Plastrik (Judd/Stanley) Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Henry Judd

Behind the South America Conference

(January 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 4, 26 January 1942, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Last week, in Rio de Janeiro, the capital of Brazil, the diplomatic representatives of the United States and 20 Latin American nations gathered in conference.

Curiously enough – while supposedly meeting to cooperate in a war for “democracy” – the gathering took place in the Palace of Tiradentes where the FORMER Brazilian Chamber of Deputies used to meet. FORMER Chamber of Deputies, because Julio Vargas, military dictator of Brazil and the gentleman who twice re-wrote the Constitution of his own country to suit his totalitarian tastes, no longer permits the Chamber to exist, let alone meet!

The purposes of the conference, which is dominated by the United States, are clear. They have been repeatedly stated in cajoling, threatening or matter-of-fact terms by its leading representative, Sumner Welles. They are as follows:

(1) The complete breaking off of all relations (economic, political, financial and commercial) between the Latin American countries and the Axis powers. Sumner Welles in his opening speech demanded the ending of all neutrality and “non-belligerency.” The American objective is to weld a solid front behind the “democratic” nations in the war.

(2) The lending and leasing of South American naval bases and airfields for use by the United States forces. In addition, the pooling of all sorts of military aid in the interests of America’s war. The Latin American countries are militarily very weak. It is doubtful if the 20 of them combined ha e 1,000 military airplanes! But whatever it is they have, Uncle Sam wants it for his own purposes.

(3) The lining up of South America on the economic front. This means that the superior American capitalism wants the countries of the south to turn over all their raw materials and resources for use by America. Latin America has lost all its markets in Europe and Asia since the war began. It is completely dependent upon the mercies of the United States for its economic existence. And Roosevelt wants the nitrates of Chile; the manganese of Brazil; the tin, tungsten, zinc, bismuth, aluminum ore, beef, copper, oil etc. of the other countries to flow into the war machine of American imperialism.

Under the U.S. Thumb

Furthermore, he wants the “Good Neighbor” republics to break all economic ties not only with the Axis competitors (Japan, Germany and Italy), but also – although not as drastically – with England. American business wants total, domination of the economic life of these countries. On the same day that Welles spoke at Rio it was announced in Washington that Latin America was being placed on rations for various materials (steel, soda, chlorine, rare metals, copper, etc.) that it so badly needs. This rationing system will further place, the Latin American nations under the U.S. thumb.

(4) America likewise wants Latin America organized in a political set-up that will help its prosecution of the war. One of the points of the agenda is the creation of an Inter-America defense committee sitting in Washington to regulate shipping, supplies and foreign policy of the member nations. All of this, naturally, is to be done in the name of “Good Will and Solidarity.” The fact that the leaders of the South American nations are mostly petty thieves and military dictators – modeled after Vargas of Brazil and Batista of Cuba – has little to do with it.

But there are plenty of rough spots and points of conflict in this conference. The United States, the Central American nations, the Caribbean island nations are already formally at war with the Axis. But three nations (Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela) have only broken off relations while eight (including the most powerful nations of Argentina, Brazil and Chile) are still completely neutral.

Argentina, particularly, is on the spot and is fighting to retain her position of “non-belligerency.” Undoubtedly, the Argentina capitalist ruling class is fearful of reprisals from the Axis powers, and is somewhat skeptical about the friendly advances of the big imperialist brother from up North. It is this effort to get Argentina to break with the Axis that constitutes the main fighting point at the conferences. Welles is attempting to win the point at various private conferences and with numerous promises.

In addition, there is a long standing boundary dispute between Ecuador and Peru that must be settled if any air of harmony and solidarity is to emerge from the gathering.

Most important of all, the Latin Americans are asking themselves a few questions: Does America guarantee to .protect us from air and naval attack? How? Will America buy up all our surplus products? At what price? Will America be able to supply us with the machinery and material needed to keep our economy going? In a word, what price American domination?

Plastrik (Judd/Stanley) Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 27.4.2013