Imperialist domination advances and deepens in Latin America. Political independence achieved in the XIX century is formal and limited. The bourgeois nationalist movements failed in their limited resistance and ended by capitulating. What are the way and the tasks to achieve a second and definitive Latin American independence?
By: Alejandro Iturbe
National liberation from imperialist yolk (in other words, political Independence) is a “democratic task”. In Marxist language, these tasks were carried out by the bourgeoisie in its revolutionary epoch, when it fought and destroyed the Feudal economic structures and state to become the dominating class in society. In these tasks, it supported and led the mass uprisings like the French Revolution (1789). The main revolutionary tasks carried out by the bourgeoisie at the time were national unity of different European countries, the destruction of the feudal regime, the building of the parliamentarian bourgeois democracy, and the distribution of the land (until then, mainly owned by the nobility).
Along with these processes, a new revolutionary one developed this time against capitalism, which began to prevail worldwide. It was expressed in the struggle for the independence of different colonial nationals conquered by central potencies centuries before. In the American continent, this period began with the independence of the United States (1776), it continued with Haiti (1804) and the Spanish colonies (beginning in 1810). In all the cases, there were revolutionary wars to defend and consolidate independence against colonial nations. The dynamic in Brazil was different. In 1821, a sector of the monarchy and the Court established in the country declared the independence.
Democratic Tasks in Imperialist Capitalism
However, in many countries and regions, the bourgeoisie was incapable of carrying out one or several democratic tasks, which remain pending. On the other hand, capitalist development created new democratic tasks and the need to fight for them. For example, the re-emergence of great scale slavery in the United States, Brazil, Central America and the Caribbean in service of capitalist development (mainly by kidnapping and mandatory transportation of black African slaves), which had consequences even after the abolition of slavery. Or, the oppression of native Latin American people since colonization, which stood after the independence. Besides, in the XX century, semi-colonization developed as a new form of domination on behalf of imperialist potencies. A task became part of the agenda: “national liberation” or the “second and definitive independence”.
From what we have analyzed, the fight for old and new democratic tasks is posed in the agenda. However, it is no longer a fight against Feudal system and classes (or its remains), or against the old colonial empires, but against imperialist capitalism as a whole. In other words, against imperialist bourgeoisie and its agents, national bourgeoisies. This means the fight for democratic tasks becomes part of a greater process, the workers and socialist revolution, which has tasks of its own.
The Theory of the Permanent Revolution Today
The first to clearly state this continuity or “internal nexus” between the different revolutionary tasks was Trotsky in a debate among Russian revolutionaries between 1905 and 1917. After this triumphant revolution and the Chinese defeat (1923-1928), he wrote the Theory of the Permanent Revolution. One of its theses says,
With regard to countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses.
This means the working class must seize power and lead “the nation and the oppressed masses”, to begin to solve these democratic tasks along with tasks of the socialist revolution. All these concepts strongly apply to Latin America. By not advancing towards the socialist revolution in a national level (even less pushing its international extension), the revolutionary or resistance processes that developed in the XX and XXI century ended up retreating and aborting or being defeated. The responsibility lies in the hands of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois leaderships. This way, the triumphs obtained through revolutionary or resistance struggles were lost or extremely worn out.
An Exception: the Cuban Revolution
In Latin America, there was an exception to this rule: the revolution led by Fidel Castro and the Che Guevara that overthrew the pro-USA dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Most of the July 26 Movement (M26J) came from bourgeois or petty bourgeois student youth and its program was “popular democratic”. In other words, it did not overcome the limits of capitalism or the democratic bourgeois regime .
After seizing power, the M26J attempted to apply its “democratic popular” program and formed a government with numerous bourgeois politicians that had opposed Batista. However, reality pressured the Castroist leadership and led it “beyond” its intentions and program. When they began to apply measures like the agrarian reform and the expropriation of some of Batista’s enterprises associated to imperialism, the Cuban bourgeois sector that had supported Fidel and imperialism itself began to attack him.
The immediate result of this alliance was the failed attempt to invade the Bay of Pigs- Giron Beach (April 1961), supported by the CIA and the John F. Kennedy administration.
In answer, the Castro administration deepened the policy of expropriating enterprises and fields from the bourgeoisie and imperialism. They began to apply a centralized economic plan from the State. As a result, it became the first Worker State in Latin America and so it began the transition towards socialism. The Che Guevara expressed this reality saying that the socialist revolution in Cuba took place as a “counteroffensive”.
For Trotskyist, the Cuban process verified what Trotsky had posed: the full resolution of democratic tasks implied to advance towards the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Castroist leadership has the great merit of having decided “to advance” and “go beyond” their program. Che Guevara expressed this in his phrase: “If the revolution does not advance, it retreats”.
For this, Cuba was during almost three decades the only country truly independent in Latin American from North American imperialism. It was more than words. The achievements of the Cuban revolution for workers and the people were immense, especially in the areas of health, education and food. In these fields, Cuba parted from a backward situation and overcame much richer Latin American countries like Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Thus, it became a reference for many revolutionaries around the world.
The Limits of the Cuban Process
At the same time that we vindicate these great achievements of the revolution, one must state that the Cuban leadership built a bureaucratic workers state, without true democracy for workers and masses, following the Stalinist model. Cuban workers never led the Cuban government. The bureaucracy of the Communist Party of Cuba did so (successor M26J).
Besides, the Castroist leadership remained within the criteria of “socialism in a single country”, posed by Stalinism after the second half of the 1920s, against the international socialist revolution posed by Marxism since its foundation. Coherent with this reality, in the 1960s, Castroism joined the international Stalinist apparatus, centralized by the USSR bureaucracy. They went on to stand for the same policies.
However, during the first years, they did so with contradictions. They pushed the “export” of the revolution through the training and education of cadres and material support to countless Latin American guerrilla organizations. This orientation was not shared by Moscow .
Afterwards, the Castroist leadership stopped pushing the “export” of the revolution. They went on to hold Moscow’s policy without contradictions (although they held the support to some guerrilla organizations). For example in 1970, they supported the Chilean Salvador Allende government and its supposed “pacific way to socialism”. This ended in the coup d’état by Augusto Pinochet. In 1973, they supported the Argentinian bourgeois Peronist administration. At the time, Peronism was not returning to face imperialism, as it had done before, but to control and defeat the workers and popular uprising that had begun in 1969 with the Cordobazo.
The Central American Process
This mistaken policy took a very high toll. In 1979, the struggle against the Anastasio Somoza regime, the destruction of Somoza’s National Guard and his overthrow through revolutionary means, set the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) before a similar situation to the M26J 20 years before. The FSLN was before the alternative of following the “Cuban way” and advancing in the building of a new Worker State, or following the “Algerian way” and rebuilding the bourgeois state.
The Sandinista leadership traveled to Cuba to see Fidel Castro (whom they acknowledged as “their leader”) to ask him which “way” to follow. Fidel’s answer was very clear: “Nicaragua must not become a new Cuba” . In other words, do not do what we did, stay within capitalist ground and rebuild the bourgeois state.
As Fidel oriented, Nicaragua did not become a new Cuba. The final destiny of this entire process is analyzed in other articles of the previously quoted magazine. Currently, Daniel Ortega’s FSLN leads a bourgeois dictatorial regime against Nicaraguan workers and people. As an expansive effect of the policy of the Castroist leadership, the struggle of the Salvadoran guerrilla during those years did not even become a “new Nicaragua”, and the Farabundo Martí ended by handing it over in the negotiation table.
There is an even deeper consequence of the criminal policy of the Castroist leadership: by stopping the Nicaraguan and the Central American revolution and leading it to defeat, Fidel contributed to deepen the isolation of the Cuban worker state. The end is also known: Fidel and the Castroist leadership restored capitalism in the 1990s, thus destroying what they had built. All achievements either have been lost or are on the means of being lost.
Beyond these harsh criticisms to the Cuban leadership and the consequences of its serious limits, the Cuban experience was very valuable. It remains as a necessary lesson today to sustain and deepen its successes and avoid repeating its mistakes.
The Tasks for Latin American Liberation
In this article, we cannot extend on the program that summarizes the tasks for the second Latin American independence, the debates with the nationalist bourgeois proposals, or those of the left wing adapted to democratic bourgeois or sui generis Bonapartist regimes. For this, we limit ourselves to summarize its main axis.
The first is the economic-financial axis, structural bases of imperialist domination. The parting point is the suspension of the foreign and public debt payment, which sucks all wealth. At the same time, for mechanisms of control of the Latin American bourgeois governments’ economic plans. The debt has been paid several times in its true value. Despite this, through a usurious mechanism, it has not seized to grow. Without breaking with this mechanism, there is no way to achieve any independence or attend to the needs of the workers and the people.
The next step is expropriation without payment and nationalization of the main levers of economy in production and services (today dominated by imperialist enterprises). These enterprises have recovered with profits their actual investments through remittances of profits, tax exemptions, acquisition of goods of privatized enterprises in sale prices, capital flee and usufruct of the fraudulent debts of the State (let us remember the case of Ford and YPF in Argentina). We owe them nothing. Everything they possess belongs to the workers and the peoples of the Latin American countries. For this, we must recover what is ours.
The third point is the expropriation of the great landowners to carry out a combination of an agrarian reform that provides lands to small farmers with a process of socialization of agriculture. A combination that will have different proportions according to the agrarian and social-population structure of each country.
All this productive potential will be developed through an economic plan centralized from the State, which must be democratically discussed and voted by the workers and the people. It must be in service of the needs of the population and the nation, not in service of imperialism and the national bourgeoisies’ profits.
For this plan to develop without obstacles, the existence of a state monopoly of the banks and foreign trade is necessary. In other words, the creation of a unique state bank with specialized fields. Among them production, consumption, internal trade, foreign trade, etc. This way, the existing funds and resources will be used rationally, stopping the capital fleeing and the common maneuvers of the bourgeoisie with foreign currencies in foreign trade.
Another essential aspect of this state economic centralization is to apply a plan of public works. It will be destined to attend the most pressing needs of the population. For example, hospitals, schools, drinkable water services and sewage system, social housing, etc. It will also guarantee jobs for all, ending the scourge of unemployment.
The Political-Military Tasks
A second axis is the need to break the political and military agreements that subject our countries to imperialism. For example, the Rio de Janeiro (1947) and other posterior ones. Just as the foreign debt agreements and those where there is renunciation to juridical sovereignty with the privatization of enterprises. These are inadmissible pacts from the point of view of national sovereignty. Independence is not possible without breaking with them.
Particularly, there is no actual Independence without the dismantlement of the imperialist military bases and their expulsion, just as the elimination of the “joint military exercises” commanded by the North American Pentagon. It is necessary to build armed forces in service of independence. We will retake this point when speaking of the continental nature of the struggle.
In the political-institutional level, it becomes evident that all regimes of national bourgeoisies (whether democratic-bourgeois or Bonapartist) end as imperialist instruments, with a growing degree of corruption. Our proposal is to build democratic state bodies with the workers and masses. Like the soviets of the first years in the USSR. As a Latin American example, we have the Bolivian Workers Federation (Central Obrera Boliviana – COB) from 1952. Led by miners and other industrial worker sectors, teachers, poor peasants, homemakers from poor neighborhoods, small tradesmen, etc. participated. In each country, these institutions may acquire different forms determined by their tradition and the social conformation of the exploited and oppressed classes.
These bodies must have a preferential space for the most exploited and oppressed sectors of our countries. For example, the black population in Brazil and other countries, and native nationalities. There must be respect and support both to maintain their culture, their traditions and their language, just as to develop their own economic and political experiences (like the communes of the Andean peoples). At the same time, they must be integrated in a broader and more complex national totality.
The Struggle is Continental
The struggle for the second Independence against imperialism begins in each country, but it may only be successful in an international scale. The first independence of many countries was achieved through a continental war against the Spanish empire, with united armies made up of soldiers and officers from different countries.
This need of unity comes from two central elements. The first is that we suffer the same problems. The second is we face the same enemy (North American imperialism), which is very powerful. In this context, Brazil joins the Spanish speaking countries today. If countries are separated, they are easier targets. If we fight together there are greater chances of success.
This leads us again to the military problem that poses this struggle. No one underestimates, or anything of the sort, imperialism’s military power or the violent reaction it may have if it begins to lose its “backyard”. Just as the first independence, the second will require a hard military struggle, where we will be much stronger together. The countries that used to be colony of Spain have a tradition of political-military unity with the liberators, like Bolivar, San Martin, O’Higgins and other patriots.
No one is saying that it will be an easy fight nor that victory is ensured. However, history shows us that conviction and political determination may defeat potencies with superiority in the military field alone. This is the lesson of the first Latin American independence, of the early Soviet Union that faced and defeated the invasion of fourteen imperialist armies, of the Cuban army that rejected an invasion organized by the CIA, of the Vietnamese people that defeated the powerful North American army, etc.
At the same time, a process of Latin American revolution would enter the United States itself through its great Latin and Black population. Possibly, it would have a very superior impact than what happened during the Vietnam War and the anti-war demonstrations of the 1960 and 1970s. These wore out politically their military capacity and the rank and file of the Armed Forces.
We vindicate Bolivar, San Martin and O’Higgins (and we add others like the Haitian Toussaint Louverture) because they were leaders of the first independence. The first three were the best expression of the revolutionary bourgeoisie, which was willing to be consequent with their struggle for independence. Today, the main sectors of the Latin American bourgeoisies stand “on the other side” of this struggle, partners in the subordination to imperialism. They are part of the enemy we must face.
As Trotsky said, only the proletariat, followed by the poor peasants and the oppressed urban masses, leading the fight may achieve the second independence. For this, the “Great Nation” with which Bolivar, San Martin, O’Higgins and Louverture dreamt could only be achieved through a Federation of Socialist Republics of Latin America. The IWL-FI and its parties stand in service of this task.
 TROSTKY, Leon. The Permanent Revolution. 1930. Available in: https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/tpr/pr10.htm
 For a broader view of the Cuban process we recomend: https://litci.org/es/menu/mundo/latinoamerica/cuba/especial-fidel-castro/ and the article “The influence of Castroism” in International Courier magazine n.° 20 (IWL-FI publication, Sao Paulo, Brazil, October 2018).
 The debate with the “guerrilla focus” theory and its consequences exceeds the possibilities of this material. On this subject, we recommend reading Theses on Guerrillerism by Nahuel Moreno, Eugenio Greco and Alberto Franceschi, Buenos Aires, 1986, in: http://www.nahuelmoreno.org/tesis-sobre-el-guerrillerismo-1986.html