Book Review: “The Politics of Chicano Liberation” Edited by Olga Rodriguez

Tiny - Posted on 27 October 2015

Jose Villarreal/ POOR Magazine Pelican Bay SHU Correspondent

Editors Note: Jose is one of several power-FUL PNNPlantation prison correspondents who was involved in the Hunger Strike to end all solitary confinement and the in-human treatment of all of our incarcerated brothers and sisters.

This book was edited by a long time member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). So this book serves as the current SWP line on the Chican@ nation. The Editor even goes so far as saying that the documents which make up this book are SWP’s “Program for Chicano Liberation”.

The book is laid out in five sections. Each section is a separate document. The first part is from an article which Antonio Camejo wrote, who was a one-time SWPer, it is titled “The Forging of an Oppressed Nationality”. This is a basic history of Chican@s going back from the Aztecs and Spanish colonization, to the land grab of 1848, pig riots on Zootsuiters, Bracero program, World War 2 and the creation of the Community Service Organization (CSO). It stops at around the 1950’s for the most part. It explains some of the discrimination and national oppression that affected Chican@s and lists some of the liberal reformist groups that arose within the Chican@ nation at the time, oddly Camejo did not list any of the more revolutionary groups of the time. The book states that this section is a resolution adopted by the twenty-fourth national convention of the Socialist Workers Party in August 1971.

The second part of the book titled “The struggle for Chicano Liberation” traces the rise of the Chican@ movement starting in the 1960’s they dedicate one page each to give a brief explanation on the Farm Worker’s Movement, The Chican@ Nationalist Movement, the land-grant movement, Crusade for Justice, The Chican@ student Movement, The Chican@ Moratorium and a half of a page was used on Chicanas.

One thing that jumped out in the second part and which showed the SWP error is their emphasis on the “Chicano independent electoral politics”. That they speak positively on Chican@s becoming involved in the imperialist ballot scam is ideological poison. Rather than spending years or decades attempting to guide Chican@s into the Amerikkkan ballot box we should be organizing our nation to understanding that it is a joke to participate in the bourgeois elections and create forms of power in the barrios. Our precious time should be spent on creating programs at this stage, these programs should aim to get the Raza to reach our short term goals and push us closer to our long term programs.

We need liberation schools and revolutionary collectives in every barrio. We need a cadre in every city and we need to revolutionize the barrios to grasp that Amerikkka is the enemy, not a source of political freedom.

We need a strong revolutionary press, a developed youth brigade, an inter-connected network of Chican@ committee’s in every barrio, then we can develop a Chican@ political party, but not to participate in bourgeois politics, rather to prepare the Raza for the future seizure of power. These are things that we should build in the nation.

SWP calls those who would rather spend our time on these more fruitful forms of struggle “Ultra Left” for not wanting to take the ballot box approach. This is because compared to the reformist Trots we are Left of them, but most revolutionaries are Left of Amerikkka.

At one point in the second part of the book, the author states in a Ten point program for Chican@’s. It states Chican@s have a right to self-determination all the way up to forming an independent state of Chican@s “collectively” choose to do so. This is in point one “self-determination”. But then in point six under “Election laws” it states in part…”Repeal all state election laws that restrict the participation of independent Chicano candidates and parties in local, state and federal elections”…So on the one hand they are saying Chican@s have the right to independence and on the other they are demanding that Chican@s be allowed to participate in the bourgeois elections.

In a REAL program for Chican@ liberation we won’t demand to be a part of Amerikkka’s politics, rather we will demand to be a part of Chican@ revolutionary politics which means we want to pull the plug on bourgeois politics not participate or help build them.

The third part of the book is titled “Chicano Liberation Report To the 1971 SWP Convention”. The book states this “report was given by Antonio Camejo to the August 1971 convention of the Socialist Workers Party”. Throughout the book I was reading pretty basic history of Chican@s, they hid their Trotskyite view very well. But here in part three they say in part…”we can confidently say that both black and Chicano nationalism are here to stay, not only until the Socialist revolution but also after the American working class comes to power”.

In this paragraph Camejo exudes Trotsky out of his brown pores like foul waste. Camejo attempts to suggest that the labor aristocracy will seize power. As things exist today the labor aristocracy will be the ones fighting the revolutionaries attempting to protect imperialism which is where they get their crumbs. Here Camejo displays his true beliefs, where he does not see himself as a Chicano, rather as a part of Amerika.

This same Amerikan “working class” is what has helped to fuel Chican@ resistance to generations of oppression within Aztlan, often arising in the good ole’ Amerikkkan workplace. Camejo’s “vision” for Chican@ Nationalism is that it will be around when him and white “workers” supposedly come to power. Notice that he did not say when Chican@s come to power, but when white “workers” come to power.

Amerikkkan “workers” today are fighting for more of the profits that imperialism takes out of the belly of the Third World. So these Amerikan “workers” are moving in the opposite direction of seizing power. Comrade Wiawimawo hit it on the head in an article saying…

“But revolutionary organizing must not rally the petty bourgeoisie for more money at the expense of the global proletariat. Besides, even in the earliest days of the Russian proletariat Lenin had criticisms of struggles for higher wages” (1).

The fact that Camejo suggests that First World Elite “workers” would somehow give it up to go all the way shows his idealism and exposes his Trotsky thought. As Wiawimawo pointed out, even Lenin criticized the struggle for higher wages back in the broke era of Russia. We should be struggling to re-build our nations, not to build Amerika’s economy.

As I said before the beginning of this book was veiled in its political line, but Camejo the Chicano Tom exposes himself more and more as you read. On page 91 he attacks Chican@ revolutionary groups. He calls the original Brown Berets and the Chicano Revolutionary Party “conscious adventuristic”. These groups he defines as “Ultra-Left”.

The original Brown Berets were for creating free clinics, newspapers, liberation schools and free food programs. They were for mobilizing the Chican@ nation and protecting the barrios from state repression. These were things that the SWP and their ilk were not – and are not – doing for the Chican@ nation, and yet for this they are branded as “Ultra-Left” and “adventuristic”.

Camejo attacks the original Brown Berets and the Chicano Revolutionary Party (which changed its name to the Raza Revolutionary Party) on page 92 where he says…”Groups such as the Brown Berets, in most places, and the Raza Revolutionary Party attempt to substitute a small vanguard for the mass mobilization of the Chicano community”. He goes on to say that they “project armed struggle by small groups”.

The fact that the original Brown Berets saw the need for a vanguard or cadre group shows they were more advanced politically than SWP who in the 1970’s had an aboveground multi-national party where about half of its members were probably FBI agents or informants of some type. The original Berets were also open to informants, but they at least understood that a full-fledged party was not viable above ground.

Camejo criticized the Raza Revolutionary Party (RRP) for its serve the people programs. He first says “the RRP counterposes a ‘serve the people’ counterinstitutionalism” and goes on to say “feeding the masses” (usually about thirty children) they take the capitalist government off the hook”.

He would not feed starving Chican@ children because according to Camejo that’s the Government’s job. I would argue that it is the duty of the Chican@ nation to be as self-reliant as possible and get the people to organize independent institutions outside of Amerika’s influence. This is nation building, it’s something Camejo and other Tom’s do not understand.

At one point on page 92 Camejo even says that the Brown Berets of East L.A. “Use a lot of ultra-Left Maoist rhetoric” but never explains exactly what he’s talking about, which seems to be reflective of Camejo’s “critiques” which lack substance, never once for example does Camejo explain how he has attempted to work with these groups to advance. The fact that Chican@ groups such as the original Brown Berets and the RRP recruited from and worked largely with Chican@ Lumpen shows that even back then these groups understood the social conditions within the U.S. and where the revolutionary potential was at, again they prove they were more advanced than SWP in that sense. It is known that such groups attracted extreme forms of repression from the FBI and cointelpro, it also displays that they really did pose a threat to U.S. imperialism.

The fourth section of the book is titled “The Crises of American Capitalism and the Struggle for Chicano Liberation” which the book states is a resolution that was “adopted by the Twenty-Eighth National Convention of the Socialist Workers Party in August 1976”. This was the longest section of the book and while much of this section is spent touting the need for “an independent Chicano political party”, what to do with this party according to the SWP is to participate in the U.S. bourgeois elections. It claims to want to build such a party for a future Socialist revolution, but the steps that they promote taking only lead the people away from Socialist revolution.

The fifth and final section of the book is titled “Chicano Liberation Report to the 1976 SWP Convention” and it is basically a summation of the previous documents. This book was interesting to learn of the SWP’s line on the Chican@ nation which is to participate in the imperialist bourgeois elections while hoping that this will advance Chican@s closer to liberation – which is a big mistake. Our advancement as an oppressed nation will come from organizing outside of bourgeois politics. Re-building our nation is what will advance us the most, and this means that we build independent institutions which guide Aztlan closer to the day we create a revolutionary party which prepares to seize power not partake in bourgeois ballots.



(1)   “Raise the Minimum wage to $2.50”, by Wiawimawo, Under Lock & Key, Jan/Feb, 2014, Issue Number 36.


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