Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement

Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement

Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement

Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement

Synopsis

Why David Sometimes Wins tells the story of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers' groundbreaking victory, drawing important lessons from this dramatic tale. Since the 1900s, large-scale agricultural enterprises relied on migrant labor - a cheap, unorganized, and powerless workforce. In1965, when some 800 Filipino grape workers began to strike under the aegis of the AFL-CIO, the UFW soon joined the action with 2,000 Mexican workers and turned the strike into a civil rights struggle. They engaged in civil disobedience, mobilized support from churches and students, boycottedgrowers, and transformed their struggle into La Causa, a farm workers' movement that eventually triumphed over the grape industry's Goliath. Why did they succeed? How can the powerless challenge the powerful successfully? Offering insight from a longtime movement organizer and scholar, Ganzillustrates how they had the ability and resourcefulness to devise good strategy and turn short-term advantages into long-term gains. Authoritative in scholarship and magisterial in scope, this book constitutes a seminal contribution to learning from the movement's struggles, set-backs, andsuccesses.

Excerpt

Why can the powerless sometimes challenge the powerful successfully? and how can strategic resourcefulness sometimes compensate for lack of resources? in this book, I respond to these questions—a mission to which I’ve devoted a lifetime of practice, scholarship, and teaching.

I grew up in Bakersfield, California, where my father was a rabbi and my mother, a teacher. Bakersfield is an oil and agriculture town at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, terminus of the “dustbowl” migration memorialized by John Steinbeck in Grapes of Wrath, a book banned in the county’s high schools for many years. Graduating from high school in 1960, the year John F. Kennedy was elected president, I traveled east to enter Harvard College, where I became active in civil rights work.

I felt myself called to the civil rights movement for several reasons. For three years following World War II, my family had lived in Germany, where my father served as an army chaplain. He worked with “displaced persons,” survivors of the Holocaust, whom I met as a child as they passed through our home. Although I was too young to grasp the full horror of what had occurred, the people whom I’d met had clearly survived a catastrophe. My parents, especially my mother, who had grown up in Virginia, taught me that the Holocaust was the result not only of anti-Semitism, but also of racism—and that racism could kill. It was an evil. and that was what civil rights was fighting.

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