An Overview of the History of the Chicano National Question

aztlan

This was inspired by an inquiry on a Reddit forum about information and texts about the “Chicano Question.” Here is a history of the development of this thought from a Marxist perspective.

One of the first ones to look at the Chicano/Mexicano national question from a Marxist-Leninist perspective was Emma Tenayuca. She was a labor organizer in southern Texas in the early 19th century when she was in her teens and twenties. She became chairman of the Texas Communist Party, and her husband was Homer Brooks, the first secretary of the state party. Together they wrote “The Mexican Question in the Southwest.” It’s available here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/101053725/The-Mexican-Question-in-the-Southwest They went by Stalin’s definition of a nation, and saw that the Mexicans in the Southwest (they didn’t use the term Chicano at the time) had all the criteria except an independent economy. Their analysis saw that after independence from Spain in 1821, the northern part of Mexico (now the southwest U.S.) traded heavily with the U.S. with the opening of the Santa Fe Trail, up to the invasion and occupation of 1846-1848. Thus the Mexicans in the Southwest were not a nation but a national minority, to struggle not for an independent nation but for its democratic rights in the U.S. , although they did advocate for open borders because of its historical ties with Mexico. With that, they probably had the best position on this question with the CPUSA, for the party’s positions on Chicanos got worse after that, not surprising since they were a New York based party infected with white chauvinism.

Another group of interest is the Communist Collective of the Chicano Nation, founded around 1973. They were based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and may have been affiliated with the Communist Labor Party, an anti-revisionist group founded in the 1970’s. The took Stalin’s nation definition and saw that, yes, Chicanos were a nation, for they had all the criteria including economics, for the northern settlements had a thriving sheepherding economy that was its basis for hundreds of years even when it was part of New Spain. They saw the area of the Chicano nation as New Mexico, Southern Colorado and South Texas, the areas most settled through the Spanish empire and with the strongest Chicano roots. California was not part of it. Some of their documents are here: https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1a/index.htm#cccn

The August 29th Movement was founded in 1974, a mostly Chicano ML group that came out of the Chicano Movement, particularly a Labor Committee of La Raza Unida Party and other collectives. They put out a position paper “Fan The Flames,” that argued that Chicanos in the Southwest U.S. were an oppressed nation that had a right to independence, based on the U.S. invasion and acquisition of the northern territory of Mexico in 1848 and its separation from Mexico as it was forming as a nation. Some of their documents are online here: https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1a/index.htm#a29m

They involved themselves in many struggles, often antagonistically, up to 1978 when they merged with other non-white ML collectives to form the League of Revolutionary Struggle. They also had antagonistic relations with other groups, especially Chicano mass organizations like MEChA, which led the latter to change their policies about outside groups. They collapsed in 1990 after the fall of communist regimes in Europe and later the Soviet Union, and some of their remnants went on to form Freedom Road Socialist Organization, which itself split in two around 2000, both keeping the name. A reflection by a former member now with FRSO is here:https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-7/ncm-chicanos.htm

Another group around the time was CASA, the Center for Autonomous Social Action, or Centro de Accion Social Autonomo. Founded by labor organizer Bert Corona in 1968, it operated as an advocacy and mutual aid group for undocumented workers, which is significant in that the Left and Chicano groups didnt really deal with this population at the time. It later merged with the Committee to Free Los Tres, formed to advocate for three activists arrested for targeting drug dealers in their neighborhoods, and this group turned CASA into a Marxist-Leninist pre-party formation. Their line was one of Socialist Reunification of Mexico. They saw no difference between workers in Mexico itself and in the occupied territories of northern Mexico now under U.S. control, and rejected the Chicano identity. One of their slogans was sin fronteras. Here is an academic paper on them from Stanford, where their archives now sit: https://web.stanford.edu/dept/csre/pdfs/WorkingPaperSeriesNo5.pdf. It argues that their turn to a revolutionary party made them pass over their organizing of undocumented workers, which led to their decline.

Other groups in the New Communist Movement in the 1970’s dealt with the National Question, often with the Black Nation, based on the COMINTERN policies of the 30’s, and fewer dealt with the Chicano Nation, and when they did they saw us as only a national minority. The Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism Online of the Marxists Internet Archives has many of their old documents on this site, one can do a search if interested in those positions.

The Socialist Workers Party I believe had a line on the Chicano Nation during the Movimiento, and participated in it directly. Old issues of The Militant are a good news source for items about the Chicano Movement of that time, and Pathfinder had a few books on it too. Their involvement seemed opportunist, like other groups, and I could say a lot more about their politics today, but that is one group that at least looked at the question for a time.

One present Marxist-Leninist based group is Union Del Barrio, active in California through their party and other mass organizations. They also have a Socialist Reunification of Mexico line too. Their website is http://uniondelbarrio.org/main/.

Overall, while I think many of these tendencies writings have helped in understanding the National Question, they are inadequate in many ways. They tend to be dogmatic and have a superficial understanding of the history and culture of the Chicano people. A pamphlet that came out in the late 1970’s, “Mexicans in the United States and the National Question” by Antonio Bustamante gives a good critique of all these groups lines on this question.

Also to note that their have been many theorists have looked at the Chicano National Question through an Internal Colonial analysis. It’s an academic way of saying oppressed nation while keeping it useful for professional community organizers. Nevertheless it is useful in looking at. Rodolfo Acuna’s classic book Occupied America took that analysis in the first edition, although he moved away from it in later editions. Other writers include Mario Barrera and Armando Navarro.

Also look at the Plan of San Diego, presented around the Mexican Revolution. It was reportedly put out by adherents of the Magon Brothers, Mexican anarchists who also operated in the U.S. The right wingers get freaked because it calls for the execution of all whites over 15. But it is a document calling for national liberation. It calls for an independent Mexican nation in the Southwest, with the option of rejoining Mexico. And it also calls for an independent nation for Blacks in the South U.S., and an independent nation for Japanese (likely referring to all Asians in California).

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This entry was posted in Aztlan, Chicano Movement, Maoism, National Liberation, National Question, Theory. Bookmark the permalink.

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