Re.: Latin American Marxist writers

Chris Brady chris_brady at
Mon May 15 04:47:20 MDT 2000

While I join your dismay over a large number of US left academics’ error
in conflating rightist and leftist military actions in Colombia, and in
similarly lumping together US imperialist aggression and Cuban socialist
defense of the revolution, I am not at all surprised.  For instance,
NACLA and The Progressive may be leftist in the context of US politics
in toto but they are not Marxist (although there are some Marxists who
are in NACLA, The Progressive is by definition not).  Regardless of
their political affiliations or ideological predilections, they indicate
a failure to comprehend how the violent and repressive histories of the
peoples’ struggles led to the current state of affairs.  This I think we
agree is a matter of frustration.

What’s “unfair” about what I wrote?  The further south you go = the more
the ratio of class weights up, so that by the time you hit the
expensively far-away Cone los extranjeros are proportionately less
likely to be of the working class.  I cannot argue with the rest of your
fascinating recounts.

When I was in the Cone (Chile and Argentina) recently I likewise
encountered gringophobia.  It seemed wholly logical, reasonable and
natural to me considering circumstances and history.  And considering my
height, build, color, gender and middle-age.

I encountered a host of assumptions.  Young people knew I was wealthy
simply because I was a gringo (by gringo standards I am certainly
not!).  Well-off elite citizens took for granted that I was a typical
American, that is certainly not even a pinko let alone a red, and
therefore I was supposed to have shared their weltanshauung.  And
everyone stared at me with an intensity and lack of self-consciousness
that I found quite remarkable, although somewhat off-putting at times.

One of my favorite Marxist experiences was when a bookseller tried to
shortchange me at the giant Santiago Book Fair. I had just purchased a
book of poems written for Chilean Communist Party leader Gladys Marin.

On the other hand I was awed by the incursions of American culture
(cultural imperialism?).  Rap music is the rage with Chilean youth, who
have copied even the body language of Black Brooklynites, as well as
clothing styles.  Most movies in the cineplexes are Made in Hollywood.
The payphones have signs above them that read: PEYFON.  It hits all
classes: El Mercurio has a Friday magazine supplement called WIKEN
(“weekend”).  There is no analogous Academe Francais to wax apoplectic
over the linguistic invasion.  Because it is absorbed and Chileanized.
Actually I think there is a panache to using Americanisms --similar to
Americans' utilization of certain French words.

What I did find there (among other things) was, in the context of my
original post on Latin American Marxist writers, a collection of small
booklets put out by LOM Ediciones called Libros del Ciudadano.  In size
these booklets are 3 1/2 X 6 5/8 inches, from 50 to 100 or so pages, and
fit neatly into a purse or pocket.  Their smart red and black covers you
can spy in a person’s shirt across the train as well as inside across a
bookshop through the window from outside on the sidewalk.  The booklets’
subjects range from poetry (eg. Roberto Parra’s El Golpe) to Marxist
sociology (eg., Tomas Moulian’s El consumo me consume) to the leftish
anti-Pinochet Manifiesto de Historiadores. Their prices were generally
the equivalent of two or three dollars.  I saw them first in the small
bookstore in the National Library.  They were on sale at the Book Fair,
of course. But I began to see them in places where such books would
never appear in the USA: in a Santiago airport bookstore where the Black
Book against Communism was prominently displayed, there was also a more
prominent rack set up for the LOM Ediciones Libros del Ciudadano.

When I was in Buenos Aires (“BeeYay” as some Argentines I know call it)
a year and a half ago (time flies!) a friend enthused over a book she
had just received about the Dirty War.  It was as I recall a rather
thick tome written by a man who went underground for many years and only
recently emerged and produced this book that became an instant
phenomenon on the lists.  It was a history, a personal history and
political analysis, with photographs.  Too bad I did not get a copy
before I left, but it should be the sort of thing that US Marxists would
actually yearn to get their hands on.  I also believe, re. our topic,
that chances are slim it would ever be translated and published in the
US, eh?

I also visited the infamous ESMA –from the outside, of course
(thankfully!).  This School for Naval Mechanics was a torture center.  I
passed by several torture centers in Chile.  They are all rather
innocuous looking places.  The white façade of ESMA was in fact somewhat
pretty in November with the purple cacarandas all in gorgeous bloom.  As
far as relative conditions of Marxists in the USA and Latin America are
concerned, though... --well, in some important respects there is no
comparison.  McCarthyism pales…

Yours in solidarity,
Chris Brady

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