These notes are designed to answer the following question: how has the Cuban Revolution modified the bloody class struggle which opposes the popular masses to imperialism and the national oligarchies in power in Latin America? What is the explanation for the slow tempo and apparent difficulties which revolutionary processes are encountering in this decisive link in the chain of imperialism? The Cuban Revolution has, from its earliest days, always presented itself as the vanguard detachment of the Latin American Revolution, and the Cuban people and its leaders, after six years of struggle, have abandoned none of their proletarian internationalism. The question is consequently one of the most vital that the Cuban Revolution poses to us and to itself, in a constant and at times heated debate. For once, we will pose the problem here as it is presented to those who live it in the press of events, that is to say, as one of a global correlation of forces, in which every imbalance that affects one of the 20 nations of the Continent, also affects the other 19. To be faithful to this context, let us insist at the outset on the partial and panoramic character of these notes, which set out this correlation in essentially political terms, and secondarily military ones.

For an answer to the question, we lack a historical study of the complex phenomena of reaction which follow the victory of a socialist revolution in a given area. Three socialist revolutions of major importance within 50 years, in Russia, China and Cuba, should make such a work a priority. A concrete study (attuned to the evidently different historical situations) of the tactical and strategic imitations which affect the revolutionary parties in adjacent countries and of the imperialist blockade which results from the revolution, would allow us to forge the necessary instruments for discussion of the problem. Fascism in Europe, the wars of imperialist intervention in South-East Asia, the growing militarization of the political régimes of America, certainly cannot be onsidered mechanical regressions, or swings of the pendulum to previous forms of class domination, still less since they are not amenable to analysis by means of such a unilateral category as the ‘negation of the negation’. For, despite all the concrete differences in time and space, there is a salient analogy between contemporary Cuba and the young Soviet Republic. Certain declarations of 1959 and 1960, in which the Cuban leaders evoke the imminence of new revolutions on the American continent, inevitably recall speeches by Lenin in 1919 and 1920, in which he expressed his certainty that a rising of the European proletariat was imminent. An illusion which Lenin soon abandoned, by contrast with Trotsky, just as—it seems—the Cuban leaders have abandoned it today. The spontaneous repetition of guerrilla movements based on the Cuban model—not the Venezuelan or Colombian guerrillas but others which we will discuss in a moment—are no less reminiscent of the repetition of the Bolshevik model attempted by the Spartakists in Germany and by the Hungarian Commune of Bela Kun, both crushed in early 1919. Has not imperialism passed through the same stages in its relations with the Soviet Union and with Cuba? First, a waiting game; then wars of intervention—in Cuba, Playa Giron; then economic aggression; general blockade; breaches in the blockade by the signing of partial commercial agreements—England taking the lead in both cases; finally hasty and incoherent reformism in countries contiguous to the ‘centre of subversion’. The agrarian measures taken in Danubian Europe after the Hungarian Revolution had the same rationale as the agrarian reforms advocated by the Alliance for Progress . . . and the same fate. This analogy is not a comparison, but the zero degree of a specific evaluation of the present conjuncture, which stresses what is radically new in the relation between Cuba and imperialism.

The revolutionary attempts and failures in the Continent have been strikingly synchronized. 1959, 1960 and 1961: years of effervescent heroism, when guerrillay focos spontaneously appeared in Santo Domingo, Paraguay, Colombia and Central America, while in Brazil Juliao was stirring up the North-East and Brizola repulsed a military coup d’état by means of an armed uprising in Rio Grande do Sul; Peru witnessed the first occupation of estates and the first revolutionary peasant leagues in Cuzco. 1962 and 1963: years of defeat and division. In Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Paraguay the ventures in armed struggle fail; in Brazil the Peasant Leagues inspired by Juliao rend themselves in internal disputes and are unable to move to the level of a political organization—the Tiradentes Movement—which Juliao planned for them. In Argentina, the military frustrate the formidable electoral victory of March 18th, 1962, the date on which the Peronist Framini was elected Governor of Buenos Aires with a staggering majority, and the popular response to the coup is liquidated. In Venezuela, Betancourt succeeds in staying in power, and the revolutionary war becomes more difficult and long-term than foreseen. In Chile, Frei’s victory, due to the vote of women electors; in Brazil, the installation of an openly fascist dictatorship. A reactionary wave sweeps across the Continent.

Today we know that none of these defeats was definitive; on the contrary they forced the revolutionary movement to move to a higher stage of reorganization. Already by 1964 armed struggle had rooted and consolidated itself, on a broad popular basis which is now unshakable, in Venezuela and Colombia. The immense explosives factory which imperialist exploitation has unwittingly installed in Latin America can henceforward do without foreign licences, imported models of revolution; it is finding its own methods of manufacture, in accord with its history, social formation and specific character. In our language, always behind time in its metaphors, we may say that South America lived, immediately after the Cuban Revolution, its ‘1905’, from which it has already emerged. This experience can today become the object of systematic reflection. This task, however, encounters one serious obstacle: as the historical synchronization indicates, there is a latent unity of destiny among the Latin American nations. The demonstrations of solidarity with Cuba show this very well: a continental unity was spontaneously experienced and assumed from Mexico to Uruguay. It is fashionable to talk knowingly today of ‘twenty Latin Americas’. Anyone who travels from Bolivia to Argentina, or even from Salta in the north of Argentina to Buenos Aires, or from Lima to Cuzco, has the impression of moving from one world and one century to another. But this is only a superficial, geographical impression. Is not underdevelopment and colonial distortion precisely the inequality of economic and social development within one country, between the countryside and the capital? Or rather, is it not the superimposition of different levels of development, an enclave of capitalist and mercantile penetration combined with an interior of feudal monoproduction? Does not this misery condition those riches, and vice-versa? If under-development is not in its turn a natural product but the result of a history, then South America draws its unity from its history. If it had to ‘exist together’ to free itself from the Spanish yoke, today too it will have to ‘exist together’ to free itself from the Yankees. If Bolivar refused to consider Gran Colombia free until High and Low Peru were also liberated, Fidel Castro shows equal or greater realism in thinking that the liberation of Cuba will not be complete while Venezuela and Colombia are still enslaved. If one has a right to speak of ‘the’ Latin American Revolution, it is not because of Latin America but—dialectically—because of the United States, its common enemy. This is the reason why Bolivar’s ideas have gained a new resonance in the strategy of the revolutionary vanguards of Latin America since the Cuban Revolution.

However, South America is still not a continent. It is Balkanized at every level—revolutionary organizations, information, personal contacts—by the efforts of those who have converted the Continent into a homogeneous field for their manoeuvres with the pseudo-Pan-Americanism of the oas and Aid Programmes. Ever since the sabotage of the Congress of Panama, called by Bolivar in 1826 to federate the liberated Latin American Republics, North American operations have triumphed in the Continent as a whole, in spite of the fact that Cuba has now struck an irreversible blow against them. Within each of the four natural subtotalities into which the Continent is divided—Caribbean-Colombia-Venezuela, Ecuador-Peru-Bolivia-Paraguay, Chile-Argentina-Uruguay, and Brazil (which forms a complex of its own)—the panorama is the same: confusion of revolutionary organizations, mutual ignorance and dispersal of forces. An Ecuadorian Communist leader in the underground might well not have known in early 1964 that his party was involved in the same division between a ‘pro-Soviet’ and a ‘pro-Chinese’ wing as the Peruvian Communist Party; although perhaps he might not anyway have been in a position to profit by the experience of his Peruvian comrades to avoid the same errors and sterile polemic between the two ‘wings’. Such separations are dramatic. It is urgent to overcome them, not only because they prevent the possibility of a strategy, but also because the time and lives lost by this absence of internal links will never be recovered. ‘If we had seriously known of the experience of the Venezuelan guerrillas’, said one of the survivors of the Argentinian foco, ‘we would not have made the material and political mistakes which largely cost us defeat and, for most of us, our lives.’

In Brazil, distance—Porto Alegre is 4,500 kilometres from Recife—is a weapon consciously used to break up national unity by the Federal State which controls the whole country. The day a revolutionary action is concerted between Rio Grande do Sul and Pernambuco, to cite the two states best prepared for a struggle of this kind, will mark the beginning of a new political era in Brazil. Such a thing has not been possible till now, since the separation imposed by distance has been complicated by a historical disjuncture at the level of political organizations: the Brizolist movement—rooted in the South of the country—gained strength above all after 1961, by which time Juliao’s Peasant Leagues—rooted in the North-East—had fallen into political decadence. An example of the Balkanization of a nation: a student and a working-class trade-unionist in São Paulo, questioned about the NorthEast, replied that they only knew that the repression there had been massive since the putsch of April 1964 and that there had been ‘a sort of white terror’; but beyond that they had no two pieces of information which agreed with one another. The press is silent or systematically mendacious. The student confesses his malaise: the North-East is for him a Third World, myth and remorse. For the worker, the NorthEast is ‘our’ Algeria, a country from which the bosses import cheap labour to lower wages, if they get a chance. In a word, for the citizen of São Paulo the inhabitants of the North-East constitute virtually another nationality.

By contrast with the internal divisions of Latin America, national and international, North American imperialism considers South America a single primary producing zone, a field for political manoeuvres which, if they are not always homogeneous, are at the very least coherent. Through the Alliance for Progress, the Inter-American Development Bank (idb) and other specialized organisms, imperialism sovereignly plans the exploitation of the Continent, while through the Inter-American Defence Council, and the Organization of American States it ensures its ‘politico-military’ protection. Let us recall the form which the economic relations binding South America to North America take.