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Luis Velasco

A Latin American Manifesto

The Path of the Colonial Revolution

(September 1947)

From The New International, Vol. XIII No. 7, September 1947, pp. 211–215.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following article,written by our Latin-American correspondent, analyzes the Manifesto of the Peruvian Section of the Fourth International. This Manifesto is one of the first important studies of the nature of socialist revolution in semi-colonial Latin America. It appeared in English in the April issue of the Fourth International and for that reason we do not reprint it here. The article of Velasco, while indicating the false position of the Manifesto on Russia and Stalinism, nevertheless indicates its importance as a noteworthy Trotskyist document.Editors


The development of the workers’ movement in America is daily acquiring more and more importance. Faced with Europe in its death throes, both North and South America are becoming the continents of the future for socialism. The phenomenal development of North American capitalism and imperialism constitutes the prime event of our time. The formidable growth of the American workers’ movement, still trade unionist in its first stage, follows it like a shadow.

But North American trade unions, which have more than 20 million members, (USA, Canada and Mexico) are something without precedent in the history of the international working class movement. Even in the backward and semi-colonial Latin American countries, the workers’ movement is acquiring day by day more importance and historic weight. The development of industry in Brazil and Argentina is awakening the consciousness of the Latin American continent, pushing forward “the slow nag of history.” The Latin American working class, which until now was almost nil as an independent factor, appears in the arena as a young and aggressive force, sometimes emerging under the yoke of Stalinism, but in many countries with the real banner of revolutionary Marxism.

While in Europe the old-time formations, anachronistic social democratic reformers and Stalinists, still dominate and the regenerating currents grouped around the Fourth International are reduced to an insignificant minority, in Latin America, the new internationalist Left, followed by sympathizing trends inside the Brazilian and Argentine Social Democracy, are becoming an independent and sometimes important political factor. It is characteristic that precisely in the most backward countries of the Pacific coast, Chile, Bolivia and Peru, the movement led by the Fourth International is growing relatively faster and acquiring better theoretical preparation than in the advanced countries on the Atlantic seaboard, Argentina and Brazil. The weak and rickety native bourgeoisie on the Pacific coast is not capable of exerting so much influence or ideological pressure on the proletariat as is the dynamic and vigorous bourgeoisie of Brazil and Argentina. The social and political weight of the working classes in the Pacific countries is relatively much greater than in Brazil or Argentina. For this reason the two capitalistic republics produce the totalitarian dictatorships of Vargas and Peron, which confront the tempestuous awakening of the working masses, absorbing and channelizing it, sometimes with a policy of social reforms and fascistic demagogy.

In the Pacific countries, the Chilean, Peruvian, Bolivian or Paraguayan bourgeoisie is not capable of forming such “solid” regimes and has to alternately allow democratic, petty bourgeois government and short-lived military and Bonapartist dictatorships, with bloodthirsty methods, such as the regime of Villaroel in Bolivia, Morinigo in Paraguay and the Apra in Peru. Chile, occupying an intermediate position in this mosaic, has managed to form a coalition “leftist” government with the support of the Stalinists. The pattern of Latin American regimes is the boiling lava of the economic and social transformations of our continent and at the same time it is the proof of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal character of Latin America. The rapid and almost daily changes in these regimes characterize the impotence and weakness of the native bourgeoisie faced with social transformations and the emancipation movements of the working masses.

Peruvians Show the Way

It is therefore of prime importance when the Marxist doctrine, raising its sonorous voice in this noisy and living whirlwind of history, tries to give historic direction to this burning and as yet formless lava. It is a voice, a living expression of the rhythmic march of the South American industrial proletariat which is trying, still instinctively, and sometimes unconsciously, to give organized forms to this spontaneous historic process. This honorable and important role is undoubtedly being filled by the manifesto of the Peruvian Trotskyists, published in the Fourth International (April 1947).

In our former articles we have frequently analyzed the problem of the democratic revolution in Bolivia, Peru and the Argentine. The Marxist theory in South America is seeking its historic path, like the working masses, through the chaotic jungle of history. Some sectors of the Argentine Trotskyists feel overwhelmed and defenseless, faced with the phenomenon of industrial development in Argentina and the swashbuckling despotism of Peron. These sectors bow to the pressure of Peronism, proclaiming it the realization of the democratic bourgeois revolution, not only in Argentina, but in the whole of Latin America.

The Bolivian miners, in their congress at Pulacayo, proclaimed a formidable revolutionary thesis in which they showed the democratic bourgeois revolution as the proletariat’s immediate task. Both the miners’ congress and the thesis were under the auspices of the Revolutionary Workers Party (POR), a section of the Fourth International. To do them justice, one should explain that the contents of the democratic bourgeois revolution of the Bolivian POR is fundamentally different from the Stalinist contents of the same, and considers that the revolution can only be carried out under the dictatorship of the proletariat, through the alliance of the proletariat with the peasants, whereas the Stalinists propose alliance between the “progressist” liberal bourgeoisie and the proletariat. But the POR’s thesis does not underline the international character of this revolution, but treats it as an isolated phenomenon, thus slipping toward the concept of revolution and socialism in just one country. For this reason the voice of our Peruvian comrades is of fundamental importance in clearing up and solving this central problem of Marxism in South America.

How the Problem Is Posed

How do the Peruvian comrades pose this problem?

“The Latin American revolution will be a stage, a phase of the world revolution, and nothing else. It will be purely and simply the socialist revolution” (Mariategui) This classic thesis of the quoted master is the central idea, the axis of the manifesto. Like all great things, Mariategui’s thesis has the simplicity of genius and leaves no room for any doubts.

“The international character of modern economy permits no country to escape from the process of transformation which originates in the present-day conditions of production ... Imperialism bars the economic program of nationalization and industrialization in every semi-colonial country which it exploits as a market for its capital and commodities, and as a source of raw materials.”

“We cannot solve democratic revolution within the national or international framework of bourgeois society .... We are a semi-colony of Yankee imperialism.... The Peruvian bourgeoisie is closely bound to North American imperialism ... The fate of our weak-jointed national bourgeoisie is intimately bound up with the fate of the entire world capitalist system ... The real big bourgeoisie is not in Peru but in Wall Street, this fierce enemy of democratic and national revolution.” (Manifesto)

We have not much to add to these lapidarian phrases. In the Pacific coast countries the exploitation of guano and salitre in Chile and Peru, of tin in Bolivia, has been the work of European imperialist capitalism and has replaced the colonial feudal formation of Spanish economy. The age of gold and silver has been replaced by the age of guano, salitre, tin, copper and lead! This was the stage of liberal capitalism when Great Britain penetrated the countries of Latin America. In the imperialist stage of capitalism between the First and Second World Wars, British capitalism was displaced by North American expansion and forced to take second place. The whole of Latin America, especially the small. countries, has reached a state of being semi-colonies of the USA. North American capital today occupies all the key economic positions. The slight mining bourgeoisie of Peru, Bolivia or Chile is bound up with North American capital. The middle bourgeoisie depends partly on mining interests and partly on the semi-feudal economy of the land, where the big haciendas are still run on a feudal-slave system. “Peruvian plutocracy is really subordinate to Wall Street finance capital.” Therefore, all the Peruvian bourgeoisie belongs in the counter-revolutionary camp.

Petty Bourgeois Nationalism

The petty bourgeoisie which, around 1920, raised the anti-imperialist banner, passed over with its most representative party, the Apra, and its leader, Haya de la Torre, by an evolution toward frank reaction. Apra, which was demanding Indo-American unity, the internationalization of the Panama Canal, nationalization of big industries and feudal haciendas, and was fighting against imperialism, forgot its own program on taking power and capitulated both before Yankee imperialism and native plutocracy. “The petty bourgeois anti-imperialists of the 20’s have been transformed into the bourgeois pro-imperialists of the 40’s.” (Manifesto)

The democratic revolution is the task of the proletarian revolution is the title of the corresponding chapter in the Manifesto. “The country’s economic emancipation can be achieved only through the action of the proletarian masses in solidarity with the world anti-imperialist struggle.” (Mariategui) In view of the close ties between native feudo-bourgeoisie and imperialism, and the capitulation of the petty bourgeoisie, only the proletariat, allied with the peasants, can carry out a social revolution in Peru, the fundamental contents of which would be socialist and proletarian, although in its first stages it would accomplish the tasks of the democratic revolution, such as the economic and national emancipation of Peru and the agricultural revolution in the country. The Peruvian comrades pose the problem of the democratic revolution in a completely opposite form from certain sectors of Argentine Trotskyism, which consider the reactionary policy of Peron as the realization of the belated democratic revolution in Latin America. The Peruvians, like Mariategui, layout the perspective of the internationalist socialist revolution, which will solve the backward democratic problems on its way. The motor force of this revolution is the Latin American proletariat and not the bourgeoisie or the petty bourgeoisie. This viewpoint is also different from the Bolivian POR’s formulation and from that of the miners’ congress in Pl1lacayo, which considered as their immediate stage the realization of the democratic bourgeois revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, forgetting the international and permanent character of the revolution. The Peruvians, disciples of the great Mariategui, declare plainly that “in the course of its development the democratic revolution passes into the socialist revolution and thus constitutes itself the permanent revolution.” (Trotsky) They also declare that “the socialist revolution is international. or else is not socialist at all.” Therefore the national and economic emancipation of Latin America can only be carried out along the path of the international socialist revolution, beginning with the defeat of North American imperialism, which today is the fortress of world capitalism.

Role of the Manifesto

The Peruvian Trotskyist Manifesto means, to our way of thinking, an event in the life of the Latin American proletariat, being a chain in the social and political process of our continent. Under the pressure of the masses, Vargas’ regime falls in Brazil, a “leftist” government is set up in Chile, Benavides’ military dictatorship falls in Peru, and the Apra comes to power, Villaroel’s regime falls in Bolivia, Morinigo’s dictatorship becomes shaky in Paraguay.

The fall of Villaroel’s regime in the popular revolution produces a revolutionary upsurge of the working masses, led by the Fourth International. Of course, this movement is fairly complex, it has many weaknesses and lacks theoretical quality. The decadence of Apra’s dictatorship in Peru produces the birth of the GOM (Marxist Workers’ Group) in the face of Stalinist treachery. If this group lacks influence over the masses, it nevertheless represents the outstanding school of Marxist theory in South America, led by Mariategui. It stands at the head of the Trotskyist movement in matters of theory and makes plain the tasks of the revolution, which have been wrongly posed in Argentina and have become foggy in the section of the Fourth International in Bolivia. The Fourth International movements in Peru and Bolivia complement each other reciprocally, being links of the same revolutionary chain which sets its seal on the tortuous historical process.

In Brazil, the powerful and dynamic bourgeoisie transmitted its pressure upon the proletariat by means of the Stalinists, who in the wartime interests of Moscow hailed Vargas as the source of the democratic revolution. This same pattern repeats itself today in Argentina where the Stalinists support Peron as an anti-imperialist. In the Cordillera countries, which centuries ago were the center of the collectivist empire of the Incas, the petty bourgeoisie embraces a Nazi ideology, like the NMR in Bolivia, or a nationalist one like the Apra in Peru, demagogically hailing the “national revolution” and the “anti-imperialist program.” But on arriving in power, these movements failed since they capitulated before the native feudo-bourgeoisie and American imperialism. The Bolivian NMR lasted only a few years. The Peruvian Apra struggled for nearly a quarter of a century to take power. But neither of these two movements was able to expropriate the bourgeoisie, carry out agricultural reform or maintain the struggle against imperialism. The failure, the Canossa of the native petty bourgeoisie faced with imperialism, constitutes the best proof against the Stalinist “theory” of the bourgeois revolution as a stage in itself and against the reflections of this theory in the Marxist camp, the Fourth International. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The social revolution in Latin America must be one, it must be continental and international, a socialist revolution which carries out the democratic tasks as part of the chain of revolution in both Americas. The Peruvian Trotskyists, in making this clear, did an important theoretical labor.

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