Fidel on Pinocho

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Dec 20 11:10:07 MST 1999

>    Fidel was, I believe, undoubtedly correct in identifying with the
>Alleged movement in Chile, just as he is correct in doing so with Chavez.
>This does not mean at all that he has become an uncritical cheerleader. On
>the contrary, Fidel spent weeks in Chile during Allende's presidency arguing
>for the road forward, which was to deepen a revolutionary process that had
>only begun. And he warned quite clearly of the coming attempts by
>reactionary forces to drown the movement in blood, most famously in his
>parting gift to Allende of a submachine gun.

What the Chilean people needed was political clarity, not the gift of a
machine-gun to Allende. Allende's illusions in the Chilean army were
suicidal. Castro never took on the problem in a forceful way, because he
retained certain false ideas from the CP. By the time Allende had achieved
power, the armed struggle had been defeated in a number of countries.
Therefore, Castro's search for allies led him to embrace Allende, despite
the fact that Allende was exactly the kind of reformist who was raked over
the coals at the OLAS conferences not yet 5 years in the past. The main
problem with Castroism is that it has not really come to terms with some of
the key questions dealt with "State and Revolution" and oscillates between
adventurist and electoral poles.

After Allende's defeat, a new round of relatively successful armed
movements in Central America shifted the focus away from electoralist
nostrums. When they were defeated, Castro once again shifted away from
supporting guerrillas and now says that armed struggle in Latin America can
never be victorious.

Castro has been an exemplary leader of a socialist state, but diplomatic
and economic requirements have sometimes prevented him from developing the
sort of revolutionary analysis you would expect from somebody who was not
in power. For those who are looking for such an analysis geared to Latin
American realities, I would recommend Mariategui, who was influential on
many intellectuals and activists from El Salvador to Cuba. Mariategui was a
powerful critic of middle-class radicalism in Latin America, whose message
remains timely today.


J.C. Mariategui, "Anti-Imperialist  Viewpoint" (1929)

To what degree is the situation of the Latin American republics similar to
that of the semi-colonial countries? The economic condition of these
republics is undoubtedly semi-colonial, and this characteristic of their
economies tends to be accentuated as capitalism, and therefore imperialist
penetration, develops. But the national bourgeoisies, who see cooperation
with imperialism as their best source of profits, feel themselves secure
enough as mistresses of power not to be too greatly preoccupied with
national sovereignty. The South American bourgeoisies, not yet facing
Yankee military occupation (with the exception of Panama), are not disposed
to admit the necessity of struggling for their second independence, as
Aprista propaganda naively supposes. The state, or better yet the ruling
class, does not seem to feel the need for a greater or more secure degree
of national autonomy. The revolution for independence is relatively too
near, its myths and symbols too alive in the consciousness of the
bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. The illusion of national sovereignty
still lives on. It would be a serious mistake to claim that this social
layer still has a sense of revolutionary nationalism, as in those places
where it does represent a factor for anti-imperialist struggle in
semi-colonial countries enslaved by imperialism, for example, in Asia in
recent decades.

Over a year ago, in our discussion with Aprista leaders in which we
rejected their desire to propose the creation of a Latin American
Kuomintang, we put forward the following thesis as a way to avoid
Eurocentric plagiarism and to accommodate our revolutionary activity to a
precise appreciation of our own reality:

"Collaboration with the bourgeoisie and even many feudal elements in the
anti-imperialist struggle in China are explicable in terms of race and
national culture that are not relevant for us. A Chinese nobleman or
bourgeois feels himself Chinese to the core. He matches the white man's
contempt for his stratified and decrepit culture with his own contempt and
pride in his millennia-long tradition. Anti-imperialism can therefore find
support in such sentiments and in a sense of Chinese nationalism
Circumstances are not the same in Indo America. The native aristocracy and
bourgeoisie feel no solidarity with the people in possessing a common
history and culture. In Peru, the white aristocrat and bourgeois scorn the
popular and the national. They consider themselves white above all else.
The petty bourgeois mestizo imitates their example. The Lima bourgeoisie
fraternizes with the Yankee capitalists, even with their mere employees at
the Country Club, the Tennis Club, and in the streets. The Yankee can marry
the native senorita without the inconvenience of differences in race or
religion, and she feels no national or cultural misgivings in preferring
marriage with a member of the invading race. The middle class girl has no
qualms in this regard, either. The girl who can trap a Yankee employed by
the Grace Company or the Foundation does it with the satisfaction of
thereby raising her social position. The nationalist factor for these
inescapable objective reasons is neither decisive nor basic to the anti
imperialist struggle in our environment. Only in countries such as
Argentina, where there is a large and rich bourgeoisie proud of their
country's wealth and power and where the national character for this reason
has clearer contours than in more backward countries could anti imperialism
(perhaps) penetrate more easily among bourgeois elements. But this is for
reasons related to capitalist expansion and development, rather than for
reasons of social justice and socialist theory as in our case."

The betrayal by the Chinese bourgeoisie and the failure of the Kuomintang
have not yet been understood in their full magnitude. Their capitalist
style of nationalism (one not related to social justice or theory)
demonstrates how little we can trust the revolutionary nationalist
sentiments of the bourgeoisie, even in countries like China.

As long as the imperialists are able to "manage" the sentiments and
formalities of these states' national sovereignty and are not forced to
resort to armed intervention or military occupation, they can definitively
count on the collaboration of their bourgeoisies. While they may depend
upon the imperialist economy, these countries, or rather their
bourgeoisies, consider themselves as much the masters of their own fate as
Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, and the other "dependent states" of Europe.

This factor of political psychology should not be discounted in the precise
estimation of the possibilities of anti-imperialist action in Latin
America. Neglect of this matter has been one of the characteristics of
Aprista theory.

The fundamental difference between us in Peru who originally accepted the
APRA (as a project for a united front, never as a party or even as an
effective organizer of struggle), and those outside Peru who later defined
it as a Latin American Kuomintang, is that the former remain faithful to
the revolutionary, socioeconomic conception of anti-imperialism; the
latter, meanwhile, explain their position by saying: "We are leftists (or
socialists) because we are anti-imperialists." Anti-imperialism thereby is
raised to the level of a program, a political attitude, a movement that is
valid in and of itself and that leads spontaneously to socialism, to the
social revolution (how, we have no idea). This idea inordinately
overestimates the anti-imperialist movement, exaggerates the myth of the
struggle for a "second independence," and romanticizes that we are already
living in the era of a new emancipation. This leads to the idea of
replacing the anti-imperialist leagues with political parties. From an APRA
initially conceived as a united front, a popular alliance, a bloc of
oppressed classes, we pass to an APRA defined as the Latin American

For us, anti-imperialism does not and cannot constitute, by itself a
political program for a mass movement capable of conquering state power.
Anti-imperialism, even if it could mobilize the nationalist bourgeoisie and
petty bourgeoisie on the side of the worker and peasant masses (and we have
already definitively denied this possibility), does not annul class
antagonisms nor suppress different class interests.

Neither the bourgeoisie nor the petty bourgeoisie in power can carry out
anti-imperialist politics. To demonstrate this we have the experience of
Mexico, where the petty bourgeoisie has just allied with Yankee
imperialism. In its relations with the United States, a "nationalist"
government might use different language than the Leguia government of Peru.
This government is clearly, unabashedly Pan-Americanist and Monroeist. But
any other bourgeois government would carry out the same practical policies
on loans and concessions. Foreign capital investment in Peru grows in
direct and close relation to the country's economic development, the
exploitation of its natural riches, its population, and the improvement of
its routes of communication. How can the most demagogic petty bourgeois
oppose this capitalist penetration? With nothing but words; with nothing
but a quick, nationalist fix. The taking of power by anti-imperialism, if
it were possible, would not represent the taking of power by the
proletarian masses, by socialism. The socialist revolution will find its
most bloody and dangerous enemy (dangerous because of their confusionism
and demagogy) in those petty bourgeois placed in power by the voices of

Without ruling out the use of any type of anti-imperialist agitation or any
action to mobilize those social sectors that might eventually join the
struggle, our mission is to explain to and show the masses that only the
socialist revolution can stand as a definitive and real barrier to the
advance of imperialism.

* * *

These factors differentiate the situation of the South American countries
from that of the Central American nations. There, Yankee imperialism, by
resorting to armed intervention without the slightest hesitation, does
provoke a patriotic reaction that could easily win a part of the
bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie to an anti-imperialist perspective.
Aprista propaganda, conducted personally by Haya de la Torre, has obtained
better results here than in any other part of America. His confusionist and
messianic perorations, which claim to be related to the economic struggle,
actually appeal to racial and emotional factors, thereby meeting the
necessary conditions for impressing the petty bourgeois intellectual. Class
parties and powerful, clearly class-conscious union organizations are not
destined for the same quick growth here as in South America. In our
countries, the class factor is more decisive and more developed. There is
no reason to resort to vague populist formulas behind which reactionary
tendencies can only prosper. At the moment, Aprismo, as propaganda, is
limited to Central America; in South America, it is being totally
liquidated, a consequence of the populist, "bossist," and petty bourgeois
deviation that sees it as a Latin American Kuomintang. The next
Anti-Imperialist Congress in Paris, which will have to unify the
anti-imperialist organizations and distinguish between anti-imperialist
programs and agitation and the tasks of class parties and trade unions,
will put an absolute end to this question.

Do the interests of imperialist capitalism necessarily and inevitably
coincide with the feudal and semi-feudal interests of our countries'
landowning classes? Is the struggle against feudalism unavoidably and
completely identical with the anti-imperialist struggle? Certainly,
imperialist capitalism uses the power of the feudal class to the degree
that it considers it the politically dominant class. But their economic
interests are not the same. The petty-bourgeoisie, even the most demagogic,
can end up in the same intimate alliance with imperialist capitalism if it,
in practice, dilutes its most conspicuous nationalist impulses. Finance
capital would feel more secure if power were in the hands of a larger
social class that is in a better position than the old, hated feudal class
to defend the interests of capitalism and serve as its guard and water boy
by satisfying certain overdue demands and distorting the masses' class
orientation. The creation of a class of smallholders, the expropriation of
the latifundia, and the liquidation of feudal privileges are not in
opposition to the interests of imperialism in an immediate sense. On the
contrary, to the degree that feudal vestiges still remain despite the
growth of the capitalist economy, the movement for the liquidation of
feudal privileges coincides with the interests of capitalist development as
promoted by imperialist experts and investments. The disappearance of the
large latifundia, the creation of an agrarian economy through what
bourgeois demagoguery calls the democratization" of the land, the
displacement of the old aristocracies by a more powerful bourgeoisie and
petty bourgeoisie better able to guarantee social peace: none of this is
contrary to imperialist interests. The Leguia regime in Peru, as timid as
it has been in regard to the interests of the latifundistas and gamonales
(who support it to a great degree), has no problem resorting to demagogy,
declaiming against feudalism and feudal privilege, thundering against the
old oligarchies, and promoting a program of land distribution to make every
field worker a small landowner. Leguiismo draws its greatest strength from
precisely this type of demagogy. Legitismo does not dare lay a hand on the
large landowners. But the natural direction of capitalist
development-irrigation works, the exploitation of new mines, etc.-is in
contradiction to the interests and privileges of feudalism. To the degree
that the amount of cultivated land increases and new centers of employment
appear, the latifundistas lose their principal power: the absolute and
unconditional control of labor. In Lambayeque, where a water diversion
project has been started by the American engineer Sutton, the technical
commission has already run up against the interests of the large feudal
landowners. These landowners grow mainly sugar. The threat that they will
lose their monopoly of land and water, and thereby their means of
controlling the work force, infuriates these people and pushes them toward
attitudes that the government considers subversive, no matter how closely
it is connected to these elements. Sutton has all the characteristics of
the North American capitalist businessman. His outlook and his work clash
with the feudal spirit of the latfundistas. For example, Sutton has
established a system of water distribution that is based on the principle
that these resources belong to the state; the latifundistas believe that
water rights are part of their right to the land. By this theory, the water
was theirs; it was and is the absolute property of their estates.

And is the petty bourgeoisie, whose role in the struggle against
imperialism is so often overestimated, necessarily opposed to imperialist
penetration because of economic exploitation? The petty bourgeoisie is
undoubtedly the social class most sensitive to the fascination of
nationalist mythology. But the economic factor which predominates is the
following: in countries afflicted with Spanish-style poverty, where the
petty bourgeoisie, locked in decades-old prejudice, resists
proletarianization; where, because of their miserable wages, they do not
have the economic power to partially transform themselves into a working
class; where the desperate search for office employment, a petty government
job, and the hunt for a "decent" salary and a "decent" job dominate, the
creation of large enterprises that represent better-paid jobs, even if they
enormously exploit their local employees, is favorably received by the
middle classes. A Yankee business represents a better salary, possibilities
for advancement, and liberation from dependence on the state, which can
only offer a future to speculators. This reality weighs decisively on the
consciousness of the petty bourgeois looking for or in possession of a
position. In these countries with Spanish-style poverty, we repeat, the
situation of the middle classes is not the same as in those countries where
these classes have gone through a period of free competition and of
capitalist development favorable to individual initiative and success and
to oppression by the giant monopolies.

In conclusion, we are anti-imperialists because we are Marxists, because we
are revolutionaries, because we oppose capitalism with socialism, an
antagonistic system called upon to transcend it, and because in our
struggle against foreign imperialism we are fulfilling our duty of
solidarity with the revolutionary masses of Europe.

Louis Proyect

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