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Hong Kong Paper for Distribution

Hong Kong Paper for Distribution

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Published by: Patrick_Ryan_3596 on Nov 24, 2010
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Transpacific Revolutionaries: Latin Americans Learn from Maoist China (aMexican Case Study)
This paper is part of a larger work in progress, my dissertation, on the influence of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in Latin America, using case studies from Mexico, Peruand Bolivia in addition to doing a broad overview of the continent. In this paper, I’ll useexamples from my Mexican case study to talk about the impact of the CulturalRevolution in Latin America. I’ve chosen to focus on Mexico because Mexico is, in myopinion, a good representative example for the development of Maoism in Latin America.It’s not as spectacular as the Peruvian and Colombian experiences, but it’s morerepresentative of the experience of other Latin American countries where a significantMaoist trend developed, but didn’t engender the sort of crises Peru and Colombiaexperienced.
Maoism First Comes to Mexico
Mexico didn’t establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of Chinauntil 1972, which is around when most Latin American countries switched their diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China to the PRC. But between 1949 and1972, quite a bit of people’s diplomacy or cultural diplomacy took place. In 1949,Vicente Lombardo Toledano, the leader of Mexico’s People’s Party and a union leader attended the Conference of Workers’ Unions held in China in November. The next year he published a memoir of his trip, which was one of the first Latin American publicity pieces in favor of the PRC. Now, the People’s Party is not the sort of outfit that one would typically assumeto have had an enduring relationship with Maoist China. Lombardo Toledano and his party supported what they considered the anti-feudal, national democratic and anti-1
imperialist goals of the Mexican Revolution. They saw Mexico’s ruling party, theInstitutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), as basically upholding these goals, and saw their role as that of a loyal opposition which would push for workers’ interests, rapidindustrialization, land reform and national economic independence. In viewingthemselves as a loyal opposition and ruling out mass struggle except as a pressure tacticagainst the ruling party, they placed themselves to the right of the Mexican CommunistParty (PCM), which itself was very conservative for a Communist Party and whollyaccepted Browderite and later Khruschovite ideas of peaceful coexistence and peacefulstruggle.But, because the PP was so characterized by its nationalist aspirations for Mexico,its leadership was very inspired by the struggle against semi-feudal conditions, the landreform and industrialization taking place in China. They saw China as breaking out fromthe domination of imperialism in a way that they thought was very relevant for Mexico.They didn’t see this in terms of a protracted people’s war in order to toss out theimperialists and compradors, but in terms of the policies adopted after the seizure of  power. They liked those policies and hoped they could get the Mexican government toadopt and learn from those policies. So, you had this strange situation in Mexico wherethis really very conservative opposition party was very attracted to Maoist China’sdevelopment model.So, in 1957, one of Lombardo Toledano’s lieutenants, an economist named LuisTorres and some other PP people started the Mexico-China Friendship Society. This wasa form that the PRC encouraged China solidarity activities to take, which is why all over the world you had these Friendship Societies getting started up, although the PRC took no active part in organizing the Society or its activities in the Mexican and in most other cases. In 1957, when the Mexican society was founded, things were getting complicatedin the international communist movement. In 1956 there was Khrushchev’s speech at the2
Congress of the CPSU and the beginning of de-Stalinization there, and by 1963 therewere the open polemics between the CPSU and the CCP, and between 1956 and 1963there was growing tension between the USSR and China that many people who wereclosely following things could pick up on and be influenced by, one way or another.And during this period, particularly in 1958, there were also major upsurges inMexico among teachers and railway workers, which were led by the PCM and did not onthe surface seem to challenge the overall conservative direction of the communistmovement in Mexico. But these upsurges, in combination with the de-Stalinization in theUSSR and the brewing dispute between the Chinese and the Soviets, created fermentwithin the communist movement, which resulted in the emergence of a substantial newset of folks looking to learn from China, which I think can be divided into three loosetrends, which I’ll describe:The first of these pro-China trends was grouped around the writer José Revueltas.Revueltas was a long-time maverick communist intellectual. He had been expelled fromthe PCM in 1943, joined with Lombardo Toledano’s PP from 1946 to the early 1950s,and then rejoined the PCM in 1956. In the context of the debates set in motion by the 20
Congress of the CPSU, he articulated an anarchistic criticism of the democraticcentralism and authoritarian practices among socialists, particularly targeting Stalin andso-called ‘Stalinism’ for his criticisms and led a group of supporters out of the PCM in1959. Despite his criticism of Stalin, and Mao’s position as the foremost defender of Stalin, Revueltas had a strong sympathy for socialist China and a desire to learn from itsexperience. The fact that the PRC was breaking with the USSR and the receivedcommunist orthodoxy was more essential to Revueltas than the formal defense of Stalin.The group he founded, which came to be called the Spartacus Communist League (LCE)(no relation to the Trotskyite cult in the US with the same name), became a home for avariety of heterodox communists outside of the PCM, including many people who could3

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