Most memoirs are self-serving, but this volume is also riddled with the tired old Communist slogans and clichés that have hardly changed in fifty years. And yet anyone writing the history of labor or of the political left in Mexico since the 1930s must consult this work.
Campa, born in 1904 of apparently middle-class parents, became a railroad worker in the 1920s, and shortly thereafter joined the Communist party. By the mid-thirties he had become an important labor and political leader. His political career declined precipitately with his ouster from the party in 1939, at the orders of the Third International. His labor career deteriorated after 1947 when the Alemán administration imposed government-party people in the railroad union’s directive board. From the 1950s on, Campa has been a visible, but minor, figure on the Mexican labor and political scene. He was readmitted to the Communist party in the early 1960s.
In addition to the party line, the book is replete with evaluations of political personages, anecdotes, personal experiences, and rumors. All accounts are colored by Campa’s total dedication to the Communist movement, both Mexican and international. Even his expulsion from the party on trumped-up charges (but in fact because of his opposition to the assassination of Trotsky) did not shake his faith. He remained silent all these years to avoid damaging the movement. In the same vein, he makes little distinction among enemies. Vicente Lombardo Toledano and Fidel Velasquez are both traitors to the labor movement and are frequently damned in the same breath. Their long and bitter hostility is never mentioned.
On some “facts” Campa is simply wrong. He repeats a story that one Dean Stephanski, a CIA agent and expert strikebreaker, arrived in Mexico to assist the Mexican government suppress the railroad strike of March 1959. Apart from the unbelievable argument that the Mexican government needed and would use United States assistance in this case, the story is filled with simple factual errors. Whether Stephanski was ever a CIA agent I cannot vouch, but I do know that in 1959 he was the United States labor attaché, that he had been in Mexico since at least 1955, that his expertise was in labor organizing, not strikebreaking, and that his first name is Ben, not Dean. That Campa does not know all this is simply an indication of his isolation from national leadership, given Stephanski’s wide personal contacts in Mexican labor in the 1950s.
The importance of this volume lies both in its value as a personal statement of the author and in its account of a variety of events, however slanted the latter may be. His detailed reporting on conflicts within the Communist movement, on the strikes of 1958–59, and on political and labor leaders must be cross-checked, but it cannot be ignored.