Dependency theory debate in Latin America

Julio Huato juliohuato at SPAMhotmail.com
Thu Jun 7 07:44:12 MDT 2001


Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>:

>As I have mentioned previously, the two countries in the third world that
>never bought into the dependency school were Mexico and India. About India,
>I have no explanation. With respect to Mexico, it appears to be the result
>of the intellectual hegemony of exiles from Spain, who brought with them
>the kind of Kautskyism that had characterized the Comintern of the Popular
>Front era.

I think Louis is on the wrong track.  This is based on my personal
impressions.  Not on research, but (IMO) the influence of Spanish Marxists
in Mexico was felt mostly in the 1950's and 1960's.  As a rule, I'd think,
the Spanish Marxists were not directly involved in Left politics in Mexico
(to be fair, some of them did support the students' movement in 1968).
Wenceslao Roses, who lived in Mexico, was the translator of Capital into
Spanish.  (There was probably another translation before that one, but very
defective.)  Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez (whom I mentioned in a recent posting)
was a very important influence on aesthetics, ethics, and philosophy in
general.

Now, the debate against the dependency theory was carried out not by Mexican
Marxists inspired by the Spaniards.  It was instead the exiles from South
America who brought both the theory of dependency and its critique to Mexico
in the 1970's.  (Curiously, Argentinians undertook another Spanish
translation of Marx's Capital and showed that Roses' translation was also
deficient.)  The Marxists who criticized the theory of dependency from a
Marxist angle on what I consider the solid grounds of Marx's method and
theory of capitalist production were Jorge Dabat and Alberto Spagnolo (I may
be wrong on the first names), economists from Argentina, and Agustín Cueva,
a sociologist from Ecuador.  There was also a Peruvian Marxist economist who
was very effective in verbal polemics against the dependency theory, but who
didn't write much (as far as I know): José Izquierdo Márquez.  Izquierdo had
been the leader of a trade-union of bank employees in Lima and was a
professor of political economy in the Universidad Michoacana (Morelia,
Mexico) in the late 1970's.  In UNAM, there was a Bolivian Marxist who was
also well versed in Capital and critical of the dependency theory: Carlos
Toranzo Roca.  Gilly (Argentinian-Mexican) wrote some very interesting
articles influenced by José Valenzuela Feijoó (from Chile) against the
characterizations of the Mexican 1980's crisis based on the theory of
dependency.  The defenders of the dependency-theory approach to Mexico's
economic affairs, the object of this critique, were people like Carlos Tello
Macías (president of Mexico's central bank during the bank nationalization)
and Rolando Cordera (Mexican, from the UNAM).  Tello and Cordera published a
book in the 1980's: La disputa por la nación, based squarely on the
dependency theory.  IMO, Valenzuela Feijoó's book on the crisis and
re-structuring of Mexican capitalism in the 1980's was very influential
because, thanks to South American Marxists, there was a readership in Mexico
who had actually studied Marx's Capital.  Even if Valenzuela's book had some
philo-Kaleckian incrustations, the foundation of his critique of the
dependency's view of the crisis was (IMO) solidly based on Marxism.  Unlike
the Spaniards, these South American Marxists did not shy from debating
issues that were burning in Mexico's daily politics.

IMO, Louis misses the point because he believes that the Marxist critique of
the dependency theory glorifies capitalist development.  In fact, by making
true, organic, cannonical capitalist development so hard to emulate in Latin
America, he's the one who glorifies capitalism.  He cannot think of a
Marxist way to critique the dependency theory, one that doesn't fall back
into developmentalism.  Since a town like Mexico City doesn't look like New
York City or London because of its shanties, etc., then the mode of
production there cannot meet his high criteria of capitalism should be.  His
idea of capitalist development is something more harmonious and orderly, I
guess.  His template of capitalist production is one that can only be
applicable to the rich countries.  IMO, instead of Louis', we should use the
theory of the capitalist mode of production as in Marx, unless we come up
with something better.  Louis' approach doesn't help us understand the
historical differences.
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