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Works and Days

America in the Age of Myth

April 1st, 2013 - 10:44 pm

But that said, Chavez was not quite the icon we see in the grainy videos walking the vineyards with Robert Kennedy. Perhaps confrontation was inevitable, but the labor organizing around here was hardly non-violent. Secondary boycotts were illegal, but that did not stop picketers from yelling and cursing as you exited the local Safeway with a bag of Emperor grapes. There were the constant union fights with bigger family growers (the 500 acre and above sort), as often demonstrators rushed into fields to mix it up with so-called scabs. Teamsters fought the UAW. The latter often worked with the immigration service to hunt down and deport illegals. The former bused in toughs to crack heads. After-hours UFW vandalism, as in the slashed tire and chain-sawed tree mode, was common.

The politics were explicable by one common theme: Cesar Chavez disliked small farmers and labor contractors, and preferred agribusiness and the idea of a huge union. Otherwise, there were simply too many incongruities in an agrarian checkerboard landscape for him to handle — as if the UAW would have had to deal with an auto industry scattered among thousands of small family-owned factories.

For Chavez, the ideal was a vast, simple us/them, 24/7 fight, albeit beneath an angelic veneer of Catholic suffering. In contrast, small farmers were not rich and hardly cut-out caricatures of grasping exploitation. Too many were unapologetic Armenians, Japanese (cf. the Nisei Farmers League), Portuguese, and Mexican-Americans to guarantee the necessary white/brown binary. Many had their own histories of racism, from the Armenian genocide to the Japanese internment, and had no white guilt of the Kennedy sort.  I cannot imagine a tougher adversary than a Japanese, Armenian, or Punjabi farmer, perched on his own tractor or irrigating his 60 acres — entirely self-created, entirely unapologetic about his achievement, entirely committed to the idea that no one is going to threaten his existence.

The local labor contractors were not villains, but mostly residents who employed their relatives and knew well the 40-acre and 100-acre farmers they served. When there were slow times on the farm, I picked peaches for two summers for a Selma labor contractor, whose kids I went to school with. He was hardly a sellout. The crusty, hard-bitten small farmers (“don’t bruise that fruit,” “you missed three peaches up there on that limb,” “you stopped before it was quite noon”) who monitored personally the orchards we picked looked no different from the men on ladders.

In contrast, Chavez preferred the south and west Central Valley of huge corporate agribusiness. Rich and powerful, these great captains had the ability by fiat to institute labor agreements across hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland. Chavez’s organizing forte was at home in a Tulare, Delano, Shafter, Mendota or Tranquility, not a Reedley, Kingsburg or Selma. In the those days, the former were mostly pyramidal societies of a few corporate kingpins with an underclass of agricultural laborers, the latter were mixed societies in which Mexican-Americans were already ascendant and starting to join the broader middle class of Armenians, Japanese, and Punjabis.

Chavez was to be a Walter Reuther or George Meany, a make-or-breaker who sat across from a land baron, cut a deal for his vast following, and then assumed national stature as he doled out union patronage and quid-pro-quo political endorsements. In that vision, as a 1950s labor magnate Chavez largely failed — but not because agribusiness did not cave in to him. Indeed, it saw the UFW and Chavez as the simple cost of doing business, a tolerable write-off necessary to making all the bad press, vandalism, and violence go away.

Instead, the UFW imploded by its own insider and familial favoritism, corruption, and, to be frank, lunatic paranoia.  The millions of dollars Chavez deducted for pension funds often vanished. Legions of relatives (for a vestigial experience of the inner sanctum, I suggest a visit to the national shrine southeast of Bakersfield) staffed the union administration. There were daily rumors of financial malfeasance, mostly in the sense of farmworkers belatedly discovering that their union deductions did not lead to promised health care or pensions.

Most hagiographies ignore Chavez’s eerie alliance with the unhinged Synanon bunch. In these parts, they had opened a foothill retreat of some sort above Woodlake, not far from here. (I visited the ramshackle Badger enclave once with my mother [I suppose as her informal "security,"], who was invited as a superior court judge to be introduced to their new anti-drug program in their hopes that county officials might save millions of dollars by sentencing supposedly non-violent heroin addicts to Synanon recovery treatments. Needless to say, she smiled, met the creepy  “group,” looked around the place, and we left rather quickly, and that was that.)

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Top Rated Comments   
He won it because he wasn't Bush. The global Left can't admit the real threats facing the world, such as radical Islam, because to do so would reveal what a load of rubbish their entire philosophy is. So, they heaped blame for all that was wrong in the world on the US in general and GW in particular. So, Here was Obama who 1) wasn't Bush and 2) also believed everything was America's fault and would set about fixing that by wrecking the country.

Of course, Leftist can't see anything beyond their own reflection in the mirror. As such they are totally blind to what will happen if the US once again is unable to enforce a degree of peace on the world. That will simply be regional and likely global wars. In short, the world will turn a much nastier place again. Thing is, this time humanity might not rise up again.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's been my experience that these Leftist aristocrats are perhaps some of the most helpless people on earth. Most of them are not the self-made men.

If life were equitable from birth and endowment, nepotism and connection not the rule; and riches couldn't buy the influence of the intelligent but corrupted servitude to mask the stench and mislead the masses in the hopes they too can join rank; these Leftists of the coasts would be the first to pass, virtually extinct in one generation.

Money may not buy happiness but it surely can help to sustain influence and buy power. Throw in most of these elite play by a different set of rules and are personally immune for their many failures, a protected class that never has to answer with any real consequence, I'm not sure why millions of Americans would be confused as to why we find ourselves on the brink of collapse. Sadly, millions more don't even realize how fragile America really is, believing America too big to fail. They are like sheep being led willingly to the slaughter.

Don't think these elitists haven't already planned their escape...once again to leave the rest of us to clean up their mess.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rich, white 1-percenter liberals really are feudal-lord wannabees, and they actually manage to get the serfs to vote for them.

Obama and all his friends are 1-percenters.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (91)
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In 2012 the U.S. Navy commissioned an underway supply ship named the USS Cesar Chavez. Apparently the Navy no longer does any research into the history of the person they're "honoring." Political correctness run a muck.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Will you run for governor of California? You are much needed!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think it would be a grevious error for VDH to do so. The Governor has relatively little power, per the state constitution. Thus, with a democrat-dominated legislature, VDH's term as governor would be a guaranteed failure. For California's government to become capable, it needs to be completely restructured. If VDH ran on such a platform, that might do the trick.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The "Ignobles" want to rain down on us.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Its definitely the most-financially rewarding Ive ever done. Make money with Google. $85 an hour! I work two shifts 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening. And whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids I follow this great link
http://qr.net/Freelance
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Liberal aristocrats are like the three monkeys who hear no reality, think no reality, and say no reality. They engage in constant self-censorship of thought, word, and deed because any admission that there's a reality outside their closed world threatens their membership in the liberal tribe, and therefore their status, wealth, and prospects. There is zero chance of getting a tenure track faculty position if a young Ph.D. is an out and proud conservative, for example. So it pays to conform.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Gee D-W, done the memory hole?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Is that a cry for help? ;-) Other stuff has been distracting me. I do enjoy VDH's reminiscences, but the bitterness toward the coastal elites is a bit too much sour grapes, apparently not the kind he brought to his college friends. Caesar Chavez inappropriately deified? I'm shocked! Is Ronald Reagan inappropriately deified? Yup. Now let's move on. I appreciate Art's clear-eyed view of the public vs private salary stuff, and have been saying for as long as I have been on this board, "if you can't beat 'em, join em, which by the way, VDH, Art, and me have already done to a significant extent. How about teaching music to high schoolers? ;-)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oop "...and I have already done." Can't be finessing nominative and objective cases, no matter how much we believe in liberty. ;-)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
and the lip-serviced wards of the 1% are regularly bribed with trinkets, to turn a blind eye to the hypocrisy.

Brilliant article. Thank you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Look kids, a strawman.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How dare you call our Dear Leader Obama such a thing! You must be a racist!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Look kids, Argumentum ad Ridiculum
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Look kids argumentum ad ridiculum.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
He won the Nobel Prize for being the first colored president, nothing else. It of course was a huge mistake.

The Nobel Prize has been devalued permanently
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama, he won the Nobel Prize, parlez-vous.
Obama, he won the Nobel Prize, parlez-vous.
Obama, he won the Nobel Prize,
And we all know when, but we don't know whys.
Hinkey-dinkey, parlez-vous.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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