Portraits of Six Exceptional Twentieth Century Premiers
Chapter 4 The Spiritual Socialist: Juan José Arévalo of Guatemala (1945–1951) 117
CHAPTER FOUR The Spiritual Socialist: Juan José Arévalo of Guatemala (1945–1951) In 1945, the year that he became president of Guatemala, Juan José Arévalo gave an outline of his political philosophy: We are socialists because we live in the twentieth century. But we are not materi- alist socialists. We do not believe that man is primarily stomach. We believe that man is above all else a will for dignity …. Our socialism does not aim at an ingenious dis- tribution of material goods or the stupid equalization of men who are economically dif ferent. Our socialism aims at liberating man psychologically and spiritually …. The materialist concept has become a tool in the hands of totalitarian forces. Commu- nism, Fascism and Nazism have also been socialist. But theirs is a socialism which gives food with the left hand while the right mutilates the moral and civic values of man.1 This thinking has been called ‘spiritual socialism’. Arévalo’s antipathy to materialism was understandable, given the year in which he was stating this position. His stress on human values shone through. But he opened himself to an obvious critique: that this kind of thinking was naïve, too idealistic, and not conducive to ef fective governance. Surely, it could be argued, Arévalo was out-of-touch with the harsh realities of mid-twentieth- century Latin American politics? 1 James Dunkerley, Power in the Isthmus: A Political History of Modern Central America (London: Verso, 1988), p. 138. 118 CHAPTER FOUR Critics could go...
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