Workers' Control in Latin America, 1930-1979

By Jonathan C. Brown | Go to book overview

their influence, the urban and industrial workers cannot be credited--nor disparaged--for all the twists and turns of modern Latin American history. Nor do we conclude that industrial workers compose the most influential group among the popular classes impinging on the histories of their nations. The peasants and rural proletarians deserve a share of the credit. Even though their voices have been recorded in fewer numbers even than those of urban workers, the peasants ought not be underestimated in their contributions to the histories of their nations. Their role has been particularly relevant to the four social revolutions occurring in Latin America during this century: the Mexican of 1910, the Bolivian of 1952, the Cuban of 1959, and the Nicaraguan of 1979. 6 Many of the industrial workers who figure in this volume, after all, had had intimate experiences with rural life. They had relatives in the hinterlands or themselves had grown up in the countryside. To the new industrial workplace they brought strategies of resistance developed by their peasant forebears. Workers' control, therefore, has complex antecedents. Did first- generation industrial workers return to influence the struggles of their country cousins? Until rural workers receive proper attention from scholars, no one can safely accept facile explanations about Latin America. Indeed, its history contains more puzzles than can be imagined.

Nor do we claim that workers' control is the only paradigm with which to explain the behavior of those who work for a wage. Indeed, human behavior is so complex that gender, ideology, race, ethnicity, economic structure, popular culture, class antagonisms, and state formation must not be discarded as useful tools for discovering the many facets of the working class. One thing is certain. The closer scholars get to the lives and experiences of workers and peasants, the more they can make sense of the complexity of history. Perhaps this is the enduring contribution of the concept of workers' control.


Notes
1.
See particularly Ruth Berins Collier and David Collier, Shaping the Political Arena: Critical Junctures, the Labor Movement, and Regime Dynamics ( Princeton, 1991).
2.
E. P. Thompson, "The Poverty of Theory or an Orrery of Errors," in The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays ( London, 1978), 154.
3.
Liza Cox, "Repression and Rank-and-File Pressure during the Argentine Process of National Reorganization" (master's thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1995); Isabel Ribeiro de Olívera, Travalho e política: As origenes do Partido dos Trabalhadores ( Petrópolis, Brazil, 1988); Margaret Keck, The Workers' Party and Democratization in Brazil ( New Haven, 1992).

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