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|Opiates for the masses|
Posadism is a tendency within Trotskyism that follows the beliefs of 'J. Posadas'[note 1] (1912-1981). 'Posadists' are organised in a number of national political parties and internationally as the 'Posadist 4th International'.
Posadists were once notorious on the far left for their cultish devotion to their leader and their bizarrely positive views on nuclear war. Later on, they became more of a laughing stock as they delved into ufology (with a distinct Commie spin!) and New Age babble. To be fair, Posadas went more than a little weird after getting tortured.
J. Posadas was the pseudonym of Homero Rómulo Cristalli Frasnelli. He was born in Argentina in 1912 to Italian immigrant parents. Following a brief stint as a professional footballer, Posadas devoted himself full-time to left-wing politics. Posadas took the side of Leon Trotsky following his expulsion from the Soviet Union. He established Trotskyist parties in several Latin American countries and eventually the Latin American Bureau of the Fourth International.
Following the split of the Fourth International in 1953, the Latin American Bureau sided with Michael Pablo and the International Secretariat. However by the end of the decade, Posadas and his supporters were quarreling with the rest over the issue of nuclear war among other things  ‘Posadism’ as an ideology was being created. In 1962 the Posadists broke off and founded their own international.
Posadist parties were ultimately created in seventeen countries, mostly in Europe and Latin America. Outside Latin America Posadists never amounted to much and were known primarily for their bizarre beliefs. In Latin America, however, they were a serious force. They were often the only Trotskyists active in a given country. On the left as a whole, they had a reputation for being small but very active and dedicated. They suffered repression in numerous countries, with adherents being imprisoned and even executed. Posadas himself was forcibly exiled to Europe in 1968. They took part in guerrilla movements in Brazil, Guatemala and pre-Castro era Cuba. In Guatemala they fell out of favour with the other guerrillas for, in true Trotskyist style, diverting funds intended for the armed struggle to produce a newspaper in Europe. In Cuba the Posadist party was eventually banned for forcibly arguing that Castro’s revolution did not go far enough.
Cult of personality
Posadists were known for their devotion to their leader, even with the Trotskyist movement, which has a rich history of 'charismatic' leaders. According to David Alexander in his history of international Trotskyism, any discussion within Posadist circles on a given topic was immediately ended when J. Posadas decided on a particular interpretation. According to Posadas, the International was homogeneous ‘not because we put disputes aside but because there was no room for disputes’. Thus, ‘this version of the Fourth International became totally identified with the ideas and versions of current reality which were being expressed at any given time by J. Posadas’. And it is worth noting that Posadas was prone to changing his mind on topics, which makes the devotion to him all the more striking. Alexander has said that a whole volume would be needed to trace all of the ideas and interpretations put forward by Posadas.
One former Italian comrade has admitted that they had ‘one leader and one leader only’. Meetings would consist of listening to the latest tapes sent by Posadas. Discussions would never go beyond finding ways to “understand better” and “explain clearly” what was said in a given text by their leader. And this is from a country where the Posadists were actually known to be more independent in their writings than elsewhere.
Articles in Posadist newspapers consisted for a large part of transcribed and translated tape recordings of Posadas’ speeches. Posadas was referred to as ‘dear master’ in a resolution by the international on the first anniversary of his death.
Enthusiasm for nuclear holocaust
Posadists gained notoriety on the left for their unorthodox views regarding nuclear war. They believed that nuclear war was not only likely, but also desirable. For nuclear war was the supreme opportunity for the forces of world revolution. A devastating nuclear winter would represent ‘the final settlements of accounts of Socialism against the capitalist system’.
At the first congress of their International Posadas announced: ‘Atomic war is inevitable. It will destroy half of humanity: it is going to destroy immense human riches. It is very possible. The atomic war is going to provoke a true inferno on earth. But it will not impede communism’.
Posadas expanded on his views of nuclear war in a number of pamphlets but never strayed from his view that one was both likely and necessary, writing,
“”‘Nuclear war equals revolutionary war. It will damage humanity but it will not – it cannot – destroy the level of consciousness reached by it. Humanity will quickly pass through nuclear war into a new human society.....after the destruction commences the masses are going to emerge in all countries – in a short time, in a few hours.’
Not content to merely make statements about the necessary price to pay for socialism that would shock Eric Hobsbawm,[note 2] Posadas and his followers actively pushed to make nuclear war a reality. Posadist papers were known for their appeals to the Soviet Union and China to make a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States (not that these entities represented true socialism in the Posadist world view). Obviously these were not picked up on. Indeed, the only effect the appeals had seems to have been to cause other Trotskyist groups to stress that nuclear war was most definitely not in the interests of the working class.
The Posadists were also notorious in their heyday for delving into ufology, looking for extraterrestrials to come down to earth to solve its problems. What was striking and unique about their particular interest in UFOs was how they fit it into their Marxist determinist view of the world. The Posadist analysis of UFOs went:
- UFOs are evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial civilisations.
- Since advances in society come about from advances in technology these extraterrestrials must come from a more advanced society than earth’s (i.e. a socialist society).
- Extraterrestrials have not landed because they see earth as too primitive for them, being divided only between capitalism and a deformed, bureaucratic type of socialism.[note 3]
- Nevertheless, we must appeal to them to land and ‘collaborate with the inhabitants of earth to overcome misery’.
One former Italian Posadist is adamant that the ufology was never of major importance to them, and that appealing for nuclear war was of much greater concern. Thus, the common characterization of Posadism as a ‘UFO cult’ may be misleading. Nevertheless, it was the theories on flying saucers they became known for. It turned them into a laughing stock, even in areas where they had once been powerful. A former Bolivian comrade described this, saying that other groups ‘used to make fun of us, calling us the “extraterrestrials” and so forth’.
There were rumors that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was a subscriber to Posadas’s theories on extraterrestrials. Although parallels between the series and the theories of Posadas have been picked up on, the rumors have not been substantiated.
Writing in the Fortean Times, Matt Salusbury suggests that Posadists' existing interest in technology led to the belief in UFOs, saying, ‘it was a short leap of the imagination from idolising the latest Soviet space vehicles to speculating about UFOs’.
As well as an enthusiasm for nuclear war and alien intervention, Posadists were known for holding other unusual views originating outside the left and fitting them into a Marxist framework. As time went on these took on a more New Age character. The most notable of these was the idea that humans can communicate with dolphins and probably other animals too, saying that Soviet work in the area would lead to ‘the harmonisation of human relations with nature’. Other bizarre beliefs held by the Posadists included a fervor for water birthing and the belief that humans will ultimately reproduce asexually ‘like amoeba’, curing ‘miserable, abominable sexual excitement’.
What is notable about these beliefs, as Matt Salusbury points out, is that they always existed alongside more mundane concerns, such as the support for a dustman’s strike in the British section’s newspaper.
Posadism after Posadas
J. Posadas died in Italy in 1981. Posadist parties worked to transcribe the backlog of his tape recordings to include as articles in their newspapers. However, most Posadist political parties did not survive his demise for long. Robert J. Alexander argues that the reason for this was that most members of these parties (at least some of them) were elderly and failed to attract young people to replace them, despite the colourful beliefs.
Nevertheless, the International continues to exist. Sections exist in at least Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay. The Uruguayan party is known to have participated in elections there in 2004, where they received less than 0.1% of the vote. A glance at the International’s website suggests that the Posadists aren't very active these days, with no statements since early 2013. No references to UFOs can be found, suggesting that they wish to disassociate themselves from that embarrassing aspect of their past. An enthusiasm for nuclear war is still evident, however.
- Robert J. Alexander (1991). International Trotskyism: A Documented History of the Movement. Duke University Press, p. 659.
- Matt Salusbury (2003). ‘Juan R Posadas’. The Fortean Times. .
- Alexander (1991), p. 659.
- Alexander (1991), p. 660.
- John Sullivan (1983) 'Go Forth and Multiply – The British Left in 1983'. 
- Luciano Dondero (2014) ‘J. Posadas and Flying Saucers’. World Association of International Studies (e-journal). .
- Alexander (1991), p. 26.
- Alexander (1991), p. 663.
- quoted in Alexander (1991), p. 663.
- Alexander (1991), p. 663.
- Alexander (1991), p. 663.
- Alexander (1991), p. 596.
- Alexander (1991), p. 663.
- Daniel Walker and Daniel Gray. The A-Z of Marxism. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc., p. 245
- John Sandor Steven (2006). Permanent Revolution on the Altiplano: Bolivian Trotskyism. Ann Arbor, Michigan: ProQuest Information and Learning Company, p. 314.
- Alan Wald ‘A minority within a minority: Cannonite Bohemians after World War II'. 
- Alexander (1991), p. 113.
- Daniel Renfrew (2004). ‘Frente Amplio wins elections in Uruguay.’ World Socialist Web Site 
- See the Wikipedia article on Broad Front (Uruguay).
- Posadist IV International, ‘Who are we’