Gunder Frank nude (was Re: The MIR (was Re: Dependency theory debate in Latin America))

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jun 8 16:45:39 MDT 2001

>Revolution) is worthy of praise.  In their desperate isolation they
>missed the difference between the oligarchies and the bourgeoisies,
>and Frank provided "full" theoretical support to that position. In
>this sense, the fact that Cuba has had to return to the original
>sources of the Revolution after 1989 is one of the few positive
>consequences of the end of the Cold War.

Although I am very much "Castroite" in my thinking, I would only
characterize his current thinking as a retreat from engagement with the
project of socialist revolution. It is very difficult to find anything in
his recent speeches except denunciation of the evils of capitalism--not
that this is wrong, of course.

>"From a tactical point of view, the immediate enemy of national
>liberation in Latin America is the bourgeoisie of Brazil, Bolivia,
>Mexico, etc., and the local bourgeoisie in the Latin American
>countryside. This is true -even in Asia or Africa- nonwithstanding the
>fact that from a strategical point of view the main enemy is,
>doubtlessly, imperialism". And, further on, thesis 3 begins by "today,
>anti-imperialist struggle in Latin America must be done by the means
>of class struggle [wow, this is a discovery!  Honestly, I have always
>felt astonished at this sentence... NG]. 

What are you trying to say? That people took this stuff and went out and
launched focos like they did after reading Debray? This doesn't seem likely
to me.

>Are we forgetting what were the specific political banners with which
>Fidel got to power in Cuba? Did they include, as Frank proposed,
>struggle against the national bourgeois in the first place?

Frank insisted that revolutions must be socialist, but by 1966 Castro was
saying the same thing. It is altogether likely that Frank was not saying
anything he hadn't heard already out of Havana.

>The program that Fidel raised was a _national democratic_ program,
>which counted on the support of even the high middle classes, the
>Archbishop of Havana and --the Rotary Club! Fidel declared himself a
>socialist only three years after the Revolution got to power, and this
>was partly forced by American stupidity. In Buenos Aires many remember
>that during his visit in 1959 he drastically rejected as a slander the
>idea that he may be a Communist!

Look, Nestor. I have every book A.G. Frank ever wrote on Latin America
sitting on my shelves right here. There is almost nothing about
revolutionary strategy. If anybody who tried to form a Marxist party on the
basis of these sociological/historical studies, they would have been guilty
of not only misunderstanding politics but themselves.

>What Frank misses completely is the difference between oppressor and
>oppressed nations formulated by Lenin. 

Poor A.G. Frank. Brenner accuses him of dissolving the class struggle in
idealistic formulations about oppressor and oppressed nations, while Nestor
says that his problem is that he subordinates national contradictions
beneath class fundamentalism. Maybe that's why he decided to wash his hands
of revolutionary politics altogether and move on to identifying 5,000 year
long waves.

>Frank was writing in the late 60s/early 70s. Did he really ignore the
>_national democratic_ program of the Communist Party of North Vietnam?

No, I am sure that he supported the Vietnamese just as he supported the
Cubans. Mostly good old Andre was just a highly prestigious sociology
professor with the soul of an SDSer.

>The positions exposed by Frank are, in fact, of the same quality than
>those ultra-left positions blasted by Lenin in his
>"Ultra-leftism". The rage against social-democrat passivity that took
>the newly hatched Communist groups of Europe in the 20s generated
>ultra-leftist reactions in the same way the "stagism" of the Communist
>Parties in Latin America generated this strange kind of
>"antiimperialism".  Both, however, fulfilled _exactly the same role_
>in the concrete political arena: to disarm the masses.

The CP's were large organizations with roots in the masses. Andre was an
intellectual who mainly wrote about colonial history.

>Confronted with the immobility of the social-democrats -or with the
>unholy alliances of the Communist Parties- the followers of AGF could
>only express themselves through the symmetrical extremism of
>ultra-left verbiage. 

The followers of AGF? Who exactly are you talking about? The student left?
If they were trying to make a revolution based on something he wrote, then
their problem is not his specific formulations about class relations but
hothouse intellectualism.

And, of course, through a sectarism dictated by
>massive rejection of such stuff (with the obvious exception of the
>"Facultés és Lettres" in Latin American universities: I still remember
>the ridiculous proposition by some ultra-left students in Buenos
>Aires, 1971, "Let us make the whole city a great Facultad de Filosofía
>y Letras!").

Exactly. Hothouse intellectualism.

>Unfortunately, this ultra-leftism has left a trail of blood in Latin
>America.  AGF and his followers were just another expression of an old
>trend that can be traced back to the 20s, but which has had the
>greatest importance after World War II.  

What followers are you talking about? Graduate students?

>And all this is reflected in the conception of Latin American
>history. When AGF bravely faced the oceans of history and tried to
>show that Spanish and Portuguese colonization in Latin America were
>"capitalist" because they generated the bullion and the raw matters
>for the expansion of European capitalism (a mistake that the late Jim
>Blaut seems to have shared, and which is obviously supported by Louis
>Pr), what he and his crew had in mind were the contemporary national
>movement of Latin America, where all the academic debate takes
>concrete shape.

It would help if we focused on the historical questions, which are of
paramount interest to me. It would help to advance the discussion if you
could tell me if the social system in 17th century Peru and Bolivia was
feudal. The question of what relation graduate students thought of AGF's
writings had to making socialist revolutions in the early 1970s seems less
interesting. I did crazy things myself back then after reading Trotsky, but
I wouldn't put the blame on him. My guess is that most people read AGF the
way that Dayne Goodwin did, just as they read Galeano, Jallee, Amin or
Magdoff. It was anti-imperialist literature plain and simple.

>This nonsense is what Lou Pr considers the "class-alliance" side of
>AGF. But it has nothing to do with anything like that. What it does is
>to seek in the roots of the ruling classes the demonstration that they
>are the same thing as the national bourgeois, and ultimately to impede
>the national movement to take shape and destroy imperialism together
>with the rule of the "national bourgeoisie".

It is difficult to talk about the "national bourgeoisie" in the abstract.
As Marxists, our interest in them is how to exploit differences in the
ruling class and neutralize it. As a class in itself, they will ultimately
be hostile to socialist revolution. The specific strategy and tactics for
dealing with it must be worked out through practice and analysis.
Ultimately our interest in figures such as Peron or Chavez is how to deepen
the logic of the process taking place under their rule and ultimately to
supersede them. To oppose Peron from the outset is sectarian but to not try
to understand how to supersede him is tantamount to opportunism. The
Bolsheviks supported the Kerensky government against the Czar and
Kornilovists, but burned the midnight oil trying to figure out how to bring
the Soviets to power.

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list:

More information about the Marxism mailing list