Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Fourth International, September 1944


Persecution of the Trotskyists in Uruguay


From Fourth International, vol.5 No.9, September 1944, pp.273-274.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


In their ferocious campaigns of repression against the labor movement the capitalist rulers in one country after another have singled out the Trotskyists for their first attacks. The Trotskyists are first in the line of fire because they are the spearhead of militant resistance to the developing reaction. The strategy of the governmental agents of capitalism is to strike at the extreme left wing of the labor movement in order to behead its vanguard. If these initial attempts prove successful, they can then move forward in frontal assault against the rest of the working-class.

This plan of action has already been put into effect by the Roosevelt and Churchill governments of Big Business in their frame-up and imprisonment of the Trotskyist leaders in the United States and England. It has recently been deliberately imported into the South American republic of Uruguay by the capitalist regime there.

Following a large scale strike at the Swift packing-plant National Frigorifico, the Uruguayan government issued an executive decree declaring this privately owned plant to be a “public service.” Under Article 165 of the Penal Code any strike by the workers in such a “public service” industry would make them liable to penalties of from three to eighteen months’ imprisonment. The resemblance of this law to the Smith-Connally Act in the United States and similar anti-strike legislation in England is manifest.

This decree was the subject of a violent debate in the Chamber of Deputies of Uruguay which began on June 9 and continued in the sessions of June 13, 14 and 15. Deputy Cardozo of the Socialist Party spoke against the decree as an attack upon elementary rights of the workers to defend their living standards.

In reply to the questions put by Cardozo, the Minister of the Interior tried to shield the repressive anti-labor actions of his government by raising the smokescreen of a “Red Scare.” He launched the most venomous accusations against the Trotskyists for their “agitation” among the workers. At the same time he was careful to exonerate the Stalinists, and also the Social Democrats, from all connection with the strike movement. The two Stalinist deputies, in accordance with the scabby role of the Stalinists everywhere, joined in this reactionary attempt to slander and discredit the Trotskyist movement. They went so far as to divulge the names of the members of the movement and to demand severe punishment for these working class leaders as “traitors.” It is reliably reported that the Stalinists had a hand in instigating the Minister’s attack and in providing him with the libels and misinformation in his speech.

That the Minister’s action was part of the worldwide slander Campaign against the Trotskyist movement undertaken by the Stalinist apparatus in conjunction with the persecutions of the capitalist class is apparent from the nature of his charges. “This preaching,” the Minister declared, “which has appeared in our country is not produced solely in Uruguay. That preaching has appeared at the same time in Great Britain, in the United States, in South Africa and in our own country.”

He then referred to the police raids upon the headquarters of the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party in London which preceded the arrest of four British Trotskyist leaders last spring. They were convicted in connection with the strikes of the miners and of the engineering apprentices on the Tyneside. They were the first to be prosecuted and imprisoned under the vicious Trade Disputes Act of 1927.

The Minister then proceeded to call attention to the activities of the American Trotskyist and to accuse them also of “treason against the efforts of the United Nations” by provoking internal social strife. “They are dangerous:’ he said, “because of their intelligence and of their extraordinary activity carried on in the US trade unions and because with their aggressive language they appear at the head of the workers’ actions, provoking and encouraging strikes. They oppose any agreement with the bosses and denounce all reformist politics.”

Waving two copies of the Uruguay Trotskyist paper Contra la Corriente (Against the Stream) for all the deputies to see, the Minister shouted:

“These are already amongst us ... In our midst they say that this is actually an imperialist war; that the working class must not believe in the vote; they malign parliamentarism; they say that the victories of justice be supplanted by the social tragedy of direct revolutionary action.”

This minister of a capitalist government believes it is a crime to call the imperialist war by its true name. He has the impudence to picture himself as a defender of parliamentary democracy against the Trotskyists immediately after he has deprived workers of their democratic right to strike! Such is his idea of “the victories of justice.”

The Uruguayan Trotskyists, the Revolutionary Workers League, met this reactionary attack upon them and the entire labor movement with a vigorous counter-campaign. Through their press, through leaflets circulated among the workers, and through an open letter addressed to Dr. Cardozo they refuted the base slanders of the Minister and pointed out to the workers that the attacks against them were an integral part of the anti-labor offensive of the bosses.

“WORKERS OF URUGUAY: once again we warn of the danger confronting our trade union liberties our democratic rights and the workers’ organizations,” declared the leaflet. “And only the workers by their own efforts will be able to save them. It is necessary to take heed in time before the bourgeoisie binds the working class completely with its laws and decrees.

“Form a class united front to defend the right to strike and trade union liberties!

“Demand that every union mobilize in defense of those liberties and that it initiate a campaign together with the other workers’ organizations against the repression of the workers’ movement!”

In their open letter addressed to the interpellating Socialist Party deputy, Dr. Cardozo, the Revolutionary Workers League pointed out that the Minister of the Interior “is trying to abuse our revolutionary movement in order to dictate restrictive measures against the liberties of the trade unions. Denouncing our official organ Contra la Corriente, distorting our principles, he wishes to show that all the conflicts which have recently taken place between capital and labor are the result of our provocation.”

“During all of historical development,” the letter continues, “we observe how behind the mask of provocation, attempts have been made to disfigure ideas of social progress. The idea itself, its real content, is not attacked, but rather those who propagate it are attacked as professional agitators, as provocateurs of artificial conflicts in order to disturb the public order.”

The Trotskyist affirm that they are genuine communists and sharply distinguish themselves from the Stalinist traitors to communism.

“We are not professional agitators, nor provocateurs, but rather propagandists of the communist principles, that is of the revolutionary ideas forged by the greatest minds of history: Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky It is impossible find one single act of ours that departs from the scientific and political line established by them ...

“For that reason we disavow also all the maneuvers of the so-called Communist Party, which having departed from the scientific and political line of the teachers of socialism, try to stop us from propagating it, slander us, revile us and attribute to us all the elements expelled from their completely putrefying ranks. ... Let the Minister of the Interior leave these calculated slanders alone and attack our real principles and our real activities.”

In reply to the false accusation of the Minister that the Trotskyist advocate strikes as “revolutionary exercise”, the Revolutionary Workers League explains that since

“we consider the strike as the only arm that the workers possess to obtain their transitional demands, we consequently advise them to defend this fundamental right by all possible means ... As revolutionists we understand perfectly well that any conflict between capital and labor which is artificially provoked leads only to the demoralization of the workers and the destruction of their trade union organizations. Are we the ones who provoked the recent strikes? Or are the economic conditions the cause, the low wages and the high cost of living that drove the workers into action? As proof, we call attention to the fact that the recent strike struggles were led not by us but by the UGT (the regular trade union organization,)”

The capitalist minister had alleged that the Revolutionary Workers League opposed the use of the ballot and renounced participation in parliament. The Trotskyists presented the following exposition of their real position:

“As Marxists we know perfectly well that all class struggle is a political struggle, and consequently that the workers must acquire their political consciousness. Why, then, should we try to destroy the only arms we have, the democratic rights with which the proletariat can acquire consciousness and prepare itself for the next great task which history gives it: forging the socialist society?”

The letter goes on to show that this socialist revolution of the working class is rendered necessary and inevitable by the fact that

“the capitalist system has become too narrow to hold the riches created within itself ... How to carry out this transformation? What methods to use? That does not depend upon us but upon the old society which is opposed to the change. If it will permit a peaceful change, why use other methods? But just as feudal society did not abandon the arena of history except through the profoundly violent methods which the bourgeoisie used to fulfill its historic mission, we believe that the latter will not abandon its privileges and will not permit the proletariat to construct the socialist society except by means of social revolution.”

The Trotskyists do not at all deny the fact that they consider the present war imperialist in character:

“Because all the countries that participate in it except for the Soviet Union, do so for imperialist interests. This war will be really and truly for democracy only when the people take into their own hands the conduct of the war. Does this policy favor a victory of Hitler? We defy anyone to show us one single act of ours that has favored the development of Nazism. No one desires the defeat of Hitler as we do and since 1930 Trotskyism has been the only force that warned of the Nazi danger, while the British and Yankee capitalists supported the economic development of Nazism.”

“No one knows more than ourselves what the barbaric Nazt regime means for the workers’ movement, with its destruction of all the trade union onganizations, its complete subjugation of the working class, with the impossibility of spreading Marxist doctrines and the persecution of all its defenders. How then could we favor the triumph of Nazism? Only malicious slander could impute such an aim to us.”

In Uruguay, as elsewhere, the Trotskyists are demonstrating in action that the only effective method of beating back the anti-labor offensive of the capitalist government and the slanders of the Stalinists is to redouble their political struggle in the very face of persecution. An unflinching fight in defense of the threatened rights of labor and the ideas of socialism will pave the way for the inevitable offensive of the workers against their oppressors, exploiters and misleaders.

Top of page

Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Trotskism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

Last updated on 1.9.2008