(Fwd) On the history of Argentinean Left (1)

Nestor Gorojovsky nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
Mon May 5 20:26:03 MDT 2003

OOPS! Part (2) arrived before part (1). Now I am forwarding part (1).

    This posting attempted to continue my first take with Argentinean
history on Marxmail. Though I could never go ahead with it, I think
that this may be useful, particularly because it offers a so to say
deep background to our recent Brukman debate. So that here it goes.

    A brief history of the Argentinean Left: some ideological and
cultural precissions

    [On our previous postings, which can be found at the list's
archives...] ...we have arrived at the point where the founders of
the Argentinian Left are coming down from the ships, and the builders
of the Argentinian state  are at command in the country.  The latter,
the Generation of the 80s (1880s), will be misunderstood by most of
the immigrants who were to build the first self-avowed Leftist
political parties, in a process that I will explain on the next

  Today, however, I will stop telling the story and insert
some important notions that will be helpful in explaining the
  isolation from the vast Argentinian masses that blighted (and
blights)those parties.

  The key mistake that plagued the early Argentinian Left
  was the easy but shallow assumption that Argentina was
  an "European" country where modern capitalism was
  represented by the cosmopolitan Liberals of the port of
  Buenos Aires and regressive feudalism was represented
  by the forces of the parochial Inland country.  The
  immigrants of the late 1800s and early 1900s made up the bulk (if
not the totality) of this early Left. Unlike their North American
counterparts, who admired the country they were admitted into, in the
River Plate they adhered to a version of the history of their new
country that flocked them together with the "progressive" forces of
the Port in the already triumphant, though hard to win, battle
against the primeval and -ultimately- contemptible forces of the
Inland country.

  In this view, which was soon given a "Marxist" translation, these
forces had to be removed, such as feudalism had been removed in
Europe, to allow capitalism to develop unobstructed.  This remotion
had to be political at the very least, and physical at most, if need
be (as Sarmiento or Mitre, the two heroes of the newly spawned
historiography that the immigrants were so fond of, had been either
preaching or accomplishing). From that moment onwards, the obsession
of the Argentinean Left was to build a "scientific" political
movement against the "creole" political movement... that gathered
most of the oppressed in our country. This basic mistake has never
been criticized by the Left (with the exception of the National
Left), which has brought them to the greatest blunders.

  Was it just a matter of another Eurocentric ideology in the
  colonial world?  Well, as a general rule, it was. But there
  was much more to that, because Latin America and particularly
Argentina and Uruguay do nevertheless belong to what one must loosely
define as the "cultural West", and we share all the traditions of
that West. So that in Montevideo or Buenos Aires the situation was
more complex than, say, in Timbuktu.

  Today, the West has become synonymous with Western imperialism,
NATO interventions, the slaughter of entire peoples and cultures, and
so on. And rightly so, since imperialism is a phenomenon of
decadence, as Lenin explained and is too easily forgotten. Under such
conditions, this is what the bourgeoisies of the West have made of
the "official" West.

  But there is another Western tradition, the great tradition
  of revolutionary struggles that can be traced back, at
  least, to the peasants of Reformation Germany, even to
  the uprisings in the towns of the late Italian Middle Ages
  and to the _Jacqueries_.

  This Western revolutionary tradition links together, as a strong
though sometimes dim red thread, events like the upheavals of the
Castilian communities, the Dutch and English revolutions, the
struggle of the King of Paris against the feudals that eventually
came to an end with the French revolution, the Spanish Wars against
Napoleon, the Spring of the Peoples of 1848, the Chartist movement,
the Paris Commune, the Balkan uprisings and turmoil of the late
  19th. Century, the Russian revolution and even the failures of the
German and Austrian revolutions, the Spanish Revolution and War, the
Soviet resistence against Nazism, the struggle of Tito’s Partizans
and their Greek counterparts, and so on.

  I have, not naively, presented this red thread as a series
  of events centered in Europe proper.  But this is a
  misguiding and partial view, since this Western tradition
  has an “overseas” version that peaks with the American
  Civil War, a veritable Revolution that Marx himself was
  the first to hail.  And if one must include both victories
  _and defeats_, then the thread is directly linked to the
  Latin American own revolutionary tradition.  If Latin
  America is to exist some day (and if it does not come to
  life as a political entity we are doomed to become non-
  entities somehow; San Martín's motto "You will be what
  you have to be or you will be nothing at all" holds
  stronger than ever), it is bound to exist in the only way
  that history has made it possible to us, that is a vast
  arena unified by the common Iberian cultural and
  linguistic heritage.

  Due respect to the sometimes awesome and always
  admirable local Indian cultures, which do certainly have a
  first rank place in the development of a Latin American
  identity, cannot make us lose sight that Latin America is,
  from the point of view of a socialist revolution, a part of
  the West: our revolution is part of the vast revolutionary
  thrust of the West, even against the inescapable hatred
  of those who today want to monopolize the West, that is
  the Greater Europe that Jim Blaut has so capably
  described on this same list.

  It is not a matter of chance that the conservative or counter-
revolutionary trends of thought in Latin America tend to stress the
"indigenous quality" of our realities, either to dismiss socialism as
alien to our own peoples' political and cultural tradition (a
doctrine that anti-Marxist antiimperialists are fond of, and that can
be discovered even in such intelligent types as Darcy Ribeiro) or to
explain the need for dictatorship in the built-in primitivism of the
lower classes of Latin America, doomed by the great "mistake" of the
too promiscuous early Iberians: racial --and cultural-- intermixture.
Thus, the two sides of our own culture, the European and the local
(Indian, so to say), which have been blended in our historical
originality,  are split in two and thought runs along avenues that
take you very far away from what should be the essential political
goal of a revolutionary: to understand the feelings and beliefs of
  her or his more exploited fellow countrymen, and to be
  able to engage in a creative dialogue with them that
  eventually will take all of us to a victorious revolution.

  A caveat:  it is not in my mood to be “politically correct”,
  but I will yield to political correctness here in accepting,
  and with pleasure, that this basic blend requires a lot
  more to be completely described.  There is a strong and
  healthy background of African culture in most of the
  Caribbean and Northern South America, even in areas
  such as Peru and Bolivia, and the contribution that the
  non-Iberian Caribbean peoples have made and will make
  to our own socialist revolution and national constitution is
  far from little (just think of Bolivar learning the ABC of
  revolutionary politics in Haiti!).  But I do nevertheless
  believe that Haya de la Torre was right. Haya -whose
  ideas are a stem of the vast cultural movement that began with the
Argentinian Reforma Universitaria- aptly defined as “Indoamerica”
what we now call Latin America out of bending to tradition.  But the
formulation by the Peruvian petty bourgeois revolutionary is, in my
view, more adequate and less prone to stress the European side of the
thing (America being, in itself, a concept coined -and Christened- in

  But, returning to Argentina, the fact is that here neither the
African nor the Anglo or French heritage were excessively important
at the moment when the first Leftists arrived.  There was an American
Indian substratum, but also in a mixed way. We did not have, not even
in the Northern provinces, strong Indian traditions such as in
Bolivia or Peru.  Nor did the Guarany give us anything the like,
either.  The Guaranys, by the way, had generated the culture of the
Missions by blending the traditions of Catholic Europe with their own
culture.  However, this early -though guided by European priests,
(whose role _also_ included to give to the Indians all the science
and technology of the Europe of their times)- experiment in
Indoamerican originality was crushed, as I have already told, by the
colluding Portuguese and Spanish bandeirantes and encomenderos,
during the 18th. century, then by the Portuguese and the proto-
  oligarchies of Montevideo and Buenos Aires in the early
  19th. century (remember it was a group of Guaranys that
  gave Artigas his last support before cast away into
  Paraguay), and in the Paraguay slaughter (misnamed
  war) of the late 1860s. What could have been the strongest Indian
source of identity in the River Plate was thus condemned to
archeological existence, as a subculture at best.

  So that here in the Southern Cone we had, by the end of
  the 19th. Century, a peculiar, mostly Creole, society, that
  had endured a long civil war about which the immigrants knew
nothing if at all. The results of that civil war, the ways it was put
to an end, the mighty task accomplished by the Generation of the 80s
and the results of that task could not be understood within the
framework of “capitalism” versus “feudalism” nor that of
“Civilization against Barbarism” that the Argentinian oligarchy fed
the immigrants with, and they delightfully ate and drank to the
last morsel and drop. This would take a long, painful and still
unfinished process, of building a truly revolutionary Left that
unites both the tasks of socialism and the duties of the construction
of an unfinished nation in Latin America.

The immigrant Left of the late 19th. Century and early 20th. Century
was almost blind to this, the basic issue in Argentina. And thus
condemned itself to sterility and its children to betrayal of their
own so much cherished goals.

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
"Sí, una sola debe ser la patria de los sudamericanos".
Simón Bolívar al gobierno secesionista y disgregador de
Buenos Aires, 1822
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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