Containing the Influence of the Mexican
Labor-Left and Its United States Allies
Through the last decade of the twentieth century, coalitions of Mexican and U. S. activists worked to address the tangled issues of workers' rights, inter- and intra-American inequities, and racial and ethnic discrimination. Their work echoes that of a previous generation of Mexican and U. S. activists, whose efforts marked the beginning, rather than the end, of the Cold War period. From the mid-thirties through the immediate postwar years, a Mexican labor-left and its allies across the border evoked the U. S. government's Good Neighbor Policy as justification for anti-imperialist, anti-discrimination, and prolabor struggles. These activists may be termed “grassroots Good Neighbors, ” for they challenged U. S. policies that fostered hegemony over other American countries, U. S. corporate actions that encouraged Latin Americans' economic dependency, and Anglo American claims of superiority over other American peoples. Their challenges helped shape U. S. officials' “containment” of progressive forces in the Americas.
In both Mexico and the United States, the ranks of the grassroots Good Neighbors included the overlapping categories of union organizers, Communist Party members and sympathizers, community and civil rights activists, and Marxist intellectuals. The Mexican labor-left discussed here coalesced around the dynamic figure of Vicente Lombardo Toledano, a Marxist lawyer-turned-labor leader who helped found the Confederación de Trabajadores de México (Confederation of Mexican Workers, or CTM) in early 1936. Soon after, Lombardo and his circle also inaugurated the Universidad Obrera de México (UOM, or Workers University of Mexico), which by that summer had developed an English-language newsletter and summer school to foster cross-border solidarity. 1 Inspiration for the newsletter sprang from the contacts established by Lombardo and other CTM leaders in the spring of 1936 when, soon after the founding of their own labor confederation,
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Publication information: Book title: American Labor and the Cold War: Grassroots Politics and Postwar Political Culture. Contributors: Robert W. Cherny - Editor, William Issel - Editor, Kieran Walsh Taylor - Editor. Publisher: Rutgers University Press. Place of publication: New Brunswick, NJ. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 245.
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