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Luis H. Velasco

An Exclusive Report to Labor Action:

The South American Stalinists
Sell Out for “a Plate of Lentils”

(28 February 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 8, 24 February 1947, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In accordance with its policy of printing articles by revolutionary socialists from every part of the globe, Labor Action is pleased to print here this highly informative article by Comrade Luis H. Velasco, a South American socialist. It provides information and analysis in harmony with the article of Anthony Ferrara in last week’s Labor Action. Especially striking is its report on the role of the South American Stalinists who have turned to the support of such reactionaries and semi-fascists as Peron in Argentina.Ed.


THE South American continent is a virgin territory of enormous natural resources, rich in basic materials, but until recently poor in industry and capital; hence a rich and savory dish for imperialism. Outside of the most advanced countries (Brazil, Argentina and to a certain extent Chile), the major part of this continent is submerged under a semi-feudal economy and social structure, without revolutionary changes since the Spanish-colonial era. Only Brazil and Argentina succeeded in recent decades in making important progress in the industrialization of their countries, which was so important that it changed their economic and social structure.

Both Brazil and Argentina today possess industry which is of great weight in Squth America. Thereby political and social convulsions are being prepared in these countries. The European wars and the self-destruction of the European imperialisms allowed Brazil and Argentina to achieve a certain degree of national economic independence. But this breathing-spell has already ended. In our times there are neither countries nor continents which are isolated. In the mortal inter-imperialist struggle, the Western Hemisphere is another battleground between the United States and Stalinist Russia.

The “good neighbor” policy of Roosevelt established strong support for American imperialism. The credits bestowed on Brazil are simultaneously the basis for the “continental defense” and North American economic penetration. The important obstacle in this path is Argentina, whose growing industry is opposed to the colonial methods of Wall Street, having been buttressed by the political and economic support of German imperialism before the war’s end. As a result of her defeat In the war, Germany’s positions in Argentina have been largely lost, as is the case with the French and partially the British. Today the rival suitors for the rich “creole virgin” are Yankee capitalism and the bureaucratic imperialism of Stalin!

Yankee imperialism wields powerful economic weapons in its penetration; loans, export of commodities, money, purchase of basic materials and South American products. During the war the United States developed all of’ South American rubber, primarily Brazilian and Bolivian. It also bought minerals, primarily Bolivian tin. Isolated from European industry, the South American countries had to buy the surplus of North American industry, often at higher prices and of poorer quality. This Yankee “commercial” policy causes much anti-American reaction among the Latin American peoples, thus facilitating the subsequent penetration of Russia, which is trying to replace German imperialism in South America.

The Growth of the Stalinist Parties

In the course of the late war the Stalinist parties succeeded, thanks to the growth of Russian military prestige, in winning relatively strong positions. This process was favored still further by the defeat of Nazism. The mestizo [white and Indian hybrid – tr.] petty-bourgeoisie suffers from a sickly nationalism and therefore first threw itself into the arms of Nazism and now native Stalinism. The South American workers do not have class traditions, since the social Strata still are in the process of formation and therefore are easy prey for fascism and native Stalinism, as in Argentina.

South American national politics is not based on the struggle of political programs which correspond to consistent social relations and definite social classes. Social relations in South America lack consistency and firmness. The struggle for power reduced itself, until recently, to the struggle of segments and cliques of the feudo-bourgeoisie and the military. Thus the notorious native “caudillismo” [fuehrer-principle – tr.]

There are no programs or firm political movements with a long perspective, but native caudillos who in stall the bloody dictatorships and govern the country according to their “seignorial” pleasure. It is therefore a fertile soil for penetration of Stalinism which, by leaning on caudillism, knows how to nourish the hopes of the petit-bourgeois masses by “progressive” and “anti-imperialist” phrases, in order to raise social armies in the service of Russian imperialism, just as Nazism knew how to raise its fifth columns in the service of German imperialism.

Native Stalinism, not burdened by a revolutionary tradition, has no need for ideological or moral scruples. It therefore proceeds with complete cynicism and unlimited opportunism, to poison the workers with synthetic nationalism (in South America there is no natural, historical nationalism), with up-to-date caudillismo “à la russe” and with ersatz, “made-in-Moscow” socialism.

How Prestes Sold Out for a Plate of Lentils

The industrial development in Brazil created a relatively strong labor movement which knew how to emancipate itself from the influence of the dictator, Getulio Vargas. The Communist leader, Carlos Luis Prestes, formerly called the “knight of hope,” who spent nine years in Vargas’ prison, sold out his glorious past and the “hope” of the “cariocas” proletariat to their persecutor for a miserable plate of lentils – his freedom and the “legalization” of the Communist Party. In the Brazilian elections, where the candidate of bourgeois “democracy,” Gomes, ran against General Dutra and against Vargas, the Communists supported Vargas and indirectly the ex-fascist, Dutra. Now, seeing the pro-Yankee policy of Dutra, they go over to a noisy opposition, characterized by declarations “against imperialism” and oaths of loyalty to Stalinist Russia. The knight of hope became a hireling of Stalinism and Vargasism.

In Argentina the Stalinists, headed by Geronimo Ghioldi, unleashed a campaign of resounding phrases against “Nazi-fascist Peron,” forming the “democratic front” with the bourgeoisie and the reformist socialists of Palacios, sponsored by the unsuccessful politician from the United States, Braden.

But when Peron won, the master in the Kremlin ordered a change of front and the Argentine Communists ordered their adherents to support the “progressive” policy of Peron. The GPU caught poor Braden in a trap, thus undermining the Yankee “good neighbor” policy. Now the same Stalinists combat “Bradenism.” The Stalinist maneuver prepares the ground for the resumption of political and commercial relations between Argentina and Stalinist Russia. Nevertheless, in spite of the promises of the Stalinists, Peron feels himself strong and admits no partners; the social base of Peron is broad and that of the Stalinists narrow. They are reduced to a policy of adulatory phrases and sterile courtesies toward the Nazi-fascist regime of Peron.

The Chilean Stalinists have had the greatest successes in the last presidential elections, where in a coalition with the radical party, Gabriel Gonzalez Videla was elected as Stalinist candidate. [1] The new Chilean regime, supported by the Stalinists, affirmed a commercial treaty with Peron’s Argentina, obtaining a loan of 300,000,000 Argentine pesos. It is the first success of the Kremlin, which is trying to form an anti-Yankee bloc around Argentine fascism, but a very dubious success, since Peron does not intend to submit to Russian penetration. He is merely playing the Muscovite card in the game of blackmail against North American capitalism.

The Stalinist Policies in Bolivia and Peru

Now the Stalinist penetration tries to ally Bolivia with the Peron bloc. The fall of Villaroel brought very sour comments in Moscow as a “Yankee plot,” in spite of the ingenious enthusiasm of the Chilean and Bolivian Stalinists. Villaroel and Paz-Estenssoro, high Peruvian Nazi-fascist, were allied with Peron and therefore with Stalin. The PIR (Stalinists), expelled from the Bolivian bourgeois democratic front, tried to join the proletarian “left front.” Receiving a kick from the Bolivian proletariat, they joined a coalition with the Bolivian liberals to assure the electoral triumph of the liberal, Guachalla, former Bolivian ambassador to the United States.

In Peru, the Stalinists are of no importance, being reduced to a “tail” of APRA, the petty-bourgeois party of Haya de la Torre.

The Stalinist policy in all of South America has two aims and two “principles”: (1) to serve Russian imperialism and (2) to get the seat of power at all costs, even in a minor role, in order to accomplish the first task assigned by Moscow.

The cynical policy of native Stalinism produces among the conscious proletarians and the Marxist intellectuals a spontaneous resistance which is being transformed into a left-labor current. The growth of the left wing all over South America is associated with the loss of reputation of Stalinism.

Two Currents of Revolutionary Socialism

The left-wing current is divided in all countries into two branches: the official Trotskyists and the revolutionary socialists. In Brazil both groups exist, the revolutionary socialist party in our opinion developing a more agile political activity and theoretical work of some prominence. In Argentina, aside from the Trotskyist organization, there is a strong left wing in the socialist party, primarily in the youth, led by the Marxists who edit The Initiator, youth organ, and Socialism, organ of left socialism in Jujuy, one of the centers of the sugar proletariat. In Chile also, aside from the able Trotskyist organization, there are the left socialists who combat Stalinism. In Peru the left-wing intellectuals are grouped around the review, Continental, while the section of the Fourth International publishes Revolution.

Nevertheless, incredible as it may seem, the left-wing labor movement is strongest in Bolivia. This phenomenon is a result of the unilateral Bolivian economy which rests upon mining development, primarily tin. Utilizing the fall of Nazi-fascism, the Bolivian Trotskyists who make up the FOR (Revolutionary Workers Party) knew how to lead the mining proletariat and to direct the magnificent miners’ congress. On the initiative of the miners’ union, the Workers’ Center, a new class union center, was formed.

The Bolivian bourgeoisie is very frightened, for the 60,000 mine workers can paralyze the entire national economy. The Stalinists offer their services as hangmen to the mining magnates against the mining proletariat. In addition, the PSOB, the Socialist Workers Party of Navarro, edits a newspaper, Batalla, adding to the practical work of the POR consistency of doctrine and agitation. The Bolivian Trotskyists are the first in all of South America to lead a mass movement. They are the first on the whole American continent to win Trotskyist parliamentary seats.

The task of the North American Marxist parties consists in tying themselves with fraternal bonds to the left Latin-American currents, giving them theoretical consistency and practical help of class solidarity, in order to build the American proletarian third camp against imperialism and Stalinism. In order to accomplish this task it is necessary to unite both left currents into a single party, conquering all the sectarianisms and prejudices of groups and leaders.



1. The three Chilean ministers are the first American Stalinists with state portfolios. Of course, their conscience does not bother them in forming a coalition with the bourgeoisie, something greatly, condemned by the Stalinists themselves in their early years.

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