Whither Latin America? consists of a collection of a dozen articles which have appeared in the independent Marxist journal, Monthly Review, mostly during 1962 and 1963. It presents the rather homemade appearance one has come to associate with Monthly Review products: apparently there has been no special editing for this publication, so that at one point the reader is enjoined to watch for a “report” which will appear “next month”; on another page an article in MR is footnoted, with nothing to indicate that it appears elsewhere as a chapter in the same book; an editorial in the New York Times is cited by month and day, hut not by year; and so on.
The character of the pieces included varies very widely. There is some rather obtuse reporting of events now stale, pointless to preserve between hard covers, as in a brief report by Manuel Agustín Aguirre of Central University in Quito on some Ecuadorean political developments of 1960-1961; and in part of Harvey O’Connor’s ill-informed piece on Venezuela, written around 1951 and now having lost even the timeliness which was its only merit when it first appeared. There is a speech by Francisco Julião, organizer of the peasant leagues of the Brazilian Northeast, which is good and often moving oratory, but quite lacks any denotive content. There is a naive report by Paul Sweezy of an interview with Lázaro Cárdenas, which this reviewer found interesting, though saddening, for its account of the position to which the evolution of the General’s views have now taken him. There is a well-written “Listen, Yankee” harangue by Carlos Fuentes, the noted Mexican novelist. But there are also sincere attempts at description, analysis, and exposition which are not vitiated by their Marxist standpoint but rather are led by it to raise significant questions often overlooked. The piece on Peru by the journalist and playwright Sebastian Salazar Bondy, “Andes and Sierra Maestra” is partly of this character, as are Leo Huberman’s “Which Way for Latin America?” and Andrew Gunder Frank’s “Mexico: The Janus Faces of 20th Century Bourgeois Revolution.”
In many ways this is a very bad book. The sheer ignorance of the contributors is frequently shocking, and the views expressed are often dogmatically obtuse. Nevertheless, a theme of central relevance to the Latin America of today runs through the book, usually implicitly, but on occasion explicitly stated: that thoroughgoing social and economic change in the interest of greater justice and popular welfare in Latin America is not possible within the legal and constitutional framework of liberal democratic society. This is unfortunately a thesis which democrats cannot afford to dismiss out of hand.