My experiences of many decades of organizing among farmworkers have shown me that pacifism causes despair for workers engaged in struggles, and even for pacifists themselves when reality hits them in the face.
In general, pacifists are religious believers, they hate violence particularly when it comes to labor conflicts.
According to their religious dogmas, humans shouldn’t be the ones to decide about their lives. This is up to a divine being. In this way, they look good in front of their god and with the bosses, but not in front of their fellow workers in struggle. They believe that through sacrifices and suffering, even with hunger strikes, the bosses will get a conscience and will stop exploiting workers. Cesar Chávez, who was the leader of the United Farmworkers’ Union (UFWU), became famous with his hunger strikes and urged others to do the same during the strikes in the California fields from 1965-70. These mass struggles were almost lost because of Chávez’s pacifist philosophy. His pacifism didn’t only put a break in the the advance of the struggle, but also castrated it, taking away all its strength that could lead to victory in a shorter time. Thanks to the militancy of many strikers who didn’t think like Chávez, the strike wasn’t lost.
Most pacifists are not enemies of workers, but because of their fear of god and the bosses they think it is better to be a pacifist in the the struggle. But, when honest pacifists participate in labor conflicts and reality hits them in the face, they begin to change their attitude and end up joining the non-pacifists.
It happened in 1973 when the Calif. growers refused to renew the UFWU labor contracts and another strike erupted. And this one was rather violent. Then those who opted for pacifism (even preachers and priests) joined the rest of the workers, forgetting about non-violent strategies and took part in the struggle as if they had never been pacifist.
I think it is important to wage ideological struggle with workers involved in class struggle. We must bring to them the workers’ philosophy to distinguish between who are our friends and our enemies. We mustn’t fall in the anti-working class trap put up by politicians, bosses and even the same leaders which trust in the “justice” of the corrupt capitalist system.
A Veteran of the Fight-backs in Calif.