The acknowl edgments section of a book is a space to aﬃrm the real ity of
common owner ship, a truth obscured under the alienated emphasis on one
individual, “the author.” We (the author and every body mentioned below)
have been working together on this study for many years, before we knew
it, before it became a proj ect.
One day, while working as a journalist during the 1999 presidential cam-
paign in Argentina, I met Leopoldo Bravo, the long- time caudillo of the prov-
ince of San Juan, who was oﬀering the support of his power ful provincial
po litical structure to the future president. We were at his oﬃce, and he sat in
an armchair, brown, comfortable, nondescript. Bravo searched in one of his
pockets and pulled out a pen.
“A gift from Stalin,” he said.
Bravo had been part of the team that opened the ﬁrst Argentine embassy
in the Soviet Union, in 1947. In 1953, as ambassador, he was among the last
foreigners to meet Stalin before he fell ill and died. The pen, it turned out, was
not a gift from Stalin, but one more myth Bravo had built around his days
in the Soviet Union. The day we met, Bravo also told me stories about the
group of Argentines that represented the country in Moscow, including very
colorful tales about the worker attachés, labor activists sent by President Juan
Perón who joined the Argentine del e ga tion in Moscow and throughout the
world. In the Soviet Union, Bravo told me, the attachés had tried to smuggle
Spanish refugees out of the country, but were discovered by Soviet agents on
their way to Prague— one of the most extraordinary incidents Bravo experi-
enced in his time there.
The conversation (along with the presidential campaign and my own
life) took a diﬀ er ent path, but I remained captivated by those labor activists,