LOS ANGELES -- More than 5,000 Mexican Americans marched through the streets of East Los Angeles Aug. 26 to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium, a massive protest against the Vietnam War.
In last Sarturday's protest were those who had marched 25 years ago as well as thousands of youth who are fighting today's good fight.
The banners, protest signs and speeches focused on current attacks against Mexican Americans: Prop. 187, assaults against affirmative action and bilingual education, continued police brutality and cutbacks in education, health care, welfare and other services that deal killer blows to Mexican American communities.
Many speakers pointed out that, in many ways, things are worse now for Mexican Americans than on Aug. 29, 1970 when 20,000 Mexican Americans marched in L.A. in protest of a war that was unjust to both the Vietnamese people and Mexican Americans. The anti-Mexican tirade of today, that was part of the campaign to pass NAFTA, has become a cover for an attack on gains by Mexican Americans in employment, education, bilingual rights and immigrant reform. The high school dropout rate of Mexican American youth remains at or above 1970 levels, while the Immigration and Naturalization Service, along with corporations and the police, impose horrendous repression against Latinos.
At the same time, there are new developments that lay the basis for defeating the racist, right-wing agenda, and for progress in the fight for equality of Mexican Americans. Last October's demonstration of 130,000 in Los Angeles against Prop. 187, along with the walkouts by tens of thousands of students protesting the measure, reflect a growing upsurge among Mexican Americans. Equally important, the labor movement -- as well as progressive organizations among African American, senior, women's, youth, religious and other groups -- stood side-by-side with Mexican Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans against Prop. 187.
Even though Prop. 187 passed, this coalition -- which strengthened class and people's unity across the board -- is a development to be nourished and built upon. This new level of unity is a necessity for defeating the right-wing agenda in general and anti-immigrant attacks as well.
The fact that Linda Chavez-Thompson, a Mexican American woman labor leader, is part of an historic movement that forced the resignation of former AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland, is indicative of new and positive developments in the labor movement.
Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrant workers are joining trade unions in record numbers and winning elections to trade union leadership across the country. A multi-racial labor coalition in which Mexican American trade union leaders play a prominent role was the initiator of the $250 billion Public Works Jobs Bill introduced by Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-Calif.).
There are some narrow nationalists who downplay these developments -- the same few who refuse Rosalio Munoz, who was chair of the Chicano Moratorium Committee in 1970, his due role in history because he is now a Communist.
Even through Munoz was not asked to speak at the 25th anniversary rally, he was interviewed on television and radio, and spoke at numerous events as the recognized leader of the Moratorium. And the marchers and Mexican American leaders at the Aug. 29 rally greeted him with warm abrazos (hugs), as they did other Mexican American Communists who attended the rally. Some of the Moratorium leaders asked Munoz to march in the front of the demonstration where he truly belonged.
There is no doubt that the vicious right-wing attacks against Mexican Americans have taken their toll. Gov. Pete Wilson announced his candidacy for president in front of the Statue of Liberty in order to blast "illegal immigrants," calling them un-American and worse.
But the new developments toward Black, Brown, white unity are the hope and inspiration for our whole class and people. Narrow nationalists cannot wipe that out, anymore than they can wipe out the role of Mexican American Communists in the Chicano Moratorium or in the fight for Mexican American equality.
-- Evelina Alarcon is chair of the Southern California District of the Communist Party USA and Secretary of its National Mexican American Equality Commission.
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