Arguably the most audacious experiment in direct democracy the continent had ever seen, the Agrarian Reform [in Guatemala] entailed a central irony. The legislation's authors -- most of them Communists -- were not building socialism. They were creating capitalism. They were scrupulous about property rights and the rule of law. Peasants had to back their claims with extensive documentation; only unused land was expropriated; and planters were granted multiple rights of appeal, all the way to the president.... Guatemala's socialists did more than create democrats and capitalists. They also made peasants into citizens.... When anti-Communists put an end to this democratic awakening in 1954, it was as much the peasant's newfound appetite for thinking and talking as the planter's expropriated land that they were worried about.... Guatemala's archbishop complained that the Arbencistas sent peasants "gifted with facility with words" to the nation's capital, where they were "taught...to speak in public."
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Quote of the day
From Corey Robin's 2004 review of Greg Grandin's The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War, republished in Robin's The Reactionary Mind [link], pp.156-57: