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Albert Gates

The Pan-American Conferees Bow to Hemisphere Control by White House

(August 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 17, 5 August 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

What happened in the private meetings between the United States and Argentina, the main stumbling block at the Pan-American conference to the Washington plan of political, economic and military unity of the Western Hemisphere, may not be known for a long time, but the conference has formally, at least, proved to be a triumph for the State Department.

The American delegation arrived in Cuba with a definite plan for preventing seizure of European colonies in Latin America by the Axis powers. the question of the colonies was linked to the economic problems of the American continents, it had therefore to be solved first. The capitalist press therefore treated this question as the major one at the conference.

Not the Main Problem

In reality, however, this question was secondary. The bait for an agreement on the colonies lay in the tremendous wealth of the United States and its willingness to use it in solving the economic problems of the Latin-American countries. President Roosevelt gave a practical demonstration of this fact when in the midst of the conference he asked for $500,000,000 for the Export-Import Bank to finance trade between the Americas and thereby relieve the glutted warehouses of the Latin American nations.

The decision arrived at is a simple one. The American nations will not recognize the transfer of any colony in this hemisphere to any new European power. In this way, the twenty-one American nations have partially subscribed to the Monroe Doctrine as it is conceived by the Roosevelt administration. The conference declared that they “would consider any transfer or attempt to transfer sovereignty ... as contrary to American sentiments, principles and rights of American states to maintain their security and political independence.” No mention is made of the right to self-determination by the existing colonies, nor of the return of these same colonies to the nations which formerly owned them. The acquiescence of Argentina caused considerable surprise in view of its previous opposition to taking a definitive position on the colonies. Argentina argued against “innovations” and “actions taken before the fact”. But following Melo’s conference with Hull, Argentina gave its assent to the conference action when it was agreed to use the term “administration of the colonies” in place of “trusteeship” or the establishment of “mandates”. There is no reason to doubt but that the United Slates made sufficient economic guarantees to Argentina to win its cooperation.

Gets Free Hand

The conference adopted two decisions on the matter of the colonies. One is a convention which must be ratified by the countries present; the other is the Act of Havana which grants any country acting alone or in concert with others, the right to take such steps as are required for its own defense or the “defense of the continent”. By this Act the United States could, for example, act without first getting approval from the countries ratifying the decisions of the conference. But then all the countries recognize that the United States is the only nation which can carry into effect the conference decisions. The nations present were prepared to hand over the military and financial problems involved in the “administration of the colonies” to the United States.

Economic cooperation was at once he most important and the most difficult problem to solve. While the major objections of the leading South American nations to Hull’s proposals for economic unity flowed from the fact that their economies were more closely linked to Europe than the United States, the war which closed the European markets temporarily altered the situation. Huge surpluses of goods have piled up, especially in Brazil and Argentina. These countries are quite willing to establish economic cooperation with the United States if it means that through the Export-Import Bank and American finance, their acute economic problems will be modified. The same holds true for the other nations.

The resolution adopted by the conference is general and vague. Hull described it as establishing the necessity “to create and set into operation machinery of action”. Many things are implied in “economic cooperation.” but the details have been referred to the Inter-American Economic and Financial Advisory Committee. The economic problem will hereafter become the decisive one with the United States seeking complete domination over the western world against any nation seeking to establish an economic foothold in the hemisphere.

Danger for Labor

The most dangerous decision of the conference so far as the labor and political organizations of the working class are concerned is the decision to fight “fifth column” movements. Under the resolution adopted, the twenty-one nations are to aid each other in the defense and maintenance of the existing governments, to supply information to each other, to jointly struggle against any and all “subversive” movements. Under the guise of combating German, Italian and Japanese propaganda, any opposition to the existing governments will be labeled “fifth column” and “subversive.” In this way, the resolution becomes a means of perpetuating in power the present governments.

While the press speaks of the “twenty-one republics,” it is a fact that in most countries the severest dictatorships exist. Democracy is the exception rather than the rule.

The coming conference of jurists and police experts which is to study the question, will undoubtedly devise ways and means of suppressing the organizations of the working class. A new catalogue of crimes is to be set up and they will have an extremely wide range.

Undoubtedly, the United States won a tremendous diplomatic and political victory at Havana. But it is only a beginning. Henceforth, Washington will move more quickly to achieve its main aims.

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