Revolution in the Revolution? Armed Struggle and Political Struggle in Latin America November(128 pp., $.95))
This book by Régis Debray is a public judgment handed down against the Communist parties in the poor countries of the world. In it Debray plays the role of prosecutor, speaking in the name of the people, of the socialist revolution, and of history; but it is clear that he is expressing the opinions of Fidel Castro.
For that reason, his book is of tremendous importance. If it were simply a work by a young European writer endowed with an exceptional talent for extracting certain essential facts from the historical process and putting them into a language that is typically French in its brilliance, Revolution in the Revolution? would be an acute intellectual exercise but little more. It would also, of course, be of interest because of its author’s recent arrest in Bolivia for taking part in guerrilla activities, a charge that he denies. But there is something more to the book.
What is that “something more”? It consists of two elements. First, this book charges that all of the Communist parties in Latin America lack the courage to think about a seizure of power. At the same time, Revolution in the Revolution? is a weapon in Fidel Castro’s struggle to bring about a union of communism and nationalism in Latin America.
Debray’s main accusation against Communist parties in Latin America raises others which may be even more serious, because they are based on moral judgments rather than those of tactical capacity. In view of the inclination of Latin American youth to value moral considerations above all others, these charges could have serious consequences for present-day Communist parties in Latin America. The most important of these charges is that, because they need to maintain a political position which will allow them to deal with the middle classes and the oligarchies in their countries, the Communist parties are sabotaging guerrilla movements.
DEBRAY IS RIGHT in his main charge. The Communist parties of Latin America have easily degenerated into bureaucratic machines, better organized and more disciplined than the traditional political parties of any capitalist or colonial country but basically no different from them. It is quite clear now that if Fidel Castro could lead a few hundred guerrilla fighters to political power in Cuba, an island ninety miles from the United States, Communist leaders in countries much further from Washington—Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, for example—could have seized power earlier. The famous march across Brazil by the Prestes column more than thirty years ago does not have now—after Castro’s seizure of power—the revolutionary significance which Latin American Communists formerly attributed to it.
There is, however, one question which Debray does not take into account. Fidel Castro was able to seize power without the help of the Cuban Communist Party, but could he have done all he did without its collaboration? Could Fidel Castro have gained total control of the life of the country so rapidly had he continued to rely on groups of people from different social classes, led by young middle-…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.