Source: Daily Worker, Vol. V, No. 337, January 31, 1929
Transcription/Markup: Paul Saba
Copyleft: Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2018. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons License.
At the VI World Congress of the Communist International our Party was criticised for failure of work among the Latin-American workers of this country. The American delegation to this congress brought a recommendation to cooperate’ with the Mexican Party in order to organize the million and half of Mexican workers all along the Mexican border.
With the constant influx of Latin American workers our Party is confronted with a series of problems that the organization of a millions of Latin-American workers presents. The CI criticism was well justified. Only, recently some of our D. O.s began to realise the importance of agitation, propaganda and organizational work among these workers. In spite of the repeated requests by the Spanish Language Bureau there has been neglect, on the part of some of our District Organizers to turn to this phase of our work inasmuch as the population in their districts comprise from 50 to 70 per cent of Latin-Americans. It is hoped, however, that right after the close of the national convention, the districts will pay more attention to the mobilization of Latin-American workers for trade union work, and anti-imperialist work with the object of bringing them closer to the Party and ultimately in it.
The immigration of Latin-Americans in the U.S. is due principally to the growing U. S. imperialist penetration into Latin America, which expresses itself in mass expropriation of the peasants from their land and the industrialization of the countries involved. Porto Rico is a classical example. Porto Rico is owned by a few American corporations and the peasants, being expropriated, find themselves either slaves to the sugar, coffee and tobacco plantation owners, or compelled to immigrate to the United States in order to avoid actual starvation. Some of these workers are political refugees who are forced to run away from the criminal hands of the dictatorships set up by American imperialism in Latin America.
Ninety to 96 per cent of these Latin-Americans are workers. They constitute to a very large extent, a mass of unskilled workers and they are the most exploited, after the Negro. In some instances the Latin American works for lower wages than the Negro. The Negro railroad worker, for instance, is being replaced by the Mexican, at a lower wage than the Negro had formerly received.
They are engaged in fruit-growing plantations and constitute at present an important factor in this industry. We also find them toiling in railroads) packing houses, tobacco factories restaurant and hotels, dye factories, textile, mining (Colorado). The Latin-American workers are being discriminated against as an “inferior race.” As in the case with the Negroes, they are being segregated in unhealthy headquarters (Los Angeles, Imperial Valley). This, discrimination makes it more difficult for them in ’their daily search for jobs. They are called “greasers” and are looked down. The Latin-American is legally known as “white,” and yet a few communities insist that Latin-American children shall be enrolled in the Jim Crow schools. The Latin-American worker is exploited by ruthless agents through whom the employers hire the workers. Their children have special schools erected for them so as to segregate them from “white” children.
In time of unemployment, these workers are persecuted by the local authorities while they are welcomed at “season” time. They are arrested and jailed for vagrancy. The following is an excerpt from a letter received from a correspondent of “Vida Obrera,” the official organ of the Spanish Language Bureau: “The Mexican population is working under conditions of exploitation too terrible to be described. Just yesterday 40 of them were thrown into the local bastille on vagrancy, fined what they had in their pockets and turned loose. Those who had nothing, were held for ten days or rather, are being held. They will be taken to the edge of town and told to travel.”
Compared with other Latin-American immigrants in the United States the Mexican is the greatest in number. The yearly immigration is about 58,000, the second in number of the national immigration in this country, the Canadians being the first on the list. This is why the Mexican immigration presents a serious problem for the capitalist class. A bill is at present under consideration before the House of Representatives, restricting the immigration, not only of the Mexican workers but of all Latin-American workers. The reactionary leadership of the A. F. of L. demanded, in a resolution at its last convention in New Orleans, the restricting of the Mexican quota. These reactionary officials, who never did anything to better the economic status of the Latin-American workers in this country, are following the policy of their imperialist masters by serving the interests of the employers insofar as the Latin-American worker is concerned.
In the West and Southwest, where the greatest majority of Mexican workers are to be found, we find them working for the fruit growers. The fruit growers are opposed to the immigration law, as the Mexicans are the cheapest labor. The chamber of commerce of the Imperial Valley of California says, “Without the Mexicans in unlimited numbers, our section, where cantaloupes are grown, will go back to the deserts. Take away the Mexicans and you destroy the sugar industries.” Railroads and other great industries may suffer a serious blow if unlimited Mexican labor is cut off.
In Texas the Mexican workers are the only raisers of the Bermuda onions by thousands of bushels annually. In Mississippi and Texas, they pick cotton. In some communities of Arkansas and Tennessee the Mexican worker has replaced the Negro worker. On the Salt River and Gila River Valleys of Arizona, the Mexicans are predominant. The growers of the Great Western Sugar Co., employ over two thousand to grow 293,000 acres of beets. In Southern California they are indispensable for the fruit growing. Also for horticultural work. In Nebraska, 5,000 Mexican workers are employed in the beet fields. They are even found in Alaska where they can salmon.
Los Angeles is the greatest Mexican centre in the country. With a population of about 200,000, Mexican children labor is widespread. During the fruit seasons, the Mexican workers toil in the fields with their wives and children. The average wage is $8.00 per week. When the season is over, they are compelled to travel from state to state with their families. This accounts for the widespread diseases among them. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad employ over 10,000 Mexican workers. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad employ about 3,000. The Great Northern Railroad, 1,000, the Southern Pacific, over 4,000 in Texas and Louisiana alone. We also find them employed by the hundreds by the Pennsylvania Railroad. No single group of workers in the United States is suffering more seriously from the evils of seasonal employment than does the Mexican worker. The packing houses in Chicago have a great number of Latin-American workers. Tampa, Fla., alone has over 100,000 Latin-Americans, the majority of whom are Cubans, employed in the tobacco industry. In New York, and the border line of New Jersey, there are more than 250,000 Latin-American workers; they toil in restaurants, hotels, packing houses, tobacco factories, dye works, textiles, etc. Their average wage is from $12.00 to $15.00 per week.
The brief outline of the conditions of the Latin-American workers in this country should make us realize the importance of the work that confronts us. The Trade Union Educational League is the first organization which should initiate a campaign to organize the Latin-American workers in their respective unions, taking a leading part in the struggle against the A. F. of L. officialdom which keep them out of the unions, in the organization of the unorganized and the building up of new unions. Our anti-imperialist propaganda can be successfully carried on among the Latin-American masses, for every Latin-American worker is an anti-imperialist and the question is to activize him. The publication of Communist literature in Spanish is imperative. The Spanish Language Bureau of the Party constantly receives requests for Party literature in Spanish. The Party should undertake the publication of pamphlets, leaflets, etc., in Spanish with the help of the Bureau.
Since the publication of “Vida Obrera,” the Party was able to organize Spanish Language Fractions in a few districts, such as Detroit, Chicago, San Antonio, Texas. The New York Fractions, which started with a membership of ten, has now over 50 members. For the past year this fraction initiated anti-imperialist work, the formation of a Workers Club, an I. L. D. branch and general educational activities among the Latin-American workers. The Spanish Language Bureau of the Party constitutes at present the basis for organizational work among the Latin-American masses but the districts are the ones who should undertake the work and change the Bureau into an instrument of propaganda to help the districts carry on the work among the Latin-American workers.