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International Socialism, Summer 1966


Bob Looker

Banana Split


From International Socialism (1st series), No.25, Summer 1966, p.32.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Alliance without Allies
Victor Alba
Praeger, $6.95

This is a bad book. It purports to be a blistering critique of Latin American society, and an assessment of the prospects for a genuine economic and social transformation of the continent. In fact, the ‘critique’ consists of a series of vacuous generalisations about the class structure, interspersed with streams of abuse directed at nearly everyone in sight. The ‘argument’ is supported by a mishmash of statistics and personal anecdotes – politicians’ salaries in Argentina, milk consumption in Bolivia, the sex life of the ruling families of El Salvador, murders in Columbia – which seem to have been selected more for their availability than their relevance to the argument.

Alba’s assessment of the prospects for revolution is equally devoid of serious thought. Having rejected the usual candidates for the role of agents of social change – Fidelists, Communists, populists, middle classes, peasantry, proletarians – as either unable to act or positively reactionary, Alba singles out for his attentions that noted revolutionary body, the United States government! He is too realistic to have any hopes for the Alliance for Progress and its peculiarly mindless attempt to persuade the oligarchs to carry out a ‘revolution from above,’ but he refuses to accept that the only other alternative open to the State Department is a return to its traditional policy of support for any stable, conservative and military regime. Faced with the realities of Johnson’s policies of support for the Brazilian coup, and the active intervention in the Dominican Republic, Alba retreats into the most specious kind of double-think; thus

‘The United States should support revolutions for democracy in Latin America ... Revolutions ... will protect the US Government from the temptation to commit more dramatic blunders of the Santo Domingo type ...’ (p.163).

His picture of the US administration, its rheumy old eyes alight with revolutionary zeal, doling out material aid and moral support to any popular movement against the oligarchs (by definition, ‘popular’ equals pro-American, democratic and even pro-capitalist!) belongs more to the fantasy world of Walt Disney than as a contribution to serious debate.

Alba’s position is that of a social democrat of the American ‘fellow-travelling’ variety. Whatever value his book possesses lies in its demonstration of the utter irrelevance of such views to the real problems facing Latin America.

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