Sacrificing His Core Supporters in a Race Against Defeat
WAR has come to the Americas. The policy of the Good Neighbor is undergoing its crucial test. Will the United States secure the collaboration of the Latin American republics in the policies which it finds necessary to its own safety during and after the present crisis? This is above all a political problem. The agreements signed at Rio de Janeiro, encouraging as they may be, do not in themselves provide a full or permanent solution for it. The most excellent plans for the naval and military defense of South America worked out by North American strategists must remain on paper unless South American governments find it politically possible to grant us the use of the necessary bases. The same is true of the inter-governmental coöperation essential for combating the Nazi fifth column. Similarly, measures of economic warfare against the Axis suggested by Washington will be efficacious only if they have an underpinning of political confidence and agreement. The Latin American republics are sovereign states, jealous of their sovereignty. If we attempted to base a common defense policy on the mere fact of their economic dependence on us it would be almost sure to backfire. In order, then, for our policy to attract the necessary degree of support in the diverse fields where our interests are involved, we must understand and take account of the political forces now at work in all these countries, and particularly in the larger republics of South America.
In those countries party labels often mean very little. The old established parties -- Conservatives or Liberals or Radicals, whatever they may be called -- as well as the newer parties which claim to be revolutionary, generally have been concerned more with securing office than with elaborating political doctrines. Personalismo has been the most potent force; people usually have followed men rather than programs. This does not mean that the latter can be ignored. The formal doctrinal position of a particular party often indicates the foreign power towards which the party leaders feel sympathetic and with which, if occasion offers, they intend to collaborate. And that, in a time of world war, is what interests foreign observers the most.
On the extremes of Left and Right are groups which, though small in numbers, are politically important. They draw their inspiration both from world-wide currents and ideologies and from conditions peculiar to the local scene. Communists and Fascists mainly belong in the former classification. They have borrowed their theories and their programs directly from abroad. The Communists are part of a world organization; they follow the party line; their primary loyalty is to Stalin and the Soviet Union. The Fascists, while they generally call themselves nationalists and glory in their hundred percent patriotism, are frank advocates of totalitarianism on the model of Nazi Germany or of Nationalist Spain; some unconsciously, but many consciously, act as agents of a world movement directed from Berlin. Like the Communists, they have imported a ready-made system and want to try it out at home. Other groups have been less imitative, more pragmatic, more aware of the conditioning realities of their environment. The Socialists, for example, have modified greatly the Marxist doctrines which an earlier generation brought over from Europe. And on the Right there of course are some nationalist groups which merely represent the extremist elements of the traditional conservative parties, ambitious men whose tendencies do not go very far beyond the concepts of the disciplined state, the ruling élite, and the man on horseback; these are not borrowed theories but old and undeniably indigenous traditions in Latin America.
While the social and economic structure of Latin America may provide no real basis for the growth of either Communism or Fascism, neither has it as yet given solidity and permanence to liberal and democratic institutions. Democracy's future is by no means assured. In the social evolution of Latin America, and in the determination of its predominant political characteristics, the so-called extremists will evidently play a rôle. They have organization and leadership, and they have specific programs of policy and action. The full impact of the war on conditions in their countries may give them opportunities to gain the prize they seek: political power. For the moment, we are compelled to recognize that, although the "red spectre" is so frightening to conservatives in South America and to foreign business interests there, practically all the forces of the Left are in fact giving solid support to the international policies to which the United States stands committed. On the extreme Right, however, it would be hard to find groups which either give lip service to democracy or believe in collaboration with the United States. This will be made clear in the following discussion of the extremist parties, both of Left and Right, in the principal countries of South America.
I. EXTREMISTS OF THE LEFT
Communist organizations came into existence in most South American countries after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. They grew at the expense of the older socialist and syndicalist groups and succeeded in capturing control of important trade unions. Communist leadership now controls the Confederación Sindical Latinoamericana, a federation of national trade union organizations linked with the Red International of Labor Unions in Moscow.
On the whole, the influence of the Communists has been slight, certainly not commensurate with the degree of repression dealt out to them by the various governments. After all, Latin America has no large industrial proletariat and its people are strongly individualistic. Communism has had an appeal for various intellectuals, however, among them Luis Carlos Prestes, the leader of the abortive leftist revolt in Brazil in 1935. The failure of that attempt illustrated the weakness of Communist leadership and the utter lack of popular support. In São Paulo, the largest industrial center in Latin America, there were no disturbances whatever. It would seem that Communism has been more a bogey than a real menace, a convenient whipping boy for self-righteous and patriotic politicians anxious to discredit the opposition. President Vargas cited the red peril as justification for his coup d'état of 1937; but the "Communists" arrested or exiled happened to be the President's political opponents who opposed the new authoritarian constitution.
Communist organizations are active in Argentina, particularly in the federal capital and in the province of Córdoba, although the great bulk of the Argentine working class gives its allegiance to the very respectable Radical and Socialist Parties. The Communists have been roughly handled by the provincial governments, and the national ban on parties financed or directed from abroad has been invoked against them. A recent decision by the Supreme Court denied them the constitutional right of free assembly, on the ground that those who organize to destroy the constitution in the name of extremist ideologies are not entitled to claim its protection. Communist attempts to hold public meetings "in support of the Soviet Union and its glorious democratic allies," even before the "state of siege" made all such demonstrations illegal, resulted in arrests and broken heads. But they continue, through their own organizations and publications and those of the dissident Socialists, to make their influence felt.
Uruguay and Colombia are democratic countries whose governments feel secure enough to tolerate Communist opposition or to accept Communist support without embarrassment. As a result, Communists preach the party line there without obstruction, and appear in force, with red flags, at all pro-Ally and anti-Nazi public meetings. The lone Communist member of the Uruguayan Chamber of Deputies has spoken out vigorously against the Nazi penetration of Latin America. Since June 1941, when the Nazi armies attacked Soviet Russia, he has supported the government on vital questions of foreign policy and constitutional reform. The Communist Party of Colombia, gathered in its first national congress in the summer of 1941, left no doubt as to its changed attitude toward the war: "The cause for which thousands of Soviet citizens are dying is the cause of all peoples who struggle for liberty and progress. . . . The Colombian people recognizes that it will be an honor to contribute its grain of sand to the task of crushing Hitler."
Chile is the only country where the Communist Party really counts for something. Solidly based on strongly organized labor, particularly in the American-owned mining industries of the north, the Communists were, until the death of President Aguirre Cerda, an essential part of the Popular Front governing coalition. They hold no cabinet posts, but have four senators and fifteen deputies in the legislature. Weathering furious attacks from the rightist parties and the hostility of their supposed partners, the Socialists, they have clung tenaciously to their position as a legally recognized party. Several times they made opportune changes of the party's name and on one occasion were saved by Aguirre Cerda's veto of a bill to bar their elected representatives from sitting in the Congress.
The foreign issue has naturally been all-important to the Communist Party of Chile. Before the German-Russian war they were continually at odds with the Radicals and Socialists. Following Moscow's lead they trained their propaganda guns on "pluto-democratic imperialism" and discreetly kept Hitler in the background. Now all that has changed. Fascism abroad and Fascism at home have supplied new glue to hold Chile's Popular Front together. Hitler's attack on Russia reunited this fragile coalition on the war issue, and the possibility of a victory for the fascist-minded General Carlos Ibáñez, endorsed by all parties of the Right in the recent presidential election, created on the Left at least a temporary union, in which the Communists were accepted, albeit grudgingly, as members in good standing.
The Socialists of South America cannot in justice be called extremists, though apparently they are considered extreme enough in some countries to be denied legal existence. However that may be, they are the most important group which we can properly designate as leftist and as such merit attention.
Looking over the list of South American states, we find that there are active socialist parties in only three: Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. Socialists were never very important in Brazil, and disappeared from the scene in that country after the failure of the leftist revolt of 1935 and the abolition of all political parties in 1937. Their leaders, now in exile, have become less certain of the readiness of their country for a socialistic régime and have come nearer the viewpoint of those whose opposition to President Vargas is based on his denial of civil liberties and democratic institutions.
In Peru parties with socialist labels existed several years ago, but since the ill-fated elections of 1936 they have faded from view. The real Socialist party of Peru is the APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance), which stands for a kind of coöperative agrarian socialism for Peru and for all Latin America.[i] Though outlawed, it is acknowledged by friend and foe alike to have a larger following among Peruvians than any other party. The Apristas are equally opposed to the President of Peru and to Hitler, calling them both dictators; and, forgetting their years of fulminating against Yankee imperialism, their proclamations now urge Latin America to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in defense of democracy.
Colombia has never had an organized socialist movement of any importance, perhaps because the ruling Liberal Party has reached out far enough to the Left to include groups which might normally be expected to be socialist. The López régime of 1934-1938 did in fact have an informal Popular Front character, and Dr. López was supported by Colombia's few Socialists and Communists. Called by his Conservative opponents a revolutionary and a fomenter of civil war, he is by his followers described as an advanced liberal reformer. Strangely, he is about the only leftist leader in South America not now a fervent partisan of full collaboration with the United States, a fact of some significance since he seems likely to be elected president again this year. He insists that Colombia's Pan American obligations should be strictly defined, arguing that vague and unlimited commitments will mean the loss of independence of decision and of the attributes of sovereignty. Both López and his followers, however, are bitter enemies of Fascism and hope for its defeat in the present war.
In the countries of the southern half of the continent the Socialists have won an honored place in political life. In spite of meager representation in the national parliaments of Argentina and Uruguay, they are respected for their integrity and for their capable and distinguished leadership. Their leaders have tended to develop their own type of socialist thought, with less attention to the teachings of Marx than to the peculiar problems facing undeveloped frontier countries. They have worked to spread education and consolidate heterogeneous elements into a democratic national community. With more reason to be isolationist than American Socialists, they have repudiated all ideas of strict neutrality in the war. They have taken the lead in exposing Nazi penetration, in speaking out in support of Britain, and in calling for real Pan American coöperation against the totalitarian powers. In Argentina they have been prominent in the activities of Acción Argentina, a nation-wide organization formed to combat totalitarian propaganda and to preach patriotism and loyalty to democratic ideals and institutions. Senator Palacios, grand old man of the party, was the first public figure to proclaim that "von Thermann (the German Ambassador) must go." In July 1940, during the black days of the tragedy of France, the Argentine Socialist Party reasserted its faith in democracy and its determination to support the apparently defeated cause, come what may. "We cannot be immune to the fate of the causes in conflict," said the party statement. "As Americans and as Socialists we feel bound to the fate of free institutions, to the conquests of civilization which established freedom of conscience, equality of races, and the rights of Labor." An equally brave statement came from the Uruguayan Socialist Party in July 1941, when its leader, Emilio Frugoni, declared that for his party and his country there could be no such thing as neutrality. "England," he said, "our proven friend, defending our sovereignty and our freedom of trade, cannot be treated in the same way as Germany, the enemy of democracy who violates all our rights and our liberties and those of the whole world."
So seriously do the Argentine and Uruguayan Socialists take the war crisis that they have put away their pet projects for the nationalization of foreign-owned utilities and industries "for the duration." Their reaction to news of the attack on Pearl Harbor was instantaneous. Several who happened to be in New York on December 7 joined with a Peruvian Aprista leader and others in a ringing declaration urging the Latin American republics to rally to the support of the United States, even to the extent of declaring war. In Montevideo and Buenos Aires, their respective national executive committees proclaimed that on this American continent, whose liberty and unity had been attacked, there could no longer be any neutrals. On the eve of the Rio de Janeiro meeting the Argentine Socialists resolved to offer "full and unrestricted support to the United States and Great Britain."
In Chile, although the Socialist Party has stood for substantially the same principles, its leaders are men of lesser stature. Perhaps this is because, unlike the Argentine Socialists, they have tasted the fruits of political power and cannot afford to stick too closely to principles. The problem which has concerned them most has been their relations with their partners in the Popular Front, the Radicals and the Communists. This factional struggle, in which grave issues of internal and foreign policy have become political footballs, has threatened to split not only the government coalition but the Socialist Party as well. Nevertheless, to the Socialists should go much of the credit for wakening Chile to its fifth column danger. Their newspaper, Crítica, has been vociferously anti-Nazi and consistently friendly to the democracies. Oscar Schnake, the Minister of Economic Development and the Socialists' first choice for the presidency, visited the United States in 1940 and returned to Chile with an Export-Import Bank loan and a great enthusiasm for President Roosevelt's foreign policy. The Socialists have stood firm since then as dependable friends of the United States.
The attitude taken by the representatives of the Chilean Government at the Rio conference was one of hesitant coöperation in hemisphere defense. The hesitation was plainly the result of fear of attack by Japan. In any case, Foreign Minister Rossetti represented a government severely shaken by the recent death of the President and caught in the storm of an electoral campaign. Now the election of Dr. Rios, candidate of the Left, has clarified the situation. The parties of the Right had united behind Carlos Ibáñez. Only a solid union of all groups from the Communists to the liberal Catholics was able to defeat him. Indeed, it is not too much to say that the votes of Chile's extremists of the Left may have saved the future of Pan American coöperation in Chile.
So much for the attitude of the South American Left toward the issues of the war. The Communists, in spite of good organization, hardly count. Such influence as they have is thrown on the side of friendship with the United States and will continue to be so long as we give aid to Soviet Russia. The Socialists are far more important. Considered together with the APRA in Peru, the Lopistas in Colombia, and the now-silent democratic elements in Brazil, they form the element in South American politics which, more than any other, seems to represent the forces of the future. As education is extended, the idealism of their leaders, combined with their consciousness of social realities, is likely to give them greater and greater influence. As industrialization progresses, organized labor will provide the Socialist parties with an economic backbone which they have heretofore lacked. Moreover, though it obviously is weak, a democratic tradition does exist in South America, and the Socialists seem to represent it more truly than any other political group. Their stand on the war, then, is not surprising. Their present attitude and their promise of future growth give to the policy of the Good Neighbor and to the movement for hemisphere solidarity something more real on which to build than the promises of today's dictators.
II. EXTREMISTS OF THE RIGHT
The war's shock to Latin American emotions and its dislocation of economic life have naturally been exploited by the ambitious leaders of nationalist groups on the extreme Right. The appearance of these groups, hardly noticed until the last few years, can be traced to various economic factors, to obvious faults in the working of pseudo-democracy, and to the strong ideological influences exerted by Europe on South America. Much the same set of circumstances which created Falangists in Spain, Rexists in Belgium, Iron Guardists in Rumania, produced in South America a flourishing crop of nacionalistas. Disillusioned youth, unable to find the careers to which they aspired, disgusted with government dishonesty and inefficiency, thrilled by what seemed to them the heroic accomplishments of "reawakened" European peoples under dictatorial leadership, formed the nucleus of new parties whose avowed aim is to have done with the whole constitutional framework of democracy and to make a new order. To these young men, many of them sincere idealists, were added other elements neither sincere nor idealistic. Ambitious politicians and army officers saw in the movement a possibility of attaining power not otherwise attainable. Agents working in the interests of the totalitarian powers saw how this incipient native Fascism could be turned to the advantage of Hitler and Mussolini. Reactionary elements in the traditional conservative parties saw in it a needed ally in these troublous times when the parties of the Left were beginning to talk about establishing "real democracy."
Such were the forces behind what can be called the new nationalism in South America. It is a peculiar type of nationalism in that its adherent is not in the least worried by the idea that Germany's ambition for world domination carries any threat to his own nation's sovereignty. He proclaims that he will defend that sovereignty against any and all who violate it. It is his private belief that the only real danger is from the north. The real threat to his country's independence, in his view, is not a Nazi putsch or a Nazi invasion, but the demand of the United States for strategic materials, bases and full war coöperation.
Reduced to its simplest terms, the argument of these parties is that the whole nineteenth century tradition of liberalism, democracy, and constitutional government has never been applicable to South America and that the attempt to establish it there has had deplorable results. They urge a return to their "true" tradition, which is that of Catholic Spain, the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella and of Philip II, not the Spain which was later corrupted by the ideas of the Enlightenment and of the French Revolution. This makes them the ideological playmates of General Franco, and though it would be going too far to charge them with planning to reconstruct the unity of imperial Spain, they talk much of tightening the bonds with the "mother country." For their own national heroes they have a variety of dictators from which to choose. Argentine nationalists have devoted themselves to the rehabilitation and glorification of the notorious Rosas, and to the deflation of Alberdi, Sarmiento and the other founding fathers. Chilean nationalists look back admiringly to Portales, strong man of a century ago, and Colombians to Bolivar, whom they revere less as liberator than as a great military hero, the incarnation of the national will, the popular dictator. In Peru the nationalists have gone so far as to create a cult of Pizarro, who, whatever else he may have been, has attained greatest renown as butcher of thousands of the original Peruvians. In each case, the "national tradition" which is brought to light out of the past is found to mean two things: strong one-man government and Hispanidad. The former is an old story in South America, the addition of the latter gives dictatorship good standing in the realm of modern nationalist theory. Social change there may be, but it must be guided by " the spirit of hierarchy and discipline." This new order based on tradition and social realities, say its apologists, will parallel the new European order of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco.
There is plenty of good ammunition handy for the nationalists to use in their propaganda war. They can declaim against the selfishness and the corruption of public officials, the incompetence of legislators, the prevailing lack of discipline. They can point to the incredibly low standard of living, to the fact that "democracy" as it has been practised has been the game of the privileged few. Above all, they can rail at foreign exploiters, the big business interests (in most cases British and American), "the robbers of our national wealth." Thus they have taken the "Down with imperialism" flag away from the Socialists and Communists and nailed it to their own mast. Their dual appeal to national pride and to what seems economic interest may give their movement unexpected strength.
The Brazilian representatives of this current of thought and action were the green-shirted Integralistas, whose organization has now been smashed by President Getulio Vargas. But in this land where all political parties are now illegal the Integralistas need not grieve too much for their own lost program. They can find the essence of it in the official pronouncements of Vargas and his ministers. For the "New State" is in fact an open attempt to create the type of disciplined national state which they wanted. Not only does it dispense with elections and parliaments, substituting a shadowy hierarchy of corporations and syndicates; it gives these measures the backing of a theory, which is nothing less than the European doctrine of integral nationalism. Several months ago Plinio Salgado, émigré chief of the Integralista movement, issued from Lisbon a manifesto calling upon all his followers to give full support to the present government, for two reasons: first, because President Vargas had carried out, point by point, the whole Integralista program; second, because national unity was absolutely necessary in view of the threat of attack from without. In the eyes of Plinio Salgado, who is working for an Axis victory, the threat from without comes, of course, not from Germany but from the United States. Now that Brazil has broken with the Axis, he may not be so sure of the need for national unity behind President Vargas. Perhaps, like most of us, he is reduced to mere speculation on what are the real aims of that smiling dictator.
Brazil's "solidarity" with the United States, affirmed soon after we were at war and now made binding by the accords reached at Rio de Janeiro, seems to show that even a dictatorship with totalitarian tendencies can be a loyal member of an American front formed to resist the attacks of European and Asiatic totalitarianism against this hemisphere. The policy of "appeasing" Vargas, buying coffee at his price and making "political" loans, has, after a period of uncertainty, resulted in at least a temporary success. Despite this, the future is not sure. In the last decade the traditional friendship has all but disappeared from Brazilian-American relations; they have been reduced to a process of bargain and sale. Apparently we have bargained well. But the successes of Vargas have increased the prestige of his régime not only among his own people but elsewhere. The extreme nationalists of the other South American states now are great admirers of the Vargas "experiment." The evidence which it provides that the system of the European dictators, or something much like it, can grow and flourish on the soil of the New World is an inspiration to elements in other countries that feel nothing towards us but ill-will.
In Argentina there is no strong united nationalist movement. There are several groups loudly preaching the same gospel, but each has its own leaders, its own organization, its own newspaper. No Führer has arisen to dominate the movement and gather all factions about him. In the summer of 1941, there was an attempt to get them all to rally round General Juan B. Molina, whose loyalty to the present democratic constitution is, to say the least, doubtful. Molina's backers even applied to the Minister of the Interior for recognition of the new party which was to be organized under a High Council of Argentine Nationalism, with supreme authority in the "Chief of the Movement." The party's avowed aim was to pursue the task of "national revindication" by changes in the country's political institutions, elimination of foreign (i.e., British and American) tutelage, and social and economic reforms. The Minister of the Interior, in denying recognition, concluded that the aims and methods of the movement were flagrantly unconstitutional, as was its proposed organization along military lines. He branded it as manifestly contrary to argentinidad, implying that while nationalism in general was a fine thing, this particular type was beyond the pale. That was the last that has been heard of the High Council of Argentine Nationalism, although it still may well be flourishing underground. If we knew more about it, we might also know more about the still unexplained military plot which the Government stifled in mid-September of 1941.
The present Argentine Government of Ramón S. Castillo does not view with any great sympathy the activities of these nationalists. Caught between their criticisms and the hostility of the democratic elements, it has taken refuge in a negative policy of general suppression. The recently proclaimed state of siege is one example. Nationalist meetings are now banned or broken up by the police; and a planned nation-wide demonstration "for the triumph of democracy both inside and outside Argentina" had met a similar fate even before the state of siege was instituted. However, this policy of "neutrality" in the internal political conflict plays into the hands of the nationalists, just as the insistence on strict neutrality in the international sphere plays into the hands of Hitler. The two problems are interlocked. In both spheres the Government finds that its conception of its duty to maintain public order and to conduct the foreign relations of the nation compels it to suppress or to ignore the sentiments of the great majority of the people. Certain army officers and fascist-minded politicians, not without influence in Conservative Party circles, applaud these methods. They rightly feel a certain satisfaction in having contributed to making most unlikely any sincere and all-out coöperation in the common war effort of the Americas.
Uruguay, Argentina's neighbor across the Plata estuary, is noted for its strong democratic traditions. However, it too has its Nationalist Party, ably led by Dr. Luis Alberto de Herrera. For reasons of ideological solidarity, Herrera has maintained close and friendly relations with the Argentine nationalists despite their known inclinations to look upon his country as an Argentine province destined eventually to return to the fatherland. The Herreristas are no mere group of unbalanced youths. They are the direct descendants of the old Blancos (Conservatives), and form the largest minority party in Uruguay. Owing to a unique constitutional provision, they are entitled to three cabinet posts and half the seats in the Senate. They are not openly antidemocratic, though their nationalistic propaganda only thinly disguises strong sympathies for totalitarianism. They opposed all actions contributing to continental defense. When Japan attacked the United States, the Uruguayan Government tried to rush through the Senate a bill accepting lease-lend aid. Dr. Herrera spoke against the bill, stating that the conflict was strictly an affair between the yellow and the fair-haired (entre los amarillos y los rubios), and was therefore none of Uruguay's, or of South America's, business. Maintenance of neutrality at any cost is his unalterable policy.
Herrera's policy was so incompatible with that of the President of Uruguay, General Baldomir, that in March of last year he asked for the resignation of the three Herrerista ministers. But the strategic position of the Herreristas in the Senate continued to create a dangerous situation. Baldomir's attempt to reform the constitution having failed on account of their obstruction, he finally resorted to unconstitutional means to dislodge them. On February 21 he dissolved the Congress and substituted a handpicked Council of State. The nationalists thus have been driven from the halls of government. They can congratulate themselves, however, on having played a large part in bringing about the temporary breakdown of the democratic system in Uruguay. They will now be forced into conspiracy and violence to further their ends.
Chile's nationalists have had good organization and a measure of political success. The Popular Socialist Vanguard, formerly known as the National Socialist Party, participates in elections and now has two deputies in the Congress, one of them Jorge González von Marées, in whom American newspapermen are wont to see the agent of Hitlerism, a sort of Gauleiter for Chile. There is, however, no proof of this charge. González maintains that the story is ridiculous, that his movement is purely national. "Chile for the Chileans" is its slogan. But on the war question he is admittedly pro-German, first, because of the similarity of his political philosophy and party program to that of the Nazis; second, because of the belief that a defeat of Germany would leave Chile and the rest of Latin America under the complete domination of the United States. He argues that "Yankee imperialism" already stifles Chile and steals her wealth, and that after the war it would be worse. This can be avoided only by the victory of Germany.
A smaller faction is the Chilean Nationalist Movement of General Ariosto Herrera, now in exile as the result of a putsch which failed in 1939. Guillermo Izquierdo, the present chief, supplies brains, organization and oratory. This group deplores the Vanguard's willingness to participate in the "rotten" democratic system and particularly its "betrayal of the nationalist cause" when it supported the Popular Front candidate in 1938. Shunning elections, Izquierdo has organized his party in uniformed military formations and hopes to seize power by force. In all other respects his program resembles that of the Vanguard. It is anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, anti-Semitic, anti-capitalist, anti-Yankee. Izquierdo says, however, that he is less Germanophil than González and sorry for the small nations the Nazis have overrun. He feels greater attachment to Rome, Madrid and Vichy, capitals of Latin Fascism, than he does to Berlin.
Until recently the bulk of conservative-minded persons in Chile have followed tradition, which is democratic at least in its forms. But hatred of the Popular Front seems now to have caused them to turn in considerable numbers to a political adventurer who throughout a highly spectacular career has shown no respect even for democratic forms -- General Carlos Ibáñez. Ibáñez can properly be called a born extremist, of the caudillo type which is never much concerned with definitions. He ruled Chile as an absolute dictator from 1927 to 1931. On different occasions, he has had the support of the Communists and of the Popular Socialist Vanguard, and always of his own "nationalist party" made up of his personal friends. During the recent campaign he told American newspapermen of his determination "to maintain a democratic form of government in Chile," but to the Chileans at the same time he was promising "order and freedom from irresponsible assemblies" and a foreign policy which would let the United States fight its own war. He has been quoted as saying that Chile will guard its own coast and not grant bases to any foreign power.[ii] This sounds like the program of the Popular Socialist Vanguard. González von Marées did, in fact, endorse Ibáñez for the presidency. It would be a rash prophet who would call the nationalists in Chile an insignificant minority with no future.
It is not easy to say which is the extreme Right nationalist party in Peru. All parties -- and there are over a dozen of them -- claim to be truly representative of the Peruvian national spirit, and most of them are well to the Right. Even the APRA, classed earlier in this article as a popular leftist party, has often been called Fascist by neutral observers because of its nebulous program of offering all things to all men and its habits of resorting easily to violence. But recently it has been more often the recipient than the dispenser of acts of terrorism. And the very fact that despite the size of its following it is not in power is evidence that it has not learned the lessons of Fascism well enough to put them into practice. Its most recent pronouncements are filled with a devotion for democracy.
The real nationalist party of Peru, in the sense in which we are using the term, is the Revolutionary Union or, strictly speaking, that wing of the Union headed by General Luis Flores. This group has been banned by the Government and Flores himself is in exile, but he has able lieutenants still in the country who are to keep the flag flying until the winds of fortune change once more. The nationalist ideology of this group is staunchly conservative, much more so than that of comparable nationalist groups in Argentina and Chile. Centered in Lima, imperial city of the viceroys, it is intensely Spanish. To these men the Peruvian nation must inevitably have a Spanish culture and a Catholic soul. They consider it unfortunate that both have been corrupted by the poisons of materialism, democracy, and "Indianism." They would like to go back to the ideals of the Conquistadores, or rather to the ideals with which they have seen fit to clothe those knights of the sword and the Cross.
In practice, they are limited to underground propaganda, in which they attack their companions in illegality, the Apristas, more often than the Government which has outlawed them both. For actually, in basic aims and principles, the Revolutionary Union is not far removed from the present rulers of Peru. The Union cannot forgive the régime its lip service to democracy, however, nor its coöperation with the United States. Naturally it would be delighted to see the Germans win the war. Whether Flores has already made a mutual assistance bargain with the Nazis is not known, but there are strong suspicions that they are giving him financial aid. The true nationalist, apparently, if one judges by some of the Latin Americans who claim that title, is one who attempts to rid his country of one foreign imperialism by selling it out to another.
Colombia is at present without a nationalist party. It had one a few years ago, a small group of university youths who saw nothing to admire in democracy and were strongly influenced by the writings of Charles Maurras in France and by the apparent successes of Mussolini in Italy. This group, however, was never more than an offshoot of the Conservative Party and has since returned to the fold. Its members are discouraged at their lack of success and have lost much of their original ardor. They continue to insist on the need for national regeneration, for bringing back to public life the true spirit of Bolivar, for the assertion of national sovereignty, for repudiation of the policy of slavishly following the United States. They condemn the agreements signed at Havana in 1940 and recently at Rio de Janeiro on the ground that they weaken Colombia's status as an independent nation -- a view not very different from that of Dr. López, whom they detest. They lack both organization and popular support, and so far they have not allied themselves to the Axis cause to compensate for this weakness. Unless they capture control of the Conservative Party, of which there is no immediate prospect, they seem destined to remain in their present obscurity for some time to come.
It would be misleading to generalize from the foregoing. However, a point-by-point comparison of the programs of all the nationalist parties of South America reveals a striking agreement which cannot be wholly attributed to the similarity of local conditions. They all repudiate universal suffrage, parliamentary democracy, economic liberalism, the Marxists, the Jews and the influence of the United States. They all favor order, discipline, the functional organization of the state, economic planning, the nationalization of foreign enterprise, the leadership principle and political dictatorship. They are all bitterly anti-British and anti-American; they hope the war will end with an Axis victory. The explanation for this is not far to seek. The ideologies of all these parties, regardless of local circumstance, can be traced in large part to a common source: European Fascism. The revolt against the domination of the Great Powers is of course a natural development among peoples traditionally proud and materially weak; but the form which the nationalists have tried to give to that revolt is borrowed in most essentials from Europe. In the present conflict, while their slogan generally is "strict neutrality," they inevitably side with the régimes which gave them life. How generally and how actively they have been working with Axis agents in South America is hard to say; but in Argentina the recent congressional investigation of "anti-Argentine" activities turned up a good deal of positive evidence on that score.
One thing is certain. The nationalists are fully conscious that their own fate is bound up with the outcome of the war. The victory of Germany might put them in power. The victory of the democracies would be a blow from which they could not easily recover. If the Axis is defeated they at the very least would have to change their formula and perhaps would lose their identity entirely by being reabsorbed into the traditional conservative parties.
It is true that the extremists of the Right, like those of the Left, are not numerous. Yet they must be taken seriously for two reasons. First, they enjoy the support of highly placed military men and a certain sympathy from many members of the powerful conservative parties. In a period of crisis in which Conservatives had to choose between democracy, which many of them favor only because it has been kind to their economic interests, and the dictatorship of a Molina or an Ibáñez, they might prefer the latter alternative. Secondly, South American politics lack the middle class bastion that enables an established democratic system to laugh at, or to ignore, its extremist fringes. Where political power can and does change hands by means other than democratic elections, no group of ambitious men is too small to be noticed.
In recent years the world has been in some confusion as to what is Left and what is Right. Nations with the most varying official ideologies and constitutional systems have been approaching a uniform type of monolithic state from different directions. Some have been willing to relegate their political theories to the status of "matters of taste," as Molotov put it. The contradictory changes of front carried out by Stalin and Hitler have increased the confusion. Only the most blindly loyal followers have been capable of the mental readjustments ordered by the official theorists in Berlin and Moscow. In South America, both Hitler and Stalin have been able to maintain coteries of such faithful followers. This does not mean that everyone with a Marxist or Fascist label can be regarded as a foreign agent. Many of them have roots in the native soil. The struggle for economic independence and a more balanced economy is a natural concomitant of the semi-colonial status of these countries. In this struggle, both types of extremists say they are the natural champions of their country's interests.
To try to fit all the varied phenomena of South American politics into the framework of a simple struggle between progressive forces, which favor the democracies in this war, and reactionaries and nationalists, who favor the Axis, is not justified. Nor is it to be expected that in a time of crisis like this the officials who direct the policies of the United States will feel like peering too closely behind the façade of continental solidarity to find out who is a sincere democrat and who is not. Unless the façade cracks, we are content to leave things as they are. But in the long run if we are to win the support of the peoples of South America, as distinct from their governments, we shall have to learn to recognize our natural friends and our natural foes when we meet them. The Axis Powers learned to do that long ago.
[i] For the origins and early history of APRA, see Carleton Beals, "Aprismo: the Rise of Haya de la Torre," FOREIGN AFFAIRS, January 1935.
[ii]New York Times, January 17, 1942.