[lbo-talk] blog post: and the farmworkers are still poor

MICHAEL YATES mikedjyates at msn.com
Mon Dec 5 12:35:48 PST 2011

Full at http://blog.cheapmotelsandahotplate.org/2011/12/05/and-the-farmworkers-are-still-poor/ This is an extended version of the review of Frank Bardacke's extraordinary book, Trampling Out the Vintage, that appeared on the Labor Notes website at http://labornotes.org/blogs/2011/11/cesar-chavez-and-enduring-poverty-farmworkers

Here is an excerpt:

"Cesar Chavez was also a devout and conservative Catholic. He embraced both the "social action" philosophy of Pope Leo XIII, which recognized certain rights of working people, and the strictly hierarchical structure of the Church. Under the tutelage of Saul Alinsky and Fred Ross, Chavez was able to blend his Catholicism with Alinsky’s community organizing techniques to become a master organizer, first in community action groups and then in his union. He came to believe with Alinsky and Ross that organizing could be taught and that the organizer was the critical actor in all efforts to build political power. At first, he also accepted the Alinsky position that the organizer had to be a disinterested outsider, who, once an organizational structure had been built, moved on to the next assignment. However, when his superior organizing skills helped build a core farm labor organization, he decided to remain as both the organizer and the leader. He thought that he could be both the disinterested organizing outsider and the insider running the union. As might be expected, this proved untenable. An outsider might be able to assess a situation objectively and offer useful advice and criticism to the insider. But when the two roles are combined in the same person, problems are bound to arise. Chavez, as an insider, could run the union, and Chavez, as an outsider, could criticize too. But when he began to identify the union with himself, who else inside the union could criticize him?"

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