Workers' Control in Latin America, 1930-1979

By Jonathan C. Brown | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION
WORKERS' CONTROL IN LATIN AMERICA

JONATHAN C. BROWN

By now, it has become clear that the role of the workers in making history in Latin America cannot be diminished even though their voices are not heard as clearly as those of the politicians and the elite. Workers were, in fact, full participants in the great events that defined their nations during the half century following the Great Depression.

These chapters leave little doubt that laborers participated actively in the restructuring of the economies and societies of their countries. Michael Braga shows that the sugar mill workers, in spite of--or, perhaps, because of--their poverty and hunger, helped set Cuba's reform agenda. Their dramatic seizures of the mills made it impossible for owners and politicians to ignore their demands. The railway workers performed much the same function in Guatemala. They directed their union activities toward defeat of unpopular rulers and support of reformist politicians. Marc McLeod posits that the program of the Guatemalan revolution had originated among the masses themselves. In Bolivia, the miners also had been the driving force behind the revolution of 1952. Andrew Boeger makes clear that the mineworkers had sacrificed and struggled successfully to have their concerns recognized at the national level. In Peru too, as Josh DeWind demonstrates, workers at the foreign-owned copper company contributed to national affairs. DeWind's miners, however, pursued goals often at odds with those of the reformist government and especially contrary to the objectives of their radical labor leaders. That workers had the capacity to make themselves a political force is also evident in the case of Brazil. Joel Wolfe shows that women textile workers would not be deterred even from provoking the activism of their male-dominated unions. Nor had

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