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The New International, January 1939


Chris Andrews

A New Marxist Review in Mexico


From New International, Vol.5 No.1, January 1939, pp.29-30.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


THE FIRST two issues of Clave [1] signal the rebirth of the Marxist movement in Mexico, so badly scattered and disorganized during the last 15 years of Stalinist decay. With an improved format in its second number, the magazine has won praise from the intellectuals and workers of the revolutionary left.

Its first issue contains two articles by Leon Trotsky, one a short piece on the Czech crisis, and the other a long analysis of the Spanish civil war in which is set out the powerful Twelve Conditions for Victory. The editors – Adolfo Zamora, Jose Ferrel, and Diego Rivera – in their editorial statement repudiate Mexican participation in the coming imperialist war and call for a struggle to the death against imperialism, both “fascist” and “democratic.” Zamora contributes a piece on the Prostitution of the Dialectic; Rivera and Andre Breton publish for the first time their Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art; and the Congress Against War and Fascism held under the auspices of Lombardo Toledano and the Stalinists is submitted to critical analysis.

It was at this congress, it will be remembered, that the Spanish Stalinist, Margarita Nelken, acting as chairman, and her claque, howled down the Porto Rican delegate’s attempt to discuss the tyranny of the United States over his people. General disgust with communist party politics, as shown up at this Congress, helped to prepare among the intellectuals and artists a favorable reception for the Rivera-Breton Manifesto – calling for a sharp break with Stalinism and “an anarchist regime of individual liberty” for artists and intellectuals.

Of especial interest, is the Rivera article, The Development of Latin America, one of two theses presented by him to the Pre-Conference of the Pacific-Latin-American Bureau of the Fourth International.

In the first Rivera traces briefly Latin-American history, emphasizing the contrast between the emigrants to the United States – artisans, independent farmers, tradesmen, representatives of those classes which in Europe were in revolt against the bonds of feudalism and planning to build their own society in the New World on a bourgeois economy – and the Spanish Conquistadores, agents of Old World feudalism whose aim was not to settle, but to enslave and exploit. In the former colonies the native tribes were driven inland or exterminated; in the latter the exploitation of the labor of the newly-conquered serfs was a main source of revenue.

The colonial revolts inspired by the American and French revolutions were mostly defeated. The “independence” of the colonies was thereupon accomplished by the colonial feudalists, forced to this step by the approaching triumph of the Reform movement in Spain itself. In this fashion the feudal set-up survived and has been a determining factor in the retarded development of Latin America ever since.

The local governments continue today as in the past to teeter in unsteady equilibrium between the demands of their exploited peoples and the pressure of foreign imperialism. Because of the subordinate character of the class development of the former Spanish and Portuguese colonies, Rivera denies them the dignity of independent labels and describes them throughout as “sub-feudal”, and “sub-bourgeoisie”, and so on.

Today foreign capital, seeking raw materials, fields for investment, and ever larger markets for its goods has brought industrial development to Latin America and with it the existence of a rebellious, class-conscious working class. Today these men and women, more unified and politically more advanced than their fellows of the fields, mountains, and forests begin to struggle to their feet – to demand an accounting with all exploiters, native or foreign, “democratic” or not.

When the national bourgeoisie, deformed and stunted from birth, in reprisal attempts fascism, it is unable to evolve its own, but as “sub-fascism” is driven to shelter itself under the tutelage of Nazi or Italian imperialism. In the same manner, the remaining “democratic” governments, never more than “sub-democracies”, are but the “means of penetration” of their countries used by the finance capital of the United States and Great Britain.

It would be naive, of course, to believe that there is any fixed principle at work in these arrangements – imperialism, “fascist” or “democratic”, is perfectly willing to enter into relationship with any form of government amenable to its demands. The establishment of the bloody Vargas tyranny in Brazil has only made more efficient the sympathetic understanding between Rio de Janeiro and the White House; Dictator Vargas entertains “democrat” Roosevelt and severs relations with Dictator Hitler. In the final analysis, economics talks louder than ideology.

The gradual degeneration of the Comintern has left the leadership of these revolutions to the Fourth International. The First International did not live long enough to penetrate into these 20 countries; the Second is notorious for smug indifference to colonial problems; the Third, after 15 years of violent shifts and turns, alternating vituperation of liberal and progressive elements with pacts and combines with the military and clergy, now presents its hapless members with an order to herd the South American workers and peasants into alliance in war with their longest and most hated exploiters, the “democratic” imperialisms of England and the United States.

Rivera sees no necessity for the Latin-American proletariat to wait for the leadership of the working class of the United States; indeed, he advances the possibility of Socialist United States below the Rio Grande before their appearance above.

The November issue has Trotsky’s A Most Recent Lesson – a long article analyzing the consequences of the Munich capitulation and the prospects of the coming war. Also it contains the interview between Trotsky and Fossa, militant Argentine trade unionist, who announces his entry into the ranks of the Fourth International. The editors call for the forming of Workers’ Defense Guards – an answer to Stalinist thugs in the Teachers’ Union. Other material is the Manifesto of the Founding Congress of the Fourth International, Rivera’s second thesis, and short articles of topical interest.

In the second Rivera thesis, The Class Struggle and the Indian Problem, he attacks the demagogic attempts to avoid the class character of the problem by shallow appeals to the Indian’s racial prejudices. Demonstrating that the correct answer is to be found in the Indian’s economic status, he sketches the four centuries of exploitation of the peasantry, trapped under feudal conditions of land tenure.

Beginning in 1911 the Mexican Revolution lasted for a decade of bloody struggle, carried by the peasant armies to success by 1920, in spite of the treachery of leaders and intervention by the United States. Nevertheless, the peasants were unable to organize their victory. By 1934, of 14,000,000 hectares of cultivable land in Mexico, only 2,000,000 had been redistributed.

Today the farmers have been replaced in revolutionary importance by a new power. Between 1929 and 1937, 4,000 new factories were built in Mexico. The industrial proletariat appeared, completely changing the political scene, and taking upon its shoulders the tasks of the revolution the peasantry could not lead to conclusion.

Under pressure from the masses, the Cardenas government has redistributed in its first 2½ years as many hectares as all its predecessors. But it lacks the financial resources to supply the communal villages with the machinery and electrical power required for a socialist level of production, and the ejiditarios remain in debt to the government banks, forced to eke out supplementary incomes by outside labor.

Rivera associates the increase in land distribution to the increase of labor militancy, showing that such grants occur in those regions where a large class-conscious proletariat exists – the conditions of the peasantry being at their worst where such labor strength does not appear.

Large grants of the best land were appropriated by “generals” and politicians during the revolution. This group now allies itself with native capitalism and foreign imperialism, savagely resisting the peasant demands. Rivera calls for unceasing pressure by the workers to continue the expropriations. Thus they will prove their right to leadership and win the alliance of the peasants in the struggle for the socialist revolution.

The problem of the Mexican peasant supplies the picture of the whole Latin-American land problem. All other countries lag behind. Rivera cites appalling figures to show the misery and poverty of the indigenous peoples, their low level of culture and existence.

The terrible class exploitation in these countries where bourgeois capitalism has never established – as in the United States and Great Britain – a “historical” and “democratic” camouflage of classless, common interest, keeps revolution on the order of the day. How the Latin-American workers and peasants will react to the coming clash between their various imperialist exploiters in the Second World War – in which their continent, their livelihood, and their liberty will be part of the booty at stake – whether they will cast off the stupid and treacherous policies of Stalinism – all this remains to be seen. It will be the job of that Marxist leadership now awakening here to move these masses to a sweeping revolt. Upon the basis of its first two issues, Clave deserves a large public, not only in Mexico and Latin America, but also among the Spanish speaking population of the United States.

MEXICO CITY, December 7, 1938



1. Clave. Published monthly in Mexico City by revolutionary Marxists. 2 pesos yearly.

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