Bad Neighbor Policy

Nationalism in Latin America

by Gerhard Masur
Macmillan, 278 pp., $5.95

Nationalism in Contemporary Latin America

by Arthur P. Whitaker, by David C. Jordan
Free Press, 229 pp., $6.95

The Red, White, and Black Continent

by Herbert Wendt, translated by Richard Winston, translated by Clara Winston
Doubleday, 526 pp., $6.95

In an editorial comparing United States policy in Latin America with Soviet suppression of the Hungarian revolution of 1956, a leading Brazilian newspaper, the Correio da Manha, recently wrote that in Latin America, the United States had “constituted itself into a mainstay of everything that is oligarchic, reactionary, stubbornly anachronistic, submissive, and sad.” This comment is typical of a vitriolic anti-Americanism which in Latin America is by no means confined to Communists and their friends. Similar opinions are voiced daily in left-of-center nationalist newspapers; and even newspapers that are otherwise quite conservative often carry huge banner headlines about such matters as Soviet successes in space-travel, race riots in American cities, or De Gaulle’s denunciations of the Vietnam war.

This anti-Americanism is usually attributed to the dominant role of American capital in the Latin American economy. The real explanation is somewhat more complicated. If anti-Americanism were simply a matter of resentment about exploitation, it would be strongest among the masses, particularly the urban working class. Actually, working-class anti-Americanism is widespread only in Argentina, where American economic influence is weaker than elsewhere in Latin America. Among the peasantry, anti-Americanism is rare. Nor does it appear to any large degree in the entrepreneurial class. The Communist propaganda thesis that there is in Latin America a “national bourgeoisie” whose interests are diametrically opposed to, and whose very existence is threatened by, “Yankee imperialism,” does not stand up to close examination. Domestic Latin American industry and trade coexist quite peacefully with foreign capital; in cases of friction, their ties with government circles usually enable them to defend their interests very effectively.

ON THE OTHER HAND, anti-Americanism is rampant in certain Latin American social groups not directly concerned with the economy—university and high-school students, intellectuals in general, and among the professional politicians who constitute the cadres of parties representing middle-class and working class interests. It is thus a phenomenon of the political and not the economic sphere, and of the elites, not of the masses. Its basic element is resentment of the lack of neutrality displayed by the United States in the power-struggle between the oligarchic elites and the counter-elites of nationalist middle-class intellectuals, which has been going on in Latin America since the early years of the century.

The Latin American oligarchies may be described as planters’ and ranchers’ aristocracies which have branched out into industry, commerce, and finance. These highly conservative groups obviously represent the static element in Latin American politics. The dynamic element is composed of the counter-elites of middle-class intellectuals pledged to programs of nationalism, modernization, and industrialization. In a number of countries, the counter-elite has been able to organize political parties which have won the support of large sectors of the urban middle and working classes, and the peasantry. These “populist” parties are invariably left-of-center; their ideology is anti-capitalist and often influenced by Marxism, which renders them highly suspect to observers who apply the standards of the Cold War to Latin American reality. Parties of this type are today …

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Letters

Painful Subject April 6, 1967