Communist Party of Argentina and Upward Mobility

El 8 Aug 98 a las 15:13, Jim Monaghan nos dice(n):

"Being in the Irish CP was not a ticket to bourgeois success. Funnily the ex Republicans who became Moscow line Stalinists were far more careerist and became notorious as a jobs club for ambitious types in the media and other fields. The Irish CP leader M. O`Riordan fought in Spain. He has all the old Stalinist faith but is personally an honest person. Most of the people who ruled in "actually existing" Socialism did not start out corrupt and bad."

It would be interesting to attempt an historic (e.g., class) political analysis of the role of the CPs in each formation. In Argentina, things ran differently than what our friends from Australia, the US and Ireland have told us.

Being in the Argentine CP (or around it) was -if not a ticket to success- a good way to become popular among wishy washy left wing liberals. Many artists who are now linked to the Radical party (a petty-bourgeois formation that acted as the popular wing of counter-revolution from 1955 onwards) made a big deal through their original pro-CP positions. It gave you credentials of being "progressive" while at the same time asked you of no real compromise with the actual working class. Great commercial singers, such as Mercedes Sosa, Horacio Guarany, Alberto Cortes, Victor Heredia, for example, can testify it (or could, if they were not smart enough). This has little to do with their respective talents, just that the CP or its apparatus was a wonderful springboard for them.

I think that the reason for this lies in the fact that the CP was never more than a "radical settler workers / artisans" party, during the Twenties, and slowly turned into a petty bourgeois party with slowly vanishing links with the workers (during the industrialization process of the late thirties), that championed the pro-imperialist Union Democratica in 1945, a moment when it ended absolutely alienated of the Argentine working class.

This CP was later a good school of bourgeois intellectuals, many of whom entered the Frondizi government of 1958-1962, and led the most progressive organizations of the bourgeoisie during the early 70s. It is interesting to realize that in a semicolonial country such as was Argentina during the 60s and 70s the best legacy that the CP made was a group of bourgeois economists and experts, who had to start from Karl Marx in order to devise a bourgeois program. The first Minister of Economic Affairs of Peron in his third term (1973-1974, when he died) was a Poland born Jew who was a secret member of the CP. His name was Jose Ber Gelbard, and he was deprived of his Argentine citizenship after the 1976 coup, forced to exile and die in Mexico. And he was the most bourgeois Minister this country ever had!

But this is not all:

The government that forced Gelbard to exile, the Videla government, was defended by the CP as the lesser evil... They had previously branded the government where Gelbard acted as "fascist".

True that the Argentine CP was to the right of the Russian experts, who understood Argentine politics better. But the local CP stuck to its own bases, petty bourgeois immigrants who thought that they were revolutionaries.

Regards,

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky


Yes, certainly, the CP, not only in Argentina, was a stamp of legitimacy for folklorist and progressive artists in the Nueva Cancion vein. Not only Mercedes Sosa in Argentina but virtually all the luminaries of Nueva Cancion as it developed in Chile passed through the CP as a de rigeur step in establishing their credentials. Quilapayun, Victor Jara, the poet Pablo Neruda. I remember the hue and cry when Quilapayun's members resigned from the CP in the 1980s.

It may be however, that in Chile in the early 1970s being in the CP was more significant that being in it just across the Andes, in Argentina. Not only was the CP the major player in Unidad Popular and the government of Allende, but well before that the early labor struggles and clashes in Chile had been carried out by communists--the fight led by Marmaduke Grove in the '30s, for example--while in Argentina that role was assumed by anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists.

As to why the CP in Argentina was less influential than in other places, as Nestor describes, I wouldn't underestimate the drawing power of Peronismo. I suspect that its role in drawing radicals away from Marxism and the CP might have been similar to that of APRA in Peru.

Both the Peruvian Communist Party, founded by Mariategui and others, and the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, APRA, founded by Victor Raul Haya de la Torre, entered the 1930s as Peru's most leftist radical parties. Both had a great deal of legitimacy, and both were regarded as socialist. Indeed Haya preached a brand of socialism and anti-imperialism. Because of its radical image and large following in the important agricultural areas of the north coast--which included large cotton and sugar plantations-- APRA was more feared than the CP by the bourgeoisie. Indeed, APRA was regarded as communist and as the Bolshevik beachhead in Peru, and not only by the bourgeoisie, but by workers as well. There are accounts, for example, of APRA delegates being greeted by rural laborers with the clenched-fist "communist" salute.

APRA quickly gained sufficient momentum to make a stab at seizing power, and launched a rebellion in 1932. The Army learned about it before hand and massacred several hundred Apristas in a mass execution near Trujillo. This provided APRA with a set of martyrs and a revolutionary aura that carried it through many tests with its leftist image somewhat intact despite Haya's growing anti-communism.

While the CP suffered the embarrassment of Stalin, the splits from the Trosky-Stalin fight, accusations of reformism and immobility from Guevarists, the Sino-Soviet split, and the growing radicalness and influence of Maoist parties, APRA, with Haya in exile many years or trapped in the Colombian embassy, was able to weather the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, relatively intact. Enough so that it was a major player in the shape of the 1979 Constitution. Later, Alan Garcia was able to parlay APRAs image to draw young radicals and Old Apristas together behind a "radical" project and win the presidency in 1985.

The CP meanwhile, played the role of largest opposition party, but had little influence in its own name, instead it acted most influentially through its control of the leadership of the General Confederation Peruvian Workers (CGTP), and had to ward off blows from left and right. On the right, APRA drew young people and municipal authorities away and accused it of catering to Sendero Luminoso. On the left, not only did it have to ward off Senderista attacks, but as the country grew more radicalized and the economic crisis worse, it began to lose hold of the labor movement which started accusing it of reformism and revisionism and began turinig toward others within the veritable galaxy of Peru's radical and active Marxist parties of every stripe.

In many ways, for most of its history, APRA's main role, and perhaps it main goal, has been to keep the CP from getting too big and too influential, and until recently, and APRA badge was about as good, and perhaps even better for being "clean", than a CP one.

Juan Fajardo


Juan Fajardo wrote, "As to why the CP in Argentina was less influential than in other places, as Nestor desctibes, I wouldn't underestimate the drawing power of Peronismo."

I am furthest of all to underestimate the drawing power of Peronism. But it is this drawing power that needs explanation. In particular, an explanation is needed for the question "why did the Argentine workers give away with the traditional Left in the early forties?". These workers, as forged by the industrialization of the 30s, were a new historic subject. In Argentina, the 30s melted in a crucible two (_up to then separate_) branches of labor, that of Argentine origin and tradition and that of European origin and tradition. Peronism was the result of this melting, but it was not a forceful outcome. There is a large chunk of responsibility of the Left in that this happened.

Traditionally, the Left (and the local CP foremost) has tried to "explain away" this for them unexpected phenomenon by resorting to slander against Argentine workers (the nicest thing they were said was "stupid herd"), instead of questioning its own practice as regards the workers and labor movement. Peronism held three banners: Social Justice, Economic Independence, Political Sovereignty. It finally became a strongly centralized, heavy-handed, Bonapartist movement that with the support of the Argentine workers (who somehow were _reborn_ as a "für sich" class in the very moment they gave rise to Peronism) attempted to buil an autonomous capitalist Argentina. The workers had much to gain in this, and in fact this is the kernel of their choice in the mid-forties. I would even dare add that the state and military bureaucracy that constituted the head of Peronism and was developing a bourgeois revolution in spite of the Argentine bourgeoisie's opposition, had to take measures that hindered accumulation. The support of the workers cost the model more than it could easily stand.

What I want to stress is that the "drawing power" of Peronism (and of APRA, which lacking a solid working class could appear as an ideologically daring movement) is not the explanatory variable, but the fact to be explained. The explanation that charges the weight of their drawing power on the luring displaying of the State power (as has been usually done, and is still done, when speaking of Peronism), for example, is a gross underestimation of the most elementary mental abilities of Argentine workers.

(Perhaps something similar may run for Peruvian workers, on different lines. Why did the APRA, and not Mariategui, express them better? What did the Peruvian Left do in order to attain such a situation?)

I think, as a general idea, that both movements (and APRA, by the way, roots itself in the Argentine born movement of the Reforma Universitaria of 1918, which counted with the support of President Yrigoyen) gave an expression to the national question, the crucial question in every Latin American country, that the Peruvian and Argentine Left could not give (Mariategui being an important exception, but somewhat isolated... the reasons why, should be matter of further analysis, as I hint above).

As to Chile, I think that one of the reasons why the Unidad Popular experience ended up so tragically (and one of the reasons why many of the revolutionaries of yesteryear are now comfortably sitting at the armchairs of statu-quo now, something that can also be applied to Fernando Henrique Cardoso in Brasil), is that the Unidad Popular could not accept that the tasks they were carrying on were not socialist, but national tasks, and that their policies were marked by this misunderstanding. Of course, this is only a venturesome guess, and I would be very interested in having information on that.

Juan wrote, "I suspect that its role in drawing radicals away from Marxism and the CP might have been similar to that of APRA in Peru."

In the case of Peronism, this is not true. Peronism did not drive radicals away from Marxism. If one thinks of the intellectual layers, very few Marxists were attracted by Peronism, and a few Socialists. However, when an intellectual approached Peronism, he/she would be ostracized by the intellectual establishment, and would feel the extreme loneliness of a left wing thinker in Peronism. Because Peronism was a movement where the fear (objective fear, I mean) that the workers should slide to the left and superate the bourgeois limits of the movement made the intellectual field the most barren landscape one has ever seen. APRA was different in this. Few Marxists entered Peronism. Rodolfo Puiggros was one of them, Juan Jose Hernandez Arregui was another, John William Cooke was not a Marxist at the beginning of his carreer but radicalized his positions during the sixties. There were bourgeois or petty bourgeois intellectuals (Raul Scalabrini Ortiz, Arturo Jauretche, and a few others), who made the link between the Radical Party of Yrigoyen and the Peronist movement. All of them had little import, were relegated or even persecuted by Peronism. So, Peronism did not recruit Marxist (not even left wing bourgeois or petty bourgeois) thinkers. It shunned from anything breathing of French Revolution with a passion that could have been better used elsewhere.

At the same time, since Marxists in Argentina were (with a few exceptions that saved the honor of the movement) on the anti-national side (poor Marxists they were, but they were the official face of Marxism), the workers did not pay attention to them.

During the 30s, the labor unions slowly lost contact with the newly growing working class, and by the time Peron reached the Secretary of Labor he discovered that the military-nationalist government he membered could obtain support from the workers. New unions grew, partly fostered by the government, but mostly out of a new wave of unionization where Argentine workers were not despised by Eurocentric leaders, and the meaning of the labor movement in Argentina changed from a small fraction of the workers, mostly centered in the ports, to a powerful movement structured around the new born steelworkers union (UOM), a movement that began a new history in Argentine syndicalism.

All of the Left called these unions, and their leaders, fascist. And these leaders had surged, mostly, from the rank and file of a new, confident working class; these leaders, even under the most corrupt of the situations, such as the one we are traversing now, usually tend to express, however horribly, the pressures they receive from below, that is from the _actual_ workers). Why should Argentine workers join that Left, that Left which objectively acted as a pro-imperialist Left?

This is, I think, the source of the "drawing power" of Peronism.

Juan wrote, " Both the Peruvian Communist Party, founded by Mariategui and others, and the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, APRA, founded by Victor Raul Haya de la Torre, entered the 1930s as Peru's most leftist radical parties. Both had a great deal of legitimacy, and both were regarded as socialist. Indeed Haya preached a brand of socialism and anti-imperialism. Because of its radical image and large following in the important agricultural areas of the north coast--which included large cotton and sugar palnatations-- APRA was more feared than the CP by the bourgeoisie. Indeed, APRA was regarded as communist and as the Bolshevik beachhead in Peru, and not only by the bourgeoisie, but by workers as well. There are accounts, for example, of APRA delegates being greeted by rural laborers with the clenched-fist "communist" salute. APRA quickly gained sufficient momentum to make a stab at seizing power, and launched a rebellion in 1932. The Army learned about it before hand and massacred several hundred Apristas in a mass execution near Trujillo. This provided APRA with a set of martyrs and a revolutionary aura that carried it through many tests with its leftist image somewhat intact despite Haya's growing anti-communism."

It would be interesting to sink the surgical knife deeper.

Were the workers in Peru "deceived" by the APRA? Or there must have been a reason why APRA was felt to be a better representative of their collective will? I tend to search answers along the second kind of question. What was the exact class composition and what was the political project of APRA? Why did the masses follow that project? Why did the rural labourers feel the APRA deserved to be saluted with upswung clenched fists? These questions cannot be easily done away with. The "backwardness" of the masses is a very self-defeating explanation (not to say reactionary). It just shows a tendency to mental laziness we should be ashamed of.

Marxists should extract conclussions from the actual movements of the masses, not try to instill a metaphysical essence into the workers, as if we had the Idea that should incarnate in a dumb Mass. From Marx's _Theses on Feuerbach_ onwards (not to mention the definitions in the _Manifesto_), this should be a finished debate.

When Lenin explained that the workers, left to themselves, would always tend to generate tradeunionism, not revolution, he did not mean that we Marxists were above the workers, bearing the torch of revolution, and that workers had to be goaded into that path by force of an educational effort . He was thinking in something Prince Kropotkin (yes, yes, Kropotkin) had affirmed in his History of the French Revolution: that revolutions arise when both the intellectual movement and the worker's movement share the same path against the power. I don't know if Lenin had read those lines by Kropotkin (I tend to believe he had, Lenin was a very _serious_ man), but I am sure he would have liked them.

The remaining lines of Juan Fajardo's mail are very informative, but I do not see in them a single mention of the Belaúnde Terry and Velazco Alvarado regimes. It seems to me that what Alan García tried to do was to mix the best remains of the Velazco Alvarado group and some of the oldest APRA members in a new synthesis resembling the attempt at modernization Alfonsín made in Argentina. But García seems to have been better attuned to circumstances.

I remember that in 1983 or 1984 he came here to seek the support of Alfonsin in his fight to reduce Foreign Debt payments to a 10% of the Peruvian exports. Alfonsín, a charlatan without guts (characteristically Argentine petty bourgeois, indeed!), left him alone, and García foundered with his attempt.

By the way, it was not the first time an Argentine government left the Peruvian progressives unsupported. The same happened 160 years ago, when San Martín discovered that Buenos Aires, in the hands of the Rivadavia gang (allies of Great Britain in the River Plate) left him unfunded against the intrigues of the Peruvian higher classes. That these higher classes were no minor enemy, can be understood if one recalls that one of the most savage Spanish Generals during the War of Independence, Pío Tristán, was by the second third of the 19th century a very respected landowner in Arequipa (correct me if I am wrong on the details), something I learnt through the Memories of Flora Tristán.

Regards,

Nestor.