relations to the urban areas. The war had also exposed Texas Mexican soldiers to a world of greater freedoms and equalities, an experience that became especially important on the return home. According to Kibbe, “Latin Americans” who for years had tolerated discrimination “have acquired a new courage, have become more vocal in protesting the restrictions and inequalities with which they are confronted.” A “new consciousness,” to use Kibbe’s words, was evident. Factories in the Field DESPITE THE APPARENT intransigence of Jim Crow in the rural areas, its social base began a gradual erosion before the repercussions of the war crisis. The massive migrations to the cities were the clearest sign of change for these represented a displacement of two major classes, migrant laborers and small farmers. In their stead emerged the highly mechanized corporate farm, the basis of modern agribusiness. Accompanying the decline in the number of small farmers was a decline in the size of the agricultural work force. During the 1940s and 1950s, competition for labor and labor flight to the cities continued to plague the farmer. For the farm worker, better wages and working conditions were sufficient motivation for migration to the cities or to fields in other states. On occasion, the excesses of Jim Crow moved Texas Mexican laborers to avoid entire counties, forcing federal and state farm officials to intercede in order to get the harvest picked. A farm labor official, for example, spent the entire month of October 1944 in Big Spring straightening out “difficulties.” On the highway leading into the town, a constable had flagged down all migrant-filled trucks, instructing them not to stop in town under threat of arrest. The result was that the majority of the trucks did not stop in Big Spring; they didn’t even stop in Howard County, and the farmers in that region experienced great difficulty in harvesting their crops. Such were the contradictions between economic needs and the social division of the farm order. The farmers responded to these contradictions in ways that further accelerated the exodus of Texas Mexican laborers. On the one hand, farmers shifted to Mexican nationals who, unlike Texas Mexicans, could be recruited and removed at will. Thus, thousands were imported in the early fifties; thousands were deported during “Operation Wetback” in the mid-fifties; and thousands were imported again as braceros in the early sixties. This shift in the labor source also made for more complicated migratory patterns. As Mexican nationals migrated into rural Texas, Texas Mexicans migrated to the West and the Midwest. In a sense, there was a “domino effect,” as one migration reinforced the other. On the other hand, farmers turned increasingly to mechanization as the solution to the labor situation. This trend had started in the 1930s and was accelerated by the unsettled labor market of the war and postwar periods. Thus, in spite of near-chronic labor shortages, extensive mechanization and improved techniques enabled farmers to increase productivity. Agricultural reports indicate that farm output increased nearly 40 percent between the midthirties and the late forties, while the number of farm laborers declined 40 percent for the same period. Only 550,000 laborers worked on Texas farms in 1949 compared to approximately 981,000 laborers in 1934. The number of tractors, on the other hand, increased from 98,923 units in 1940 to more than 250,000 in 1951. The social base of Jim Crow eroded as farm workers moved to the cities and corporations moved to the farm. But the old-time growers still controlled the legislature. By the 1960s, migration to the cities and large-scale mechanization had transformed the old Jim Crow order into a thin shell. In statistical terms, between 1950 and 1970 the number of Texas farms decreased from 332,000 to 214,000, a loss of one in every three farms. The number of those gainfully employed in agriculture declined even more sharply, from 446,000 to 195,000, or less than half of the work force in 1950. The “qualitative” changes were also apparent. In the Winter Garden, as Douglas Foley and his co-authors note in Peones to Politicos, their study of Frio County, local farm workers had been replaced by braceros and machines, whereas local grower patrones had been replaced by absentee owners and manager-lease operators. Few permanent workers were left on the farms and ranches, and those with permanent work in the canneries and packing sheds were under a very different wage-labor system, with much of the earlier paternalism and labor controls absent. Most of the new owners had few personal relationships with their workers and did not expect to develop them. Moreover, the new absentee landlords had altered “the structure and solidarity of the Anglo community.” The outsiders had little interest in running the local community or in solving ethnic conflicts. In short, with the widespread acceptance of scientific techniques and substantial corporate investment, the social base for agricultural production was no longer characterized by a society of “resident growers” and “cheap tractable labor.” Political Pluralism and the Urban Vote IN THE 1940s, the increasing economic power of urban-based interests was not readily translated into political power. The emerging corporate elite were content to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with growers. The growers controlled both houses of the Texas legislature, while the executive branch was virtually indistinguishable from the oil-insurance-bankingconstruction elite. In terms of political philosophy, the corporate leaders were not very different from their rural counterparts. In the pointed summation of Texas historian George Green, the corporate elite of the 1940s and 1950s were committed to upholding a regressive tax structure, anti-labor laws, oppression of blacks and Mexican Americans, and alleged states’ rights. The state Democratic Party, under the firm control of growers and their corporate friends, embodied these positions. Thus, for a while the rapid urbanization of the state did not matter, since conservatism, like so much else, left the countryside for a place in the cities. Jim Crow, in fact, seemed to be strengthened through “urbanization.” Why not? Even as the businessmen began to take charge over economic and social matters, the conservative coalition remained intact. In the fifties, the major cities proved to be fertile ground for a score of archconservative organizations minutemen, patriotic committees, citizen councils all of which were dedicated to guarding against communists, atheists, and desegregationists. In such climate, the reaction to the Supreme Court’s overturning of the “separate but equal” principle \(Brown in 1954 was predictably furious. The preservation of Jim Crow against federal intrusion was clothed in patriotic and religious dress. Preachers, retired generals, and politicians all railed against the evils of desegregation. A petition of 165,000 10 JULY 17, 1987
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