[Marxism] What should revolutionaries do in the Latino immigrant movement?

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Wed Apr 12 07:16:29 MDT 2006

I think the question that Thomas Munzer raised "What should revolutionaries
DO in this movement?" is a very important one that needs to be thought
through carefully. And for the big majority of participants on this list, I
have a very concrete, specific answer: you should do NOTHING "in" this
movement. Nada. Zip.

I think that comrades who are not immigrants and especially are not Latinos
should first understand reality: YOU ARE NOT PART OF THIS MOVEMENT. 

You are, or should be, supporters and an allies of this movement, and in a
loose sort of way we might say we're ALL part of this movement and that's
right, that's great, in fact.

But viewed more specifically and narrowly, as a social force trying to
organize itself, THIS movement is a movement of, by and for Latino
immigrants. Respect its character, respect the integrity of the movement,
even if the reformists and labor officials and politicians and
non-profiteers don't. Act like you really mean it when you say you support
the right of oppressed peoples to SELF-determination. 

And that also means, among other things, going easy on stuff like that Los
Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is a "traitor." He is the first Chicano
mayor of an overwhelmingly Chicano, Mexican and Central American City.
Respect Latino people by showing some respect for our leaders, and, yes,
even our misleaders. 

Disagree with him, by all means, but remember for many Latinos he is much
more than a particular political line. His victory was seen as much more
than the electoral victory of an individual, but the victory of a cause, and
when people from outside the community denigrate the individual the way that
has been done on this list, those people run the risk of being perceived as
enemies of the cause.

Villaraigosa's election wasn't simply the election of another bourgeois
politician, it was also a victory for the right of Latinos to political
representation. And Villaraigosa is not just another bourgeois politician,
he comes out of the Chicano movement, he was part of the blowouts in the
1960's, he was in MECHA, he was a labor organizer. 

He hasn't turned his back on the immigrants, he has supported them and he IS
part of the movement today. He didn't turn his cops on the students who
marched on his office, he met with them and their leaders. Yes, he told them
to go back to school, but I read in the accounts that he also told them to
protest after school and on the weekends. It is not quite as Thomas Munzer
presents things, but even if it were, I would urge comrades to think about
time, place, circumstance, who you are and who the Latino people are before
bandying about a lot of very negative terms about someone seen by the
community as a real leader and example.

And, yes, like duh..., he tells people to march today and vote tomorrow. I'm
for people voting, my friend Peter Camejo is running for governor and Todd
Chretien for Senator and if I were in California I'd vote for them and urge
everyone to do so also. I'm also for ALL immigrants having the right to vote
and I'm for all those who can vote to do so. No taxation without

Does Villaraigosa support the same strategy I do for the immigrant rights
movement? Not at all. He is for people relying on the Democratic Party, and
I completely disagree with him, I think Latinos should rely on our own
organized force in the streets. But he is part of this movement, he is one
of its leaders. That is the reality. People OUTSIDE the movement, and
especially from the oppressor nation, need to take that into account. And
don't think you can substitute for the alternative leadership that needs to
emerge from within the movement, especially by using offensive and
disrespectful epithets. You can't.

*  *  *

And I need to say something directly to Thomas Munzer's about his rant in an
earlier post: "The last thing I or my comrades want to do is stand next to
Dolores Huerta or Ted Kennedy or some careerist state senator or sellout
mayor Villaraigosa or any of the labor lieutenants on a platform."

Dolores Huerta is one of the most respected and beloved figures of the
Chicano movement and of Latinos in the United States generally. You show
contempt for our people, contempt for our history and struggles when you
refer to her in this way. I think your attitude has nothing in common with
the attitude of real revolutionaries towards the symbols and figures
associated with the struggles of Chicanos and Latinos. Out of deference to
Louis's sensitivities, I won't characterize what you said further.


Las barras y las estrellas se adueñan de mi bandera
Y nuestra libertad no es otra cosa que una ramera
Y si la deuda externa nos robo la primavera
Al diablo la geografia se acabaron las fronteras
     --Ricardo Arjona, "Si el norte fuera el sur" 

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