Saturday, September 06, 2003

On MEChA's 'radicalism'

A reader named Thomas writes in about MEChA:
I've no direct experience with MEChA, but was involved in student politics in the UK (worked for the National Union of Students as an area officer for a year, full-time). During that time, I learnt to just *love* in-fighting between student political groups (these were the happy, happy days when the UK Labour Party was kicking out Trotskyist entryist groups -- mmm, good times, what can I say).

Reading some of the MEChA documents, given the time that they were written in, makes me slightly surprised that they weren't *more* rabid. Remember, this was in the late 1960s, in the days of the Black Panthers, and SDS. If there's a radical student organization (that isn't an offshoot of some Trotskyist-like sect) that's survived from the early 1970s, I can't think of one.

The other question I have is: Why has MEChA survived this long? SDS disintegrated after the Maoists of the PLP infiltrated it -- why didn't MEChA suffer the same fate, of getting raided by splinter Leninist groups looking for recruits to sell godawful newspapers?

Well, it seems that MEChA has dealt with entryism in the past, c.f. the Berkeley version of "Philosophy of MEChA" (scroll down to "Historical Examples of Infiltration into M.E.Ch.A." and the section "M.E.Ch.A.'s Relationship to Outside Organizations")

This includes: "Meanwhile, on an apparent 'different' side, opportunistic, multi-national 'left' organizations continue in their manipulative covert attempts to control and/or destroy our Movement."

Reading the Philosophy of MEChA, it looks like:

(1) MEChA survived as a fairly loose organization until sometime in the mid-1990s, after which, 'cos of infiltration by Trots or other left sects, it adopted a more centralized constitution, presumably to allow it to kick out individual MEChA chapters. But there doesn't seem to be much in the way of a national infrastructure for MEChA (frex, I haven't found a website for National MEChA).

[I should point out here that I seem to have: MEChA National Web Pages, which is hosted at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg's MEChA section.]
(2) El Plan de Aztlan, which predates MEChA, is less important in MEChA's than the later El Plan de Santa Barbara. The "Philosophy of MEChA" states:

"Objective One: We recognize that Chicanismo is evolutionary and that a Chicano identity is not a nationality but a philosophy. Chicano nationalism is the key to taking our people forward. M.E.Ch.A. will not discriminate against any Mechista who works for and adopts Chicanismo as indicated in El Plan de Santa Barbara, and the Philosophy of M.E.Ch.A. This philosophy is the key to taking our people forward."

Note that adopting El Plan de Aztlan isn't included as a requirement for adopting Chicanismo. So, although reading El Plan de Aztlan is noted elsewhere in the "Philosophy of MEChA," the more radically nationalist position of El Plan de Aztlan doesn't seem to be a prerequisite for membership of MEChA. I'd read this as suggesting that the more separatist El Plan de Aztlan is (rightly) controversial within MEChA.

(3) The motto of MEChA is "La Union hace la Fuerza" not “Por La Raza Todo, Fuera de La Raza Nada!” There's a (not that great) refutation of some of the charges made against MEChA at

I'm originally from Northern Ireland, and the mixture of class-based and "anti-colonialist" nationalism in MEChA's rhetoric does remind me a bit of the Scottish Nationalists.

I should add that OC Weekly has a terrific, nicely balanced account that examines MEChA's admittedly radical roots:
Fear of a Brown Planet

No comments: