Editor's Note: This week in 1968, Cesar Chavez ended a twenty-three-day fast in solidarity with American farm workers, joined by four thousand supporters. Known for his tireless work in organizing a farm workers union, particularly in Delano, California, Chavez was profiled in The Progressive's July 1966 issue. Reporter James L. Vizzard observed, 

Chavez does not seek personal recognition, and praise only embarrasses him. A recent letter of his makes that clear and also provides a remarkable insight into the kind of man he is. In turning down a national award for which he was chosen, he wrote: "What has happened in Delano during the past year is not the work of any one man and I do not believe it would be fitting to honor any one. We, as a group, can only bring honor by continuing to fight here in Delano and by continuing to remain non-violent in our struggle.

"The danger among our farm workers, indeed among anyone who becomes suddenly press-worthy, is that we lose sight of ourselves and of our real place in society. I believe that there is an ever-present danger that we will lose our humility, then our loyalty to performing menial tasks, then our tie to the small people, and then our cause. When we are honored or acclaimed, I believe that we risk all this.

"Please thank the members of your group for their kind offer."

So speaks the man who is determined to lead his people out of bondage, the leader who provides the greatest hope of our generation that the isolated and exploited farm worker will be brought into the mainstream of American life.

 

Download the full piece in PDF form below. Image credit: Joel Levine

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Comments

one word....wow
Yes indeed. Cesar Chavez accomplished much and was dedicated to improving the conditions of migrant works. I would remind all of your readers to include those other equally committed Americans who gave as much to that same movement: especially Larry Itliong and those Filipino-Americans known as the Delano Manongs (Big Brothers) of the movement.
For sure, many of those other people in the movement Chavez was talking about were the Filipino brothers that helped form the UFW. Itliong, of course, but also we remember Phillip Veracruz, Andy Imutan, Pete Velasco and the many filipinos who fought for the union. Que vivan los Manongs! Mabuhay! Que viva Cesar Chavez! Mabuhay!

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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