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«STANFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS Stanford, California 1986 Modern Latin American Historiography and the Labor Movement Twentieth-century Latin American ...»

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9. Perspectives on the importance of this compromise are developed by Charles Maier, who stresses an "ideology of productivity" as the guiding principle of the foreign policy of the United States in the restoration of the capitalist order in postwar Europe, and David Montgomery, in his treatment of the importance of the issue of control in the workplace in workers' struggles in the labor history of the United States. Charles Maier, "Two Postwar Eras and the Conditions for Stability in Twentieth-Century western Europe," American Historical Review 86:2 (Apr. I98i):327~52; David Montgomery, Workers' Control in America (Cambridge, Eng., 1979). The relationship of control over the organization of work to the logic of capitalist development is explored most thoroughly in Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital (New York, 1974). The concept of "partnership" is advanced to explain the transformation of the European labor movements in Giovanni Arrighi's suggestive essay "The Labor Movement in Twentieth Century Western Europe." in Immanuel Wallerstein, ed., Labor in the World Social Structure (Beverly Hills, Calif, 1983).

10. Capitalists, of course, took other measures to circumvent their compromise with labor in the developed world. They effectively stymied the expansion of organization to other sectors of the labor force. And they promoted or acquiesced in the legal and illegal immigration into developed societies of workers from low-wage societies. In the United States this immigration was massive and to a large extent illegal, a fact that left the working class as a whole vulnerable to ethnic explanations of its class problems and impeded the legal organization of immigrant workers. These issues are explored by Alejandro Portes and John Walton, among many others. See their Labor, Class, and the International System (New York, 1981).

6 Historiography and the Labor Movement g r o w t h and the compromise with labor in the developed world, were not apparent for decades. Beneficiaries of mechanisms of capital accumulation and exchange within the world system," and able to develop capitalintensive and high-technology productive and service industries in a modified international division of labor, the developed societies experienced impressive economic g r o w t h through the 1960's. G r o w t h was particularly rapid in the developed economies of Western Europe and in parts of East Asia where wages were much lower than in the United States, and where the flow of investment from the United States into manufacturing production in the postwar decades was spectacular. By the 1970's, however, the structural effects of this massive shift in productive investment in the world system began to reveal themselves in the developed world, first in the premier capitalist economy, and then in the others. As manufacturing industry moved abroad, and domestic industry failed to modernize and became less competitive in the world market, developed Western societies began to experience declining economic g r o w t h rates, chronic balance-of-trade problems, high unemployment, and rising inflation.

T h e social, political, and intellectual dimensions of the historic c o m promise in the developed West were no less dramatic. T h e eclipse of a powerful political left anchored in an organized w o r k i n g class left capital free to pursue the implications of the compromise virtually uncontested at h o m e, and to use the resources of the state to pursue its ends ruthlessly abroad. In its efforts to expand and protect investment overseas, the United States in particular soon found itself enmeshed in a series of costly endeavors. These ranged from publicly financed overseas investment insurance to political subversion abroad, from schools for foreign labor leaders to major international wars. Although the cost of these endeavors did not seriously undermine the political and ideological h e g e m o n y of capital in the United States, each contributed significantly to the economic problems stemming from the shift of productive industry abroad.

At present it is the legacy of that economic process that is generating the most severe social and political problems in the developed West. O r g a nized labor has seen its relative numbers decline, its economic and political power severely curtailed. In recent years the terms of the historic compromise in basic industry have broken down completely. Although

11. There is of course no consensus in liberal and Marxist economic theory over either the existence or the relative importance of such mechanisms. The position taken here draws on the propositions advanced in Paul Baran, The Political Economy of Growth (New York, 1957), Samir Amin, Accumulation on a World Scale (New York, 1975), and Arghiri Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange (New York, 1972). Theory aside, the operation of such mechanisms seems best to explain the developments discussed below: the rapidity with which the obstacles to capitalist expansion were revealed in Latin America in the postwar period, and the fragility of the compromise between capital and labor there; and the delay in the manifestation of both in the developed capitalist world.

Historiography and the Labor Movement y organized labor as a whole has yet to reevaluate its postwar c o m m i t m e n t to capitalism, it has joined with a coalition of social groups in the cry for industrial protection and " b u y national" policies. Such policies, of course, threaten both the mechanisms of capitalist accumulation in the world system as a whole and the liberal theory of comparative advantage in world trade on which that system rests.

Still, the problems that beset developed capitalist nations today were very slow to emerge. T h e y are more obvious n o w with the aid of a hindsight sharpened by the social and political pressures unleashed by the breakdown of the compromise with labor and the general economic stagnation in the developed world. For more than t w o blissful decades the workability of the compromise with labor—indeed its inevitability—was endorsed by public opinion and celebrated in mainstream social science theory. Scholars postulated an "end to ideology" and wrote class conflict out of their theories of development in the modern w o r l d. " Such a position is no longer tenable, even in the developed world. As world economic g r o w t h began to falter and the historic compromise between capital and labor began to break d o w n in the early 1970's, large numbers of scholars turned their attention to a reevaluation of the role of labor in the history of the modern world. It is this work that has so p r o foundly illuminated the terms of the postwar compromise and n o w enables us to begin to assess the far-reaching implications it has entailed. In Latin American studies that reevaluation has produced what one scholar has called a " b o o m l e t " in labor studies" and a growing recognition of the obvious: that organized labor is central to the continuing postwar crisis in the major countries of the region. Nevertheless, the reevaluation has yet to force Latin Americanists into a major theoretical revision of traditional notions about the role of labor in twentieth-century history as a whole."

Latin Americanists have ignored the historic importance of labor in large part because we have looked in the w r o n g place. We have applied

12. For one critique of modernization theory, and a guide to many others, see Charles Bergquist, Alternative Approaches to the Problem of Development: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography (Durham, N.C., 1978).

13. Thomas E. Skidmore, "Workers and Soldiers: Urban Labor Movements and Elite Responses in Twentieth-Century Latin America," in Virginia Bernhard, ed., Elites, Masses and Modernization in Latin America, 1850-19.30 (Austin, Tex., 1979).

14. Debate in the field has centered instead on the relative virtues of the "dependency" approach as outlined in the work of Hobart Spalding, cited in n. 7 above, and on the promise of the "new" labor history developed by European and North American scholars. These issues are discussed in the Conclusion. See, in addition, the exchange between Eugene F.

Sofer and Kenneth Paul Erickson, Patrick V. Peppe, and Hobart Spalding, and the articles by Peter Winn, "Oral History and the Factory Study: New Approaches to Labor History," and Charles Bergquist, "What Is Being Done? Some Recent Studies of the Urban Working Class and Organized Labor in Latin America," published, respectively, in the Latin American Research Review 15:1 (1980), 14:2 (1979), and 16:2 (1981).

Historiography and the Labor Movement uncritically orthodox Marxist and liberal approaches to labor history that were most appropriate to the historical development of the center of the world capitalist system. We accepted a dichotomy in studies of the w o r k ing class that posited a separate set of assumptions and predicted behavior for rural workers (often viewed as "traditional peasants") and industrial workers (the " m o d e r n proletariat"). Rural workers were separated conceptually and defined out of "the labor m o v e m e n t " ; urban workers—artisans and proletarians in manufacturing industry—became the subject of "labor history." The clumsiness of such a dichotomy was apparent to many. H o w did one classify, for example, workers in rural Cuban sugar complexes or miners in highland Peru w h o moved in and out of traditional agriculture?

It is only when this conceptual dichotomy, artificial to the history of workers in the underdeveloped world, is set aside, and a new category of analysis is put in its place, that the meaning of the labor history of Latin America fully reveals itself. T h e primary object of early-twentieth-century Latin American labor history should be workers in export production. Sometimes more "industrial" and " u r b a n, " sometimes more " a g ricultural" and "rural," sometimes pure wage workers, sometimes not, it is these workers, a class formed in response to the expansion of an evolving world capitalist system in the decades after 1880, w h o did the most to make the Latin American labor movements. It is these workers, and those in transport and export processing linked to them in the export-production complex, whose struggles most deeply influenced the modern trajectory of the various national labor movements of the region.

By the mid-twentieth century, and in countries such as Mexico and Chile much earlier, that trajectory was institutionalized within the unions and parties of the labor m o v e m e n t and within the pattern of labor relations sanctioned by the state. In most of the countries of the region (Cuba is a notable exception) the trajectory of national labor movements established by mid-century has held firm in our own times. T h e fate of workers' early struggles thus powerfully influenced the pattern through which their postwar successors have affected the political and institutional life of the various nation-states of the region.

T h e validity of these assertions is easily demonstrated in logical terms, although it has yet to be confirmed in detailed historical studies. T h e Latin American structural economists amply demonstrated the enormous importance of the export sector to the economic health and development of capitalism in the Latin American periphery after 1880. That sector p r o vided the major opportunity for capital accumulation in the countries of the region. It determined the volume of foreign-exchange earnings, and thus the ability of a given economy to absorb imports of manufactured goods, capital, and technology. It generated, directly or indirectly, the bulk of government revenue, and consequently decisively influenced the Historiography and the Labor Movement g g r o w t h and power of the state. This extraordinary economic importance continued even under the conditions of large-scale industrialization achieved in some Latin American nations by the middle of the twentieth century. In furnishing vital foreign exchange, the export sector functioned under the conditions of import-substituting industrialization as a substitute for a capital-goods industry.

N o t w o export economies were alike, of course, in terms of their capital, labor, and technology requirements. Some proved much more vulnerable than others to fluctuations in the world market. In some, o w n ership of the means of production was foreign and highly concentrated;

in others it was domestic and diffused. Some employed large n u m b e r s of workers; others few. Some were high-wage economies; others not. Some produced exclusively for export; others produced for both the domestic and the international market. The structural economists showed h o w these characteristics and many others had radically different implications for domestic capital accumulation, economic diversification, and infrastructural development in the various Latin American countries during the classic era of free trade before 1930. They demonstrated h o w each characteristic influenced the ability of a given society to respond to the opportunities for industrialization during the crisis of the capitalist world order and the partial breakdown of the international division of labor in the period 1930-45. Finally, they showed h o w these structural differences continued to influence the success of national industrialization in the modified international division of labor that took form in the postwar decades.

Clearly, this kind of structural historical analysis can easily become economistic. By divorcing the study of economic development from the h u m a n forces that economic transformation unleashed—social classes, ideas, political parties—the Latin American structural economists not only tended to oversimplify the process of economic development, but in the end were unable to explain adequately the very problem they set out to answer: w h y some Latin American societies were m o r e successful than others in the pursuit of economic development as the twentieth century progressed. 15

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