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Juan Rey

Echoes of the APRA Defeat in Peru

The Totalitarian Reaction
in South America

(29 November 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 48, 29 November 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

LIMA, Peru – The defeat of Nazism, in the Second World War inspired a series of popular movements, of anti- totalitarian, anti-capitalist “revolutions” in South America. In Peru, the bloody military dictatorship of Benavides was liquidated. Under the transitional regime of Manuel Prado, the powerful popular movement, the “APRA” (Popular American Revolutionary Alliance), led by Haya de la Torre, won legality. In Venezuela, the Democratic Alliance of Betancourt and Gallegos eliminated the corrupt Medina regime, and installed a transitional dictatorship which paved the way for elections and guaranteed the ensuing regime.

In Chile, the leadership of the popular, anti-Nazi movement fell into the hands of the Stalinists who favored the candidacy of Gonzale Videia for president, with the hope of using him as a puppet to bring about a Stalinist dictatorship in a South American country. In Paraguay, several revolutions against the regime of the tyrant Morinigo broke out, the latter finally being compelled to abandon the country and take refuge in Buenos Aires. In Bolivia, a popular revolution overthrew the native fascist regime of the MNR (Revolutionary Nationalist Movement), hanging the president, Villaroel, and his aides from lampposts in front of the government palace.

In Colombia, the masses under the leadership of the Liberal leader, Gaitan, hoped to eliminate the government of the semi-feudal Conservative party. The weak link in this chain was the defeat of the Radicals and Socialists in Argentina, and the victory of Colonel Juan Domingo Peron.

All these movements were the consequence of the defeat of Hitlerism in Europe. Among the masses there existed the fervent belief that the victory of “Democracy” and Stalinist “socialism” had opened a new epoch of social and national emancipation in Latin America for the working- class and the popular masses; that imperialist oppression was at an end, and that a new epoch of Pan-American fraternity had begun. In essence, the wave of popular rebellions in South America was a distant echo of the splintered, subjugated mass upheavals in Europe that was cut in half by the iron curtain.

The Second World War did not resolve any of the fundamental problems of humanity, did not bring forth any new ideas, or deliver to the light of day any social revolution as did the First World War. Nothing occurred in the West. A brief Capitalist-Stalinist idyll was replaced by open reaction both in the United States as in Russian and Eastern Europe. The reaction in the United States sapped popular hopes in Latin America, caused an ebbing of the popular wave, and brought the advent of a strong social and political reaction.

What we are witnessing, therefore, is a series of reactionary, anti-popular, anti-democratic movements in Latin America. Their main aim is the liquidation of the popular movements of a few years ago.


The political alliance between the APRA and ex-president Bustamente y Ribera in Peru was dissolved by the bourgeois sector, and the regime established in the 1945 election liquidated. The Bustamente government immobilized the parliament with its Aprista majority, and initiated rule by decree. The APRA went over into opposition, trying to force the government to retreat. But instead of preparing a broad, popular movement, whose backbone would have been a general strike directed by the APRA-controlled Peruvian Federation of Labor, and supported by the native peasant movement, Haya de la Torre’s party aborted the great movement of popular opposition with a military uprising in the port city of Callao in traditional Latin American style.

The entire political strategy of the APRA has been an error, beginning with the Bustamente alliance and ending with the still-born Callao “revolution.” If it is true, as the Peron controlled press asserts, that Haya de la Torre had a tacit agreement with the American State Department and the American Embassy in Lima, then we have a new example of the political incapacity of the “Yankees” in South America.

The revolutionary legend of Haya de la Torre and his party have not stood up under practical examination. For many years the Apristas played with the fantasy of the “democratic revolution,” but they did not know how to realize it when the hour struck. This defeat may very well finish off the Aprista movement.

The aborted revolution has ended in a counter-revolution. In Peru, the Colonels Llosa and Odria have harvested the fruits of the revolutionary make-believe of the APRA. A military counter-revolution, totalitarian in character, has triumphed under the fascist slogans of “order, work and progress.” The links between the Peruvian militarists and Argentine’s Peron are pretty evident. The Peruvian proletariat led by the APRA and the CTP (Peruvian Federation of Labor) has been defeated and delivered up to the soldiery, thanks to the “heroism” in words of the petty-bourgeois revolutionaries. The Peruvian Stalinists have much cause for their cursed joy. According to the statements of Colonel Llosa (leader of the first attempt at counter-revolution), the Stalinist chief, Rabines, supported the totalitarian coup. Peru has sunken into the night of terror and totalitarian reaction.


In neighboring Bolivia, the totalitarian forces are conspiring against the constitutional regime of Dr. Herzog. The initiative is being taken by the MNR, which was overthrown and defeated in 1946. The MNR enjoys the support and financial aid of Peron. After several thwarted attempts to overthrow the government, the Bolivian Nazis have arrived at an agreement with the Stalinist party, the PIR (Party of the Revolutionary Left). The Nazis control the factory and mining unions, the Stalinists the railroad unions. At the instigation of the two totalitarian parties, these unions signed an agreement to organize a general strike whose formal aim was to be the enactment of a workers retirement law, and a family aid law.

The retirement law is an old demand of the Bolivian working class, which is terribly impoverished and enslaved by the large enterprises. But the Nazis and Stalinists abuse the demands of the workers, transforming them into a reactionary political weapon for their own purposes. The government resorted to a state of siege against the revolutionary plan, and to military mobilization against the railroad workers’ strike. The Nazi leaders have been deported to the fever-ridden, unhealthy regions of Beni. The state of siege permitted the government to do the same with members of the Stalinist parliamentary group.

It is certain that the Stalinist deputies sensed the danger involved to themselves, because they retreated. The railroad union has come to an agreement with the government and called off the general strike. The government, in turn, has revoked the military measures on the railroads, and sent a draft of a retirement law to the Bolivian parliament. The totalitarian offensive based on the workers’ organizations controlled by the Nazis and Stalinists was forced to retreat. But the danger remains latent, in view of the fact that these two forces control a majority of the organized working class. The remedy lies in liberating the Bolivian workers from the Nazi-Stalinist influence, encouraging a union movement free of totalitarian influences, and developing a true revolutionary Socialist part.

The totalitarian offensive creates the danger of a rightist dictatorship of the big mining interests, or of a military-bonapartist dictatorship. There are signs that the present regime, based on an equilibrium of social forces, no longer satisfies the capitalist right, which demands a “strong government.”


In Chile, the Stalinists are constantly preparing to bring off a coup against the regime of their candidate and ex-ally, President Videla. But lacking a Nazi ally rooted in the masses, they have least chance of success in this country. In Paraguay, a “revolutionary” movement with Peronist ties has taken power.


We are confronted by a chain of reactionary movements, totalitarian in character, whose focal point is Argentinian Peronism. Over and beyond the general causes which we have already partially analyzed, the main aim of this movement is to form a Peronist bloc in South America against “Yankee Imperialism.” The Stalinist Fifth Column plays along with this tendency, and in view of its own impotence supports the totalitarian Peronist movement. This is especially evident in the declarations of Colonel Llosa on the support given by the Stalinist leader, Rabines, and in the PIR-MNR agreement in Bolivia, as well as Stalinist benevolence toward Peron. The growth of native totalitarianism is due in large part to the failures of the APRA, its political defeats, and the arrogant, stupid intervention of the American Embassies and the FBI. After the Braden affair in Buenos Aires, of Yankee impotence in Bogota, come the latest intervention in Lima and Bolivia, which is as stupid as it is disastrous.


Revolutionary working class socialism in South America combatting Peronism and Stalinism, must oppose the arrogance and domination of Yankee Imperialism, forming a third front of authentic national and social emancipation in Latin America.

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