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The New International, July 1944

M. Moreno

The N.I. in Latin America


From The New International, Vol. X No. 7, July 1944, pp. 234–235.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The immigrant workers from Europe brought to the Latin countries of the Western Hemisphere the social ideals and class-consciousness they had acquired in their native lands. They also took to the New World their own backwardness and their own prejudices.

By the end of the century, with the great stream of European immigrants to Latin America, Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese began to pour into South America. These Latin workers constituted the overwhelming majority of the immigrants. Those who were not sent to the large plantations and farms of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile as tenants or hired hands, formed the first industrial workers’ army.

Part of these immigrants were skilled workers of all sorts (engineers, machinists, electricians), or were engaged in the transport industry (railways, street cars, public utilities). Most of them were organized in professional and insurance associations and cooperative societies. The more conscious of them were reformists. However, some of these made the first attempt to build a “socialist” group, following the pre-first-war pattern. The other sector was composed chiefly of handicraft workers in small industries, and their social basis was the small workshops. They were shoemakers, bakers, tailors, glassworkers, typographers, etc. As to the great mass in the textile industry, they were too exploited to be organized, and, a great number of them being women, this made their unionization still more difficult. Their union came much later. These artisan workers were, however, the first to be organized in militant unions. They were all permeated with anarcho-syndicalism. To them belongs the honor of being the first in the Latin-American countries to organize the working class against the owning class.

Until the Russian Revolution, the best elements and fighters of the young proletariat o£ these countries were rallied under the flag of Bakunin, Proudhon, Kropotkin, Ferri, Grave and Malatesta rather than Marx. They read Italian and Spanish pamphlets on the nuances of anarchism. Marxism was confined to some isolated group belonging to the workers’ aristocracy or the petty bourgeois intelligentsia.

Influence of Bolshevism

The Russian Revolution spelled the end of the influence of anarchism among workers of Latin America. The most militant elements of the working class were won over to Leninism. In Brazil, for instance, the founding nucleus of the C.P. was formed by militants from the anarchist groups.

The ideological influence of the Russian Revolution came chiefly through the French language. French became the “international” language of communism in South America. This was due, basically, to two factors: The new strata of intellectuals, chiefly students, who were attracted to the labor movement by the Russian Revolution, and the lack of a strong Marxian tradition among the workers of Spain, Portugal and Italy. The students, who came from bourgeois and petty bourgeois classes, knew French as their second language. French was their “cultural” language, especially in the only Portuguese speaking country of Latin America, Brazil.

We should not forget that the new Italian Communist Party had had a very short life, and disappeared with the triumph of Mussolini. Italian communism therefore had no time to exercise a marked influence on the Latin-American radical workers and intellectuals. In Spain the Marxian and communist movement was until recently too weak to be able to have much influence abroad. So Italy, like Spain, ceased to be the natural channel which brought revolutionary doctrines to the proletariat of the Latin countries of our hemisphere.

It was to the above-mentioned past that an old revolutionist, an Argentinian comrade, referred when at the end of 1940 he received in his country a copy of The New International. This is what he said:

“Before the First World War we all read Italian and Spanish radical publications. Then with the Russian Revolution I had to learn French in order to be able to follow the development of the international revolutionary movement. Now with the degeneration of the old Communist International and the victory of Nazism in Europe, we have to learn English, the ‘new’ revolutionary language. Where else in the world can we now find a magazine of revolutionary Marxism beside The New International?”

In effect, up to 1934, militant Marxism came to Latin America chiefly through the French language. For a certain time, when the Latin-American secretariat of the Comintern was functioning, first in Buenos Aires and then in Montevideo, through the Boletin Sud Americano, put out by the same secretariat, the Spanish idiom became the “official” language of the communist movement on our continent.

With the rise of the Left Opposition of Russia, however, French became the main language among the small circles of Left Oppositionists in Latin America. With the organization of the Left Oppositionists in Spain, which took place with the establishment of the Republic, Comunismo, the official organ of the Spanish Left Oppositionists, edited by Comrades Nin and Andrade, balanced off the French press among the small cadres of the Bolshevik-Leninists. This was not true, however, of the Brazilian Oppositionists. But soon Nin’s group broke away from the Trotskyist movement and Comunismo ceased to be the theoretical organ for the organizations of the Fourth International militants in South America.

In 1934, however, the growing social crisis in France was reflected in the convulsive course of the French Trotskyists. The lack of organizational stability which characterized the French Left Opposition was also reflected in its press, which thereafter appeared irregularly. At that time the growing preponderance of American imperialism on the economic and political life of Latin America began to be felt in other fields, social and cultural.

Rise of American Trotskyism

Paralleling this development was the progress of the Trotskyist movement in America. The United States became the center of the world Trotskyist movement. Its progress was the pride of the small and persecuted family of Trotskyists throughout the world. The Minneapolis and Toledo strikes were a tremendous source of inspiration for all our small groups scattered throughout the six continents. The fusion with the American Workers Party, well executed by the Communist League, was a great tactical step made in a consistently Bolshevik way. It served as a great source of experience for our entire international movement.

Even the entrance into the Socialist Party at a later date was a well led tactical step, in contrast to the French organization, where all the initial successes gained by the small Trotskyist group in the mass French Socialist Party were later completely lost when the French Trotskyists split over the question of leaving the party. The practical know-how and organizational capacities of the American comrades were qualities highly praised in Latin American countries, for those were precisely the qualities lacking in our own ranks. For Latin American countries, this was a marriage between the proverbial American empiricism and theoretical Marxism represented to them by the European movement. Among some of us the hope arose for a new period of Marxism, American Marxism, just as the Russian Revolution brought with it a new period of Marxism with color and life as against the old and watered-down Marxism of the great pre-war social democratic doctors.

We recalled at that time that Kautsky in 1905 once spoke of the march of Marxism to the East, meaning Russia, and the most hopeful among us hoped to see this march continue through the East to the West. All of this compelled the Latin American comrades more and more to look to the American publications as their source of theory, especially to The New International.

The need for this became more acute with the outbreak of the Second World War and the subsequent isolation of Europe from America.

The great problem brought out by the war made it more imperative than ever to link the isolated Latin American organizations with the American movement. The problem of the defense of Russia after the pact with Hitler was a burning question not only in Europe and the United States, but also in Latin America. There was no other source for studying and obtaining information on all these great political disputes than in the theoretical organ of the American Trotskyists. The split in the American movement over the Russian question did not lessen the need of the theoretical organ of the American organization. In spite of the sterile sectarianism of the SWP, especially after the death of Trotsky, The New International continued to be awaited anxiously by the same leading elements of the “official” Trotskyists in Latin America.

Eternal Russian Question

The problem of the Russian Revolution and the eternal question of the character of the Russian state, bureaucratically settled by the “official” Trotskyists, continued to be a burning question for them. And for them there was no other source of study of these great questions than the condemned New International. For instance, the first theoretical article on the character of the Russian state by Max Shachtman after the split made a very deep impression on all sections of the Trotskyist movement in Latin America. In Brazil, it was basic material in the discussion on the Russian problem and was one of the reasons why the newly-won ex-Stalinists broke with the viewpoint of The New International, charging that its views were a revision of Marxism! But this did not free them from the Russian question and they continued to discuss the same eternal problem.

Subsequently, the discussion which took place in the columns of The New International on Russia and the character of its economy, as well as on the Nazi economy, was the greatest contribution made by the American comrades for the revolutionary parties of Latin America. It was on the basis of these discussions that the small Uruguayan group which, with the attack on Russia by Germany, went back to the “official” Trotskyists, split once more and some of its best elements returned to the position of the Workers Party, represented by The New International.

Distinct American Problems

It is necessary that the study of the problem of Latin America be made systematically in order that the beneficial influence of the American revolutionary Marxists on the independent revolutionary movements of Latin America balance off the dangerous and malevolent influence of American imperialism, under the guise of the Good Neighbor policy, on the life of the Latin American people. An important task is to help prepare the Latin American cadres for the coming rebirth of the international movement, so that they may, jointly with the European and world proletariat, aid in the reconstruction of the international socialist organization. This movement must be built on a higher historical plane now that fascism in Europe is at the end of its power and Stalinism has finally taken off its mask in order to assume the role of the “best defender” of the bourgeois social order of today. The social-democratic reformists, by the same token, lost their old traditional role of softening up the working class for the bourgeoisie.

For these, big historical tasks, we hope The New International will fulfill a useful and indispensable role.

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Last updated on 16 December 2015