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The New International, October 1939



A Letter from Bolivia


From New International, Vol.5 No.10, October 1939, pp.314-315.
transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


I HAVE arrived here after an extensive and busy trip through the eastern part of Bolivia where the toiling masses of “camba” Indians starve under the black regime of the feudal barons. Upon arriving I read all the issues of The New International and the Socialist Appeal you have sent me. The important articles on Intellectuals in Retreat and the national convention of the SWP (especially the article of James P. Cannon) were translated into Spanish and made accessible to a small but hopeful newly-formed student group at the university and agricultural school whom, after long and patient work, I have succeeded in introducing to revolutionary political ideas. So, with the help of The New International my work has ended its disagreeable period of purely personal effort and become a socially meaningful one ...

The strongly pronounced internationalism of the Socialist Workers Party publications was able to produce an unbelievable effect, considering the extreme backwardness of the social movement in the eastern region of Bolivia ...

Now I pass over to a more interesting subject: the fascist-Coughlinite offensive in the United States. The campaign put forward by the SWP is in every way well-organized. But there is a question which I can not help recalling in these dark days of reaction and the preparation for war. The various propositions of the writers in the Socialist Appeal are good; they display the results of an extensive observation of the laws that determine the rise of Fascism and the measures that must be taken to prevent it. But I have not read one word upon the Brazilian experience, perhaps the most instructive concerning the application of a correct policy toward a fascist movement. Although they numbered no more than a dozen in the São Paulo region, the Brazilian comrades of the former “Liga Communista Internacionalista” were the most energetic fighters against the fascists. And their fight was not restricted to propaganda or defensive action. Upon the heroic day of the 7th of October, 1934, the Brazilian comrades, particularly in the State of São Paulo, stopped the Integralista movement permanently. And that was not merely a defensive action but an offensive one, based upon the general hatred that the working masses felt against fascism and the tremendous material support those masses gave them.

The action was offensive and victorious. It gave public opinion an exact measure of the value of the mercenary forces bought by the fascist leaders, that is, their true lack of genuine courage and genuine unity. The Integralistas, after the violent intervention of the armed workers, were literally swept away from the place of the meeting and, although defended by the squads of Special Police ,were unable to reassemble themselves. Pursuing them along the streets and avenues, the anti-fascist workers, led by a handful of Trotskyists, made them flee literally for miles. This historic flight was responsible for the new name the public gave the “Integralistas,” who formerly called themselves “the green-shirts,” but who from then on were called “the green hens” because of their excellent capacity for sprinting.

More than fifteen people were killed and nearly twenty-five wounded as a result of the battle. But public opinion, especially among the petty-bourgeoisie, was frightfully impressed by the real danger involved in making oneself “heroic” under the fascist banner. Members of the “Integralista Action” dropped like flies from its ranks and the movement lost its attractiveness. It can be said that, following this date, the “Integralistas” had other opportunities and had some successful political achievements to their credit, and that in Rio they were able to threaten the existing power. This is by no means the truth. The real explanation for the incapacity of the Brazilian fascist movement to conquer the power lies in its crucial defeat in the industrial city of the Republic. After that date, they were maintained by Getulio Vargas for his particular political purposes. In the first place, they were used as a right wing force against the bourgeois political opponents of Getulio Vargas in order to give the Vargas clique sufficient strength to defeat them and also at the same time as a menace to the workers’ movement. In the second place, they were employed by the Vargas clique to menace North American imperialism, in order to obtain greater concessions through negotiations by threatening it with this surrogate for Nazi-Italian imperialism. In the third place, they were maintained as “raw material” and for “reasons of state” for a new coup d’etat. Despite the apparent lack of sense of this third reason, it is quite credible once we examine the peculiar politics personally played by Vargas for the maintenance of his domination.

No wonder that, from October 1934 to October 1936 the representative of the “Liga Communista Internacionalista” of São Paulo was elected President of all the 14 illegal executive comittees of United Action (including Stalinists, Socialists, the trade-unions, etc.) that were then organised to fight fascism with full rights of freedom of criticism in action. And today, the seventh of October resounds as the most heroic action of the proletariat of Brazil.

I couldn’t finish without mentioning these few matters in order to contribute, in some way, to the present task of the SWP in dealing with the fascist question. I hope that the Brazilian experience will serve to help the American. [1]

Editor’s Note

1. This letter comes from a Brazilian comrade, who was jailed after the putsch led by Prestes in November 1935 along with thousands of other anti-fascist workers. He was condemned with other Trotskyists to two years imprisonment. While he was in prison, the former Liga Communista Internacionalista was transformed by its acting leaders who escaped arrest into the Bolshevik-Leninist Group which later merged with a left-oppositional group inside the Communist Party to constitute the Leninist Workers Party (Brazilian section of the Fourth International). Comrade Guide’s relation to the new Fourth Internationalist organisation in Brazil was still unclarified when he had to flee the country after his release. Though we have certain differences of opinion concerning the questions dealt with in his letter, we gladly print this communication from him.

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