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Sam Marcy

U.S. Gets Latin-America’s OK
on Seizing British Colonies

Seizure of Latin-American Investments of British “Ally”
Is Main Discussion Point of Secret Sessions at Havana

(3 August 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 31, 3 August 1940, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Yankee imperialism has succeeded in putting the Latin American countries on record against a transfer of British and French colonies in the Western Hemisphere to Nazi Germany if the latter is victorious.

What the status of these colonies should be in the event that Great Britain is defeated was vaguely formulated as a “provisional administration”, instead of a mandate or trusteeship of the possessions, as Hull originally wanted it. The difference in the terminology, over which the delegates are reported to have haggled for hours and hours, was not merely one of form, but of substance, since a mere “administration” signifies a lesser degree of control by the American imperialists, than would a “trusteeship”, Hull’s new word for a protectorate.

At any rate, the U.S. delegation expects this “administration” of the colonies to serve as a bridge for full control by the United States when she is in a better military position to do so. As a writer in last Sunday’s New York Times puts it, the Latin American countries were heartened in their stand against the United States by the testimony of “Army and Navy officers before Congressional committees to the effect that their forces are inadequate to undertake far-flung operations at a considerable distance from our bases.”

Big Stick Threat

But lest the Latin American countries take too much courage in their opposition to the designs of American imperialism, the Annalist, cautious mouthpiece of high U.S. finance, warns: “Thus, for reasons of defense, the United States government may find itself faced with the unpleasant task of sending troops to recalcitrant Southern Hemisphere countries ...”

Britain Kept Out

That U.S. imperialism is primarily concerned with arrogating to itself the rich Latin-American markets, and not merely the formation of a so-called “democratic” front against Nazi penetration, was strikingly demonstrated when the U.S. delegation made it a point to absolutely exclude from the Havana conference any representative of the British government – its “democratic” ally now under the shadow of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg!

This is extremely significant in view of the fact that Great Britain has to this very day investments in the Western Hemisphere totalling well over seven and a half billion dollars. In point of fact, British investments in some of the Latin American countries far surpass those of the United States and, back in the days before the First Imperialist War, British imperialism was the dominant creditor and capital exporter into Latin America.

British Investments Discussed

It is the fate of these billions of dollars of British investments in Latin America which caused the conference to be held in secret, behind closed doors. Secrecy could not have been necessitated by the Hull-Berle cartel plan, or the plan for taking over the European colonies in the Western Hemisphere, as these were widely discussed in the American capitalist press long before the convening of the Havana Conference. That also explains in part why Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay showed extreme reluctance in attending the conference, and then only confined themselves to sending mere delegates with limited authority to enter into binding agreements, and not their foreign ministers. These three countries together with Chile, contain the bulk of British investments.

What action do these countries contemplate taking with regard to British property, in the event Britain is ultimately defeated? “To smoke them out” with regard to these investments, “to get the lay of the land” as the United States News puts it, was one of the main reasons for calling the Conference.

The matter of transferring British and French colonial possessions located way up above the “bulge” could only be of secondary importance to Argentina and Brazil; the Falkland Islands is the only British possession near Argentina. Thus one of the main reasons for the opposition of the bloc of countries led by Argentina was fear of new designs of American imperialism with regard to British investments. It was one of the main preoccupations of the conference, if not the main. It is plain why a British representative was not welcome at such a conference.

Cartel Plan Shelved

The Hull-Berle cartel plan seems temporarily to have been shelved by the conference or at least to have been relegated to a secondary position.

Powerful sections of American finance capitalism immediately realized major defects in the Hull-Berle scheme. They particularly pointed out the tremendous capital outlay involved and questioned the feasibility of the plan in the light of the ever-increasing acuteness of imperialist contradictions raging in the agrarian countries south of the Rio Grande.

In the decades when capitalism was progressive the United States exported millions of commodities to Latin America and reaped huge profits from them. Later in the epoch of monopoly capitalism (imperialism) the U.S. began to export capital (in the form of loans and machinery) and reaped fabulous profits through the super-exploitation of the Latin American masses. Since the crisis of 1940, however, successive capital loans, private as well as to governments, and investments in general, whenever made to Latin America, have sunk like into a bottomless well, never to arise.

Today, $674,000,000 worth of South American bonds, representing 70% of the total bonded debt, is in default. Only Argentina, Haiti and the Dominican Republic regularly meet their interest payments. Hence the most powerful sections of American finance capitalism oppose the further pouring of millions of dollars into the economic pores of Latin American economy. They see in it merely, an extension of New Deal pump-priming and not a source of profit.

Force Has Its Drawbacks

The Birmingham News, sums it up: “We can no longer expect the profits and privileges of a generation ago”. Perhaps they think that military force, would be cheaper. But that too, has its drawbacks. A glance at the map will easily convince even one not well versed in military and naval affairs that to “protect” the stretch of territory from the St. Lawrence River to the southernmost part of Patagonia would require at least as much as the cost of the Hull-Berle cartel scheme.

The posing of the problem in this manner has prompted a considerable section of the bourgeoisie of the United States to ask whether it is entirely in the interests of American imperialism to include within its orbit of military and economic “protection” the southern countries of Latin America, namely, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay and countries in their latitudes. The spokesmen for this section of the bourgeoisie have suddenly discovered that the Latin countries south of the “bulge” are not really democratic countries, that culturally and ethnically they are far apart from North America.

“Appeasement” Is Considered

Behind this plethora of deceptive phrases there emerges the real issue facing American imperialism immediately, with ever greater persistence: In view of the fact that the countries south of the “bulge” (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay) are really agrarian and raw material “supplements” to larger, competing parts of imperialist economy, would it not be wiser for U.S. imperialism temporarily to allow these southern countries of Latin America to trade with Nazi Germany, while the United States builds its two-ocean navy? That raises one of the most crucial points of American imperialist diplomacy. In a word it is: Temporary appeasement or immediate aggressive resistance to a Nazi-dominated Europe.

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