THE issue of whether or not Julio Antonio Mella, probably the most prominent Communist in the Caribbean region in the late 1920s, had become a Trotskyist, at least in his thinking, in the months or years before his assassination in Mexico City in January 1929 has been posed by both Robert Alexander and Alejandro Gálvez Cancino.1 Alexander’s account concludes that although Mella had developed some sympathy for the positions of Trotsky, which may explain his assassination, it is probably too much to posit that Mella was actually recruited to the cause of Trotskyism. Gálvez Cancino, however, confers importance on Mella as one of the most significant figures in the formation of a Trotskyist current in Mexico, his base in exile from 1926. He argues that Mella was considered by the Mexican Trotskyists as the pioneer of the current within the Partido Comunista de México (PCM) which went on to form the Mexican Left Opposition in late 1929 and early 1930. Whilst recognising that Mella was not a member of any Left Opposition group, Gálvez Cancino details various episodes which suggest that at a personal level Mella had sympathy with the outcast Trotsky. According to Gálvez Cancino’s research, amongst the references Mella made to Trotsky was the dedication he wrote in the copy of The Platform of the Left Opposition2 which he gave to a future member of the Mexican Oposición Comunista de Izquierda. It read: ‘For Alberto Martínez with the aim of rearming Communism, Julio Antonio Mella.’3
Other studies have similarly stressed Mella’s latent Trotskyism. Olivia Gall, for example, has argued that Mella was at the centre of the circle which after his death gave birth to the Mexican Left Opposition.4 Bernardo Claraval, an activist in the Mexican communist milieu,5 was convinced that Mella’s involvement with those who were to go on to form the Mexican Left Opposition was significant for the future development of Trotskyism in Mexico. With reference to Mella’s dissension in the Mexican Communist Party, Claraval, in the 1940s, wrote: ‘The first shoot of opposition in Mexico was Mella... The second, Blackwell.’6 Cuban Trotskyists themselves have also claimed that Mella upheld the essence of Trotskyism, namely opposition to class collaboration, in his disputes with official Communism in Cuba and further afield in Latin America,7 and that after his visit to Moscow in 1927 he left Russia identifying with the International Left Opposition.8
Although post-1959 Cuban accounts have rejected any notion that the ‘discrepancies’ between Mella and the PCC’s leadership were anything other than issues of style,9 and did not constitute a challenge to the latter’s theory and practice, Mella’s political rivals in the international Communist movement certainly attached the label of ‘Trotskyism’ to Mella at various points. This article examines these contending hypotheses, and argues that any accusation of Trotskyism levelled at Mella in fact masked the real content of his opposition. In other words, the label of Trotskyism was more a device used to attack and discredit him at a time when the rigid Third Period turn was in preparation and ideological homogeneity was of increasing importance. I believe that Mella, rather than espousing a strategy of Permanent Revolution, was wedded to a perspective which had more in common with the Cuban Syndicalist and national revolutionary traditions, political traditions which the Comintern during its Second Period had been able to accommodate. Thus, whilst Mella stressed the importance of independent working-class organisation in the economic field, he did not insist on a politically independent course of action for the working class. Instead, he promoted the struggle for a democratic anti-imperialist revolution within multi-class anti-imperialist movements, which tended to reduce the problem of the revolution to that of a technical, military matter.
As an audacious and leftward moving student at the University of Havana in the early 1920s, Mella was the Secretary of the Federación Estudiantil Universitaria, which in 1923 condemned ‘all forms of imperialism, especially the intervention of Yankee imperialism in Cuban affairs’,10 and proclaimed its opposition to the private ownership of the means of production. Along with other university students and lecturers, Mella also established a workers’ school, the Universidad Popular José Martí, and, under the influence of Marxist ideas, was in large part responsible for the rapprochement which took place between the students’ and the workers’ movements. Having joined a small Communist circle, the Agrupación Comunista de La Habana in 1924, Mella increasingly considered that the university reform movement transcended the academic walls, calling it ‘another battle of the class struggle’.11
In July 1925, at the time when he was organising the Communist multi-class auxiliary organisations, the Liga Anticlerical and the Liga Anti-Imperialista de las Américas,12 Mella outlined his thoughts on the nature of the revolutionary struggle and the Socialist nature of the revolution. Distinguishing between democratic and Socialist ideals and going beyond the democratic framework of Martí, Mella stated:
‘The revolutionaries of the Americas who aspire to defeat the tyrannies of their respective countries... cannot live with the principles of 1789. Despite the mental backwardness of some, humanity has progressed, and in making the revolutions in this century one should count on a new factor: the ideas of Socialism in general, which in one shade or another takes root in every corner of the globe.’13
Mella’s inquisitive and independent thinking was evident at the founding congress of the PCC. He questioned Enrique Florés Magón, the emissary sent to Cuba by the PCM in 1925 to help weld together the various small Communist groups into the PCC, on the basis of the party cell and democratic centralism.14 Influenced by the Anarcho-Syndicalist traditions of the Cuban labour and revolutionary movements, Mella also expressed his resolute opposition to any participation in elections in Cuba. It was apparently only with the greatest effort that Magón managed to gain acceptance of the Comintern’s views over some of these ideas.
Mella’s passionate convictions also led him to embark on some quite extraordinary individual acts of heroism and resistance. One such act, which proved to be a watershed, was the hunger strike which he undertook after having been arrested and imprisoned on 27 November 1925 on the trumped-up charge of planting a bomb in the Payret Theatre in Havana. The hunger strike, begun on 6 December, provoked the formation of the Comité Pro-Libertad de Mella, which organised demonstrations across Cuba and in exile centres from New York to Paris. In the face of mounting pressure, on 23 December, the charges against him were dropped, and his release ordered. The PCC, however, had opposed his hunger strike, and Mella faced the censure of the party. Whilst post-1959 Cuban written sources only go so far as to indicate that ‘the party did not view the hunger strike in a favourable light’ and urged Mella to give it up,15 historians who have had access to the Comintern’s archives in Moscow accept that Mella was ‘separated’ from the PCC in early to mid-January 1926 as a result of this action. The PCC tribunal which dealt with the case accused Mella of indiscipline and tactical opportunism, and the party leadership apparently went to some lengths to convince the PCM and the Executive Committee of the Comintern that Mella had indeed abandoned the basic principles of the Cuban party. However, after the intervention of the Comintern and the leadership of the Mexican party, which both strongly opposed the PCC’s decision, Mella was eventually ‘reincorporated’ into the Cuban Communist Party in May 1927. According to Lazar and Víctor Kheifets, the Comintern considered Mella’s de facto expulsion to be an act of stupidity which served to isolate the PCC from the petit-bourgeois masses who followed the Anti-Imperialist League.16
In a situation in which Mella effectively found himself expelled from the PCC, he opted to go into exile when he was once again ordered to stand before a judge on 18 January 1926. Travelling to Central America, Mella was expelled from both Honduras and Guatemala, before ending up in Mexico, where he immediately joined the PCM, and also became a member of the Executive Committee of the Mexican section of the broad bloc Liga Anti-Imperialista de las Américas. The date of Mella’s arrival in Mexico, early 1926, coincided with a period of internal crisis in the PCM. Left-right struggles were first emerging over the issue of the nature of the Mexican government and the support which the Communist Party should give to the presidential pretenders.17 It was against this background that Mella’s dissension with both the PCM and PCC developed.
In Mexico, Mella’s criticism of Communist policy centred on the trade union question. The reformist trade union centre, the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM), was facing collapse in the light of calls from supporters of the presidential candidate, Alvaro Obregón, to form autonomous trade unions.18 Mella argued that the PCM should take advantage of the crisis to form a trade union centre uniting all autonomous unions, free from the influence of the national bourgeoisie and Mexican caudillos. For Mella, the independence of the working class in the trade union field was of paramount importance. The majority of the PCM Central Committee, however, condemned all activity which would hasten the destruction of the CROM, arguing that the task of the Communists was to unite the existing trade union centre and win it from reformism.19
Mella’s position led him to be considered as a spokesman for Andreu Nin and Alexander Lozovsky,20 the political left and centre respectively at the Fourth Congress of the Profintern held in Moscow in March-April 1928.21 The root of this accusation apparently lay in Mella’s meetings with Nin, who was on the Executive Committee of the Profintern when Mella attended meetings of Latin American Communists in Moscow in early to mid-1927 following the Brussels World Congress against Colonial Oppression and Imperialism. This was the first contact of a Cuban with Trotskyism, and, according to Gálvez Cancino,22 Nin and Mella went over the programme of the Russian Left Opposition and the struggle of what was becoming labelled ‘Trotskyism’ against the right-centrist leadership of the Bukharin-Stalin axis.
At these meetings in Moscow, Mella also displayed how his independent thought conflicted with the demands of the increasingly rigid international leadership of the Communist movement over the issue of the internal struggle within the Russian Communist Party. Victorio Codovilla23 circulated a document demanding the expulsion of Nin from the Profintern and the Russian Party on the grounds that he was a member of the Left Opposition, and asked the delegates to sign the document. According to Gálvez Cancino,24 Mella and two Peruvians linked to the Peruvian Socialist Party headed by José Carlos Mariátegui either avoided signing it, or refused to do so.25 Codovilla subsequently refused to countenance the proposal that Mella be the Latin American delegate who would remain in Moscow to work at the centre of the Profintern on Latin American trade union issues. According to Eudocio Ravines,26 Codovilla attacked Mella’s candidacy and quarrelled with the comrades who defended it. Amidst much underhand bureaucratic manoeuvring, Codovilla ensured that Mella’s candidacy was defeated.27 Mella returned to Mexico after an unauthorised stay in New York, where, according to one account, he complained of the excessive meddling of Moscow in the internal affairs of individual parties.28
Whilst Mella had demonstrated how his independent will clashed with the increasingly rigid demands for subordination to officially sanctioned methods of organisation imposed by the process of ‘Bolshevisation’, his writings and activity on his return to Mexico were rather contradictory. That is, although his most well-known pamphlet written in the months after his departure from Moscow embodied a strategy of Permanent Revolution, his subsequent activity revealed how he had an essentially Second Period conception of the struggle for Socialism. Mella’s pamphlet ¿Qué Es el ARPA?, in circulation in April 1928, was perhaps his major written contribution to the struggle for Socialism. As a critique of the professed anti-imperialism of Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre and the APRA movement,29 and broadly coinciding with Trotsky’s analysis, he asserted for the first time that although the proletariat could work with the representative organisations of the bourgeoisie in the national struggle against imperialism, the working class was ultimately the sole guarantor of genuine national liberation.
In ¿Qué Es el ARPA?, Mella contended that the Aprista interpretation of the anti-imperialist united front was ambiguous and made political concessions to the petit-bourgeoisie.30 At no point, Mella argued, did the APRA recognise that the fundamental principle in the social struggle was the hegemony of the working class.31 On the rôle of the contending classes, he wrote:
‘The betrayals of the national bourgeoisie and the petit-bourgeoisie have a single cause that all the workers now understand. That is, they do not struggle against foreign imperialism in order to abolish private property, but instead to defend their property in the face of the robbery that the imperialists attempt to carry out. In their struggle against imperialism — the foreign thief — the bourgeoisies — the national thieves — are united against the proletariat, the good old cannon fodder. But they end up understanding that it is better to form an alliance with imperialism, which at the end of the day pursues similar interests. So-called progressives are converted into reactionaries. The concessions that they made to the proletariat in order to have it by their side at the outset are betrayed when, in its advance, the proletariat becomes a threat as much for the foreign thief as the national one. From here the cry would be “against Communism”.’32
Echoing both Trotsky’s and Mariátegui’s characterisation of the APRA as a Latin American Guomindang, in analysing Chiang Kai-shek in China, Mella argued that the petit-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie of colonial countries would ultimately betray the working class during the course of an ostensibly anti-imperialist struggle, no matter how revolutionary the non-proletarian sectors appear to be.33 He wrote: ‘The petit-bourgeoisies [of the Americas] are not more loyal to the cause of genuine national emancipation than their class comrades in China or any other colonial country. They will abandon the proletariat and pass over to imperialism before the final battle.’34 With reference to the national liberation struggle he was unequivocal in his conclusion: ‘In short, only the proletariat can win absolute national liberation, and it will be by way of the working-class revolution.’35
Whilst, then, Mella unambiguously asserted that Socialism and a proletarian revolution were the sole guarantors of national liberation, his ¿Qué Es el ARPA? pamphlet was published at a time when the turn away from the Second Period policy was being prepared. Haya’s Aprista strategy of creating multi-class ‘progressive’ anti-imperialist blocs had already come into conflict with the Comintern’s shifting priorities, and after the debâcle in China the Comintern was about to take steps towards implementing the Third Period tactical line, which stressed the absolute independence of the working class from bourgeois nationalist forces.
More importantly, although there was much to suggest that Mella had taken on the essence of the Left Opposition’s theory after his visit to Moscow, his activity on his return to Mexico still largely fell within the traditions of the revolutionary national liberation and Syndicalism of his native Cuba. That is, whilst Mella upheld independent working-class organisation in the trade unions, evident in his contribution to the resurfacing trade union question, he also promoted a multi-class front in the Cuban exile revolutionary milieu in Mexico in 1928 without calling for the political independence of the Communist fraction.
Within the Cuban exile community in Mexico in 1928, Mella founded and became the General Secretary of the Asociación Nacional de Nuevos Emigrados Revolucionarios de Cuba (ANERC). Outside the control of the PCC and PCM apparatuses, the ANERC aimed to unite the anti-Machado forces which were then in exile. One immediate aim was the organisation of an expedition of Cuban revolutionaries to depart for Cuba in 1928-29 to initiate an insurrection against the Machado regime.36 Mella’s declared intention was largely one of igniting a democratic anti-imperialist revolution, and he subordinated the political and organisational independence of the Communist fraction within the ANERC to this project. According to an early edition of ¡Cuba Libre!, the ANERC’s newspaper, the task which the ANERC had set itself was to draw up ‘a united programme of the Cuban people for immediate action to restore democracy’.37 In the article ‘¿Hacia Dónde Va Cuba?’, Mella himself spoke of ‘a necessary democratic, liberal and nationalist revolution’, and argued that only the Socialist and the revolutionary nationalist movements, that is, those who were prepared to meet violence with violence, ‘can give hope to the Nation’.38 For Mella, whilst the proletariat in Cuba was of special significance, this was only to the extent that its relative size and concentration in Cuba favoured the development of a more effective revolutionary movement than in other, less developed Latin American countries.39 Rather than adopting the strategy of Permanent Revolution and insisting on the political independence of the working class from an early stage in a struggle for an unambiguous proletarian anti-imperialist revolution, Mella argued that the proletariat had to take part in the insurrectionary movements, whilst remaining aware that they could give rise to a Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Guomindang in China. For Mella, the pressure which the popular masses could exert would lead to a genuine democratic revolution, and he cited the case of the Mexican Revolution, rather than the Russian October Revolution, as the example of what was possible.40 Indeed, as Olga Cabrera has argued, whilst Mella referred to Socialism elsewhere, within the ANERC he alluded neither to Lenin nor Communism. He emphasised instead the necessity of armed insurrection, unity with the revolutionary nationalist movement, the democratic programme of the ANERC, and the stages in the revolution.41
In line with Mella’s approach of a broad democratic bloc, also participating in the ANERC alongside a nucleus of Communists was the proscribed Partido Unión Nacionalista, a party of the bourgeois opposition to Machado. Their joint work was such that in 1929 a close colleague of Mella in Mexico recognised that it proved difficult to distinguish the activity of the PCC from that of the Partido Unión Nacionalista in the ANERC and preparation of the armed expedition.42 This work and overall perspective, the same report noted, was relentlessly criticised by some comrades. As Russell Blackwell, another of Mella’s comrades in Mexico, wrote: ‘Numerous differences arose between the comrades of the Communist fraction of the ANERC in Mexico and the CEC [Central Executive Committee] of the CP of Mexico, and the relations between Mella and the party leadership became exceedingly tense towards the end of 1928.’43 Again, this was at the time when the Comintern was preparing the ground for its turn towards the Third Period tactic of outright hostility towards all non-Communist forces, including the revolutionary nationalist sector.
Mella’s confrontation with the leadership of the PCM was also heightened by his renewed involvement in the polemic over the trade union question. This debate resurfaced whilst he was acting as the Interim National Secretary of the PCM in mid- to late 1928 due to the absence of two PCM delegates who were in Moscow for the Comintern’s Sixth Congress. Mella again took the lead in arguing that continuing to promote a united front with the CROM was unsustainable in a situation in which the working class was on the point of leaving the confederation. He contended that the PCM should immediately form a new trade union centre.44 As Blackwell has recounted:
‘In September 1928, an emergency conference of the party was called to discuss the change in the political situation. At this conference, Martín demanded the expulsion of Mella for the crime of working against the party line in the direction of “dual unionism”. The right wing proposed a united front with the reformists against the Obregonists (and left-wing CROM members) who were splitting the unions. But instead of Mella being expelled from the party at that time, he was successful, together with the Mexico City delegation, in rallying the whole conference, with one exception, to a struggle against the opportunist tail-endism of the Central Committee.’45
However, whilst awaiting the return of the delegates from Moscow, the Central Committee of the PCM took to sabotaging these decisions. According to Gálvez Cancino, from September 1928 the leadership of the PCC and PCM blocked and confronted Mella on the trade union question, and criticised his political activities in the ANERC.46 According to Blackwell’s account:
‘... on the return of the delegation from Moscow after the Sixth World Congress of the Comintern, comrade Julio Antonio Mella was not only removed from his provisional post [as National Secretary] but was also summarily removed from the Central Committee upon the insistence of the right-wing CEC led by Martín (Stirner) and [Rafael] Carrillo... Towards the end of 1928 relations between Mella and the party leadership became exceedingly tense.’47
It was against the background of criticism on the combined front of his activity within the ANERC and his position on the trade union question that Mella, expelled once already from the PCC, again faced a further round of accusations, including that of being a Trotskyist. Firstly, at a meeting of Communists in Montevideo in April 1928, Codovilla and Ricardo Martínez argued that Mella held Trotskyist positions, and did not accept the discipline required by the PCM.48 The leadership of the PCM examined the accusations, but found no evidence to prove that Mella was working with the Left Opposition. However, in the light of a rising international campaign against the so-called dangers of Trotskyism, the PCM called on Mella to declare himself openly against Trotskyism. He did so, presenting ‘a formal renunciation of the point of view of the Left Opposition’.49
Attempts by the leaderships of the PCC and PCM to discredit Mella continued. In a letter from Rafael Carrillo, the General Secretary of the PCM, to Bertram and Ella Wolfe, in which Carrillo argued that the ‘pest’ of Trotskyism needed to be dealt with, he wrote:
‘It is very much a danger which our enemies can exploit. Last week we had something similar here: Sormenti [Vittorio Vidali] and Ramírez [Manuel Díaz] on their return [from the Sixth Congress of the Comintern] passed through Cuba, where for a week they were with the CC of the PCC. The Cuban CC delivered a resolution to them in which they requested that the Cuban group in Mexico subordinate themselves to the CC of the PCM, and that they should not write or work on their own account and at their own risk, compromising in a truly criminal fashion our comrades who work in Cuba. We let Mella and his supporters know of this resolution, and he let loose with fury against the CC of the PCC. We are ready to publish a resolution about his case and circulate it right across Latin America and the US, but just yesterday I received a letter of regret from him in which he withdraws the resignation and promises to continue working in the party. This very week we will sort out this issue... Mella has always had Trotskyist “deviltries/weaknesses”.’50
Amidst the round of false accusations and confrontation with the PCM leadership, Mella was expelled from the party after he sent a rash letter to the leadership in which he declared his inability to work with them. Whilst he promptly requested a reconsideration of this statement, recognising the error on his part, and was reinstated in the party, this decision was taken ‘with the stipulation that he was to hold no posts of responsibility for a period of three years’.51 However, on the night of 10 January 1929, Mella was shot in the streets of Mexico City. He died at dawn on the following day. At the time, the Comintern and the PCM laid the blame at the door of Machado, the Cuban President.52 Since then, however, a number of authors have questioned this version, and have suggested that agents of the Comintern, most notably Vittorio Vidali, were deeply involved in the assassination.53 The motive, they have argued, was Mella’s ‘deviations’ and his presumed sympathy for the views of the Left Opposition. Although these accusations concerning the authors of the assassination have neither been completely dispelled nor confirmed,54 the circumstantial evidence supporting the hypothesis that there was Cuban government involvement in Mella’s murder is convincing. Whilst the letter from Mella’s close friend and comrade, Leonardo Fernández Sánchez, warning Mella that Cubans had departed for Mexico ‘with drastic intentions towards you personally’,55 indicates that there was Cuban government intent to murder him, the evidence cited by Daniela Spenser is even more suggestive. She argues that from April 1926, after Mella and other Cuban Communists had found refuge in Mexico and openly began to plan an armed expedition to Cuba, Machado made repeated requests to the Mexican authorities to curb the Cuban exiles’ public activities. However, given the Comintern’s Second Period tactical line during the period 1926-28, the PCM maintained good relations with the Mexican government, even supporting it at various junctures. Spenser argues that the Mexican government, not wanting to complicate these relations, refused to take steps against Mella, even refusing to do so after the Cuban government had presented its Mexican counterpart with materials, almost certainly forged, suggesting that the PCM was involved in a secret plot further to destabilise the country in the wake of the assassination of Obregón, the president-elect, in mid-1928. Spenser’s convincing hypothesis is that in the light of the Mexicans’ unwillingness to act, the Cuban government took it upon itself to organise Mella’s assassination.56
Mella’s struggle in Mexico had principally been against the rightists within the PCM who adhered to the trade union line advocated at the international level by Bukharin. However, in an article published in El Machete two days after his assassination, Mella made it clear that he similarly did not share the ultra-leftist conception of building a relatively small ‘red’ Communist trade union centre along the lines of which the new centre was eventually founded.57 He wrote:
‘We pose the question of trade union unity and not the unity of the party. A party unites a certain number of people who profess to hold the same opinion. The trade unions bring together the working class in day-to-day struggles no matter the political points of view that exist within it. We are supporters of freedom of criticism and of the struggle of various political tendencies within the trade union organisations.’58
This insistence on independent trade union organisation, however, was as much an expression of the tradition of revolutionary Syndicalism as it was of Trotskyism. Mella simply reasoned that under attack from central government, the reformist centre, the CROM, was on the point of disintegration, and the proletariat as a whole needed a new class-based organisation to defend its economic interests.
Whilst, then, Mella had concerns about what he perceived as certain dangerous developments within the Communist movement, and had also been at the centre of a group of young PCM members who subsequently went on to found the Mexican Left Opposition, a group which claimed him as one of their pioneers, their overtly Trotskyist dissidence only took shape after Mella’s assassination. Although, as the Trotskyists in the first bulletin of the Mexican Oposición Comunista de Izquierda wrote, ‘Comrade Julio Mella and some others saw with certain alarm what was happening, but, perhaps not understanding that the Mexican party was also directly threatened with suffering the consequences of the incorrect and opportunist line of the Comintern, they did not try to bring these problems to the attention of our comrades’,59 Mella’s expressed concerns did not have an explicitly Trotskyist hue. As in the case of Mariátegui, Mella’s opposition within the official Communist movement was contradictory, and he died before being forced to question the roots of his dissidence and to take sides in the more clearly defined disputes in Latin America between the left, right and centre. Indeed, the Mexican Oppositionists’ subsequent position would have also directly challenged Mella’s work in the ANERC.
In sum, most revealing in the debate around Mella’s supposed Trotskyism was his commitment to the activities of the ANERC. Whilst he had belatedly joined Trotsky in warning of the dangers of subordinating the proletariat to the parties of bourgeois nationalism, such as the Guomindang, his commitment to preparing an insurrectionary movement alongside the forces of the liberal nationalist Partido Unión Nacionalista demonstrated that in no sense can his dissidence be regarded as the first manifestation of Trotskyism in the Cuban Communist milieu. Unlike Trotsky and the early Comintern, at no point did Mella insist on the independence of the Communist fraction within the ANERC, nor did he apply Trotsky’s perspective that only a proletarian anti-imperialist revolution could achieve genuine national liberation. Although, therefore, Mella was the first Cuban to come into contact with the ideas of Trotsky, and, indeed, was the first Cuban to be accused of Trotskyism, this was a false accusation which obscured his one-sided emphasis on the national liberation struggle and his commitment to developing an uncritical alliance with the socially conservative Partido Unión Nacionalista.
1. RJ Alexander, Trotskyism in Latin America, op cit, pp217-8; A Gálvez Cancino, ‘Julio Antonio Mella: Un Marxista Revolucionario. (Debate en Torno a su Vida y Muerte)’, Críticas de la Economía Política (Mexico DF), no 30, 1986, pp101-51.
2. The Platform of the Opposition was the principal document of the United Opposition around Trotsky and Zinoviev in 1926-27. As with earlier programmatic statements made by Trotsky, it highlighted a link between the economic situation in the Soviet Union, the crushing of inner-party democracy and the Comintern’s strategy for revolution (See LD Trotsky, The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1926-27), New York, 1980, pp301-94).
3. Gálvez Cancino, op cit, p145.
4. O Gall, Trotsky en México y la Vida Política en el Periódo de Cárdenas, 1937-1940, Mexico DF, 1991, pp46-50.
5. Bernardo Claraval was a member of the Mexican Communist Youth during 1929-33.
6. B Claraval, Cuando Fui Comunista, Mexico DF, 1944, p150. Russell Blackwell (or ‘Rosalio Negrete’, 1904-1969), a member of the CPUSA, was sent to Mexico in the late 1920s, where he worked with Mella in the PCM. One of the first to be expelled from the PCM as a result of the activities of the Opposition, he returned to the USA, where he became a leading member of the Communist League of America, and later a supporter of Hugo Oehler.
7. See ‘Mella y el Marxismo Revolucionario en Cuba’, Voz Proletaria (Havana), March 1964, pp1-3.
8. ‘Editoriales: Julio Antonio Mella’, Revolución Proletaria (Havana), 31 January 1945, p4.
9. See, for example, Soto, op cit, p128. Other, more hagiographic Cuban biographies do not even mention any disputes Mella had with the PCC or Comintern leaderships. See, for example, E Dumpierre, JA Mella: Biografía, Havana, 1977; F Pérez Cruz, Mella y la Revolución de Octubre, Havana, 1980.
10. Cited in LE Aguilar, Cuba 1933: Prologue to Revolution, Ithaca, 1972, p73-4.
11. Cited in J Suchlicki, University Students and Revolution in Cuba, 1920-1968, Florida, 1969, p21.
12. The Pan-American Anti-Imperialist League sought to coordinate the national liberation movements across Latin America under Communist hegemony. They included bourgeois nationalists alongside Communists. Trotsky dismissed the Anti-Imperialist Leagues as a manifestation of the Second Period Guomindang policy on an international scale. See LD Trotsky, ‘The Krestintern and Anti-Imperialist League’, Writings of Leon Trotsky (1930-31), New York, 1973, pp34-5.
13. See ‘Imperialismo, Tiranía, Soviet’, Venezuela Libre, 1 July 1925, in JA Mella, Escritos Revolucionarios, Mexico DF, 1978, pp75-7.
14. P Serviat, 40 Aniversario de la Fundación del Partido Comunista, Havana, 1963, pp112-4.
15. B Castillo, ‘Como Vieron A Mella. Fragmentos De Entrevistas’, Pensamiento Crítico (Havana), no 39, April 1970, p49. See also Soto, op cit, pp145-6.
16. L Jeifets and V Jeifets, ‘¿Quién Diablos Es Andrei?’, Memoria (Mexico DF), no 121, March 1999, p23; LS Kheifets, ‘Komintern i Kompartiia Kuby: Pervye Gody’, Mezhdunarodnoe Levoe Dvizhenie 1918-1945: Tezisy Dokladov Nauchnoi Istoricheskoi Konferentsii, 1995, pp25-8; LS Kheifets, ‘Delo Khulio Antonio Mel’i i Komintern’, Problemy Otechestvennoi i Zarubezhnoi Istorii: Materialy Nauchnoi Konferentsii, St Petersburg, 1997, pp21-6. See also CM Rubiera, ‘La Huelga de Hambre de Julio Antonio Mella’, Bohemia (Havana), 18 January 1953, pp20-4, 84-7; E Ravines, The Yenan Way, Westport, 1972, p22.
17. The resolutions adopted at the PCM’s Fourth Congress in May 1926 modified the decisions taken at the Third Congress on all fundamental points. This turn, which reflected changes at the international level initiated by Bukharin, viewed the Mexican government of Plutarco Elías Calles as the bastion of the anti-imperialist struggle, and that along with Chiang Kai-shek and the Guomindang in China, it was carrying out the national democratic revolution.
18. Alvaro Obregón (1880-1928) was the first president of Mexico after the fighting phase of the Mexican Revolution ended in 1920. He began a process of limited agrarian reform, and launched an anti-clerical campaign. He won a second term in office after he pressurised his successor, Plutarco Elías Calles, to remove the no re-election principle from the Constitution. However, before he could assume power, he was shot by a right-wing seminary student.
19. When the PCM adopted the Second Period tactical line, it softened its line towards the CROM. The PCM sought to work with the CROM in order to build up Communist fractions.
20. For Andreu Nin (1892-1937), see Revolutionary History, Volume 4, nos 1/2, Winter 1991-92, p71, n37. Alexander Lozovsky (1878-1952) was a second-string trade union leader who was expelled from the Bolshevik party in January 1918, before being readmitted in 1919. He came to prominence in the early 1920s due to his prewar international experience and language skills at a time when Tomsky, the principal Bolshevik trade union leader, was concentrating on his work in the Russian trade union leadership. Lozovsky served as General Secretary of the Red International of Labour Unions (RILU, commonly known as the Profintern) from its foundation in 1921 to its dissolution in 1936-37. Ironically, he survived the purges in the late 1930s, probably because the RILU had been wound up, only to become a victim of Stalin’s anti-Semitic purges in the post-Second World War period.
21. A Gálvez Cancino, ‘Le Mouvement Ouvrier Mexicain, les Communistes et Julio Antonio Mella’, Cahiers Leon Trotsky, no 59, August 1997, p44.
22. Gálvez Cancino, ‘Julio Antonio Mella: Un Marxista Revolucionario...’, op cit, p118. Unfortunately, Gálvez Cancino cites no evidence to support this affirmation. This is something which requires further investigation, especially given the fact that he dates the Nin-Mella contact to the Profintern’s Fourth Congress. This Congress was held in March-April 1928, a time when Mella was no longer in Russia.
23. Victorio Codovilla (1900-1950), along with his fellow Italian Vittorio Vidali, was one of the most notorious and ruthless Comintern agents during the Spanish Civil War. This loyal Stalinist also spent much of his life trying to expand his control over all the Communist parties in the Southern Cone of Latin America, although his actual control was limited to the Argentine Communist Party.
24. Gálvez Cancino, ‘Julio Antonio Mella: Un Marxista Revolucionario...’, op cit, p118.
25. José Carlos Mariátegui (1894-1930) broke with the APRA in 1928 to found the Socialist Party of Peru over Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre’s claims that some kind of autonomous capitalist development was possible in Latin America, and specifically Peru. However, although he labelled the APRA as the Latin American Guomindang, he never fully broke with the Comintern’s Second Period tactical line of a party based on a broad bloc of the oppressed classes — in the Peruvian case this involved the Socialist Party being the party of the worker and peasant masses. Most significantly, he reserved a special, almost mystical, rôle for the peasantry in Peru on the basis of the indigenous Indians’ traditions of communal property.
26. Ravines, op cit, p57. Eudocio Ravines (1897-1969) was first an Aprista before working as a Comintern agent in its ranks from the late 1920s. In 1930, he became the General Secretary of the Peruvian Socialist Party founded by Mariátegui, and after the latter’s death led the campaign against Mariátegui’s interpretation of Marxism. Having been sent to Chile to organise the Chilean Popular Front in the mid-1930s and then to Spain during the Spanish Civil War, he was eventually expelled from the Chilean Party at the end of the Second World War after the Stalin-Hitler Pact had weakened his faith in Communism. He ended up on the extreme anti-Socialist right.
27. See Ravines, op cit, p58, for an account of these manoeuvres.
28. J García Montes and A Alonso Ávila, Historia del Partido Comunista de Cuba, Miami, 1970, p83. This particular tome written by Cuban exiles, whilst virulently anti-Communist in its language, contains a wealth of detailed and well-sourced information, and is the only book-length history of the official Cuban Communist Party to be published inside or outside Cuba to date.
29. Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre (1895-1979) was the founder and leader of the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA). He contended that the nascent working class in Latin America was too weak and the peasantry too primitive to implement Socialism, and that as a result the urban middle class had to take on the rôle of the dominant social class to challenge foreign interests and carry through an anti-feudal revolution. This argument led Haya to construct his APRA organisation as a broad multi-class anti-imperialist front on a continental basis. Organised, like the Anti-Imperialist Leagues, without distinction of class, the APRA came into conflict with the Comintern, not only because it challenged the latter’s monopoly over revolutionary organisations, but because in the wake of the debacle in China alliances with the national bourgeoisie were losing favour.
30. JA Mella, ‘¿Qué Es el ARPA?’, in Escritos Revolucionarios, op cit, p9. The title of this pamphlet uses the acronym ‘ARPA’, rather than ‘APRA’.
31. Op cit, p20.
32. Op cit, p24.
33. Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) was the right-wing military leader of the Guomindang, the main Chinese bourgeois nationalist party. See Revolutionary History, Volume 5, no 3, Autumn 1994, p131, n38. The Comintern ordered the Chinese Communist Party to enter the Guomindang in 1922-23, an alliance which required the Chinese party’s strict political subordination to the nationalist leaders. However, the Stalinists changed their view of Chiang Kai-shek as a progressive revolutionary in April 1927 when he sent his troops into Shanghai to massacre the Communists and trade unionists.
34. Mella, op cit, p38.
35. Op cit, p25.
36. See R Roa, El Fuego de la Semilla en el Surco, Havana, 1982, pp290-7, 322-4, 350-1, and J Ortiz, Julio Antonio Mella L’Ange Rebelle: Aux Origines du Communisme Cubain, Paris, 1999, pp64-9, for details of Mella’s activity in the ANERC and his preparations for an armed uprising in Cuba alongside the liberal national bourgeoisie.
37. Cited in Roa, op cit, pp292-3, from ¡Cuba Libre!, no 2.
38. Mella, ‘¿Hacia Dónde Va Cuba?’, Documentos y Artículos, Havana, 1975, pp407, 410.
39. Op cit, p408.
40. Op cit, p409.
41. O Cabrera, ‘La Tercera Internacional y su Influencia en Cuba (1919-1935)’, Sociedad/Estado (Mexico), no 2, 1989, p57.
42. El Movimiento Revolucionario Latinoamericano: Versiones de la Primera Conferencia Comunista Latino Americana, Junio de 1929, Buenos Aires, nd, pp126-7.
43. R Blackwell, ‘Julio A Mella’, The Militant (New York), 15 January 1931, p3.
44. Gálvez Cancino, ‘Le Mouvement Ouvrier Mexicain, les Communistes et Julio Antonio Mella’, op cit, p46; Gálvez Cancino, ‘Julio Antonio Mella: Un Marxista Revolucionario...’, op cit, p134.
45. Blackwell, op cit. ‘Martín’, also known as ‘Alfredo Stirner’, was in fact Edgar Woog (1898-1973), the Swiss Communist who was one of the Comintern’s representatives in the PCM.
46. Gálvez Cancino, ‘Le Mouvement Ouvrier Mexicain, les Communistes et Julio Antonio Mella’, op cit, pp46-7.
47. Blackwell, op cit.
48. Gálvez Cancino, ‘Julio Antonio Mella: Un Marxista Revolucionario...’, op cit, p130.
49. Blackwell, op cit.
50. Letter from Rafael Carrillo to Bertram D and Ella Wolfe, Mexico, 4 December 1928, pp2-3. My use of the phrase ‘deviltries/weaknesses’ in the translation relates to Carrillo’s use of the word ‘devilidades’. By placing this word inside inverted commas in the original letter, Carrillo is evidently intending to make a play on words. Bertram Wolfe (1896-1977) was a leading supporter and theorist of the ‘Rightist’ Lovestone group in the CPUSA.
51. Blackwell, op cit.
52. See, for example, RA Martínez, ‘Assassination Of JA Mella By Agents Of Yankee Imperialism’, International Press Correspondence, 1 February 1929, p96; ‘Ante el Asesinato de Julio A Mella’, El Trabajador Latino Americano (Montevideo), 15 January 1929, pp3-4.
53. Whilst the following works — K Rienffer, Comunistas Españoles en América, Madrid, 1953, pp130-9; V Alba, Esquema Histórico Del Comunismo En Iberoamérica, Mexico DF, 1960, p61; J Gorkin, Cómo Asesinó Stalin A Trotski, Barcelona, 1961, p204 — all make this accusation, it is the work of Gall, op cit, pp46-55, which presents the fullest and most coherent exposition of this thesis.
54. Whilst A Gálvez Cancino’s article, ‘L’Auto-Absolution de Vidali et la Mort de Mella’, Cahiers Léon Trotsky (Paris), no 26, June 1986, pp39-53, sets out evidence for both the prosecution and the defence of Vidali and his involvement in Mella’s death, the partisan work of Cabrera constitutes the most complete attempt by a Cuban scholar to dispel official Communist involvement in Mella’s assassination (O Cabrera, ‘Un Crimen Político que Cobra Actualidad’, Nueva Antropología (Mexico DF), Volume 7, no 27, July 1985, pp55-65.
55. Letter from Leonardo Fernández Sánchez to Mella, New York, 14 December 1928. Leonardo Fernández Sánchez was privy to information from Cuban government circles through family connections. He was one of those Cuban Communists who left the official party in 1938 over its moves to form an alliance with Batista. He was also one of the principal founders of the Ortodoxos in the late 1940s, and became an ambassador for the Cuban government in the post-1959 period.
56. See D Spenser, El Triángulo Imposible: México, Rusia Soviética y Estados Unidos en los Años Veinte, Mexico DF, 1998, pp214-9. See also C Hatzky, ‘Julio Antonio Mella: Sein Leben für die Befreiung Lateinamerikas und sein Bild in der Historiographie’, The International Newsletter of Historical Studies on Comintern, Communism and Stalinism (Leipzig), Volume 4/5, nos 9-13, 1997-98, pp84-97.
57. Contrary to Mella’s project, the new Confederación Sindical Unitaria de México (CSUM) only regrouped those unions which were already dominated by Communists.
58. JA Mella, ‘Proyecto de Tesis sobre la Unidad Sindical Latinoamericana’, Memoria (Mexico DF), Volume 1, no 6, February-March 1984, p137.
59. ‘Lo Que Propone la Oposición Comunista’, El Boletín de la Oposición Comunista (Mexico DF), 5 January 1930, p1.