To what extent can the situation of the Latin American republics be likened to that of other semi-colonial nations? footnote1 Their economic position is undoubtedly semi-colonial; and as native capitalism expands and imperialist penetration grows as a consequence, the semi-colonial characteristics of their economies will be clearly emphasized. The national bourgeoisie, however, believe co-operation with the imperialist powers to be their best guarantee of a rising rate of profit; and they are sufficiently convinced of their control over political power in their own countries to feel no serious fears for national sovereignty. Thus the Latin American bourgeoisie—which with the exception of Panama, has not yet experienced military occupation—is totally unwilling to consider the idea that a second struggle for Independence is necessary, although the apra footnote2 had ingenously assumed otherwise. The State, or rather the ruling class, has no yearning for a greater or more realistic degree of national autonomy. The struggle for Independence is, relatively speaking, too recent, its myths and symbols still too vivid in the consciousness of the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie. The illusion of national sovereignty remains intact and effective. It would be a serious error, therefore, to assume that there exists anywhere in that social class a revolutionary nationalist sentiment in any way similar to the response that has been a factor, in other circumstances, of anti-imperialist struggle in those Asian countries which have been brought under the imperialist heel in the last few decades.

In our discussions with the apra leadership over a year ago, we rejected the proposition that a Kuomintang party in Latin America would avoid European imitations and permit us to adjust revolutionary action to a precise understanding of our own reality. Our arguments at that time ran as follows: ‘In the Chinese struggle against imperialism, collaboration with the bourgeoisie and even with many feudal elements must be understood in terms of ethnic unity and of a national civilization which does not exist in our case. The Chinese gentry or bourgeois feel themselves to be deeply Chinese. He responds to the white man’s scorn for his stratified and decrepit culture with the contempt and pride that stem from a tradition thousands of years old. In China, then, anti-imperialism rests upon a deeply felt nationalist factor. In Indoamerica the circumstances are different. The criolla footnote3 aristocracy and bourgeoisie do not feel the solidarity with the people that comes from a shared history or culture: in Peru, the white aristocrat and the bourgeois disdain the popular and national element. First and foremost, they consider themselves to be white. The mestizo footnote4 petty bourgeoisie imitates their example. The bourgeoisie of Lima fraternizes with the Yankee capitalists, and even with their mere employees, at the Country Club, the Tennis Club and in the street. The yankee takes the criolla girl in marriage with no racial or religious qualm, and she in her turn feels no nationalist or culture scruple about preferring to marry into the invading race. The middle-class girl suffers no such scruples either, and the huachafita, the lower-middle-class girl, who can ensnare one of Grace’s or the Foundation’s footnote5 Yankee employees knows that by doing so she has conquered a place several rungs up the social scale. For these objective reasons (which are presumably obvious to you all by now) the nationalist element can be neither fundamental nor decisive in the anti-imperialist struggle in our context. Only in countries like Argentina, where there is a large and wealthy bourgeoisie proud of the degree of wealth and power it has retained, and where the national personality has for these reasons assumed clearer and more precise characteristics, can anti-imperialism (perhaps) get through to the bourgeois element with comparative ease. It does so, however, in terms of capitalist growth and expansion and not in terms of social justice and socialist doctrine, as in our case.’

When this was written we were as yet unaware of the extent of the treachery of the Chinese bourgeoisie, and of the split in the Kuomintang. A closer understanding of the Chinese experience was to reveal to us later how little trust one can place, even in a country like China, in the revolutionary nationalist sentiments of the bourgeoisie.

As long as imperialist policies succeed in ‘managing’ the sentiments and legalistic expressions of national sovereignty in these States; as long as imperialism is not obliged to resort to armed intervention or military occupation, it will be able to take for granted the collaboration of the bourgeoisie. Even though they are dominated by the imperialist economy these countries, or rather their bourgeoisies, will consider themselves as much masters of their own destiny as are Rumania, Bulgaria, Poland and other ‘dependent’ European countries. This element of political psychology should not be overlooked when we begin to make a precise estimate of the possibilities for anti-imperialist activity in Latin America. It has been characteristic of apra theory to forget it, or at the least to underestimate its importance.

The fundamental divergence between those elements within Peru that accepted apra in principle—as a plan for a united front, but never as a party nor even as an organization effectively involved in action—and those outside Peru who defined it on the spot as a Latin American Kuomintang, consists in the fact that the former remain faithful to the revolutionary, socio-economic definition of imperialism while the latter explain their position by saying: ‘We are on the left (or socialists) because we are anti-imperialists.’ Thus anti-imperialism is raised to the status of a programme, of a political outlook, of a movement sufficient unto itself which leads us, spontaneously and by some process we don’t yet fully understand, towards socialism and the socialist revolution. This conception leads to a distorted over-estimation of the anti-imperialist movement, to an exaggeration of the myth of the ‘Second Independence Struggle’, and to the romantic notion that we are now living through a new era of emancipation. Hence the tendency to replace anti-imperialist fronts with a political organization. From apra—initially conceived as a united front, a popular alliance, a block of oppressed classes—we move on to apra, defined as the Latin American Kuomintang.

As far as we are concerned, anti-imperialism neither constitutes nor can ever constitute alone a political programme nor a mass movement able to assume power. Even were anti-imperialism able to mobilize the national bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie to the side of the working and peasant masses (a possibility we have already discounted), this would not annul class antagonisms nor suppress the difference of interests.

Neither the bourgeoisie nor the petty bourgeoisie can pursue anti-imperialist policies once they are in power. We have only to look at the experience of Mexico, where the petty bourgeoisie has ended up by coming to an agreement with Yankee imperialism. A ‘nationalist’ government, in its relations with the United States, may use a different language to that used by the Leguia government in Peru. This government, after all, is calmly and openly Panamericanist and Monroeist: yet any other bourgeois government would do practically the same in the matter of loans and concessions. Foreign investment in Peru rises in direct relation to the economic growth of the country, the exploitation of its natural wealth, the population in its territory and the development of communications. What can the most demagogic petty bourgeoisie set against capitalist penetration? Mere words; nothing more. They can offer no more than a temporary nationalist orgy. Were it possible for anti-imperialism, as a demagogic populist movement, to take power by storm it would still not signify the conquest of power by the proletarian masses, or socialism. The socialist revolution would find its most bitter and dangerous enemy—dangerous because of its confusion and its demagogy—in the petty bourgeoisie confirmed in a position of power won as a result of this slogan.