It is refreshing to read a hook on the Alliance for Progress which does not conclude with the usual gloomy projections. Instead Herbert K. May allows a breath of optimism to blow through his very good analysis of the Alliance. However, he is not naïve, and, as the title indicates, he does not hesitate to point out the shortcomings of the Alliance, coupled with his suggested remedies.
The book is devoted to what the author believes is the ideological challenge to the Alliance and to recommendations which he considers essential for meeting it. Part of the challenge consists of impediments within Latin America, as in the case of Brazil, which presents the problem of nationalism. Two former presidents Jânio Quadros and João Goulart, were not kindly disposed toward the Alliance; partly as a result, not a great deal has been accomplished in the way of social reform. Another aspect of the challenge is what the author calls the “war of ideologies” or the struggle of the Alliance against Marxism. May calls for an Alliance mystique to compete with the influence of Marxism.
The author is very creative in his suggestions for improving the Alliance. He would like to see a “Latinization” of the Alliance through various avenues: reorganization of the Inter-American Committee for the Alliance for Progress (CIAP), formulation of reform and self-help standards, and evaluation of performance by the various Latin American countries. He advocates greater involvement by groups within the United States and Latin America such as universities, business, labor, the press, and government. He also calls for a greater role by governments outside the Western Hemisphere, along with fiscal reform and monetary stabilization within Latin America.
Unfortunately May’s treatment of political questions shows less assurance and insight than he displays in discussing the economic and technical aspects of the Alliance. For example, he states throughout the book that Latin America is part of the Free World in the struggle against communist tyranny. This can be questioned when we consider the many examples of authoritarian rule on the continent: François Duvalier of Haiti, Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay, Juan Carlos Onganía of Argentina. Moreover, he states that democratic processes have returned to Brazil through the holding of free elections (p. 64). This is false, for the government of Artur Costa e Silva is becoming more authoritarian, not less so.
In his attempt to show the advantage of private enterprise over socialism, the author fails to indicate the economic and political aspects which distinguish different types of socialism. In fact, it might be more advantageous for certain Latin American countries, with a limited amount of capital, to rely more heavily on the government as a major source of investment prior to the “take-off” period. This could be accomplished within a generally liberal society under a social democratic regime.
The above criticisms, however, do not detract from the major contributions of the book, a penetrating analysis of the Alliance for Progress and many worthwhile suggestions toward its improvement.