The story of a repentant communist

Alberto Benegas Lynch (h)

There are many, many stories about people of great value who have become disillusioned with the totalitarian spirit behind Marxism. I have written about the characteristics of this current of thought in other articles, so this time I will limit myself to describing the case of Eudocio Ravines (1897-1979). He’s a dear friend who was murdered in Mexico because his previous traveling companions did not forgive him for abandoning their ranks.

I had the privilege of introducing him at different events in Guatemala, Mexico, and at our own country. Usually, he began his lecture apologizing for what he had done working at the Kremlin. He excitedly wielded a parallel with Saint Paul on the road to Damascus. Eudocio Ravines was a Mao Prize winner and a Lenin Prize winner. He had many anecdotes, and one of his main missions was to infiltrate the Spanish and Chilean Churches, which he achieved with some success.

When he first started to become disenchanted, he thought that the problem laid with those applying communism. Only later did he realize that the problem lays within the system and not in its circumstantial bosses. From then on, he wrote weekly for Latin American newspapers and published numerous books, including his notable best-seller La Gran Estafa. This title clearly reveals the inside of the system that Ravines calls “the common grave”, by which he means “the inexorable consequence of systems and methods, of inhuman dogmas that cannot be abandoned, of economic, political and social conditions that leaders cannot modify or soften since this would imply their downfall ”. The book is dedicated to “all those who suffered the drama of a great scam.”

Born in Peru, with a passport that had been canceled by his countrie’s leaders, in his youth he traveled as a Bolivian. He begins his story by thanking his parents for their immense affection and underlined his mother’s commitment to making her son “a Franciscan friar”, without much success. He describes the misery his family went through and how he listened attentively to constant criticisms of successive governments and how they hurt the population.

As a child, he was very impressed by the Russian Revolution. As an adult, he began to explore books by Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin, and Zinoviev. In his words: “The Bolsheviks announced the advent of a more humane society, which came to grant man freedom from misery; They claimed to carry in their arms the dawn of a new day for all the disinherited on earth; They represented hope for all of us who were in pain and lacked a future and made themselves present, marching in history as the redeemers of all the poor of the world. I couldn’t help but be on their side. It was then that I became a fervent communist, an ardent supporter of the Proletarian Revolution. “

He found shelter at Lima’s daily La Razón, directed by journalist José Carlos Mariátegui, a fervent supporter of the Russian Revolution. He published articles there until the newspaper closed due to government persecution, which is why Mariátegui went into exile in Italy. Afterwards, he was employed in trade at Fort Hermanos. Thus, he could continue his studies at university and join the student movement, which was “the headquarters of the insurgents”. This was reinforced by another lightning visit from Mariátegui, who inaugurated a circle of gatherings called “Red Corner”. Meanwhile, Ravines was raising the enthusiasm of other groups through a fiery oratory in very diverse public and clandestine events and writing abundantly for Claridad magazine.

One night – the author tells – in the middle of the morning, my home was invaded by agents of the secret police; they searched the rooms, smashed the mattresses, raised the floors, beat my brothers and took me into custody ”. Once again, things became worse. “In the hands of the police I was taken to Lima; The government, without due process, sentenced me to twenty-five years in prison and deposited me in a well about ten or twelve meters deep, with a vault and stone walls. There the Spaniards used to store water that had to withstand the fight against pirates ”.

After some time, secret emissaries disguised as nurses were sent from Moscow to get him out of prison. After they were successful, they found him in a very bad physical and emotional state due to mistreatment and terrible nutrition. When he arrived in Moscow, the president of the Comintern, Dimitri Manuilsky, Argentine politician Rodolfo Ghioldi, Mexican communist Hernán Laborde and Bulgarian George Dimitrov, secretary of the Communist International, were waiting for him. “Days later I was declared a Hero of the Communist International“. Later, the famous activist Henri Barbusse took him to a meeting with Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung. Ravines wrote that “Stalin was a man of short stature, compared to how he appeared in statues, paintings, and gigantic iconography. His face was rather pale, slightly ochrous and marked by pox. He is a paunchy man, to the point of being plump, a defect that seemed to bother him, since the effort to hide his abdomen behind the folds of a wide rabashka was evident. In portraits and paintings, his belly is unquestionably hidden since it was the first time that I had seen a paunchy Stalin. When he laughed, it was a laugh that beared the mark of mockery […] He was standing throughout the interview, but it seemed to me that his legs, especially his thighs, were too short in relation to the trunk and the rest of his body […] His gaze was that of a cunning man more than that of an intelligent one, mistrust and suspicion shone more in it than sharpness and insight […] Mao too adopted a policing attitude, he seemed angry and exhibited a face of deep disgust. Scars from the pimples on his face gave his skin a blackish violet tint […] The interview revolved around the paradisiacal life of his people and the wonders of the Five-Year Plan“. Mao barely spoke, and what little he did say was commonplace and did not remotely show the status the leader of Chinese communism was supposed to hold.

Ravines wrote that no matter how much he enthusiastically supported the communist ideology, inwardly he realized he had been personally disappointed by these two characters who he had once idolized and were later revealed themselves to be inconsequetial. Meanwhile, in the following months, he was entrusted with various tasks, which he carried out on foot. However, he was disappointed once again. Although he did not profess special sympathy for the candidate, he was present at a meeting with “the nominal head of the party”, that is to say Comrade Michail Kalinin, the president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In that assembly, this new character’s speech was a mixture of anodyne and false statements, intercepted with bad jokes. For example, he pointed out among laughter that “Either the Five-Year Plan will crush us or we will crush the Five-Year Plan.”

As we have established, Ravines fulfilled the tasks entrusted to him, some of which required traveling abroad. As time passed, however, his increasing disappointment had became worse than bad personal impressions of some of the leaders since it was based on three crucial aspects. In the first place, he was dissapointed by the great contrast between politicians claiming to be invested in the well-being of the population and the dreadful misery and unspeakable suffering that he observed in his travels through various regions and towns that suffered starvation. Secondly, he was horrified by the constant purges. At first, he tried to justify them but he finally gave having seen evidence not only of the murders of colleagues but of the permanent killings of innocents. Finally, he was inmensely disgusted at verifying the repeated and persistent lies told and spread by the communist apparatus.

Eudocio’s description of a long conversation with his friend and comrade, the Italian communist Marcucci, with whom he had worked extensively, is very moving. It took place in a Madrid hotel and dealt with their mutual displease at the betrayals among Party leaders. After that conversation, Ravines heard a shot. His friend, in despair and frustration, had committed suicide. “I knelt at the foot of the corpse of the boy who went through life cursing his faith and protesting against the scam. I stayed there crying, for Marcucci, for the thousands of Marcuccis who were dying throughout the world. I cried for myself, for my life, for my sterile youth, burned in vain, given up so that an infamous group of pirates would rise over my sacrifice”.

After long musings, Ravines finally decided to run away, but it wasn’t easy. “I couldn’t even pay to travel by tram. The Communist Party used the power I had given it against me. My guilt grew, taking infinite magnitudes and psychically crushing me until it became unbearable. I had to start from scratch, perhaps at two-thirds of my life, bewildered by a chaotic disorientation […] I was no longer a staunch opponent of capitalism. My beliefs wavered.”

And so, as we have recorded, Ravines published many books. Among them, Capitalism or Socialism: The dilemma of the century is worth highlighting. He told me about his efforts to study the philosophical, legal, historical and economic aspects of the liberal tradition, being especially dedicated to the works of great masters of economics, usually the least explored territory and one plagued with fallacies. According to the writer, “It is ostensible that these pages are animated by the very clear goal of accumulating evidence in front of the reader, to show him that socialist and socializing regimes have objectively failed, to make him feel the great frustration of our era […] The results show the superiority of a free economy over a regimented economy in the living conditions of the peoples, in the degree of growth of economic processes […] it is a plea to favor of the free economy, that is to say, a defense of popular interests”. He concludes by emphasizing that his book aims to clarify “the creative and revolutionary function of capitalism […], this fight defends values: humanistic values”.

In other words, we are facing a man of great intellectual honesty who was deceived and fully recognizes his error and amends it with formidable works that show the advantages of freedom and the mutual respect that results from it.