Guatemalan Revolution of 1944-54

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Guatemalan Revolution of 1944-54


an anti-imperialist, antifeudal revolution. On Oct. 20, 1944, an armed uprising took place in the city of Guatemala, resulting in the transfer of power to a revolutionary junta. The uprising was preceded by a mass democratic movement, which had begun in June 1944 and which led to the fall of Ubico’s dictatorship (1931-44). The working class played an important role in this stage of the revolutionary movement; however, because of the insufficient maturity and political organization of the working class, the leadership of the revolution was seized by the radical nationalist bourgeoisie.

The presidential elections that were held soon afterward led to the election of J. Arévalo, who was supported by all the forces interested in democratic antifeudal reforms. A constitution was adopted in March 1945. It promulgated fundamental bourgeois democratic freedoms, outlawed landlord property rights, and obligated Congress to adopt measures aimed at abolishing these rights. The activity of all political parties except the communist groups was legalized. The Arévalo government (1945-51) introduced a labor code and prepared laws on social insurance and on the protection of mineral resources, which barred access to the country for foreign monopolies. The labor movement was growing in the country, and the peasantry began to organize. Under pressure from the working people the Arévalo government granted legal status to the communists. In September 1949 a congress of Marxist groups was held, which founded the Communist Party of Guatemala (renamed in 1952 the Guatemalan Labor Party). The growing activity of the working class and the peasantry led to a deepening of the anti-imperialist, antifeudal character of the revolution.

The government of J. Arbenz Guzman, who became president in 1951, carried out a number of measures aimed at transforming the backward social and economic structure of the country and raising the standard of living of the people. The most important of these measures was the agrarian reform law of June 1952, on the basis of which 554,800 hectares (ha) of land were expropriated in less than two years from local owners of large landed estates and the American monopoly the United Fruit Company. About 100,000 landless peasant families received 400,000 ha of land. The law provided for measures to prevent a new dispossession of the peasants. The government granted the peasants credit to buy farm implements and seeds.

The US government lodged an official protest against the agrarian reform law, which dealt a heavy blow to the interests of American imperialism in Guatemala. Afraid that the democratic transformations in Guatemala would have an influence on other countries of Central America, US imperialists, relying on the forces of Guatemalan reaction, organized an armed intervention into Guatemala. In June 1954 bands of mercenaries led by C. Castillo Armas invaded Guatemala from Honduras. The command of the Guatemalan Army refused to arm the people and, embarking on the path of outright treason, carried out a coup d’etat. The military junta that seized power surrendered to the interventionist forces. As a result of the victory of the counterrevolution, all the gains made by the Guatemalan Revolution were done away with in the years that followed.


Diaz Rossotto, J. Kharakter gvatemal’skoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from Spanish.)
Toriello, G. Bitva za Gvatemalu. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from Spanish.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.