MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: 1951 3rd Congress of the FI

Latin America: Problems and Task

Resolution Adopted by the
Third Congress of the Fourth International—Paris, April 1951

Written: 1951.
First Published: 1951.
Source: Fourth International, Vol.12 No.6, November-December 1951, pp.207-12.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido & David Walters, November, 2005
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line, 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.

I. Character and Structure of the Latin American Countries

A. General Considerations

Almost all the countries of Latin America, with the exception of a limited group (such as Puerto Rico, British Honduras, and Guiana) belong in the category of semi-colonial countries.

The development of these countries, which takes a combined form, varies from country to country, and consequently varies also in the degree of penetration of capitalist relationships of production and in the ratio between native and foreign capital.

In the course of the first imperialist war, the great crisis of 1929-33 and the second imperialist war, which provided a favorable opportunity for the accumulation of capital and the industrialization of these countries, capitalist relationships of production have become dominant in several of them, especially in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile.

At the same time, the ratio between native and foreign capital has changed in these same countries strongly in favor of native capital, but nowhere however, not even in Argentina, has this development attained a point to enable us to conclude that the preponderance of native capital has liberated these countries from their dependence upon imperialism and thus, in this sense, to permit us to characterize them as capitalist countries.

The semi-colonial structure of these countries, even among the most advanced, is expressed in the fact that their economy is still fundamentally turned toward agriculture based upon one crop and raw materials production.

Entangled on a more and more dominant foundation of capitalist relationships of production are the remnants of the most varied modes of production in the most unique combinations: islets of primitive barbarism, peculiarities of Indian communities, modes of slavery, feudal forms of property and cultivation of the soil, and modern forms of capitalist exploitation.

All this varied and combined material foundation has a corresponding superstructure in the modes of life, culture, dress which vary strongly from country to country and often within each country.

B. The Historic Causes of This Structure

This combined and varied structure is the result of the concrete conditions under which capitalist relationships of production penetrated into these countries which were under the domination of feudal, clerical Spain and of Portugal (Brazil) until the beginning of the last century.

The Spanish conquest broke up the primitive economy of Latin America into a series of regional groups into which it introduced strong feudal barriers to the free development of trade and of artisan industry. It thus retarded the formation of a relatively important native bourgeoisie and enabled the landed Creole oligarchies and particularly the imperialists to exploit the native revolts for independence against the Spanish Empire, which marked the 19th century.

It was British imperialism, at the apex of its power in the 19th century, profiting from the antagonisms of the native oligarchy against Spanish absolutism and amongst themselves, which succeeded in penetrating into most of the Latin American countries and in dominating them. It was determined that the outcome of the struggle against Spanish domination would not result in the unification of Latin America but in its Balkanization. These conditions retarded the development of Latin America and facilitated imperialist domination.

In the 20th century and particularly since the First World War, but especially during the recent war, the penetration of Yankee imperialism has gone a step beyond that of British imperialism, which was obliged to cede a series of important positions to the US in this part of the world.

Since then, almost all of the Latin American countries have come within the orbit of American imperialism, which is trying to maintain the Balkanization of Latin America and to retard its industrial development.

However, the process of development of different countries in the imperialist epoch does not follow a uniform course but is rather combined and contradictory. The effect of the two world wars of this century as well as of the economic crisis of 1929-33 on the countries of Latin America has been that of an increased penetration of capitalist relationships of production and even of an enhanced industrialization.

Capital accumulated by the production of these countries themselves, to which has been added the mass of capital which sought refuge in Latin America as well as the needs of an autarchic economy between the periods of war, has speeded up the penetration of capitalist relationships of production in all spheres of economic life and in the industrialization of these countries. The enriched bourgeoisie grew numerically and in influence and in some areas mingled more and more with the landed oligarchy to the point where in some cases the distinction between these two dominant layers no longer has any practical, fundamental significance.

At the same time there developed a numerous, combative and dynamic proletariat, whose growing weight is making itself felt particularly in Argentina and in countries with a mining industry such as Bolivia, Chile, Mexico. However, because of the still inadequate capitalist development of these countries, even the most advanced of them, the peasantry and the urban petty bourgeoisie (small traders, artisans, and intelligentsia) constitute the social mass which predominates numerically and which plays a first-line role in the political life of these countries.

C. The Character and Tasks of the Revolution in Latin America

The historic character of the revolution to be accomplished in the Latin American countries as well as the combined character of the tasks of this revolution flow from the character and the structure of the semi-colonial countries of Latin America.

No part of the bourgeois democratic phase has been completed, and the bourgeois democratic tasks , notably anti-imperialist liberation and agrarian reform , still remain to be resolved to one degree or another for all of the Latin American countries.

On the other hand, certain aspects of the national question, some of the artificial boundary lines between countries, as well as the self-determination of various ethnic groupings can only find a solution within the framework of a Latin American Federation .

The native bourgeoisie in the imperialist epoch is incapable of completing the bourgeois democratic phase of the revolution as has been demonstrated by everything that has happened in this century not only in Latin America but on a world scale and especially in the other colonial and semi-colonial countries of the world.

Only the proletarian revolution under the regime of the dictatorship of the proletariat will complete this phase and will link it organically to the socialist epoch proper and to the solution of strictly socialist tasks.

The material base for the beginning of this second phase is actually very limited in most of the Latin American countries. But this should not stand in the way of the struggle of the proletariat at the head of all the other exploited masses of these countries and should not prevent its revolutionary party from beginning and from leading the struggle in each of these countries separately.

In each country the struggle should tend toward the seizure of power by the proletariat of each country and toward beginning the solution of the combined tasks of the revolution on a national scale.

The completion of these tasks can naturally only be envisaged within the framework of the Federation of Socialist Republics of Latin America.

The economic unity of Latin America is necessary for the achievement of this objective but this unity will only be achieved through the struggle and the victory of the proletariat in each country separately and then by the voluntary federation of the countries of Latin America which will respect the peculiarities of ethnical development of each country and of each people.

The perspective of the Federation of Socialist Republics of Latin America should not become a kind of paralysis for the struggle for power in each country and particularly in the big Latin American countries (Brazil, Mexico, Argentina) nor must it appear as a sacrifice of distinct national and democratic aspirations to the need of economic centralization. This perspective must illuminate the road to be traveled, must serve to coordinate to the maximum the struggle of the masses in the different countries and must educate them in this sense. These considerations do not in any way diminish the primary importance of the slogan of the Federation of Socialist Republics of Latin America.

D. The Class Struggle and the Motive Forces of the Revolution in Latin America

The class structures, the importance of their strata, their reciprocal relationships, and their dynamics vary considerably from country to country in Latin America.

Within the dominant class of most of the Latin American countries there is a strong stratum of large landed proprietors alongside of more or less important groupings of a commercial and industrial bourgeoisie.

There is no clear separation or rigid division between these strata but rather an interpenetration which is becoming more marked in the most advanced countries.

On the other hand the relationships of these sections with imperialism vary and depend especially on the importance of the industrial bourgeoisie.

It is especially this stratum, in countries where conditions have favored it by a particularly important development, such as in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, which nurtures notions of independence from complete imperialist domination and even projects a certain resistance to imperialism.

On the contrary, in countries where this stratum is almost non-existent, the dominant but impotent native strata play a still more direct and completely comprador role in the service of imperialism.

In countries like Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Guatemala the anti-imperialist struggle of the masses expresses itself through a movement which is especially swelled by the peasant masses and the urban petty bourgeoisie and is led by the spokesmen and the parties of the urban radical petty bourgeoisie and "intelligentsia."

In countries where the bourgeoisie has already experienced an important development and where, under the supplementary pressure of the masses, it (Cardenas, Peron) has been led in its own interests to resist imperialism or where it (Vargas) has tried to give the masses the impression that it wants to resist imperialism, the masses, peasant, urban petty bourgeois as well as proletarian, have given their support.

This support is in effect necessary for the bourgeoisie if it is to project a resistance to imperialism and this explains its concern in basing itself on the masses, even on the proletarian masses and their class organizations, the trade unions.

But on the other hand, because of its very limited national base and because of its inherent inability to give real satisfaction to the multiple economic, democratic, national, cultural, anti-imperialist demands of the doubly exploited masses of its own country, the bourgeoisie is obliged to lace the masses as tightly as possible in the straitjacket of a powerful militaro-police and bureaucratic apparatus.

This disproportionately strong apparatus in all of the Latin American countries has often the tendency to play an autonomous role and to place itself at the service (depending on the relationship of forces which exists between the classes within each country, between the strata of the ruling class itself, and between the internal forces and imperialism) either of one dominant stratum against the others and against imperialism or of imperialism allied to this or that native stratum, or even allied to the entire dominant class against the masses.

Hence the various forms of Bonapartist power in the Latin American countries and the preponderant role of the army and of pronunciamientos. The experience of attempted bourgeois resistance (Cardenas, Peron), supported by the masses, as well as the kind of resistance seen in the radical petty-bourgeois anti-imperialist movements of Betancourt in Venezuela, of the APRA in Peru, of Grau San Martin in Cuba, of Villarroel and of the MNR in Bolivia demonstrate that neither the bourgeoisie nor the petty bourgeoisie are capable of achieving the bourgeois democratic revolution.

This role falls upon the young Latin American proletariat and on a revolutionary Marxist party whose program adequately combines the economic, democratic national, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist demands of the peasant masses, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the peoples of the native communities; it alone will succeed in uniting all these masses in the struggle against imperialism and the bourgeoisie, for the proletarian revolution in each country, for proletarian power in each country, and for the voluntary Federation of Socialist Republics of Latin America.

In the course of such a struggle the proletariat and its party may see the need of concluding temporary alliances with this or that anti-imperialist movement of the petty bourgeoisie for concrete and limited ends of common action —and sometimes may even be obliged to do so —provided it safeguards its independent class character, its program and its distinct organizations. Some form of support to the bourgeoisie of these countries can only be granted, in conditions which are becoming more and more exceptional, when this class is obliged to project a real resistance to imperialism and to its eventual attacks.

A new stage of the class struggle of the masses of Latin America, which will obliterate the present impotence and defeats, will only be opened by the independent political organization of the proletariat taking the role of leadership through its revolutionary party in all the mobilizations and struggles of the masses.

II. The Present Situation in Latin America and the Tasks of the Revolutionary Proletariat

The upswing experienced by Latin American countries during the last war as suppliers of raw materials and agricultural products to “democratic” imperialism began to come to an end with the end of the war and the reconversion of world economy into a peacetime economy.

However, because of the continued shortage of raw materials and especially of agricultural products, particularly in Europe, the prosperity of the Latin American countries did not suddenly come to an end in 1944 but was extended due to the demand and to the higher prices which these products continued to command.

It was beginning especially with this date that the re-establishment of agricultural production in other countries to pre-war levels reversed this tendency in Latin America and threw the shadow of crisis over them.

The price of native products began to fall on foreign markets at the very moment that the price of imported industrial products continued to rise. Inflation began to sweep over the Latin American countries, trade balances became very unfavorable and in the offing was a real crisis, aggravated among other things by the situation of one-crop agriculture.

However, before this tendency could come to a head, it was again overturned after the Korean War in 1950 and the new reconversion of capitalist economy into armaments economies.

The metropolitan imperialist countries and above all the United States began their frenzied chase for raw materials for the purpose of stockpiling and controlling their use and distribution; leading to a new rise of the prices of raw materials from which all the producing countries and naturally the countries of Latin America benefited.

But far from benefiting all sections of society in these countries, this upswing, accompanied by a parallel accentuation of inflation, resulted in steady deterioration of the living conditions of the peasant and urban petty-bourgeois masses and the working masses of these countries at the very time when fabulous fortunes were being amassed by the large producers, exporters, and native industrialists. Hence there has been an aggravation of the class struggle in all these countries which expresses itself both in the resistance of the masses and in the offensives of the dominant reactionary strata, especially of those who serve Yankee imperialism in order to control and exploit these countries.

At the end of the war the radicalized masses of Latin America were mobilized in a series of movements which, despite petty-bourgeois and sometimes even bourgeois leadership, expressed their anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist aspirations. The power of these movements smashed a series of dictatorial regimes and achieved important conquests on the economic plane as well as on that of democratic rights.

But the dominant reactionary strata, often propped up by Yankee imperialism and benefiting from the weakness of the petty-bourgeois leadership of the masses, from the impotence and the opportunism of Stalinism and from the absence of a genuine proletarian party, quickly regained the offensive and, between 1947 and l950, militaro-police dictatorial regimes were reestablished almost everywhere in these countries.

However the resistance of the masses did not cease for long. On the contrary, stimulated by the international crisis of imperialism, by the victories of the revolutionary anti-imperialist movement in Asia, and by the general inflationary process in all Latin America it again revived in several of these countries taking diverse forms: the recent great strikes in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay; civil war in Bolivia and Colombia; elections in Brazil and Bolivia construed by the masses as anti-imperialist and democratic victories; opposition to all political aid, to the sending of troops, etc. demanded by imperialism for its reactionary, colonial, anti-revolutionary war in Korea.

This resistance will tend to mount in the present period which is dominated by the accelerated preparations of imperialism for war.

The Latin American countries are facing growing difficulties which neither imperialism nor the native possessing strata will be able to remedy. On the contrary.

Yankee imperialism which practically dominates these countries, with the exception of Argentina which still resists its grip, is trying, as in the past, to monopolize all their production for itself, to dictate the most advantageous prices, i.e., the lowest prices and to make them conform to its needs.

This means that US imperialism will deliberately sacrifice all industrial development of these countries as well as a more harmonious, most balanced development of their economy and will maintain their dependence upon it in financial means and industrial products.

This tendency of Yankee imperialism —each time it manifests itself and becomes more insistent, as has already been the case in all international and Pan-American conferences and institutions which have been held since the end of the war and especially since the Korean war —gives rise to the resistance of the national bourgeoisies, particularly the strongest of them (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico), who demand a larger share in the exploitation of their countries and who hope to create a broader basis of independence and industrial development.

But these bourgeoisies, on the other hand, are incapable in the present international conjuncture of halting the current inflation and of accumulating otherwise than by a super-exploitation of the native masses.

Hence flows the perspective of a continued deterioration of the standard of living of the masses who, as in the rest of the capitalist world, have to suffer the disastrous effects of the preparations for the new war, along with what this means especially for countries with a semi-colonial structure.

Hence also flows the perspective of an increased resistance of the Latin American masses, whose forms and scope will depend on the class character of their leadership in the future: petty-bourgeois or proletarian revolutionary Marxist.

III. General and Specific Tasks of the Revolutionary Marxist Proletarian Movement in Latin America

A. General Tasks

The question of the formation of genuine Marxist revolutionary proletarian parties is the key question for the future victorious development of the class struggle in Latin America.

Only the present nuclei composed of elements who adopt the discipline of the Fourth International are capable of promoting such parties in Latin America.

The Social Democracy, in general non-existent or very weak in these countries, has no chance of any further development, its road being blocked by its own reformist program, by its cowardice and attachment to decaying imperialism and consequently by its organic incapacity to satisfy the profound anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist aspirations of the Latin American masses.

On the other hand, Stalinism (also non-existent or weak in the Latin American countries), the expression on the international field of the strict interests of the Soviet bureaucracy, which does not dream of the overthrow of imperialism and of capitalism on a world scale by a revolutionary mobilization of the masses, but of a compromise with imperialism and of peaceful coexistence with it, has no longer any chance for an important development in these countries.

Far from aiming at a constant and consistent development of the autonomous and independent class movement of the proletariat, Stalinism as in the past will speculate on the possibility of alliances with the Latin American petty bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie, which may temporarily be in opposition (and even there in a very limited fashion) to Yankee imperialism and it will be ready to sacrifice proletarian leadership in favor of any other broader, more "popular" leadership.

Only a prolonged absence of genuine revolutionary Marxist proletarian parties can favor a certain development of Stalinism in these countries, the living conditions of the masses under the present regime irresistibly impelling them to polarize around the party which appears to them most left.

However, in order for the present nuclei of the Fourth International in these Latin American countries to fulfill this role they should begin to conduct themselves in the sphere of program as well as in that of action, in the multiple mobilizations of the masses, as real embryos of the mass proletarian parties of tomorrow.

This means that their program, free from all sectarianism and all dogmatism, should take into consideration the real aspirations of the different exploited layers of the Latin American masses, workers as well as peasants, urban petty bourgeois as well as the peoples of the indigenous national communities.

Only insofar as the proletariat and its revolutionary party proves able to express the aspirations and demands of all the other oppressed and exploited classes in its program and of demonstrating in action that they are the best and only real defender of these masses, will it succeed in becoming the genuine revolutionary leadership of these masses and definitively eliminate all other petty-bourgeois or bourgeois parties from this leadership.

The program of the proletarian party should combine anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, democratic and national slogans, and, depending on the country and the time, take into consideration the importance to be given to this or that problem: anti-imperialist, agrarian, democratic, national.

This broad conception in the program should manifest itself practically by participation and activity, free from all sectarianism, in all mass movements and all organizations which express, even in an indirect and confused fashion, the aspirations of the masses, which may, for example, take the channel of the Peronist trade unions or the Bolivian MNR movement, or the APRA in Peru, the “laborite” movement of Vargas, or Democratic Action in Venezuela.

To succeed in the elaboration of such a program and in this type of participation and activity in the ranks of the real movement of the masses as it now expresses itself in Latin America, our forces must proceed everywhere in the following concrete manner:

In each country they should define their principal sector of work, the forms in which the question of the united anti-imperialist or anti-capitalist front will eventually be posed, trade union tactics, and the transitory forms in which the question of power will eventually be posed.

On the other hand, special attention should be given in most if not in all of the Latin American countries to the agrarian question, to the system of property and exploitation of the land, to the various strata of the peasantry, to their special demands and above all to the organization of the demands of the numerous agricultural proletariat and of the masses of the free or semi-serf poor peasantry.

Generally speaking, the principal political task now of all our sections and organizations in Latin America is to impel, to organize and if possible to lead the struggle of the masses against the preparations of imperialism for war and against the support of this policy by the native possessing strata.

B. Specific Tasks

In Argentina, the militants who adhere to the Fourth International, grouped in the official section which the Third World Congress has just recognized, will seek to still further develop their roots in the rapidly maturing working class of the country and especially to create a class tendency among the organized workers in the trade unions influenced by Peronism for the purpose of isolating this reactionary government of the industrial bourgeoisie, which is resisting the grip of imperialism, from its principal support in the masses.

They will propose a proletarian united front of all trade union militants on the basis of a concrete program of economic demands, which is capable of mobilizing the masses against the high cost of living. It is by means of such a mobilization that the question of the democratization of the trade unions, dominated by the Peronist bureaucracy, can be posed with effectiveness and can pass from the stage of propaganda to that of agitation without becoming a brake upon the preparations for struggle. This is possible in effect only by beginning with the most immediate and the most intimate preoccupations of the masses, a great majority of whom still remain influenced by Peronism.

On the question of political power, our section will develop its propaganda for the slogan of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.

In Bolivia, our past inadequacy in distinguishing ourselves from the political tendencies in the country which exploit the mass movement, sometimes the lack of clarity in our objectives and in our tactics, the loose organizational structure as well as the absence of patient, systematic work in working class circles has caused a certain decline of our influence and an organizational crisis. However, possibilities exist that our section, basing itself on powerful revolutionary traditions, can develop as the genuine revolutionary leadership of the masses in this country. Our reorganized and reoriented forces will have to remedy all the above faults without however slipping into sectarianism or isolating themselves from the masses and their movements which are often ideologically confused and led by the petty bourgeois (MNR).

Our section should concentrate its work especially in working class circles and organizations, particularly that of the miners.

On the other hand it will attempt to influence the left wing of the MNR which is based precisely on these circles.

They will propose a tactic of anti-imperialist united front to the MNR on precise occasions and on a concrete program, which revives in essence and still further concretizes the demands contained in the Pulacayo program of 1946. [For an online Spanish version of the Pulacayo Theses see: http://www.pt.org.uy/textos/temas/pulacayo.htm]

These united front proposals to the MNR will have a progressive effect when advanced at propitious moments for the effective mobilization of the masses and are aimed precisely at achieving such a mobilization.

On the other hand, in the event of the mobilization of the masses under the preponderant impulsion or influence of the MNR, our section should support the movement with all its strength, should not abstain but on the contrary intervene energetically in it with the aim of pushing it as far as possible up to the seizure of power by the MNR on the basis of a progressive program of anti-imperialist united front.

On the contrary, if in the course of these mass mobilizations, our section proves to be in a position to share influence over the revolutionary masses with the MNR, it will advance the slogan of a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government of the two parties on the basis, however, of the same program, a government based on committees of workers, peasants and revolutionary elements of the urban petty bourgeoisie.

In Chile, our section, which should seriously reform its methods of work in organizations —especially in its leadership —will above all be active in the trade unions influenced by the Communist Party, and especially in the decisive sectors of the Chilean proletariat (mines, transportation, and textile). It will accord special attention to the workers influenced by the CP. It will try to promote a national trade union tendency which will struggle for the unification of the divided trade union movement into a united federation and united unions and will demand that the Stalinist CGT in particular take the initiative for such a step by means of a unification congress.

On the other hand, it will give special attention to the movement of the socialist youth as well as to the trade union cadres eliminated by the CP. It will proclaim the necessity of a united front of all working class, political and trade union organizations to struggle effectively against the policy of the reactionary Gonzales government, against the high cost of living and for democratic rights. It will develop its propaganda for the slogan of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government which will eventually be concretized in this country as a government of parties claiming to represent the working class, notably the Communist Party and the Popular Socialist Party.

In Uruguay, our section will broaden its activity among the organized workers and especially among the workers currently organized by the Stalinists or by the pro-imperialists reformists. It will promote a national trade union tendency calling for the unification of the trade union movement into one federation by means of a democratic convention. It will grant special attention to the cadres and militants who are breaking with Stalinism, as well as to left elements in the SP. It will carry on a campaign for the creation of a mass revolutionary workers’ party, which, on the basis of a revolutionary Marxist program, will unite all the presently unorganized elements of the proletarian vanguard of the country, ex-Stalinists or ex-reformists. It will carry on propaganda for the slogan of a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.

In Brazil, our reorganized section (which should be aided by the International) should concentrate its attention especially on trade union work by taking advantage of the impulse now being given to trade union organizations of the workers by the “laborite” movement of Vargas. The agricultural proletariat, numerous, unorganized and doubly exploited on the plantations, will especially occupy its attention.

It should fully utilize all the real opportunities which exist for open and legal activities, especially in the field of publication. On the other hand, it will give its attention to the masses influenced by the CP even though this influence has now undergone a decline.

In Peru, our reorganized section should study its tactics toward the APRA within the framework of very similar considerations to those related to our tactics toward the MNR in Bolivia with the aim of influencing its most radical and anti-imperialist wing, and it should be ready to impel the mass movement as far as possible against the Odria dictatorship, a movement which will very probably move in the channel of this party (APRA) on the first occasion. It should extend and consolidate its points of support in the essential working class circles of the country, particularly among the mining proletariat.

In Mexico, our reorganized section should try to capitalize on the widespread influence which Trotskyism has always had over important sections of the proletariat, the peasantry and the “intelligentsia.” It should concentrate its main activity in the trade unions, and promote a tendency for the unification of the trade union movement. It should further interest itself in the demands and in the movement of the poor peasants of the country, which is characterized by the revolutionary tradition of their past struggles, with the aim of linking these masses to the perspective of the socialist revolution and to the revolutionary Marxist workers’ party. It should carry on propaganda for a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.

In Cuba, our reorganized and reoriented section should resume consistent and sustained activities in the working class circles of the island, in the cities and the plantations, and give special attention to the workers influenced by Stalinism. It should become a real revolutionary Marxist proletarian tendency which will manifest itself as such, especially by the clarity of its program, free from the centrist confusions and deviations of the past, as well as by its real activity in the working class.


Last updated on 13 April 2009