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Henry Judd

U.S. Dollar Diplomacy Wins a Victory
in South America

(February 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 5, 2 February 1942, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Latin American conference of 21 nations organized by the United States to help in the war effort of the “United Nations” was concluded this week with American dollar diplomats gaining notable victories.

Held at Rio de Janeiro under the hospitable auspices of Julio Vargas, the Brazilian dictator, most of the conference concerned itself with the question of winning Argentine support to a resolution breaking of all diplomatic relations with the Axis powers. Secret conferences, deals and bribery, maneuvers and “diplomacy” finally succeeded in getting Argentina to sign a compromise proposal which permits each of the 21 countries to decide for itself to break off with the Axis. Seventeen have already done so and others are following in line behind the United States – the dominant power in Western Hemisphere affairs. Sumner Welles would have preferred not to compromise with Argentina, but the final result is a satisfactory victory for “Yankee imperialism.”

But the real success or failure of the conference remains to be seen. Only the coming months and years of war will show whether the United States has succeeded in its real objective: to organize a closed hemisphere economy – based on a uniform currency, the American dollar – and with America as top dog in the entire set-up. Dozens of resolutions were adopted, dealing mainly with economic and military matters. Most of them were drawn up by the United States or its closest satellites, the tiny powers of Central America (Panama, Nicaragua, etc.). Now efforts will be made to put them into practice.

If they are put into practice with success it means:

  1. That America will have complete economic, control over the Latin American countries;
  2. That America will have eliminated all its rivals (the Axis powers and England) as competitors for the trade, commerce and raw materials of the South American nations.

The entire Pan-American Conference was a game of give-and-take; of promises and agreements between the mighty imperialist Neighbor of the North and the dependent nations of the South. In exchange for the severance of economic, trade and political relations with the Axis nations, the United States has promised to make up for the loss of trade these nations formerly had with Europe and Asia.

Specifically, the United States has promised to lower trade and tariff barriers on those goods produced by South America which are duplicated and compete in the United States. Argentine beef is a notable example. Will American capitalist producers agree to this concession without a fight? We doubt it very much.

The United States has also promised to supply the Latin American nations with various priorities material on a quota basis – materials such as completed machinery which are badly needed by these countries. Likewise, since these countries have only tiny merchant marines, Uncle Sam has promised to aid them in their transportation and shipping problems.

And what are American capitalists, bankers and exporters to get in exchange for all this?

  1. Full access to the rubber of Brazil; the tin of Bolivia; the copper and nitrates of Chile; the farm products and meats of Argentina. The right to develop (that is, own and finance) whatever industries are needed to help American war production requirements. For this purpose international corporations (cartels) are to be organized under American directions.

    This means that the capitalist-imperialist class of the United States will firmly establish itself as the main power behind the economic life of these nations.
  2. Trade and commerce with the neighbors of the South will be greatly facilitated by various methods. Woe to the English businessmen who are still doing business in Latin America! Their day has come. The Southern nations are to lower their tariff barriers so that American products can come in more easily, every encouragement is to be given to the American seeking a market for investment; all transport and shipping facilities are to be pooled, under American guidance; questions of banking and foreign exchange are to be simplified (primarily by making the American dollar the standard of currency); an international fund to stabilize the various currencies of the Pan American nations is to be established, etc.
  3. All matters of naval, military and aerial warfare are to be handled from Washington, under American guidance.

Victory for Imperialism

All of this represents an undoubted victory for American imperialist interests and designs. The men of Wall Street and Washington have served notice to the entire world (including Great Britain) that they intend to subject South and Central America more than ever before to the doubtful benefits of American control.

But many barriers and stumbling blocks still lie ahead before this final aim can be achieved.

Can America make good its promise to purchase all South American surplus products; to keep these countries economically alive; to protect them from Axis intervention?

What will the people of Latin America – never known, for their friendship to American imperialism – have to say about all of this?

What will happen to the various Latin American dictators (Vargas of Brazil, Batista of Cuba, etc.) during the war? Suppose their people become tired of their dictatorial rule and attempt to upset them? Will Roosevelt intervene on the side of the dictators to thwart the democratic will of the South American peoples?

These are a few of the questions not answered at the conferences.

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