for years has been the litmus test for the Latino electorate, the far right leaders have tenaciously blocked the passage of reform, and today, they are on a mission to derail the Executive Actions signed by the President to protect and empower the millions of undocumented in the country.
Moreover, they have also tried, but so far have failed dozens of times to turn back the clock on the Affordable Care Act of March 21, 2010 which has already benefitted millions of Latinos, Blacks and other members of the 99%. Additionally, they have done the same with all other progressive legislation or presidential actions signed since 2008 by the first African American President in American history. The fact that Barack Obama is seating in the most powerful position in the planet, that he is an African American and today is outfoxing the white on white far right, is an added right wing incentive for his defeat and that of the potential next democratic nominee, a woman: a Clinton or Warren.
Historically the Latino Civil and Immigrant Rights Reform Movement and its leaders have worked in broad alliances and fronts, which since the sixties, the Communist Party USA and other left organizations and tendencies have always been a part of, especially in the building of the pioneer United Farm Workers Union-UFWA and the immigration reform movement, both founded in the 1960s. The latter seminal development ensued in Los Angeles and it was directed by its mentor Humberto “Bert” Corona. The visionary leader who was born in El Paso, Texas in 1917, was also the son of a revolutionary colonel who fought with Pancho Villa. He also lived and struggled through several decades of social and class battles which to name a few, included the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution; the Great Depression of the 30s and the deportation and expatriation of over 1 million Mexican immigrants and US born Mexican Americans; the founding of the first Mexican American organizations in America, including the Congress of Hispanic Peoples and the Mexican American Political Association- MAPA; he fought in World War II; saw first hand the Bracero Program of the 40s-60s; lived the Operation Wetback campaign of the 50s; built the John Kennedy for President Campaign; and in 1968 in Chicago, on national TV, he was the first Mexican American to address a Democratic National Convention. An avid reader as well, he was also as a student of dialectical and historical materialism which throughout his radical years he learned to master and apply it in practice.
In the founding of the grass roots reform movement he wasn’t alone. With him were his first wife Blanche Corona a civil rights and labor activist, organizer Soledad Alatorre, Humberto Camacho of the United Electrical Workers Union-UE, Rose Chernin of the Committee for the Bill of Rights, a CP national front, MAPA and a host of other Latino progressive and nationalist organizations and activists of the time. The leading immigrant organization founded that year by this group was the Autonomous Center for Social Action-C.AS.A.-MAPA. It should be noted that the majority of the founders were also prominent members of the general Latino Civil Rights social movement and active trade unionists.
Additionally, in the period of 1971-74 members of important Latino organized sectors joined C.A.S.A. and to single out a few: the large and prominent Latino immigrant Rodriguez Family of Los Angeles; Mexican political refugees from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, all of them Marxists; and finally about 250 members of the National Committee to Free Los Tres and other groups from several states of the union. In fact, a number of activists in the leadership of this movement were at one time integral members of the several left and progressive organizations as well as the Latino Student Movement of the late sixties, seventies and beyond.
This movement, the first of its kind, grew extensively picking up broad national support in its first five years, to the point that also under Corona’s direction, the National Coalition for Fair Immigration Laws and Practices-NCFILP was established in 1973- 74. Again, in the making of the lobbying Coalition, broad fronts were organized which attracted hundreds of participants nationally to the founding conferences in the City of Los Angeles, which in turn facilitated and expanded the arteries of immigrant rights and the reform movement. The January 1973 conference held in LA at the basement of the old Saint Joseph Catholic Church had Congressman Ed Roybal as a keynote speaker and also Pedro Castillo, a radical and leading law student at Mexico’s UNAM, who upon returning to his country was arrested and jailed without charges for three years.
While CASA’s services and chapters expanded and rank and file undocumented membership also grew by the thousands, the 1974 2nd National Conference of the NCFILP held at ELA College was attended by close to 1000 participants from dozens of cities and states from coast to coast including LA, New York, Chicago, San Antonio, Denver, Greely and Mexico’s UNAM. In absence of the internet, “the Old Man Corona,” as we called him, sent a 5 member LA delegation headed by me, Raul Leon de la Selva, one of the Mexican law students, Pepe Palacios, a 17 year old Salvadoran undocumented immigrant, Sandra Aguirre and Attorney Lorraine Tafoya of the Los Tres Committee. The group traveled and slept in a new van bought by CASA for a month and a half and visited all of the Southwest and Mid-Western States speaking to grassroots audiences in communities, unions, colleges and universities.
On top of the successful organizing efforts, CASA also carried the working class message of “An injury to one is an injury to all” which encompassed the undocumented. Essentially, it was aimed at the national Latino and civil rights Movements, labor and the new born Latino media. It was no easy task because as part of the cold war politics, organized labor then had a reactionary anti immigrant line which preached the rising undocumented immigrant was “unorganizable.” Unfortunately, this same regressive political school of thought was carried for years by the leadership of the United Farm Workers Union-UFWA.
Like today, in the past, several of the left organizations, unions and especially the CP fell victim to the anti communist crusade and the ideological traps of exclusionary politics propagated by members of the corporate, media, government intelligence and political –meaning politicians- ruling class. Liberal and right wing leaders waged sectarian and factionalist purging campaigns to oust the left from the ranks and leadership of democratic membership organizations. The clearest examples in the history of the Latino struggle were the witch hunts carried out within the UFWA during the 1970s, unfortunately led by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Marshall Gahnz and other leaders.
At the same time of the witch hunts, the union’s leadership also waged a brutal campaign against the undocumented immigrant worker to the point that in 1974, they actually engaged in patrolling the US-Mexico border in search of the crossing immigrants and then turning them over to immigration authorities. It was at this moment where the ongoing conflict between the two schools of thought, its movements and its leaders reached a crossroads. An enraged Bert Corona staged a press conference on the other side in Mexico and harshly criticized Chavez, labeling him “irresponsible.”
The conflict and divisions did not stop there. In 2006, in the making of the “Immigrant Spring,” it flared up once more. The “old alarming red flag” went up again when the leadership of the UFW, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the County Federation of Labor and the moderate wing of LA’s reform movement realized that I, a member of the progressive Rodriguez Family, was leading the March 25 Coalition and what was to become the largest street mobilization in the history of this country. The street demonstration I’m referring to was the March 25, 2006 protest against HR4437, the Sensenbrenner Bill which called for the criminalization of undocumented immigration and any American that assisted them including clergy, teachers, social workers and families.
At the same time that the ultra right was making its move, the movie “A Day Without a Mexican” was breaking records at the box office in the US and Mexico and it clearly set a vision of action for the millions of the undocumented workers and their families in the US as well as for all Latinos in America. The stage was set and our people were screaming for leadership. However the moderates and Mexican American types did not see the Tsunami tides of discontent rising until it was too late. By that time they realized the radicals were in the front leading, so their initial response was to destroy the village in order to save it. A common tactic which was popularized during the Viet Nam War when the US Armed forces opted to napalm, bomb and burn the villages of poor unarmed peasants in the country in order to destroy the homes of potential sympathizers and/or active supporters of the Vietnamese revolution. In our case at first the tactic was to discredit and disdain the call to march as unrealistic, because it was a fantasy to think “hundreds of thousands of people would respond.” When that didn’t work and the call went out nationally for the March 25 date and 75 cities responded, then their Plan B went into effect. The 2nd step called for a coup de tat / Un golpe de estado, placing the UFW in front to oust the leaders of the M25C and cancel the march, shifting it instead to the bland Cesar Chavez Annual Celebration. Fortunately Plan B also went down into the trash bin of history.
To reiterate, on that historical day 1.7 million people marched in LA plus hundreds of thousands more rallied from coast to coast. From that date to April 10th, April 15th and May First, millions more marched and boycotted to defeat HR4736, advance immigration reform and put a stop to deportations. In a word, the roots of today’s presidential Executive Actions of June 2012 and December 2014, signed by Obama to protect an estimated 5 million immigrants from the terror of deportation, provide them work permits, the right to a higher education, the right to a license and to travel to their home countries whenever emergencies arise, can be found in the Immigrant Spring of 2006.
The 5 Million People Victory which is about to be a reality on May 20 -in 100 days- belongs to the broad sector of forces that make up the largest ever immigration reform movement in America and TRUST ME, this includes the left and progressive forces in its ranks.
*Javier Rodriguez is a journalist, a blogger and a media and political strategist. A long time social activist, he is recent co founder of the Millions of Voices Coalition in LA that on Sept. 22, 2013 organized the largest march of that crucial year with thousands of people in Downtown LA for Reform; He was also the initiator and directed the making of the 1.7 million historical immigration march in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006, as well as the May 1st 2006 Great American Boycott;
Back in 1982-86, he directed the mass street mobilizations in LA that led up to the Amnesty Law IRCA of 1986; a journalist, he traveled for 5 ½ months throughout Mexico in 2012, observing and writing about the country’s political process, the aftermath of a highly questioned presidential election, visited several war zones and his family, as well as traveled with Elvira Arellano to the State of Tabasco border with Guatemala, where the Central American migrants catch the train they call “La Bestia-The Beast.” Between 1987 and 1996, his son Jesus, his nephew Jaramillo and his brother Jesus all fell victim to neighborhood violence in urban LA. His blog is Larayueladejavier.wordpress.com; email firstname.lastname@example.org