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James Burnham

Their Government

(24 February 1939)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 10, 24 February 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

During the past year, Stalinism has become the chief agent of Yankee imperialism among the Latin American masses. Committed to advocacy and support of Roosevelt’s coming war, Stalinism is thereby committed also to the steps needed for the preparation of the war. Primary among these is the firm alignment of Latin America as a base both for materiel and man power.

In order to accomplish this, the people of Latin America must be persuaded that the United States is their friend and protector, and that their enemies are neither at home nor in North America, but across the wide sea, in Tokyo and Rome and above all in Berlin. This is the ‘Good Neighbor’ doctrine, as put forth identically by Roosevelt and the Stalinists.

It was in the light of this doctrine that the Stalinist press covered the Lima conference. The doctrine itself has been further elaborated at the recently concluded conventions of the Communist parties of Cuba and Mexico.

Browder Invents a New Theory

The doctrine, however, is rather a stiff dose for the masses in Latin America to swallow straight. In their own lives and on their own backs they learn a contrary truth: that Yankee imperialism is their main enemy. They have felt its lash swung by United States marines and plantation owners and gun-boats and overseers and Yankee-controlled puppet tyrants, It is not so easy to persuade them that overnight their main enemy has lost all of its spots.

The Stalinists have evidently noticed this persistent fly in their social-imperialist ointment, and, not being able to get rid of it, are trying out a new device to prevent its being noticed. This device is nothing short of a brand new theory of imperialism, a great and comforting improvement on the old-fashioned views of Marx and Luxemburg and Lenin.

Browder and Laborde announced the theory at the convention of the Mexican Communist party. It goes something like this: The Roosevelt government is not merely non-imperialist, but anti-imperialist. It is the representative of the “democratic aspirations of the American masses.” Yankee imperialism has not, however, completely disappeared. It is now administered by the monopoly corporations and Wall Street, and by the political opponents of Roosevelt – the Republicans, conservative Democrats and other varieties of Tories.

The Beauties of the New Theory

This new theory is a very neat job indeed. The trouble that the Stalinists have had convincing the Latin American masses that they were no longer oppressed by Yankee imperialism ends. The Stalinists can now say: Of course you are still persecuted by Yankee imperialism. But that imperialism has nothing to do with Roosevelt and his government. It is the imperialism of Wall Street and the Republicans – Tories, of the enemies of Roosevelt.

The way to fight Yankee imperialism, therefore – is to get behind Roosevelt! What a wonderful irony! To support Roosevelt’s coming war is – to fight imperialism, including Yankee imperialism. To be against the war is – to line up in the camp of imperialism.

The awkwardness about the habit of telling lies is that one lie is always tending to contradict another. Lying theories are not exempt from the general rule: one is always refuting another. Let us recall:

In the 1936 elections, as explained by the very welt known Stalinist theory, the New Deal was the army of progress, the Republicans, led by Alfred M. Landon. the troops of reaction. This has continued to be the lineup: New Deal progress versus Republican-Tory reaction.

One Lie Plus One Lie Equals Two Lies

Up to date, the most grandiose public expression of Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy was the Lima. Conference. According to the new theory of imperialism, it would follow that the Lima Conference would have been fought tooth and nail by the Republicans-Tories and by Wall Street, since the theory declares that the conference was anti-imperialist, hence directed square against the imperialist interests of Wall Street and the Republican-Tories.

But, alas for Stalinism, even the fanciest lies cannot wholly do away with facts.

Without a single exception, every spokesman for Wall Street and the monopoly corporations and the Republicans-Tories came out one hundred percent for the Lima conference. Their praise and rejoicing rang: through the columns of the press and the radio mikes. No anti-New Deal snarl or curse marred the touching unanimity.

Especially noteworthy were the lengthy declarations of Henry L. Stimson, who is – oh, painful memory – the ex-Secretary of State of that well known progressive leader, Herbert Hoover.

And the leading delegate to the conference was (did you remember, Browder, while speaking in Mexico?) none other than Alfred M. Landon.

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