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C. Charles

Partial Victory for U.S.
Won at Rio Conference

A Compromise Resolution on Rupture
with Axis Adopted by American Ministers

(31 January 1942)

From The Militant, Vol 6 No. 5, 31 January 1942, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As the Rio de Janeiro Conference of the Foreign Ministers of the Americas draws to a close, the breaking off of diplomatic relations with the Axis powers by 19 of the 21 Latin American countries can be recorded as a partial victory for the United States. Ten of the 21 nations are at present at war against Japan, Germany and Italy.

The aim of the United States at the conference was first and above all to secure full control of the raw materials and food produced in Latin America and thus prevent the Axis powers from getting any of these vital exports. To a large extent, Sumner Welles, the United States’ representative at Rio, was successful in this respect.

Two of the South American powers are still holding out against an immediate break with the Axis: Argentina and Chile. Argentina is the most adamant, while the exact action that Chile will take is still doubtful.

Unanimous Vote Veils Differences

A unanimous vote was secured on a compromise resolution which declared:

“The American republics, in accordance with the procedure established by their own laws and within the position and circumstances of each country in the actual continental conflict, recommend the rupture of their diplomatic relations with Japan, Germany and Italy, since the first of these States has attacked and the other two have declared war on an American country.”

This statement replaced one to which Argentina had raised violent objections because it said more categorically the American countries “cannot continue” relations with the Axis.

During the last days of the conference foreign minister after foreign minister of Latin America arose and announced that the country he represented had broken or was breaking with the Axis.

But that the unanimity on the resolution means little was shown the day after its, adoption when Acting President of Argentina Ramon S. Castillo “reassured” the German envoy and issued a statement that Argentina:

“Would neither go to war nor toward a rupture, but would accept any formula that reaffirmed continental solidarity and unity” that “left each country free to adopt decisions that its special situation and circumstances counseled.”

Without doubt economic pressure by the United States will continue against Argentina and Chile to bring them into line with the war plans of the United States.

The position of Argentina and Chile does not flow from an active connection with the Axis powers, but rather results from the following factors:

  1. Fear that the Axis will respond to a break by them with a declaration of war and that the Allied forces will not be able to effectively help in the defense of Argentina and Chile in such an event.
  2. The desire to strike a better bargain economically in return for the support demanded by the the Allies.
  3. The wish of the ruling classes of these two countries to take advantage, while the industrially dominant powers such as the U.S. are occupied in the war, of the opportunity to strengthen the position of Argentina – and Chilean-owned industry.

Before the war the Argentinian and Chilean capitalist classes could not hope to compete with the already entrenched foreign capitalists who dominated the South American markets with their exports. Argentina and Chile, although very important food and raw material producing regions, are the two most industrially developed countries south of the United States, and sections of their ruling classes are ambitious to become the dominant industrial powers.

The other countries in South America are nearly exclusively food and raw material producing and exporting countries. Their only markets at present are the Allies, who are in a position now to secure their support. On the other hand, the Axis powers cannot buy or sell to Latin-America because of Allied control of the seas.

The resistance of Argentina and Chile to United States pressure must necessarily be of the most limited and timid character. First of all, the capitalists of these countries who export to the Allies will strive, in case of real difficulty, to mold the policy of the governments so as to have them come to an agreement with their chief customers.

Secondly, while certain other sections of the capitalist classes in these countries would like the chance to build their industries against the United States and British competition, the Allies still have control of maritime transport and supplies of machinery and certain raw industrial materials. These native capitalists will have to come to terms with the Allies.

Dare Not Rouse Masses

Above all the ruling classes of Argentina and Chile dare not call forth a mass movement of the people in a struggle for real independence from foreign control of their industrial and political life. The ruling classes fear that the masses would not stop with the foreign capitalists but would continue their fight against their native exploiters as well. Fearful of arousing the masses, the capitalists are reduced to nearly futile gestures.

If the conference did nothing else, it exposed a lot of the current talk about a “war for democracy”. The scene of the sessions was itself deeply symbolic. It was the meeting place of the Brazilian Congress before the Congress was dissolved by the self-appointed President-for-Life of Brazil, Getulio Vargas, Welles’ chief aide at the conference.

Foreign ministers arose and solemnly spoke in the name of democracy when their own countries are now being ruled by brutal dictators. The last thing in the world that the Vargases want is democracy and they would fight to the last drop of blood to prevent it from coming to their own countries. These dictator governments do not represent the masses; they are pliant and willing tools of American and British oil, agricultural, mining, industrial, commercial and banking interests.

The United States and British, diplomats may be successful in convincing the ruling classes of Latin America of the benefits of support of the Allies. But they cannot convince the masses of Latin America who see little difference in being ruled by American- and British-supported dictators (who now dominate Latin America) or Axis-supported dictators (who would like to dominate Latin America).

For the great majority of the masses, imperialism means hunger, want, ignorance, super-exploitation and lack of democratic rights.

This is why the present governments in this country and Britain cannot rally the people of the colonies and semi-colonies, even with talk about democracy and destroying dictatorship. Only Workers and Farmers Governments in these countries can really arouse the spontaneous, complete and enthusiastic support of the colonial masses for a war against fascism.

Such governments would be concerned with the freedom, not the oppression of the nations now enslaved by imperialism; with the improvement of their standards of living and not with their super-exploitation as is the case at present under the rule of international capitalism.

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