If the United States is to secure its vital interests in Latin America, it must better understand the nature of revolution there; it must determine more precisely its relationship and commitment to that revolution; and it must revise accordingly its Latin American policies and programs, both private and public.

Today there can be no doubt that the interests of the United States are in jeopardy. Chaos and violence are prevalent in some countries and imminent in others. Our efforts to promote economic development and political stability have been less than satisfactory, especially in rural areas. Conversely, one of the most hopeful political developments in the hemisphere, the Christian-Democratic movement led by Eduardo Frei of Chile, came about and is proceeding in several countries quite apart from our efforts. In fact, it appears to derive part of its virility from its political and ideological alienation from the United States, as well as its increasing affinity with Europe.

The initial vision of the Alliance for Progress has been blurred and its spiritual message garbled. Once more the image of the United States is tarnished by the suspicion that it is committed to the status quo and therefore to passive resistance to change. The unique dedication of the Alliance to what in Latin America is seen as radical reform, which enlightened its inception and gave it fire, has been all but smothered. With it has gone the ideological initiative which the United States had seized in 1963.

There of course were those in places of power and influence who chafed noisily under the demands of the Alliance for tax reform, more equitable land distribution and other actions which in the Latin American context must be called revolutionary. There were more, however, who inarticulately and undemonstrably felt for the first time that their rich and powerful neighbor to the north was genuinely committed to the struggle for social justice; that there was in truth a real alternative to the cynical demagogues of the Left who promised progress but at the cost of becoming their captives; an alternative, also, to the crumbling and decrepit structures of present power.

We have a tendency to suppose that actions speak louder than words; yet perhaps the words of President Kennedy were most important in those first years of the Alliance-his assertion that the United States was a revolutionary country, that we profoundly supported the demands of the people of Latin America for radical social, political and economic change, that we were concerned only that the revolution be constructive, serving its own highest and noblest ends, and that its independence be protected against those who would subvert it for imperialistic purposes. These were the words which throughout the hemisphere helped put Mr. Kennedy's picture in the huts of the interior, in workers' housing projects of the cities, in tiendas (shops), gas stations and schoolhouses. These were the words which could have made our intervention in the Dominican Republic more understandable and acceptable in Latin America. We missed the mark in that instance. Basing our action as we did on the need to save lives and on an ill-defined anti-Communism, we were made to appear anti-revolutionary. In fact, we entered more a chaotic than a revolutionary situation in which the real and legitimate revolution of the people of the Dominican Republic was being endangered by those who wished to use it for imperialistic purposes. We were seeking to protect the independence of the revolution, but we did not say so.

While today our actions and programs are little different than in 1963-they may in fact have improved-our words, our message, our philosophy, our ideology are more obscure. Those in the hemisphere who realize the need for constructive revolution, understanding that without it will come the destructive kind, are floundering in search of leadership and are highly vulnerable. They will not direct their hopes to the source of money or aid but to wherever the ideas for a new society shine brightest and clearest. For some, ignorant or misguided or malicious, this is Cuba, the Soviet Union or China; but for the vast majority it is not. Unless, however, we present a clear, realistic and inspiring alternative to what the Communists offer, we cannot be surprised if their following increases. Observing our efforts in Latin America, one cannot avoid the feeling that a great and generous people is expending boundless material resources in a struggle which is fundamentally not materialistic, and which cannot be won without clear, consistent, ideological statements and actions based on a precise understanding of the nature of revolution.


Let us define what we mean here by the word revolution. It must be clearly distinguished from the anarchy, coups or other unorthodox means of changing governmental leadership common in Latin America, and seen most recently in the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Honduras and Guatemala. By revolution we mean the deep and radical changes in the social, political and economic fabric of a nation or a people which proceed constantly underneath the chaos and the coups and reach into every phase of work and life. It is emotional and spiritual, it is concerned above all with dignity and justice, and in Latin America as well as elsewhere it appears to be inevitable and in its high purposes eminently desirable. Latin America is in the process of choosing the direction in which the revolution proceeds, the particular ends it seeks, the priorities it gives to those ends and the degree to which it maintains its independence from outside powers. This revolution does not seem to require bloodshed or violence. It did in Mexico many years ago, but in Chile we appear to be watching it progress in peace and order; hopefully the same may be true in Venezuela and eventually in Brazil.

The importance of this revolution is made clear in the words of Roger E. Vekemans, S.J., sociologist, director of the Center of Research and Social Action in Chile, close adviser of President Frei and an intellectual leader of the Catholic social-action movement in Latin America: "Without thorough and quick social change on a truly revolutionary scale, it will not be possible to achieve authentic and rapid economic development in Latin America; and without really startling economic expansion there is no possibility of responding adequately to the revolutionary crisis that obtains in the region.... Blind and immediate pressure applied from abroad that fails to take cognizance of Latin America's need for social change might temporarily postpone an explosion. But even if delayed, this explosion would necessarily occur, and the longer it is delayed, the more violent it will be."

To understand the meaning of the revolution for the policy and programs of the United States it is necessary to look at its anatomy.

Let me begin by listing the problems which cause it and which it seeks to solve:

Rapid population growth of about 2.8 percent a year which far outstrips the economic growth; low living standards, inadequate and poorly distributed purchasing power, income and land; wide and growing gaps in income and living standards between rural and urban areas and between different regions in a single country; a rapid flow of population from rural to urban areas, creating slums, unemployment, dislocation and unrest; inadequate education and rigid hierarchical social structures which choke off opportunity for those who do manage to obtain some education; inadequate and inflexible credit and market systems, leading to exploitation, high prices and low return to the farmer; centralized industry, concentrated in urban areas, causing insufficient rural development and employment opportunities.

Beyond these specific factors is a general lack of trust and communication among men and social groups, isolating vast sectors of the society and the economy from one another, and political instability and corruption arising from the lack of broadly based popular organization and the extremely limited and polarized centers of power. The remnants of feudalism, reflected partly in paternalism, also act adversely to stifle change, initiative and confidence.

This list of problems is only partial but it is sufficient to suggest two conclusions concerning Latin American development.

The first is that these problems are parts of a circle, that they are interrelated and interdependent, that they support each other and cannot be effectively treated separately. This may seem obvious, yet much of the disappointment with our aid program arises from our failure to act on it. Being a nation of specialists, we tend to isolate problems and apply our expertise to them one by one. The result is, for example, that the agronomist will teach a farmer to grow tomatoes that are twice as big, juicy and abundant as his neighbor's, but then to everyone's dismay they lie rotting in the field because there is no market or it is poorly organized, or because there are no trucks to take them to market or no roads for the trucks to go on. If the tomatoes should get to market, it is so controlled that the farmer gets only a small return on his effort. When he seeks credit to invest in fertilizer and other improvements, he finds it is nonexistent, or available only at extremely high rates. Once he has made the land useful, he may well find that his ownership is disputed and some faraway urban landlord may try to take it away from him. His local political representative is more than likely in cahoots with the urban landlord. Our agronomist goes home, understandably discouraged. The farmer's trust, confidence and hope disappear.

Many failings must be traced to the expert who sees problems through a special telescope of economics, or engineering, or supermarkets, or political science, or sociology or whatever. Part of the difficulty is that owing to his specialized training and revered status the expert is able to bully the generalist, who is able to see the development cycle in its entirety, who approaches it in an integrated fashion and who should be his leader. The expert, further, is a child of his experience, which often has been limited to the United States and is therefore quite unrelated to the Latin American environment. Or if he is "an old Latin American hand," he is apt to become cynical and negative, explaining to young and enthusiastic local officials that such and such a plan hadn't worked in another country ten years earlier.

The second conclusion that can be drawn from the problems listed is that they all result from two general inadequacies: in motivation and in organization. To understand this let us look at the social organization in a typical Latin American country. At the far right of the spectrum is a small, highly organized élite-a coalition of business and landowning interests and the military. At the far left is a small, articulate, radical group whose purpose is to overthrow the existing order. In between is a wide variety of forces which exert greater or lesser influence on the two extremes depending on the country; but there is relatively little social organization in the sense that we know it in the United States. It is this lack of organization among 95 percent of the population that makes democracy so difficult to practice in Latin America. One need only think of the extensive role which the thousands of associations, leagues, clubs, interest groups and pressure groups play in the government of the United States to understand the difficulty of effecting balanced and responsive democracy without them.

The inadequacy of organization becomes more serious and aggravating in view of the rupture of Latin America's traditional social structure. The semifeudal system which for centuries provided some acceptable order for society is rapidly dissolving. The intricate pattern of rights and obligations which tied the landowner to the peasant, the patron to his workers, and which established the tienda as store, market, bank, loan agency and insurance company, is being disrupted. The old social structure is proving inadequate to the economic and political needs of the peoples and their governments. But the erection of a new system is extremely difficult, especially because the lingering rigidities of the old ways make communication between the various levels of society almost impossible. For example, there are very few managers in Latin America, in either the public sector or the private, who can talk to the campesino in terms of mutual confidence and understanding. This is serious, given the fact that providing the campesino with motivation and organization is an urgent prerequisite to making the revolution constructive. As a consequence of this social deterioration, there is a widespread atmosphere of insecurity, confusion and fear, which shows itself in lack of initiative, lack of confidence in oneself and one's country, an aimless resort to violence (as in the bandit-ridden areas of Colombia and Venezuela) and a decline of fragile social and political systems into chaos and anarchy (as in the Dominican Republic).

A further important consequence is inadequate or inappropriate motivation to meet the needs of development. Take for example the matter of education, which plainly is central to development. As part of its work in developing teaching material with which to train managers in Central America, the Harvard Business School has investigated fairly precisely and in detail what happens when radical change is introduced into a rigid and traditional society. For the past two years it has joined with Bishop Mark G. McGrath and those who are working with him on a development program in Veraguas Province, Panama, an extremely poor area and a prime target of Communist organization. The Bishop has an ambitious plan for the introduction of coöperatives and small industry, and Harvard researchers have been involved in his efforts almost from the beginning.

A primary problem in Veraguas is education. The difficulty is not so much a shortage of schoolhouses and teachers as to persuade the campesino that his children need and can use education. The Veraguas rice farmer has difficulty understanding why his son needs to know how to read and write if he is going to spend his life sticking a stick in the ground, putting a rice seed in the hole, harvesting the rice crop, which has already been largely mortgaged to the tienda, and doing all this on land that he doesn't own. Reading and writing for him are superfluous. When, however, 35 of these farmers banded together into the most elementary sort of credit coöperative, to which they contributed something like 25 cents a month, and when they noticed that the only person who could add up the figures at the coöperative meetings was the village priest, they quickly realized why their sons must learn arithmetic. This group of 35 not only saw to it that their children were on time for school, but they painted the school-house, built an addition and searched the neighborhood for the best teacher available. The point is that once these campesinos were properly motivated there was no way of stopping them from seeing that their children were educated. If there were no schoolhouse they would have had school under a tree. Without the motivation, however, the most modern schoolhouse with the highest paid teachers would not have produced education.

This motivation-organization vacuum is a principal cause of the Latin American revolution. A variety of forces are competing to fill it: the old élite; new industrialists, merchants and manufacturers; the military; the Communists; various sorts of demagogues; the Church; various coöperative organizations; and labor unions. The direction and result of the revolution will depend on what combination and balance of these forces prevail and on what engines of motivation and organization they are able to devise and set in motion.


Let us look briefly at the nature of the most important of these forces.

The Church. Practically speaking there is one Church in Latin America and that is the Roman Catholic Church. Historically, the Church there, in sharp contrast to North America, has been identified with wealth, power, land and the aristocracy. As the vigilant watchdog of the status quo, the Church enjoyed a central position in the traditional structure of paternalism. "Imagine the Church in the paternal framework," writes Bishop McGrath, "in which everything was in its place; God in Heaven, the King in Spain, the governor in the province, the patron on the farm, each farmhand in his house with his woman and children, and the priest who came and attended spiritually to the needs of the people." Except for the King in Spain this is still a true picture of life in many areas of Latin America. Yet there is today perhaps no more militant or effective force for change in the hemisphere than the Church.

Read the words of the Most Reverend Helder Pessoa Camara of Brazil: "Liberty is only a name, a sound, for two-thirds of mankind, without houses, without clothes, without food, without a minimum of education and above all without human conditions for working.... Unfortunately, our Latin American rich men talk very much about basic reforms, but then brand as Communists those who decide to make them real."

In the last ten years the Church has departed radically from its traditional position that poverty is the estate richest in the means of salvation. In Panama, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Venezuela and other countries, it is making vigorous efforts to organize coöperatives in rural areas, to persuade the élites of their responsibility, to help the destitute in the big-city slums-leading, in short, a great social, educational and religious reform giving effect to the encyclicals of Pope John XXIII and the new thought in the Vatican.

In some places, to be sure, it has not made this new departure. In Colombia, for example, when Father Camilo Torres, a young rebel priest, found himself confronted by a Church hierarchy which is perhaps the most traditionalist in Latin America, and by a political and social situation which cries out for change, he asked to be relieved of his priestly obligations so that he could take up "the revolutionary struggle."

It is important to note that the principal support for the Church's new social action in Latin America comes from Europe rather than the United States. The German bishops, for example, provide some $15,000,000 a year for what are the most radical and politically controversial operations of the Church in the region. The Church in the United States tends in general to assist in more traditional ways, helping, for example, with the distribution of food and in various welfare activities.

Christian Democracy. Closely allied with the Church's direct participation in the revolution, but clearly separate from it, has been the rise of the Christian-Democratic political movement, strongest in Chile but gaining a following in Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru and elsewhere. Beginning in the universities, it now attracts followers in all sectors and at all levels of society, but its most important leadership comes from the middle class.

In the words of its principal spokesman, Eduardo Frei, President of Chile and probably the outstanding statesman in Latin America today: "The central tenet of Christian Democracy is the belief that we are witnesses to the crisis of a world exhausted, to the death of paternalism, and to the birth of a civilization of work and solidarity with man as its center, rather than the pursuit of monetary gain that pervaded the bourgeois society. And its inspiration is that this new era in history and the new social condition will be based on Christian values and concepts of Christianity."

Christian Democracy implies a breaking with the "established order," with prevailing structures. "The achievement of power no longer means for us," says Frei, "as it does for the people of the United States, simply slight variations in political structures, but rather a change in the entire social structure, requiring new orientations for family, education, state and man." It is a non-confessional party: "It is not constituted by Catholics for Catholics."

The Christian Democrat rarely speaks against Communism and occasionally criticizes the United States for seemingly supporting the status quo with what appears to him to be a policy which is both pragmatic and materialistic. He is, therefore, branded frequently as "anti-American."

It is important, therefore, to understand President Frei's thoughts on this matter, remembering that he is surely no Communist, that his most vituperative political foes in Chile are Communists, and that on many occasions he has shown profound regard for the United States. In his mind, Communism in the Western Hemisphere represents more than just another political movement. Many see in it a system that explains to them in coherent and understandable terms their own existence. It is for this reason, Frei thinks, that its success is "sometimes greater among the intellectuals and the better-off proletarian sectors, and even among the middle class, than among the rural, uneducated mass."

But, thinks President Frei, the answer usually given to this challenge of Communism is weak and mediocre. He writes:

The anti-Communisms of fear, of preservation of 'order,' and of forces, manifested in military coups, are doomed to failure and are constantly in rout. They have nothing to say to youth or the people. This explains the frustration resulting from régimes created to impose 'order.' Again, to ground all policy on the concept of 'free enterprise' is almost absurd. This does not satisfy anyone's soul or intelligence. Furthermore, to continue speaking of freedom and democracy to people deprived of land, housing, schools or opportunities is practically useless. They are words wasted. What is important is to point the way to a true democracy and a true freedom.

These words were written in 1963 before Mr. Frei was elected to the presidency of his country. Since then he has sought to achieve reform and progress in Chile and has encountered predictable difficulty. But they are important words to ponder carefully.

Worker Organizations. The third principal force for change in Latin America is organizations of workers: coöperatives seeking to organize workers to meet the challenges of nature, the market and the credit system; and trade unions seeking to organize employees to bargain more effectively with employers and to effect political objectives.

The historical purposes and responsibilities of worker organizations in Latin America far transcend the economic welfare of their individual members. While this is and must be important, they are in a very real sense creators of new political, social and economic systems. They are integrators where there is little integration, communicators where there is little communication, motivators where there is little motivation and organizers where there is confusion and chaos. They are the institutions in many ways best suited to ease the painful transition from traditional rural agricultural life to new urban, industrial life. It is their natural function to identify ever-increasing areas of mutuality of interest among the various groups and classes in society. Perhaps most important, it is through organization that industrial workers and campesinos gain a realization of their power in the community. With this comes a sense of their own worth and dignity, and a sense of hope for the future for themselves and their children.

In general, the organization of rural coöperatives in Latin America has been slow and hard. Assistance from the United States in this field has tended to be too sophisticated and accompanied by too much money. It has, in short, accentuated the material and neglected the spiritual problems involved. It has assumed a level of motivation and a capacity to organize which has always been present in the United States but is not present in rural Latin America. In many rural regions, for example, it is rare for more than four campesinos ever to work together. They are reluctant to use fertilizer; it represents too great a risk. When you are on the knife-edge of existence, any change is dangerous. Before people such as these can organize a coöperative a great deal of slow and painstaking educational and inspirational work must be done. Then the coöperative must start at an extremely primitive and simple level, generally to provide easier credit. Once it has taken root and the idea of coöperation is accepted and has been proven useful, it can be extended into other areas.[i]

Another important force making for motivation and organization in Latin America is the trade union, which, of course, differs from a coöperative in that it is formed principally in order to bargain with an employer, although many of the more effective trade unions there as elsewhere in the developing world have formed coöperatives as part of their overall effort. Like the cooperative, the Latin American trade union is quite different in origin and purpose from its United States counterpart. Both historically and at the present time its political and social functions are substantially more important than its economic. In spite of the fact that their numbers are small, their leadership inadequate and their finances scanty, these organizations constitute one of the very few means through which revolution can be made constructive. Furthermore, it must be assumed that in time trade unions will increase in power, and once gained it will not be lost but will be vented in one direction or another. Frequently the economic requirements of development and the facts of life make any dramatic increase in wages or improvement in living standards difficult if not impossible. The responsible labor leader thus has a hard time maintaining the loyalty of his membership, especially in the face of the demagogue who with his quick solution to complex problems, his promise of Utopia, is a particularly effective tempter to those who have tasted power but find themselves unable to use it within the existing structure.

It is important to recognize, however, that while labor unions have been prime targets of international Communism ever since the October Revolution, they are also first lines of defense against it and other totalitarian forces. What is significant is the extent to which trade unions in Latin America have been able to resist penetration by these forces. Control of these organizations by democratic leaders is a key factor in hemispheric development.

While no self-respecting Latin American labor leader would deny the necessity of radical change, there are important differences in methods and techniques of leadership.

At present the Communists are definitely a minority group in the labor movements of most Latin American countries. Furthermore, where they exist they are badly split among themselves between those adhering to the old- line, peaceful coexistence policy of the U.S.S.R. and those following the Peking-oriented policies of Cuba as enunciated by Guevara and Castro, calling for "wars of national liberation" and violence without regard to the international priorities set in Moscow.

Most of the non-Communist labor organizations are divided between the O.R.I.T. (Organización Regional Interamericana de Trabajadores) and the far smaller but growing C.L.A.S.C. (Confederación Latino-Americana de Sindicalistas Cristianos). O.R.I.T. was formed as the Latin American regional arm of the I.C.F.T.U. (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions) with the strong and effective support of the American Federation of Labor and especially its Latin American representative, Serafino Romualdi. Over the years it has received substantial assistance from that source and more recently from A.I.D. through the American Institute for Free Labor Development. C.L.A.S.C., founded in 1954 as the regional affiliate of the International Federation of Christian Trade Unions, has received virtually no support from the United States, relying for its outside help on West German and other European sources. Given these power relationships, it is natural that there should be a sense of competition and sometimes conflict between these two groups.

This conflict is accentuated by the different priority given by each to the formulation and expression of ideology. It is sharpened by the fact that the leader of C.L.A.S.C., Emilio Máspero, a true if somewhat unruly child of Christian Democracy and an unusually eloquent and inflammatory speaker, is understandably resentful of O.R.I.T.'s exclusive access to United States funds. Máspero attempts to establish the belief that C.L.A.S.C. is more revolutionary than O.R.I.T., and for this purpose speaks harshly about the United States, though at the same time condemning Communism, Castro and all dictators. "In Latin America," he writes, "trade unionism constantly comes face to face with the greed for power of Communism, with the utilitarian ambitions of capitalism, and with the programs of various dictators and political parties." He continues, "The only feasible goal for labor in Latin America is to organize the working forces in a decisive manner as an instrument for effecting social revolution." It is significant that the success and notoriety which Máspero has achieved in Latin America derives mostly from his strong ideological appeal to young men and the particular attention which C.L.A.S.C. gives to organizing the campesinos. As a practical matter, his organization has accomplished far less than O.R.I.T., but in some places its image is more vital. While it is not entirely clear that the competition between the two is destructive, it would seem wise to take steps to prevent its becoming so.

Here again it is worth noting the increasing support being extended from Europe to several of the more ideological elements in the Latin American revolution, including the Christian-Democratic movement, C.L.A.S.C. and the social action arm of the Catholic Church. This alliance with Europe to some extent alienates these groups from the United States; they see us as being materialistically oriented, concerned with doling out welfare but not with the intellectual and spiritual ferment which they regard as central.

The New Managers. One of the most potentially powerful and important new forces which can stimulate organization and motivation in Latin America is the new managerial élite, composed largely of the young men, some of them self-made and unencumbered by feudal attitudes, who are engaged in industrial and commercial enterprises. They are found in virtually every country and are bound to have a significant effect in the years ahead. They have felt the strong pressure for social action emanating from the Catholic Church, understand the realities of the situation more clearly than their fathers and in many cases recognize that revolution is not only inevitable but desirable. They are perplexed, however, as to the means by which the revolutionary development can be made constructive and harmonious with their interests and obligations as managers and entrepreneurs.

Through their relationships with the employees of their companies and factories, these men are developing skills and capacities for practical and effective development planning and governmental reform. They thus can be catalysts for political interest and activity on the part of a new and larger segment of the population; indeed, many political leaders of the future may well come from their ranks. They also can be important agents of regional economic and political integration, carrying their enterprises across national boundaries and developing larger markets. This can result in more efficient production, better utilization of natural resources and, perhaps most important, the organization of agricultural enterprise for increasing the production of food and making it more efficient in packaging, preserving, distributing and marketing.

The new managers have the difficult task of proving that if employers who rely on their own initiative are able to operate in a hospitable governmental and public atmosphere they can create new social, political and economic structures which will meet the pressing needs of Latin America. There is a real question as to whether, given the will, they will have the time and the power to do so within the hemisphere's presently crumbling framework. Only unusual strength, capacity and vision will enable them not to abdicate leadership to the extremists on one side or the other.

Rufo Lopez Fresquet, the distinguished Cuban economist and historian who assisted Castro in the Sierra Maestra, became his first Minister of Finance, and barely escaped with his life when the revolution was betrayed, believes that the root cause of Castro's ability to seize and hold Cuba was the abdication of leadership by Cuban businessmen in the early 1940s, thereby providing the basis for Batista's destructive dictatorship and thus for Castro's.

The new managerial élite must analyze the anatomy of the revolution in progress around them. They must assess the problems confronting their countries, the characteristics of the power-organization-motivation vacuum and the combination and balance of the forces striving to fill it. They must then design engines of motivation and organization which are capable of successfully building and stabilizing new economic, social and political systems. In so doing they will be mistaken if they fail to shuck off the old myths, jargon and comfortable phrases of the past. The ideology they must build might well center around the notions of individual dignity; the value of individual initiative; the legitimacy of private property responsibly used for public benefit; and the great utility of managerial skill and technology. Along with principles like these they must devise fresh ways of proceeding in order to tie business managers to other elements in society, so that the expansion of enterprise will help in the construction of a strong social and economic framework within which justice and democracy may flourish.


Implicit in all this is the fact that part of the difficulty in relations between the United States and Latin America lies in the realm of ideology and semantics, in the misunderstanding that each side has of the ideas and words of the other.

A unique characteristic of the development of the United States is its philosophical dependence on pragmatism and its vigorous rejection of cant, dogmas and what is commonly called ideology. It can be argued that we have made an ideology of pragmatism, but in a real sense the two terms are contradictory. Our country was built by men who came from Europe in large part to escape the rigidities of dogmas and ideologies, to form a new society. In this sense, our whole development has been a continuing revolution in the context of Western civilization. Owing to our reluctance to think or speak ideologically, however, we have never looked on ourselves as being revolutionary. Indeed, when we take revolutionary actions we struggle to make them appear conservative.

Our method has been to do what seems to be necessary to meet a particular problem at a particular time. If our actions don't work, we can undo or modify them. What is done pragmatically can be undone with far greater ease than that which is done ideologically. When President Truman threatened to seize the steel industry or when President Kennedy coerced the same industry to cancel a price rise in 1961, they were not acting as socialists. They were doing, wisely or unwisely, what they felt needed to be done to meet a particular difficulty.

To be sure, our Constitution and Declaration of Independence are in a sense doctrine and have an ideological base. But a part of their greatness is the facility with which they can be adapted pragmatically to meet almost any situation. Also it must be remembered that these documents have their philosophical base in the thought of John Locke, who in turn generated his precepts from the science of Sir Isaac Newton. When one considers the additions and alterations made in our knowledge of the known world and in our conceptions of science since Newton, it becomes apparent that our ideological underpinnings are in some ways irrelevant to much of what is taking place around us.

Without a doubt our success as a nation is due in large part to this eminently practical way of proceeding. But at the same time it has left us vulnerable and perplexed in a world where ideologies are paramount. The signs are everywhere. At home we are increasingly bothered by a search for "national purpose." Our young people are insisting on some new ideological formulations. They share particularly, for example, a sense of national guilt in the fact that until very recently we did not regard the problem of racial discrimination as an ideological monstrosity with which we could not live but rather treated it as another problem to be dealt with pragmatically, responding to crises as they came.

The aversion to doctrine or ideology has also meant that we have been unable to formulate our experience as a nation. We have difficulty in seeing what we are and what we have truly accomplished, in understanding the revolutionary nature of our growth and development. The result was well put by Jacques Maritain: "You are advancing in the night bearing torches toward which mankind would be glad to turn, but you leave them enveloped in the fog of a merely experimental approach, and mere practical conceptualization with no universal idea to communicate. For lack of an adequate ideology your lights cannot be seen."[ii]

The dilemmas are nowhere more evident than when we confidently describe our economic system with words and phrases which are totally misleading. Take "capitalism," the word we allow to be applied to our economic and social system. To the vast majority of Latin Americans, capitalism means exploitation, imperialism and abuse; it means 30 percent return on investment, absentee landlords, monopolies and worse; it means, in short, nearly the opposite of the system which we actually have in the United States. "Private enterprise" similarly is a highly misleading phrase, for it too in Latin America has abusive, exploitative connotations which are not representative of our system. A non-Communist leader of the Latin American Left wrote recently: "After 150 years of private initiative, free enterprise, and free competition, there are in Latin America more than 130 million undernourished, more than 70 million illiterates, and the lowest economic growth rate in the Western world."

The point is, of course, that when we use these words in talking about our system, we are not describing it accurately; somehow it is difficult for us to do so. Rarely do you hear an American abroad mention the vast array of governmental restrictions, supports, subsidies and controls which seek to ensure that our "private enterprise" maintains harmony with the public consensus concerning the nation's good. It is an unusual American who takes the time to point out that the 500 largest corporations in the United States are really in no sense private; they are owned by the public, produce for ever-increasing numbers of the public and are careful to observe their responsibility to the public, knowing that if they do not they will be made to. They are, to use Adolph Berle's phrase, "nonstatist," but surely they are not private. Neither are they run by their owners but rather by hired hands-"nonstatist civil servants." These facts somewhat contradict the American myth, and many persons feel that there is something un-American, indeed subversive, about talking too much about the public aspect of our society. But surely, whatever one may think about the rightness or wrongness of our system, an intelligent American should be able to describe it accurately.

The effect of failing to do so is highly dangerous, for if we extol "capitalism" unmodified and undefined we are in effect inviting the developing world to reject it. Thus we find that many countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa are taking to the word "socialism," even though it has become almost as useless a term as capitalism since it is applied to systems ranging from the totalitarian U.S.S.R. to democratic India. Actually what most Latin Americans mean when they say socialism is merely a government with a social conscience, a system in which social justice is protected and promoted. They refer, in fact, to very nearly the system which we have, but they cannot bring themselves to call it capitalism. Except for a small minority of doctrinaire intellectuals, few insist on ownership by the state of all the means of production.

"Communism," too, means quite different things to different people. In its purest form, of course, it means nonproprietary communal living. We have no real objection to that, although we do not want to practice it ourselves. Perhaps the Israeli kibbutz is the nearest thing to pure Communism in the world. In this sense, it has a strong basis in religious teaching. To the vast majority of Latin Americans, however, Communism is understood to be simply the opposite of capitalism, not of democracy or liberty or freedom. Therefore, when we say we are anti-Communist many understand us to be saying in effect that we are pro-capitalist; and without a precise definition this raises the problems mentioned above. To Americans-and now to an increasing number of Latin Americans who have seen and learned from the example of Cuba-Communism means an international imperialistic conspiracy which destroys the independence of nations and the liberty and dignity of the individual. But because of the difficulty implicit in the word, Christian Democracy and similar movements in Latin America forgo using it. We might do well to follow suit, saying instead precisely what we mean. For after all, we are not prepared to make great sacrifices for the preservation of what is called capitalism today in Latin America; whereas we are quite prepared to do so to help protect the independence, liberty and dignity of Latin Americans.

A prominent non-Communist leader of the revolutionary Left explains how our real message and our vital interests are distorted today in Latin America:

In the United States, Communism is seen as a physical menace to the established way of life and the institutions that have brought a considerable degree of well-being to the vast majority of citizens. ... In Latin America, however, Communism is seen as a means of change, as a possible solution to an unsatisfactory way of life.... Negative anti- Communism, often associated simply with blind opposition to change, is habitually fostered by American foreign policy ... [which has] often worked to the advantage of Communism.

Democracy has many times been confused with capitalism, as if the capitalist system were essential to democracy. The fact is that the majority of the governments on our continent, wrongly called democratic, have always been in the hands of financial oligarchs that have practiced exploitation through capitalism. This democracy has nothing to do with capitalism as it now exists in Latin America.

The importance of sharpening our ideological concepts and making them more precisely understood is accentuated by the real split that Communist parties in Latin America are facing today. On one side are those old-line party leaders who support and are supported by the Soviet Union; they favor a policy of infiltration, coöperation with non-Communist groups and "peaceful coexistence." On the other side are the supporters of Castro, who want an early revolution by force and have a natural sympathy therefore with Peking.[iii] Castro is urging Latin America to follow the violent road because he wants to spread his revolution quickly; but his revolution has been branded counterrevolution by many because it has been deprived of its autonomy. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, places the "national liberation struggle" in Latin America in a secondary role to economic competition between "socialist" and "capitalist" states.

In some ways the struggle in Latin America is one between materialism and ideology. As the result of a strange series of misunderstandings, imprecisions, commitments to meaningless jargon and ideological naïveté we find ourselves strangely identified with materialism, while Cuba, China, the Soviet Union and their supporters are identified with spiritual ideology. At the same time, we seem to be unwittingly forcing the ideologists-C.L.A.S.C., some Christian Democrats, radicals in general, socialists, Marxists, Communists and Cuban-Chinese agents-to unite, although of course they have very little on which to be united.


We have explored the nature of some of the pressing problems in Latin America today; we have analyzed some of the forces acting on them; and we have discussed our own intellectual problem in confronting them. We have seen that Latin America's problems, whether social, political or economic, material, spiritual or ideological, are interdependent parts of a whole. The difficulty of finding answers to such a broad array of questions is all too plain. I venture nevertheless to put forward the following thoughts relating to attitudes and actions by the United States Government as well as our foundations, business and labor.

First as to the United States Government: Since the problems of development listed earlier are inseparable, the Government should give fresh thought to dealing with them as an integrated whole. Research is a bad word in the foreign-aid lexicon because it reportedly arouses Congressional suspicions; but we need more of it, having wasted considerable time, effort and money for lack of it. An example of the kind of thought we need more of is the so- called National Market Concept, developed by Dr. Walt W, Rostow, Chairman of the State Department's Policy Planning Council, ably assisted by Irving Tragen of A.I.D. and others, which sets out brilliantly the circle of problems which must be met simultaneously in order to develop wider and better internal markets in the Latin American nations.

We also should think more in terms of development teams led by generalists, able to see the problems of a particular project in all of its aspects rather than employing a loose collection of ad hoc experts who usually are unable to coördinate their work for effective action. The development teams should be composed largely of younger men, perhaps specially trained graduates of the Peace Corps, whose energy and imagination would more than make up for lack of long-time experience. Associated with them should be young men from the country involved who can continue and improve upon the work begun by North Americans.

A team approach to the problems of our tomato-growing friend, for example, might include not only the provision of agricultural technology through an appropriate expert but also the organization of the farmer and his neighbors into a coöperative for the more efficient development of the available land, and the provision of low-cost credit, as well as for more efficient and profitable storage, processing and distribution; assistance at the political level in clearing title to his and adjoining lands; help in education and the development of skills; and advice on such diversification of crops as a study of the market and other factors showed to be useful. The need for such an integrated approach was put well by Hilgard O'Reilly Sternberg in commenting on land reform in Brazil: "What Brazil needs is certainly not a mere redistribution of land, nor letters of marque for indiscriminate invasion of property. A land reform which will permit the greatest possible number of people to own, manage and work their piece of ground must assure the farmer clear title to the land, water rights, credit, technical assistance, coöperative organization and the possibility of developing rural industries-among other things."[iv] Indeed, the crux of land reform may not be so much the question of ownership as the effective use of land and the equitable distribution of its benefits.

Secondly, our diplomacy should recognize the need for a more sophisticated and precise ideological commitment. Given the revolutionary process at work in Latin America and our deep involvement and interest in it, we can neither oppose it nor remain neutral to it.

The Communists, who in many ways are our masters in tactics, do very little to alleviate suffering. They seek rather to give spiritual and intellectual inspiration, especially in the universities which are traditional centers of political argument and leadership in Latin America. It would be sad if we with our religious and spiritual heritage were proved less competent in this field than they. It is in this connection that we should cultivate relations with the Church and the Christian Democratic political movement. We should not be so childish or over-sensitive as to allow the superficial anti-Yankeeism of some Christian Democratic leaders to put us into a negative alliance with the status quo, the non-revolutionary, the corrupt, the ineffective.

In the words of Bishop McGrath, "If we exclusively dedicate ourselves to working for an improvement in living conditions, without stressing the ideology that must go into our concept of life and without trying to promote that kind of activity, particularly community development, coöperatives and vocational education, then we are merely promoting a desire for material progress greater than we will be able to produce in our time, and this will push persons closer and closer to Communism." He concluded with a thought which we must take very seriously: "The spectacle of the progressive secularism of Western culture, culminating in the methodical and absolute secularism of Communism, is an object lesson in what must happen to a Christian society whose theology and faith disconnect themselves from the passing scene."

Let me repeat that the pace of change is so great that many of the words we have used to describe systems of life and work-capitalism, socialism, Communism-are imprecise and in many connections obsolete. We should not be self-conscious or too modest about our ideals. Let us not forget the one formulation of doctrine which we have cherished from the beginning which says that all men have certain rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that governments are instituted "to secure these rights;" and that "whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government. ..." Let us not forget, in sum, that we are a revolutionary people; that in a real sense we made the word honorable; that we have more right to its noble use than do those who call themselves Communists.

Thirdly, our Government should place more emphasis on encouraging methods of motivation and organization appropriate to the needs of the Latin American peoples. In this regard, cooperative organizations should receive substantially more attention from A.I.D. Here, however, we must recognize the subtle but profound difference between the problems and requirements connected with forming coöperatives in the United States and in Latin America, We tend to assume a level of desire which often is not present in Latin America. To offer material improvement is not enough; there must be psychological preparation before coöperation can succeed.

Fourth, we should also give assistance in the education and development of the new managerial élite in order to aid the new managers to see clearly the real alternatives before them in their rapidly changing regions. This education must not be based on experience, methods and techniques in the United States, but rather on problems they find in their own fields, plants and offices. To prepare such teaching material takes time and special talent, and it is expensive. But the expense will have been worth it if the managerial leaders of tomorrow in both the public and the private sector obtain a wider vision of their problems and opportunities and better understanding of the revolutionary process at work.

It is significant, for example, that relatively few Latin American managers are involved in the business of food processing, including preserving, packaging, distributing and marketing. Too often this is either left to foreign companies or it is handled in traditional, inefficient and expensive ways. Yet in the total of development needs of Latin America, no single enterprise may be of more importance than food processing and all that goes with it. The reason so few Latin Americans are involved in its efficient management is that it is a relatively complex industry, involving many different functions, relatively high risks and low profit. Most of all, it requires motivating and organizing people in the countryside, about whom very few urban-oriented managers have much knowledge and with whom their powers of communication and leadership are severely limited. This is a highly strategic industry, but before it can get moving as it should there must be intensive education. At the moment we know very little about its problems. This is not to say that A.I.D. as well as our foundations and others have not been active in this field of management development, but to suggest that it can appropriately receive still more attention.

It is interesting to speculate on the role that the new managers, properly trained and organized, could have in regional organization in Latin America. The extraordinary success in forming a Common Market in Central America is due largely to the realization on the part of a relatively small number of influential managerial leaders of the importance of making one market out of five. The Central American Institute of Business Administration (I.N.C.A.E.), established by the business communities of the six countries of the isthmus, is a product of this mutual recognition and concern. Similar institutions in other regions of Latin America could bring together present and potential leaders of business for the objective consideration of their mutuality as well as their conflicts of interest.

Now as to the role of United States business. The American company in Latin America has for a long time been the butt of anti-Yankee sentiment and intense nationalist resentment. Occasionally the criticism has been deserved, but for the most part it has been unfair and unreasonable. Nevertheless nationalism and anti-Yankeeism are a reality and probably will be for some time to come. This fact should neither surprise nor dismay us. American business must live with it and adjust its policies to it. It must make careful estimates as to its own proper role in the revolution and whether or not it can remain as aloof as it might like. It must determine also the requirements for its survival and success in such an environment.

For example, it should consider carefully whether, regardless of what the situation may be in the United States, strong, responsible labor unions are not an essential piece of social insurance in Latin America, a buffer against the shocks of radical change, a useful instrument in building continuing relationships with the community as a whole. And it must consider very carefully what are the alternatives to such a positive course.

Furthermore, the United States company should think deeply about its relationship to the development needs and plans of the country where it is located, its capacity to serve those needs and plans compared to the capacities of indigenous firms, and adjust its policies accordingly. For a foreign company to survive and succeed in a country in the process of revolution, where nationalist feelings are intense, it must provide services which are unique and essential. Otherwise it becomes extremely vulnerable to those who say: "We can do as well or better ourselves." This argues for considerable research by United States companies of all kinds; for the introduction of new technology, providing it is not unduly disrupting, and new products; for the expansion of market channels both in the region and outside; and for keeping a watchful eye on new needs which the company could help to meet. An example already mentioned is food processing-a highly important and complex area of business, badly needed in almost every Latin American country and not yet generally attractive to local entrepreneurs.

Finally, as Jacques Barzun suggests,[v] we must understand the resentment caused by the sometimes "unlovely ways" used by United States business in doing its job. We must appreciate the "helpless rage" which many Latin Americans feel against the cultural transformation often required by the adoption of United States industrial techniques. At the same time, we should riot try to hide or obscure what Barzun calls "our simplicity" in performing what are truly gigantic exploits. Much of what appears materialistic is not, neither is it ideologically inspired; rather it is the response to a typically American urge to accomplish, to create, to produce, not solely or entirely for profit, but for its own sake-sometimes, even, just to help the other fellow.

The contribution made by the American labor movement since the end of World War II to establishing strong, effective and responsible worker organizations in Latin America has been enormous. Great credit for this farsighted and creative effort belongs to Serafino Romualdi and, more recently, Andrew McClellan and William Doherty, Jr. The foundation of the American Institute for Free Labor Development by American labor and management (George Meany president and Peter Grace vice-president) indicates the true nature of our economic system in which management and labor work together to resolve problems rather than become irrevocably involved in struggle. It also offers a way in which funds of management, labor and government can be made available for social action by labor organizations in Latin America. Perhaps the greatest area of need now is in the countryside, where the organization of plantation workers and the establishment of coöperatives and community development projects are of the highest priority. The A.I.F.L.D. is already engaged in rural work but might well intensify it on the basis of a fuller understanding of the ideological factors involved.

Time is not with us in Latin America. The pressures of population and revolution are increasing. I recall a year ago visiting a remote village in the Panamanian highlands, a sleepy place, nestled deep in its own poverty and ignorance, unconscious of the outside world or of the changes taking place there. The wife of the local storekeeper, also the schoolteacher of the village, was at that time a listless woman, resigned to the unchanging life around her, to the drought then threatening the village's meagre food supply, to the lack of even the most rudimentary medical treatment for her children, to the dull drudgery of her daily work. This year I returned to the village to find this woman a completely different person. She had been listening to a transistor radio and was filled with anger. Her eyes flashed as she pointed to the misery around her, as she spoke of the landlord who owned the land on which the village was located, as she demanded answers to the thousand questions of why everything was not better. Across the mountains from this village is the sparsely populated Atlantic coast of Panama, with long and inviting white beaches facing the island of Cuba. No wonder Che Guevara wrote that "the countryside . . . offers ideal conditions for the fight."

[i] The importance of effective rural coöperatives and community development is evident in Che Guevara's intriguing book laying out the Cuban design for capturing the revolution in Latin America, "Guerilla Warfare" (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1961).

[ii] "Reflections on America." New York: Scribner's, 1958, p. 118.

[iii] The mysterious departure from Cuba of Che Guevara, a well-known exponent of the Chinese line, could well mean a Cuban swing in Moscow's direction.

[iv] "Brazil: Complex Giant," Foreign Affairs, January 1965.

[v] "The Man in the American Mask," Foreign Affairs, April 1965.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now