Workers' Control in Latin America, 1930-1979

By Jonathan C. Brown | Go to book overview

politics, we do so from the level of the rank and file. 6 Thus, we subordinate formal ideology in an effort to re-create the culture of the working class, which has been shaped by what the workers brought with them to their places of work as well as by their concrete experiences with the labor processes and relations of production they found there. The bottom-up approach is fruitful and revealing, because the rank and file did not always follow the ideological trends set by their anarchist, syndicalist, communist, and nationalist spokespersons. But the bottom-up approach is also difficult. It requires the historian to go beyond the union halls to the workplaces themselves.

Given the constraints imposed upon us by available resources about the workplace, the workers' own ideology (or "politics") is not easily discerned. We have clearly unearthed previously undocumented forms of behavioral resistance from which we may posit some broader conclusions, even what the workers "really thought." However, we have to admit that few of us really know "what the workers were thinking." Only three of us were able to interview them. Others of us attempt to deduce their thinking based on an interpretation of their actions and the demands voiced by their leaders. Nevertheless, we cannot decide definitively whether they intended their actions to have the political consequences they did have. Indeed, historical actors may rarely consider the long-range effects of their actions. The following chapters explain how the struggle for workers' control in Latin America during the middle years contributed to the making of history.


Notes
1.
Some of the most influential of these works include Rodney D. Anderson, Outcasts in Their Own Land: Mexican Industrial Workers, 1906-1911 ( DeKalb, Ill., 1976); Samuel Baily, "The Italians and the Development of Organized Labor in Argentina, Brazil, and the United States, 1880-1916," Journal of Social History 3 ( 1969): 123-34; Charles W Bergquist, Labor in Latin America: Comparative Essays on Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia (Stanford, 1986); Peter Blanchard, The Origins of the Peruvian Labor Movement, 1883-1919 ( Albuquerque, 1976); Philippe I. Bourgois, Ethnicity at Work: Divided Labor on a Central American Banana Plantation ( Baltimore, 1989); James P. Brennan, The Labor Wars in Córdoba, 1955-1976: Ideology, Work, and Labor Politics in an Argentine Industrial City ( Cambridge, Mass., 1994); Barry Carr, El movimiento obrero y la politica en Mgxico, 1910-1929 ( Mexico City, 1981); Ruth Berins Collier and David Collier, Shaping the Political Area: Critical Junctures, the Labor Movement, and Regime Dynamics in Latin America ( Princeton, 1991); Michael L. Conniff , Black Labor on a White Canal: Panama, 1904-1981 ( Pittsburgh, 1985); Peter DeShazo , Urban Workers and Labor Unions in Chile ( Madison, Wis., 1978); John D. French , The Brazilian Workers' ABC: Class Conflict and Alliances in Modern Sóo

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