Why Canadians Should Support Six Nations Land Rights

Community Friends for Peace and Understanding with Six Nations

This is the text of a leaflet that was developed by the Community Friends group in Caledonia, Ontario and distributed with the support of members of CUPE 3903

Members of the Six Nations welcome solidarity demonstrators to Kanonhstaton

1. BECAUSE THEIR CLAIM IS JUST AND RIGHT. 

Canada has a long and shameful history of mistreating First Nations peoples. Canada has broken treaty after treaty and has refused to fulfill its obligations to First Nation peoples, the Six Nations people included. Despite the fact that the Six Nations people have always been (and remain to this day) a national Confederation with whom the British crown entered into nation to nation agreements, the Canadian government imposed its own “Indian Act” by force upon them and encouraged the illegal sale and theft of land and revenue belonging to Six Nations. Continue reading

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The National Movement: Marxism and the National Question

by Joseph Stalin

A nation is not merely a historical category but a historical category belonging to a definite epoch, the epoch of rising capitalism. The process of elimination of feudalism and development of capitalism is at the same time a process of the constitution of people into nations. Such, for instance, was the case in Western Europe. The British, French, Germans, Italians and others were formed into nations at the time of the victorious advance of capitalism and its triumph over feudal disunity.

But the formation of nations in those instances at the same time signified their conversion into independent national states. The British, French and other nations are at the same time British, etc., states. Ireland, which did not participate in this process, does not alter the general picture.

Matters proceeded somewhat differently in Eastern Europe. Whereas in the West nations developed into states, in the East multi-national states were formed, states consisting of several nationalities. Such are Austria-Hungary and Russia. In Austria, the Germans proved to be politically the most developed, and they took it upon themselves to unite the Austrian nationalities into a state. In Hungary, the most adapted for state organization were the Magyars – the core of the Hungarian nationalities – and it was they who united Hungary. In Russia, the uniting of the nationalities was undertaken by the Great Russians, who were headed by a historically formed, powerful and well-organized aristocratic military bureaucracy.

That was how matters proceeded in the East. Continue reading

Class Society and the State: The State and Revolution

by Vladimir Lenin

1. The State: A Product of the Irreconcilability of Class Antagonisms

What is now happening to Marx’s theory has, in the course of history, happened repeatedly to the theories of revolutionary thinkers and leaders of oppressed classes fighting for emancipation. During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander.

After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it. Today, the bourgeoisie and the opportunists within the labor movement concur in this doctoring of Marxism. They omit, obscure, or distort the revolutionary side of this theory, its revolutionary soul. They push to the foreground and extol what is or seems acceptable to the bourgeoisie. All the social-chauvinists are now “Marxists” (don’t laugh!). And more and more frequently German bourgeois scholars, only yesterday specialists in the annihilation of Marxism, are speaking of the “national-German” Marx, who, they claim, educated the labor unions which are so splendidly organized for the purpose of waging a predatory war!

In these circumstances, in view of the unprecedently wide-spread distortion of Marxism, our prime task is to re-establish what Marx really taught on the subject of the state. This will necessitate a number of long quotations from the works of Marx and Engels themselves. Of course, long quotations will render the text cumbersome and not help at all to make it popular reading, but we cannot possibly dispense with them. All, or at any rate all the most essential passages in the works of Marx and Engels on the subject of the state must by all means be quoted as fully as possible so that the reader may form an independent opinion of the totality of the views of the founders of scientific socialism, and of the evolution of those views, and so that their distortion by the “Kautskyism” now prevailing may be documentarily proved and clearly demonstrated. Continue reading

Sample Resolutions from the XX Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Resolution on Violence against Women

This 20th Congress of the CPI(M) expresses deep concern over the steep escalation in crimes against women, and is alarmed by the barbarity and savagery of the atrocities being committed at a time when women are entering public life, institutions of learning, and diverse work spheres in increasing numbers. The crude commodification of women and the portrayal of women as sex objects in the mass media is highly objectionable and is not only demeaning to women but creates an environment which trivialises the crime of sexual harassment and violence against women. Continue reading

Taser Death Toll Mounts

by Bob Briton

The death of Brazilian student Roberto Laudisio Curti a fortnight ago has thrown the spotlight back on police use of Tasers. The victim was allegedly fleeing the scene of a crime – the theft of a packet of biscuits from a convenience store. Roberto was also capsicum sprayed. Over the years, media reports have created the impression that the targets of this type of weaponry are people presenting a danger to others in their vicinity or to police.

The 21-year-old Brazilian did not fit this frequently invoked profile. He was reported to be running away from police when shot in the back. It is unclear how many times he was Tasered. A witness reported a female officer kicking the student while he was being held on the ground. Continue reading

Seven Questions for the Dalai Lama

Editor’s Note: It is a universal rule that all religions and their sects should forbid murdering and telling lies, and protect the interests of the country and its people. Tibetan Buddhism is no exception.

It is also a rule of Buddhism and a common understanding that life should be cherished and truth should be respected. However, reviewing some remarks and actions of the 14th Dalai Lama in recent years, the writer cannot help raising some questions to him. (original)

Q1:Why does the Dalai Lama deliberately incite Tibetans for self-immolation?

The Dalai Lama called on Tibetans not to celebrate Losar so as to memorize “the fallen heroes of Tibet” in Dharamsala, India on Feb.22, 2012.

The writer can’t help thinking that the Dalai Lama is deliberately encouraging Tibetans to self-immolate since he appealed to all Tibetans not to celebrate Losar in memorial of self-immolators.

It’s been thousands of years for Tibetans to celebrate Tibetan New Year, which is an important carrier of Tibetan culture, customs and emotions. Tibetans are able to obtain the great soul from Losar after a year of hard work.

However, “self-immolation” is an extreme way to end one’s life. In the modern age, any group or force encouraging self-immolation for their illegal purposes in any place is bound to be condemned.

UN declaration on measures to eliminate international terrorism declared that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular communities for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.

From “3.14 Riots” in 2008 to recent self-immolations, all those incidents were premeditated long before and happened at a price of ordinary Tibetans’ peaceful life and even lives?

There is a saying in Buddism: “Saving one life is better than build a seven-storey pagoda”. Looking back, how many young lives have been terminated due to the Dalai Lama’s bewitching. Even if the Dalai Lama build hundreds of thousands of temples, it could not offset his sin in inciting repeated self-immolations of young monks.

Q2: Who extinguishes Tibetan culture?

In November 2011, the 14th Dalai Lama acclaimed in Japan that the reason for Tibetan monks’ self-immolations was “China’s policy on extinguishing Tibetan culture”.

As to “Tibetan culture”, the Dalai Lama follows such a logic: Tibetan culture is the culture of Tibetan Buddhism, the culture of Tibetan Buddhism is the culture of the Gelug Sect (the yellow sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and the sect of the Dalai Lama) while the Dalai Lama has the final speaking in the Gelug Sect.

In other words, anything that goes against the Dalai Lama is regarded by him as “extirpation of Tibetan culture”. What a ridiculous idea! The Dalai Lama still treats himself as the serf owner, Tibet as his property and Tibetan people as his slaves.

A scholar has pointed out that the so-called “extinguished Tibetan culture” refers to the absolute privilege of the religious figures. In the Dalai Lama’s eyes, the fact that common Tibetans master the culture would violate the stiff hierarchy of theocracy.

In fact, Tibetan culture consists of not only religious culture but also folk culture, not only traditional culture but also modern culture, not only the culture of the Tibetan ethnic group but also the cultures of other ethnic groups, such as Confucius culture, Mongolian culture and Manchu culture.

The religious culture has never been the only content of Tibetan culture, let alone the “Dalai Lama’s culture” or “Gelug culture”. The 14th Dalai Lama racks his brains to cheat the world that he develops the whole Tibetan culture if he develops the Gelug culture. What he does is the worst “extirpation of Tibetan culture”!

In the writer’s opinion, the Dalai Lama’s “extirpation of Tibetan culture” exposes his ugly purpose: he attempts to meet the demand of Tibetan separatists and stir up the Western forces’ “impulse to put pressure on China” in order to realize his aim of restoring Tibet’s serfdom and dividing China.

Q3: Are the central government of China and Tibet in a “Supply and Granting” relationship?

The 14th Dalai Lama claimed in his “Reincarnation Statement” that the “Supply and Granting” relationship between the central governments of Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) and Tibet didn’t change even when the 13th Dalai Lama was conferred in 1879.

His statement implied that inland China and Tibet was historically in the so-called “Supply and Granting” relationship, and denied Tibet as an administratively subordinative region of China.

Reviewing the history of Qing, however, the author cannot help wondering why the Dalai Lama, known for his lineal memory of previous life, suddenly became “amnesiac” and denies the fact that Tibet is an inalienable part of China. The author would like to help Dalai Lama recover his memory kindly by raising some questions.

Since the Dalai Lama considered the central government and Tibet had no “Supply and Granting” relationship when he was appointed, why was he so polite towards the central government’s ministers stationed in Tibet, reporting everything and seeking for support whenever he met problems?

Did he remember that he had directly reported to the emperor but was denied for bypassing the ministers stationed in Tibet?

The author believes that his previous life didn’t forget these facts before he was reincarnated, and he should not suddenly lose memory. He cannot go so far as to deny those facts as a human being.

Here is a piece of advice for the Dalai Lama: if there were no “Supply and Granting” relationship between the central government and Tibet and no drawing lot from the golden urn, the Dalai Lama and his previous life would not have existed either, let alone the “shows” he performed today.

At present,”traveling through time” is prevalent in the films and TV series. And I think the Dalai Lama should also “travel back” and review his previous life, and then he will tell the truth.

Q4: Why did you build up a “Berlin Wall” of national antagonism?

“Since the Berlin Wall collapsed, the world has witnessed that despotism has no future…the world belongs to humanity, and every country belongs to its people, not a political party, nor a king or spiritual leaders”, said the Dalai Lama in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) in July 2011, acting as if he is the “protector” of the world.

However, the author once noticed that the Dalai Lama stated in the “Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People” (delivered in November 2008) that “it would be vital that” the so-called future “autonomous organs of self-government have the authority to regulate the residence, settlement and employment or economic activities of persons who wish to move to Tibetan areas from other parts of the PRC”. This remark is a public declaration to expel non-Tibetan residents out of Tibet.

At the same time, the Dalai Lama and his followers advocated the “promotion of harmonious relationships between the Tibetan and Han people” with their tongues in cheeks, colluding with some shameless scholars to organize “Friendship Association between the Tibetan and Han people”. Through the contrast, it is evident that the Dalai Lama is a tricky liar skilled in double-dealing. His real intention of stirring up national hatred is obvious.

To be specific, the Dalai Lama was preying for support and sympathy with so-called slogan of “autonomy”, so that the feudal serfdom can be restored one day; and in the name of “protecting ethnic characteristics”, he was actually building up a “Berlin Wall” of ethnic segregation and confrontation.

The remarks of the Dalai Lama remind us of the uncontrolled and cruel Nazi during the Second World War.

Behind the Dalai Lama’s concepts of “Middle Way Approach” and “high-level autonomy” is actually the idea of ethnic separation.

How similar it is to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jewish!

Q5: Who do you speak for?

On February 10, 2010, the Dalai Lama asserted that he had responsibilities to speak for 6 million Tibetans during his trip of U.S.

He always plays tricks under the cover of doing good for Tibetans. It is doubtable that the Dalai Lama would speak on the behalf Tibetans as he is sponsored by the US and his relatives work for Central Intelligence Agency.

Let us find out who does the Dalai Lama actually speaks for.

The Dalai Lama claimed himself “son of India” on November 22nd, 2009. To be filial to his “father”, Dalai frequently exclaimed that the Lhoka Prefecture in Tibet belongs to India. He even said that India was better qualified for claiming Tibet’s sovereignty.

The Dalai Lama is the largest serf-owner in the old Tibet. He enjoyed the obedience of officials and owned all land, livestock and serfs.

The secular Geluns who followed him fleeing to India are no exception from oppressors. Top leaders of the Dalai Clique are merely ordinary Tibetans.

As for lives of the Tibetan communities in exile, they live in poverty and misery which can not be compared with their counterparts in China. It is doubted whether the Dalai Lama could repay them.

The Dalai Lama is labeled as “American follower”, “Son of India” and the formerly “serf-owner”. He speaks for his overseas boss and the feudal serf system. Democracy and election, out of his feudal realm before, became his “slogan” now. What a fickle man.

There is no possibility that the Dalai Lama can serve as a qualified leader for his followers. Unless he had rewritten his gene mapping as a serf-owner and traitor, could he be the spokesman of the Tibetans, which we all know is impossible.

Q6: Who are you praying for?

The Dalai Lama always says that he admires the courage of those who have died in self-immolation incidents and he will pray for them. To win the chance of being prayed by the Dalai Lama who has special religious status, his followers are in no doubt required to imitate their “examples”. The Dalai Lama has pointed out the method: “self-immolation’.

Praying is a common thing in religion, but if it were used with despicable intention it would become curse. What is the 14th Dalai Lama actually praying for then?

At first glance, the Dalai Lama seems to have prayed a lot: he did pray for the accidents such as Japan earthquake, the tsunami in Indonesia, and Taiwan typhoon.

However, when it comes to the interests of the United States and his other supporters, the Dalai Lama must be tight-lipped regardless of creatures being trampled on. For example, recently the US soldiers shot a dozen Afghan women and children, but the Dalai Lama dared not speak even a word. How clever he is!

The Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008 killed tens of thousands of lives instantly including many Tibetans. When some of them were not confirmed dead or alive, on May 15, the Dalai Lama visited Germany. However, he made no comment on the human catastrophe when many Tibetans were suffering physical and mental pain, nor did he express a trace of sympathy. Sources said that the Dalai Lama was in inexplicable ecstasy, showing his “real gaffe “.

What’s more, the Dalai Lama did nothing for the quake-hit Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwest China’s Qinghai Province, though he murmured a few words. It was the huge investment from central government that helped the affected Tibetans to rebuild their homes quickly.

After all, the Dalai Lama’s “prayer” is just a political one. He himself should know clearly whether his title of “Nobel Peace Prize winner” is true or false. He painted camouflage of “blessing”, but the color is peeling off and the inside is being brought to light.

Q7: Why Dalai Lama is despised by Netizens?

Before each self-immolation, it was always accompanied by activities such as “religious affairs” or “assemble meeting” organized by the Dalai Clique. The Chinese netizens gave an insight into the case.

Netizens said the Dalai Lama and his followers, who were all religious figures, had intervened in politics. It should not be allowed by any civilized society.

The Dalai Lama’s motive is clear: to restore the feudal serfdom system in Tibet under the cloak of “democracy”, “election” and “peace” with helps from his foreign partners.

Neither the history nor the people would agree.

The netizens’ voices generally represent the public opinions. We wonder if the Dalai Lama is aware of the fact that he is despised by the public.

The Dalai Lama isn’t worthy of worship. He has never felt contented for his super privilege as head of the feudal serfdom society. So today it is impossible for the monk to “debase himself” and join in carrying out the “democracy”.

Here, I would like to give a piece of advice to the Dalai Lama that if he continued to place himself against the country and the people, he wouldn’t have a good end.

Don’t even think about trying to separate Tibet from China. All the 56 ethnic groups unite together here.

The following is a letter written by a netizen to the Dalai Lama and his western supporters:

I ask God, “When will Tibet be independent?”

God answers, “It is impossible until the earth comes to the end.”

I ask, “Why do some people still play tricks to split China?'”

God illustrates, “They are ignorant, boring and inhuman.”

I am confused and ask, “Why don’t you punish them?'”

God says, “I am in charge of human beings’ behaviors rather than domestic animals.”

I ask, “Who will be responsible for them?'”

God answers contemptuously, “You’d better ask ‘Miss Liberty’ in US.'”

“The white pretentious woman standing at the harbor called ‘Liberty’? ”

“Yes, it is her.'”

“Well, to be frank, I don’t believe in her.”

*note: Originally published on China Tibet OnlineMarch 23, 2012.

The Dubious Legacy of César Chávez

by Michael Yates

review of Randy Shaw’s Beyond the Fields: César Chávez, the UFW, and Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 347 pp., $24.95.

The thesis of this book is simple. Randy Shaw argues that most of the social movements of the contemporary U.S.—labor, immigrant rights, antiwar, worker and consumer health and safety, anti-sweatshop—are fundamentally the progeny of César Chávez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) union. Shaw attempts to prove this by showing that UFW alumni have been critical leaders of these movements, and these causes have employed tactics pioneered by Chávez and the farm workers. Shaw’s argument is deeply flawed.

It is certainly true that thousands of young people, radical activists, trade unionists, clergy, and assorted other actors, politicians, writers, and artists worked for or with the UFW during its heyday from the mid-1960s until about 1980. I did, in the winter of 1977, when I worked at La Paz, the union’s headquarters in Keene, California. For most of us, our UFW experiences were exciting and meaningful. We carried them with us, and they informed our lives and actions.

But the same things could be said about the IWW before the First World War; the CIO or the Communist Party during the 1930s; or the SDS, the SWP, and the antiwar and the civil rights movements of the 1960s. Of course, there were historical continuities in all of these movements—a problem for Shaw’s arguments. The UFW didn’t spring full-blown from the body and mind of César Chávez and his mentor Fred Ross. There is history here, and Shaw, by and large, ignores it. Would the UFW have been possible without the radical Filipino farm workers who started the organizing? The Filipinos drew strength from struggles in their homeland and from the CIO upheavals of the Great Depression. The union used the boycott to good effect, at least in the beginning, and its use of volunteers to staff boycott offices in every major city in the United States and some in Canada was innovative. But the boycott built the AFL in the 1880s and 1890s. Similarly, the civil rights movement used boycotts, nonviolent demonstrations, and volunteers by the thousands, the sorts of tactics that Shaw attributes to Chávez’s genius. Certainly, someone could write a similar book using this movement as its template. The UFW was not unique.

Flaws up close

Consider three points, two small and one large.

First, Shaw says that, “During the 1950s, Chávez met Father Donald McDonnell, who introduced him …to a recent encyclical from Pope Leo XIII on the church’s support for workers who protested unfair labor conditions.” The encyclical, Rerum Novarum (“Of New Things”), was written in 1891, which hardly made it recent. But Shaw doesn’t say that the Pope wrote it in response to the growing popularity of left-wing unions and politics among working people. It is an anti-socialist screed, aimed at Catholic workers. It is very much a defense of capitalism, and only goes so far as to suggest that capitalists must treat workers fairly.

Shaw makes much of the UFW’s alliance with religious groups and clergy, and there is no doubt that church support for the farmworkers’ struggles helped the union immensely. However, the close relationship the UFW and Chávez had with churches was a mixed blessing. The Catholic Church is a hierarchical, dogmatic, and sexist organization. The Church view is, at best, that the poor are worthy sinners who have to be looked after by the priests, who, like Christ, sacrifice for them.

Chávez imbibed this paternalistic ethic, and the ministers, who flocked to the union and were powerful within it, encouraged him. Chávez said that to sacrifice is to be a man. With the union’s successes, Chávez began to think of himself as a holy person, Christ-like and above reproach. Once in a community meeting at La Paz, César was criticized by some of us for making an incredibly sexist remark. He became enraged and said, “I work eighteen fucking hours a day for the union. Who of you can say the same?”

How do you challenge Christ?

Is it any wonder that when Chávez showed his disdain for rank-and-file power in the union, almost none of the clergy challenged him? Or many of his staff or board members either? Is it surprising that Chávez was a staunch anti-communist and engaged in vicious and mindless purges and red-baiting of those who challenged his authority?

Chávez had a history, and the social doctrines of the Catholic church were part of it. Unfortunately, Shaw ignores the seamier side of these. You would never know from this book that the Church did some evil deeds during the great CIO movement of the 1930s, even informing about left-wing labor leaders to the FBI.

The Game

The final chapter in the book contains a long list of UFW alumni who have continued to fight the good fight. It is a kind of “shout out” to these often unrecognized models of courage and social solidarity and an attempted empirical validation of Shaw’s thesis. There are some curious inclusions and omissions, and these raise a second point of criticism. Under the heading “Labor Organizer/Union Staff,” we find the name, Fred Hirsch. Fred is a communist plumber, and he was one of the first researchers to uncover the close relationship between certain unions and the CIA. He worked diligently in support of the UFW, beginning in the 1960s. Fred did not owe his politics or dedication to labor to Chávez or the UFW but to the communist movement.

Fred’s daughter, Liza, who is not on Shaw’s list, began working with (and then for) the union from age twelve. I helped her develop a piece rate proposal for tomato pickers at a ranch near Oxnard, California. We shared a friendship with a volunteer at La Paz, a man who did carpentry and maintenance work for the union.

In the winter of 1977, Chávez hooked up with Charles Dederich, who ran a drug rehabilitation center called Synanon. (To his credit, Shaw discusses this in a chapter on the UFW’s decline). Dederich had concocted a psychological warfare scheme called the “Game,” in which addicts were subjected to relentless group attacks, the idea being to break down their psyches so they could start over again, without drugs. At the time of Chávez’s fascination with Synanon and the “Game,” Dederich was a megalomaniacal cult leader, abusing his clientele. A reporter who exposed the organization found a rattlesnake in his mailbox.

César took to the “game” like Stalin to the secret police, and he used it for the same purpose—to consolidate his power in the union. He took some trusted members of his inner circle to Synanon for training and began immediately to force the game upon the staff. On April 4, 1977, he incited a screaming mob of “Game” initiates to purge the union of “troublemakers.” All sorts of ridiculous charges were made against “enemies of the union,” including our carpenter friend. When our friend confronted Caesar and demanded to face his accusers in a hearing, as the union’s constitution stated was his right, Chávez called the Mojave police and had him arrested for trespassing.

The last time I saw him was at Fred Hirsch’s house in San Jose, after we bailed him out of jail. A few weeks later, Liza went to La Paz to attend the wedding of a friend. César, with whom she had been very close and in whose house she had once lived, summarily threw her off the property and expelled her from the union.

Wreckage

If the UFW positively changed some peoples’ lives, it harmed and wrecked others. Shaw certainly knows this; he just chose not to mention it. He devotes considerable space to the admirable parts of the life and work of famed UFW leader Dolores Huerta, who is also on his list. He uses her as a prime example of the importance of the UFW in training and nurturing social change activists. She has won every imaginable award given to women leaders and been in the forefront of many struggles.

But Huerta has never repudiated Chávez’s dictatorial, hateful, and ruinous behavior. She could have, and it might have made a difference. Instead, she was and still is a Chávez apologist. Shaw reports that she was unhappy with the treatment of women in the union. She says that women need to have power. She doesn’t say for what. Had she been union president, I doubt things would have turned out much different.

Also absent from Shaw’s list of UFW luminaries is Chávez’s son, Paul. The younger Chávez still lives at La Paz, from where he runs a group of interlinked union enterprises, including radio stations and housing companies. The union raises money from these and many other sources: mass mailing fund-raising, marketing the Chávez name to sell union trinkets and win public grants, political consulting, and managing union trust funds. The union has precious few members; a handful of members collect pensions or get health care from the trust funds (though they sit on tens of millions of dollars); and the union leadership seems little concerned about any of this. Paul Chávez is paid more than $125,000 for his “services” to farm workers.

A charitable description of today’s UFW is that it has become a quasi-racket. Another UFW legacy Shaw neglects to discuss. Chávez created an undemocratic union of migrant workers. He ran it as if it were his property. History tells us that such an organization is ripe for corruption. And so it was.

Legacy

The final and most serious flaw of Shaw’s analysis shows itself in the opening pages, where he says, “This legacy should not be based on the size of the UFW’s current membership rolls. Rather, it should be evaluated by the impact of its ideas and alumni on current social justice struggles.”

Let’s see now. The UFW managed, despite long odds, to organize farm workers, attract thousands of talented volunteers to its banner, build a feared grassroots political action machine, defeat the Teamsters and the sweetheart contracts it had signed with growers, and win passage of a farm workers’ labor law unmatched by any other such statute in the country. By 1977, the union was poised to achieve a mass membership that would have made it a power to be reckoned with in California, and maybe in the entire nation.

But then, under Chávez’s autocratic leadership, the union dissolved the boycott staff, firing its leader and accusing him of being a communist; purged its staff, using the most disgusting means imaginable; refused to entertain any local union autonomy and democracy; denied the election of actual farm workers to the union board; ruined the careers, and in some cases, the jobs, of rank-and-file union dissidents; lost almost all of its collective bargaining agreements, and began a long and ugly descent into corruption.

Today, farm workers in California are no better off than they were before the union came on the scene. They still don’t often live past fifty; they still suffer the same job-related injuries and illnesses; they still don’t have unions; they are still at the bottom of the labor market barrel. How is all of this not an important, indeed critical, legacy of the UFW? If we judge the union and Chávez in terms of the well-being of the workers they set out to organize, both must be judged utter failures. If we compare the UFW to any number of the CIO’s left-led unions, for example, the United Packinghouse Workers of America, the Farmworkers pale by comparison. The UPWA was not only a multiracial and democratic union. It also led the struggle to end segregation at work and in the workers’ communities, and it put the pay of the black and immigrant laborers who did the unenviable work of slaughtering the animals we eat on a par with those of steel and auto workers.

A union is supposed to organize workers and improve their lives. Chávez and the UFW had their chances, and they threw them away. Imagine that Martin Luther King had sought and taken advice from Chuck Dederich after his “I Have a Dream” speech. And after that, imagine that he had forced the Memphis garbagemen to play the “Game.” Surely historians would count that as a major part of his legacy.

Alumni

And if we follow Shaw’s lead and look to the “impact of ideas and alumni on current social justice struggles,” we are still left with serious problems. Consider two outstanding alumni, Marshall Ganz and Eliseo Medina.

Ganz was a master organizer, of both union and political campaigns, and he has put this skill, which he learned in the UFW, to use after he left the union. He has led election campaigns for former U.S. senator Alan Cranston, and he was a key organizer in getting Nancy Pelosi elected to Congress. He now teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Shaw makes much of the get-out-the-vote techniques Ganz has mastered. However, these were not new when he used them. The AFL-CIO employed them, and most of the tactics Shaw traces to the UFW, in a 1977 campaign to defeat a right-to-work ballot measure in Missouri. I don’t find Ganz’s work for the Democratic Party to be particularly progressive either. Nancy Pelosi? An old-line political hack trained in the art of politics by the king of pork, John Murtha?

With Medina, we can make a similar criticism. He did many good things with the UFW and after he left. But he was the one person who could have mounted a challenge to Chávez. He chose not to, and he has, to my knowledge, never repudiated the reprehensible tactics Chávez used with the “Game.”

There may be good reason for this. Today, Medina is a senior vice-president of SEIU, a union that has used somewhat similar tactics, but in a situation where the union is loaded with money. The SEIU hires scads of young nonmember organizers, puts them though a cult-like training (the same seems to be true of another union, HERE, which also has many former UFW people on it staff, and which even uses a variant of the “Game” to train new staffers), works them to death, gives them no power inside the union, brooks no criticism, and confines their education to the technocratic mechanics of organizing. They learn little about the labor movement, economics, and the many other things that would help them develop a radical, worker-centered ideology.

The same was true in the UFW; César even sent a spy to monitor a labor history class I had begun to teach interested staff. The SEIU is completely staff-dominated—and staff make a great deal of money—Medina is a long way from his UFW penury. His total compensation in 2006: $194,336. SEIU leadership is as fearful and intolerant of union democracy and rank-and-file power as the UFW. If local workers assert themselves, there is a good chance that their local will be put in trusteeship by the national union—exactly what happened recently to a large local of healthcare workers in California. It has been trusteed, and Medina is at the center of the whole sordid episode. [Randy Shaw himself, on the civil war within SEIU, is here; a more radical view, from Steve Early, here.]

SEIU is not above threatening to sue its critics, just like the UFW threatened to sue The Nation magazine in 1977 after it published an article I wrote critical of the union. Also, like the UFW, the SEIU has witnessed serious incidents of corruption, involving theft of money and shady dealings with third parties. There is a separate heading for SEIU in Shaw’s table of UFW notables. It is certainly debatable whether this legacy of the UFW is a positive one.

The problem with Shaw is that he simply assumes that the various movements and causes UFW alumni have either led or worked in are good. He doesn’t ask whether what they are doing is what needs to be done to build a better society. Get out the vote for what? Boycott for what? Organize workers for what? Teach people to organize for what?

I enjoyed the parts of Shaw’s book that recount the UFW’s epic battles. But I did not find the rest of it credible or penetrating. An objective history of César Chávez, the UFW, and the union’s legacy has yet to be written.

*note: This article is original to the Left Business Observer website and can be found here. (c) Copyright 2009, Michael Yates. All rights reserved. Michael Yates is Associate Editor of Monthly Review. A new edition of his book, Why Unions Matter, is just out. His blog is here.