Class and Consensus
only "normative" behavior we should presume is that in which the work-
ers themselves engaged. On this note, Thompson went on to remind us,
"Class is defined by men as they live their own history, and, in the end,
this is its only definition."10 He eloquently insisted that we take historical
actors on their own terms. Finally and just as importantly, Thompson
admonished us about how we remember the
poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the "obsolete" hand-loom weaver ....
Their hostility to the new industrialism may have been backward-looking. Their
communitarian ideals may have been fantasies. Their insurrectionary conspira-
cies may have been foolhardy. But they lived through these times of acute social
disturbances, and we did not. Their aspirations were valid in terms of their own expe-
riences; and if they were casualties of history, they remain, condemned in their own lives,
In looking at Victoria, we might then say that the Mexican American
community's belief in the achievability of full equality may have been
pure fantasy; its understanding of society's true capacity for change
may have been overly optimistic; and its lack of class consciousness
unenlightened. Yet they had to live through that postwar climate and
in that isolated environment and make the best of their situation in a
way that made the most sense to them, based upon their life experi-
ences at the time. They made what seemed to them the best choices
that they could, choices that have in fact swollen the ranks of the mid-
dle class and brought a larger segment of the Mexican American com-
munity, professionals and workers, into public life, thereby gaining
greater, if not universal, levels of inclusion. In this context "inclusion"
refers to increasing levels of access to participation in politics, public
life, as well as educational and professional attainment. For Victoria's
Mexican American community as a whole, "success" is more a journey
than a destination.
Such an open-ended understanding of class and its potential historical
effects sheds light on the experiences of Victoria's Mexican Americans.
Victoria is a place where labor organization has been weak and ineffec-
tual; a place in which, during the latter twentieth century, the commonly
accepted ideology centered on a reification of the mythology of the indi-
vidual. So powerful was this ideology that it cut across boundaries of
class, race, and ethnicity and acted to mute any potential development
of class consciousness. This is not meant to argue that Victoria's
Mexican Americans did not identify economic differences. What
Mexican Americans developed was not class consciousness, but class
" Ibid., emphasis added.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed February 28, 2015.