Forwarded from Anthony

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed May 17 13:16:34 MDT 2000

This note is related to the discussion about Latin American Marxist writers.


Why are Latin American Marxists not better known, better read, better
understood? Even in Latin America.

For the same reason Marxists from the USA are not better known, better
read, better understood.

They haven't won a revolution - yet, or even built a mass social democratic
party - yet.

Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro are well known, and are frequently read by
those interested in knowing about Marxism, all over the world. Why? They
led a revolution to power.

Mariategui did not. Neither did Burt Cochran, James Canon, or John Reed.
Reed in his own way proves the maxim, because his fame was derived from his
participation in a revolution that did win - the Mexican Revolution.

If you look at the panaoply of well-known Marxists, virtually all of them
are from countries where there were successful revolutions, or at least
mass social democratic parties [some of which were Stalinist, and called
themselves Communist like those in France and Italy].

This is so for good reason: where our side -speaking very broadly - has had
success, our side has had the resources to publicize its ideas, give its
intellecutals posts in universities, publish their books, etc. Where we
have not had success, we did not have the publicity machine and patronage
to dole out, to accomplish those things.

Of course, building a mass social democratic party in a colony, or
semi-colony, is not going to give you as much international notoriety - nor
as much patronage, as if you did the same thing in an imperialist country.
Especially if your party was later repressed by some dicatorship. Or if
your theoretician was assasinated.

Jorge Eliacer Gaitain, comes to my mind. As a theoretician he was something
like the Bukharin of Colombian Marxism, and the leader of the most
important mass movement of the working class and peasants ever to arise
here.  As a political leader he was Colombia's Lazaro Cardenas, Juan Peron,
and Fidel Castro. However, he was assasinated as he was about to win a
presidential election. Not too many people outside of Colombia know about
the man.

As for the profoundity of their ideas, I think Gramsci - and his Italian CP
pattrons who made him into a star, is overrated. Mariategui? Thanks to Lou
I am just finding out about his ideas. Maybe they are more profound.

As for Moreno, I will write about him later.


Sam Pawlett wrote,

"This is unfair. In a political context, being a foreigner is much
different from being a local and requires great care and sensitivity.First,
it is illegal for all foreigners to engage in political activity on a
tourist visa. If caught you will be deported and when you go through
checkpoints the first person the authorities question will be you. I was
pulled off buses at least 25 times in Colombia and questioned. I spent 3
hours in a police checkpoint in the outskirts of LIma during the MRTA siege
of the Japanese ambassador's residence trying to explain the existence of
books by Karl Marx in my bag. The local army-police-esquadrone nexis is all
to happy to make examples of foreigners, for it is the foreigners they say
who bring "subversive" ideas into their country. I always wanted to say
"the masses here aren't rebelling because of ideas! Many of them are
illiterate. Open your fuckin eyes!)"

I was born and raised in the USA, and have spent a lot of time in various
Latin American countries. Some of that time was on political business, some
of it was family related, and a very small amount was a a tourist (all of
the latter here in Colombia, where I have lived for the last two years.)

My experience has been very different than that of Chris. I have traveled
around this country - over the past ten years in buses, in private cars,
and in taxis. I have traveled in the cities, and in the countryside - I
have traveled in FARC and ELN dominated parts of the country - and even -
with a lot of fear - in parts of the country dominated by the
paramilitaries. I have done this at moments when the press talked up the
war here.

I know many people in this country - who have traveled much more
extensively than I have here. Yet, I do not know a single person here -
including those who are well known and might not be well liked by the
police and military - who has ever been "pulled off" of a bus by the police
or military.

Buses in and near recent armed conflicts are stopped, and occasionally the
passengers are asked for ID, and sometimes searched. However, what ussually
happens is a couple of teenaged soldiers go up and down the aisle fo the
bus, look at the passengers IDs and move on. Even if the ID happens to be a
US passport.

The paramilitaries have destroyed some buses, as have the FARC, and ELN.
The paramilitaries do so to kill people, the FARC and ELN to enforce
blockades they occasionally impose for a few days on major highways.

However, unless you are targetted by the paramilitaries, or are trying to
draw attention to yourself, you are not likely to be "pulled off of a bus".

I have been stopped by the military police ... once for an illegal left
turn here in Bogota, once at a roadblock ostensibly checking for stolen
cars (along with all other cars passing that point.) and a couple of times
for violating "pico y placa" (the local regulation rotating days when you
may drive your car during rush hour, according to the final number of your
license plate.)

During the 1980's I spent some time in Argentina - including during the
emergency over the "supermarket riots" when the leadership of PO and other
leftists were arrested. While I could not change dollars for Australes
(then the currency in Argentina)The army just rolled by in military
convoys, never noticing that I was there - even when I was out way after
curfew in a working class neighborhood.

It's true that I have not done anything on purpose to attract the attention
of the police - most people here don't. Especially people involved in
political activity.

I have to say, that Sam's story of his experience on buses here is very,
very different than my experience here.


Louis Proyect

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