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Hegemonic Nationalism, Subordinate Marxism: The Mexican Left, 1945–7


The most significant weakness of the Marxist Left in early Cold War Mexico was that it subordinated itself to post-revolutionary nationalism. Both the Mexican Communist Party and followers of Vicente Lombardo Toledano supported the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI), avoiding significant criticism before late 1947. Some dissident currents of Marxism did exist, but they were sparsely followed. Mexico provides an extreme case of Left subordination to popular-nationalist ideology, yet is indicative of trends visible elsewhere, e.g. among Marxist groups in post-war Cuba and the United States. Rather than promoting notions of communist political practice, the Mexican Marxist Left consistently advocated the elimination of class conflict and support for the ‘national bourgeoisie’. The Marxist Left held the Mexican government to different standards from those to which they held the governments of other countries. A near-consensus on the Mexican Left equated patriotism with progressive politics. The argument is illustrated with an important case study: the 1947 Marxist Round Table.

Spanish abstract

La debilidad más significativa de la izquierda marxista a principios de la Guerra Fría en México es que esta se subordinó al nacionalismo posrevolucionario. Tanto el Partido Comunista Mexicano como los seguidores de Vicente Lombardo Toledano apoyaron al gobernante Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), evitando críticas significativas antes de fines de 1947. Algunas corrientes marxistas disidentes sí existieron, pero tuvieron seguidores dispersos. México provee un caso extremo de subordinación de la izquierda a la ideología popular-nacionalista, mientras que señala tendencias visibles en otras partes, como por ejemplo entre grupos marxistas en la Cuba de la posguerra y en los Estados Unidos. En vez de promover nociones de práctica política comunista, la izquierda marxista mexicana abogó consistentemente por la eliminación del conflicto de clase y el apoyo a la ‘burguesía nacional’. La izquierda marxista vio al gobierno mexicano con estándares diferentes de como lo hizo hacia gobiernos de otros países. Un consenso casi total de la izquierda mexicana equiparó al patriotismo con políticas progresistas. Este planteamiento se ilustra con un caso de estudio importante: la Mesa Redonda Marxista de 1947.

Portuguese abstract

A fragilidade mais significante da Esquerda Marxista do México, no início da Guerra Fria, foi sua subordinação ao nacionalismo pós-revolucionário. Tanto o Partido Comunista Mexicano quanto os seguidores de Vicente Lombardo Toledano apoiaram o partido de situação Partido Revolucionário Institucional (PRI), evitando críticas significativas até finais de 1947. Algumas correntes marxistas dissidentes existiam, mas eram parcamente apoiadas. O México oferece um exemplo extremo da subordinação da esquerda à ideologia popular-nacionalista, ainda que também seja indicativo de tendências observadas em outros lugares, como, por exemplo, entre grupos marxistas em Cuba do pós-guerra e nos Estados Unidos. Ao invés de promover noções de prática política comunista, a Esquerda Marxista mexicana defendeu consistentemente a eliminação do conflito de classes e o apoio à ‘burguesia nacional’. A Esquerda Marxista avaliou o governo mexicano com parâmateros distintos dos utilizados para governos de outros países. Existia praticamente um consenso na Esquerda Mexicana que equacionou o patriotismo com políticas progressistas. O argumento deste artigo é ilustrado por um importante estudo de caso: a Mesa Redonda Marxista de 1947.

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1 I use ‘communist/s’ to describe those who identify with the various ideologies of communism and ‘Communist/s’ to refer to those in official Communist Parties. Hobsbawm: see, for example, Eric Hobsbawm, ‘Gramsci and Political Theory’, Marxism Today (July 1977), p. 205.

2 Brown Archie, The Rise and Fall of Communism (New York: Ecco, 2009), p. 112 .

3 This article concurs with Alan Knight's assessment that ‘though the Mexican working class had to confront the realities of the revolution, and thus in turn contributed to its development, its contribution was limited and rather reflexive; it responded to events rather than initiating them’: Knight Alan, ‘The Working Class and the Mexican Revolution, c.1900–1920’, Journal of Latin American Studies, 16: 1 (1984), p. 51 . Nonetheless, the key role of urban labour at certain points is clear; see e.g. Bortz Jeffrey, Revolution within the Revolution (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004).

4 The PRI – previously the PNR (1929–38)/PRM (1938–46) – governed Mexico between 1929 and 2000, the longest unbroken rule of any party in history. It has defied definitive characterisation, though arguably a consensus is emerging which sees the party as: 1) semi-authoritarian; 2) hegemonic at a national level while often less present at a local level; and 3) highly mobile on a traditional left–right spectrum, though with a drift from populist left (at a 1930s high point) to authoritarian centre–right (thereafter, excepting perhaps the self-conscious neocardenismo of the Luis Echeverría presidency between 1970 and 1976). See Joseph Gilbert and Nugent Daniel (eds.), Everyday Forms of State Formation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994); Collier Ruth Berins, ‘Labour Politics and Regime Change: Internal Trajectories versus External Influences’, in Rock David (ed.), Latin America in the 1940s (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994), pp. 5988 ; Hamilton Nora, ‘The State and the National Bourgeoisie in Postrevolutionary Mexico: 1920–1940’, Latin American Perspectives, 9: 4 (1982), pp. 3154 ; Knight Alan, ‘The Rise and Fall of Cardenismo, c. 1930–c. 1946’, in Bethell Leslie (ed.), Mexico since Independence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 241320 ; Rath Thomas, Myths of Demilitarization in Postrevolutionary Mexico, 1920–1960 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2013); Navarro Aaron, Political Intelligence and the Creation of Modern Mexico, 1938–1954 (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2010); Camp Roderic Ai, ‘Education and Political Recruitment in Mexico: The Alemán Generation’, Journal of Inter-American Studies and World Affairs, 18: 3 (1976), pp. 295321 .

5 Ben Fallaw designated the period 1938–40 as ‘the Death of the Left’, following the peak of Popular Front-style cooperation in the mid-1930s, while Barry Carr describes the period 1946–50 as Alemán's ‘Taming of the Left’. See Fallaw Ben, ‘The Southeast Was Red: Left-State Alliances and Popular Mobilizations in Yucatán’, Social Science History, 23: 2 (1999), p. 257 ; and Carr Barry, Marxism and Communism in Twentieth Century Mexico (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), p. 142 .

6 Vicente Lombardo Toledano (1894–1968), founder of the Confederación de Trabajadores de México (Confederation of Mexican Labour, CTM) in 1936 and the Confederación de Trabajadores de América Latina (Confederation of Latin American Labour, CTAL) in 1938. Co-founder of the Partido Popular (Popular Party, PP) in 1948. On Lombardo's ideological and geopolitical position and image see e.g. Iber Patrick, ‘Managing Mexico's Cold War: Vicente Lombardo Toledano and the Uses of Political Intelligence’, Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research, 19: 1 (2013), pp. 1119 ; Moulton Aaron Coy, ‘Building Their Own Cold War in Their Own Backyard: The Transnational, International Conflicts in the Greater Caribbean Basin, 1944–1954’, Cold War History, 15: 2 (2015), pp. 135–54; Toledano Vicente Lombardo, 50 verdades sobre la U.R.S. S. (México, DF: 1935) and Spenser Daniela, ‘El viaje de Vicente Lombardo Toledano al mundo del porvenir’, Desacatos, 34 (2010), pp. 7796 .

7 See Carr, Marxism and Communism; and Jorge Alonso, En busca de la convergencia (México, DF: CIESAS, Publicaciones de la Casa Chata, 1990). On Trotsky and Trotskyism in Mexico, not covered here, see esp. Olivia Gall, Trotsky en México y la vida política en tiempos de Lázaro Cárdenas (1937–1940) (México, DF: Editorial Ítaca, 2012) and Robert Alexander, Trotskyism in Latin America (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1973).

8 Although the PCM and lombardistas held similar views, relations between them were not altogether smooth. Just a month before the Marxist Round Table of Jan. 1947, a British Embassy report detailed a public accusation by Dionisio Encina (1907–82), Secretary General of the PCM (1940–59) against Lombardo, in particular his ‘having gone back on revolutionary principles’. This critique returned after the Round Table, but was largely muted during the actual proceedings. See ‘General Report No. 2 (December 1946)’, National Archives, London, LAB13/541, p. 3.

9 See, inter alia, Middlebrook Kevin, The Paradox of Revolution: Labor, the State, and Authoritarianism in Mexico (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), and Snodgrass Michael, ‘The Golden Age of Charrismo: Workers, Braceros, and the Political Machinery of Postrevolutionary Mexico’, in Gillingham Paul and Smith Benjamin (eds.), Dictablanda (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), pp. 175–95. The charrazo – i.e. the replacement of radical labour leaders with loyalist charros (‘cowboys’) – had an enormous effect on the Left as a whole, though the bulk of that process occurred after the period in question here. Also see Barry Carr, ‘The Fate of the Vanguard under a Revolutionary State: Marxism's Contribution to the Construction of the Great Arch’, in Joseph and Nugent (eds.), Everyday Forms, pp. 326–52.

10 Rather than Carr's primary diagnosis of subordination to the party (that is, of party-as-hegemon) the emphasis here is one of subordination to the dominant, oficialista form of nationalism (perhaps mexicanidad-as-hegemon). Carr, Marxism and Communism, p. 339.

11 On the attitude and policies of the early USSR towards non-Russian populations, see Smith Jeremy, The Bolsheviks and the National Question, 1917–23 (London: Macmillan, 1999). While the importance of changes in minority policy after 1923 and the eventual adoption of ‘socialism in one country’ can scarcely be overstated, the changes occurred in a haphazard and (perhaps surprisingly) non-dogmatic fashion. For the intellectual background to the debate over the national question, see Anderson Kevin, Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Non-Western Societies (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2010).

12 Even where most effusive about the tactical efficacy of engaging with nationalism (e.g. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon or The Class Struggles in France), Marx was highly conditional. ‘Marx was not advocating proletarian nationalism per se but rather socialist leadership in national defence, with the goal of accelerating revolutionary change both internally and in neighbouring countries.’ See Davis Mike, ‘Class and Nation’, New Left Review, 93 (2015), p. 61 .

13 Ibid., p. 50. Wider conclusions may tentatively extend to other examples of communism under radical, worker-inclusive nationalist regimes, including in Indonesia, Turkey and Argentina.

14 Bradley Mark Philip, ‘Decolonization, the Global South, and the Cold War, 1919–1962’, in The Cambridge History of the Cold War, vol. 1: Origins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 471 . E. H. Carr dates the diminution of Soviet interest in Latin America to 1929, while Stephen Clissold suggests that into the 1950s ‘Latin America still remained marginal to Soviet interests in other parts of the world’. The Soviet Union did exert influence in areas outside party politics, though, notably through labour (CTAL/World Federation of Trade Unions) and cultural organisations (the World Peace Council) which grew in size and scope in Latin America towards the end of the 1940s; however, these are less relevant for the period under consideration here. See Carr E. H., A History of Soviet Russia, vol. 3: Foundations of a Planned Economy, 1926–1929, part 3 (New York: Macmillan, 1978), p. 989 ; Clissold Stephen, ‘Introduction’, in Clissold (ed.), Soviet Relations with Latin America 1918–1968 (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 21 ; and Iber Patrick, Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015).

15 On the relevance and challenges associated with the use of the term ‘hegemony’ (and by association ‘hegemon’) with reference to the PRI, see Morton Adam David, Revolution and State in Modern Mexico: The Political Economy of Uneven Development (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), pp. 912 . While the PRI's legitimacy was rooted in material provision and political stability as well as the successful promulgation of its conception of the nation, the Marxist Left engaged with the PRI largely in the realm of the latter.

16 Latell Brian, ‘The USSR and Mexico’, in Mujal-León Eusebio (ed.), The USSR and Latin America: A Developing Relationship (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), p. 298 .

17 There were, of course, references to class in the discourse of the Mexican Revolution, though in many cases such references were arguably rather cynical or empty.

18 The absence of prominent Marxists from the political Left was partially reversed with the creation of the Movimiento de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Movement, MLN) in the early 1960s. The MLN was notable not only for its re-forging of the alliance of rural and urban leftists within Mexico but also for the influence it explicitly drew from revolutionary Cuba. See Keller Renata, Mexico's Cold War: Cuba, the United States, and the Legacy of the Mexican Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Arguedas Ledda, ‘El movimiento de liberación nacional: Una experiencia de la izquierda mexicana en los sesentas’, Revista Mexicana de Sociología, 39: 1 (1977), pp. 229–49; Bruhn Kathleen, Taking on Goliath (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1997), pp. 4953 ; and Garza David, ‘Factionalism in the Mexican Left: The Frustration of the MLN’, The Western Political Quarterly, 17: 3 (1964), pp. 447–60.

19 See Gillingham and Smith (eds.), Dictablanda.

20 See, inter alia, Harmer Tanya, Allende's Chile and the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011); Moulton, Building Their Own Cold War’; Jones Halbert, The War Has Brought Peace to Mexico: World War II and the Consolidation of the Post-Revolutionary State (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2014); Grant Nicholas, ‘Crossing the Black Atlantic: The Global Anti-apartheid Movement and the Racial Politics of the Cold War’, Radical History Review, 119 (2014), pp. 7293 ; and, above all, Joseph Gilbert and Spenser Daniela (eds.), In from the Cold: Latin America's New Encounter with the Cold War (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008) and, especially, Spenser Daniela, The Impossible Triangle: Mexico, Soviet Russia, and the United States in the 1920s (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999).

21 See Miller Nicola, Soviet Relations with Latin America, 1959–1987 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 6 . Here I concur with Barry Carr in his criticism of dominant historiographical trends which ‘overstate the importance of Communist parties’ subordination to Moscow and demonstrate more concern with structure than with agency’. Carr, Marxism and Communism, p. 327; as Edmé Domínguez suggests, the USSR expended much more effort in its interactions with the PRI than with the PCM. See Domínguez, ‘Realities and Relations with the Soviet Union’, in Mujal-León (ed.), The USSR and Latin America, p. 155.

22 Wirsching Andreas, ‘Comparing Local Communisms’, Twentieth Century Communism, 5 (2013), p. 36 . Such a statement ignores the many cogs which, nonetheless, fell from the machine: Trotskyism, Titoism, Maoism, Castroism, among many other variations which are still within a broad communist movement even though in some sort of opposition or parallel track to official pro-USSR (big ‘C’) Communism. Note that throughout this article, I use the term ‘local’ to describe communism as existing in and relating to domestic (i.e. Mexican) conditions; this follows the structural framework laid out by Norman LaPorte et al., at the 2011 University of Glamorgan conference entitled ‘Local Communisms’ and in the resulting special issue of Twentieth Century Communism (2013). LaPorte suggests that ‘the “monolith” was undeniably a Bolshevik aim, and was central to western constructions of communism; but the influence of very diverse “local” conditions meant that it remained an unfulfilled statement of intent’, a view which accords well with the variety of ‘local communisms’ observable in the Americas during this period. See LaPorte Norman, ‘Local Communisms within a Global Movement’, Twentieth Century Communism, 5 (2013), pp. 720 .

23 This is closely linked to the phenomenon of Browderism in North American communism during the Second World War. See note 75 below.

24 Toledano Vicente Lombardo, Cuáles son las tareas urgentes de los pueblos de América Latina (México, DF: Universidad Obrera, 1944), pp. 30–5.

25 Alegre Robert, Railroad Radicals in Cold War Mexico: Gender, Class, and Memory (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska, 2013), p. 40 .

26 Knight Alan, ‘Cárdenas and Echeverría: Two “Populist” Presidents Compared’, in Kiddle Amelia and Muñoz Maria (eds.), Populism in 20th Century Mexico (Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2010), p. 24 . Though Lombardo had campaigned clearly and consistently for racial equality and against prejudice, his critique of ethnic oppression nonetheless glossed over racial inequality within Mexico, instead setting out a more general picture of anti-Mexican prejudice (and claiming that Mexicans were descended from ‘three racial groups considered as inferiors’). See Toledano Vicente Lombardo, Judíos y Mexicanos ¿Razas inferiores? (Montevideo: Ediciones Unidad, 1944), p. 34 .

27 Drinot Paulo, ‘Creole Anti-Communism: Labor, the Peruvian Communist Party, and APRA, 1930–1934’, Hispanic American Historical Review, 92: 4 (2012), pp. 704–36.

28 Ibid., p. 712.

29 José Carlos Mariátegui (1894–1930), Peruvian Marxist theoretician, political representative and essayist. See Angotti Thomas, ‘The Contributions of José Carlos Mariátegui to Revolutionary Theory’, Latin American Perspectives, 13: 2 (1986), p. 34 . Mariátegui's relevance here lays in his realisation of ‘not only the importance of Marxism for the development of America, but, unlike many other socialist and nonsocialist pensadores, the necessity of developing it within the Latin American (and not European) reality’. See Vanden Harry, ‘Mariátegui: Marxismo, Comunismo, and Other Bibliographic Notes’, Latin American Research Review, 14: 3 (1979), p. 61 .

30 Piccone Paul, ‘Gramsci's Marxism: Beyond Lenin and Togliatti’, Theory and Society, 3: 4 (1976), p. 504 . This heterodox approach has led to all manner of categorisations of Mariátegui's thought, ranging from ‘populist’ and ‘Sorelist’ to ‘Marxist-Leninist’. See Aricó José (ed.), Mariátegui y los orígenes del marxismo latinoamericano (México, DF: Siglo XXI, 1978), esp. chapters 3, 5, 8–10, 13–14.

31 The PCM actually foreshadowed this change in the latter part of the Cárdenas sexenio (1934–40). Barry Carr notes the turn away from the worker–peasant alliance strategy in 1938 and the mistake – which would have grave consequences for Mexican communism in the longer term – of ‘tacitly accepting the institutional separation of rural and urban workers’. See Carr, ‘The Mexican Communist Party and Agrarian Mobilization in the Laguna, 1920–1940: A Worker–Peasant Alliance?’, The Hispanic American Historical Review, 67: 3 (1987), p. 404 . Mike Davis emphasises Marx's appreciation of tactical alliances between workers and peasants; in particular, his writings on 1848 suggested a ‘democratic alliance with the peasantry’. See Davis, ‘Class and Nation’, p. 54. See also Craig Ann, ‘The Laguna in the 1930s: Parties and Organisations’, in Foweraker Joe and Craig Ann (eds.), Popular Movements and Political Change in Mexico (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1992), p. 68 .

32 Löwy Michael, ‘Communism and Religion: José Carlos Mariátegui's Revolutionary Mysticism’, Latin American Perspectives, 35: 2 (2008), p. 72 . In some ways Mariátegui anticipated the alliance of revolutionary socialism and progressive Catholicism which occurred decades later in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

33 Angotti, ‘Contributions’, p. 35; Knight, ‘Cárdenas and Echeverría’, p. 24.

34 Löwy Michael, ‘Marxism and Romanticism in the Work of José Carlos Mariátegui’, Latin American Perspectives, 25:4 (1998), p. 76 .

35 A posthumous collection of writings on indigeneity and politics by Toledano Lombardo entitled El problema del indio (México, DF: SepSetentas, 1973) is constructed as a response to Mariátegui's own The Problem of the Indian’, one of his Seven Interpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1971).

36 Ferreyra Silvana, ‘La interpretación de José Carlos Mariátegui sobre la Revolución Mexicana’, Iberoamericana, 11: 43 (2011), p. 45 .

37 Gerardo Peláez Ramos, ‘Valentín Campa Salazar, dirigente obrero comunista’, Rebelión, 3 March 2011, p. 10.

38 David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974), muralist, Communist and combatant in various conflicts (including the first attempt on Trotsky's life in Mexico City); Valentín Campa Salazar (1904–99), railway union leader, at times a leading Communist, at others a notable dissident.

39 Ferreyra, ‘Interpretación’, p. 55.

40 Mariátegui José Carlos, ‘The New Course of Mexican Politics as Seen from the Margins’, in Vanden Harry and Becker Marc (eds.), José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011), p. 459 . This is almost precisely the same complaint as that made privately by the Cuban government over 30 years later. See Keller, Mexico's Cold War, p. 163.

41 Yankelevich Pablo, ‘De los Andes a México. Aproximaciones a la recepción peruana de la Revolución Mexicana’, Cuadernos del Sur, 34 (2005), pp. 7799 ; and Mariátegui, ‘New Course of Mexican Politics’, p. 460. Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre (1895–1979), founded APRA in 1924 as a pan-Americanist, democratic socialist party, though commitment to each of these strands waned over time.

42 Vanden, ‘Mariátegui: Marxismo, Comunismo’, p. 41.

43 Becker Marc, Mariátegui and Latin American Marxist Theory (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1993), p. 36 .

44 Carr, ‘Fate of the Vanguard’, p. 328.

45 Campa Valentín, Mi testimonio. Memorias de un comunista mexicano (México, DF: Ediciones de Cultura Popular, 1978), p. 230 .

46 Galindo Alberto Flores, La agonía de Mariátegui: La polémica con la Komintern (Lima: Desco, 1980), p. 89 .

47 Beigel Fernanda, ‘Mariátegui y las antinomias del indigenismo’, Utopía y Praxis Latinoamericana, 6: 13 (2001), p. 54 .

48 ‘Los países semicoloniales’ [1947], Centro de Estudios del Movimiento Obrero y Socialista (Centre for the Study of the Labour and Socialist Movement, CEMOS), Mexico City, CSC C.7 F.1, p. 8.

49 Ibid., p. 10.

50 La Voz de México (henceforth LVDM), 12 Dec. 1946, p. 2.

51 LVDM, 6 June 1946, p. 3.

52 ‘Variedad de objetivos inmediatos del proletariado’ [1947], CEMOS, CSC C.7 F.1, p. 10.

53 Hernán Laborde, ‘Un laborista en Grecia’, Todo, 8 May 1947, p. 18.

54 LVDM, 22 Dec. 1946, p. 2.

55 Fernando Lopez-Alves, ‘Why Not Corporatism?’, in Rock (ed.), Latin America in the 1940s, p. 203.

56 LVDM, 22 Dec. 1946, p. 1.

57 LVDM, 31 March 1946, p. 2.

58 LVDM, 30 March 1946, p. 5. This vision – of a continent-wide fraternal struggle against imperialism and fascism and towards a bourgeois–democratic industrialising development model – was repeated at the Round Table conference; see below.

59 ‘Variedad de objectivos inmediatos del proletariado’, p. 10.

60 LVDM, 4 May 1947, p. 1.

61 On 16 June 1946, LVDM similarly hailed the French communist leader and vice-premier Maurice Thorez as a ‘true patriot’ in the face of attacks from the right-wing press. LVDM, 16 June 1946, p. 2.

62 Hernán Laborde, ‘El Patriota Wallace’, Todo, 1 May 1947. There is a broader question, beyond the scope of this study, of whether the equivalence of patriotism and progressive politics can ever be anything but deleterious for the latter.

63 Vanden, ‘Mariátegui: Marxismo, Comunismo’, p. 62; and Ferreyra, ‘Interpretación’, p. 50. Ferreyra goes further, stating that ‘just as the Russian Revolution would be the key to identifying the Mexican process as a social revolution, so the Chinese Revolution would now be very important for defining its bourgeois-democratic character’: Ferreyra, ‘Interpretación’, p. 56. Note: The proximate cause of the Haya–Mariátegui split was the creation of APRA.

64 Daniela Spenser describes cardenismo as ‘a Mexicanized Popular Front’, though both the exile of Trotsky and the (effectively) single-party nature of post-revolutionary Mexico prevented the formalisation of a coalition. See Spenser Daniela, Unidad a toda costa: la tercera Internacional en México durante la presidencia de Lázaro Cárdenas (México, DF: CIESAS, Publicaciones de la Casa Chata, 2007), pp. 5384 . For Chile, see Drake Paul, ‘Chile, 1930–1958’, in Bethell Leslie (ed.), Chile since Independence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 101–15; and Pavilack Jody, Mining for the Nation: The Politics of Chile's Coal Communities from the Popular Front to the Cold War (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2011).

65 The Fourth Congress of the Communist International in 1922 was unequivocal: ‘The Communist International should collaborate provisionally with the revolutionary [nationalist] movement of the colonies and backward countries, and even form alliances with it, but it must not amalgamate with it; it must unconditionally maintain the independence of the proletarian movement, even if it is only at an embryonic stage.’ See Munck Ronaldo, The Difficult Dialogue: Marxism and Nationalism (London: Zed Books, 1986), p. 92 .

66 This article does not offer a definitive analysis or characterisation of the Round Table itself, which has been analysed extensively elsewhere. See esp. Meza Rosendo Bolívar, ‘La mesa redonda de los marxistas mexicanos: el partido popular y el partido popular socialista’, Estudios de historia moderna y contemporánea de México, 16 (2006), pp. 193213 ; and Carr, Marxism and Communism, pp. 156–64.

67 Some sessions were also held in the function rooms of the Sindicato Nacional de Telefonistas.

68 The PCM, Acción Socialista Unificada (United Socialist Action, ASU), ‘El Insurgente’ (another small precursor of the Partido Obrero-Campesino Mexicano (Mexican Worker-Peasant Party, POCM)) and the Universidad Obrera (Workers’ University) were among the groups invited to attend the Round Table. See ‘Grupos y personas invitadas a participar en la conferencia’ [1947], CEMOS, CSC C.7 F.1, p. 4.  In the list of confirmed attendees, Lombardo unsurprisingly appeared first, representing Universidad Obrera alongside Enrique Ramírez y Ramírez and eight other colleagues; the PCM sent Dionisio Encina, Jorge Fernández Anaya, Blas Manrique and Carlos Sánchez Cárdenas, along with four others; José Revueltas was among nine delegates from ‘El Insurgente’; and Hernán Laborde, Valentín Campa and Miguel A. Velasco led the six-man ASU delegation. See ‘Integrantes de la mesa redonda’ [1947], CEMOS, CSC C.7 F.1, p. 4. Siqueiros, noted throughout the proceedings for his piquant interventions, was listed not as a representative of the PCM (of which he was also a member) but of a Spanish Civil War veterans’ group, the Francisco Javier Mina Association.

69 El Popular was a Mexico City daily newspaper, founded in 1938, which affiliated to the PP after its foundation, later breaking with the Lombardo leadership in 1955. See Schmitt Karl, Communism in Mexico: A Study in Political Frustration (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1965). A full published account of the deliberations did not appear until 1982; see Mesa redonda de los marxistas mexicanos (México, DF: Centro de Estudios Filosóficos, Políticos y Sociales Vicente Lombardo Toledano, 1982).

70 Valentín Campa and Victor Manuel Villaseñor wrote at some length about the Round Table in their respective memoirs. See Campa, Mi testimonio, and Villaseñor, Memorias de un hombre de izquierda, 2: De Ávila Camacho a Echeverría (México, DF: Biografías Gandesa, 1976).

71 The US sources are based primarily but not exclusively on the El Popular reports. While considerably less detailed than the newspaper reports, they nevertheless highlight points of contention such as instances of implausible or partisan reporting, particularly important for the interpretation of dissident interventions and criticisms of Lombardo – often the same occasions.

72 Juan de Zengotita (henceforth JdZ) to James F. Byrnes, 5 Feb. 1947, National Archive and Records Administration, College Park, MD (henceforth NARA), Box 38, 1947; Mexico, Mexico City Embassy; Classified General Records, 1941–58; RG84, pp. 1–2.

73 ‘Objetivos y táctica del proletariado y del sector revolucionario de México en la actual etapa de la evolución histórica del país’ [n.d.], CEMOS, Folletos 000150/002049, p. 45.

74 See Carr, Marxism and Communism, pp. 156–7. See also Campuzano Javier Mac Gregor, ‘Browderismo, unidad nacional y crisis ideológica: el Partido Comunista Mexicano en la encrucijada (1940–1950)’, Iztapalapa, 36 (1995), pp. 170–1.

75 On the dissolutionism of Earl Browder, and the impact of the ‘Duclos Letter’, see Isserman Maurice, Which Side Were You On? The American Communist Party during the Second World War (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1993), esp. chapters 8–10.

76 See van Dyke Vernon, ‘The Position and Prospects of the Communists in France’, Political Science Quarterly, 63: 1 (1948), p. 58 ; and Carr, Marxism and Communism, pp. 134–5.

77 Ryan James, Earl Browder: The Failure of American Communism (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1997), p. 249 .

78 Carr, Marxism and Communism, p. 140.

79 Quoted in Vanden, ‘Mariátegui: Marxismo, Comunismo’, p. 69.

80 This was in contrast with Jesús Silva Herzog, who argued that a new pre-capitalist phase had been entered. See Liss Sheldon, Marxist Thought in Latin America (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984), pp. 214–26.

81 ‘Los países semicoloniales’, CEMOS, CSC C.7 F.1, p. 10.

82 See Mac Gregor Campuzano, ‘Browderismo’.

83 Nor was the mariateguista position rejected by all regional communist parties in favour of an orthodox Stalinism. In Peru itself, a 1946 book by Communist leader Jorge del Prado hailed Mariátegui's Seven Interpretative Essays as ‘the first serious creative Marxist-Leninist research effort in our continent’: Vanden, ‘Mariátegui: Marxismo, Comunismo’, pp. 69–70. This came as something of a rediscovery, as the sharp turn towards class antagonism in the ‘Third Period’ (1928–34) pushed the party away from Mariátegui's heterodox legacy, though it should also be remembered that the ‘class against class’ doctrine arrived belatedly and somewhat inconsistently in Latin America. Not only had the Communist position in Peru altered dramatically since 1930, so had APRA transformed, the two parties by 1945 engaged in a ‘popular front’-style alliance in support of victorious presidential candidate José Luis Bustamente y Rivero. See Portocarrero Gonzalo, De Bustamente a Odría: el fracaso del Frente Democrático Nacional, 1945–50 (Lima: Mosca Azul, 1983).

84 Even extant Stalinist theory provided clear guidance on the doctrinal wrong-headedness of a classically lombardista ‘harmony of interests’ approach, though the capricious nature of international Stalinism partially explains such self-defeating political practice. See Joseph Stalin, ‘Marxism and the National Question’ (first published in Russian in 1913; in English in Marxism and the National and Colonial Question (Moscow, Leningrad: Marxist-Leninist Library, 1935)). The misgivings of ‘Marxism and the National Question’ were validated by the examples of Japan, where the Rono school had been expelled from the Communist Party after arguing that the Meiji restoration had constituted a bourgeois revolution, and 1920s China, where the attempt to cooperate with ‘bourgeois nationalists’ had necessitated the abandonment of radical agrarian policy in an ‘effort to compromise their differences’, an ideological defeat followed by a violent massacre. See Haithcox John, ‘Nationalism and Communism in India: The Impact of the 1927 Comintern Failure in China’, The Journal of Asian Studies 24: 3 (1965), p. 462 . Such were the perils of ‘progressive’ nationalism for the Left; absorption, dilution, and (sometimes) elimination.

85 See Meza Rosendo Bolívar, ‘La mesa redonda’; and Niblo Stephen, Mexico in the 1940s: Modernity, Politics, and Corruption (Wilimington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1999), pp. 196–7. See also, for example, ‘Mr Vicente Lombardo Toledano Plans For A New Mexican Political Party’, enclosure from S. Walter Washington to James F. Byrnes, 20 Jan. 1947, NARA, Box 38, 1947; Mexico, Mexico City Embassy; Classified General Records, 1941–58; RG84.

86 JdZ to George C. Marshall, 30 July 1947, NARA, Box 39, 1947; Mexico, Mexico City Embassy; Classified General Records, 1941–58; RG84.

87 Lombardo put his ambitions to one side during the 1946 election campaign, during which he supported Miguel Alemán of the PRI. When the victorious Alemán did not support the electoral claims of the PCM candidates for congress and the senate, disappointment spread throughout the Left. The question of whether these were ‘legitimate’ claims is rather vexed; since the PRI engaged in widely-acknowledged electoral fraud during this period, it is unclear what a ‘legitimate’ claim would constitute, but from the point of view of Popular Frontist political expediency, the prior promise of victories from those able to award them is perhaps the key determinant. Note also that serious contestation was limited to PRI primaries in much of the post-war period. See Smith Benjamin, ‘Who Governed? Grassroots Politics in Mexico under the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, 1958–1970’, Past and Present, 225: 1 (2014), pp. 227–71. By Jan. 1947, his counter-productive endorsement of Alemán as presidential candidate had begun to cause dissent among the independent socialists.

88 JdZ to George C. Marshall, 30 July 1947, NARA, Box 39, 1947, p. 3.

89 ‘Intervención inicial de Vicente Lombardo Toledano’ [1947], CEMOS, CSC C.7 F.1, pp. 4–7.

90 JdZ to Byrnes, 5 Feb. 1947, p. 3. Carr notes that Lombardo ‘had no problems expressing loyalty to both President Miguel Alemán and Joseph Stalin’. Carr, ‘The Fate of the Vanguard’, p. 332.

91 Campa, Mi testimonio, p. 188.

92 JdZ to Byrnes, 5 Feb. 1947, p. 3.

93 Campa, Mi testimonio, p. 188.

94 Villaseñor, Memorias, p. 102.

95 ‘Intervención de Hernán Laborde (Acción Socialista Unificada)’ [1947], CEMOS, CSC C.7 F.1, p. 82.

96 Mariátegui, The Anti-Imperialist Perspective’, New Left Review, 1: 70 (1971), p. 67 .

97 ‘Intervención de Hernán Laborde’, p. 75.

98 Mariátegui, ‘The Anti-Imperialist Perspective’, pp. 67–8.

99 Vanden, ‘Mariátegui: Marxismo, Comunismo’, p. 67.

100 The works of Roderic Ai Camp demonstrate quite how much educational and career consonance there was between Lombardo Toledano and members of ‘the Alemán Generation’. See Camp, Education and Political Recruitment’, and Mexican Political Biographies 1935–1981 (Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1976).

101 JdZ to Byrnes, 5 Feb. 1947, pp. 10–11.

102 The unspoken question throughout is that of Lombardo's apparent misreading of Alemán and more generally the PRI's attitude to the Left. Setting aside rather self-serving memoirs (from several antagonistic parties), one might fashion a combination of explanatory factors including a (perhaps naïve or nostalgic) attachment to cardenismo, a (perhaps venal or functional) desire for government office or employment, and a (perhaps egocentric) belief in his own importance and power.

103 JdZ to Byrnes, 5 Feb. 1947, pp. 14–15.

104 Ibid., p. 15.

105 ‘Intervención de Valentín Campa (Acción Socialista Unificada)’ [1947], CEMOS, CSC C.7 F.1, p. 22.

106 JdZ to Byrnes, 5 Feb. 1947, p. 16.

107 ‘Intervención de Valentín Campa’, p. 23.

108 LVDM, 26 Jan. 1947, p. 1.

109 Ibid., p. 1.

110 Carr, Marxism and Communism, p. 189.

111 See Villaseñor, Memorias, and Campa, Mi testimonio.

112 See e.g. Collier Berins, ‘Labour Politics’, p. 76 and Krauze Enrique, Mexico: Biography of Power (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 529 .

113 See Linz Juan, ‘Opposition to and under an Authoritarian Regime: The Case of Spain’, in Dahl Robert (ed.), Regimes and Oppositions (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973), esp. pp. 193204 . Linz's theory of ‘semi’ and ‘pseudo-’ oppositions was, as far as I can tell, applied to Mexico in the first instance by Evelyn Stevens two years after the original Linz chapter. Stevens utilises the Linz constructs as an alternative to Leonard Schapiro's view that term opposition is ‘appropriate only to liberal democracies’. See Stevens, Protest Movement in an Authoritarian Regime: The Mexican Case’, Comparative Politics, 7: 3 (1975), pp. 366–7.

114 Was a radical, independent Left, critical of the PRI, possible? Though the charrazo dealt a strong blow to the militant unions, there still existed pockets of strong resistance (notably teachers and railway workers). Moreover, the calibre of Marxist leaders outside the PRI/PP – Campa, Laborde (until his death in 1955), Bassols (after leaving the PP in 1949) – was striking.

115 Spenser Daniela, Stumbling Its Way Through Mexico: The Early Years of the Communist International (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2011), p. 169 .

116 On this specific point, parallels may be drawn with the development of industrialisation as a ‘moral’ tool of human transformation in Peru. See Drinot Paulo, The Allure of Labor: Workers, Race, and the Making of the Peruvian State (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).

* I wish to record my acknowledgements to the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Kluge Center (Library of Congress), Prof. James Dunkerley, Prof. Nicola Miller, Prof. David Priestland, Dr Nicholas Grant, Dr Steve Cushion, Dr Geoff Goodwin, Antonia Brown, the editors and the four anonymous reviewers.

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Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
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