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Hegel and Latin America Today

Author(s): Robert E. McNicoll


Source: Journal of Inter-American Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Jan., 1964), pp. 129-131
Published by: Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami
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NUEVAS CORRIENTES NUEVAS CORRIENTES
nacionales,
sino en la zona del entendimiento
popular.
No se hizo Roma
en un dia. No se
gan6
Zamora en una hora.
Estamos ante una idea
nueva, que quiere
orientar
por
los mas ra-
pidos y
efectivos cauces el
impulso
de crecimiento. Pero
hay
trabas
historicas
y psicologicas y
un fardo de
problemas
que probaran
la fibra
de todo
aquel empefiado
en la obra de reconstrucci6n. Cada
duda,
cada
vacilaci6n,
sera blanco atractivo
para
los
enemigos
de este
gran
esquema
hemisferico. Sembrar el
desconcierto,
estimular la
incomprensi6n,
crear
el desaliento son
ya
las
consignas negativas, y hay que
estar en
guardia
contra ellas.
La Carta de Punta del Este cre6 la Alianza
para
el
Progreso
como
"un vasto esfuerzo
para procurar
una vida
mejor
a todos los habitantes
del continente". La Alianza es
algo
mAs
que
una
etiqueta
diplom6tica
o una
etiqueta
econ6mica.
Es,
desde la
perspectiva
hist6rica
y
cultural
que aqui
hemos
analizado,
el simbolo de un
empefio generoso para
dar
mis eficaz
cumplimiento,
en esta
region
del
mundo,
a los valores
supe-
riores de nuestro comun
patrimonio
cultural. Es el
espiritu
de la libertad
actuando con honda
responsabilidad
social en los
tiempos
nuevos.
HEGEL AND LATIN AMERICA TODAY
Robert E. McNicoll
Hegel's theory
of the eternal
interplay
of thesis and antithesis
appears
to be more tenable than most of the ideas Karl Marx borrowed from him.
At least its
application
to the
present
Latin-American scene leads to some
interesting
queries.
There was a wave of
optimism
a few
years ago
regarding
the advance of
democratically-inspired governments
in the
Hemisphere.
As
recently
as
1959,
a shrewd observer could
say:
In Latin America there are now a
group
of leaders who have used
democratic means to
bring dictatorships
to an end and at the same time
erect barriers
against
Communism and
Justicialism.
There is now no more talk of caudillos or dictators and the last sur-
vivors of this
group
can
scarcely
maintain themselves in
power
for another
year.
Thus the vision of President Ram6n Villeda
Morales,
who
predicted
that 1960 would see the
map
of Latin America cleaned of
dictators, may
be realized.1
It is true that the list of traditional
dictatorships
was reduced to
only
three
by
mid-1961:
Nicaragua, Paraguay,
and Haiti. Political scientists
could talk about the
strong swing
to elected
governments.
Since that
time,
of
course,
the overthrow of Frondizi in
Argentina,
of Ponce En-
riquez
in
Ecuador,
of Manuel Prado in
Peru,
of
Ydigoras
Fuentes in
1
Stefan
Baciu,
"Un continente en busca de una
doctrina," Journal
of
Inter-Amer-
ican
Studies,
II
(April, 1960),
173.
nacionales,
sino en la zona del entendimiento
popular.
No se hizo Roma
en un dia. No se
gan6
Zamora en una hora.
Estamos ante una idea
nueva, que quiere
orientar
por
los mas ra-
pidos y
efectivos cauces el
impulso
de crecimiento. Pero
hay
trabas
historicas
y psicologicas y
un fardo de
problemas
que probaran
la fibra
de todo
aquel empefiado
en la obra de reconstrucci6n. Cada
duda,
cada
vacilaci6n,
sera blanco atractivo
para
los
enemigos
de este
gran
esquema
hemisferico. Sembrar el
desconcierto,
estimular la
incomprensi6n,
crear
el desaliento son
ya
las
consignas negativas, y hay que
estar en
guardia
contra ellas.
La Carta de Punta del Este cre6 la Alianza
para
el
Progreso
como
"un vasto esfuerzo
para procurar
una vida
mejor
a todos los habitantes
del continente". La Alianza es
algo
mAs
que
una
etiqueta
diplom6tica
o una
etiqueta
econ6mica.
Es,
desde la
perspectiva
hist6rica
y
cultural
que aqui
hemos
analizado,
el simbolo de un
empefio generoso para
dar
mis eficaz
cumplimiento,
en esta
region
del
mundo,
a los valores
supe-
riores de nuestro comun
patrimonio
cultural. Es el
espiritu
de la libertad
actuando con honda
responsabilidad
social en los
tiempos
nuevos.
HEGEL AND LATIN AMERICA TODAY
Robert E. McNicoll
Hegel's theory
of the eternal
interplay
of thesis and antithesis
appears
to be more tenable than most of the ideas Karl Marx borrowed from him.
At least its
application
to the
present
Latin-American scene leads to some
interesting
queries.
There was a wave of
optimism
a few
years ago
regarding
the advance of
democratically-inspired governments
in the
Hemisphere.
As
recently
as
1959,
a shrewd observer could
say:
In Latin America there are now a
group
of leaders who have used
democratic means to
bring dictatorships
to an end and at the same time
erect barriers
against
Communism and
Justicialism.
There is now no more talk of caudillos or dictators and the last sur-
vivors of this
group
can
scarcely
maintain themselves in
power
for another
year.
Thus the vision of President Ram6n Villeda
Morales,
who
predicted
that 1960 would see the
map
of Latin America cleaned of
dictators, may
be realized.1
It is true that the list of traditional
dictatorships
was reduced to
only
three
by
mid-1961:
Nicaragua, Paraguay,
and Haiti. Political scientists
could talk about the
strong swing
to elected
governments.
Since that
time,
of
course,
the overthrow of Frondizi in
Argentina,
of Ponce En-
riquez
in
Ecuador,
of Manuel Prado in
Peru,
of
Ydigoras
Fuentes in
1
Stefan
Baciu,
"Un continente en busca de una
doctrina," Journal
of
Inter-Amer-
ican
Studies,
II
(April, 1960),
173.
129 129
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
JOURNAL
OF INTER-AMERICAN STUDIES
Guatemala,
of
Juan
Bosch in the Dominican
Republic,
and of Villeda
Morales in Honduras has made it clear that whatever
tendency may
have
existed in that direction has now
sharply
reversed so that
military-domi-
nated
governments
are
again
the order of the
day.
The real
question
is
why.
Is this
merely
the normal
working
of the law of the
pendulum
in Latin America? Is this the old
cycle
of
military
junta
to elected
gov-
ernment,
from elected
government
to mild
chaos,
this in turn
leading
to
revolution or a
military coup
to start the
cycle again?
This has been true
in most of the
past.
There
is,
of
course,
a
completely
new element in the
Hemisphere.
In
Cuba,
for the first time in the
Americas,
there is a Communist state
-
dominated
by
the USSR
-
but
showing
to the world a bearded Creole
face and
appealing
to all the Latin-American masses to revolt and
liqui-
date
age-old
abuses. If this
is, indeed,
a new thesis in Latin
America,
what is its
Hegelian
antithesis? The threat and the
challenge
of Castro-
Communism is
greater
than that
represented by any
caudillo or rebellion
in a
single country.
It is an international
challenge,
backed
by
a
great
international force,
and directed to masses
ripe
for revolution
already
infiltrated with Communist activists. The
reply
must also be interna-
tional. The seizure of
power by
military
groups,
backed
by
local oli-
garchies
and all who
may
fear a
change
in the status
quo,
is not an ade-
quate
solution if the take-over is
only
on a national scale. The
only logical
and effective
reply
would be
something
like a new international "Union
of Swords" as Baciu called the dictators of the Fifties - who
really
were not so united. The
only logical
counter
development
would be
authoritarian
governments
united
internationally
and
possibly
backed
by
a
great
world
power comparable
in
power
to the USSR.
Is this the
only
feasible
contravening power?
What of
democratically-
inspired governments
like those
sponsored by
the
widely-praised
union
of the "non-Communist left"?
Despite gradual progress
and
stimulating
successes such as the Venezuelan
elections,
the truth is that
represen-
tative
government,
in most Latin-American
nations,
does not have
deep
enough popular
roots or effective
strength
to deal with its
oligarchies
or its
old-style
caudillos,
much less combat
internationally-organized
Creole Communism. The masses of Latin
America,
as Adolf A. Berle
says
so
well,
have a
passionate
desire for
revolution,
"to
escape,
some-
how,
from the
nineteenth-century organization
of affairs out of which
current Latin-American life seems to
provide
no exit save revolution".2
Revolution
is what is desired
by
the middle sectors as well as the
masses,
as a means to obtain what
they
feel has
long
been denied them.
This
2Adolf A.
Berle,
Latin America:
Diplomacy
and
Reality
(New
York:
1962),
p.
22.
130
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NUEVAS CORRIENTES
feeling
is so
strong
that
truly
democratic
elections,
if
held,
could be as
dangerous
to the "haves" as a revolution
by
force.
Therefore,
in
reality
as well as in
logic,
the
only
true antithesis
pos-
sible to the
present
situation is an international association of
protective
governments
the result of take-overs
engineered by oligarchies
with the
help
of the
military,
or
by
the
military
alone. Such
military
take-overs
may
have an
aspect
of
legitimacy
but their basic
purpose
is to
"fight
Communism"
by defending
the
property
and the
exemptions
of the elite
owners of the countries. Where such
governments
make a concession
to their masses
by "agrarian
reforms" or other
palliatives,
the steam
might
be taken out of the
opposition.
More often than
not, however,
a
group
is not
going
to
go
to the trouble and
expense
of a
coup
or counter-
revolution
merely
to
proceed
to the
liquidation
of the
long-held
assets
of backers and members.
Unfortunately,
Latin-American
oligarchies
have shown even less
enlightened
selfishness than their
compeers
of other
areas and
they
can
scarcely
be
expected
to
strip
themselves of their
possessions
on
coming
to
power through
non-democratic means.
Paradoxically,
what is the
major
force
opposing
this
possible
new
"Union of Swords"? It is the
present
United States administration which
has no
sympathy
for such efforts and is
specifically pledged
to its
op-
posite
in the Alliance for
Progress.
This liberal course has run into
difficulties from both sides. The same
program
that is
sabotaged by
Communists and
oligarchies
in Latin America is
fought by
the
Right
in
the United
States,
who sees in the Alliance a move "oriented towards
socialism".3 A former
Argentine delegate
to the OAS
recently
said:
"The attacks on the liberal
governments
in Latin America
during
the
past
few months were made not
only
in fear of
Castro-Communism;
they
were also attacks on the Alliance for
Progress".4
Naturally,
our
hope
is for the
logical,
and,
at least
temporarily, just
synthesis
that
Hegel promises.
This must be in
liberal,
democratically-
inspired governments
in Latin America which with United States
sup-
port
and the fulfillment of the economic and social conditions neces-
sary
for their existence
may
well survive
any temporary period
in which
regimes
of
force,
either
separately
or in collusion one with
another,
overthrow
governments
which
aspire
to
democracy.
The modern coun-
terparts
of these
great
leaders must often
despair
of
arriving
at such a
great objective,
but the unselfish efforts of modern Martis and the sacri-
fice of their blood have all indicated that
goal
as the
only possible
one.
3
Rep.
Cramer of
Florida, press
of October
16,
1963.
4Dardo
Cuneo,
address at the
University
of Florida, October
21,
1963.
131
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