Download printable pdf file | Thesis Contents | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Appendices 

Dissident Cuban Communism
The Case of Trotskyism, 1932-1965
[This page copied with perimission from]


The International And National Context

Chapter Two

Trotskyism and Official Communism in Latin America, 1919-1965

This chapter outlines the origins and theoretical development of Trotskyism up until 1965, with particular reference to Trotsky’s and Trotskyists’ understanding of the strategy revolutionaries should adopt in the struggle for power in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. I argue that although Trotsky took the Comintern to task from the mid-1920s over the issue of the necessary proletarian nature of the anti-imperialist revolution and the need for the working class to maintain its political independence in the countries with a belated bourgeois development, the Latin American Trotskyist groups generally diluted this formula and made a series of concessions to the strategy of official communism. While in the 1930s and 40s these concessions led to the development of what can be termed distinct ‘national liberation’ and ‘proletarian’ tendencies within Latin American Trotskyism, I argue that by the 1950s and 60s the concessions had developed to the extent that international Trotskyism was generally advocating a strategy which more explicitly incorporated the basic features of the so-called Second and Third Period policies of the Comintern. Developing this argument provides the international context in terms of the principal theoretical issues and chronological markers for the subsequent discussion of the development of Trotskyism in Cuba.

This chapter begins with an elaboration of Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution and an analysis of how this shaped his approach to the struggle for socialism. After contrasting Trotsky’s strategy for revolution with that of the changing policy of the Comintern from the mid-1920s, I review Trotsky’s specific views on the problem of revolution in Latin America. A final section traces the organisational development of Trotskyism in Latin America and outlines the strategies which the Latin American Trotskyists broadly advocated up to 1965.

2.1 The Theory of Permanent Revolution and the Origins of Trotskyism

This section sets out the defining tenets of Trotsky’s thought as embodied in the theory of Permanent Revolution and charts the principal theoretical disputes between official communism and the dissident Trotskyist movement in the 1920s and 30s. I also outline the development of a distinct international Trotskyist organisation culminating in the founding of the Fourth International in 1938 as a response to the official communists’ abandonment of the theory and strategy which underpinned the Russian October Revolution.

Trotsky’s understanding of the nature of the revolution in colonial and semi-colonial countries and, consequently, his conception of the correct strategy and tactics to be applied is derived from his theory of Permanent Revolution. This theory, elaborated by Trotsky in 1905, rests on three inter-connected propositions.(1) First, that despite the relative historical backwardness of Russia at the time, a proletarian revolution may take place sooner there than in any advanced country. Second, that this proletarian revolution does not follow on after the completion of a bourgeois democratic revolution. Trotsky instead argued that democracy and national emancipation can only be attained in a country with a belated bourgeois development via a struggle in which the working class, in alliance with the peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie, makes deep inroads into the rights of bourgeois property.(2) For Trotsky, no separate or complete bourgeois democratic stage was considered possible. As John Lister described, the democratic and socialist revolutions needed “to be interlinked and combined if either was to succeed.”(3) The revolution, therefore, could only be realised through an irreconcilable struggle against the influence of the national bourgeoisie and would either be proletarian in character or would be defeated. It can be said to be ‘permanent’ in the sense that it “makes no compromise with any single form of class rule, which does not stop at the democratic stage, which goes over to socialist measures and to war against reaction from without; that is, a revolution whose every successive stage is rooted in the preceding one and which can end only in the complete liquidation of class society.”(4) The third essential aspect of the theory of Permanent Revolution is the necessary international character of the revolution and the insistence that socialism can only be constructed on an international scale.

Underlying these three propositions was Trotsky’s argument that however uneven the development across and within countries, all supposedly national units were subordinated to the world economy in the epoch of imperialism.(5) He argued that historically backward countries combined modern and archaic features in all spheres of life, and that compelled to adopt some of the latest methods of organisation and technique, backward countries leapt over intermediate stages of development rather than repeat the stages which the first capitalist countries had passed through.(6) This produced what Trotsky described as the law of combined development, the “drawing together of the different stages of the journey, a combining of separate steps, an amalgam of archaic with more contemporary forms".(7) Isaac Deutscher presented an illuminating synthesis of Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution and the universality of the laws which underpinned it when he wrote:

Trotsky’s theory is in truth a profound and comprehensive conception in which all overturns that the world has been undergoing (in this late capitalist era) are represented as interconnected and interdependent parts of a single revolutionary process. To put it in its broadest terms, the social upheaval of our century is seen by Trotsky as global in scope and character, even though it proceeds on various levels of civilization and in the most diverse social structures, and even though its various phases are separated from one another in time and space.”(8)

The theory of Permanent Revolution had deep roots in Marxist thought prior to Trotsky’s elaboration. Karl Marx’s analysis of the relationship between bourgeois democratic revolutions and the working class movement during the 1848 revolutionary wave in Europe embodied the three fundamental themes of Permanent Revolution.(9) That is, he stressed 1) the uninterrupted development of the working class-led revolution, 2) the struggle for openly socialist measures, and 3) the revolution’s necessary international character.(10) Lenin also highlighted the basic ideas of the theory of Permanent Revolution in the Russian context with the publication of his The April Theses. In re-appraising the road to power, Lenin insisted on the necessity of the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat as opposed to the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.(11)

The course which the Russian Revolution subsequently followed demonstrated the practical relevance of the theory of Permanent Revolution. That is, the immediate bourgeois democratic tasks were only achieved through an anti-capitalist struggle led by the working class. Similarly, the Bolsheviks resolutely defended the political independence of the working class while seeking to form a practical alliance with the poor peasantry on the basis of a struggle against the landlords and capitalists.(12) However, the theory as a complete entity was not immediately taken up within the Comintern to explicitly underpin a strategy for revolution on an international scale. While its basic themes registered in the thought of various Bolshevik leaders,(13) the theory as a well-defined guide to revolutionary action became rather obscured in the immediate debate over securing breathing space for the new Soviet Republic and the struggle for revolution in Europe.(14)

The Comintern’s first attempt to interpret the situation in the colonial world at its Second Congress in 1920 produced a conflict over the tactics communist parties, committed to both national liberation and socialism, should adopt with regard to the bourgeois democratic national movement whose commitment to any social demands was rather more limited. While the Comintern’s discussions resulted in the explicit rejection of any possible merger of communist forces with those of bourgeois democratic movements in the colonial and semi-colonial countries,(15) the final agreed resolution was sufficiently ambiguous in its reference to supporting what it termed “a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy”(16) that the actual form and content of any proposed ‘alliance’ was left open to a significant degree of interpretation.

In 1922 the Fourth Congress of the Comintern returned to the issue of colonial liberation, clarifying communist policy, at least in theory, by ruling out a specific bourgeois democratic stage in the revolution in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. Among other things, the resolution on the issue stated that “[o]nly the Soviet form of government is able to ensure the consistent execution of the peasant agrarian revolution. [....] The objective tasks of the colonial revolution go beyond the limits of bourgeois democracy if only because a decisive victory for this revolution is incompatible with the rule of world imperialism.”(17) The Fourth Congress’s resolution which addressed the specific tasks of the communist parties in the colonial and semi-colonial countries also underlined the need for proletarian political independence. The key passages stated that communists “fight for the most radical possible solution of the tasks of a bourgeois-democratic revolution, which aims at the conquest of political independence; and they organize the working and peasant masses for the struggle for their special class interests, and in doing so exploit all the contradictions in the nationalist bourgeois-democratic camp.”(18)

The discussions, though, also encompassed the issue of the character of any class alliances in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, making reference to the concept of the ‘Anti-Imperialist United Front’ for the first time. While the resolution insisted on the political independence of the workers’ movement before any temporary agreement with the national bourgeoisie could be considered,(19) the implied goals of the Anti-Imperialist United Front again left room for a degree of interpretation. Envisaging the prospect of a protracted struggle with world imperialism, the Anti-Imperialist United Front was explicitly compared with the proletarian United Front in the advanced capitalist countries.(20) While the Anti-Imperialist United Front extended the United Front concept so as to include disparate, non-proletarian forces, both tactics thereby constituted parallel policies of joint action to expose the vacillations of those leaders and parties which would ultimately betray the most radical revolutionary solution.

The issue of the objective of Anti-Imperialist United Front tactic later contributed to defining the so-called ‘national liberation’ and ‘proletarian’ tendencies within Latin American Trotskyism. In drawing an analogy between the Anti-Imperialist and proletarian United Fronts in the semi-colonial and imperialist countries respectively, the possibility that communist parties would ultimately be prepared to form anti-imperialist governments with the forces of bourgeois nationalism was implicitly endorsed. Although the Comintern viewed such a formation as a temporary phase in the process of exposure in the wider the proletarian anti-imperialist revolution, as I argue in Section 2.4, the analogy was subsequently interpreted by the ‘national liberation’ tendency in Latin America as the theoretical justification for emphasising the slogans of and struggle for national liberation. This one-sided emphasis meant that the ‘national liberation’ current within Latin American Trotskyism tended to view the goal of an ‘intermediate’ anti-imperialist government as a distinct stage in a de facto two-stage revolutionary process.

While, then, the issue of the Anti-Imperialist United Front later became a cause for disagreement among Trotskyists themselves, the Comintern’s hesitations and equivocations over the character of the Anti-Imperialist United Front in the 1920s was one of the issues which defined Trotsky’s differences with the controlling centre around Stalin. This conflict was brought to a head by events in China and the Comintern’s conception of the revolutionary process expressed through its directives to the Chinese Communist Party from 1922. Under the influence of the Stalin-Zinoviev-Kamenev troika in the post-1922 period, the need for an alliance with the national bourgeoisie in the colonial and semi-colonial world was stressed without concern for the condition of working class political independence. The terms of the alliance required the Chinese Communist Party’s “strict political subordination to the Nationalist leaders and the submersion of important sections of its membership into the Guomindang”,(21) the main Chinese bourgeois nationalist party.

This reorientation jettisoned the general Permanent Revolution perspectives of critical tactical alliances with the national bourgeoisie and a struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat in alliance with the peasantry. In its stead, the Comintern resurrected the two-stage theory of development, previously defended by the Russian Mensheviks in 1917, which supported a perceived ‘progressive’ anti-imperialist bloc in a limited initial struggle for national independence. This abrupt turn was justified in theoretical terms by characterising the Guomindang as a bloc of four classes (workers, peasants, urban petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie) and by arguing that at its present stage the Chinese Revolution was bourgeois democratic in nature. As Michael Lwy has noted, “[a]lthough both the Second (1920) and the Fourth (1922) Congresses of the Comintern had envisaged ‘temporary alliances’ with bourgeois forces, the idea of a separate bourgeois-democratic stage was a new departure".(22) The catastrophic results of that strategy, the massacre of revolutionary workers and peasants at the hands of the Guomindang itself, are well documented.(23)

While there is substantial evidence that there had been opposition from the Chinese communists to the Comintern’s directives on constructing a United Front in this manner from the outset,(24) only in 1926-27 did Trotsky’s criticism develop into a coherent challenge to the Comintern’s conception of the nature of the Chinese Revolution and the strategy that communists should adopt in all colonial and semi-colonial countries.(25) By September 1927, Trotsky had explicitly adopted a Permanent Revolution perspective, arguing for the dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the rural poor which posed for itself the objective of resolving the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution via a struggle to make socialist inroads into property relations. Contrasting his Permanent Revolution perspective with that of the Comintern’s two-stage approach, Trotsky wrote, “the genuine solution of the task of the bourgeois revolution in China is possible only through the dictatorship of the proletariat, resting on the alliance of the workers and peasants [....] But this revolution cannot come to a halt at the bourgeois stage. It becomes converted into the permanent revolution, that is, it becomes a link of the international socialist revolution and shares the destiny of the latter.”(26) At the root of his strategy was the understanding that “[t]he Chinese bourgeois-democratic revolution will go forward and be victorious either in the Soviet form or not at all.”(27)

The political and theoretical disagreements which had erupted in Russia in late 1923 over the plight of the economy and the increasing internal bureaucratic structure of the Russian party and state apparatuses, took on an international character as Trotsky launched into a combined struggle against Stalin’s recently elaborated doctrine of Socialism in One Country and the Comintern’s policy outside the Soviet Union. For Trotsky, the theory that a complete socialist society could be built in the Soviet Union irrespective of events elsewhere proceeded from the fiction of isolated or independent development. He argued that it stood at the centre of the process of subordinating the world revolution to the needs of the Soviet bureaucracy and the Comintern’s policy of collaborating with the bourgeoisie outside the USSR in order to avert direct intervention.(28)

Trotsky also developed a critique of the Comintern’s so-called Second Period tactical line. While schemas of strict periodisation undoubtedly neglect a degree of overlapping between periods, the Second Period can broadly be said to have lasted from the Fifth Congress of the Comintern in 1924 until 1928 during a period of perceived capitalist stabilisation after the revolutionary upsurge of the post-World War One era had subsided. Extending the policy applied in China, the Second Period tactics emphasised developing United Fronts in both the colonial and advanced capitalist countries in which the political independence of the communist parties became obscured in blocs with other forces.

The essence of Trotsky’s general criticism of this Second Period line as applied in countries with a belated bourgeois development was that it placed “all stakes [....] upon the general evaluation of the colonial bourgeoisie".(29) Trotsky criticised the Comintern for advocating “long term political blocs and not agreements for specific occasions concluded for practical reasons and rigidly confined to practical aims.”(30) Emphasising that the struggle against capitalism should not be suspended even during a brief period in which any agreement was in place, Trotsky underlined the need for political and organisational independence for the communist parties and the importance of “not believing for an instant in the capacity or readiness of the bourgeoisie either to lead a genuine struggle against imperialism or not to obstruct the workers and peasants.”(31)

Trotskyism as a political current increasingly took on organisational form as the immediate prospects for revolution in Asia and Europe subsided in 1926-27. With the supporters of Stalin accusing Trotsky “of undermining the unity of the party and the country”(32) in 1927, Trotsky was first expelled from the party for factional activity and then from the Soviet Union in early 1929. However, in the lead up to the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in July-September 1928, the Stalin-Bukharin axis which had been pivotal in denouncing ‘Trotskyism’ began to collapse as the Comintern prepared the ground for the Left turn of the so-called Third Period. As Bukharin distanced himself from the view, increasingly winning favour, that social democracy was a form of fascism, he was denounced as a ‘Rightist’, before being formally expelled from the Executive Committee of the Comintern in July 1929.(33)

The defining slogan of the new Third Period tactical line of the Comintern was ‘class against class’ and was characterised by opposition to the United Front, the formation of sectarian ‘red’ or dual trade unions, and ultra-left hostility towards social democracy in the advanced capitalist countries and national-liberation and reformist movements in the colonial and semi-colonial world. In no space of time at all social democracy and nationalist-reformist movements had passed from being the principal ally of the communists to their principal enemy.(34) In Latin America, the ultra-radical Third Period policy meant that the local communist parties viewed all governments, whether of a bourgeois-reformist or limited anti-imperialist hue, as fascist, and all non-communist workers’ organisations as the moderate wing of fascism. They were accordingly denounced as ‘social fascist’.(35) Furthermore, with the onset of this turn in late 1928 and 1929 “tight ideological homogeneity was declared paramount”(36) with the result that those who could not adapt and accept the new line faced expulsion.

As the Comintern stood on the point of embarking on a new phase in its history in the late 1920s, the international communist movement could be divided into three more or less distinct currents around which different national groupings coalesced. There was the centre which gathered around Stalin and constituted the majority. There was the heterogeneous Right Opposition which found expression in Russia in Bukharin’s critique of the Left turn in the Comintern. Thirdly, there was the Left Opposition comprising those groups who were supportive of Trotsky.

The first international meeting of Trotskyist groups took place in Paris on 6 April 1930 when representatives of eight European opposition groups plus one from the U.S. met to establish the International Left Opposition (ILO) to co-ordinate their work and activities.(37) From the reports which the Trotskyists exchanged, 1929 was characterised as a year in which there began a “clarification and refinement of the foundations of principle and with a demarcation from elements foreign to the Leninist Opposition who had become associated with it by chance.”(38) As Frank has contended, during the 1924-29 period numerous heterogeneous opposition groups sprang out from the newly formed communist parties, which themselves were amalgams of diverse groups and origins, and during the period 1929-33 the principal delimitation and formation of the majority of the sections of the Trotskyist movement took place.(39)

Despite the expulsion of Trotsky’s supporters from their respective communist parties, until 1933 the Trotskyists maintained the perspective of seeking to reform the Comintern and regenerate its national sections.(40) This perspective held until Hitler consolidated his power in Germany and the once-powerful German Communist Party, according to Trotsky’s analysis, submitted without promoting any resistance. Trotsky concluded that the German working class had not suffered a temporary loss or setback, but a strategic historic defeat and that Stalinism had had its ‘4th August’ on a par with that of the Second International’s collapse into social chauvinism at the beginning of the First World War.(41) By July 1933, Trotsky was arguing that the Comintern could no longer defend the gains of the October Revolution and was dead for the purposes of revolution. Dropping the ‘reformist’ strategy of labouring to redirect the Comintern from within, he proposed a new perspective of building a new revolutionary international distinct from the official communist movement. As a first formal step along this path, in September 1933, the ILO changed its name to become the International Communist League (Bolshevik-Leninists) (ICL).(42)

By the end of 1934, after the defeat in Germany, a drastic reorientation was set in motion in the Comintern. In 1934-35 the tactics of the Third Period were discarded and replaced by the communist parties’ support for not only the formation of United Fronts with social democratic parties, but Popular Fronts including those parties and organisations of the liberal bourgeoisie.(43) This Popular Front Period involved the communist parties in building cross-class alliances and coalition governments on the narrow nationalist basis of opposition to fascism. To this extent, fascism for the official communists played the role which the First World War had done for the reformist social democratic parties in the Second International. While the communist parties moved away from the ultra-radicalism of the ‘red’ United Front policy at varying speeds, at the Seventh and last Congress of the Comintern in 1935, the new Popular Front policy was “declared universally applicable regardless of local conditions".(44)

This Popular Front policy was most clearly demonstrated in Spain in the mid-1930s where the Comintern subordinated the socialist revolution to the policy of pursuing a broad, cross class anti-fascist alliance. While Trotsky insisted on the validity of the Permanent Revolution strategy, arguing that that “the war against fascism was inseparable from the struggle for socialism”,(45) the Stalinists drowned the voices of independent working class organisations in a slanderous campaign, accusing them of being saboteurs and fascist agents, and blood. Moreover, the Popular Front policy in Spain became inexorably linked with the Moscow Trials and the mass exterminations in the Soviet Union. Just as the Stalinists increasingly turned to repression and the murder of those who argued that the Popular Front was choking the revolution in Spain, so the Moscow Trials and the brutal repression in the Soviet Union liquidated most of the remaining Old Bolshevik leaders, with the principal exception of Stalin. The Soviet bureaucracy no longer required revolutionaries and their elimination acted as a prelude to the dissolution of the Comintern’s executive apparatus in mid-1943 as the Kremlin sought to deepen the Soviet-U.S.-British alliance.(46)

It was against the background in the late 1930s of the consolidation of fascist regimes and Stalinist repression, on the one hand, and mounting preparations for international military conflict, on the other, that Trotsky and the Trotskyists insisted on the validity of launching the Fourth International, a world vanguard party which they considered would be capable of leading the working class to power. However, unlike the Comintern in 1919, this new revolutionary International was not launched in an atmosphere marked by a successful revolution and a widespread spirit of proletarian internationalism. Furthermore, at its founding the Fourth International was composed of generally small national sections which had a weak implantation and influence in the working class movement.

The Second World War added to the difficulties facing the small, relatively isolated nuclei of the Trotskyists.(47) Having lived through a period of defeat and repression in the 1930s, the war led to a breakdown in communication between sections and the international leadership in New York.(48) Furthermore, the persecutions continued during the war with the murder by Stalinists and fascists alike of many of the Trotskyists’ more talented cadres. This culminated in August 1940 with the assassination of Trotsky himself.

Events during and after the Second World War also highlighted the Trotskyists’ difficulties in point of theory. Maintaining Trotsky’s pre-war view, the Fourth International over-optimistically insisted on the validity of the perspective of imminent capitalist collapse and cycles of war-revolution long after the end of the Second World War. Characterised by its continued isolation form the mass workers’ movement and clinging to perspectives which failed to address the post-war economic boom and appreciate the role of social democracy, the Fourth International can be justifiably characterised as a group of generals without an army.(49)

In sum, while the post-1924 Comintern substituted a narrow nationalist policy of Socialism in One Country in the Soviet Union and a stagist conception of the revolutionary process abroad similar to that held by the Russian Mensheviks in 1917, Trotsky insisted on the primacy of the proletarian nature of the revolution. Put simply, for Trotsky, the revolution would be proletarian or it would be defeated. However, while Trotsky’s views on revolution in the 1920s and 30s can be said to represent an October 1917 Bolshevik critique of post-1924 official communism, Trotskyism as an organised current took shape in an environment of defeat and fear, very different from that in which the Comintern had been founded in 1919. Having largely abandoned the project of building independent proletarian parties, the working class, particularly in Europe, was rallying closer to the reformist and Stalinist organisations which had crossed class lines in 1914 and 1933 respectively and which would be encouraging the working class to take up arms in defence of their respective national bourgeoisies during the Second World War.

2.2 The Comintern and Stalinism in Latin America, 1919-65

In this section I consider the Comintern’s development of theory with particular reference to Latin America. Emphasising the link between the perceived process of historical development and the proposed strategy for revolution, I outline the four periods which can be distinguished in the history of the Comintern’s and official communism’s strategy for revolution in the period 1919-65 in Latin America.(50) I also assess the principal non-Trotskyist opposition groups which emanated from the Comintern in Latin America, highlighting the essence of the issues in dispute. This will provide the widest international context to my subsequent analysis of Trotskyism in Latin America and Cuba.

Although the Comintern paid scant attention to Latin America in the period up to 1927,(51) its early texts which made reference to Latin America “simultaneously attribute[d] agrarian, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist tasks to the revolutionary struggle in [the] America[s]".(52) Rejecting the notion of a distinct national democratic stage in Latin America, the Comintern insisted that “only the proletarian revolution can liberate the peasantry by breaking the power of capital, and only the agrarian revolution can save the proletarian revolution from the danger of being crushed by the counterrevolution".(53) It also linked the revolution in Latin America with the “revolutionary intervention of the U.S. proletariat”,(54) describing the unity between the two as a matter of “life and death".(55)

During this first period in the 1920s in Latin America, the Comintern initially acted as a pole of attraction for a range of radical groups, and many communist parties were formed locally before the instructions to do so came from Moscow.(56) The coalescence of the disparate anarchist, anarcho-syndicalist and socialist forces around the Comintern’s banner resulted in what Victor Alba has termed a principally “indigenous product inspired certainly by Moscow’s propaganda [....], but without the submissive organic links with either the Kremlin or, in large part, the Comintern".(57)

During the Second Period in the mid- to late 1920s, these locally inspired communist parties were able to accommodate most of these radical forces and consolidate their influence. With the emphasis being placed on promoting the struggle to build a broad anti-imperialist movement and supporting alliances with the liberal national bourgeoisies, the issue of the actual form and content of these Anti-Imperialist United Fronts was not an early concern among the initial disparate elements which made up the Latin American communist parties. One practical consequence of this policy was the setting up of the Pan-American Anti-Imperialist League, a communist front organisation which sought to co-ordinate the national liberation movements across Latin America and included bourgeois nationalists in its ranks alongside communists.(58)

The first formal international meeting of Latin American communists was held in Moscow in late 1927 when a body of Latin American delegates attended the official celebrations to mark the tenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. It was agreed to form a permanent Latin American Secretariat of the Red International of Labour Unions (Profintern), the communist international trade union centre, and the first steps were made towards holding a conference of Latin American trade unions in Montevideo. It was with respect to these discussions in Moscow, that Lozovsky, the General Secretary of the Profintern, said that the international communist movement ‘discovered’ Latin America.(59)

As I have noted in Section 2.1, reflecting the influence and foreign policy concerns of the Soviet Union, the Comintern’s Sixth Congress in 1928 marked a perceptible shift from the Second Period to the ultra-leftist Third Period tactical line. As the communist parties shifted towards a more direct struggle for power through worker-peasant blocs, they began to take an increasingly sectarian approach to their former nationalist allies. However, despite dismissing all progressive content in the national liberation movements, under the slogan of an ‘anti-imperialist and anti-feudal revolution’ in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the communists’ strategy envisaged a dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry which would lead society to socialism only after a distinct period of autonomous development.(60)

As this second distinct period of official communism in Latin American was about to get underway in an atmosphere in which ideological homogeneity was of prime importance, the first splits occurred. The first major break from the ranks of the Comintern in Latin America was that precipitated in 1927-28 by the Peruvian Victor Ral Haya de la Torre, the founder and leader of the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA). At the root of his critique of historical development was his understanding that imperialism was the first stage of capitalism in Latin America, not the last, and that capitalism survived by tending to bolster and coexist with a semi-feudal sector in the countryside.(61) Haya argued that the nascent working class in Latin America was too weak and the peasantry too primitive to implement socialism, and that as a result the urban middle-class was required to take on the role of the dominant social class. Its objective, he argued, was to be that of stimulating a new stage of autonomous capitalist development capable of challenging foreign interests and carrying through an anti-feudal revolution conforming to the long-term needs of the working class. This ‘Second Revolution’ thesis led Haya to construct his APRA organisation as a broad multi-class anti-imperialist front on a continental basis. Organised, like the Anti-Imperialist Leagues, without distinction of class, the APRA came into conflict with the Comintern not only because it challenged the latter’s monopoly on revolutionary organisations,(62) but because in the wake of the debacle in China alliances with the national bourgeoisie were losing favour. Prompted by the intervention of a Peruvian delegate to the Fourth Congress of the Profintern in March-April 1928, the APRA was labelled a type of Latin American Guomindang on the basis that the former preferred contacts with an allegedly anti-imperialist bourgeoisie before forging alliances with the native Indian peasants.(63)

The second notable Latin American voice of opposition within the Comintern in the late 1920s was that of another Peruvian, José Carlos Mariátegui. He broke with the APRA in 1928 to found the Socialist Party of Peru over Haya’s claims that some kind of autonomous capitalist development was possible in Latin America, and specifically Peru. Mariátegui’s internationalist perspective insisted that the primitive communal, the feudal and the capitalist aspects of Peruvian society were in the final analysis all subordinate to international capital. This led Mariátegui to reject an evolutionary view of development in favour of a struggle for socialism. Apart from leading him into a political fight against the APRA, the Latin American Guomindang as he also termed it,(64) he found himself in disagreement with the Comintern’s new Third Period tactics of dismissing non-communist anti-imperialist forces as counter-revolutionary. In his seminal report, The Anti-Imperialist Perspective, Mariátegui, while rejecting the idea that the bourgeoisie or the petty bourgeoisie could pursue anti-imperialist policies once they were in power, argued that “we must not fail to make use of any elements of anti-imperialist agitation, or of any means of mobilizing those social sectors that may eventually participate in the struggle, our mission is to explain and show the masses how only the socialist revolution can present a real and effective barrier to the advance of imperialism.”(65)

However, although this understanding was similar to that embodied in the theses of the first four congresses of the Comintern, it is extremely difficult to attach any one label to Mariátegui’s thought. While he stood opposed to the APRA, characterising it as an anti-imperialist cross-class political party, he nevertheless reserved a special, almost mystical, role for the peasantry in Peru on the basis of the indigenous Indians’ traditions of communal property.(66) In so doing, apart from never fully breaking with the Second Period tactical line of a party based on a broad bloc of the oppressed classes—in the Peruvian case this involved the Socialist Party being the party of the worker and peasant masses—he also defended a romantic voluntarist dimension in Latin American revolutionary struggle. Apparently influenced by Georges Sorel, Mariátegui emphasised the ethical aspects of solidarity and revolutionary action.(67)

The third distinct stage in the evolution of official communism in Latin America, dating from the mid-1930s until 1960, can be described as the Stalinist-reformist period characterised by the Latin American communist parties promoting broad national democratic struggles via Popular Front coalitions with the democratic national bourgeoisie. At a conference of Latin American communist parties in October 1934, the official communists agreed that they had under-estimated the revolutionary role of petty bourgeois nationalist parties while at the same time over-estimating these parties’ counter-revolutionary character. The communist parties similarly agreed that they had been wrong to maintain a neutral, passive position when bourgeois nationalist reformism led workers into political and economic struggles which challenged imperialism.(68) In practice, alliances with bourgeois democratic and nationalist forces in which communist parties played a subordinate role, were no longer precluded. This reversal of the ultra-left Third Period line and the dilution of anti-imperialist rhetoric in Latin America was also conditioned by the Soviet bureaucracy’s professed desire to secure a U.S.-Soviet non-aggression pact in the Pacific region to contain the threat of Japan shortly after Hitler rose to power in Germany. Between May and November 1933 a rapprochement developed between the USSR and the United States which led to formal mutual recognition.(69)

This Popular Front turn was accompanied by a refinement of the Comintern’s interpretation of the strategic objective of the anti-imperialist agrarian revolution. As Henryk Szlajfer has argued, this period can be distinguished from the previous one by the fact that a bourgeois democratic revolution with the participation of the national bourgeois as part of the bloc of perceived progressive forces was now the immediate objective. In the former 1929-34 period, the democratic revolution was to take place without the involvement of the respective ‘progressive’ national bourgeoisies.(70) In practice, this Popular Front policy was given a radical faade after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War as the Latin American communist parties gave uncritical support to the Popular Front Republican government. In the Caribbean region,(71) the Cuban Communist Party under the leadership of *Blas Roca (Francisco Calderío) was a prime mover in forging what Lwy has referred to as the “pan-American alliance against the fascist threat".(72) This alliance brought together the communist party and the government of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, as well as the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the U.S. and the Mexican trade union centre led by Lombardo Toledano.

Official communism’s orientation and tactics during the course of the Second World War were largely defined by, first of all, the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939 and then by the German invasion of the Soviet Union launched in June 1941. Drawing no distinction between the German and Allied powers between August 1939 and June 1941, the Comintern initially characterised the war as plainly imperialist on all sides. During this period the communist parties opposed the war efforts of all the belligerents. After the German invasion of the USSR, though, national communist parties gave unqualified support to the Allied powers in broad national coalitions. The Latin American communist parties’ adoption of an unequivocal pro-Allied stance coincided with that of most of the governments in the region and this sudden change of position confirmed the communists’ growing influence in both trade union and national political circles across Latin America, a trend which had begun in the mid- to late 1930s.

By 1944, under the influence of Browderism,(73) the Comintern’s policy of class collaboration and the willing dissolution of official communist organisations, had reached its high water mark. In the mid-1940s, official communist influence in Latin America was also at its zenith. The combined membership of the Latin America communist parties had multiplied five-fold from approximately 90,000 in 1939 to almost 500,000 around 1947.(74) The Cold War, however, put a brake on that development and a number of Latin American communist parties rapidly lost their ‘quota of power’. While this Cold War period was also characterised by a rejection of the ‘liquidationist’ perspective as advocated by Earl Browder, the national unity orientation of the Latin American communist parties persisted. They continued to seek to unite democratic and anti-imperialist forces in a patriotic front against the so-called ‘feudal-imperialist’ alliance of the bourgeois landowners at home and U.S. imperialism abroad in order to achieve the bourgeois democratic revolution, the first historic stage of the revolution.(75)

The fourth distinct period in Latin American official communist strategy was that stimulated by the Cuban Revolution after 1960. Contradicting the weakened Latin American communist parties’ evolutionist and legal, reformist methods, the Cuban experience ignited the radical insurrectional traditions of Latin America and forced a number of organisational splits and realignments in the Latin American communist movement.(76) Various groups which had come under the umbrella of official communism up to that point reviewed their strategy and tactics so as to emphasise the socialist nature of the revolution. They increasingly based the struggle for socialism on the armed foco and the broad base of the peasantry and popular revolutionary classes.

However, this turn in methods did not constitute a thorough-going challenge to Soviet Stalinism. While Fidel Castro proclaimed that “the anti-imperialist and socialist revolution could only be one revolution”,(77) ushering in a period of rural guerrilla warfare in which militarism brushed aside a stagist perspective, the Castro-inspired current continued to argue that the agent for revolutionary change was a multi-class alliance. Rather like the Comintern during its Second Period, the APRA in Latin America, and Maoism in the light of the Sino-Soviet dispute,(78) Castro, in the Second Declaration of Havana issued on 4 February 1962, identified a broad anti-imperialist bloc incorporating whole sections of the national bourgeoisie as the agent of revolutionary change. Any attempt to draw class lines in the struggle was labelled as ‘divisionism’ and ‘sectarianism’.(79) The Cuban leadership’s difference with official Soviet communism lay in the fact that it conditioned its activities to the needs of a rurally-based guerrilla group, the foco, and not the Central Committee of the local communist party leadership or Moscow. This foco, which was elevated to the role of vanguard, rejected class politics and proletarian democracy. The role of democratic tasks was under-estimated and socialism was ultimately to be won from above via the combination of paternalistic populism and supervised institutions.

2.3 Trotsky and Revolution in Latin America, 1937-40

While Trotsky’s writings on Latin America are rather few in comparison with those on the Soviet Union, China and Europe, his residence in Mexico from January 1937 until his murder in August 1940 allowed him the opportunity to develop his analysis of the Latin American political situation. This section outlines the central issues for Trotsky with regard to the nature of the revolution and the specific tasks of working class revolutionaries in Latin America. It also demonstrates that these views largely expounded in the late 1930s were consistent with his earlier writings on other semi-colonial countries.

As early as 1934 Trotsky drew on his theory of Permanent Revolution in order to advance the argument that in Latin America the national and social problems were inextricably linked, and that as in the case of China in the 1920s it was only the proletariat which could lead the revolution.(80) In the late 1930s he developed this basic understanding of the revolutionary process in Latin America and the leadership role of revolutionaries. In an article signed by Octavio Fernández in the Mexican Trotskyist journal Clave,(81) one element of Trotsky’s argument was that just as in Russia in 1917, the key to the situation in Latin America lay in the historical backwardness of the continent and an understanding that the native bourgeoisies were incapable of resolving the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution. The article argued that in Latin America: “the native bourgeoisies [....], despite their nationalist yearnings, [are] simple appendages of imperialism. [....] Born belatedly amidst imperialist penetration and the backwardness of the country, they cannot successfully resolve the tasks which their counterparts in the advanced countries carried out a long time ago. In the future, only the proletariat at the head of the peasants and the poor will be capable of carrying through to the full the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution".(82)

Elsewhere, Trotsky developed his political analysis of the semi-colonial regimes in Latin America, defining them as a special type of Bonapartism.(83) The government of a semi-colony dominated by imperialism, he argued: “veers between foreign and domestic capital, between the weak national bourgeoisie and the relatively powerful proletariat. This gives the government a Bonapartist character of a distinctive character. It raises itself, so to speak, above classes. Actually, it can govern either by making itself the instrument of foreign capitalism and holding the proletariat in the chains of a police dictatorship, or by maneuvering with the proletariat and even going so far as to make concessions to it, thus gaining the possibility of a certain freedom toward the foreign capitalists.”(84)

Underlining the notion of these two basic tendencies of any Latin American semi-colonial regime, Trotsky claimed, on the one hand, that if the regimes completely give up the struggle against foreign capitalists, considering it either inevitable or simply more advantageous to do so, then a more or less totalitarian regime bent on destroying the workers’ organisations will result.(85) Such a scenario was a real possibility in Latin America, Trotsky contended, because foreign capital by developing industry in Latin America and creating a potentially powerful proletariat had implanted fear in the relatively weak and static native bourgeoisie.(86)

Regarding the second broad type of regime, Trotsky argued that if the Latin American national bourgeoisies’ search for a degree of independence from foreign imperialism, then a strong man of a particular country will be orientated to the Left and will be “obliged to flirt with the workers, with the peasants".(87) However, Trotsky argued that irrespective of which tendency was in the ascendancy, the weakness of the national bourgeoisie, the absence of traditions of basic forms of local government, the pressure of foreign capitalism and the relative rapid growth of the proletariat will all combine to undermine the basis for a stable democratic regime.(88)

With respect to Latin America, Trotsky repeated the argument set out in his earlier general theory of Permanent Revolution that although the peasantry could not play an independent role leading the revolution, it was of primary importance. He contended that whichever of the two classes capable of governing, that is, the national bourgeoisie or the proletariat, had the support of the peasantry, then that class would rule. He argued that “[i]f the peasants remain in support of the bourgeois class [....] then it will be such a semi-democratic, semi-Bonapartistic state as now [November 1938] exists in every country of Latin America, with inclinations toward the masses".(89)

Based on this analysis of the nature of the historical development in Latin America and the three fundamental classes in that process, Trotsky mapped out the tasks of revolutionaries in the struggle for liberation. For Trotsky, although the immediate struggle in Latin America was that of resolving the democratic tasks, the distinguishing feature of his argument was that due to the native bourgeoisies’ weakness and links to imperialism, it was the proletariat alone which could realise these tasks. He further contended that for the working class to take such a lead in the revolutionary process it had to take an independent stance in competition with the national bourgeoisie at every moment. As he said, “[w]e are in permanent competition with the national bourgeoisie as the only one leadership which is capable of assuring the victory of the masses in the fight against the foreign imperialists.”(90)

On the question of the form of any possible Anti-Imperialist United Front and any class alliances, Trotsky argued that critical support could be given to any action of the national bourgeoisie against imperialist interests while full organisational independence should be maintained with respect to even the most radical forces of the national bourgeoisie. He argued that the leaderships of the People’s or Popular Front parties in Latin America, such as the APRA, were essentially in the hands of the bourgeoisie and, as such, even when strong enough to gain power via revolution, ultimately refused to grasp the opportunity through fear of mobilising the peasantry and the working class. They opt instead, he contended, for military manoeuvres or direct interventions on the part of the United States.(91) Repeating the arguments which he had set out with regard to the Guomindang in 1926-27, Trotsky ruled out entry into such People’s Front parties in Latin America. He did, though, append the caveat that “we can create a nucleus in it in order to win the workers and separate them from the bourgeoisie”(92) and, elsewhere, argued for agreements with the APRA for definite practical tasks on condition that full organisational independence was maintained.(93)

Developing his characterisation of the People’s or Popular Front, Trotsky drew a distinction between its manifestation in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, on the one hand, and its counterparts in the advanced countries, on the other. He argued that just as the nationalism of the peasantry in a colonial dominion directed against the foreign oppressor was progressive,(94) so “the People’s Front in Latin America does not have so reactionary a character as in France or Spain. It is two-sided. It can have a reactionary attitude insofar as it is directed against the workers; it can have an aggressive attitude insofar as it is directed against imperialism.”(95) However, for Trotsky, this difference in the appreciation of the Popular Front was only permissible on condition that the organisations of the Fourth International did not participate in the Guomindang, the APRA or any other party of Latin American nationalism, and that absolute freedom of action and criticism was preserved.(96)

With reference to the parties of bourgeois nationalism in power, Trotsky argued for combining opposition to, and non-confidence in, the parties of bourgeois nationalism with independent practical support for their progressive measures, including their military defence against imperialist or pro-imperialist forces. However, he again stressed the importance of class independence, particularly in those struggles involving the agrarian question. For Trotsky, the paramount need was for the proletariat to oppose the programme of the national bourgeoisie with its own programme. Speaking in the late 1930s with respect to the situation in Mexico where a bourgeois nationalist government had taken measures to distribute land to the peasantry, he argued that:

“during the struggle for democratic tasks we oppose the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. The independence of the proletariat even in the beginning of this movement is absolutely necessary, and we especially oppose the proletariat to the bourgeoisie in the agrarian question [....]
In the agrarian question we support the expropriations. That does not signify we support the national bourgeoisie. In every case where it is a direct fight against the foreign imperialists or their reactionary fascist agents, we give revolutionary support, preserving the full political independence of our organization, of our program, of our party, and the full freedom of criticism.”(97)

On the overall strategic orientation of the sections of the Fourth International in Latin America, Trotsky warned of the dangers of “schematicism of the formula of permanent revolution”(98) and the relegation of the importance of the democratic tasks for the working class. For Trotsky, “to pose an abstract socialist dictatorship to the real [immediate] needs and desires of the masses” was a mistake. Instead, he advocated “starting from these daily struggles to oppose the national bourgeoisie on the basis of the workers’ needs”, thereby winning the leadership of the working class and ultimately the nation.(99) It was over this very issue of rejecting the immediate relevance of democratic demands by the group led by Luciano Galicia in the Mexican Trotskyist group the Liga Comunista Internacionalista in 1937-38 which led Trotsky to propose Galicia’s expulsion from the Fourth International.(100)

Trotsky argued that the central arena for this struggle was in the organisations of the working class, primarily the trade unions, and that the most important task was the struggle for “control by the workers of their own bureaucracy and to fight for the independence of the trade unions from the state".(101) While he recognised that it was no longer possible to establish full trade union democracy, just as it was no longer possible to win democracy in the existing Latin American states, the fight for free discussion in the unions and their independence from the state were transitional demands which would deepen the roots of the struggle and lead to the more advanced demands of a workers’ state.(102) In this way, with the masses consciously and consistently fighting for, and passing beyond immediate democratic and anti-imperialist goals to socialist ones, they would be creating in this struggle their own self-clarified, independent bodies of proletarian democracy.

In summary, Trotsky’s analysis of colonial and semi-colonial countries developed in the 1920s and 30s emphasised the necessary permanent nature of the proletariat’s competition with the national bourgeoisie for the support of the peasantry and the importance of always presenting an independent working class position in any struggle against imperialism. Although he allowed for practical agreements, including military blocs, such short-term action was envisaged solely as a tactic around a specific issue, the aim being to heighten the contradictions between the progressive nature of the anti-imperialist movement and the forces which were then leading that movement. Trotsky did not confer the title of an Anti-Imperialist United Front upon such actions, and he categorically rejected the thoroughly opportunist interpretation which the post-1924 Comintern gave to it as a long-term strategic objective.

Trotsky furthermore stressed that while agreeing to common actions with the radical forces of bourgeois nationalism in an attempt to win the workers and poor peasantry from the influence of the bourgeoisie, the working class had to develop its own consciousness and level of independent struggle. To further this aspect of the struggle, he advocated transitional slogans such as trade union independence from the state, workers’ democracy, freedom of expression, and an agrarian programme in order to win the majority of the working class and the large mass of peasants. This, Trotsky argued, was the first step towards the conquest of power by the workers’ party in any Latin American country.

Trotsky also considered that the question of building socialism after the conquest of power was largely dependent on events elsewhere, most notably in the United States. Basing his analysis on an appreciation of the indissolubility of the world economy and the necessary international character of socialism, Trotsky drew a distinction between the conquest of power by the working class in any one country and the actual construction of socialism. While he did not exclude the possibility that Latin American workers might come to power before those in the United States, this did not mean for him that they could build their own socialism independently of the most advanced countries which hitherto had dominated their political economy.(103) For Trotsky, the link the Comintern established in the early 1920s between the revolutions in North and Latin America was indissoluble.

2.4 Trotskyism and Revolution in Latin America, 1927-65

The organisational origins of Trotskyism in Latin America can be traced to the period around the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928, when Trotsky’s criticisms of Stalin’s direction were first in circulation on an international plane. Initially, only a handful of communists in Latin America publicly identified themselves with Trotsky’s arguments. However, as the ultra-left Third Period atmosphere swept through the communist parties in the late 1920s and early 1930s, elements of those parties which had questioned the apparent about-turn approached the International Left Opposition. Cuba apart, those who initially openly adhered to the Trotskyist international organisation in Latin America constituted small, generally isolated groups. They were largely limited to the capital cities of various Latin American countries and were generally founded by militants who had had experience in the European labour movement. It was only in Chile, Brazil and then later in Bolivia, that the Trotskyist-orientated groups were able to build organisations which had any significant influence among the masses. However, in these cases the Trotskyists appeared to take little heed of Trotsky’s insistence on steering a politically independent course of action.

In Chile, amidst a period of political instability, a so-called ‘Socialist Republic’ came into being on 4 June 1932 via a military coup led by Colonel Marmaduke Grove Vallejo. While the Chilean Communist Party opposed the Left-nationalist movement around Grove, considering it to be a new variant of fascist reaction, and set out to launch ill-founded Soviets,(104) the Trotskyist group led by Manuel Hidalgo gave qualified support to the Grove government.(105) Although the Trotskyists rejected Grove’s offer to enter his government, deciding to maintain their political independence, following the downfall of the ‘Socialist Republic’, the Trotskyists largely dissolved themselves inside the newly-formed Popular Frontist Socialist Party, the political organisation which absorbed the Left-wing nationalist supporters of Grove.(106)

In Bolivia in the mid-1930s, the Trotskyists drew a similar ambiguous line of demarcation between themselves and nationalist forces. In this particular case, it involved the Bolivian Trotskyists forming so-called ‘socialist’ blocks with military Left-wing nationalists. The Trotskyist group led by José Aguirre Gainsborg actually entered the party established by Colonel David Toro, the leader of a successful nationalist military coup.(107) Still owing more to the Comintern’s Second Period tactical line than to Trotsky’s distinct analysis, the Trotskyist-orientated group led by Gustavo Navarro (*Tristán Marof) also became closely associated with the reformist military junta formed by Toro in 1936.(108)

While this tendency to make concessions to bourgeois nationalism in Latin America reflected the heterogeneous origins of the Trotskyists and the depth of the traditions of nationalist struggle in the continent, it also served as a prelude to the arguments which would lie behind organisational splits in the 1940s. On the one hand, there were those groups which encompassed strategies which had more in common with the Second Period notion of broad anti-imperialist blocs. On the other, there were those which insisted on the proletarian nature of the struggle. That is, these early arguments led to the formation of the distinct ‘national liberation’ and ‘proletarian’ tendencies in the 1940s.

The first major organisational split in the ranks of Latin American Trotskyism was that stimulated by the group around the Brazilian Mario Pedrosa (*Lebrn), which took up the mantle of the U.S. Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP(US)) Minority against the position of defence of the Soviet Union.(109) However, by the early 1940s a distinct ‘national liberation’ tendency was also seeking to establish a separate international organisation. This Latin American-based faction formed by the Argentinian Liga Obrera Revolucionaria (LOR) led by Liborio Justo (*Quebracho) challenged the main body of the Fourth International, temporarily located in New York, on the issue of the emphasis which should be given to the struggle and demands for national liberation in the fight for socialism. Justo’s principal contention was that the Trotskyist movement, particularly the SWP(US), was comparing Argentina with imperialist centres, thereby ignoring the democratic anti-imperialist questions. He argued that the struggle for national liberation was an integral part of the democratic revolution and as such should be an integral part of the proletarian party’s programme. However, in using the slogans for national liberation which until then had been the terminology of the nationalist and reformist groups, Justo himself went to the extreme of advocating a de facto two-stage strategy in which the primary struggle was for an agrarian anti-imperialist revolution to realise the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution as a first step towards the socialist revolution.(110) While the Comintern at its Fourth Congress, by drawing parallels between the Anti-Imperialist and proletarian United Fronts in the semi-colonial and imperialist countries respectively, had opened the door to the possibility that communist parties would ultimately be prepared to form anti-imperialist governments with the forces of bourgeois nationalism, Justo’s ‘national liberation’ tendency, in relegating the struggle for the proletarian revolution to the unspecified future in pursuit of one-sided alliances with the radical forces of bourgeois nationalism, demonstrated that one tendency in the international Trotskyist movement had more in common with the Comintern’s Second Period line than with Trotsky.

Justo’s departure from the Fourth International to set up an alternative Latin American-based Trotskyist tendency left the debate over the problem of national liberation incomplete. The unresolved issue returned again to Latin America with the rise to power of Colonel Juan Perón in Argentina in the mid-1940s, where Justo’s original ‘national liberation’ ideas in fact anticipated those adopted by a number of Trotskyists who had initially been his fierce opponents. The Trotskyist group led by *Nahuel Moreno (Hugo Bressano), went so far as to dissolve itself inside the Peronist movement, in effect becoming its Left-wing,(111) while, as Lora has described, the group led by Jorge Abelardo Ramos (*Sevignac) “took up Liborio Justo’s ideas, [....] in order to justify not his alliance with the national bourgeoisie, but his humble servility to it.”(112)

At the international level, at the 1946 conference of the Trotskyist organisations, the participants reaffirmed their adherence to the pre-war perspectives of a growing capitalist crisis and a rising revolutionary tide. At the subsequent Second World Congress in 1948 they declared that all possibilities for attaining equilibrium were destroyed and that a Third World War in which the united capitalist powers would launch an attack on the Soviet Union was imminent. By the early 1950s, however, optimism within the Fourth International was receding and internal tensions were mounting as the Trotskyists made little progress either in terms of recruitment or influence within the labour movement. As pressures rose, and the fact that the world economy had entered its longest period of expansion in history still went largely unnoticed, the question of alliances with other political forces began to undergo a thorough reappraisal. These alterations in strategic orientations were to precipitate a round of splits and splinters in the international Trotskyist movement. They also magnified those characteristics which had hitherto broadly defined the ‘national liberation’ and ‘proletarian’ tendencies.

The cause of the initial post-war split was what has become known in Trotskyist parlance as ‘Pabloism’, that is, the views espoused by *Michel Pablo (Michel Raptis) in the period 1951-54. His theses were based on the conviction that individual communist parties were not necessarily compliant pawns in Soviet foreign policy manoeuvres, but were instead being forced by objective conditions to take a lead in carrying forward the revolutionary tide which was sweeping the post-war world. Stalinism and war were thereby seen as agencies for revolution and the new tactic of long-term entry, or dissolution, into what were seen as the blunt instruments for revolution, namely the communist and socialist parties, was urged upon the Fourth International’s affiliates.

In Latin America, the revision of strategy took effect in the early 1950s. Although the Third World Congress of the Fourth International in 1951 reiterated Trotsky’s analysis that so-called anti-imperialist resistance from petty bourgeois nationalist movements, such as the APRA in Peru and the Auténticos in Cuba, were incapable of completing the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution across the continent,(113) Pabloism eventually led to the development of the long-term ‘entryist’ perspective across the continent. While the 1951 Congress insisted that temporary alliances between working class organisations and anti-imperialist movements of the petty bourgeoisie could only be concluded for “concrete and limited ends of action” on the basis that the independent class character of the working class organisations and programme was safeguarded,(114) a degree of organisational dissolution was increasingly supported in an attempt to push the Left-wing of the petty bourgeois anti-imperialist movements into socialist revolution. In Latin America, the most prominent manifestation of this concession by Trotskyism to Left-wing nationalism was that of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario led by Lora in Bolivia during the national revolution of 1952-53. This party, the largest and most important Trotskyist group in Latin America, gave what Lora termed “critical support” to the Bolivian Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) government. However, in practice this amounted to viewing the MNR as a vehicle for workers’ power rather than as an obstacle to it.(115) As Lora himself has written, this amounted to the Bolivian Partido Obrero Revolucionario effectively placing itself at the service of the MNR’s Left-wing in an attempt “to push the government in the direction of socialism by gentle criticism".(116)

The imposition of the strategy of long-term entry, with its ‘national liberation’ manifestation in Latin America, is often cited as the principal cause behind the organisational split which took place in the Fourth International in the early 1950s. The International Committee of the Fourth International, formed in November 1953 and comprising a number of groups in the advanced capitalist countries—most notably the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste in France, the Socialist Labour League in Great Britain, and the SWP(US)—advocated a strong stance against the line of Pablo’s leadership in the International Secretariat of the Fourth International. However, while the International Committee’s self-professed defining feature was its ‘anti-Pabloism’ and adherence to the ‘proletarian’ theses, it has been coherently argued that opposition to, and criticism of, the Fourth International’s ‘national liberation’ orientation in Bolivia only surfaced after the organisational split in the Fourth International had been consummated.(117) What is more, the process of slow political and organisational diffusion which had begun on the outbreak of the Second World War, and which was continued by the debate over ‘Pabloism’, only confirmed that Trotskyism could no longer be identified as a unified, coherent body of theory and practice.

The next major round of theoretical and organisational realignments in the international Trotskyist movement took place in the wake of the Cuban Revolution. The prime mover behind the realignment was the SWP(US) who, through its participation in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, reversed its declining trend of recruitment and national influence. In point of theory there emerged a convergence between the International Secretariat of the Fourth International and the SWP(US). Both essentially argued that given the absence of a revolutionary working class party in Cuba capable of leading a struggle in which the democratic organs of working class power could be built, the Movimiento 26 de Julio (M26J) led by Fidel Castro had in effect served as the ‘blunt instrument’ to create a workers’ state.(118)

The process of rapprochement between the SWP(US) and the International Secretariat of the Fourth International culminated in 1963 when a new international Trotskyist centre under the title of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USec) was constituted. However, what has become known as the 1963 ‘Reunification Congress’ actually confirmed the existence of four distinct international centres. These can be summarised as follows: 1) the USec, 2) the International Committee of the Fourth International, 3) Pablo’s International Executive Committee, and 4) the Posadist Fourth International. Each international claimed in its way to be the heir to the programme and relatively united organisational movement of the Trotskyists during the 1930s.(119)

With respect to the Posadist international tendency, it was formed in 1962 from those groups inside the International Secretariat’s Latin American Bureau and was the only Trotskyist tendency which could lay claim to a Cuban section in the 1960s. From its founding in 1962, the Posadist International could be distinguished amidst the general spiral of accommodation to the forces of Stalinism and nationalism by its extreme voluntarist interpretation of the theory of Permanent Revolution which foresaw revolution everywhere in the immediate future. As Pablo noted, *J. Posadas (Homero Cristalli), the leader of the Posadist International, even gave this imminent capitalist collapse and socialist revolution perspective an “interplanetary dimension".(120) The Posadists argued that imperialism was continually weakening while at the same time the masses across the world were becoming increasingly militant and ripe for revolution. For the Posadists, imperialism could only survive by initiating an atomic war in an attempt to check this perceived inexorable advance of the exploited. While the opponents of the Posadists have highlighted the latter’s call for the existing so-called workers’ states to launch a pre-emptive nuclear war, out of which would come the inevitable victory of socialism, the Posadists’ distinguishing feature was the importance they attached to what they perceived to be the objective revolutionary will of the masses. In Latin America they argued that revolutionaries should enter revolutionary nationalist movements to advance the widest possible participation of the masses in these armed organisations. Given that this strategy approached that of the Chinese Communist Party’s professed orientation to the masses in armed struggle against imperialism, the Posadists invited the Chinese leadership to join a world-wide anti-imperialist front which would also include the Guevara-inspired guerrilla groups in Latin America. The Posadists combined Pablo’s insistence that the crisis of leadership was no longer an obstacle for socialist revolution and confidence in the potential of various multi-class anti-imperialist movements to serve as the ‘blunt instruments’ for revolution, with the view that the active participation of the Chinese Communist Party and Guevarist foco groups in anti-imperialist wars would lead to the constant raising of socialist forms of struggles and the development of a conscious revolutionary leadership among the masses.(121) In sum, of all the international Trotskyist tendencies, the Posadists developed the most extreme caricature of Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution and his tenets of working class independence in a struggle linking the democratic tasks and the socialist revolution in Latin America.

2.5 Conclusion

The strategy embodied in Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution dictates that the working class must win the leadership of the oppressed nation, a precondition of which is that it must first establish its own political independence. Trotsky argued that socialists must explain that if the struggle is limited to the goals of a democratic anti-imperialist revolution, the bourgeois nationalists will ultimately turn against the working class, the class which helped them win power. However, Trotsky also insisted that it was not sufficient to dismiss the national reformist and liberation movements. He argued that while revolutionary communists had, at all times, to remember that they were in political competition with bourgeois nationalism and, as such, had to maintain their political and organisational independence, critical support could be given to the national bourgeoisie in any concrete action it took against imperialist interests up to and including its military defence.

Trotsky rejected the Comintern’s opportunist interpretation of alliances with petty bourgeois parties and organisations as a long-term strategic objective during the Second and Popular Front Periods, as well as the ultra-radical dismissal of all non-communist forces of the Third Period. By the early 1960s, however, the dynamic content of Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution and his understanding of the relationship between the struggle for national liberation and the struggle for socialism had been lost to the Trotskyist movement. While the official communist parties in Latin American remained largely consistent in their adherence to the reformist formula of a two-stage process of historical development in which their task was to promote an autonomous, more progressive round of native capitalism, the Trotskyists in the post-World War Two era adapted to the pillars of Stalinism. On the one hand, a ‘national liberation’ tendency evolved to the extent that certain Trotskyist groups actively promoted broad alliances with the forces of petty bourgeois nationalism in Latin America on the understanding that they served as short cuts to revolution. With respect to the much smaller ‘proletarian’ tendency, although it largely insisted on proletarian political independence, it generally drew no distinction between imperialist oppressor nations and the oppressed ones of Latin America. As such, it tended to view the revolution as a pure socialist one and did not seek to address or play a part in radical petty bourgeois nationalist movements. With reference to the case of Trotskyism in Cuba in the 1960s, while, as Coggiola has noted, many self-titled Trotskyist organisations have thought it sufficient to cite some of the more extreme tenets of Posadism in order to dismiss it,(122) the Posadists’ political roots lay in the self-same concessions to broad anti-imperialist movements which had been systematised by Justo in the early 1940s and then characterised a large part of the post-World War Two Fourth International movement.


1. These three fundamental propositions are outlined in Trotsky, LD, The Permanent Revolution. Results and Prospects (1906), London, New Park Publications, 1962, pp. 8-9, 152-157. (Back to text)
2. Ibid, pp. 152-153. Trotsky placed great emphasis on the importance of the peasantry in the revolutionary process and the working class’s alliance with it. He argued that while the proletariat must play the leading role, the working class-peasant alliance was indispensable if the tasks of the democratic revolution were to be posed and solved. See Trotsky, LD, The Third International After Lenin, London, New Park Publications, 1974, pp. 171-173. (Back to text)
3. Lister, J, Cuba: Radical Face of Stalinism, London, Left View Books, 1985, p. 126. (Back to text)
4. Trotsky, LD, (1962), op cit, pp. 6-7. Cliff Slaughter has usefully interpreted ‘permanent’ to mean “’uninterrupted’—that is, a continuous transition from bourgeois revolution, under proletarian leadership, growing over into socialist revolution.” Slaughter, C, op cit, p. 83. (Back to text)
5. Trotsky, LD, (1974), op cit, p. 31. (Back to text)
6. Trotsky, LD, History of the Russian Revolution, London, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1965, p. 26; and Trotsky, LD, ‘Uneven and Combined Development and the Role of American Imperialism’, pp. 116-117, In: Breitman, G, and Lovell, S (eds), Writings of Leon Trotsky (1932-33), New York, Pathfinder Press, 1972, pp. 116-120. (Back to text)
7. Trotsky, LD, (1965), op cit, p. 27. (Back to text)
8. Deutscher, I (ed.), The Age of Permanent Revolution: A Trotsky Anthology, New York, Dell Publishing Co., 1964, p. 19. (Back to text)
9. See Marx, K, and Engels, F, ‘Address of the Central Authority to the League’, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Collected Works, Vol. 10, London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1978, pp. 277-287. Marx also employed the term “the permanence of the revolution” to describe how the proletariat in successive stages of struggle increasingly rallies around a programme of revolutionary socialism which can end only in the class dictatorship of the proletariat. Marx, K, The Class Struggles in France (1848-50), London, Martin Lawrence, nd, p. 126. (Back to text)
10. Although Michael Lwy also notes these three basic themes (See Lwy, M, The Politics of Combined and Uneven Development: The Theory of Permanent Revolution, London, Verso, 1981, pp. 1-29.), when he comes to apply them (See Part Two of his 1981 book cited above.) he argues that Trotsky under-estimated the importance of the peasantry given that it rather than the working class has provided the social base of supposedly proletarian revolutions in the post-1940 world. From arguing that revolutions can be proletarian in nature with only a negligible contribution from the working class and in the absence of a proletarian party, Lwy, more recently, has advocated a fusion of the labour movement, ecology and feminist groups, as well as progressive governments as the Marxist response to the organisations of international capital in the 1990s. See Lwy, M, ‘Why Nationalism?’, Miliband, R, and Panitch, L (eds), The Socialist Register, 1993, London, The Merlin Press, 1993, pp. 125-138. (Back to text)
11. See Lenin, VI, The April Theses, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1951, particularly pp. 13-25; and Service, R, Lenin: A Political Life, (Vol. 2, Worlds in Collision), Basingstoke, Macmillan Press, 1991, pp. 155-160 for a discussion of Lenin’s conversion to the position that workers’ soviets were “the sole possible form of revolutionary government.” (Back to text)
12. Even Nicolas Krassó who attempted to refute the theory of Permanent Revolution recognised that it was “a brilliant prefiguration of the main class characteristics of the October Revolution in 1917.” Krassó, N, ‘Trotsky’s Marxism’, New Left Review, No. 44, July-August 1967, p. 67. In defending Stalin’s theory of Socialism in One Country, Krassó, however, gives life to the oft cited misconception that Permanent Revolution implied “a continuous conflagration at all times and all places". Ibid, p. 68. (Back to text)
13. See, for example, the essays of Karl Radek in Richardson, A (ed.), In Defence of the Revolution: A Selection of Bolshevik Writings, 1917-1923, London, Porcupine Press, 1995, pp. 22-75 where Radek expresses, amongst other things, the need for the working class to be “the executor of the revolution” (Ibid, p. 35.) and for the revolution to be necessarily international in character. (Ibid, pp. 70-73.) (Back to text)
14. See Casciola, P, Trotsky and the Struggles of the Colonial Peoples, Foligno, Centro Studi Pietro Tresso, 1990, pp. 8-9. (Back to text)
15. Theses, Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congresses of the Third International, London, Pluto Press, 1983, p. 80. (Back to text)
16. Ibid, p. 80. (Back to text)
17. Degras, J (ed.), The Communist International 1919-1943: Documents, Vol. 1, London, Oxford University Press, 1956, p. 388. (Back to text)
18. Ibid, p. 389. (Back to text)
19. Ibid, p. 390. (Back to text)
20. The Comintern conceived the United Front policy as a tactic which facilitated the greatest possible working class unity in action against the capitalist front. Communist parties were permitted to enter into United Front agreements on condition that they maintained their complete political independence. This meant that at all times communists had to retain the unconditional right to express their own opinions and the possibility of criticising “all working-class organisations without exception". Ibid, p. 313. The United Front’s principal goal was to expose the ultimate pro-bourgeois nature of non-communist parties. As such, the possibility that communist parties would be prepared to form a workers’ governments with social democratic parties was not ruled out. See ibid, pp. 311, 341, 425-426. (Back to text)
21. Benton, G, op cit, p. 7. Despite the evident scope and quality of Benton’s work, he, like Lwy, implicitly rejects my ‘proletarian’ interpretation of Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution. Throughout his book Benton criticises the Chinese Trotskyists for not appreciating the revolutionary potential of Mao’s multi-class approach and the value of organising among the peasantry when the working class movement was apparently crushed. (Back to text)
22. Lwy, M, (1981), op cit, p. 76. (Back to text)
23. See, for example, Benton, G, op cit, p. 8; and Peng Shu-tse, ‘Introduction’, In: Evans, L, and Block, R (eds), Leon Trotsky on China, New York, Monad Press, 1976, pp. 55-78. (Back to text)
24. Benton, G, op cit, pp. 11-15. (Back to text)
25. See ibid, p. 10. (Back to text)
26. Trotsky, LD, ‘Defense of the Soviet Republic and the Opposition’, In: Breitman, G, and Lovell, S (eds), Writings of Leon Trotsky (1929), New York, Pathfinder Press, 1975, p. 276. (Back to text)
27. Trotsky, LD, Problems of the Chinese Revolution, Ann Arbor: MI, University of Michigan Press, 1967, pp. 97-98. (Back to text)
28. Trotsky, LD, (1974), op cit, p. 47. (Back to text)
29. Ibid, p. 129. (Back to text)
30. Ibid, p. 129. (Back to text)
31. Ibid, p. 128. (Back to text)
32. McDermott, K, and Agnew, J, The Comintern: A History of International Communism from Lenin to Stalin, Basingstoke, Macmillan Press, 1996, p. 71. (Back to text)
33. Ibid, pp. 76-77. (Back to text)
34. Rees, T, and Thorpe, A, ‘Introduction’, In: Rees, T, and Thorpe, A (eds), International Communism and the Communist International 1919-43, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1998, p. 4. (Back to text)
35. Coggiola, O, (1993), op cit, p. 15. (Back to text)
36. McDermott, K, and Agnew, J, op cit, p. 83. (Back to text)
37. Alexander, RJ, (1991), op cit, p. 253. (Back to text)
38. Breitman, G, and Lovell, S (eds), Writings of Leon Trotsky (1930), New York, Pathfinder Press, 1975, p. 187. (Back to text)
39. Frank, P, op cit, pp. 37-38. (Back to text)
40. See Trotsky, LD, ‘The International Left Opposition, its Tasks and Methods’, In: Breitman, G, and Lovell, S (eds), Writings of Leon Trotsky (1932-33), op cit, p. 54. (Back to text)
41. See Trotsky’s article ‘The Tragedy of the German Proletariat: The German Workers Will Rise Again—Stalinism Never!’, In: Breitman, G, and Maisel, M (eds), The Struggle against Fascism in Germany, New York, Pathfinder Press, 1971, pp. 375-384. (Back to text)
42. Alexander, RJ, (1991), op cit, p. 260; and the ‘Joint Declaration for New International’ in The Militant (New York), Vol. 6, No. 44 (Whole No. 191), 23 September 1933, pp. 1-2. (BLNL: M.misc.35.) (Back to text)
43. In contrast to those who argue that the Comintern was a docile instrument of Soviet foreign policy from the late 1920s (See, for example, Claudin, F, The Communist Movement: From Comintern to Cominform, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1975, pp. 174-176.), others have contended that the Comintern was not altogether a monolithic, centralised entity and that the tactical zigzags were not always directives passed down from the centre nor executed without a degree of hesitation. Kevin McDermott and Jeremy Agnew, for example, have argued that a crucial factor in determining the turn to the Popular Front tactic was pressure from rank and file communists, particularly in France, who were spontaneously joining united working class-based anti-fascist organisations. According to this convincing argument, the Comintern only became a more thoroughly subservient tool of Soviet foreign policy from 1935. See McDermott, K, and Agnew, J, op cit, pp. 123-130. (Back to text)
44. Ibid, p. 136. (Back to text)
45. Durgan, A, ‘Trotsky, the POUM and the Spanish Revolution’, Journal of Trotsky Studies (Glasgow), No. 2, 1994, p. 43. (Back to text)
46. As McDermott and Agnew have argued, though, Moscow’s control mechanisms over the international movement remained largely intact after 1943. McDermott, K, and Agnew, J, op cit, pp. 210-211. (Back to text)
47. See Prager, R, ‘The Fourth International during the Second World War’, Revolutionary History (London), Vol. 1, No. 3, Autumn 1988, pp. 19-36 for an outline of the organisation and activities of the Fourth International during the Second World War. (Back to text)
48. The angled arrows in the flow diagram in Appendix A during the 1940-44 period, represent this breakdown in communication between the different Trotskyist groups. (Back to text)
49. This is the view expressed in Davies, N, ‘Trotskyist Regroupment: The Ununiteable in Pursuit of the Undesirable’, What Next? (London), No. 8, 1998, p. 24. (Back to text)
50. This contrasts with the views of Jorge Turner and Lwy. In their schemas of periods in the history of communism in Latin America they draw no distinction between my first and second periods. Turner, J, ‘Las Etapas del Marxismo en América Latina’, Memoria (Mexico D.F.), No. 27, July-August 1989, pp. 357-361; and Lwy, M (ed.), Marxism in Latin America from 1909 to the Present, New Jersey, Humanities Press, 1992, p. xiii. (Back to text)
51. Only eight articles on Latin America appeared in the Comintern’s journal, The Communist International, between 1919 and 1927. Jeifets, L, ‘"Para Contar la Verdad sobre la URSS” (Las Primeras Delegaciones de Organizaciones Revolucionarias, Obreras, Campesinas y Antimperialistas de América Latina en la URSS’, América Latina (Moscow), No. 12, 1982, p. 115 n6. (Back to text)
52. Lwy, M (ed.), (1992), op cit, p. xvii. (Back to text)
53. Cited from an extract from L’Internationale Communiste, No. 15, January 1921 in ibid, p. 12. Paolo Casciola has contrasted the Comintern’s early ambiguous understanding of the nature of the revolution in Asia with its view on the revolution in Latin America. He notes that in Latin America a broadly Permanent Revolution perspective was evident from the outset. Casciola, P, op cit, p. 17. (Back to text)
54. Cited from an extract from L’Internationale Communiste, No. 15, January 1921 in Lwy, M (ed.), (1992), op cit, p. 13. (Back to text)
55. Ibid, p. 13. (Back to text)
56. Caballero, M, Latin America and the Comintern, 1919-1943, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. 151; and Alexander, RJ, Communism in Latin America, New Brunswick: NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1957, pp. 19-20. (Back to text)
57. Cited in Caballero, M, op cit, p. 49 from Alba, V, Esquema Histórico del Comunismo en Latinoamérica, Mexico, Ed. Occidentales, 1960, p. 20. (Back to text)
58. Boersner, D, The Bolsheviks and the National and Colonial Question (1917-1928), Geneva, Librairie E. Droz and Paris, Librairie Minard, 1957, p. 204. (Back to text)
59. Jeifets, L, op cit, pp. 111-112. (Back to text)
60. Hodges, DC, op cit, p. 46. (Back to text)
61. Ibid, pp. 27-28. (Back to text)
62. Ibid, pp. 27-31. (Back to text)
63. Carr, EH, Foundations of a Planned Economy: 1926-29, Vol. 3, London, Macmillan Press, 1978, pp. 972-973. (Back to text)
64. Mariátegui, JC, ‘The Anti-Imperialist Perspective’, New Left Review, No. 70, November-December 1971, p. 69. (Back to text)
65. Ibid, pp. 69-70. (Back to text)
66. Mariátegui argued that the indigenous Indians’ communal property, which had survived the penetration of capitalism, supported a collectivist, co-operative tradition in the countryside. For Mariátegui, this was an important force for a radical transformation along socialist lines. Taking this on board, it can be said that Mariátegui’s independent ideas synthesised a degree of Second Period Stalinism with a spiritual indigenismo in an internationalist framework. See Pearlman’s ‘Introduction’ in Pearlman, M (ed.), op cit, pp. vx-xxvii; Angell, A, ‘The Left in Latin America since c. 1920’, In: Bethell, L (ed.), The Cambridge History of Latin America, Vol. 6, Part 2, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 174-176; and the unsigned essay ‘Presentation of José Carlos Mariátegui’, New Left Review, No. 70, November-December 1971, pp. 65-66 for political sketches of Mariátegui. (Back to text)
67. See Lwy, M, ‘Marxism and Romanticism in the Work of José Carlos Mariátegui’, Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Issue 101), July 1998, pp. 80-82. While it is difficult to establish a single, consistent Sorelian political strategy, Sorel is perhaps best known for glorifying the concepts of the general strike and political violence as means to rejuvenate revolutionary spirits. See Jennings, JR, Georges Sorel: The Character and Development of His Thought, Basingstoke, Macmillan Press, 1985, in particular, pp. 135-136. (Back to text)
68. See the article ‘The Struggles of the Communist Parties of South and Caribbean America’, The Communist International, No. 10, 20 May 1935, pp. 564-576 as cited in Unsigned, ‘Materiales sobre la Actividad de las Secciones de la Komintern, América del Sur y América Central’, Socialismo y Participación (Lima), No. 11, 1980, pp. 127. (Back to text)
69. See Phillips, HD, Between the Revolution and the West: A Political Biography of Maxim M. Litvinov, Boulder: CO, Westview Press, 1992, pp. 130-133; and Gaddis, JL, Russia, The Soviet Union and the United States: An Interpretative History, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1990, pp. 117-122 for details of this U.S.-Soviet rapprochement. (Back to text)
70. Szlajfer, H, ‘Latin America and the Comintern: An Interesting Book with Many Mistakes’, El Boletín de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe (Amsterdam), No. 46, June 1989, pp. 114-115. Although the Popular Front tactic, which sought to include the forces of the democratic national bourgeoisie in any alliance, had been pursued in China and elsewhere during the Second Period, the principal difference between the policy in the Second Period and Popular Front Period was that in the latter, active participation in bourgeois governments was more openly advocated. (Back to text)
71. Throughout this period the influence of the Comintern in the Caribbean region was exercised through its Caribbean Bureau. The Cuban Communist Party as “one of the best organized and financed Communist Parties in the continent” had the most decisive input in that regional organisation. See Cerdas-Cruz, R, The Communist International in Central America, 1920-36, Basingstoke, Macmillan Press/St. Anthony’s College Oxford, 1993, p. 160. (Back to text)
72. Lwy, M (ed.), (1992), op cit, p. 72. (Back to text)
73. Although the line of class collaboration had been pursued since the mid- to late 1930s, Browderism can be distinguished as a distinct policy during the 1944-45 period in the sense that Earl Browder, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the United States, argued that class divisions were no longer of any significance. At the time this reflected the relationship between the USSR and the United States, and Browder went so far as to propose the voluntary dissolution of communist parties along with the Comintern. A discussion of the Browder controversy including the PCC’s hearty approval of Browder’s theory of an end to class war and the imperialist epoch can be found in Blasier, SC, The Cuban and Chilean Communist Parties, Instruments of Soviet Policy, 1935-48, PhD Thesis, Columbia University, 1956, pp. 95-96; and Jaffe, PJ, ‘The Rise and Fall of Earl Browder’, Survey, Spring 1972, pp. 14-65. (Back to text)
74. Claudin, F, op cit, p. 309. (Back to text)
75. See Lwy, M (ed.), (1992), op cit, pp. 113-122, in particular p. 117. (Back to text)
76. See Aguilar, LE, ‘Currents in Latin America: Fragmentation of the Marxist Left’, Problems of Communism, Vol. 19, No. 4, 1970, pp. 1-12. (Back to text)
77. Cited in Lwy, M (ed.), (1992), op cit, p. xlii. (Back to text)
78. The Sino-Soviet dispute resulted from the Chinese Communist Party’s rejection of the Soviets’ emphasis on peace and disarmament and rapprochement with the U.S. in the late 1950s. The Chinese continued to stress that the anti-imperialist struggle must be conducted at all levels and with all available methods, though should be particularly directed at the ‘weakest link’ in the imperialist chain, namely, the regimes in the under-developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Furthermore, as Robert Service has recounted, “[i]n 1960 Mao fulminated against those [i.e., the Soviet-backed communist parties] who based their policies on the priority to avoid nuclear war. Such a war, according to Mao, would in fact be winnable. Once the mushroom clouds of the H-bombs had lifted, ‘a beautiful system’ would be created in place of capitalist imperialism.” Service, R, (1997), op cit, p. 354. (Back to text)
79. See The Second Declaration of Havana, New York, Pathfinder Press, 1994, pp. 32-33. (Back to text)
80. Trotsky, LD, ‘War and the Fourth International’, In: Breitman, G, and Scott, B, (eds), Writings of Leon Trotsky (1933-34), New York, Pathfinder Press, 1975, p. 306. (Back to text)
81. According to Fernández, this article was the result of discussions with Trotsky in which the latter outlined his ideas, taking as a starting point the theory of Permanent Revolution. Gall, O, Trotsky en México y la Vida Política en el Periódo de Cárdenas, 1937-1940, Mexico D.F., Ediciones Era, 1991, p. 224. (Back to text)
82. ["las burguesías nativas [....], a pesar de sus ansias nacionalistas, [son] simples apéndices del imperialismo. [....] Nacidas tardíamente, en presencia de una penetración imperialista y del atraso del país, no pueden resolver con éxito las tareas que sus semejantes de los países avanzados cumplieron ha mucho tiempo. En el futuro sólo el proletariado, a la cabeza de los campesinos y del pueblo pobre, será capaz de realizar hasta sus ltimas consecuencias las tareas de la revolución democrático-burguesa".](My translation, GT.) Fernández O, ‘Qué Ha Sido y a Dónde Lleva la Revolución Mexicana?’, Clave (Mexico D.F.), Year 2, Nos 3 and 4, November-December 1939, p. 49. (IISG: ZDO 28028.) (Back to text)
83. A Bonapartist state is one which is relatively independent of the contending classes, though not neutral in the class struggle. Marx used the term ‘Bonapartism’ to describe the French bourgeoisie’s acceptance of Bonaparte in revolutionary France in 1852. Marx argued that the weakened French bourgeoisie through “fear of losing their conquests” recognised that capitalist interests depended on Bonaparte, and allowed him to do as he liked with the bourgeoisie’s parliamentary representatives for the sake of social peace. Marx, K, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1977, pp. 66-67. While Trotsky recognised that classical Bonapartism would not be repeated, he argued that a number of its traits would find expression in the future. The most important feature of Bonapartist regimes which he highlighted was the raising of a military-police apparatus over the two struggling camps in the class struggle in order to defend bourgeois property. See Trotsky, LD ‘German Bonapartism’ In: Breitman, G and Maisel, M (eds), op cit, pp. 330-331. (Back to text)
84. Trotsky, LD, ‘Nationalized Industry and Workers’ Management’, In: Allen, N, and Breitman, G (eds), Writings of Leon Trotsky (1938-39), New York, Pathfinder Press, 1974, p. 326. (Back to text)
85. See Gall, O, op cit, p. 226; and Trotsky, LD, ‘Latin American Problems: A Transcript’, In: Breitman, G (ed.), Writings of Leon Trotsky: Supplement (1934-40), New York, Pathfinder Press, 1979, p. 785. (Back to text)
86. See ibid, p. 785. (Back to text)
87. Ibid, p. 784. (Back to text)
88. Gall, O, op cit, p. 226. (Back to text)
89. Trotsky, LD, ‘Latin American Problems: A Transcript’, op cit, p. 784. (Back to text)
90. Ibid, p. 785. (Back to text)
91. Ibid, p. 784. (Back to text)
92. Ibid, p. 784. (Back to text)
93. Trotsky, LD, ‘Anti-Imperialist Struggle is Key to Liberation: An Interview with Mateo Fossa’, In: Allen, N, and Breitman, G (eds), Writings of Leon Trotsky (1938-39), op cit, p. 35. (Back to text)
94. See Trotsky, LD, ‘On the Declaration by the Indochinese Oppositionists’, In: Breitman, G, and Lovell, S (eds), Writings of Leon Trotsky (1930-31), New York, Pathfinder Press, 1973, pp. 30-31. Trotsky argued that “[t]he proletariat does not have the right to turn its back on this kind of nationalism. On the contrary, it must demonstrate in practice that it is the most consistent and devoted fighter for national liberation.” (Back to text)
95. Trotsky, LD, ‘Latin American Problems: A Transcript’, op cit, p. 785. (Back to text)
96. Ibid, p. 785. (Back to text)
97. Ibid, pp. 784-785. To underline the consistency of Trotsky’s argument, he voiced these themes of permanent competition with the national bourgeoisie and proletarian independence in the struggle against imperialism in his writings on other parts of the colonial and semi-colonial world. For example, not excluding the possibility that the Indian bourgeoisie would take limited steps against arbitrary British rule, Trotsky argued that the proletariat should support “every oppositional and revolutionary action directed against imperialism.” However, he also emphasised that the proletariat’s support had to be given via its own methods, that is, strikes, mass demonstrations, etc., and “inspired by a firm distrust of the national bourgeoisie and their petty bourgeois agencies.” See Trotsky, LD, ‘Letter on India’, In: Allen, N, and Breitman, G (eds), Writings of Leon Trotsky (1939-40), New York, Pathfinder Press, 1973, p. 109. Writing on the possibility of a Japanese invasion of China in the late 1930s, while drawing a distinction between the patriotism of workers in imperialist and semi-colonial countries, Trotsky again stressed the need to focus on working within and building class-based organisations before working with any national liberation front in the oppressed country. For Trotsky, when national liberation movements sprang into being the fundamental issue was to prepare for any conflict with imperialism by creating trade union committees and the like, and maintain a clear class position. See Trotsky, LD, ‘A Discussion On China’, In: Evans, L, and Block, R (eds), op cit, pp. 549-566. (Back to text)
98. Trotsky, LD, ‘Latin American Problems: A Transcript’, op cit, p. 783. (Back to text)
99. Ibid, p. 784. (Back to text)
100. See Gall, O, op cit, pp. 191-204. (Back to text)
101. Trotsky, LD, ‘Latin American Problems: A Transcript’, op cit, p. 791. (Back to text)
102. Ibid, pp. 790-792; and Trotsky, LD, ‘To the Pillory!’, In: Allen, N, and Breitman, G (eds), Writings of Leon Trotsky (1938-39), op cit, pp. 171-173. The transitional method was systematised by Trotsky in the Fourth International’s founding programmatic document The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International. Trotsky called the list of slogans and demands in the programme ‘transitional demands’ because he thought that although they were essentially unrealisable under capitalism, a consistent struggle to attain them would lead to the overthrow of capitalism. See Trotsky, LD, The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution, New York, Pathfinder Press, 1977, p. 159. (Back to text)
103. Trotsky, LD, ‘Latin American Problems: A Transcript’, op cit, pp. 785-786. (Back to text)
104. Blasier, SC, op cit, p. 24; and Halperin, E, Nationalism and Communism in Chile, Cambridge: MA, The M.I.T. Press, 1965, pp. 42-43; and Sinani, ‘The June Events in Chile’, The Communist International (London), Vol. 9, No. 13, 15 July 1932, p. 437. (MML.) (Back to text)
105. See Alexander, RJ, (1973), op cit, pp. 93-98; and Drake, PW, Socialism and Populism in Chile, 1932-52, Chicago: IL, University of Illinois Press, 1978, p. 80. (Back to text)
106. Stevenson, JR, The Chilean Popular Front, Westport: CT, Greenwood Press, 1970, p. 55; and Coggiola, O (1993), op cit, pp. 18-19. (Back to text)
107. Alexander, RJ, (1973), op cit, p. 112. (Back to text)
108. Alexander, RJ, (1957), op cit, p. 215. (Back to text)
109. While histories written by partisan Trotskyist activists tend to present the debate sparked by the SWP(US) Burnham-Shachtman Minority as one which from the beginning focused on the character of the Soviet Union, the initial conflict in fact occurred over the issue of defence of the Soviet Union and how revolutionaries in Poland and Finland could fight for the military victory of the invading Red Army in 1939-40. A recent study demonstrates that only in late 1940 did Shachtman decisively change his view on the issue of the class character of the Soviet Union, classifying it as a bureaucratic collectivist society, governed by a new social class distinct from both capitalism and socialism. See Matgamna, S (ed.), The Fate of the Russian Revolution: Lost Texts of Critical Marxism, Vol. 1, London, Phoenix Press, 1998. In Latin America, Pedrosa won the support of various sections in numerous parties for the Minority’s position. See Coggiola, O, (1993), op cit, pp. 34-35. (Back to text)
110. Quebracho, Estrategia Revolucionaria: Lucha por la Unidad y por la Liberación Nacional y Social de la América Latina, Buenos Aires, Fragua, 1957, pp. 94-97; and Sullivan, JL, ‘Liborio Justo and Argentinian Trotskyism’, Revolutionary History (London), Vol. 2, No. 2, Summer 1989, pp. 30-32. (Back to text)
111. See Hodges, DC, op cit, p. 85. (Back to text)
112. ["retomó las ideas de Liborio Justo [....] a fin de poder justificar no su alianza con la burguesía nacional, sino su obsecuente sevilismo hacia ella."](My translation, GT.) Lora, G, Contribución a la Historia Política de Bolivia, Vol. 1, La Paz, Ediciones Isla, 1978, p. 303. (Back to text)
113. ’Resolutions of the Third World Congress, Latin America: Problems and Tasks’, Fourth International (New York), November-December 1951, p. 209. (SWP(US).) (Back to text)
114. Ibid, p. 209. (Back to text)
115. See Lora, G, ‘The Bolivian Revolution and the Activity of the POR’, Revolutionary History (London), Vol. 4, No. 3, Summer 1992, p. 21. Broué has also described how the POR “limped behind” the MNR’s Left-wing. Broué, P, ‘Bolivia, 9 April 1952: A Forgotten ‘February Revolution’?’, Revolutionary History (London), Vol. 4, No. 3, Summer 1992, pp. 29-30. (Back to text)
116. Lora, G, (1992), op cit, p. 21. (Back to text)
117. While Hodges contends that both the ‘national liberation’ and ‘proletarian’ tendencies were strongly represented during the Bolivian events in 1952, this view has been challenged by José Villa who argues that only later did the anti-Pabloists “discover” the Bolivian POR’s 1952 “betrayal [....] in their search to find arguments for their factional battles". See Villa, J, ‘A Revolution Betrayed’, Revolutionary History (London), Vol. 4, No. 3, Summer 1992, pp. 84-85. The Vern-Ryan documents published in the SWP(US)’s Internal Bulletin in 1952-53 also suggest that the Bolivian Partido Obrero Revolucionario was encouraged by the SWP(US) and international leadership to adopt a conciliatory attitude towards the MNR government. See, for example, Ryan, S, ‘Bolivia—Class Collaboration Makes a Recruit’, Internal Bulletin (New York), Vol. 15, No. 17, August 1953, pp. 40-51. (SP.) Another critique which highlighted the point that the Bolivian Partido Obrero Revolucionario was pursuing a strategy similar to that of the Comintern in China in 1925-27 was published in the Shachtmanite press. See the list of articles written by Juan Robles/Juan Rey in the newspaper Labor Action during 1952. Robles Reports on Bolivian Revolution. URL: (4 January 1999.) [These Reports from Bolivia by ‘Juan Robles’ have since moved to] (Back to text)
118. Coggiola has argued that the SWP(US) supported reunification because the International Secretariat groups viewed Cuba as a workers’ state whereas the International Committee, to whom it was loosely affiliated, did not. Coggiola, O, Historia del Trotskismo Argentino, Vol. 2, Part 1, (1986), op cit, p. 39. (Back to text)
119. See the flow diagram in Appendix A for an overview of the organisational realignments which took place in the international Trotskyist movement in the wake of the Cuban Revolution. (Back to text)
120. Cited in Alexander, RJ, (1991), op cit, p. 665 from Sous le Drapeau de Socialisme (Paris), June-August 1981, p. 45. (Back to text)
121. See Coggiola, O, (1986), op cit, pp. 31-34; and Alexander, RJ, (1991), op cit, pp. 659-665; and Hodges, DC, op cit, pp. 118-120; and ‘Posadism: A Report on an Autopsy’, Inprecor, nd, pp. 12-20. (From internal evidence, published by the International Marxist Group in Great Britain in the late 1960s.) (SP.) (Back to text)
122. Coggiola, O, (1986), op cit, p. 33. (Back to text)


Download printable pdf file | Thesis Contents | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Appendices