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COMMUNISM IN LATIN AMERICA (A study on communism in Latin America prepared by the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress for the House Committee on Internal Security by Barry Sklar, Analyst in Latin American Affairs, Foreign Affairs Division, September 9, 1971 follows:)
COMMUNISM IN LATIN AMERICA Introduction
This study on Communism in Latin America focuses on those countries in which the Communists are a significant, or a potentially significant influence. Highlighted are Cuba, because the Castro government rules through a Communist system, and Chile, because the Communist Party is a key participant in the leftist coalition led by Salvador Allende.
The most notable urban guerrilla group, the Tupamaros in Uruguay, are also discussed because of their relative success and their function as an inspiration and model for Latin America's urban guerrilla movement.
Although Communist elements in other Latin American countries are represented in many of the leftist guerrilla groups, both urban and rural, in the main they do not predominate and therefore are not discussed in detail. Brief reference, however, is made to the status of Communist activity in these countries, alphabetically arranged following the reports on Cuba, Chile and Uruguay.
OUBA The Cuban Communist Party has its origins in the Socialist Workers' Party which was founded in 1905. The impetus to form the Communist Party came from those Socialists desiring affiliation with the new Russian Third (Communist) International or "Comintern". In August, 1925, representatives of the six small Communist groups which had been forming in various regions of the country attended the founding congress of the National Confederation of Cuban Workers (CNOC), and later in the month the six groups formed themselves into a united Communist Party. The Party formally accepted the leadership of the Comintern in Moscow and, as was the practice with other Latin American Communist parties, general direction came from the international movement. Julio Antonio Mella became the intellectual leader of Cuban communism."
The Communists gained some influence within the CNOC and in 1926 a party member became secretary general of the organization although the anarchosyndicalists, the prime force in organizing the confederation, still were prominent. In the late 1920's the CNOC was made up of 35 trade unions and was affiliated with the Profintern, the "Red Union" in Moscow, although it was not considered specifically Moscow-directed.”
The Communists gained control of the CNOC in 1930–31 through domination of many unions. The Party policy at this time was to rid the labor confederation of all non-Communist members even if it meant betraying them to the police of the dictator Gerardo Machado. During this period many Communist Party leaders important in the formative years of the Castro government became prominent, including Anibal and Cesar Escalante, Blas Roca, and Joaquin Ordoqui."
The Cuban Communist Party has a history of collaboration with various gov. ernments for the ultimate benefit of its cause. The ideology of the Cuban government in power was of little concern to the Party which cooperated with rightist dictators as well as reformers. In 1933, the Communists actually worked against a general strike designed to bring down the Machado dictatorship because it
1 Thomas, Hugh. Cuba : The Pursuit of Freedom. New York. Harper and Row, 1971, p. 575–78.
2 Ibid., p. 578.
feared that l'.S. intervention would result. Although rumors circulated that the Communists were preparing to assume power in the hectic days after the abdication of Machado, organizationally and strategically they were not in a strong position since they had collaborated with the dictator."
Communist agitation against the short-lived government of Grau San Martin was one of the principal factors in bringing his downfall and Col. Fulgencio Batista, who a few months earlier as a sergeant was instrumental in installing Grau, then installed Colonel Carlos Mendieta.“
Although the Communist Party had been declared illegal, the second party Congress was held in April 1934 with 67 members addressed by Bob Minor of the Communist Party of the United States. It has been observed that the Cuban Communist Party from time to time had better relations with its counterpart in the United States than with the Communist Party organizations in Latin America. Shortly after the meeting, a visit from the Comintern representatives resulted in a purge of many of the middle class intellectuals from the party, but Blas Roca remained secretary general."
In line with the international movement, the Cuban Communist Party in 1935 began to follow the Popular Front line and Earl Browder, the Secretary General of the U.S. Communist Party, became virtual head of all of the parties in West Coast Latin America and the Caribbean.s
The Communists kept pressure on the Cuban governments in this period which were actually controlled by Colonel Batista. In April of 1937, the party attempted to rally all anti-Batista forces into a Popular Front alliance. Soon after, however, the Party began to make gestures of friendship toward the dictator. In mid-1937 the government granted permission for the formation of a front party, the Revolutionary Union Party (PUR) which included the Socialists under the leadership of Communist poet Juan Marinello. At this time the Communists also controlled the Ala Izquierda Estudiantil, a radical student group.'
This marked the beginning of Batista's courtship of the Cuban Communists. He began to undertake some social reform-oriented measures and thus began to develop a following among the masses. Batista sought the support of labor and was willing to work with the Communists to attain it.
In December, 1937, Batista backed a general political amnesty and in May of 1938, although the Communist Party was still illegal, he permitted the publication of the Communist Party organ, Hoy, under the editorship of Anibal Escalante, a member of the Party's National Executive Committee.10 The Party held its Tenth Plenum in July, 1938, where it was resolved that they must adopt "a more positive attitude toward Colonel Batista, compelling him, ... to take yet more democratic positions, in order that real guarantees for the exercise of democratic rights shall be established.” At this meeting the Communists also referred to Batista as "no longer the focal point of reaction, but the defender of democracy." 11 Blas Roca pointed out that Batista was closely associated with the revolutionary movement surrounded by ex-sergeants, corporals, and other enlisted men."
A week after the Plenum. Blas Roca and Ordoqui conferred with Batista at the major military installation, Camp Columbia, and agreed to back the strongman's plan for the calling of a new constitutional assembly in return for the legal recognition of the Party and permission to reorganize the trade union movement under Communist control. The Communists after the meeting also tried to form a united revolutionary party including the followers of Grau San Martin. Grau, however, rejected the invitation.is
After the historic meeting with the Communists, Batista in a special meeting with newsmen stated, "The Communist Party, according to its constitution, is a democratic party which pursues its ends within the framework of a capitalist regime and renounces violence as a political means, and consequently it is entitled to the same status as that of any other party in Cuba." Thus on September 25, 1938, the Communist Party was legalized for the first time in its
4 Ibid., p. 632.
5 Alexander, Robert J. Communism in Latin America. New Brunswick, N.J. Rutgers University Press. 1957, p. 275.
& Thomas. Op. cit., p. 692.
13-year history." In the spring of 1939, the PUR disappeared as it merged into the newly legalized Communist Party. Relations had reached such a high point in 1939 that Batista was moved to say, “The Communist Party, as in Mexico, the USA, and in France, is recognized, and communism, as a legal instead of a disturbing force, has become the promoter of dramatic formulae." 15
Relations between the Cuban and U.S. Communist parties were also very friendly and Blas Roca visiting New York in 1938 praised Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy. He came to make sure that the Cuban Communist Party would continue to receive financial support from its United States counterpart.16
In 1939, the old CNOC also disappeared and a new labor federation directed by the Communists was established—the Confederation of Cuban WorkersCTC. The CTC became Batista's link to Cuban labor.17 The Communists thus became all powerful in organized labor and were so favored by the Ministry of Labor that the CTC unions dealt with the ministry rather than through collective bargaining. Opponents of the Communists charged that the Ministry was packed with Communist Party members and that this situation existed well after the end of the Batista administration.18
The Communists were very instrumental in the development of the Constitution of 1940 which many regard as one of the most social-reform oriented in Latin America. Communist suggestions which were adopted included recognition of the right of the workers to organize and the right of unions to strike and boycott. Other suggestions by Blas Roca which were written into the Constitution included provisions for written collective contracts, minimum wages, the 8-hour day and the 48-hour week, prohibition of work for children under the age of 14, and provisions for social security."
In the 1940 elections the Communists, now under the name of the Revolutionary Communist Union, worked enthusiastically for Batista's election as president, joining his Socialist Democratic Coalition. The Communists elected 10 of their members to the Chamber of Deputies, 100 members to city councils throughout the island, as well as the mayors of Santiago de Cuba and Manzanillo.
The Communists enjoyed great influence in the Batista administration, in congress, and among the masses. Juan Marinello entered the Cabinet as Minister Without Portfolio, the first Communist in Latin America to become a member of a government. Later another Communist Party leader, Carlos Rafael Rodrigues, entered the cabinet. The number of registered Communist voters rose from 90,000 in 1940 to 150,000 six years later. The Party organ, Hoy, had one of the largest circulations in the city of Havana. One of the city's largest radio stations came under Communist control and became an organ of the Party.**
Prior to this time, the Socialists who had joined the party broke away because the Communists considered World War II an imperialist war."
In early 1944, the Communists changed the name of the party from Revolutionary Communist Union to the Popular Socialist Party (PSP). Their program during this time was mild, calling for racial equality, and rights for women, refraining from advocating land reform or nationalization on a large scale.”
In the elections of 1944, the Communists supported the unsuccessful Batistabacked candidate but made gains for themselves in Congress. For the first time three communists were elected to the Senate and nine members were elected to the Chamber of Deputies including the leader of the CTC. The elected President, Grau San Martin, was careful not to offend the Communists because of their power in the labor movement.*
In the new administration of Grau San Martin, the Communists cooperated with the President but gradually began to lose the power and influence they had gained under Batista. They lost the Senate seats but retained the nine in the Chamber. Grau's Autenticos won a bitter struggle over the Communists for control of the CTC and finally emerged on top in 1947. Communist strength in the
14 Ibid., p. 279.
CTC dwindled rapidly and by the early 1950's the Communists had only a skeleton organization within the labor movement." The Communists vigorously opposed Autentico presidential candidate Prio Socarras who as Minister of Labor sided with the Autenticos in the CTC battle with the Communists. The Communists opposed mostly every measure Prio proposed as President and accused the President of selling out to Yankee imperialists. Favoring the Communists' position was the fact that there was flagrant corruption in both the Grau and Prio administrations.*
Communist Party fortunes however continued on the decline and Party registration fell from 150,000 in 1948 to only 55,000 two years later. Their ranks were so diminished within their once powerful labor organization that in the last Congress of the CTC before Batista's March 1952 coup, there were only 11 Communists out of a total of 4500 delegates. It was reported that only twenty of the country's 3,000 unions were clearly in Communist hands.
When Batista returned to power in 1952 he assumed a very anti-Communist and pro-United States stance. In April of that year the Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with Cuba and the battle lines were drawn. Batista had the electoral law changed in order to make it more difficult for the Party to be officially recognized. In late 1953, major Party leaders were either arrested or went into exile and finally the PSP was outlawed. However, the Communist Party still existed as an organization because they always had a functioning secret party. 3°
Interestingly, Batista was well aware of the secret party and even allowed Communists into his political organization hoping they might provide some labor support for his government. According to charges of CTC leaders, various Communist Party members had positions in the Ministry of Labor. Even after Batista was elected "constitutional President" in October 1955, he did not present any obstacles in the way of the illegal Communist Party.S1
The Communists stayed out of the Castro-led revolution until the final stages when victory was practically assured as the Batista government became increasingly unpopular with most segments of the Cuban population. At the time of the famous Moncada attack on the 26th of July, 1953, the very birth of the Cuban Revolution, the PSP criticized active anti-government movements as "adventuristic activities of the bourgeois opposition against the interests of the people." The Communists went so far as to inform the police of the activities of members of the Revolutionary Student Directorate sa
Fidel Castro, a lawyer and former congressional candidate of the Ortodoxo Party, conducted his campaign with his 26th of July Movement closely allied with the Civic Resistance Movement and joined by some elements from labor and student groups. They carried out terrorist acts and brought many others into the fight against the government. The Communist Party meanwhile contributed to one of Castro's major setbacks when it refused to support the general strike which the 26th of July Movement called for April 9, 1958. The strike was successful in some areas of the country but for the most part it was considered a failure. In a statement issued on April 12, the Communists said that the strika failed because the Movement rejected their offers of alliance.*
Taking advantage of growing discontent against Batista, the 26th of July Movement formed the Civilian Revolutionary Front, composed of seven revolutionary organizations which met in Caracas on July 20, 1958. The Communists were not included among these groups which signed the Caracas Pact calling for a strategy of armed insurrection accompanied by a civilian general strike, a brief period of provisional government to restore constitutional and democratic procedures, and a program to insure workers' rights, public order, freedom and progress.
The Communists, however, perhaps sensing that they might be left out if Castro ultimately did achieve victory, made contact with the 26th of July Movement in the Sierra Maestra as Central Committee member Carlos Rafael Rodriguez met with rebel leaders. By the fall of 1958 the Communists seem to have given orders
37 Ibid., p. 288. * Ibid., p. 289. * Ibid., p. 292. 20 Ibid., p. 293. 51 Ibid., p. 294.
* Suarez, Andres. Cuba : Castroism and Communism. Cambridge, The M.I.T. Press, 1967, p. 26-27.
* Special Operations Research ofice. Area Handbook for Cuba. Washington, The Amer. ican University, 1961, p. 399. 44 Ibid., p. 308.