Re: (Spa) Bolívar, San Martín, Mitre y Billiken

Gorojovsky Gorojovsky at
Sun Sep 9 20:23:40 MDT 2001

Will try to translate to English. A pity, because I chose Spanish to establish 
some cozyness for us Latin Americans on the list when debating our own issues. 
But yes, I admit the consequence was to leave non-Spanish reading comrades out 
of the debate. Sorry.

A brief description between square brackets of the main points of our previous 
exchange follows (please, Juan, if you find it unfaithful don't hesitate in 
correcting me):

[I commented to Juan that the criticisms he advanced on Bolívar revealed the 
grip of the oligarchic version of our history (the one that was typical of the 
_Billiken_ youth magazine we had been talking about some days ago), since he 
opposed a "democratic and popular" San Martín to a "dictatorial and 
aristocratic" Bolívar. Now, this opposition is absolutely false (I gave some 
evidence of this). If anything, it reflects the comfortable situation of the 
Limeña oligarchy with San Martín, who had been left unfunded by Buenos Aires,  
his army immobilized (thus risking dissolution) in Lima, suffering moreover 
from the corrupting and demoralizing influence of the local oligarchs 
(particularly through a perverted usage of the daughters of the oligarchy to 
seduce the officers of his army). San Martín, thus swamped in Lima, held a 
conference in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with Bolívar, as a result of which he left 
the command to the Venezuelan, who could not accept San Martín's proposition to 
be second in command due to very sound reasons of unity and discipline in the 
Latin American armies that his general Córdoba was to lead to the final victory 
of Ayacucho.

The oligarchic historians in Buenos Aires (Mitre the first and foremost) have 
created this legend of a greedy and covetous, aristocratic and monarchic 
Bolívar against a generous and disinterested, modest and republican San Martín, 
in order to cover up the betrayal to the common cause of the Buenos Aires 
oligarchs under the lead of Rivadavia. It is reasonable that the Peruvian 
oligarchy shared this view of things, since Bolívar meant for her the risk of 
being drowned into the revolutionary wave of the unification. It seems to me 
quite less reasonable to copy this position from a Marxist viewpoint.

I further added the history of the Paraguay of Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia 
(Francia being a family name, not an origin) to show that the tendencies to 
monarchism hidden in Bolívar under the idea of a Permanent Presidency were 
simply the result of the backwardness of our situation, which required an 
absolute monarch in the tradition of Louis 14th (or Henry the 8th, if you 
please) to establish a bourgeois rule in absence of a bourgeoisie after the 
loss of Spain for the revolution. Not only Bolívar, most of our main leaders of 
the Independence turned to some kind of monarchist position after 1815. It was 
a way to save the Revolution by the way of personal dictatorship (Belgrano 
proposed an Inca king, San Martín himself was called "King Joseph" in Lima, 
Francia in Paraguay had to replace a triunvirate with his personal 
dictatorship, and so on).

As to the reinstauration of servitude by Bolívar, it was -I argued- an step 
back in order to save the revolution, a concession to the upper classes of Perú 
and Chile during a moment of ebb in world revolution. Bolívar had launched the 
"race war" in his own country, against his own class, under the advice of the 
President of Haiti Pétion. So that he cannot be seen as a proponent of 

The above tries to sum up our debate up to now. After that, Juan comments that

> Ahora, bien, reconciendo los marcos ideologicos y de clase de Bolivar y
> encuadrandolo en ellos, no libra de ser criticado, pero como dices,
> deben ser criticas justificadas.  Pero "San Simon" no es.

Which can be translated roughly as: 
"Now, even recognizing the ideologic and class frame of Bolívar, and putting 
him in that perspective, he isn't immune to criticism, a justified criticism as 
you say, but he is no "Saint Simon"."

To which I cannot but agree wholeheartedly.


> Sucre, pero Bolivar -precisamente por su reinstauracion de la esclavitud
> y del tributo indigena, y por su guerra contra el Peru cuando este se
> quizo separar de Gran Colombia- recibia mencion breve, muy disimilar de
> las alabanzas que recibe en el Ecuador, por ejemplo.

"Something else comes to my mind now. I came of reason during the period of 
Velazco Alvarado in Peru. In that atmosphere of revaloration of the indigenous, 
of ferment in the countryside, and of nationalism and anti-imperialism, in our 
Pantheon of the Founding Fathers there were San Martín and Sucre, but Bolívar -
precisely because of his reimposition of slavery and Indian servitude, as well 
as due to his war against Perú when Perú tried to break away from the Greater 
Colombia- received scant mention, and in a very different tune from the 
laudatory one that he receives in Ecuador, for instance."

Well, this is exactly what I wanted to mean when I spoke of oligarchic history. 
In Latin America, each piece of the disjointed original nation has tried to 
generate a "national" mythology where the heroes and villains are read 
according to the petty interests of the local ruling classes. Thus, the vision 
of the complete drama is dispersed in a myriad of impossible local stories.

The climate that presided Bolívar's retreat on the crucial issues of tribute 
and slavery can be measured by the fact that Bernardo de Monteagudo, the 
Tucumanian secretary of San Martín who was one of the boldest and most ardent 
defenders of the democratic tasks in the revolution, and the intellectual 
torchbearer of the confederation, was murdered in Lima by the same months. 

The Buenos Aires oligarchs were granting the mine and landowners of Bolivia a 
fake independence which allowed them to keep the colonial system of mass murder 
for profit unchallenged (in fact, they perfomed the unbeatable feat of turning 
it yet more cruel), and Bolívar justly feared that such a concession would stir 
the Peruvian oligarchs against the union and for secession. 

The fact that he eventually had to face an oligarchic rebellion in Perú anyway 
shows both that it is impossible to save a revolution through structural 
concessions and the weakness of his position in the time.

But please let us note this precious information that Juan is giving to us:  
the progressive President Velazco, prisoner of his "peruanidad", generated a 
revolution in the Peruvian countryside but failed to realize that the ultimate 
guarantee of his Revolution lay in "exporting" the revolution to Perú and 
Bolivia, something that would have forced him to review the oligarchic version 
of the history of Perú. While the Peruvians derided Bolívar, Juan tells us, 
Ecuatorians hailed him. This was the most perfect demonstration of the limits 
of bourgeois and petty bourgeois nationalism in Latin America, because on this 
foolish tale was founded the rivalry (which eventually led both countries to 
wars between brothers) between the Peruvians and Ecuatorians.

This is why historic criticism is the first task in Latin America, if we really 
want to be Marxists. The weight of the dead generations, in our case, includes 
the weight of the tale of our "nationalities" which covers up the material 
dominance of our local oligarchies, which thrive in our lack of union.

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at
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