From the Jaws of Victory

From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement
Matthew Garcia (Author)
Hardcover, 368 pages
ISBN: 9780520259300
University of California Press
September 2012
$34.95, £24.95

A new book on the destruction from the inside of the United Farm Workers Union
a short review by Howard Keylor

I was amazed at the wealth of information as to what happened during the conversion of the UFW into an obedience cult. The description as to how the Synanon practices were imposed on the staff and volunteers and used in the repeated witch-hunts, internal red baiting and purges carried out by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta is detailed and graphic and painful to read. The purge of Vice President Philip de La Cruz was one of the worst episodes in this sordid history.

For the first time I read the full story of how Chavez forced the UFW to endorse and support the Philippine dictator Fernando Marcos.

There is not one California farm worker working under a UFW contract today.

A main weakness of the book is the paucity of background on the role of Filipino farm workers struggles historically and the role in kicking off and winning the first grape strikes in the Central Valley. The author's lack of knowledge of Filipino farm workers shows in his description of the three languages spoken by Filipino farm workers as Tagalog, Ilocano and Pangasinan. In point of fact few Filipino farm workers spoke Tagalog and probably more than 1/3rd spoke Visayan. He describes the Filipino farm workers patronizingly as unable to communicate with each other. All Filipinos spoke English as well as Visayan, Ilocano and a small minority Pangasinan.

I met Cesar Chavez in 1973 when I accompanied ILWU ships clerk Don Watson down to the redoubt at La Paz in the Tehachapi Mountains. I remember wondering how the hell can you run a farm workers union from the mountains!

reviewed by
December 3, 2012

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