Preface | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Bibliography | Appendices | List of Acronyms | About the Author
In Chapter 2, we examined the problem of citizenship education in relation to those Indian citizens whose culture differed from the dominant society in significant and even decisive ways. Their ability to participate in local, state and national affairs, to the extent that they wish to do so, continues to be severely limited for many reasons, not least of which is the refusal of the dominant society to allow them to participate except in ways which require suppression, and even eradication, of values deemed incompatible with those of the dominant groups in the society. In this and the succeeding chapter, projects will be examined which were addressed to a different category of persons, persons whose needs as citizens have been ignored or denied as a consequence of gross discriminations against them, particularly in the area of civil rights. Their problems were not due to confusion about whether or how they wanted to be a part of the larger society, including the economy. They knew that they wanted to improve their material condition, whether through access to jobs or through securing the public services to which they were entitled. They wanted equality of treatment before the law. They wanted education and a better life for their children. And they were aware that these benefits were being denied. At the same time, many had little hope that they might ever enjoy them.
They were members of minority groups (principally Mexican-Americans and blacks) who were denied access to benefits which were accorded without question to middle-class Anglos. In general, the great majority of the participants in these projects were poor and had little education. Many older Mexican-Americans could not read or write English. And many of the latter group were dependent on meager earnings from seasonal agricultural employment or were on welfare at least part of the time. Not all were migrants, however. Even in rural areas, former migrants had managed to get a foothold on the outskirts of small towns. In the larger urban centers such as Los Angeles, project participation was drawn largely from the ranks of common labor in industry, service stations, warehouses, etc. For the most part, poorly paid occupations predominated. An important core group in the fifties included World War II and Korean War veterans. In the projects involving blacks in the South, many lived in rural communities but migrant workers were a minority.
On the premise that discrimination was practiced against them more readily because they did not participate effectively as citizens, either as voters or as part of the informal organizational life of their communities, funds were made available to three grantees which were concerned to try and correct this situation. The Industrial Areas Foundation project was funded to undertake to encourage and assist Mexican-Americans in California to form organizations on a community basis. These were known as Community Service Organizations or CSO's. The activities of a CSO usually included organizing citizenship classes (to prepare for naturalization) and English classes, conducting voter registration and "getting-out-the-vote" campaigns, bringing pressure to bear against discriminatory practices in dealing with, for example, issuance of motor vehicle licenses, eligibility for welfare benefits, or police misconduct, etc. Another grant made to the Migrant Ministry of the Division of Christian Life and Mission of the National Council. of Churches was inspired by the success of the CSO program in California. The Migrant Ministry hoped to be able to stimulate citizenship education through organizing work among migrant agricultural workers who traveled from Texas to Michigan and Illinois. Activities somewhat similar (though in varying degrees) to those undertaken by a CSO were initiated in the Texas, Illinois and Michigan communities where organizations were started. The third grant was made to Highlander Folk School of Monteagle, Tennessee. Its principal purpose was to help citizens learn to identify, define and deal with problems in their communities. An important focus was on illiteracy as a barrier to citizenship participation, on promoting voter registration and getting out the vote and on using the ballot to counter the many discriminations practiced against blacks in the South. Although forming organizations in the community as a way of countering discrimination was explored (and, in some cases, assisted), Highlander's emphasis was on helping those who came to its residential workshops to learn through an educational process to become something more than they were when they came.
Although each of these grantees was concerned with helping citizens in a community learn to secure and use rights of which they were being deprived, the projects conducted by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) and the Migrant Ministry emphasized the importance of forming citizen organizations and learning how to maintain and use them. These projects will be discussed in this chapter. The Highlander project placed its emphasis on the educational process whereby the citizen was helped to see himself as someone who could become something more than he was, someone who could see the problems of his community with a keener eye, who could see and judge among alternative solutions, who could appreciate the need to work with others and come to see how to do this. Most important was the need to see a larger role for one's self. As Myles Horton put it, "Their imaginations must be stretched." This process could be seen, for example, in the perception that in learning to read in order to register to vote, one was moving from second-class to first-class citizenship. The Highlander project will be described in Chapter 4. We turn now to a more detailed exposition of the IAF and Migrant Ministry projects.
Before dealing with the IAF activities supported by the Emil Schwarzhaupt Foundation (ESF) in California, it will be helpful to say something about Mexican-Americans in California, particularly in the fifties and sixties, and to summarize certain organizing activities among them which preceded those which were supported on a considerably expanded scale pursuant to the ESF grant.
By the end of World War II discrimination had been practiced against Mexican-Americans in California for over a century. There were many reasons for this state of affairs, some attributable to any minority ethnic group or to the poor, others being peculiar to the Mexican-American community. Testimony presented on July 25, 1962, by Juan Ramos' to the Committee on Perspectives, Objectives and Content of the California Welfare Study Commission suggests some of the cultural and other determinants of discrimination suffered by the million and a half (at that time) Mexican-Americans in California.
Ramos pointed out: (1) Early migrants had not intended to stay. Typically, they did not learn English. Indecision about their own intentions slowed acculturation, with consequent confusion on the part of later generations with respect to values, customs and goals. (2) The Mexican-American, in general, distrusted the Anglo and felt controlled by him. Because the typical Mexican-American leader had seemed more Anglo than Mexican-American, he too had been distrusted. (3) In Mexico, the father has status. In California, the mother sometimes got work more easily or was favored by the welfare program. This placed a severe strain on family relationships. (4) The schools serving the barrio were usually second class. When the Mexican-American youth moved on to high school, they felt inferior and tended to drop out in large numbers (5) A quarter of a million Mexican-Americans could find only the most backbreaking kind of labor to do, working in the fields with no job protection of any kind and with very low annual income (averaging $879 at that time). And (6) many Mexican-Americans, even though they could speak some English, were unable to communicate their feelings in that tongue. About 80 percent of the welfare clients were unable to communicate adequately in English on their cases. (Additional evidence suggests that very few welfare workers could communicate in Spanish.)
When Mexican-American veterans returned to their homes after World War II and the Korean War, the gap between what they had learned in the armed services and what they found upon their return seemed intolerable. Gradually efforts were made to deal with the many kinds of discrimination such as unfair treatment on the part of public agencies in matters involving voter registration, access to school bussing, examinations for naturalization and drivers' licenses and welfare benefits.2
Concerned about the discrimination practiced against Mexican-Americans in California, the American Council on Race Relations undertook to set up Councils for Civic Unity beginning in the spring of 1946. Fred Ross, who had been manager of the farm labor camp at Arvin (of Grapes of Wrath fame) and later assistant director of Community Services in the Farm Security Administration, in charge of twenty-five camps in California and Arizona, was hired to organize such councils, which were eventually to be combined into a state federation, the California Federation for Civic Unity.
As a result of this organizing experience in several barrios in Southern California, he came to Saul Alinsky's attention. A letter in March 1947 led to a meeting in early June and his appointment in August to the Industrial Areas Foundation staff. The meeting in June was a very important one because it was on that occasion that Ross and Alinsky threshed out a very important issue, that is, whether organizing was to proceed on the basis of individual or organizational membership. As Ross described the facts about Mexican-American communities, Alinsky agreed that the Back-of-the-Yards model did not apply because there was no power base controlled by Mexican-Americans. (The Back-of-the-Yards Council--adjacent to the Chicago stockyards was the first mass citizens group organized by Alinsky. Formed in 1939, it was an organization of organizations. The success of this endeavor was the basis for his belief that a membership based on organizations was to be preferred, virtually without exception.) Some belonged to unions, but Mexican-Americans were very much in the minority. Many attended church but their church organizations were weak.
It was clear that among Mexican-Americans an organization would have to be built house by house, and perhaps in time several organizations could be brought together into a federation .3 It is important to make this point explicit because years later (in 1965) at a seminar on mass organization at Asilomar, California, Alinsky said that the CSO was not a typical IAF project so far as he was concerned. Alinsky went on to say that because of a personal tragedy, he was unable to give Ross adequate supervision "so he went off on his own," trying to organize on the basis of individual memberships.4 Ross, commenting on the recorded notes of the Asilomar seminar, pointed out that Alinsky's recollection was faulty in that the personal tragedy referred to took place after the agreement was reached between Ross and Alinsky as to the organizing approach which would be followed.5 In any case, on June 10, Ross received his letter of appointment effective August 1, 1947. But the question of whether membership of individuals or organizations was the more effective approach was to remain a matter of contention for them and for the field. Unfortunately, the limited funding then available to the IAF ran out and by 1952, Ross was back with the California Federation of Civic Unity. It was during this period that he began organizing efforts in San Jose (in the course of which he met and involved Cesar Chavez) and in Decoto.
In the meantime, Alinsky had been trying to raise money for the IAF organizing program, and in 1951 he forwarded a proposal to the ESF requesting a grant of $100,000 per year for three years.6 The sum of $15,000 was awarded on an interim basis pending completion of the report by the University of Chicago Committee. In April 1953, an additional $150,000 was granted for a three-year period beginning July 1, 1953. These efforts were subsequently supported by additional grants in the amount of $376,400. (See Appendix B.)
In his application, Alinsky stressed the importance of having assured funding for at least three years. This was necessary, he said, because IAF experience had shown that it took this long to become self-supporting and to develop effective leadership from the community. In any case, an expectation of at least a three-year period of employment was necessary to get good organizer personnel. Furthermore, effective operation would be impossible in the face of recurring financial crises. With funding assured, Ross returned to the IAF staff, eventually being named IAF field director for California and Arizona. While continuing to work with the CSO's in San Jose and Decoto, he began organizing in Salinas. At the same time, Cesar Chavez was hired to begin organizing in Oakland.7
So much by way of an historical introduction to the development of the CSO in California, prior to the involvement of the ESF.
Community Service Organization Programs (1953-1964)
In undertaking to help organize Community Service Organizations, Alinsky had in mind certain principles which he later articulated in an annual report.
1. You must work with people rather than for people. (Social welfare agencies, the 1AF maintained, did the latter.)8
2. It is not enough to work, for example, on the problem of rat infestation; you must also get after those persons who are responsible for causing, or who can help to solve, the problem. Inevitably, such a policy leads to conflict and confrontation and seems to be the point at which social agencies and other middle-class agencies want to "get off the bus."
3. The resident of a community is more concerned with his own problems than is anyone from the outside.
4. Given the opportunity, the local resident can and must do the job; no one else can do it for him.
5. The American way of life is to feel that you "belong."
6. When the interests responsible for a problem have been identified, it is important to maintain steady pressure on them until the problem is resolved.
7. To improve one's situation, more is needed than a just cause. To get something from politicians, voting power is required, which implies a mass-base organization.
8. To develop a mass-base organization among Mexican-Americans, the organizing effort should involve those few institutions, such as churches, in which they are involved (and refrain at the beginning from actively trying to bring in other ethnic groups because Mexican-Americans were not ready to join with others who might become members).9 The organizing effort must concentrate on bread-and-butter issues if a mass-base is to be achieved.
9. If people "don't want" something, it may well be because their past experience has convinced them that their situation is hopeless. Therefore, it is essential to achieve some visible success quickly in order to sustain hope in the people.
10. Effective leadership can be found at any level.
It is clear that the kind of organization based on such principles is first of all oriented to action to correct injustice. Passing a resolution might be the first step, but it was unlikely to be the last. Furthermore, it was assumed that many voices must join together if they were to be heard and that one's power must be pushed at the ballot box if need be. It was also assumed that to realize one's aims, it would often be necessary to confront those who were withholding that which members of the organization believed to be rightfully theirs. With approval of the grant application (forwarded on September 14, 1951, but not approved until April 27, 1953) work began in July 1953 in Salinas and Oakland and soon thereafter in Fresno and San Bernardino.10
Given the premises set forth above, how could such an organization be built? The typical approach was for the organizer to visit a neighborhood in the barrio (an area in a town or city with a concentration of Mexican-Americans) and try to get acquainted. He would try to get names of relatives or friends supplied by CSO members elsewhere. He would spend time talking in bars. He would visit the local priest. He would try to find out what problems were of concern and which persons might be interested in trying to do something about them.
At the beginning, in East Los Angeles, organizing was on a one-to-one basis. But this was too slow a process, and then it occurred to Ross to ask a contact to invite a few others to come to his house to talk about what should and might be done.
So, let us suppose that early on a warm evening in May, Ross was meeting with a group of relatives and friends of Senor Sanchez in his house across from the church. Children are playing in and out of the house. Ross has begun by introducing himself and explaining what he has been doing in other towns in the San Joaquin Valley. This soon leads to talk about what is wrong in their town. In no time, there is a list. There are the many discriminations: Mexican-black night at the skating rink (other nights were for Anglos), no school bus routes serving children in the barrio, politicians who pay no attention to Mexican-Americans and their problems, in the barrio none of the amenities such as sidewalks, street lights and sewers. Why is this so? It is because Mexican-Americans do not register and vote. So this must be changed. Before the group breaks up, Ross has commitments from several of those present to bring together their friends and relatives--meeting with whom will keep him busy for most of the week.
The house meeting became an indispensable organizing tool. It saved time. Those attending served to encourage each other. By talking to the host beforehand about what was coming up, he might help to make the meeting go better, become, as it were, a kind of assistant leader. And by talking together, the understanding and the sense of commitment of all would be advanced. At the appropriate time, an organizational meeting would be held to adopt a constitution and bylaws and to elect officers. The next step would be to appoint committees to work on those problems of greatest concern to the group.
Programs to Teach English and Citizenship. Through the fifties, a great amount of time and effort was invested by CSO members in programs concerned with learning to speak English, qualifying for citizenship and voter registration. These efforts, especially the first two, have been largely unreported. In the years following World War II, interest in acquiring citizenship increased enormously, along with a growing desire to learn English. These were concerns around which organizing efforts were soon focused. The program was greatly accelerated by passage of Section 312 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1951. This law permitted aliens over fifty years of age and resident in the United States for over twenty years as of the date of the act to take the examination for citizenship in their native language. In connection with citizenship, two problems were involved: one was passing the citizenship examination and the other was establishing place and date of birth. For assisting with the latter, lawyers were charging clients five hundred dollars and more--an enormous sum for persons who were so poor.
To cope with these problems, CSO's put on membership drives offering appropriate services to those in need of them, including instruction in English and citizenship and help in securing needed documents. This was in sharp contrast to the local adult schools which largely ignored the need or seemingly had no idea of how to go about meeting it. It appeared also that the school authorities had done nothing to publicize the fact that citizenship examinations could be taken by certain aliens in their native language pursuant to Section 312. In any case, CSO's throughout California began organizing classes in English and citizenship. Because citizenship information materials in Spanish were lacking, the CSO's wrote their own, entitled Lecciones de Ciudadanla en Espanol e Ingles (Citizenship Lessons in Spanish and English).
Although most of the administrators of adult schools interviewed (with at least one exception) did not appear to welcome the CSO citizenship and English class programs, such classes were all organized as part of the adult school offering, except for some classes in Los Angeles. Enrollment records became part of the adult school statistical base, and teachers were appointed and paid by the adult school. In Los Angeles, classes met in community centers with volunteer teachers.
San Bernardino had one of the largest citizenship education programs of any CSO. For two years, the Citizenship Committee worked five nights per week, recruiting teachers, selecting materials and organizing classes on a volunteer basis. Recruiting the right kind of teachers was critical. The opposition of the schools to appointment of Spanish speaking teachers was a major handicap. When queried by me about the success of these classes, the director of adult education commented that he had heard giggling in the classes and because the students (whom he referred to as "primitive Americans") were adults, he judged their average IQ to be about 85. The adult school principal, however, took a more positive view, commenting that the CSO deserved full credit for organizing the program.11 In spite of difficulties and the lack of adult school help, the San Bernardino CSO organized, in 1954 alone, thirty citizenship and English classes with a total enrollment of between 700 and 750 students,
Brawley, which with Salinas, San Bernardino and Fresno, was organized in 1954 under the ESF grant, achieved an even more astonishing record. Although its population was only about 13,000 compared with San Bernardino's 93,000 and in spite of skepticism on the part of the school administration, the initial campaign brought 320 into citizenship classes, divided on the basis of degree of literacy and age. This figure soon rose to 450. In fact, at the Hidalgo School (which Cesar Chavez once attended) there were as many adults in the citizenship classes as there were children attending in the daytime. By the end of the first year, 260 had qualified for citizenship. By November 1962, virtually all those interested in qualifying for citizenship in Spanish had gone through the program.
In Hanford (1961-1962), the CSO had from sixty to seventy participants in citizenship and English classes, In 1962-1963, the adult school moved the classes from the school in the barrio to the high school, and Mexican-American participation in the program fell off to a small fraction of its former level. In the English class of seventeen, only seven were Mexican-American; in the citizenship class, out of eighteen there were only four Mexican-Americans. Service to the Mexican-American community was sacrificed in part to administrative convenience, but also because, as the adult school secretary said, "We felt it was better for them to be with others." The probability that more Mexican-Americans would enroll if the classes consisted primarily of their neighbors of the same ethnic group was a factor of which the school administration was unaware or to which it was indifferent.
Even though citizenship and English classes usually met in schools and students were enrolled by the adult school, nevertheless, the necessary tasks of student and teacher recruitment and follow-up of dropouts were undertaken by the CSO. In Oxnard, for example, committee members went door to door to enroll members. Also, CSO members served as class aides, encouraging those who faltered and providing tutorial help.12 It was these characteristic elements of the overall program which produced one of the most extraordinary results in the history of adult education in California. These classes were filled with persons who had never attended an adult class before.
The CSO follow-up was the key to the high completion rates in citizenship classes, considering the age and the lack of much formal schooling which characterized most of the students. A representative of the CSO Citizenship Committee was expected to be present at each class session. He encouraged students who were experiencing difficulty and underscored the importance of persistence. He checked on each student after a second absence. Such encouragement was essential, but this kind of involvement was totally foreign to the adult school's operation. Its way of doing things was geared to a middle-class, Anglo clientele. It is interesting to speculate on what the adult schools might have achieved if they had seen the possibility of team effort and capitalized on CSO energy to promote an even broader range of educational activities.
In fairness, it should be noted that data on adult school staff attitudes are incomplete. But of the eight adult school staff interviewed in nine communities where the CSO had an active citizenship education program, only two showed a sympathetic and positive understanding of its significance. In an interview in November 1962, Esther Stone of the San Jose Adult School commented on the value of the citizenship education program and the importance of the CSO contribution to its success. She noted especially that the Mexican-American students stayed in class and that Spanish-speaking teachers were essential because they helped to provide a social milieu for the classes which accounted in large measure for their highly significant impact. She also noted that many of the younger students in citizenship classes went back to complete work for a high school diploma.
At the peak of the program, there were 108 classes with an average enrollment of about twenty-five. On May 30, 1954, 8,000 persons, many of them Mexican-Americans, were sworn in as citizens in Hollywood Bowl. Of the Mexican-Americans, the great majority (3,000) were CSO members.13 These were, of course, only a few of the many CSO members who achieved citizenship status through the CSO program. Over a ten-year period, perhaps 30,000 completed CSO-sponsored classes in English and citizenship.14
For many, however, completing the citizenship classes was not enough. Discrimination might also be practiced by an examiner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. One of these, who had been reprimanded more than once for practicing discrimination, was notorious among Mexican-Americans. First, he had refused, contrary to law, to examine applicants in Spanish. Second, he asked questions which would be difficult for even a native-born Anglo to answer. For example, he pointed to the chairs in a courtroom and asked the applicant what they signified. Another question required the applicant to state what is the highest law (whatever that might mean) at city, county, state and federal levels. He refused to pass one applicant who could not produce a death certificate for his first wife who died in an epidemic in Mexico at a time when records were not kept. It was only because CSO's carried out vigorous voter registration and "get-out-the-vote" campaigns that this kind of discrimination could be prevented.
By 1962, the emphasis on citizenship classes had diminished greatly. There were several reasons for this. Many of those most directly interested had already become citizens. A related point was that as a culmination of nine years of effort beginning in 1952, legislation was passed in 1961 which extended California state pensions to aliens, a development made possible by the voter registration and "get-out-the-vote" campaigns conducted by CSO's. Another important factor may have been the growing influence of a middle-class membership. The lack of interest on the part of adult schools was a continuing, discouraging problem. And, of course, the lack of staff to push the total CSO program had its impact on the class program too. Hayward was the only community in which citizenship and English classes were pushed year after year. This was due to the accidental factor of having a member who was interested and who saw and remembered the connection between classes and organizing.15
The English classes involved a somewhat different motivation from the citizenship classes. In addition to the obvious benefits of learning the language as a means of improving one's situation generally, registering to vote required (at that time) a knowledge of English. From the very beginning, voter registration was seen as the key to progress for Mexican-Americans.
Voter Registration. Figures on the numbers of Mexican-Americans who registered as a result of CSO efforts may not be entirely reliable, and such data as are available from a number of CSO's cover different periods. Some sense of the significance of CSO efforts in this field can, however, be gotten from a National CSO report dated September 26, 1960.16 In that year the CSO embarked on an intensive voter registration campaign which involved over 500 deputy registrars and "bird dogs," the latter going door to door to bring unregistered persons to the deputy registrars. At an estimated cost of over 120,000 hours of effort, 137,096 new registrants were recorded. One deputy registrar in San Mateo county registered 2,300 persons. Between January and April 1960, a mass registration effort in Fresno by the League of Women Voters, American Legion, PTA and AFLCIO yielded 205 registrations. In only one-third of that time, the CSO registered 2,704. In San Bernardino the Daughters of the American Revolution gave its 1960 Award of Merit to the CSO president because the organization registered 4,000 voters in a two month campaign. One deputy registrar in San Bernardino registered 1,478 in a six-week period.
The results in 1960 were due in part to financial support from the AFLCIO which made it possible to hire eleven full-time and nine part-time workers to coordinate the effort. Valuable though this coordinating assistance was, it was the interest, dedication and organizational ability of the CSO leaders and membership which made the difference.
Although no comparable summaries were made for 1962, local CSO's continued to stress voter registration. Between August 15 and September 15, 1,200 were registered in Fresno for the general election. In Stockton, 2,300 had been registered for the primary and 1,500 for the general election. The 1,500 were registered in only three weeks because authorities had resisted deputizing CSO members. In Bakersfield, the respective results were 1,000 and 650.
When one considers that Mexican-Americans tended to vote in greater proportion than Anglos and that the former tended to be more concentrated as to place of residence, it is obvious that not only could the Mexican-American vote be decisive in local elections but it could have a significant impact in elections for state and federal offices as well. And it should be noted that according to the report, the CSO had registered 298,000 persons prior to 1960, for a grand total of 435,000. An unknown proportion, of course, were persons whose registration may have lapsed and were reregistered. But in any event, the consequences were immense.
These results were typical of the work of the many CSO's in California in the fifties and early sixties. The results were not achieved easily. Many deputy registrars had to go up and down ill-lighted streets in the barrio after working all day. In some cases, it took strong pressure on county clerks before they would accept deputy registrars from the Mexican-American community. In one large county, the registrar required handwritten letters of application and then rejected them because the handwriting was too poor until it was shown that he was accepting applications from Anglos in which the writing was no better. He then refused to schedule an evening instruction class for deputy registrars on the ground that this meant special privilege for the CSO. Pressure from the Central Labor Council changed this position. Otherwise, the CSO effort would have been aborted because its adult members had to work during the day and could not attend a daytime class.
To get ready for the county clerk's class and the subsequent examination, Ross set up a special class for the sixty-five applicants to become deputy registrars. First, he qualified as a deputy registrar himself so that he could learn the procedures thoroughly. He took the group through the election code provisions and the affidavit form step by step for an hour and a half. Then group members practiced registering each other. Finally, he asked the two who were best qualified to register each other before the whole group. A second familiarization class was set up for those who missed the first one. When the registrar's class met and was over, all were sworn in. But it took hard work and long hours on the organizer's part and patient attention to detail to recruit the volunteers and carry through despite all of the obstacles.
In another county, the county clerk refused to consider qualifying three deputy registrars. The CSO called a mass meeting and voted to take the matter up with Congressman Saund (who had credited his election to CSO efforts) and to inform the Mexican-American community about the position of the Democratic party in the matter, as well as that of the county clerk who was up for reelection.' 7 It is said that within twenty minutes, he was on his way to swear them in.
In the end, the registration campaign efforts made a difference. They registered a relatively high proportion of the eligible Mexican-Americans, who in turn voted in large numbers. In one election, in four precincts of the Stockton barrio, 108 voted of 145 registered. In twenty-two precincts in Bakersfield in 1960, 93 percent of those registered voted. In the 1962 primary in the Brawley barrio 75 percent of those registered voted. As a direct result of these efforts to build strength, Mexican-Americans began actively to support candidates. Some ran for office and gained a few offices. In Hanford, a Mexican-American ran for the city council in 1960 and won the beginning of a major change.
In the pre-Community Service Organization days, whenever a Mexican American had a problem, regardless of whether that problem was related to the police department or to various services concerned with streets, lights, health, education or no matter what, that Mexican-American was always referred to the dogcatcher.... The post was always filled by either political party with a Spanish speaking person who not only served as the liaison between the Spanish speaking population and the public authorities, but actually as the authority himself. As Peter [Garcia, local CSO president] puts it, "This was very bad for all of our people. Imagine, every time something came up which had anything to do with the city we would have to go to the dog catcher! But not anymore! Not since the Community Service Organization! You saw yourself, Mr. Alinsky, at the meeting tonight. There is the Mayor, the Chief of Police present. All has changed since the Community Service Organization. And ever since we registered people and did all those other things, lots of changes have come about."18
Other victories were won. In Brawley, the CSO fought the granting of a license for a used car lot in the barrio by holding "meet your candidates" nights and getting pledges from them to oppose the license. The license was then revoked by the city council.
We cannot review here in detail a typical CSO program, but mention should be made of "protective" activities, such as demanding investigation of police behavior toward Mexican-Americans.19 Other action was undertaken against discrimination in getting access to public services and against elimination of the barrio through urban redevelopment. The problems seemed endless. And their resolution took endless time to build the base needed to sustain the grueling confrontations with officialdom. The wear and tear on staff and leaders was great and this in turn was a continuing source of weakness for the CSO itself. What, then, were some of the problems facing the CSO's and what was the role of leaders and staff in dealing with them?
CSO Purpose: To Serve Middle Class or Poverty Interests?
The discriminations suffered by the mass of Mexican-Americans in California were due to a lack of power to compel the community to listen and to accommodate to their interests and needs. It followed, therefore, that any organization working to counter these discriminations had to be large in numbers. It was further indicated that the organizing effort must be built on issues important to the mass of the Mexican-American population. Police brutality; segregated schools; failure to provide school bus service on a comparable basis with Anglo children; denial of welfare benefits; lack of playgrounds, clinics or libraries; and withholding of improvements such as streets, sidewalks, storm drains, sewers, or curbs and gutters provided such issues. As a CSO grew in numbers and support. its leaders became able to confront government agencies and other organizations and demand, successfully, better treatment. Through energetic voter registration and "get-out-the-vote" campaigns, CSO's began to elect Mexican-Americans to public office. In short, Community Service Organizations were a success.
But success was not an unmixed blessing. First, those who had joined because of their interest in a particular issue might drop out when their problems were solved or when problems were not solved quickly enough problems of twenty or more years standing. Second, as Cesar Chavez said in an interview, "The more people actively working, the greater the burden on leaders." Trying to coordinate more and more committees became difficult for a president, especially when a chairman persisted in taking his committee in a direction contrary to board policy. Feeling responsible for success or failure of a program of great importance to members was hard to bear. One's wife or husband would complain about neglect of family because of endless meetings. And there were the many confrontations with the establishment, feeling the wave of disapproval which would emanate from those who were accustomed to ignoring the interests of Mexican-Americans. The psychological strain became intolerable for many. "You can't keep up a fight all the time.20 Third, as a CSO became larger and more powerful and achieved status in the community, it attracted members of the middle class who hoped to use its power for their own ends whether as would be power brokers, to further political ambitions, or as a springboard into Anglo organizations. In some CSO's, such persons became officers (often, because they were more verbal than field or blue-collar workers), usually with disastrous results for the organization. For instance, if a social worker became a CSO president, it was unlikely that he would push an issue with the county welfare department on behalf of a member. His problem not being met, the member would leave. With no action on issues important to the mass membership base, the base disappeared. This happened over and over. The original goal of seeking justice for those most discriminated against was forgotten.
In one CSO in 1962, the executive board was meeting first and members later the same evening which meant the members were left with little to talk about. Most discussions were concerned with questions or problems raised by the National CSO rather than with local matters. Not to have local issues to discuss was, of course, a sign of dormancy. In another CSO, according to Ross, the organizing effort involved people with white-collar jobs rather than low-income Mexican-Americans. CSO meetings were devoted to discussions of parliamentary procedure, raising money for scholarships, integration, Cub Scouts, and cooperation with the Community Council. These topics were of interest only to middle-class members. Member complaints about, for example, the police were turned over to a lawyer.21 On such matters, the CSO was moribund.
A specific example of the devastating consequences of electing leadership too timid to support the interests of the members involved a proposal by the city council in a San Joaquin Valley community which would virtually eliminate the barrio through an urban renewal program in favor of industry. The position taken by the CSO chairman (a school teacher) was that the CSO must remain neutral, that the problem lay between barrio residents and the council. Perhaps he feared loss of his job, or perhaps he felt that what the leaders of the city decided must be the proper thing to do. In any case, at the city council hearing, he read a statement disassociating the CSO from the issue. Residents of the barrio had organized its presentation so well, however, that the city council decided not to proceed with its plan. The credibility of the CSO having been destroyed in the eyes of the barrio, the members withdrew leaving only the chairman and a handful of his friends. It was a sad contrast with the earlier history of this CSO which had helped some 1,500 Mexican-Americans to become citizens.
In another case involving the killing of a Mexican-American youth by a policeman, Fred Ross reported on a discussion called to consider what the CSO should do. A stenographer member argued against diverting attention away from "building the organization" to fighting the case because the result would be that "the better element" would not come in. A grocer and a civil service employee supported this position. But another spokesman stated the principle. "We don't have to worry about protecting the organization; our job is to fight for the rights of the people. If we do what's right for them, they'll stick with us. And that's the best protection any organization can get. If we don't, before long we won't have any organization to protect."22 As Ross said on another occasion, "I don't think they want to do anything; they just want to be something." That is, they did not want to become involved in fighting some injustice or solving some difficult problem. Just to be president of the CSO or chairman of a committee or a member of the executive board was what they were interested in perhaps because it would enable them to move into other circles in the community. In Stockton, in 1962, the officers and executive board members included two farm workers, two cannery workers, a railroad section hand, a housewife, two warehousemen, a mother receiving payments under the Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program. The president was a semiskilled gardener. In Hanford, the president worked in construction or as a farm worker. Other board members included a construction worker, a farm worker, a laborer, a worker in a dry cleaning shop and a building contractor. In Madera, the president was an ADC client; others were a tractor driver, a service station operator, a cook, a farm crew leader, a farm worker, and the operator of a small farm. These chapters were still very much alive.
In two formerly major CSO's, but which were now headed, respectively, by a lawyer and an office supervisor in the county welfare department, the chapters were inactive. In still another CSO, a young, articulate president urged a program which had nothing to do with the interests of the mass-base membership. The concept of program was at the level of putting a float in a parade or supporting some candidate (the latter practice being generally condemned). A tenth anniversary dinner for former presidents was boycotted by half of the presidents and many members because the middle-class leadership group had compounded the existing resentment and confusion arising from its political manipulations by inviting the governor to speak. At a meeting called to consider what could be done to revive the CSO which had declined from a level of several hundred to a point where only fourteen had attended the previous meeting, the president complained that although CSO represented the Mexican-American community to the Anglo community, the bulk of the CSO membership was made up of people who needed to be helped, who could not write, and who could hardly speak English. Nor, he said, were they capable of doing things; they needed people to talk for them at agencies. He had neither a sense of concern for the deprived or for the original goal of the CSO.
With such an attitude, it is no wonder that the membership melted away. The upwardly mobile in the group wanted to believe that the old problems had largely disappeared. They now wanted to use the organization to work with Anglos, to join community coordinating committees. But the organization was by then just an empty shell.23
Another aspect of CSO leadership merits attention. In connection with field visits to CSO chapters in November 1962, 1 asked questions about tendencies toward monopoly of leadership positions and about the willingness to stay with the program. Although data are fragmentary, there did not seem to be a problem about overly prolonged tenure of individuals in office. Turnover may have resulted, of course, from the strain of representing the organization in so many forums, as well as in actual confrontations. In Gilroy, there had been three presidents in four years. At the Brawley meeting, there were five former presidents in attendance, In Oxnard, of six presidents, three were still active; three had left town. Thirty-five persons had held eight offices during that time. In short, whatever the organizational difficulties of the CSO movement, monopolization of offices did not appear to be a problem.
In his book La Raza: The Mexican-Americans, Stan Steiner reports Cesar Chavez' judgment of CSO:
Unhappy with the middle-class methods of the CSO, he was ill at ease. It was "unheard of" that they meet in a cheap hall, he says: "It had to (be) the best motel in town, very expensive, and it cut off all the farm workers who couldn't afford to be there. The reason given was, `We have to build prestige.' The politicians have to know who we are; we can't take them to a dump, I was naive enough in the beginning to buy that. So we ended up with just farm workers who had gone to school or weren't farm workers any more.
"The officers of CSO were semiprofessionals or professionals," he says. "It became a problem communicating with the workers." It was a conflict of styles of life, goals, attitudes, and even language, that has since divided the civil rights movement. Chavez says, "In most cases, the leadership had more to lose than the workers. They'd say, `We should fight, but we should be moderate.' They felt that farm workers were outside the jurisdiction of the CSO. It was a labor problem."24
So Cesar Chavez resigned from the staff of the National CSO to found the Farm Workers' Association which became the United Farm Workers' Organizing Committee and later the United Farm Workers Union. "The success of CSO tends to destroy it," he said. "People are attracted by what it can do for them."25
To help make more vivid how much could be accomplished by leadership "coming from the bottom," as Msgr. O'Grady put it, I include here an account of how a CSO was turned around, as told largely by Cirillo Lopez, a recipient of disability welfare payments from the Madera County Welfare Department. The Madera CSO had been organized by Cesar Chavez in 1954 and was built up to a membership of 200, some Protestant (in larger numbers than was typical of CSO's elsewhere) and some Catholic. There had been solid accomplishments in voter registration, citizenship classes and getting out the vote. Unfortunately, the leadership injected religious differences into the organization, and by 1959 the chapter was dead.
When in 1960, Cirillo Lopez was denied further welfare payments, he sought and received help from Cesar Chavez to have his entitlement restored. Asking what he could do in return, Chavez suggested that he "reorganize the CSO chapter." A list of things to do was written down, discussed and explained to Lopez.
On his return to Madera, he began to visit all of the former members, Catholic and Protestant, asking them why they had dropped out and what should be done. He offered to work full time on reorganization if they would cooperate. In late 1960, a reorganization meeting was held with an attendance of 125, at which he was challenged by the then president on grounds of illegality. His response was, "The officers refuse to hold meetings, so the National CSO has asked me to get the chapter going again. So let the people decide." They decided to elect him president. In recounting the story, Fred Ross stated that it was amazing in itself that a Protestant (which Lopez was, at least nominally) should have persuaded the Catholics, who constituted an overwhelming majority of the membership, to rejoin. In the meantime, the county welfare department denied him eligibility status again. 26 The county welfare director sent him a letter asking for information about when he became president, what his pay was (he received none) and what was the income of the CSO. Lopez replied that to get such information he should become a CSO member and come to a meeting. "Anyway, I don't ask you how you run your department." In the end, his appeal to Sacramento was upheld. It took courage and the backing of the CSO to protest in this manner.
When the previous treasurer refused to turn over the books and funds, the bank advised Lopez to file a formal complaint with the district attorney. But his reply was, "That would cause bad publicity for the CSO; there is a better way."27 He asked the sheriffs advice, and the sheriff sent a deputy to the treasurer, who without further ado signed over the account to the new treasurer. This incident is mentioned because it shows the capacity of this uneducated man, without much status in the community, to anticipate consequences and, indeed, look for a better way.
When the county clerk objected to the appointment of CSO members as deputy registrars on the grounds that the Republican and Democratic party organizations handled this, Lopez replied, "We don't want to be either side. We want to be ourselves. We go down the middle. We do not tell our people who to vote for." Finally, the CSO appealed to the county chairman of the Democratic party, and three deputy registrars were sworn in. When they began going door to door, they found so many persons who were completely ignorant of the voting process that they thought it wrong to register them until they could set up an "educational" on how to do it.28 By November 1962, there were 100 paid members. The board members expected that the membership drive would produce 150 paid members by the end of the year."
In the interview with Lopez, he commented that the pastor of his church had criticized him for spending all his time on CSO. His reply was, "A man must be himself; he must be responsible for his own actions. He must be free to do what he thinks is right and what is good for others. One man is a good thing, two are better and three still better. Hombre sin hombre no vale nada. [A man alone accomplishes nothing.] So he works for CSO."30 Cirillo Lopez was not an educated man. Perhaps his past membership in the United Cannery, Agricultural and Packinghouse Workers of America CIO was of some help to him. But without his qualities of courage, wisdom and dedication, this CSO would not have been revived. These were qualities of which any organization might have been proud. It was men like Lopez whom Fred Ross was always on the lookout for when he came into a community to organize. He recounts a conversation with Cesar Chavez at the beginning of the organizing effort in San Jose when Chavez asked, "Why look for leaders among us? If you're trying to find the hotshots in the barrio you're looking in the wrong place." Ross replied that he certainly wasn't looking for the doctors, lawyers, businessmen, 16th of September habladores or coyotes:
No, they're the last ones I'm looking for. What I want are just the plain, ordinary working people who've been pushed around all their lives like you have. While I'm around with them, I know that somewhere along the line they'll lead me to the second thing I'm always on the lookout for the man among men. A guy the people look up to and trust. A guy who'll really bear down and work and stand up and fight... If I can find a guy like that, he's the one the people will probably choose, later on, to lead the organization. And he's the one that'll keep after them when I'm gone. That's what I mean when I say "leader." 31
In talking about leadership, Chavez pointed out its critical importance, even more crucial in the barrio than in Anglo communities. In the barrio, there was virtually total unawareness of their rights and responsibilities on the part of Mexican-Americans. There was no functioning leadership. Organizing started among people with no experience in community work. They did not know that there was a simple way to bring people together and to fan a spark to do something for the community, not only for Mexican-Americans but for everyone. They learned that there is a way to do this, where previously, they would just "cuss the cops." They came to see the futility of this and to understand that there was something they could do themselves. But they also learned that the struggle is unending. Many could not take it and dropped out. But Chavez could see that years later people who "got the bug" continued to work to get others to care and to act. "There have never been such people in the Mexican-American community before."32
There were, nonetheless, many reasons why leaders dropped out. If the organization flourished, the burden on the leadership increased geometrically. Nor was the poverty level community immune from irrationality, and irrational tactics on the part of a leader or a faction could easily destroy a group whose prospects were fragile at best. Some leaders dropped out because their proposals for action were rejected by the membership or because they were interested in a particular problem and wanted to be head of the organization only to deal with that. Others were recruited into state agencies and boards by Governor Edmund Brown's administration. Still others could no longer sustain the psychological strain of confrontations.
In any case, there was a continuing need to recruit new leadership, with no guarantee that the replacements would be effective. As we have seen, the growing strength of a CSO chapter attracted those--the better educated and mobile--who wanted to use it for their own purposes, purposes which they saw as threatened by confrontation, by bringing in the "wrong element" such as field hands who would talk "strike" or complain about police treatment. A field trip in the fall of 1962 supported my observation that the better educated the chapter leaders, the less active the chapter was. Ironically, educational work among members of the chapter was itself a vitalizing force both with respect to leadership and the program. What was damaging was the drive by certain leaders for personal mobility and status, motivations cynically exploited by politicians, both Mexican-American and Anglo, seeking their own aggrandizement. But recruiting leaders was not the end of it. Leader training must be a continuous process in which the staff worker must play his role carefully.
In one case, Ross was talking with a committee chairman about an upcoming meeting on how to get sidewalks to help residents of several blocks in the barrio, and especially Lopez' block, to get out of the mud. First, Ross asked the chairman how he would handle those who had other problems to bring up. It was decided the group should be asked to assign priorities to the various problems. "But how are you going to decide which comes first?" "Probably I'll have to help them a little on that. Maybe I'll just keep asking them questions the way you're doing now." A useful tactic had been learned.
The meeting was thrown into confusion, however, when the school principal dropped in and asked the CSO for backing to get sidewalks around the school. By raising a question which brought out the fact that Lopez's block ran to the school ground, Ross helped encourage discussion which came to the conclusion that if the school sidewalk project were approved first, it would be more difficult for the councilman to deny support for the Lopez group's request.
When committee members said, "Let's get started," Ross asked, "What's the best way to get people interested?" It was quickly agreed that strangers starting out to ring doorbells to get signatures on petitions would probably not be successful. Instead, they decided to ask certain people to hold house meetings.
Ross and the chairman headed for the bar and a beer to review what had happened. Ross complimented him for continuing to ask questions although, he continued, "A few opportunities were missed to encourage others to talk. But just remember, whenever you're not sure of something, admit it. They'll respect you more for being honest about it. And besides, if they get the idea you think you know it ail, they'll turn against you.... But the best move of all was that idea of yours about holding a house meeting. That way we'll not only have the people themselves deciding what they want, and working for what they get, but we'll probably wind up with a flock of new CSO members."33
So from the start of talking with the chairman about how he was going to conduct the meeting, to encouraging him to keep others involved in the discussion, to raising a question when it was necessary to encourage the group to reflect on the probable consequences of a proposal, to the looking back over what happened, praising the good points and warning about the others in all of this process, Ross was teaching the leader's art so that when he moved on, there would be leaders able to cope with the task.
To illustrate further the role of the staff member in helping the new
leader, Ross recalled his first conversation with Alinsky, relating the latter's
interest in an episode involving a meeting with a board of education. Alinsky
asked him why he stayed outside and let the council president go in by herself.
"Because I wanted her to get in the habit of standing up on her own . . and demanding her rights without my help." Alinsky went on to ask why he slipped in later, while she was talking to the board.
"Well," I tell him, "that was the first time in her life she had ever gone up before a public official of any kind; and she was very nervous; and I wanted to be on hand to help her out in case she got stage fright and started to muff the thing."
And Saul is right on me: "And what difference would it have made if she had muffed it?"
"Well, it would have been a terrible blow to the organization."
"Certainly," Saul nods his head, "and that's so obvious you'd think that anyone could see it, wouldn't you? But many people don't, particularly these people who go overboard on this nondirective business. They get so busy trying out their little theories, they forget they've got a flesh-and-blood organization to consider; and of course, before long they haven't!"
"What all of us have got to remember is that, while it's the function of the organizer to constantly push responsibilities on the people, and to assume right up until the last minute that they will carry them out still, he must always be ready to jump in and take over, himself, in case the people, for some reason or other, fail to follow through.
"Oh, of course, many times it's OK to let them drop the ball and fumble around with it for awhile, so they'll learn. But very often you aren't allowed that luxury. Crisis situations develop, and you've got to move in fast; otherwise the whole program--or a vital phase of it--may be destroyed."
"But it's not only the possible destruction of the program that's involved here--and this is another thing these 'nondirectivists' always overlook--there's something else that's equally if not even more, important and that's the effect on the individual. Now, for instance, how do you think this council president we're discussing would have felt if she had dropped the ball, and you hadn't been around to help her pick it up!"
"Oh," I answer, "she would probably have been so discouraged she'd never be able to face that kind of situation again for the rest of her life."
"Right!" says Saul, "but by being there yourself, the moment you see she's going to muff it, you take over and give her the backing she needs--and even more important--the example in action, the 'on the spot' leadership training she has to have to be able to meet the same or similar situations in the future."
"What so many people fail to understand is that, in this field, no real learning takes place unless it's tied right into an action program."
Alinsky went on to ask why, when he came in from outside, he remained in the back, hidden from the council president. Ross said he did so for the same reason he had stayed outside earlier.
"But wouldn't the council president have had more confidence in making her protest if she had known you were there in the room with her?"
"Oh, sure," Ross said. "but that would have given her a false sense of security. I wanted her to prove to herself she could do it completely on her own, so she could begin to develop the kind of self confidence she has to have to face the big shots in the future when I'm not around to rush in to the rescue."34
In this episode, we see several important points: that teaching/learning must be done in the context of action; that the community people must take the responsibility and have the opportunity to exercise it. Until the leaders have learned to cope, the staff must be close at hand to forestall a disaster which could destroy the organization and the confidence of the leader in his/her ability.
Later, there would be a postmortem on the meeting to review what had happened. This was an opportunity to raise questions about weak points, reinforce the good things that had been done, assess the effect on the program, and consider what next steps might be taken.
The instances just described, of course, were only two of many. There were many because leadership skills were not learned all at once, there would be several committees actively engaged in carrying out different parts of the CSO program, and, in any case, there were new leaders to be trained to take the place of those who moved or dropped out.
The reader should take special note, too, of where the training took place. It was not done in a "leader training workshop," specifically scheduled for the purpose. No list of principles of group discussion or leadership techniques was presented to the committee chair, for example. Instead, he was encouraged, through the questions put to him by Ross, to anticipate possible difficulties and to consider how he was going to get the group to think about them and solve them. Training did not deal with abstractions. It was conducted in the course of action, encouraging the chairman and members to apply their own experience to dealing with novel problems as they came up in very real situations. Their judgments as to what to do were quickly tested in action, providing guidance for the next steps.
Training in this mode placed great demands on the staff worker. He must be ever alert to opportunities through his questions to encourage the group to consider the consequences of proposals, to see new possibilities, to take increasing responsibilities, and at the same time be ready if necessary to step in and avert a disaster.
It was a premise of the IAF's original proposal that financial stability of a CSO chapter could be achieved in three years. The record in California does not support this. Three years, however, may have been an unrealistically short time in which to try to achieve financial stability. An organization with a mass base in the Mexican-American community is necessarily dependent upon a low income membership group. There had been a history of dishonesty with respect to handling funds in previous organizations. There was a failure on the part of members to recognize the critical importance of staff support for a voluntary organization which must continually serve needs of individual members on the one hand, and, on the other, assist elected leaders to work out strategy and tactics to further the interests of members.
Typically, those recruited were asked to pay a membership fee of only two dollars per year in the belief that this was the limit of what farm workers could pay. The middle-class elements tried to persuade the organization to divert even these scarce funds to middle-class causes instead of providing the support needed to serve the majority of the members, such as maintaining a service center or staff. If a CSO held a fundraising event such as a dance or picnic, the proceeds would often be put into a scholarship to send someone to college or to support a scout troop. As a result, the members of the majority tended to disappear.
In retrospect, Ross said that the notion that two dollars dues would be the limit was mistaken. And, in fact, the CSO discovered that dues of ten or twelve dollars per year were not unreasonable, providing they could be paid in installments. But by the time this was discovered, the middle-class officers and members were, in fact, unwilling to give vigorous support to the service center and staff operations which were tied to the ten-dollar fee.35
In the late fifties, it became obvious to the IAF organizers that their "consolidation" program (that is, the effort to achieve viability, both in finance and leadership) was not working. To solve the problem, a service center program was proposed, the development of which was financed by the last ESF grant to support the CSO program.36 Briefly, it was proposed that Fred Ross be employed to recruit and train a person to serve in each CSO office on a paid basis. His or her function would be to provide services for members, such as assistance in preparing forms, for which a charge would be made. Ross stated in an interview in 1962 that the service center idea should have been the major element in the consolidation program from its inception, that this was the only way that self-support for the National CSO and the several chapters could be achieved including support for a staff "circuit rider." A substantial charge could be made for a specific service which the applicant would be willing to pay. And if volunteers from the membership could be organized to be in the office on a regular basis to talk about the CSO with applicants coming for service, the applicants would see that there was more to CSO than taking care of the problems of an individual. The service center would become not only a source of financial support for CSO but part of its continuing organizing program as well. By inviting the individual seeking service to come to an "educational," membership would grow and new ideas would come into the movement.
The first steps in getting the service center idea underway involved visits by Fred Ross (February 11 to March 14, 1962) to thirty-four CSO chapters to persuade them to raise dues and to vote in favor of the Service Center idea at the National CSO convention on March 16 and 17. He "gave them a historical account of our various efforts at becoming self-sustaining, our reliance on money from 'outside sources,' reluctance to put the responsibility for the support of the program on the people who benefited from it, total stress on program at the expense of fundraising projects to support it, and eventual collapse due to lack of adequate financial reserves to support the movement."37
The convention approved the program, but it proved difficult to persuade individual chapters of the need to raise dues to the proposed twelve dollars per year, of which seven would go to the local chapter to help support the service center staff and five would be assigned to the National CSO. Although Ross would have asked the local executive board to make this decision before he arrived, invariably he would find that it had been left for him to carry the argument. (This was, of course, politically sound from their point of view.) If he was successful, he would then try to find volunteers to assist with the new program. The purpose was twofold: (1) to avoid allowing the chapter to degenerate into just another "paid-staff" operation and (2) to provide a group who could be trained in the intricacies of forms and regulations involved in meeting various social problems and who could also interpret the CSO program to those coming to the center for help.
The training usually covered the following problem areas: immigration, Social Security, welfare, driver's license and auto and industrial accidents:
It consists of holding a brief "educational" with the staff in connection with each problem that is brought to the center, pulling the answers out of them, helping them work up the courage to phone the various public agencies involved and put sufficient pressure on them to bring about solution of the problem. Gradually the nervousness ... wears off; they become accustomed to getting at the problem ... quickly and taking the action the problem calls for; and they are then capable of carrying on without me.38
An important factor in the success of a service center was a continuing publicity campaign to alert the barrio to the availability of help. Getting a service center started took about six weeks, on the average, which was half again as long as had been anticipated. And from time to time, service center personnel would withdraw due to personal emergencies, moving to another community, or for other reasons. But there were successes. In Madera, the center was open from 3 to 6 P.M. Monday through Friday. Several instances of discrimination or other illegal treatment in welfare and driver's license situations were reversed. During the trainer's short stay, thirty-five new members joined the CSO. In Oxnard, the service center was open eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. The first months in Bakersfield, the income of the service center was about $200 per week. In Stockton, the center was open from 9 to 5 (or even later) five days per week and from 9 to 12 on Saturday. A schedule of charges was set, for example, three dollars for an immigration affidavit or one dollar for a letter on some matter. The schedule was voted by the members and was much lower than lawyers would charge. In October 1962, about $400 was collected through center activity alone. At least for a time, the service center idea was succeeding. The question was whether it would grow and be sustained to the point where local expenses as well as a small national staff of "circuit riders" could be supported.
As part of the change in emphasis in the IAF program from "organizing" to "consolidation," Cesar Chavez had shifted from the IAF to the National CSO staff. The importance of staff was stressed in the IAF Annual Report for 1958-1959 which recorded what a good organizer (in this case, Chavez) could do.
Because of a special grant of $20,000 from the United Packing House Workers, Chavez was sent to Oxnard as his first assignment. Within an eleven month period, the following achievements could be recorded: (1) holding semi-monthly membership meetings with an average attendance of 450; (2) recruiting of 950 paid members at four dollars each; (3) enrollment of 650 in semi-weekly citizenship classes; (4) organizing a credit union; (5) operation of a continuous rummage sale, clearing an average of $200 per month; (6) maintaining a service center that was open eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, with the help of thirty volunteers; (7) registering 300 new voters and putting on the most intensive "get-out-the-vote" campaign in CSO history among the voting population of 1,348; (8) conducting an organization program among field workers which resulted in replacement by local workers of hundreds of Mexican nationals. (This was the first time that the fields had ever been organized.); and (9) getting a statewide investigation of grower hiring practices and proving collusion between growers and the State Farm Placement Service.39
Commenting later on the Oxnard results, Ross stated that forcing the growers to hire local farm workers instead of braceros from Mexico was a significant development. But much more significant was the fact that it showed Chavez that a farm workers union could be organized and that he could do it. It laid the groundwork for the later campaign to organize the UFW.40
In the end, the service center concept was unable to maintain itself. Support for the training effort was too little and too late, and in any case, the service center program was addressed to the needs of a mass-base membership. The middle-class leaders, for the most part, saw no advantage for themselves commensurate with the increased dues which they would have to pay. In addition, fundraising events would also have to be organized to make up deficits. The leaders were unwilling to expend the effort to do this for the benefit of the poorest members. In the end, it was more a failure of leadership than of the service center idea. In the UFW, the service center concept works. 41
Soon after the initial grant was made in April 1953 to the IAF, I raised a question with Alinsky about the need for some kind of educational program to accompany the action-oriented activities. In a letter to Alinsky, I indicated some of the problems:
The great danger in a program such as yours is that the most obvious and the easiest thing to do is to "operate." There are injustices and inequities. It is possible to identify leaders, work with them to build a power organization and apply the pressure to correct the injustices. This is good. But is not your basic objective to develop certain capacities among the people with whom you work? In the West, you are working primarily ... with a particular ethnic group. Are you developing a set of political bosses, new style, in the pattern of ethnic political bosses as we have known them in Chicago or Boston? If such a result is to be avoided, must not some understanding of the basic problems be shared fairly widely in the group? What are the facts about housing? about alternatives? What are the facts about juvenile delinquency? about causes? about available services? Who pulls this kind of stuff together? Who arranges for some orderly way of getting the facts and their implications discussed? This is only a beginning. But it is an educational job. When the drive is to organize, to get some results, who is thinking about and doing something about the educational side?
To put it in more high-flown language. The function of the citizen is to deliberate, to act and to evaluate the results of the action. Some of this he does directly; some indirectly through representatives. But however it is done, he is responsible for knowing why he does what he does. Developing the program which will make this kind of a result possible in disorganized urban areas (or rural areas for that matter), is the great contribution which the Industrial Areas Foundation can make.... Ought not this educational job to be started earlier in the process?42
Fred Ross expressed it later in another way when he said,
You see, in most organizations, some fast-talking charm boy gets up and says what needs to he done; and the rest of the people just go ahead and vote for his idea without thinking. So, after awhile, the program becomes his program, not theirs at alt; and gradually they drop out and the organization is either dead or ruined. Now, the only way to prevent this in CSO is to start training the people now to quit taking somebody else's word on what's good or bad for them and get them in the habit of always trying to think things out for themselves.43
In its next proposal for the three-year period beginning July 1, 1955 (which overlapped one year of the preceding grant), Alinsky requested $186,000 to continue and consolidate the organizing program, $60,000 for an educational program, and $5,000 for a final report.44 This request was approved.
At first, the thinking about the program was quite confused, and, indeed, Fred Ross was skeptical as to its value and even wondered if it would not get in the way of effective organizing.45 One decision, made very early, was that it would not be a good use of the funds to hire a director of adult education. Rather, it was decided to recruit several persons, each to serve a different chapter.
To review the experience, a small group met for two days at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California, on July 5 and 6, 1956. Three educational chairmen met with Alinsky; the National CSO president; Glen Burch, director of the study-discussion project of the fund for Adult Education; and me. Two of the educational chairmen were social workers. It soon became apparent that their inclination was toward abstractions and concepts removed from action. In one program, two weekend conferences had been held. One goal of these conferences was to consider how to acquaint CSO members with community resources such as the Welfare Commission. Another was to encourage young people to stay in school; still another was to arrange visits to city hall. The most functional idea was to try to help committees work better. But for the most part, it was an exercise removed from issues. In another city, the educational chairman organized classes in public speaking and labor history. The group (at Asilomar) concluded that something much more closely related to the actions of the CSO must be the focus of the educational program.
Subsequently, Alinsky concluded that no one should be chosen to be an educational leader who had not been actively engaged in organizing. Only then could the leader understand what was being said and guide the discussion effectively.
We have become impressed with the advantages of selecting educational leaders who have a formal educational background as limited as their associates ... we find people assuming that the discussion leader, like the teacher in school, knows the answers.
But . . . if the discussion leader knows the answers, why should the group struggle their way through to an answer? In spite of pointing out this danger, the discussion leaders who have achieved a significant formal educational background have such a concern for status that they have to show them how much they know.
On the other hand, when the people know that the educational leader has the same formal educational background (although his experience has been greater and he has already demonstrated a curiosity as to the meaning of his experiences and acquired certain insights into various patterns of life far beyond that achieved by graduation from a college) the previously described barrier does not appear to operate. Everyone joins in to keep the pot boiling and see what kind of stew emerges. They identify the educational leader as one of "theirs." One need not move out of a neighborhood to move out of a community group. 46
In Appendix I to the 1957-1958 Annual Report, Alinsky stated;
The discussion leaders or "teachers" must be recruited and trained from the local organization's personnel . . . ; (a) They must be completely involved and familiar with every part and program of the community organi- zation, since those issues provide the skeleton of the curriculum and the mainspring of the discussions. (b) They must be constantly physically available so that as an individual sparks to the sessions he can contact his discussion leader the next day and the spark can be nourished and encouraged.
Starting the Education Program in the Chapter. Although the educational program became controversial in some CSO quarters, the IAF was unable to satisfy all of the requests for the program. So, in some cases, members from other chapters might attend an "educational." At the beginning, in 1956, there were three pilot programs-in Salinas, Soledad and Oakland. A year and a half later, the Oakland educational was terminated in favor of San Jose, and two other CSO's, Hanford and Brawley, were added.
Not all programs started in the same way, although in all cases, the executive board had to request it, following a sample educational which Fred Ross would conduct. The first education leaders were nominated by Ross; later, the executive board would usually nominate one of its own members, and if satisfactory to Ross, he would be hired at a modest stipend of $500 a year and be given some training on the job by Ross.47 The training was basically similar to that of organizers in that it consisted of exploration of their own experiences as educational leaders. Only thus could the training be real. The training would begin:
after [the candidate selected] has experienced some discussion sessions with. his particular group and comes to us with an account of frustration, failure, successes, inability to cope with certain situations and other positives and negatives of his first educational experiences. Using these specific issues as our points of departure, the discussions between representatives of the Industrial Areas Foundation and the educational leaders suddenly changed from previous superficial, verbal agreement to discussions in which there is a deep interest, understanding and a desire to explore into a whole new world; an exciting world of ideas, the meaning of experiences and synthesis of action and thought. 48
Anyone who wished to attend the weekly or semimonthly meetings could do so. This was not, of course, a mass program, attendance usually varying from ten to fifteen. But those who did take part, often executive board members, were the best informed in the chapter. And, in fact, many participants in these educationals later became officers or board members. As the program evolved, even the meeting places changed. The original idea that the meetings could be held in private homes was found to be unworkable. The houses were generally too small and too close to the telephone which would be used by teenagers. Social callers would disrupt the proceedings. In the end, the groups welcomed the proposal that a room in the local public school be secured so as to be liberated "from the oppressive restrictions and interruptions of what had been regarded as 'an informal, congenial situation.'"
Method and Materials. As I have indicated earlier, Ross had been skeptical of the educational program, seeing it as a diversion from the real business of organizing. He agreed, however, to give the program a try, starting in Stockton.49 He recalled that by the end of the first meeting, he became convinced of the value of the program. What changed his mind was Dolores Huerta's reaction to the announcement of the urban redevelopment program. She expressed her confusion and worry about it, but it seemed a lesser evil than the threat of condemnation. (When annexation to the city of the barrio in Goat Valley had been first proposed, the CSO had supported the idea: "At least we will get our streets fixed." Only later did it become apparent that the city intended to apply sanctions against the substandard housing in Goat Valley, in effect condemning them.)
At the first meeting under the new educational program, the group reviewed the literature prepared by the urban redevelopment agency (setting forth the "vision"). The group began to analyze it point by point. The question was asked, "Why did the city decide on urban redevelopment?" There was little response to this question. When the leader asked, "What groups were supporting urban redevelopment?" answers came forth readily: The Chamber of Commerce. Labor (because the building trades would get jobs). The Church (the hierarchy was represented on the Urban Redevelopment Committee of 100 prominent citizens). "Who will lose by it?" Goat Valley. In response to the question of what would happen if the project went through, data on housing ownership and income levels in Goat Valley had been obtained by the educational leader. The leader asked, "Is this fair?" It became quite clear that everyone would get something except the residents, 65 percent of whom owned their homes. Only a very few who had incomes of $400 or more per month could transfer any equity and get a loan for the balance. And those who had received welfare payments in the past would have these deducted from any equity they might receive.° At this point, Dolores Huerta asked, "What are we going to do about it? How could we win? What is the best we could get?" It was decided the CSO must fight.
By the end of the meeting, Ross could see that by turning the questions back to the group, their thinking had penetrated a complex thicket of considerations; they had come to realize where their interests lay and could form a conclusion about what action they should take based on exploration of alternatives. As he jokingly remarked later, "I stopped being a two-bit Messiah and became a two-bit Socrates instead." Soon, Ross and the several part-time educational leaders were conducting these educationals throughout Central and Southern California.
In the beginning, acceptance of the educational program by the IAF organizing staff was based in part on the hope that it would strengthen the organizing effort (working out tactics), and this it did. Later, it came to be seen as even more valuable for what it could do to develop the abilities of individuals who would, as leaders, contribute greater strength to the organization.
In his 1957-1958 Annual Report, Alinsky had said that it was not concerned with remedial education, liberal education (like college), nor partisan education (in the manner of labor unions) but "development of a freewheeling, purposeful curiosity which is the goal of our search." Hence, the "point of departure for discussion of subject matter is their own actions and decisions, either in terms of the organization or themselves as individuals." A word of dissent, however, must be said concerning the assertion that liberal education was not involved. Rather, it would seem to me that the liberalizing aspect of the educational is precisely why it proved to be valuable because it was there that a picture of alternatives, of different possibilities, of connections between ideas, began to emerge. This is the kind of learning that lies at the core of liberal education. A CSO leader explained it less abstractly: "Your organization is your gun and you learn in an educational program where to aim it and when to shoot. Another thing you learn which you never thought about ... is what the shooting is all about."51 An interview with Huerta while she was educational leader in Stockton sheds further light. Speaking of the difference between an educational and other kinds of meetings, she said,
You try to crank up your brain. You ask questions to get back to what is basic. You start with: "What's hurting?" and push on to: "What's wrong?" and "Why?" You might have an educational on: "What is a meeting?" "How is it different from a get-together?" "What about parliamentary procedure?" "How does it help?" "What is binding about a meeting?" "Why do we have majority rule?" We might meet on: "How does this happen?" "Who does it?" "What are the duties of officers?" We held an educational on: "What makes a leader?" We ended up saying that it has nothing to do with oratory, clothes, education. Rather, it is one who works for the people. Therefore, even a farm worker can be a leader.52
Ross kept stressing the same point about helping the people. The discussion leader must "keep the organization in the front of his head all the time. So, when an issue comes up, the thing he'll think of first is what's the best way to tackle it so we can help the people, and, at the same time, use it to strengthen the organization."53
The educational had a potential, first, for leadership training and, second, to develop sound thinking, which could be realized in no other way. It was the only regular forum in which the more complex problems and issues could be thought about and talked through. In general meetings, many were reluctant to speak or ask a question. And, in any case, the agenda would usually be so crowded that it was hard to give enough time to any one item. The executive board meetings were also likely to be too full of urgent action items to allow for the kind of reflective discussion which the educational made possible. And just as important, by attracting concerned members and officers, the educational made a powerful contribution to the training of new leadership.
Impact of the Educational. In any case, it became evident that the educationals were having an impact. Alinsky reported that at member meetings it began to be noted that speakers were saying such things as, "Let's examine it calmly," and "Nothing is all good; we know that there are wrong or bad parts of anything, so let's take a good look at the things which are wrong before we make a decision." Or, "How is what we are doing or not doing on this going to affect the other parts of our program? We know that everything is tied up with everything else, and we've got to look at it from that side, too."54 No speaker in any meeting at any level would need to feel ashamed of making contributions such as these. But let us look at other examples of the impact of the educational program.
The value of the educational in bringing together the facts and exploring their new meaning can be documented from the Hanford CSO in 1960. To help relocate Mexican-Americans who would be displaced by relocation of a highway, a housing program was proposed. But, according to Gil Padilla, the educational leader, "Without the educational the CSO would not have known how to start. We didn't know what was meant by 'workable plan' and all those names." The group spent separate evening sessions on the meaning of cooperative housing, self-help housing, public housing, urban redevelopment and urban conservation and renewal. The quality of the results was expressed by Herman Thatcher, director of the Federal Redevelopment Agency in San Francisco, saying, "This group has approached housing in the most intelligent and unique way of any instance I can recall."55 Following this study and discussion of it, the CSO Housing Committee helped get out the vote which established a county housing authority by a little over 100 votes.
In Stockton, the conclusion arrived at in the educational to fight urban redevelopment was not accepted by other groups in the community. They refused to help, although a door-to-door survey of 100 families in the barrio demonstrated the facts about the low income of the residents and the lack of suitable housing for relocation. They tried to get other CSO chapters to write their congressmen, but in the end, Goat Valley residents lost. However, one consequence of the opposition effort was that the Bakersfield CSO was alerted in time and with the aid of other groups succeeded in confining the urban redevelopment bulldozers to the Bakersfield business area. The Bakersfield CSO also succeeded in promoting a self-help approach to housing improvement, buttressed by city action to put in paved streets and better lighting.
That the Stockton educational had some impact in other quarters is indicated by the fact that the information officer of the Stockton Planning Commission at the time of the fight over eliminating Goat Valley asked Huerta: "Where do your people learn to ask these questions? They sure are educated people."
Another episode involving an educational in San Jose became a cause celebre. Three blacks were refused service by a Mexican-American bartender, who was a former CSO member. Discussion in the educational, led by Luis Zarate, came to the conclusion that it was as wrong for a Mexican-American to discriminate against blacks as it was for Anglos to discriminate against Mexican-Americans. As the CSO president, Ernest Abeytia said, "We are trying to integrate our people into the community by dispelling discrimination. How in the world are we going to do it if we do the same thing."56 The CSO decided to join the local NAACP in filing a suit against the bartender. In view of the tensions existing among many in the black and Mexican-American communities toward the other group, it is a tribute to the educational process (and to the persons involved) that such a decision could be reached.
I have noted some of the ways in which various episodes and their consequences were affected by the CSO educationals. But there was also a continuing impact on the CSO itself. Where officers and other board members took part, as in Stockton, the result was a stronger organization, characterized by intelligent and informed decisions and "a purposeful unity which comes out of a people who know precisely why they have taken a particular position...."57
But in some other CSO chapters, officers felt threatened and remained aloof, while bitterly criticizing the roles of the leader and participants. Those officers who saw themselves as the embodiment of the organization were intolerant of the questions raised by members especially when it became obvious that the latter knew more about a problem or issue than did the officers. The president of one CSO is quoted as having said: "These participants take time to study the problems, and so when they come to the meetings they seem to know more about it than we do and they get up on the floor and make us look like fools." Another executive officer complained. "We are the officers, and we are supposed to make the decisions; but those people in the educational come to these meetings with all kinds of ideas and they learn to shoot off their mouths and by the time they get through with all their arguments, the membership votes their way and not our way. Who's running this organization?" Another officer said, "We are sorry we ever heard of the educational program and that we ever asked the IAF for it-trouble, trouble, trouble! Now our meetings last twice as long because these people have suddenly become little authorities on their subjects." Still another said, "Some of the questions that they raise don't show the proper respect for the officers."58
It is unfortunate that a program designed to increase awareness and understanding of problems and the CSO's response to them should have provoked such negative responses in some communities. Because knowledge is power, some CSO officers were unable to tolerate the challenge to their own power based on their personal view of organizational welfare. In San Jose, for example, the officers would often press for action without allowing the reflective process to work. They saw discussion of a proposed action as a personal attack on them. But the education chairman noted that the participants in the educationals became better members, more articulate, better informed, more regular in their attendance and were the ones who kept CSO activity going during the agricultural work months.59
The unsettling impact of the educational on the organization was, for Alinsky, its most important value. He had seen and deplored the "hardening of the arteries" which had made so many organizations moribund-whether they knew it or not. He recalled that at the beginning of discussions about an educational program, he had wondered whether it would be possible "to create a situation of constant questioning, challenging, unrest and controversy all inimical to the hardened, settled condition so essential to institutionalization." The possibility was certainly affirmed.
Educationals for Women. A specific development of some significance in the educational program was the proposal that provision should be made to set up educationals for women to be led by women. The stated reason for the request was the observation that the participation of women in the work of the CSO was much less active than Alinsky believed it could or should be. He attributed this to the fact that "the Latin tradition emphasizing a secondary status for the female sex is very strong in these [CSO] groups." It was his hope that more women would rise to positions of leadership in the CSO. Because the National CSO was unwilling to take responsibility for funding, the IAF requested a grant of $9,500 per year for two years in order to undertake such a program .60 The request was approved. Dolores Huerta became the director in charge of this program, having had experience as education chairman in Stockton.
In Stockton, one focus had been the Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program which involved mostly single women with children. This group was subject to gross discrimination by police who often entered their homes at night without warrants. Huerta began holding house meetings with ADC mothers to identify violations of civil rights and discuss possible action. She was trying to train the group to follow up for each other as representatives in responding to various forms of harassment.61 The goal was to help them achieve dignity and not suffer for the actions of a few.62
In addition, she sought to increase the participation of women in the CSO program generally. Five ADC mothers served as deputy registrars during the Stockton voter registration drive, and one had served as coordinator of the drive in 1962. She worked for four months in Los Angeles and for four months out of Stockton until she had to withdraw for personal reasons.
Unfortunately, Fred Ross was unable to recruit a woman who had the required abilities as well as the freedom to move about. In desperation, he requested permission to employ, part time, Gil Padilla, who had led educationals and was currently (in 1962) actively involved in the consolidation program, including the service center program. Because of the need for orientation of the women being recruited to staff the service centers, he saw the two projects as being mutually reinforcing.63 Permission was granted. The women's educationals, however, inevitably suffered in the face of the urgent need to establish service centers.
The Role of Staff
From time to time, reference has been made to the staff role. Reflecting on the CSO experience, it seems to me that the availability of staff had a decisive effect on the course of its development and subsequent decline. Perhaps decline was inevitable, as more militant positions came to the fore in the Mexican American community, for example, the Brown Berets, but the decline of the CSO certainly reflected to some degree the lack of continuing core staff.
In reviewing the kind of person he tried to be as an organizer, Fred Ross listed the following qualities, abilities and ways of doing things as of critical importance: the ability to grasp the ideas and aspirations of the people, sensitivity to their feelings, having a constant awareness of and ability to articulate the concept of "organization" as a frame of reference in all kinds of action, ability to apply automatically general organizational know-how to particular problems, ability to listen and play the role of sounding board, ease in relating one's own experiences and attitudes to those of the people, patience, frankness, obliviousness to the passage of time, tact, and a willingness to stay in the background so as to not appear to "hog the show." Although partially implicit in this list, 1 would add the ability to assess events and developments as to their implications for the organization and to suggest possible responses to the membership and their leaders.
Being a good staff person meant getting the people to "scratch around for what they know and then spit it out so that they could see that they weren't so dumb as they thought they were." It meant asking, "What are you trying to prove? What evidence do you need? Do you have it? If not, where do you get it?" It meant being ready to step in to forestall disaster for the organization if the president made a mistake in a confrontation. It meant being available to raise questions about what the organization was really for whenever someone was trying to divert it for his own purposes. Attempts to commit the organization to one political party or another were a continual threat to stability--a threat which a staff member might be able to avert by asking the right questions about the purposes of the organization and the probable effect of the proposed action. It meant having someone who could visit service centers to check on training and staffing so that their potential for building the organization would not be lost. It meant raising questions continually as to whether a CSO was, in fact, serving majority needs in the barrio. It meant seeing to it that new life was constantly being pumped in from the bottom. And, of course, a principal function of staff was to carry a certain part of the mechanics of the organizational effort.
This review of qualities to be sought in a staff person suggests another point to be considered. Alinsky indicated that he could tell someone how to organize. Unquestionably, he knew a great deal about organizing. Ross, however, would enter a demurrer to the notion that Alinsky would actually tell someone how to organize; rather, he would talk about what to organize. He generally took it for granted that asking about labor unions and churches was a sufficient clue. Ross did recall, however, that Alinsky noted Mao's advice to any organizer when arriving at a new village. He should seek out someone in need and help him. This would provide an entry point. But this left open the question of how this was to be done so as to maintain credibility. In his own organizing terms, Alinsky was more concerned with identifying the various interests in the community than with the question of how they were to be approached and involved in the program.
Myles Horton would see the matter differently. He would not tell someone to do something. Rather, he would encourage the person to talk about his problem with others who shared similar problems, raising questions himself, as needed. Out of such discussion and testing in action he would expect that the individual would learn what to do. D'Arcy McNickle saw the House Committee at Crownpoint make a disastrous choice of a house manager, but he felt that to interfere would have destroyed the value of all that had gone before. Which is it more important to protect? the organization? the individual? or the cultural collectivity? The choice is one of values to be served.
To Alinsky, constructing an effective organization was of central importance, along with learning how to use it. He was concerned with building enough firepower, so to speak, so that those in control of it could achieve their goals. And goals were to be understood as interests of the members which were to be served.
Myles Horton's view of the matter was much more open-ended. He did not lay out a blueprint to be followed in building an organization. He undertook no responsibility for the creation of an organization. His concern was with helping an individual or small group coming to Highlander to understand their own situation better and what the alternative possibilities might be for fruitful action. Much of this they would learn from each other.
The difference, it seems to me, would be in the depth and breadth of understanding of one's own life situation in the context of one's community which the IAF sought to achieve as compared with Highlander, the latter emphasizing more the development of the individual than of the organization.
Weaknesses in the CSO Organizing Effort
In time CSO chapters virtually disappeared as such, to be replaced by other organizations. (Reference has already been made to organizations continuing to use the CSO name but which are devoted primarily to providing services, the costs being borne from public funds.) Why did this happen? A definitive answer cannot be given but some suggestions can be offered.
1. Alinsky maintained that the CSO never developed a tough organizational structure. There were several reasons for this which were interconnected. The low-income and middle-class elements shared some interests but not all, and the differences were decisive. At the beginning, the house meeting approach brought ordinary people, people of very modest income and status into CSO. The CSO program was based on their needs. Only later did the lawyers, civil service employees, merchants, etc., seek to join. Once in the CSO, their verbal skill gained them preferment. When disillusionment about failure to address their problems set in, the poor dropped out. Without enough staff to push the critical questions, this process could not be arrested. (This is not a problem in the UFW.) Effective staff support was especially critical to the achievement of goals of the lower-income members (which often depended on some kind of confrontation). But effective staff depended on financial self-support as well as a commitment to a program which depended on staff. Middle-class members, however, wanted to devote chapter funds to such purposes as college scholarships or providing a float in a parade; they saw little need for paid staff. The service centers, which were set up in the early sixties, showed great promise toward helping solve the financial problem, but by then many chapters were, in effect, in the hands of middle-class officers. Not needing the services offered by these centers for themselves, they did not exert themselves to do those things which were necessary to make them effective. It was not only at the chapter level where critical support was lacking but at the National CSO level as well. "The failure to get a two-thirds majority at the CSO convention in Calexico for the proposal to establish a sound financial base was disastrous. It meant that there would be no professional staff."65 (The program was approved the following year, but by then it was too late.)
2. The combination of the poor and ill-educated with middle-class Mexican-Americans was inherently unstable. The mass-base could not improve its lot in significant ways without a struggle. Confrontation was unacceptable to the middle-class members who came into the CSO whenever it had developed sufficient status and power to make it worthwhile joining and, once in, taking it over. In some cases, would-be politicians sought control so that they could "deliver the vote" for their own advantage. At the same time, they de-emphasized the programs which had produced the membership in the first place. In short, too many people joined only for what it would do for them personally without regard for the welfare of the organization. In fairness, we must note that some may not have been aware of the conflict in interest. In any case, the power base melted away, leaving the officers with the opportunity to seek status by, let us say, attending luncheon meetings of the local health and welfare council. As an example, we can take note of what happened in a CSO in a large California city when "intellectuals" (Alinsky's term) took over. The basic membership issues were ignored in favor of a college scholarship program, discussion of Great Books, etc. Local fundraising events were discouraged in favor of applying for foundation grants.66 At one time, this CSO had the second largest citizenship class program in the state, with thirty classes in 1954-1955. By November 1962, there were only thirty-five dues-paying members.67 It was primarily because the interests of the poor were being ignored that Cesar Chavez left the CSO to set up the Farm Workers' Organizing Committee.
3. The intrusion of partisan political interests was a continual threat to organizational health, a threat which took a variety of forms. Certain members seeking political preferment for themselves would try to gain CSO endorsement for a particular candidate. Such endorsements resulted not only in losing flexibility in negotiations on particular issues but also risked splitting the organization, Another kind of danger resulted from the fact that Governor Edmund Brown's administration recruited CSO leaders for various positions, which was, in itself, desirable. But there was more than a suspicion that some appointees tried to use their CSO connections to manipulate identification of the CSO with the Brown administration in the late fifties and early sixties.
At the time of my visit to California chapters in November 1962, the National CSO roster listed thirty-five chapters and organizing committees.68 Twelve were visited, of which six had a vigorous program; one was struggling to survive against heavy odds; two had an organizational structure but were headed by officers who did not wish to "rock the boat" (but these might have been revived with new leadership); and three were virtually dead. The effective ones were those which were continuing to serve the needs of low-income members.
Without trying to offer an exhaustive analysis of the factors making for the success of the CSO organizational effort (for which adequate data are not available), we can summarize briefly some key elements. (1) A condition existed to which the CSO was an appropriate response (a relationship like that which obtained between Highlander Folk School and blacks in the South). (2) The organizing effort was based on real problems of concern to enough people to form an organization sufficiently large to have an impact. (3) The house meeting approach to organizing ensured that real problems could be identified and that those having the problems could be recruited. (4) The availability of a staff with a realistic approach to organizing was an essential element. (5) Some CSO chapters were more fortunate than others in the quality of leadership which emerged. (6) Wise leadership, able to take a broad view, could make effective use of the educational to strengthen the total CSO program. And (6) the successful CSO chapters were those which maintained their concern for the problems of the majority of the Mexican-American community.
Perhaps the decline of the CSO was inevitable, made obsolete by developments on the larger scene. But for a period of about fifteen years, the CSO did more to help the Mexican-American community to feel a sense of being something, as a prerequisite to becoming something more, than any other organization in California.
What Was Accomplished?
I have referred to De Toqueville's discovery concerning the tendency of Americans to form a committee or an association to pursue some public purpose instead of leaving it to some agency of the government as would have been the case in his native France. It would appear, however, as Cesar Chavez observed, that this tendency was not nearly so characteristic of Mexican-Americans, at least in California. For him, it was one of the great contributions of the CSO that it turned thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people around in their thinking. They became aware not only of their rights as citizens but their responsibility to work for the benefit of the community. Whereas before there had been little functioning leadership, there were now many leaders up and down the state of California, men and women who were leaders because they had a following.
In fact, the impact was evident throughout the rest of the Southwest, especially in Texas and Arizona. According to Ross, it was Ed Roybal's election to the city council of Los Angeles which stimulated Mexican-Americans in Texas to start a voter registration campaign. Chavez pointed out that poor Mexican-Americans had not known that through the simple device of the house meeting it was possible to bring people together and help move them to work for the solution of their problems. Through the CSO, Mexican-Americans had come into the mainstream of community action by private groups to serve a public purpose.
Strengthening the Mexican-American Community. Having learned how to organize themselves to deal with their common problems, many specific activities could be undertaken to improve the standing of and the prospects for the Mexican-American community. What were some of these ways?
1. By organizing classes in English and citizenship for thousands upon thousands of Mexican-Americans, an effort unparalleled in California history, the CSO opened the doors to their effective participation as citizens. This required preparing the study materials, arguing with adult education directors who were refusing to hire teachers who would teach in Spanish, organizing and registering the classes and combating discriminatory practices of Immigration Service personnel. In addition, through the service center program, many aliens were assisted to assemble the documents needed to establish date and place of birth, as well as other documents needed to regularize their status (for example, proof of having met the military service requirement in Mexico and proof of good moral character while living in the United States).
2. According to the National CSO, for the 1960 primary and general elections, 137,000 Mexican-Americans had been registered. CSO chapters held "meet-your-candidate" nights, conducted "get-out-the-vote" campaigns and were responsible for providing the support which gained the enactment of legislation of great concern to the Mexican-American community. And by 1960, a number of Mexican-Americans had been elected to municipal, county, state and congressional offices. By that time, nearly 450,000 Mexican-Americans had been registered by CSO workers.69 It was these unprecedented registration totals which were essential to reducing if not eliminating the many discriminations practiced against Mexican-Americans.
3. A third major contribution to the Mexican-American community was the "protective" activities of the CSO. Because of their low status, Mexican-Americans could not count on being treated justly. A welfare client could not depend on getting what he was entitled to under the law as a matter of course. The CSO learned that it was necessary for someone in its organization to know the law and the regulations. Sometimes this was due to the fact that agency personnel themselves were ignorant of changes in the law and the entitlement that it provided for. In other cases, the withholding of information concerning possible benefits was deliberate.
Much CSO activity was directed toward dealing with problems arising out of relations with the police. Search procedures were widely violated. It was only by repeated appeal to higher authority and as a result of building their own power base that some of the worst abuses were minimized. Suits charging brutality in treatment of Mexican-Americans were brought and won. Dragnet sweeps by police and immigration agents at dances and in movie houses, in the course of which individuals were supposed to prove that they were not aliens, had to be fought over a long period of time. There was widespread fraud on the part of employers who failed to deposit the sums which had been withheld for Social Security and other benefits. Pressure had to be brought to force county clerks to refrain from discriminating against Mexican-Americans who wished to serve as deputy registrars. In all of these areas, it was CSO power and pressure, validated by voter registration and getting-out-the-vote, which made the difference.
4. Another significant contribution was the development of leadership in Mexican-American communities to a degree never before achieved. Cesar Chavez asserted that in the years when CSO's were active, the only informed and dedicated leadership in the California Mexican-American community was in the CSO. As a result, each member of a community could take satisfaction in the fact that the CSO in that area was known and was respected for what it could and did do to help Mexican-Americans in very concrete and significant ways. It marked the beginning of self-confidence and the basis for hope in the future. But the results of the CSO's work were not limited to the existence of a viable organization which could achieve benefits for its members and sympathizers. Individuals were helped to change as well.
Improving Civic Competence in the Individual. We can only begin to identify the kinds of changes in individuals that contributed so much to the improvement of civic competence among Mexican-Americans in California. Most obvious was the increase in information acquired by CSO members in the course of dealing with the many problems which they addressed. They learned details of registration and voting requirements, facts about housing laws and the various options available to them, the nature and consequences of urban development, their rights under the welfare laws, and on and on. A federal official at the regional level commented that the housing surveys and program development done in Hanford and Corcoran under the aegis of the local CSO had been performed more competently than in any other community he knew of. Members learned what it took to define and to reach a goal. In those chapters where there was an active educational program, perception and understanding of the consequences of actions and their interrelationships, were stretched greatly. Individuals acquired many new skills, not least of which were those involved in organizing and, subsequently, in furthering the aims of the organization. Some learned how to deal with the problem of factions, a perennial threat to popular organizations. They learned how to run their own meetings democratically, how to express themselves, how to get facts and how to put them together to make a case. They learned to hold a practice session before a hearing to identify the possible arguments and consider what their responses should be. They learned the tactics needed to negotiate.
Perhaps the most significant change was in attitudes. They learned to take the initiative in the face of problems. CSO members gained confidence from the fact of being united, that the organization would back them up. They improved their ability to cope with a situation, which led to a feeling of self-worth and of their effectiveness in the community. Perhaps this change was expressed most simply and effectively by an elderly man in a meeting I attended at Stockton. In response to a question about what the CSO had meant to him, he responded, "Senor, we are no longer afraid."
Changes of this nature and magnitude obviously would have powerful effects on the ability of the members of the community to help themselves to advance toward their goals. In some degree, the kinds of changes noted were reflected almost everywhere that the CSO was organized. But this is not to say that there were only successes; there were many failures, as we have seen. For many leaders the burden became too great, and they were forced to withdraw. And in other cases, organizations were taken over by the glib talkers, the result being failure to serve the needs of the people, which took its inevitable toll in disillusionment. But, in the large, there is no question that the CSO program had a tremendous and positive impact on the Mexican-American community in California during the fifties and early sixties. Clearly, large numbers of Mexican-Americans learned how to secure and use civic rights as a prerequisite to obtaining those benefits to which, as Americans, they were entitled. Furthermore, much of what was learned in CSO was applied by Cesar Chavez, Fred Ross and other CSO leaders in organizing the UFW.
In considering whether the CSO program was a success or not, one further criterion concerns its replicability. This point has two aspects. First, did formation of one CSO lead to organization of another, and, second, did the program persist in one form or another? As to the first aspect, one CSO certainly did lead to another. This happened, in part, of course, because Fred Ross and Cesar Chavez went from place to place to explore organizing possibilities. But it also happened because Mexican-Americans in one place would hear (perhaps from migrant farm workers) about what the CSO had done elsewhere and would ask for an organizer to come in to help them. Even more significantly, it happened that members of a CSO chapter in one community would undertake also to organize a chapter in another. This happened, for example, when members of the Hanford chapter undertook to set up a chapter in Corcoran. So, we can see that the CSO idea had some vitality that carried it beyond its geographical beginnings in Salinas and Oakland.
There is even some vestige of the CSO extant in the late seventies in such communities as Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Lamont, Oxnard, Stockton and San Jose. But their character has changed, although original members of the CSO such as Tony Rios may still be active, even directing them. The difference is that they have become something like agencies, using public funds to provide services. Membership attaches primarily to a credit union or death benefit plan. The current CSO is less of a participatory, activist organization set up to combat discrimination and more of a service agency funded to provide services as an extension of the current version of the antipoverty program.
But even though the basic CSO program cannot be said to continue in the organizations which retain the CSO name, the basic idea persists in an expanded and renewed form. I refer to the United Farm Workers union. Cesar Chavez resigned from the National CSO because he saw that there was no possibility that the organization would try seriously to help the farm workers. He concluded that only an organization free of the drag of middle-class interests could be made to serve this purpose. It is not appropriate here to trace the development of the UFW. Suffice it to say that the union embodied many of the elements of the CSO. House meetings were the starting point for the organizing effort. The program was based on a cluster of economic, social and political needs and interests of farm workers. And the workers controlled the program. Many of the outstanding leaders in the UFW had also been leading figures in the CSO.
Without the deadweight of the middle-class members, the UFW could press forward toward solution of worker needs, including service centers that worked. By limiting the range of interests admitted to membership in the union, the UFW was able to build a more solid organization, an organization with members who were willing to pay dues at a level that would support the union as well as an effective service center program. In short, the CSO program was replicated in new form, attesting to its basic viability.
Inspired by the success of the IAF organizing effort in California, the National Council of Churches applied to the Foundation in October of 1956 for a grant to support citizenship training for leaders among migrant agricultural workers, using an IAF model, and for the training of Migrant Ministry staff to enable them to work with migrants, using community organization methods. The migrant aspect of the project was known as the Migrant Citizenship Education Project (MCEP). In the MCEP, the Migrant Ministry expected to undertake with its own staff organizing among leaders of migrant workers traveling from Texas to Illinois and Michigan. In the staff aspect, the Migrant Ministry proposed to ask the Industrial Areas Foundation to provide training for its staff, utilizing the CSO program in California. The sum of $123,380 was granted for a three-year period beginning January 1, 1957. Of this sum, $29,350 was allocated to staff training. (The staff training aspect will be discussed in Chapter 7. Although the MCEP might have been discussed in Chapter 5, because of the reference to using the IAF/CSO approach as a model, I have chosen to discuss it in this chapter partly because the migrants served by the MCEP were subjected to the same kinds of discrimination as those served through CSO's or the blacks served by Highlander, which group will be discussed in Chapter 4.)
In its application, the Migrant Ministry referred to itself as a "settlement house on the move" for some two million migrant agricultural workers in the United States. To conduct its work, the Migrant Ministry typically established state and local committees which included growers, businessmen, welfare workers and civic and church leaders. Its direct services included child care centers, literacy classes, health education, vocational assistance, clubs, religious education and recreational programs. It sought by education, persuasion, example and social action to improve the conditions under which migrants lived and worked. In all of this organizational activity, the migrant himself was conspicuously absent. To deal with this fact, William Koch pointed out in his final report elements in the migrants' situation that would have to be dealt with if their status was to be changed, including their isolation, the consequences of their poverty, their defeatism, lack of confidence, and the discrimination practiced against them, etc.70
The reasons for his absence were not difficult to find. He was virtually defined as a person who does not belong. The grower did not want attention called to practices which discriminated against the migrant. He wished to avoid government interference. Public agency representatives feared political repercussions if they were too helpful. Union leaders criticized others for their neglect of migrants but said it was too difficult to organize them. Church workers were too often concerned about the possibility that another faith might gain an advantage in proselytizing among migrants. And, in any case, there was some question about how much difference it would make should a migrant be brought into the committee structure if he had no preparation for a new threatening role. Because of a consistent pattern of discrimination, migrant workers came to the community as less than perfect representatives of what some would consider desirable.
Migrancy, of course, is a symptom. Before they are migrants, they are blacks, Mexican-Americans, poor rural whites and Indians; that is to say, they are persons usually accorded low status. Their physical, behavioral or cultural traits make their second-class status "self-evident" to the larger society. Given the premise of unworthiness, social programs organized for their benefit tend to fail. The premises are, in effect, self-fulfilling. Stereotyping supports discrimination. The segregated group defends itself by self-isolation so that its members grow up in a self-perpetuating subculture. Reinforcing such factors is the view that migrants, because they come from elsewhere, are a state or federal problem. Rejected by society, the migrant tends, in turn, to reject efforts to help him, either discounting the possibility of benefit to himself or being offended by the manner in which help is offered, or both.
In seeking support for this project, the Migrant Ministry acknowledged that its traditional approach was inappropriate. Because many of its staff were trained as social workers, they were too involved with the individual and his needs to understand and act upon the need for broader community action. (In fact, the MCEP staff were trained in social work, sociology, community organization and adult education.)71 Direct social service to migrants was necessarily ineffective because it was like first aid for a cut when what was needed was to pick up the broken glass.72 Therefore, a training experience in community organization would be essential, preferably as practiced by the Industrial Areas Foundation. The Migrant Ministry wished to utilize IAF training because the IAF had demonstrated an ability to work with the people and to train leadership from the group. (The MCEP staff, however, did not begin its work with such training, although one or two may have done so later. Koch, apparently, did not.) The basic principle was to be to work from the bottom up rather than from the top down. On this model, religious education would not be an appropriate starting point in working with migrants. Rather, the beginning would have to be made in relation to their needs and problems and with respect for the integrity of the individual. Citizenship education was said to be the appropriate focus. The key element in citizenship was "participation in the affairs that affect one's welfare."73 Because citizenship education was to be based on a political concept of individual rights and responsibilities, it would, of course, be controversial.
Verbally, at least, the Migrant Ministry emphasized what migrants were to learn. In practice, however, organization was often emphasized as an end in itself, sometimes at the expense of learning. This happened, in part, because of the wish to keep peace with the Establishment in a community and in part because of a wish to improve services to migrants. It is for this reason that the MCEP is treated here with the IAF/CSO and not with Highlander in the next chapter.
In any case, with premises such as these in mind, the application to the ESF set forth four purposes: (1) to find and train leaders among the migrants, (2) to discover how to gain the good will of the community toward the organizing effort, (3) to train Migrant Ministry staff in the techniques of community organization and the development of leadership from the group in accordance with principles and practices of the Industrial Areas Foundation and (4) to find new ways of helping migrants.74 In short, the aim was to bring the two parts of a community into constructive relationship with each other. To further this purpose it was deemed necessary to provide requisite tools to the side lacking them. The aim was also to create a dialogue in which differences would be honestly examined and reconciliation of differences would be sought, but with the understanding that migrants needed a political base, something to bargain with. What William Koch, the MCEP director, believed to be unnecessary was the ascendancy of one group over another .75 Instead, he favored an integrating approach. It differed from the confrontation approach of the IAF, which difference will be discussed below.
The applicant, of course, was not unaware of some of the issues which would necessarily arise as a consequence of the effort to apply the IAF approach, based as it was on conflict, to a program supported by church groups. Nevertheless, Koch recognized conflict as the beginning point for social progress, as a means to an end. But each must "decide for himself which method or tactics are worthy of support."76
After some confusion as to just where to begin (because the migration pattern was changing rather rapidly from a "crew" to a family unit), it was decided to start with an effort to work with migrants in a Texas community with a total population of 14,000, of whom 7,000 were Mexican-American. About 4,000 of the latter were migrants who went north each season. Later, work would begin in a fruit-growing community in Michigan and in a community south of Chicago, Illinois. Staff teams of two each were to work in these communities, one team member to form a community committee and the other to try to organize a response among the migrants. (Evidently, this specialization was designed at least in part to maintain team balance and avoid the consequences of the tendency for the staff to identify with the migrants.) 77
The selection of communities was based upon the convenience of their location, their having a sizable migrant population, having appropriate community resources and offering variety in setting. In the Michigan community, the people worked with were mostly black. In Illinois, many of the residents were Mexican-Americans endeavoring to drop out of the migrant stream and settle on a more permanent basis. The Texas community was a home base for migrant Mexican-Americans and was located in the lower Rio Grande Valley.
In the Texas community (called Valleytown in the report), migrants had made an effort to persuade farmers to reorganize the work pattern so as to stretch out employment over a longer period of time. Their request was turned aside with the recommendation that they should have fewer children so that it would not be necessary for them to be migrants. Nine months later (the MCEP having been started in the meantime), a meeting was held with an attendance of about 150 Mexican-Americans who formed the Asociacion Educativo de Ciudadania y Derechos (Association for Citizenship Education and Rights). They began working on a program concerned with police actions, welfare problems, getting residents to pay their poll tax obligations, organizing a candidates night, citizenship classes and a fiesta to raise money.
The MCEP staff had begun by trying to identify Anglos who might be friendly to the migrant cause, with a view to providing a sponsorship base. This was unsuccessful. The Anglos saw only Mexican-Americans, not migrants. Relations between Anglos and Mexican-Americans were virtually nonexistent. The Anglos criticized the Mexican-Americans as still loyal to Mexico, as irresponsible and as unwilling to participate in civic affairs or to maintain property. They did not view them as educable, believing that if classes were offered, Mexican-Americans would drop out after the first few sessions. The school superintendent said, "The Mexicans have gypsy blood in their veins. We have quit trying to make special efforts to educate them." As soon as spring comes, "they all go up north."78 Further, the Anglos indicated that even if they learned to vote, they would elect corrupt officials. They were too lazy to participate in any case. If they were educated it would only mean that unions would come in. 79
It was concluded, therefore, that the organizing effort must concentrate on the migrants. At this point, the staff began to use techniques developed by the IAF in California. The team members spent hours talking with anyone who would talk, explaining why they were there, listening to troubles and to the recitals of the problems of daily life: a reluctance to face Anglo officials in agencies controlling pensions, education, welfare; their inability to qualify for pensions because they were not citizens; trouble with insurance and taxes; violations of civil liberties; and discrimination in the allocation of public services. Most discouraging was the lack of belief in the possibility that Mexican-Americans could form an enduring organization. Occasionally, however, there was a positive response, and all the while, the staff kept looking for a leadership spark.
Finally, a house painter, once a migrant, was able to organize a house meeting attended by seventeen of his relatives and friends. Those attending agreed to organize more house meetings across the community. Because of the poll tax deadline, they got busy on a registration campaign. That the people were beginning to take hold of the idea is shown by the fact that ten house meetings were held in two days, twenty-five in three weeks. Each meeting drew five to ten persons, people who were related to each other mostly by kinship or close friendship ties. In these small groups they could safely air their problems and begin to see why organization was necessary if they were to improve their condition.
Planning began for the mass meeting which was to discuss whether an attempt should be made to organize the Mexican-American community. The staff worker helped the group with the details: publicity, making arrangements with the school officials for a meeting place, getting typewriters, arranging a public address system and putting together the agenda. The night of the meeting, 150 people came to an auditorium with seventy-five seats. After the Pledge of Allegiance, the temporary chairman asked the staff worker to explain the purpose of the meeting. The worker presented arguments for organizing. He called for a vote. He spoke for the steering committee on electing temporary officers. He called for nominations. The worker then said, "I now turn over the platform to your elected leader." The report goes on to say "he had made good his promise that ... [this organization] would belong to the people."80 But why was the worker so prominent in the proceedings?
In spite of this error, committees got started on two vital needs: to get as many persons as possible to pay their poll taxes and to set up citizenship classes for non-citizens. With only ten days remaining before the deadline, ninety persons were persuaded to pay their poll tax, many for the first time. This was a demonstration of their ability to work together as well as evidence that their lives might be made better in the future. The canvassing also turned up about 100 persons interested in a citizenship class. The staff worker helped a committee work out step by step the action needed: facilities, teachers, materials, schedules, equipment, procedures and publicity. Three weeks later, 150 Mexican-Americans showed up for the first night. It could have been a disaster: some teachers did not appear, and the materials had not arrived. Furthermore, it quickly became evident that classes in English were requisite for many.
However, the problems were soon resolved, and the classes proved to be immediately successful. By the end of the fourth week, 250 were enrolled. Before, they would have feared embarrassment. "But among friends and supported by their own organization, they were able to overcome their hesitation."81 (The reader will recall that this was also the situation with respect to the English and citizenship classes organized by the CSO in California. It was only when the specialists in adult education undertook to organize the program that they failed to attract more than a handful from the barrio. Attendance held up remarkably well from February until mid-May when jobs began opening up. By mid-June, half had left, but eighty stayed through the summer. Some 275 persons eventually attended for a period of ten weeks or more. "By December, one hundred students had applied for and obtained citizenship."82 A total of 356 registered to vote, 195 of whom were women. The organization roster listed 175 members.
Nor were the needs of individual members for specific help ignored in
such matters as pensions, taxes and other legal questions and welfare problems.
At each assembly, the welfare committee gave "for the education of the members,
a detailed account of its activities and services, its successes and failures."83
While the "body politic" of the association met formally in assembly
every two weeks, the work of the association also went on, day by day, in
the little office set up in the back of an auto repair shop. Finances were
a problem. Because of the poverty level of the members, dues were set at
only one dollar per year, and the organization did not insist on payment
of even this modest amount. Eventually, they organized a fiesta in the town
plaza, and with almost 1,000 in attendance they netted $500. As spring came
on, the project worker (one had evidently been reassigned) prepared to leave.
To replace him, two community members were sent at project expense for training
under the Migrant Ministry project in the California CSO program.
Fruit Plain, Michigan
The scene now shifts to Fruit Plain, Michigan.84 The farm workers who came to Fruit Plain were mostly black. Some came year after year and eventually decided to stay if they were able to locate an inexpensive piece of property to buy or rent. In time, several little colonies outside the boundaries of a village or town were established. They were, of course, rural slums. The local Protestant Church Council had undertaken to provide services to this group, even to the point of proposing to erect a "Friendship Center" on a tract of land in the heart of the township which had been donated by a Fruit Plain farmer. The proposal stirred violent resentment, and a court injunction halted work on the center for a time, although it was eventually set aside. The sharpness of the resentment was a surprise to the council, but they went on to complete the center.
At this point, in the spring of 1959, staff of the Migrant Citizenship Education Project (MCEP) came into the community and offered to assist in setting up an adult education program in the center. The offer was accepted and the planning committee set up. The first step was a survey, but even this preliminary move ran into trouble, two of the project staff members being arrested and held for investigation on the complaint of a farmer on whose property interviews were being held. The charge (never formally entered) was "suspicion of being a labor organizer,"85 The results of the survey surprised the council and the staff. It showed that about 1,000 blacks came on an annual basis, but there were approximately 400 persons with a core of about 100 families who were settled on a more or less permanent basis. "The survey findings also showed that lines of communication existed between some of the permanent people and the summer migrants. Indeed, it appeared that working through the permanent people was the logical and potentially the most effective way to reach the migrants."86
The council attempted to create a structure for the center which would represent the interests of various groups. They invited certain members of the black community whom they considered to be leaders. At the conclusion of one of the meetings, it was suggested that they elect one of their number as a permanent representative on the program planning committee. Subsequently, it became clear that the blacks who had been invited represented only small subgroups of the community; obviously, the council members did not know who the leaders were.
It appeared to the project staff that the only way to assure valid representation from the Negroes was to encourage them to establish their own community organization in which they could choose their own leaders. The idea of organizing the Negroes met with some resistance from the council members, who were still concerned about the recent negative community reaction. . . . Finally, a farmer member of the council stated the case for organization when he said: "To have these people in their own organization is the only way whites and Negroes in Fruit Plain can ever learn to work together for the good of the whole community." 87
The project's black staff member began a round of conversations with community residents in an effort to bring to light the critical problems and possible leadership. The critical problems for the "permanents" were the lack of remunerative work on a year-round basis and a consequent necessity to seek support from the county welfare department. "In their dealings with the welfare officials, their illiteracy, lack of understanding of their legal rights and their low status were a serious handicap: in hiring practices, union admission requirements, civil liberties, school administration and civic affairs."88 According to the project's staff, however, these reactions were on the surface. Living as they did on the fringes of organized life, their sense of community feeling was limited to the extended family of which they were a part. "Group experience in solving individual and community problems were [sic] alien to them. The call to work with others only threatened what little gains they had made and recalled to the surface their view of life as a concern of 'every man for himself.'"89
The lack of community feeling was complicated by the fact that there appeared to be several groups of "permanent" blacks. One group consisted of descendants of those who had come from the South via the Underground Railroad. Enjoying higher status than other blacks, they objected to efforts to "rock the boat." They even objected to the NAACP. Another group were the domestics, the yard workers, the permanent "hired hands" on the farms and in stores. Although or because their status was precarious, they hesitated to jeopardize such security as they had. They resented "outsiders" and "troublemakers." The "permanents" were the largest group. These were the recent arrivals out of the migrant group. "They felt frustrated by their status in Fruit Plains, and many of them were hostile and aggressive in their trying to deal with their frustration. It appeared that if any leadership were to emerge among the Negroes of Fruit Plain, it must emerge from this group."90 The fragmented nature of Fruit Plain made the search for leadership possibilities a long one. It took several weeks to find the person who might undertake this task, the leader of one of the family clans. Having a bit more vision than some of the others, he was "able to see the possibilities of an organization in which people worked together. He saw the need for leadership, he was willing to work and he had friends who were willing to work with him."91 After several meetings with the group of friends and neighbors, they began to see themselves as a steering committee for a community organization.
The chosen tactic was that of the house meeting. In a period of three weeks, twenty-two house meetings were held.
Members of the steering committee acted as discussion leaders for these meetings, which were held in the homes of Fruit Plain Negroes. As the campaign went on, the steering committee members met frequently with the project worker to review progress, to discuss and find answers for new arguments raised against organizing and to plan next steps. The project worker's main task was to help this small organizational nucleus learn to find its own way along this new path of experience. While he provided ideas and suggestions, he pushed the decision-making functions back to the committee members at every possible opportunity. By the end of three weeks, the steering committee felt that there was enough interest in the community to call a general organizing meeting. A date was set, preparations were made and a public announcement made.92
Thirty-five persons come to the organization meeting, and all voted in favor of proceeding. Temporary officers were elected (temporary, so that they would have to prove themselves, as the staff pointed out).
It was decided to make voter registration the top project. The first step was to arrange with election officials to demonstrate the operation of a voting machine. The chairman of the voter registration committee had been chosen from the "status quo" group, but when, after two weeks, nothing happened, he was replaced. Another obstacle was the resistance of a county supervisor, who tried to persuade the staff worker to call off the voting machine demonstration. After a young adult in the chairman's family had "sounded off" to the county supervisor, the association called the former to task for having endangered the voter registration campaign. The lesson was that the individual was not to speak for the organization on his own initiative. In due course, the demonstration was held and subsequently fifty new voters were registered. Other problems were dealt with and eventually the association was established.
Metro Heights, Illinois
Metro Heights, about twenty miles south of the Chicago Loop, presented an even more mixed scene than did Fruit Plain. Interspersed among steel mills and factories were fields of tomatoes and onions. Here, too, "permanents" as well as recent settlers were to be found. They were largely Mexican-Americans, however, rather than blacks. The approach in Metro Heights was different from that in Fruit Plain perhaps because the community exhibited so many of the characteristics of expanding urban sprawl. Hence, to the staff, the great lack seemed to be in area-wide social planning, coordination of programs or other cooperation among the agencies. It was a diagnosis not unexpected from a social worker.
In any case, "the staff of the migrant citizenship education project . . . approached staff members of leading South Metro County social agencies, offering them assistance if they wished to undertake a special cooperative effort to deal with the area's migrant problem. While the project staff realized, from its early Valleytown experience, that both summer and resettled people would eventually be the targets of concern, its offer to the agency was couched primarily in terms of the summer people."93 But the initial focus was not so much the people as it was a social problem.
Because so little information about the migrants was available, it was decided to devote the summer to observation of the impact of migrants on the programs of the several agencies. "Social, health, and law enforcement agencies were questioned, twenty-five local school districts were asked about educational problems, a housing survey was carried out and a census of the seasonal people was made."94 The resulting information was made available to the area's agencies. Over the winter, the County Council for Migrants grew in membership to include twelve agencies taking a closer look at their services to migrants. Finding that their assessments of the scope of the problem had been inadequate, several agencies increased their budgets to serve migrants and new settlers. But more important, some council members saw that their efforts were dealing with symptoms only and not with basic problems such as bad housing. As this concern deepened, the question inevitably arose: what more should we be doing? But as might be expected, there were others who felt that no more should be done, because the council should avoid controversy.
Clearly, a fresh approach was needed. In self-evaluation, some of the members began to see that an important source of ideas and inspiration was missing from their deliberations. There had been no representation from among the seasonal migrants themselves nor from among the permanent Mexican-American people of the area.
The council members came to realize that they had fallen into the same trap that countless other community groups like theirs ... frequently fell into. They found themselves trying to understand and make plans to remedy problems while the people who were most concerned had nothing whatever to say about the plans. The council members agreed that they ought to seek representation from across the tracks.95
The big question was: who could represent the Mexican-Americans? The migrants, after all, were in the area for only a short period of time. When a staff member of Latin background was asked to make an attempt, nothing came of it. The migrants were discouraged about the possibility of achieving results like those in Valleytown or California. They were concerned about house meetings because the houses were small and ramshackle and in any case belonged to the farmers for whom they worked. After a time, however, migrants were asked whom they knew among the resettled migrants, and some house meetings were arranged. After several meetings, it became apparent that a Senor Herrera, a ten-year resident, had leadership potential.
The development of a feeling of commitment to the idea of organizing was a slow process. It was difficult to believe in the possibility of success. The objections were familiar ones: "We Mexicans could never organize ourselves." "We don't work together very well." "An organization takes much work and there are always factions." "Our friends would laugh at us." "Who could we trust anyway?"96 As Herrera began to take on clear identity as the key to the community, the worker began to concentrate efforts upon him. Herrera seemed to draw the important people around him. His suggestion at a house meeting that another meeting would be a good idea would usually result in an invitation from someone to come to his home. When this circle of influence began to emerge, the staff worker saw it as a potential nucleus for organization, and he suggested to Herrera that his core of leadership consider itself an organizing committee. Herrera was reluctant to admit his capacity, but he agreed to work with others.
Because the members of this group were so new to the area, several weeks were required before they came to know each other well enough to be able to go forward. Eventually the commitment was made to schedule a public meeting. The crowd was slow to assemble, but by an hour after the scheduled time there were about fifty present. The purpose of the organization was explained. But it was not until an old man of nearly ninety spoke of the need for members of la raza to join together ("You can't break a bundle of sticks.") that the tension relaxed and a measure of support was manifest. When the vote was called, only half voted in favor, the remainder abstaining. Nevertheless, officers were nominated and elected. They chose to call their association the Organization de Education Civica (Civic Education Organization) (CEO).97
Work began at once on the two problems of greatest concern: citizenship
classes and welfare. Within three weeks, a class in citizenship and a class
in English were underway. Welfare committeemen came each evening to a little
office provided by the Metro Heights Community Center to listen and try to
help with the manifold problems of people in the poverty community. Word
quickly spread of the services available, but the final report does not indicate
whether or how the provision of service was used to strengthen the organization
The membership roster finally settled at approximately sixty persons. About
a third, including three officers, were migrant workers, a third were farm
workers who had settled in Metro Heights and a third worked in local businesses
In the meantime, the South Metro County Council for Migrants (SMCCM) had observed with interest the effort to constitute the CEO, hoping the programs of the member agencies would be helped through better communication. At the first opportunity the council invited the CEO to send a representative to one of its meetings. Not knowing how to decide who should attend as their representative, the CEO sent its entire organizing committee of fifteen. Very soon they began to bring up some of their own critical individual problems.
Koch saw three significant results from this opening of communication. One was the development of "systematized ways of dealing with welfare problems among the migrants." After asking the CEO to prepare these cases in written form, they instituted a weekly "case conference." "When the materials were presented to the council, even the most experienced council members could not help but feel shock and shame at the human misery so graphically interpreted through the eyes of a migrant."99
A second result was to bring the larger Mexican-American community into a closer relationship with the Anglo community by way of the council. Soon other Mexican-American organizations sought to join the council. A third result was to change the direction of the council itself. The "process of self-evaluation thus forced upon the council members brought into sharp light their own ambiguity and lack of determination in setting forth the council's program. The members began to understand that improvement and extension of services alone was not enough and that causes as well as symptoms must be treated. Social action soon became a definite part of the council's program."100
Because the population base was more fragmented than in Valleytown or Fruit Plain, the CEO was barely organized before the project came to an end. To what extent the CEO persisted, we do not know. Nevertheless, Koch saw the Metro Heights experience as offering a more hopeful and effective approach than that taken in Valleytown or Fruit Plain. He viewed the council members in Metro Heights as coming close to "an understanding of what is perhaps the most significant proposition to emerge from this project. The Metro Heights people began to see that solutions to the problems of agricultural migrants and other low-status people like them will be more valid and more effective when the people are included in the community's problem-solving and decision-making, processes."101
These three results of establishing communication between the council and migrants were certainly significant. But it should be noted that the change in the handling of welfare cases and the change in the council's outlook to encompass the basic issues underlying the cases brought before it reflected changes in agency members. The other change involved bringing non-CEO Mexican-American groups into closer relationship with an Anglo group; hence, it was not a change in the status of migrants. In fact, it may eventually have hampered the CEO as did the influx of middle-class Mexican-Americans into the CSO's in California. What seems strange is omitting from the list of results the change involved in the development of the ability of low-status people to form an organization to advance the interests of its members. Perhaps this is a misinterpretation of Koch's position, But it is reinforced by his reference to "the most significant insight" to emerge from this project that programs will be more valid and effective if the clients share in the decision-making process.102 The point is that this insight, too, is specified to the agency programs.
One gets the impression that in his report on Metro Heights, Koch tended
to dwell on the marked improvements achieved in the delivery system by helping
agencies. At such times, he seems to have lost sight of the fact that the
purpose of his project was the development of citizenship abilities within
a downtrodden minority--an objective toward which they made very significant
progress. He does, however, develop this latter theme at some length in the
closing sections of his book. It is as though he was in the process, not
quite completed, of shifting in his own mind from concern with how agencies
can deliver better service to concern for helping recipients of services
to become something more than they were to begin with.
Principles for Working in the Community
Koch concludes Dignity of Their Own with a discussion of some of the principles involved in working with the people and with the community. First of all, he says, the concerns of people must be used to provide the motivating force for participation. These concerns are to be found in the problems they encounter, the attitudes they express and their hopes for the future. In general, their concerns involve survival and security, getting ahead and self-respect. As the worker listens he must seek those individual concerns which are also group concerns. Koch's second principle involves use of existing patterns of interactions--the habitual ways in which people relate to one another. Among Mexican-Americans, the pattern involves the immediate family, the extended family and the clique or family-friendship group (for example, the several families which may in some cases travel together as a crew). Among blacks, the typical unit among migrants seems to be singles or childless couples. The "permanents" have a structure of families, clans and colonies. But in some cases a firmer working base was found in several large circles of influence, each containing several clans or cliques. In Fruit Plain, some families belonged to two or more circles, and they provided the communications network. When leaders were identified in the Fruit Plain community, six emerged, of whom three transcended the limits of their own circle.
Third, Koch suggested that new leadership must be expected to be developed. This view is based on a notion that the "known" leaders tend to be those identified by the Anglo middle class; hence, they have little relevance to actual conditions. Also, some "known" leaders tend in fact to be exploitive, crew leaders being a case in point. Part of the leadership need is met by helping leaders take on new roles, as, for example, role-playing tactics with a committee which proposes a visit to city hall to lodge a complaint. The new role is further modified by evaluation subsequently of what happened. The fourth principle is that action must be the means of learning. To keep the organization going, there must be successful action from the very beginning because action is the "central objective and the basic process of education for citizenship."103 The motivation to learn derives from the motivation to handle life's problems successfully. Education is not, in this context, conducted for its own sake. The problem must be turned back to the people, not just to get a man into the hospital but so that the people may learn how to solve the problem. However, the problem must be significant and real, or the people will drop out. "The goal of education is to teach people how to have a voice in the affairs that affect them."104. This means dealing with real issues. The fifth and final principle is that the process of building an organization can be an effective learning vehicle. In our society, "individual interests are protected and furthered today by organized groups." 105 Hence, groups are the best model for learning effective citizenship. While the group builds its power, it also provides a shelter within which the novice can learn. And because of the need to learn skills and know-how, not to mention the barriers to joining existing groups, the minority outsiders need to begin by forming their own groups, which then provide both occasion and shelter for citizenship learning experiences. Hence, the importance of voter registration and education.
Koch, of course, did not see these five principles as sufficient in themselves. He saw the staff worker role as essential as well. In his view, "participation by most low-status people in activities of self-help is not self-initiated. The impetus to action generally must come from outside the group."106 Because the outsider is typically met with suspicion, it is necessary for him to assert at the very beginning that his stay will be temporary, that he is doing a job for which he is paid and that he will not accept any office or other consideration from the community in return for his services. He must also conduct all of his activities and operations completely in the open, "making no plan and taking no action without keeping the people fully informed and gaining their assent."107
Initially, Koch visualizes a rather active role for the project worker.
He is dominant in the activity during its early stages. He brings ideas, makes suggestions, demonstrates, urges and encourages. But as individuals begin to grasp new concepts and skills, his dominance lessens. He helps the people try new behavior for themselves. He gently points out their errors and patiently coaches them as they try again, Gradually, as the learners move further out on their own, the worker continually helps them reduce their dependence on him until, finally, he withdraws altogether.108
Leaving aside the somewhat condescending tone of this statement, it is difficult to see how the kind of active, dominating level of activity suggested here could avoid the risk of being seen as manipulation by the local residents or of dampening initiative, It would rather appear necessary for decisions to be made by local leaders from the very beginning. The role of question raiser (especially in relation to evaluation of action) and advisor is of course essential and can have a powerful influence on the direction and pace of action, but this is not the same as domination at the level of decisions about action.
Farther along in his analysis, Koch said that "a critically important attribute a worker must have or develop is the ability to `play by ear.' This means that, apart from the basic frame of reference in principle, which points out direction, the worker must be ready to give up predetermined program ideas and discard specific plans he may already have made for the people."109 This question poses a bothersome problem. Was the ideological and psychological commitment of the project workers really one of doing for rather than with the people? It is as though the staff were trying to function in accordance with IAF principles and succeeded apparently to a considerable degree, but the IAF principles were utilized as a kind of overlay on ways of doing which had been learned in the course of doing good for people on a professional social work basis.
The same problem is suggested in another context. Discussing the likelihood that the project worker will begin to develop a strong sense of identity with the low-status persons with whom he is working, Koch went on to say: "In terms of the job to be done, some workers may find it increasingly difficult to deal with equanimity with both the sponsoring groups in the community and the low-status people because their emotions and their reasoning have shifted to the point of view of the latter group."110 This is a point of view which sees the organizing process as one of integration rather than confrontation. Confrontation being an accepted part of the IAF organizer's view of his role, the latter is not troubled by the dilemma seen by the worker for the Migrant Ministry. In all probability, Alinsky would have seen the dilemma as being rooted in a conflict of interest. For him, the identification had to be with the people and their needs and interests rather than with the professional agencies and institutions in the community.
Working with the Community: A Dilemma It is easy to see why Koch was so conscious of a dilemma with respect to where staff identifications should rest. After all, a major activity of the Migrant Ministry had been to try to organize a more effective response on the part of community agencies to the needs of migrants, and it was the growing awareness of the weakness in its approach, that is, leaving out the migrants themselves, which led to the project in the first place. But at the same time, the Migrant Ministry was not prepared to turn its back entirely on what it had been doing."111
There were three principal reasons why the Ministry would be reluctant to give up its prior commitments. First, the community councils contributed budget support. Second, they had the potential to provide important benefits or services to migrants. Third, the migrant problem was defined in part as one of isolation from the mainstream of the community: "Any movement on their part toward effective citizenship must take place in present day community life and action rather than in a segregated ... place 'across the tracks."112 The question is whether these commitments could be made consistent with the evolution of self-determination on the part of the migrants. It is, of course, true that isolation from the larger community characterizes migrants. But it does seem that reducing isolation would have less effect on the fortunes of migrants at the beginning than would the ending of exploitation in its many forms. The rub really seems to be that the established society would prefer not to eliminate exploitation. Koch recognized this when he said, "precisely because it is the present attitudes and practices of the members of the established community that bar the way to opportunity and progress for low-status people, the responsibility for taking the first steps to change lies within the established community."113
The MCEP staff found ample evidence, however, of the reluctance of the Establishment to change its way of doing things. "In Metro Heights, for example, representatives of community agencies provided effective help only after they had struggled with themselves for nearly two years to understand what had to be done. Only then did they admit Mexican-Americans to participation in the community's social planning endeavors."114 In Valleytown, "despite private expressions of interest in helping Mexican-Americans become better citizens, traditional barriers were too formidable for residents to flaunt [sic] community opinion and openly support the program. The Mexican-Americans were finally forced to move ahead entirely on their own to build needed bridges between themselves and the community."115 But was it a bridge that Valleytown Mexican-Americans had it in mind to build, or was it their purpose to gain through voter registration and organizational growth the power to control or influence in their favor decisions which affected them? It would seem that unless the latter were to be realized, the organization would fail for lack of interest.
Because there may be some readers who are skeptical about the prevalence of resistance to the idea of helping migrants, it may be worth summarizing the attitudes and arguments encountered by the MCEP staff. (1) Some business people profited from lack of sophistication on the part of migrants and preferred to keep it that way. (2) Organizing was interpreted as leading to the formation of unions. (3) "Controversy" was cited as a reason for doing nothing. (4) Efforts to help were doomed to failure because of "inherent inferiority of their race and culture." (5) The very existence of problems was denied by some, or at best they advocated "gradualism" which really meant doing nothing. (6) "Some frequently manifested attitudes of possessiveness about their particular area of service and gave the impression that they reserved to themselves the right to influence the community decision-making process." And (7) "There were others who had come to enjoy the gratitude showered upon them by the people they served and the dependency that their services engendered in the people." They did not welcome the development of self-assertion and independence.116 Such sentiments are not untypical of the Establishment in relation to low-status persons. It is, according to Koch, basically a class bias. And the organization of migrants was undertaken to get around these roadblocks.
Because in the case of Metro Heights, work began with a community council, one wonders what happened in the ensuing years? Were the Mexican-Americans eventually co-opted by the council? Did they cease to press the interests of the constituents they were chosen to represent? Did they begin to identify with middle-class Anglos who represented the agencies because their status represented more nearly their own aspirations? The history of the CSO's in California suggests such co-optation was a likely eventuality.
Nevertheless, Koch called for a dual approach, seeing the community as
consisting of subparts-some positive, some potentially so, and some negative.
To him, it made sense to try to identify and mobilize those elements in the
community which would be willing to help migrants realize their aspirations.
They would become allies of the people's organization as it were. And in
the process, the allies themselves would change.
Despite the frequent occurrence of contrary evidence, the staff of the project remains convinced that every community has a nucleus of concerned citizens. These members of the established community can and will join together, muster the courage of their convictions, endure the pain of growth, and successfully lead their communities to effective change. The task of the community worker is to find such people and help them do what they know they have to do. 117
Granted that such persons exist, there still remains the question of how they are to be involved with (in this case) migrants. How are the latter to take part in the problem-solving and decision-making process? How are they to impose the realities of the lower-status community on middle-class verbalizing? How can they protect their own integrity?
The MCEP project did not solve this problem in the three communities in which it worked. But in Metro Heights and Fruit Plain, the Establishment did learn something about working with the subpart which had been "outside." Even more important, they came to see, at least in Metro Heights, that proposed solutions "will be more valid and more effective when the people are included" in the process. And finally they acknowledged that "only when the people ... were afforded respect as well as material help could the community truly begin to come to grips with the anomaly of isolated poverty in the face of an affluent society." Somehow, the one-sidedness in society must be resolved. For Koch, this involved two questions. The first was: Who will represent the group and how will he be chosen? Clearly, the group must be allowed to choose, in a democratic way, its own representatives. The second was: How can we assure that the group through its representatives will actually be heard and will have an impact on the decisions? Good will and kindness are not enough. The group through its organization must learn and gain the means of political action so that it can press its claims effectively. "In short, the political thesis simply recognizes that the benefits of useful and desirable knowledge, skills and attitudes are not likely to accrue to low-status people in our society unless political self-help paves the way "118
In addition, Koch urges the positively-minded subpart of the Establishment to join forces with the outsiders, "seeking new alliances made up of responsible leaders from both sides of the tracks."
This two-sided approach calls for thrusts into two different, indeed opposing, parts of the community. Despite this duality, the approach is an integrating rather than a dividing one. It does not seek the ascendancy of one segment of the community over another, nor does it seek the overthrow of the established institutions. Rather, it seeks to bring presently disparate elements of the community into a new working relationship, one in which the vital and compelling problems of the day can be dealt with through a broader and more valid consensus than now operates. 119
We have in this view the nub of the issue between the Industrial Areas Foundation and the generality of social agencies. The ascendancy of one segment of the community over another has been the reality of society for a long time. What the IAF and some others have argued for are efforts to assist those without status or power to acquire the kind of power which our Constitution says should be the right of every member of that society so as to secure equality of treatment. Koch says that the established community should yield this right, But what if it does not? In fairness to Koch, it must be acknowledged that he asserts the need for those of low status to build their own bargaining power, but his commitment to this aim seems uncertain when he views the scene from the standpoint of a social agency. He hopes that the best of both worlds will somehow come together. Perhaps, here and there, this may occur. But is it likely to be the rule?
In retrospect, it can be seen that the effort to organize migrants through the Migrant Citizenship Education Project had some valuable results.
1. The MCEP demonstrated that there are bonds and linkages between itinerants and those who were able to discontinue their migrant status yet chose to remain either in their old home base or to settle near the crop communities. The "permanents" were found to be indispensable to any effort to reach itinerants. This has profound implications for many traditional mission programs. But in any case, the benefits derived from the project varied according to the degree of stability in the lives of the agricultural workers.
2. Of the three associations formed, two were still in existence a year and a half after the withdrawal of staff.120
3. Where the social agencies sought input from client groups at a decision-making level, their programs were materially improved.
4. Conflict may be a necessary means to the end; "Our task is to harness the energy that is unleashed by conflict and to guide it into channels that are ultimately constructive for the whole community."121
5. Most important, the staff of the Migrant Ministry came in the end to see self-determination as the end and community organization as the means.122 Eventually, a significant group of denominations and staff agencies of the National Council of Churches came to this view as well.
I have tried to show what the IAF sought to accomplish among low-income Mexican-Americans in California and what the Migrant Ministry attempted on behalf of migrants and former migrants in three communities in Texas, Illinois and Michigan. The IAF certainly helped those with whom it worked to build organizations which achieved a significant amount of power, power which was used to counter and reduce the discrimination which hindered their access to full participation in society. In the process, it was necessary for them to learn much about the formation, use and maintenance of citizen organizations. But the learning was subsidiary in a sense to the organizing. The IAF did not provide learning so much for its own sake as it did for the purpose of building an organization in order to help Mexican-Americans in California to improve their status.
The Migrant Ministry staff talked about the goal of citizenship education, which implied individual development. But it sometimes missed its goal because it became too eager to get an organization into being or it began to emphasize community organization designed to provide improved social services. Or it emphasized organization in another way by investing time and effort in trying to build a relationship between Establishment figures and migrants and former migrants. In short, the staff seemed to me to speak with an uncertain voice. Accordingly, the changes brought about in the participants individually and in their status as a group were significantly less in the case of the MCEP than in the case of the IAF/CSO.
1. Juan Ramos was a staff worker in the Santa Clara County Welfare Department and a member of the San Jose CSO.
2. In one notorious case, at least among Mexican-Americans, a Mexican-American teacher with CSO help was able to prove that an Immigration and Naturalization examiner was asking much more difficult questions of Mexican-Americans than of Anglo applicants for citizenship.
3. Fred Ross, untitled manuscript, chapter entitled "An Opening into the Community," p. 11, ESF files.
4. William Grace, notes of seminar on mass organization, led by Saul Alinsky, Aug. 30-Sept. 10, 1965, Asilomar Conference Grounds, ESF files.
5. Fred Ross, notes of conversation with Tjerandsen, Jan. 23-24, 1978, ESF files.
6. IAF application to the ESF, Sept. 14, 1951, ESF files.
7. Ross and Chavez were the two staff organizers employed by the IAF in California. Eugene Lowery worked as a volunteer organizer. His expert knowledge of immigration and naturalization matters was invaluable. When the National CSO was able to pay an organizer, Chavez left the IAF staff. He resigned from the National CSO in 1962 to begin organizing a farm workers union. Upon leaving the IAF in February 1966, Ross joined Chavez in the effort to organize the farm workers.
8. IAF Annual Report, 1955-1956, p. 6, ESF files.
9. Alinsky had forgotten his understanding with Ross about organizing
10. Fred Ross, notes of interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 1962, ESF files.
11. Notes of interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 1962, ESF files.
12. This was an early example of the use of aides to assist classroom learning. Parents, of course, had been used in cooperative nursery school programs for some years.
13. Tony Rios, a National CSO president, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 1, 1962, ESF files.
14. Ross, interview with Tjerandsen, Jan. 23-24, 1978, ESF files.
15. Fred Ross, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 5, 1962, ESF files.
16. "Voter Registration Report for the Periods January 1 to April 14, 1960, and August 1 to September 15, 1960," ESF files.
17. Ross, interview with Tjerandsen, Jan. 24-25,1978, ESF files.
18. Alinsky, IAF Annual Report for 1955-1956, ESF files.
19. In Stockton, police would arrest men on the sidewalk in the barrio and charge them with vagrancy if they did not get on a grower's truck (as it came slowly down the street) and go to the fields. In Oakland and Stockton, police and immigration officers invaded bars, dances and movie houses, putting persons in jail who could not produce proof of U.S. citizenship, even though it was shown later that most were, in fact, citizens. The CSO succeeded in getting these practices stopped. In Los Angeles, a CSO member pressed a successful suit for damages against the county sheriff's department as a result of a beating. Winning the case against the agency as well as the officer set an important precedent (Rios, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 1, 1962, ESF files).
20. Cesar Chavez, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 4, 1962, ESF files.
21. Ross, notes of interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 6, 1972, ESF files.
22. Fred Ross, untitled manuscript, chapter titled "Ordeal of Detail," p. 8, ESF files.
23. Notes of board meeting attended by Tjerandsen, Nov. 9, 1962, ESF files.
24. Stan Steiner, La Raza: The Mexican Americans (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), p. 315.
25. Cesar Chavez, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 3, 1962, ESF files.
26. Ross, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 7, 1962, ESF files.
27. Cirillo Lopez, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 7, 1962, ESF files.
29. Mary Pico, notes of executive board meeting, Nov. 7, 1962, ESF files.
30. Lopez, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 7, 1962, ESF files.
31. Fred Ross, untitled manuscript, chapter on Sal Si Puedes, p, 32, ESF files.
32. Chavez, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 4, 1962, ESF files.
33. Ross, "An Opening into the Community," pp. 21-23.
34. Fred Ross, untitled manuscript, chapter entitled "The Last Round," pp. 7-17, ESF files.
35. Ross, interview with Tjerandsen, Jan. 23-24, 1978, ESF files.
36. The idea of helping members with problems involving welfare, immigration status, driver's license, etc., had become a timeconsuming but necessary element in Cesar Chavez' first organizing efforts in San Jose. The service center was an effort to regularize and make manageable the CSO response to such needs. It was to become an integral part of the UFW program, ibid.
37. Fred Ross, letter to Tjerandsen, April 15, 1963, ESF files.
38. Fred Ross, letter to Tjerandsen, Oct. 15, 1963, ESF files.
39. Alinsky, IAF Annual Report for 1958-1959, pp. 10-11, ESF files.
40. Ross, interview with Tjerandsen, Jan. 23-24, 1978, ESF files.
42. Tjerandsen, letter to Alinsky, Jan. 2, 1954, ESF files.
43. Fred Ross, untitled manuscript, chapter entitled "Woman In Motion," p. 75, ESF files.
44. It should be recognized that the educational program contemplated in this proposal was quite distinct from the citizenship and English classes organized by the Education Committee in a CSO chapter.
45. It is a pleasure to note that in spite of this initial skepticism, the Fred Ross Farm Workers Educational Center was dedicated at the UFW union headquarters in Kern County, California, on Jan. 16, 1978.
46. Saul Alinsky, report to the board of trustees of the IAF, 1957-1958, p. 3, ESF files.
47. The educational leaders who served at one time or another included Abelicio Chavez, Joe Correa, Herman Gallegos, Pete Garcia, Juan Govea, Evelio Grillo, Dolores Huerta, Gil Padilla, Rosemary Quiroga and Luis Zarate.
48. Alinsky, IAF Annual Report for 1957-1958, ESF files
49. Ross started his first educational by using the Socratic method. When he was trying to organize a cooperative store at Arvin, he asked for help from co-op leaders in the San Francisco Bay area. Among other items, they sent a booklet on group discussion.
50. As a result of agitation by the CSO, the county welfare lien provision was changed so that it would not be applied if the proceeds from condemnation were put into another house or into furniture. Also, the county supervisors instructed personnel of the redevelopment agency and the welfare department to meet with the CSO. Although land acquisition had already begun, this was the first meeting to discuss the program with the people affected.
51. Quoted in IAF application of Oct. 31, 1957, ESF files.
52, Dolores Huerta, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 8, 1962, ESF files.
53, Ross, "Woman in Motion," p. 78.
54, Ibid., p. 6.
55. Gil Padilla, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 1962. ESF files.
56. Ernest Abeytia, San Jose News, Aug. 29, 1958.
57. IAF Annual Report, 1959-1960, ESF files.
58. Quoted by Alinsky, Annual Report of the IAF, 1960-1961, p. 35, ESF files.
59. Alinsky, letter to Tjerandsen, July 16, 1962, ESF files.
60. Alinsky, application addressed to the ESF, Oct. 27, 1960, ESF files.
61. The fact that the IAF had started a program to help women to become more effective participants in the Mexican-American community was a significant if not a pioneer development. But training a group of women to assume the role of "sister" or defender of each other was an early version of a key concept in the Women's Liberation Movement of some years later.
62. Huerta, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 8, 1962, ESF files.
63, Ross, letter to Tjerandsen, July 16, 1963, ESF files.
64. Ross, interview with Tjerandsen, Jan. 23-24, 1978, ESF files.
65. Chavez, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 3, 1962, ESF files.
66. Alinsky, report to the IAF Board of Trustees, 1958-1959, ESF files.
67. Ross, interview with Tjerandsen, Nov. 2, 1962, ESF files.
68. The October 1962 mailing directory of the National CSO listed the following communities as having CSO chapters: Bakersfield, Barstow, Bay Area (Los Angeles), Brawley, Calexico, Carversville, Compton (Organizing Committee), Contra Costa, Corcoran, Delano, El Centro, Fresno, Gilroy, Hanford, Hayward, Huron, Lamont, Los Angeles, Madera, North Monterey, Oakland, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Selma, South Monterey, Stockton, Tracy, Tulare, Ventura County and Visalia.
69. Ross, interview with Tjerandsen, Jan. 23-24, 1978, ESF files.
70. William H. Koch, Jr., Dignity of Their Own (New York: Friendship Press, 1966), pp. 15-20.
71. Ibid., p.25.
72. Dean Collins, associate director of Migrant Ministry, conversations with Tjerandsen, Sept. 10, 1956, ESF files.
73. Koch, p. 24.
74. Migrant Ministry, application to the ESF, Oct. 4, 1956, ESF files.
75. Koch, p. 169.
76. Ibid., p. 185.
77. Ibid., p. 142. (This principle would certainly not be acceptable to
78. Ibid., p. 33
80. Ibid., p. 44.
81. Ibid., p. 47.
82. Ibid., p. 48.
83. Ibid., p. 49.
84. The notion in the original proposal, that staff workers would accompany groups of migrants and keep in touch with them on their stop-and-go trek to Michigan was dropped. It simply was not feasible.
85. Ibid., p. 63,
86. Ibid., p. 64,
87. Ibid., p. 66,
88. Ibid., p. 67.
89. Ibid., p. 69.
90. Ibid., p. 70.
91. Ibid., p. 72.
92. Ibid., p. 73.
93. Ibid., p. 84.
94. Ibid., p. 85.
95. Ibid., p. 87.
96. Ibid., p. 92.
97. Ibid., p. 97
98. Ibid., p. 101.
99. Ibid„ p. 104.
100. Ibid., p. 106.
101. Ibid., p. 159.
103. Ibid., p. 131.
104. Ibid., p. 133.
105. Ibid., p. 134.
106. Ibid., p. 136.
107. Ibid., p. 137.
108. Ibid., p. 139.
109. Ibid., p. 140.
110. Ibid., p. 142.
111. It appears that the California Migrant Ministry was prepared to go further in support of migrants, vis-ŕ-vis the local establishment than were their colleagues elsewhere, including the Division of Home Missions which encompassed the Migrant Ministry.
112. Koch, p. 145.
113. Ibid., p. 147.
115. Ibid., p. 148.
116. Ibid., p. 150.
117. Ibid., p. 158.
118. Ibid., p. 167.
119. Ibid., p. 169.
120. Ibid., p. 173.
121. Ibid., p. 185.
122. Douglas Still, conversation with Tjerandsen, Oct. 2, 1969, ESF files. With Still's departure from California to accept a position in Chicago, the results of the Migrant Ministry experience were transferred to another scene, including as one consequence, support to the IAF effort to develop an organization in the black ghetto of Woodlawn on Chicago's South Side, to be described in Chapter 5.