Chapter 6 -- Hi Tech, Low Pay

Latin Workers and Latin American Underdevelopment

The Latin struggle in the U.S.

All during the 1960s and 1970s, Latin workers in the U.S. fought a common battle against discrimination and national oppression along with Black, Native and Asian workers. Indeed, there has been a common struggle of all the oppressed and the working class against capitalism, imperialism and national oppression.

The Latin movement in this country has undergone a vast change in the last 30 to 40 years. It has grown in size, leading the bourgeois press to describe Latin-American people in the U.S. as the "fastest-growing minority." The changing character of the movement, however, is based not only on domestic but international considerations as well.

In the 1950s, for instance, the struggle for Puerto Rican independence acted like a magnet in attracting limited but very intense attention and feeling. This was exemplified by the struggles to free Don Pedro Albizu Campos, Lolita Lebron and other Nationalist political prisoners.

Those campaigns had about the same significance here as the campaign to free Nelson Mandela has in the 1980s. The struggle for Puerto Rican independence received a tremendous stimulant from the Cuban Revolution, in particular because of the bold and forward manner in which the Cuban government and Premier Fidel Castro raised the issues of Puerto Rican independence and the political prisoners and turned them into a continent-wide if not worldwide struggle.

However, following the Cuban missile crisis, the U.S. began a campaign to promote and cultivate a variety of counter-revolutionary elements and launched a campaign of terror in the U.S. as well as in Puerto Rico. It utilized Cuban counter-revolutionary mercenaries to mount regular campaigns of intimidation, terror and harassment which set back the Latin struggle in the U.S.

There is no question that U.S. imperialist reaction against the Cuban Revolution had its counterpart here and acted as a blight on the Latin movement in the U.S. The U.S. was steadily and consistently flattering and cultivating a host of counter-revolutionary exiles, until they finally became too unruly, even for the imperialists, and had to be checked somewhat.

Nevertheless, the Latin movement here lost some of its original momentum. It has not fully recovered from the reaction begun by the U.S. government, even though in the 1960s and 1970s there was collaboration with the Black movement, the women's movement and other progressive forces. The Puerto Rican struggle in the U.S. reached its high-water mark with the tremendous demonstration in Philadelphia in 1976.

U.S. economic hold over Latin America

In the previous pages we have discussed the effects of the scientific-technological revolution on Black workers and some historical aspects of the Black struggle as regards slavery. The common goal of all the oppressed and exploited can scarcely be denied. There are, however, some matters which have to be seen in a different perspective so far as Latin workers are concerned.

For instance, among Black workers there is an affinity to Africa and the African revolution based on the common historical legacy. From this has issued a struggle for international solidarity with all of the oppressed in Africa.

Of course, the same thing applies to Latin workers in relationship to their national origins in the Western Hemisphere, particularly Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. But where there is a difference is in the intimate economic ties which the U.S. exercises over the countries of Latin America. These have a profound influence both in the mother countries and on the vast Latin American populations in the States.

Of course, the U.S. has many imperialist economic ties to Africa. Its significant investments in South Africa have only recently come under close scrutiny. Black working class ties to Africa are important, but they are generally much more remote than the relations between Chicano-Mexicano workers here and workers in Mexico, for instance.

What has to be taken into account, particularly in regard to the future, is the effect of the scientific-technological revolution on these struggles, to which hardly any attention is paid. This is of critical importance and each passing day gives it emphasis. A great deal of attention in the progressive and working class press is given to the questions of unemployment, malnutrition and the severity of the domination of U.S. imperialism in Latin America. This is frequently given the priority attention it needs.

But it is really indispensable in this particular phase of monopoly capitalist development to show the effects of the scientific-technological revolution and to point out what it portends for the future and what remedies have to be applied which flow clearly from this latest phase of capitalist development.

This requires careful attention. Perhaps a few examples will illustrate the importance of the scientific-technological revolution as it relates to Puerto Rico and Mexico and by extension to the Latin population in this country.

Keeping high tech under lock and key

Earlier in our study we alluded to the Saturnization plan of General Motors and to the plant that it projects to construct in Tennessee. We demonstrated that by the militant standards of auto workers it was a retreat from progressive trade unionism and that it entailed significant concessions to the company. This foreshadows over a period of time the lowering of the wage standards not only of the auto workers but of all workers in the U.S.

However, prior to embarking on its technological venture to build this estimated $5 billion plant, GM invited all the states to bid for the site. Puerto Rico was not invited. Many governors literally tumbled over each other for the bid to construct this model automated plant. It was very conspicuous that Puerto Rico was not considered.

Now, it is one thing for the Puerto Rican people to reject any further imperialist investment. That could be a proper choice from the viewpoint of strengthening the struggle for independence. But it is another matter altogether for one of the principal industrial corporations, with all the scientific and technological apparatus it has at hand, to deny the Puerto Rican people the opportunity to avail themselves of the most modern, up-to-date scientific-technological elements which could constitute a significant part of the infrastructure needed to raise themselves from an underdeveloped to a developed country.

While the wage patterns and job classifications in the Saturn plant will in all probability be scaled down from what they are in other UAW plants today, nevertheless if established in Puerto Rico they would constitute a considerable advance. This plant is in many ways designed to be a symbol of scientific and technological excellence, the last word in research and invention. Its application will have a revolutionizing effect on the means of production to be used in the next era.

By deliberately excluding Puerto Rico and other dependent countries from such a development, the U.S. compels them to steadily fall behind in industrial development. As this example illustrates, it in fact dictates greater dependence upon imperialism by depriving them of the necessary means to overcome economic backwardness. This is not accidental. Japanese high-tech companies, auto in particular, when seeking out sites for construction of new plants have also deliberately avoided Puerto Rico. They have sought a haven in rural areas of the U.S. like Smyrna, Tennessee, and Marysville, Ohio, where there is a young, rural, white labor force. There is no question that the other imperialist powers, including West Germany and France, do the same.

It is an altogether different matter when these monopolist corporations establish assembly plants or auxiliary facilities that are just adjuncts to the basic manufacturing structures. Then they do seek out oppressed countries where wages and working conditions are low. But all these corporations protect with the highest security classifications the latest findings and developments of science and technology, which are decisive for development, particularly in the less developed countries.

The examples we have given of GM, Nissan, and others barely scratch the surface of what is going on. Important as the Saturn plant may be, it is nevertheless dwarfed by other developments in the scientific-technological revolution. For instance, there has been a notable tendency on the part of Bell Laboratories, RCA, GE, IBM and others to relocate or spread out their research centers and development facilities. We noted earlier how Bell Telephone laid off thousands and moved some of its facilities to other parts of the country. But none of these giant corporations have relocated their research centers to such areas as Puerto Rico.

In the early period of monopoly capitalist development, as Lenin described in his celebrated work on imperialism,1 the first stage of imperialist penetration of the underdeveloped countries was characterized by the building of railroads, docks, the introduction of the telegraph, electricity, radio and so on. That laid the infrastructure for imperialist domination. It established a material basis for the special exploitation of underdeveloped countries, concentrating on the extractive industries. These allowed the imperialists to accumulate vast super-profits.

Matters are altogether different in the epoch of the scientific-technological revolution, which for the development of the dependent countries requires much more than just the importation of high-speed, sophisticated computers. What is needed is the scientific and technical training of hundreds of thousands of personnel to unlock the secrets which modern science has yielded. Instead of making this available, the imperialist corporations keep it securely under lock and key in the home laboratories and research centers.

Whenever these giant corporations build a new technological facility, they regard it as seed money toward future profits. None of this is ever made available to the underdeveloped countries. This policy continues to widen and deepen the gulf of dependence. It vastly overwhelms whatever technology is made available through the granting of aid or the construction of projects where low skills are involved.

The scientific-technological revolution has made it all the more essential to view the relations between imperialism and the dependent countries in a wholly different perspective than the earlier struggles. While the U.S. imperialists regard Puerto Rico, for instance, as under their juridical hegemony, they refuse to accord it the rights to which it is entitled under the Constitution of the U.S. After all, Puerto Ricans are supposed to be regarded as citizens and accorded due process of law, the same as other U.S. citizens.

The giant corporations have in fact maintained a conspiracy among themselves whereby the rights accorded to the states are flagrantly disregarded with respect to Puerto Rico, which juridically is entitled to the same considerations but is treated on a wholly unequal basis. Indeed, this is not the worst of it.

The U.S. government in 1984 signed into law the Bail Reform Act, which has been used particularly to target Puerto Rican political activists in the struggle for independence. It completely disregards 200 years of criminal jurisprudence in this country since it authorizes the government to detain people on mere suspicion and to hold them without bail. Its "preventive detention" provision, supposedly passed to stem the tide of so-called terrorism, is in reality used as an instrument of repression. This is exemplified by the arrest in August 1985 of 13 Puerto Rican defendants and the continuing detention of nine of them under this new law, about whom little has been said in the capitalist press.

The U.S. corporate giants want to have it both ways. They won't allow Puerto Rico to forge its own independence and seek out new relationships with other countries so as to get out of the vise-like colonial relationship which hinders it from acquiring economic and technological development which may be available elsewhere.

At the same time they won't make available what is necessary, which doesn't mean just food stamps or a few housing units here and there. It means obtaining the new tools that are necessary to train the young generation to deal with the newly emerging conditions. It's not just a question of importing new technology; it's a question of obtaining the know-how, training the personnel, acquiring the educational facilities, both in agriculture and industry. This is what is being withheld.יי

Loans for debt, not for development

What is said in connection with Puerto Rico applies equally to Mexico, but in a different form. The U.S. bankers not long ago showed great eagerness to extend loans to Mexico in connection with the extraction and production for sale of its oil. Oil seemed the answer to all the burning questions of economic development and the means to make a real leap forward from underdevelopment to becoming a developed industrial country. This has not happened.

The collapse of oil on a worldwide scale has only emphasized the monocultural aspect of oil production. It does not create in and of itself the necessary scientific and technological infrastructure to build a modern industrialized country.

Of course it is helpful for any country to find oil or any other natural resource. But as in the case of Nigeria, Venezuela, Indonesia and other countries (with the exception of Saudi Arabia and some of the Gulf states), the development of its oil resources did not make any substantial difference once the capitalist crisis overtook Mexico.

On the contrary, the introduction of capitalist technology has not decreased poverty but has disrupted existing social relations, accelerating the so-called illegal immigration of Mexicans into the U.S. The so-called immigration problem does not lend itself to solutions merely on the basis of the development of the oil industry, in which the imperialist countries, particularly the U.S., were most eager to participate. It should be remembered that the border itself is the product of a war of conquest by the U.S. against Mexico, and that millions of Mexican people inhabited the Southwest before it was annexed to the United States.

Oil is an extractive industry where the banks realize lucrative super-profits by making abundant loans readily available. The same does not apply when it comes to capital for the broad scientific and technological infrastructure needed to really develop the country given the contemporary stage of the scientific-technological revolution. The incubus of private ownership in the means of production, of subordination and control by imperialist monopolies, makes it prohibitive from the vantage point of imperialist interests.

Last year alone, the U.S. government forcibly deported a million workers to Mexico. The immigration problem cannot be solved on the basis of the contemporary imperialist relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. It requires a reorientation of the productive forces. But this is impossible when all of the great advances in science and technology are kept under lock and key in the citadels of imperialist power, which only occasionally let some of them trickle through and then only on the basis of continuing dependence.

What is said in respect to Mexico applies equally to the Caribbean countries.

The hodgepodge of aid, of grants, even of the "generous" kind, so-called, in the long run is of no avail in the face of the widening gulf between the dependent countries and the metropolitan imperialist centers. Only a thoroughgoing socialist revolution can overcome the effects of imperialist bondage and get rid of the incubus of monopoly-capitalist private property. This is the only way to unearth the secrets which science and invention are daily yielding up but which are misused by the vested, predatory, monopoly capitalist interests.


1. Lenin, V.I., "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism," Collected Works, Progress Publishers (Moscow, 1964), Vol. 22.

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