BY HARRY RING
LOS ANGELES - A jam-packed meeting of the Militant Labor Forum heard Olga Rodríguez, editor of the newly reissued Pathfinder book Politics of Chicano Liberation. Guests of honor at the event were la marchistas, the group of young Latinos and Latinas who are walking more than 500 miles from the state capitol in Sacramento to San Diego. En route, they are rallying support against Proposition 209, a California ballot measure to scrap state-sponsored affirmative action programs.
They brought solidarity greetings to the meeting, called for support to their fight, and urged everyone to turn out for the demonstrations at the Republican convention in San Diego. They received repeated ovations.
More than 100 people attended the July 20 meeting and the barbecue that preceded it. The audience included 40 socialist unionists, members of the International Association of Machinists, who held a weekend conference here.
Rodríguez saluted the marchistas as representing a generation of fighters that are in the forefront of a new upsurge in the Chicano struggle.
She discussed the world crisis of capitalism and the drive to make the workers of the world "foot the bill" for it. This has sparked working-class resistance, including a resurgent Chicano movement.
It is this rise in the struggle, she said, that prompted Pathfinder to reissue Politics of Chicano Liberation, a compilation of Socialist Workers Party resolutions and reports on the explosive battle of the Chicano movement from the 1960s into the early '70s.
She described the book as "an accurate account of real battles," particularly valuable for the Marxist perspective it offers "on the roots of the oppression of my people, the Chicano people."
The developing struggle today, she explained is markedly different than the earlier one in that it is totally interwoven with the struggles of other oppressed nationalities - the Irish, Quebecois, Palestinians and more - as well as the beginnings of a fightback by the working class as a whole.
The Chicano movement that erupted on the political scene in the 1960s won major victories.
But that movement, like those of other oppressed nationalities and women, finally declined, Rodríguez explained, because there was not a similar development in the trade union movement.
The union bureaucrats stubbornly refused to take up these progressive struggles, and did so without much resistance from the ranks.
But, she emphasized, the situation is very different today because there is a very different working class. The labor force now includes millions of Chicanos, Latinos, Asians, and others.
"Today, in every industry," she declared, "we work next to people from all over the world. They make our class stronger, and they open up the union movement in a different way."
Throughout, she stressed that the fight for immigrant rights is central for all working people. Among the oppressed nationalities, she continued we are seeing a vitally important, growing unity.
One of the greatest victories for the marchistas, she declared was the reception they got in the Los Angeles Korean community. There was an organized group of 50 Koreans, "waiting to cheer you on, to be part of the struggle - and to feed you."
Pointing to the more than 100,000 people who recently marched in Puerto Rico to affirm nationhood, including many who support independence Rodríguez observed, "It was a little bigger than la marcha."
"But," she added, "la marcha will get there. You have to
start somewhere, and you don't have to start with 100,000!"
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