This puzzling and uneven collection of essays attempts to describe the Latin American political environment in 1970 and 1972 and, at the same time, to contrast the economic development approaches of Chile and Brazil. When finished with the book, published in 1973, on the basis of the evidence and material presented, you could be sure of two things—Brazil was ripe for revolution, and Chile was well on the way to a peaceful and successful change in her social, political, and economic infrastructure. Yet in mid-1974 we find, in contrast, that the Chilean experiment has collapsed in a bloody revolution, and the Brazilians, apparently unaware that their model is not supposed to work, are continuing on their dynamic developmental path.
It is amazing to read such naive statements in the preface by the editor, James Petras, that the apathy of the 1960s is gone, that the Argentine military is on the defensive, that the Tupamaros are moving toward victory, and that in Bolivia a popular peoples’ assembly has been organized. Such are the dangers of rushing into print.
The book is divided into three parts, with various authors contributing essays to each section. Part one is entitled “Alternative Approaches to Development: Left and Right.” The essays on Chile, by Petras, probably help explain the downfall of Allende in a manner that I think was not intended. Everything was fine in Chile. The excellent description of the socioeconomic changes being brought about by the UP coalition never seem to take into consideration the tensions that were building up. Opposition reaction was badly misjudged. The Chilean working class, union or nonunion, did not have the dedication or understanding of its historic role in the process of eliminating external domination and thus paving the way for national economic development. Chilean labor unions, and especially the copper unions, were too much like the A.F. of L. and Teamsters in the United States. They wanted a fatter pay check and easier working conditions, not revolutionary rhetoric. The copper unions hurt the Allende administration badly with their strikes. Petras catches this when he writes, “. . . copper workers in Chuquicamata are salary conscious, not class conscious.” But this should have been extended to the entire spectrum of Chilean labor unions. In addition, there is no support for the statement by Petras that after the Allende government expropriated over 2000 landed estates, agricultural production increased 6 percent in 1971.
The two articles on Brazil, also in the first section, are so badly translated and carelessly edited that they cannot be taken seriously. The first deals with a critique of Celso Furtado’s “stagnation thesis,” while the second discusses Brazil’s “economic miracle.”
Part two of the book, “Dependency in a Modern Setting,” contains articles focused on Argentina. The third and final section of the book, “The United States and Latin America,” is much better than the preceding two parts. A successful Allende administration clearly posed a greater threat to the United States business community than a Fidel Castro ever would. The U.S. response to economic nationalism in Chile is such a good picture of how Washington, D.C., operates that I wonder how Petras got so lost in South America.