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

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky gorojovsky at
Fri Jun 8 15:54:22 MDT 2001

En relación a Re: The MIR (was Re: Dependency theory debate in , el 7
Jun 01, a las 12:12, Louis Proyect dijo:

> Nestor:
> > alliances with fractions of the local bourgeoisies, and is
> >a better one. I insist: AGF declared in the open that he and his
> >people were _against_ Perón and Vargas, and even of an eventual Perón
> >in Chile. This proved suicidal.
> Frank's contribution was to expose the
> CP's notion of development under the auspices of the progressive
> bourgeoisie. He was very much the intellectual counterpart of Che and
> Fidel's OLAS. 

If he was, he was their counterpart in their _mistakes_, not in their
good points. During a long time, and partly due to their dependency
from the Eastern Bloc, the Cubans "forgot" their national-popular
origin and their political positions on Latin America were shaped
along the main lines of the mainstream "left". Although the relations
between Fidel and Gaitán, or Fidel and Perón, were unmistakably true,
their official line was of support to "leftist"pponents of the
national movements. Thus, not everything written and proposed by the
Cubans for Latin America (particularly during the first decades of the
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.

> As we know, rural guerrilla warfare as a strategy had
> limitations--in fact that led to Che's tragic death--but it was
> necessary to define an alternative to the kind of "stagist" nonsense
> that had led the Cuban CP to back Batista.


Let us listen to AGF directly, and in the volume by AGF, Johnson and
Cockroft that Lou Pr himself has quoted. Please look at the chapter
which bears the enticing title of "Who is the immediate enemy", where
the authors state their general policies in 21 points, the first of
them explaining that:

"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]. Popular mobilization against
the immediate class enemy at the local and national level generates a
confrontation with the imperialist main enemy, stronger than direct
antiimperialist mobilization, and the nationalist mobilization by
means of de political alliance of 'the broadest arc of antiimperialist
forces' does not adequately defy the immediate class enemy, and in
general it doesn't even arrive to result in the actual and precise
confrontation with the imperialist enemy".

Let us apply all this political prescription to Fidel himself, just
for a "what if" game.

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? Am I wrong
in suggesting that, if Fidel had followed the advice of he who Lou
considers "the intellectual counterpart of Che and Fidel's OLAS"
during the late 50s he may be now a sad and aging lawyer in exile,
approaching an obscure death while watching Batista Jr. rule Cuba?

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!

An "alternative to the kind of 'stagist' nonsense that had led the
Cuban CP to back Batista"? Or same wine in different bottles? Please
keep in mind that the main contradiction in Latin America is that
between imperialism and the national movement (something that Lou Pr,
among others, has always been aware of). In this context, the "
'stagist' nonsense" of the CPs was politically important because it
justified _from the left side of the political rainbow_ support to
"progressive" oligarchies against the "feudal" ignorant peasant
masses. Now, I can't see any difference between this concrete result
and the positions so clearly expressed by Frank and his friends in the
quotes above.

All the long explanations on "development of underdevelopment" and so
on boil down, when brougth to the level of practical ideas, to "fight
the main enemy, that is the local bourgeoisie --against imperialism!"

What Frank misses completely is the difference between oppressor and
oppressed nations formulated by Lenin. He is also ignorant of the
texts of Trotsky on Latin America (his support to the _bourgeois_
Cárdenas in 1938, for example: AGF, as is well known, should have
known something about Mexico since he wrote in Mexico where, by the
way, he was defeated in a theoretical contest by the Peronist Marxist
Rodolfo Puiggrós). Moreover, he forgets the points of view expressed
by Marx himself in his notes and letters on the relations between
Russia and Poland, or between England and Ireland.

Frank was writing in the late 60s/early 70s. Did he really ignore the
_national democratic_ program of the Communist Party of North Vietnam?
Did he really ignore the 14 points of the South Vietnamese _national
liberation_ program? On the latter it was possible to read things like
"protection of the system of property of the citizens on the media of
production ... The State will stimulate the industrial and commercial
bourgeoisie to help in the development of manufacture, small industry
and crafts".  Maybe Ho-Chi Minh and General Giap would be considered
by Frank as agents of the Vietnamese national bourgeoisie... that is,
the main "tactical" enemy!

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.

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. 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!").

What is the concrete result of this ultra-leftism in practical terms?
The intention is to separate the proletariat from the peasant masses
or the indigenous masses, sunken in barbarism, and to sever Marxist
thought from the national democratic banners that can infuse into
Marxism an overwhelming power.  That is, the opposite to what Louis Pr
thinks that should happen. In the end, what they do is to reintroduce
imperialist influence under the banner "Death to the national

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.  Ultra-leftists helped the
Bolivian rosca to overthrow and hang from a street lamp Major
Gualberto Villarroel in 1946, they supported the American Ambassador
Braden against Perón in 1945, they helped to isolate general Torres in
Bolivia (1972), they contributed to the attack against Velasco
Alvarado in Perú during the mid 70s, they shared in the aggression
against Col. Caamaño in the Dominican Republic, and they provided
material and pretexts to the coups of Pinochet and Videla in Chile and
Argentina (a political record which helps to basically explain their
"betrayal" of our times, when we can see many of these Gunderfrankian
"leftists" -who INCLUDED Cardoso, in fact, Lou!- taking to practice
their ideas of the 60s or 70s: one of the first political utterings of
FHC was, precisely, that he had came to power to put an end to the
"age of Vargas"... that is, to enact the theses of AGF, to struggle
against the "national bourgeois"!)

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.

And this can be demonstrated by the recklesness with which AGF himself
distorts our history. I will just give a single example, taken from
the very same source of the ones above. There is a myth of Frank's
knowledgeability of Latin American history (supported, among others,
by Samir Amin and partly by Galeano, who should know better).  Suffice
it to say, in order to at least put a good question mark on the myth,
that in his Thesis 9 he attributes to Juan Manuel de Rosas, the brutal
leader of the landowners of Buenos Aires during the 1830s-1840s, the
intention to generate a "democratic-bourgeois revolution"!

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".

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at

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