In This Review
The Rebel Scribe: Carleton Beals and the Progressive Challenge to U.S. Policy in Latin America

The Rebel Scribe: Carleton Beals and the Progressive Challenge to U.S. Policy in Latin America

By Christopher Neal

Rowman & Littlefield, 2022, 390 pp.

Neal admires the fierce intellectual independence and penetrating, skeptical eye of Carleton Beals, who died in 1979 at the age of 85. Beals was a remarkably prolific freelance writer of some 40 books and innumerable magazine articles that skewered the ruling elites of Latin America and their U.S. sponsors. As recorded in Neal’s highly entertaining biography, Beals’s best books, enriched by his extensive travels, offered colorful, often acerbic portraits of the leading political and intellectual figures of the day. His biggest scoop, a 1928 exclusive interview with Augusto Sandino, pictured the Nicaraguan guerrilla fighter as a romantic patriot battling against a misguided U.S. military intervention. Something of a celebrity in progressive intellectual circles, Beals foreshadowed the later anti-imperialist critiques of William Appleman Williams and Noam Chomsky and the popularity in academic circles of dependency theory, the notion that globalization impoverishes poorer countries. Like many left-leaning, politically engaged writers, Beals wavered between demanding that the U.S. government keep its hands off Latin America and urging Washington to put its thumb on the scales for progressive democrats