Many observers have warned of an impending crisis in Latin America. Alberto Ciría, the Argentine political scientist who wrote Partidos y poder en la Argentina moderna (1964), has attempted a brief but ambitious interpretation of this complex problem. Whether he has succeeded or failed will depend more on personal than academic values.
The central idea of this work is “revolution.” The author contends that this term, along with “democracy,” is meaningless in Latin America. The first is usually applied to a conservative restoration and the second to predatory imperialism. Only in radical change, as seen in the Fidelista movement and in Socialism, is substantive meaning possible. True independence for Latin America did not begin until the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution in 1910. Other authentic revolutions occurred in Guatemala (1944), Bolivia (1952), and Cuba (1959). The United States opposed each in order to perpetuate the stagnation of the traditional order for her own selfish economic purposes.
Ciría reluctantly admits that Chilean Christian Democracy constitutes a valid alternative to the Cuban experiment, but his enthusiasm for the latter is unbounded. Lauding such heroes as Juan Perón, João Goulart, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and Régis Debray, he sees in their example and in guerrilla warfare the promise of the future. The chief peril lies in the Alliance for Progress and the proposed inter-American security force, reactionary devices of the United States.
Based on selective periodical sources and written with the fervor characteristic of the “New Left,” Cambio y estancamiento en América Latina is a profession of faith badly in need of semantic and historical integrity. Endless repetition of such terms as “imperialism” and “bourgeois” is reminiscent of Manuel Ugarte and Hugo Wast, the author’s spiritual precursors. In one paragraph he ranges from the Catholic Monarchs to the Weimar Constitution and in one sentence from James Monroe to Lyndon B. Johnson. His analysis of Mexico is similarly revealing. The periodization scheme is meaningless, while his pronouncement concerning the failure of Mexican education and his glorification of Cuban efforts (based on indoctrination) are highly suspect. Worst of all, Mexico is guilty of becoming “aburgesado,” the cardinal sin.
The value of works such as this is that they force the reappraisal of fundamental values and problems. Latin America deserves much better than the totalitarian option which the author advocates. The cure for the ills of democracy is still more democracy.