Hold the line!

Opinion

This is an appeal to the Latino and Mexican American communities, but its main thrust also affects labor, other ethnic groups, and the American public in general, specifically those of us who must work for a living.

Attacks against Latinos are coming more frequently and more viciously day by day. They range from attacks on immigrant workers to attempts to divide our alliances and disrupt our coalition work with the trade union movement and with religious, environmental, women’s and grassroots community organizations and local Democratic Party groups.

The Republicans are using two tactics which they hope will accomplish their goals of divide and conquer. One is the frontal attack, which involves open immigrant-bashing, attempts to reduce the voting power of Latinos through gerrymandered redistricting, as in Texas, and anti-immigrant propositions like Proposition 200 in Arizona.

Prop. 200, the Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protect Act, requires a valid ID to receive any public social service (this is already covered by current law); requires public employees to report suspected immigration violations to federal authorities (and be held punishable if they fail to do so); and requires a photo ID to register or to vote. The propaganda claims voter fraud is taking place, but the measure’s proponents have yet to offer any proof that is so.

In fact, the main purpose of Prop. 200 is to reduce Latino voting power, by intimidating Mexicanos from exercising their right to vote. Beyond that, it aims to keep immigrants destabilized and workers divided.

The proposition will hurt all workers, including white workers. It will put the kabosh on grassroots voter registration. It will make union organizing more difficult. And public officials say it will be terribly costly to implement. That is why even some Republicans in the state oppose it. Nonetheless, the projections are that Prop. 200 will pass, forcing the state to spend millions of tax dollars even if in the future the courts rule it unconstitutional.

The second Republican approach is the “compassionate” approach. This calls for organization of “Viva Bush” clubs and similar projects. Here the goals are to break the massive nationwide coalitions forged by labor, community, and Latinos, who vote heavily on the Democratic side. I could bet my cowboy boots there will be plenty of funding behind such efforts.

Latinos have worked very patiently and very hard over many years to put in place these massive coalitions. These coalitions are responsible for our successes in electing Latinos and Latinas to public offices, from school boards to county, state and congressional posts. Most of them have been elected through a sensible approach of working within the Democratic Party. Why? Because it is the mass electoral vehicle available to progressives. The Democrats, in most cases, have been close to our political interests — interests such as good-paying jobs with overtime pay, better education for our children, medical insurance, such as Medicare and Medicaid, equal opportunity and equal treatment with all other citizens of the nation.

It was the social benefits achieved, through struggle, under the Roosevelt administration that won the loyal tie of our fathers and mothers to the Democratic Party. This is the rich legacy left to us, a legacy of fighting unity. My generation is still benefiting from the struggles of our forefathers and mothers.

Shouldn’t we continue this legacy and fight for a better world for our children? Surely we cannot afford to do anything less. The track record of the Republican Party since the Roosevelt era has been to nibble away at those hard-won social benefits. This is why we advocate not only the defeat of George Bush but a change of the entire regime as well.

The old trade union slogan, “United we stand, divided we fall” is pertinent to the election in 2004. No pasaran! Hold the line! Si se puede! These are the answers to Bush’s arrogant slogans at the Republican convention in New York when he said, “Nothing will hold us back.” Well, the thing that we can hold them back with is our vote. Let’s exercise that power to our fullest potential. Vote early, then you won’t have to worry about obstructions on voting day.



Lorenzo Torrez is chair of the Mexican American Commission of the Communist Party USA. He can be reached at pww@pww.org.