Capitalist agricultural production in Parlier, California, followed the lead set by mining (industrial in organization and technique) and expeditiously shifted from extensive to intensive production. Each successive transformation was stimulated by technological changes and brought agriculture further in line with industrial production. Parlier’s introduction of raisin production as an intensive cash crop is a case in point. Only with the technological innovations of irrigation and refrigerated freight cars was such change possible. This paper shows the role of these technological changes in the emergence of class relations in Parlier. A crucial point of the paper is the fact that intensive cultivation required large capital investments and increased labor. Thus, greater emphasis was placed on the creation of a cheap, exploitable labor force. And, most importantly, this labor force was racial in form.
In succession, the Chinese, Japanese, and Mexicans filled the demand for labor. From its beginning, therefore, Parlier’s labor force was composed of racial minority workers. The racial stratification created here did have a material basis in the organization of agricultural production and was rationalized or justified by an evolving racial ideology. By the 1960’s the steady growth of permanent, and even majority, Chicano population in Parlier led to greater stability and cohesiveness among Chicanos. This, in turn, provided the basis for the type of political mobilization that resulted in the political revolt of 1972. This paper, while presenting a local case study of capitalist agricultural development, also contributes to laying the historical groundwork for understanding why the Chicano political revolt would eventually occur.
Note: This working paper was originally published in 1978 by the Institute for the Study of Social Change, now the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues.