First Published: Resistence, Vol. 8, No. 9, October 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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This is third in a series of articles around the New Panama Canal Treaty. In the previous articles, based on an analysis of the treaty, we have concluded that this represents a new imperialist scheme that strengthens U.S. imperialism in various forms and conversely, harms the Panamanian masses and their legitimate aspirations for national liberation and real independence. Concretely, we have shown how under the new treaty, the U.S. will continue its military intervention in Panama, that the Panamanian people will receive a very little share compared with the share received by U.S. imperialism for the operation of the canal, that by the year 2000, in which the Panamanians will receive control of the canal, such a canal will be obsolete, that the treaty has strings attached which are detrimental to the sovereignty of Panamanian nation over their national territory; e.g. the right of the U.S. to intervene militarily whenever they consider that the neutrality of the canal is in danger and the commitment of the Panamanian government of giving priority to the U.S. in the building of a new sea-level canal.
There are other issues that we want to deal with around the Panamanian question. These are:
1. The social-chauvinist trend in the U.S. communist movement that supports the treaty.
2. Why do the extreme right wing, like the KKK, John Birch Society, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Thurmond, Reagan, etc., oppose the new treaty?
3. The present strategic importance of the canal, superpower contention in the area, and the new treaty as part of the U.S. military preparations for the possible imperialist war with Soviet social-imperialism.
4. An analysis of the current situation in Panama, class analysis, political forces, especially the national liberation movement and of the communist movement in that country.
5. Our Tasks.
Plans for the publication of these articles in pamphlet form are under way.
* * *
Not a single one of the groups in the U.S. that support the new treaty have dealt with this question in the concrete. Although the October League-Communist Party, the August Twenty-nine Movement, and the Revolutionary Communist League (M-L-M) insist on calling it a victory for the Panamanian people, there is no factual evidence, no concrete analysis of concrete conditions that support their conclusions.
The sham OL-CP decided that the treaty was a victory for the Panamanian people even after it was made public. The main thrust of their position is that the fact that the U.S. accepted to negotiate a new treaty meant a defeat for the U.S. and a victory for Panama. Their analysis follows this logic: the old treaty was for perpetuity, gave little remuneration to Panama, and gave to the U.S. only the task of defending the Canal. The new treaty will give the Canal back to the Panamanians in 22 years, gives them more money, and allows Panamanian soldiers to participate in the defense of the canal. When compared, the new treaty is better than the old; therefore, based on this, it is a victory.
What is left out of the OL-CP’s analysis are the greater concessions made by Panama to U.S. imperialism in the new treaty, e.g. perpetual military presence in the canal, preferential treatment in the use of the canal, option to build a new canal, plus 22 years of peace in one of the nations of Latin America where the contradictions with U.S. imperialism have been historically very sharp.
The business-like approach of the OL-CP – whatever brings more money to Torrijos’ cash register is better for the Panamanians – is a reformist and not a revolutionary analysis of the Panamanian situation, a treason to the legitimate aspirations of the Panamanian masses.
For the sham OL-CP, the only thing that counts in Panama is the opinion of the Torrijos regime and of the Panamanian revisionists. Those are the views that they echo in their press. Take for example a recent article under the misleading title: “Panamanians say ’Carry the Struggle Through to the end’”. (Call, Oct. 3, 1977).
The article reported a government-sponsored rally in support of the treaty which was held on Sept. 9, in the capital city of Panama. But the OL conveniently just talks about the “more than 100,000 Panamanians who rallied” – and forgets under whose leadership it was and the reasons behind it. We all know that it is not a difficult task at all for a Latin American government to rally 100,000 people in support of their policies. We also know that mass approval–or apparent mass approval as in this case– does not mean that something is correct. 500,000 Cubans, for example, rally in Havana to listen to the Soviet social-imperialist lackey Fidel Castro report on the Cuban invasion of Angola; Pinochet mobilized over 200,000 to celebrate the fascist coup in Chile, etc., etc.
The OL-CP also conveniently forgets to inform its readers that the negotiations have been carried out in secret for the last 3 years, that freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc., are unknown in Panama since Torrijos took power and these facts made it impossible for the Panamanian masses on Sept. 9 to know what the Treaty was all about. Even the New York Times has been more objective than the Call; and reported in its weekend edition of the same week not only the Torrijos-sponsored demonstration but also the demonstration against it by the popular forces that oppose the treaty in which thousands also participated.
But let’s look at who were the Panamanians that were saying they would carry on the struggle thru to the end:
at the rally, President Demetrio Lakas accepted the new treaty in the name of the Panamanian people and declared that it represented ’a decisive victory for our cause.’ The Call, Vol. 6, No. 38.
It is a decisive victory for the cause and the class interests represented by President Lakas, all right; but not for the cause of the Panamanian masses.
Let’s continue with the sum-up of the rally made by the OL-CP:
Torrijos also pointed out that the Panamanian people’s struggle ’is not over’ and that ’there is still a long way ahead’. Ibid
This is pure and simple bourgeois rhetoric, a very militant, a la Fidel-speech appealing to the patriotic and genuine anti-imperialist sentiments of the Panamanian masses. OL-CP conveniently forgot to mention that this same Torrijos, as a sargeant was in charge of the armed forces that shot at unarmed workers and students during the big demonstrations in October 1964 demanding Panamanian sovereignity over the canal.
The OL-CP can claim that there were speakers other than the government officials who addressed the rally and that even helped to organize it. And they are correct. Let’s look at those that the OL-CP selected as the most representative:
The Federation of Students of Panama, for example, stressed that the national liberation struggle ’will not cease’ and ’should not be confined to the signing of a treaty’. Ibid
Why doesn’t the OL-CP tell its readers, more about this student federation? Why doesn’t the OL-CP tell its readers that this federation is the student arm of the Partido del Pueblo (People’s Party) the revisionist “communist” party of Panama. This is the same party that has supported Torrijos all along, that talks about the progressive sectors of the government, etc. The same party that, in the meeting of the revisionist parties of Latin America held in Cuba in 1974 (see LPR-ML’s Analysis of the Havana Conference) slandered the CPC and Chairman Mao. As a matter of fact, the Partido del Pueblo also spoke at the rally, as reported by the Panamanian press, but apparently the OL-CP ran out of space or forgot to include it.
ATM repeats all the O.L.-C.P. ’facts’ and line of reasoning and even go a little further than they do in an attempt to justify their support of this imperialist plot. They, plain and simply, lie and distort the facts putting forth such gems as:
Despite statements by U.S. politicians, the Treaty doesn’t give, the U.S. any rights to intervene militarily after 2000. In fact, the Treaty specifically states that Panama will be the only country allowed to maintain armed forces in the Canal area after 2000. (Revolutionary Cause, Vol.2, #7, page 4)
Here we have a good combination of a lie with an opportunist use of a half-truth. The treaty that was printed in full in the bourgeois press does, in fact, guarantee the right of the U.S. armed forces to intervene in any case in which the ’neutrality’ of the canal is in danger. It was precisely around the interpretation of these clauses that General Torrijos was brought to Washington. He was brought in order to reassure Carter that the “Panamanian side” understands that, in fact, the U.S. can intervene militarily to assure the ’neutrality’ of the canal. And that was precisely what the lackey Torrijos said on national television one week ago.
ATM opportunistically played a trick with words to try to prove that the treaty means something else. They said that “only Panama will be allowed to maintain armed forces in the canal after the year 2000”. But the issue is not who will be allowed to “maintain armed forces in the canal after the year 2000”. U.S. imperialism doesn’t need their forces in Panama to intervene in the canal. As a matter of fact, even today, if they have to defend militarily the canal, they will do it from their military installations in Puerto Rico and Cuba (Guantanamo) and not using its forces in Panama. These forces are in Panama to protect the canal only against the Panamanian masses.
The history of bourgeois diplomacy provides us with examples of treaties that have similar clauses as the ones in the Panama Treaty. After the Spanish-American War, for example, the U.S. signed a treaty with Cuba to which they added an amendment – the Piatt Ammendment – that guaranteed the U.S. the right to intervene in Cuba whenever the national security of Cuba was in danger. And every time that either the Cuban government came in contradiction with U.S. imperialism or a friendly government came in contradiction with the Cuban masses, the U.S. immediately intervened. This is what will happen in Panama if the new treaty is put into effect as it exists now.
RCL-MLM has not even attempted to back up their position that the Treaty is a victory for the Panamanian people. During the Conference on the International Situation, we struggled this point with them and it was clear that they have not even studied the treaty, much less analyzed the concrete conditions under which that treaty was being proposed.
All three organizations mentioned try to cover what objectively is a social-chauvinist position, an alliance with their own bourgeoisie against the legitimate interests of the Panamanian masses, under the cloak of opposing Soviet social-imperialism. The fact that the other superpower has consistently tried to gain a foothold in Panama, the fact that they have ordered their puppet Fidel Castro to court Torrijos –whose government is defined as a progressive one, taking Panama in the road of “non-capitalist road of development”–, etc. does not justify the support of a treaty that perpetuates the U.S. neo-colonial domination of the Panamanian nation.
The Chinese comrades correctly have said that “in repealing the tiger from the front door, we have to guard against the wolf in the back door.” But in relation to Panama, as well as the Second World, the position advanced by the O.L.-C.P., the ATM, and the RCL-MLM is to keep the tiger in, in order to keep the wolf out. And this is not proletarian internationalism but social-chauvinism.