Forwarded from Anthony (Brenner)

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky Gorojovsky at
Fri Dec 1 15:38:57 MST 2000

En relación a Re: Forwarded from Anthony (Brenner),
el 1 Dec 00, a las 12:04, Michael Hoover dijo:

> Me:
> > > Re. above, on surface one would have expected opposite given bureaucratic
> > > centralism of Spanish colonial period and more decentralized pattern  in
> > > British American colonies.
> Nestor:
> > Well, this is just skimming on the surface.
> > To begin with, Spanish bureaucratic centralism was skirted more times than
> > obeyed by residents in its American possessions. "Se obedece, pero no se
> > cumple", that is "we obey but we do not accomplish" was the rule -brought down
> > straight from Spanish Middle Ages- during teh 15th, 16th and part of the 18th
> > Century.  Second, the true move towards centralization (the modernizing
> > activity of the Spanish Borbons, particularly of Charles the Third) had the
> > unlucky environment of an England which had just lost its main overseas
> > possession, and Spain was no match to England (the Vice Royalty of the River
> > Plate, probably the most expressive political move of this period, was created
> > in --1776!). Third, the weakness of the bourgeoisie at the core country (and
> > the heavy inheritance from the regressive and reactionary Austrias, that is
> > the Spanish Hapsburgs) and the absence of a strong "free manufacture" society
> > in South America made the whole new civil structure (created under the
> > auspices of the Borbons) to somehow hover on a void terrain. Strong
> > intervention by Britain in alliance with proto-oligarchic groups at the ports
> > put the last drop of water in the already full cup.
> I should have been clearer with "on surface" comment and referred to
> "ostensible" bureaucratic centralism.  My earlier post had gone into
> some detail about how apparatus existed on paper and in form but not
> necessarily in practice.
> Didn't Bourbons pursue centralization in some sense through decentralization by
> reviving cabildos, creating new viceroyaltyes, audencias, & consulados?

Well, in fact what they tried to do was to _diminish_ the importance of the
cabildos. This institution, which _might_ have evolved into an organ of popular
representation under different circumstances, was in fact a remnant of the
"liberties" (that is, privileges) of Medieval Spain (1):.  during the mid
1700s, for example, the Cabildo of Asunción revolted in what is mistakenly
taken for a forerunner of our Revolutionary Wars of the 1810s (this was not the
view of the revolutionaries themselves, by the way); this revolt was expressing
the thirst of the local _encomenderos_ for Guarani peasants, no more than that.

> And didn't Bourbon bureaucrats lead local elites to take renewed interest in
> cabildos with one result being that cabildos played important role in wars
> independence?  O. Carlos Stoetzer (_The Scholastic Roots of the Spanish
> American Revolution_) has suggested that wars of independence can be
> interpreted as resurgent national rebelling against centralizing tendencies
> of Bourbon system at time when that system was weakened by French occupation
of Spain.

No. Stoetzer is not right on this. The wars of independence were the logical
continuation of the Bourbon system, in the midst of which there was a struggle
between those who wanted to turn the American colonies into colonies in the
full sense of the word (not unlike the attempts by the North Cabinet in England
under George the Third) and those (many Spanish officials and military
included) who wanted to generate a vast arena for capitalist development all
over the Empire (or at least in America as well as in Spain). It is not a
matter of chance that the most intrepid revolutionaries in the River Plate area
had been officials or officers of the Crown during the late decades of the
Colony: Moreno, Artigas, Belgrano, for example. And they were by no means the
only ones.

(1) By the way, and on this same line, I would friendly warn Louis Proyect not
to dismiss Marx's _Spanish Revolution_ too fast. It is a very good analysis,
the work for which (in a typical display of seriousness) began by a thorough
reading of the _Quixote_. See Pierre Broué's excellent article to understand
the meaning of the _Quixote_ in terms of expression of the social structure of

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at

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