John Womack, Jr.

Teoksen Zapata and the Mexican Revolution tekijä

16+ teosta 487 jäsentä 3 arvostelua

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Associated Works

Badlands (1973) — Actor — 111 kappaletta
Visions of History (1983) — Avustaja — 60 kappaletta

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Kanoninen nimi
Womack, John, Jr.
Lyhyt elämäkerta
An historian of Latin America, particularly of Mexico, the Mexican Revolution (1910–1921) and Emiliano Zapata. In June 2009 he retired from his post as the Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics at Harvard University.



Much is being written about the supposed rise of organized labor in this era of take this job and shove it. In John Womack Junior’s Labor Power and Strategy (with Peter Olney, Glenn Perušek, and a seeming cast of thousands), a review of where to focus shows how out of focus it is. Today and tomorrow’s labor is nothing remotely like the powerful labor of the mid 20th century. They seem to be starting over, and are having difficulty getting the membership on the same, union-educated page. It’s as if the 20th century never happened.

Womack is a Harvard professor of Latin American history and economics. He is steeped in class struggle. His books have titles like Zapata and the Mexican Revolution (1968) and Rebellion in Chiapas: An Historical Reader (1999).

The book has a terrific format. Peter Olney interviews John Womack, then comments at length on the interview. Then all kinds of other labor organizers chime in with their thoughts on the interview, Womack’s prescriptions, and their experiences on where labor stands and where it needs to go. They may totally agree with Womack, appreciate his misguided analysis, or totally disagree – and everything in between. They beat it up every which way. For all that, I still had to think about it. Because something is clearly wrong.

Labor, Womack says, needs to find an industry’s weakest link and it exploit it. That is how to conquer capitalists and capitalism: hit where it is most vulnerable. There’s an easy way to understand it, he says, in a parallel with cloth. Try to tear cloth apart it will prove most difficult. But, wherever there is a connection, a seam, it can easily be utterly destroyed.

So with monolithic capitalists. Their companies have abandoned vertical integration for global supply chains. Every little thing is contracted out, offshored or assigned to gig workers who work in no man’s land. Hit them in the supply chain and you have crippled the entire enterprise. Similarly, high-skilled workers have that specific knowledge — they know what can bring it all down from the inside. Get them onboard and a short strike can bring huge rewards.

Those connection, those seams, are the weak links for any company. To disrupt them is to disrupt the whole company.

At least in theory. Because capitalists, to no one’s surprise, already think this way. Plan B is always ready. Probably the best known example is the internet. Take down a node, and you have accomplished nothing; the system reroutes itself. Blockchain won’t tolerate a block that has been tampered with; it has other copies to prove authenticity. Words like redundancy and backup are now part of every capitalist’s plans. So this is not a simple, direct or foolproof approach for labor.

Worse, corporate lobbyists have managed to get many IT employees legally excluded from bargaining units, short circuiting the whole plan. The IT people hold the keys to the kingdom, and their bosses know it. IT employees tend to be much higher paid and privileged, and so less willing agents of the unions at the company. Womack calls them “a well-taken-care-of elite.”

But even worse, I found it astonishing that anyone had to even write this out for labor to include in its arsenal. Finding the enemy’s weak point and exploiting it is hardly revolutionary or unique to labor issues. It’s pretty basic. They teach it in video games. Ask a ten year old.

But there’s more to be concerned about. The world has changed. With globalization, workers of the world have no way to unite. When it was a factory in the garment district, it was easier to find and convince others in similar situations at other businesses to help out or join in. When it is a monster factory in Virginia and another in Guangzhou, linked by a shipping hub in Singapore, workers have no connection. It is only union officials in the international offices who communicate. And from this analysis, they aren’t really focused on uniting the workers of the world. Womack points this out clearly, but none of the followup writers pick up on it as a key stumbling block.

Womack says other things to provoke thought as well: “Race and gender are not identity questions. They speak to a specific set of contradictions and forms of oppression that are central to actually existing capitalism.” The man is nothing if not thoughtful.

Just like all politics are local, it turns out that all labor is local. And labor leaders do or should spend a great amount of effort getting worker members to understand the power and necessity of seeing the greater picture. Womack’s recommendations are to inculcate union members into the need and necessity of struggle – the fight to the end and success. That union members are comrades and should trust and help each other at all times, automatically, without further consideration or hesitation. That their strength is in their numbers and their unity.

This was a little shocking to me, because that’s what I had always thought unions were about. If John Womack Jr. has to spell it in a book in 2023 at a time of rising labor influence, there is something very wrong with the labor movement.

David Wineberg
… (lisätietoja)
Merkitty asiattomaksi
DavidWineberg | Nov 23, 2022 |
In “Zapata and the Mexican Revolution”, John Womack, Jr., provides an incredibly detailed history of the activities of Emiliano Zapata (1879-1919) during the Mexican Revolution (1910-20).

As someone that is not that familiar with either Zapata or the Mexican Revolution, I found this book a bit overwhelming! There is so much information that it was a real challenge for me to keep track of the names, dates, and places being discussed. The book has definitely inspired me to want to read more about Zapata and the Zapatistas.

I know, I know — this review is terrible! But I feel like I need to read more about Zapata and the Mexican Revolution before I can write more in depth about this subject
… (lisätietoja)
Merkitty asiattomaksi
TJ_Petrowski | 1 muu arvostelu | Jun 26, 2021 |
An excellent, moving biography of Emeliano Zapata, the populist hero who tried to save Mexico from the unscrupulous leaders who would rape her.
Merkitty asiattomaksi
ElTomaso | 1 muu arvostelu | Jun 18, 2006 |


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