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Communism in the Americas

Reprinted from the Department of State Bulletin of February 3, 1958


Inter-American Series 53 Released March 1958


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents U. S. (Government Printing Office Washington 25, D. C.

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Communism in the Americas

by Roy R. Rubottom, Jr. Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs (1)

    Today I want to talk to you about the role of communism in the Americas. It is a thoroughly sinister role. It is the same role in North America, Central America, and South America, or else where in the world. It is unchanged. It may have taken on a new coloration, protective to the Communists themselves but always destructive to the rest of us.

    This role involves both aspects of the international Communist movement, the ideology of the party line held out by Communists and, even worse, their subversive intervention in the internal affairs of other states and peoples. This, of course, is utterly contrary to our way of life in the Americas and will never succeed.      The basic task of Communist Parties all over the world in trying to carry out both aspects is, in the words of Lenin, to combine the strictest loyalty to the ideas of communism with an ability to make all the necessary practical compromises. In the thirties, with the Communist Parties then only small minorities, one of the compromises which was developed to establish contact with the masses, either through collaboration with the leaders of non-Communist organizations or through appealing to the masses over the heads of their leaders, was the so-called "popular front."

    Especially in times when Communists wish to lull others into complacency and relaxation such as the present, the "popular front" tactic is applied through the development and infiltration of organizations, often having objectives or appeals which appear to coincide with the legitimate aspirations of a group-the technique of the soporific-which are then used to achieve Communist objectives. In this way hundreds of thousands of people are made the innocent tools of the Communist conspiracy. We have had this problem of "fronts" in the United States; it is particularly serious in Latin America.

    The Soviets now control 13 major international front organizations, each with dozens of subsid- iary organizations all over the world. Each is a huge "interlocking directorate" linking the Kremlin to a vast network of national organizations operated by local Communists or dupes. All have a common purpose-to draw as many social groups as possible closer to communism and to make amenable to them the global aims of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

    These fronts are divided, one from another, on functional lines so that, despite their similar operational patterns, they can "offer all things to all men." There is a front for "peace," perhaps the cruelest of all, since all mankind yearns for that; there are others for youth, women, labor, international traders, journalists, intellectuals, and professionals. Each has a theme designed to attract a following from the particular target group. They have several things in common: They are all controlled at the top by Communists, directly or indirectly; they engage in vast propaganda activities; today they emphasize "national liberation" and, particularly in Latin America, "economic independence." Through these fronts, and with Soviet financial support when required, local, national, and international meetings are organized; travel to the Communist hinterland is arranged and financed; selected candidates are trained and indoctrinated; and an infinite variety of propaganda publications in all languages is distributed.

    Sometimes some of the machinations of the Soviet "front men" in Latin America get unexpected publicity. You have undoubtedly read, as I have recently, about how the number-one Communist labor leader of Latin America, Vicente Lombardo Toledano of Mexico, has been busy denying the authenticity of a letter attributed to him by the Government of Ecuador. In the let- ter, described as a copy of a circular he is supposed to have sent to all affiliates of the Com- munist-dominated union he heads--the Confederation of Latin American Workers--Lombardo Toledano calls on his lieutenants to furnish him with the answers to a long list of questions bearing on the military and general security status of their respective countries to be used in connection with a Communist offensive in Latin America in 1958. To those of us conversant with Communist techniques and tactics, it is not surprising to find a foreign Communist leader calling on his various underlings to betray their own countries.

    Just a week ago the Associated Press carried a dispatch from Rio de Janeiro concerning a report prepared by the Brazilian Foreign Office. According to the A. P., the Brazilian Government has copies of minutes of meetings held in Moscow last November by Latin American Communist leaders when it was decided to use Soviet offers of aid to Brazil as part of a campaign to make Brazil a spearhead of Latin American hostility to the United States.

    Behind the "front" organizations we find the Communist Party proper. Nominally, the Communist Party is legal in only five Latin American Republics--Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay--but in almost all of them Communists are trying to play their kind of subversive game. Party membership apparently varies from a few dozen Communists in several of the Middle American countries to around 50,000 and 80,000 in Brazil and Argentina, respectively. The grand total has been calculated at little more than 200,000, but numbers do not necessarily describe their influence.

    The Communists have both immediate and long-range objectives in Latin America, as elsewhere. Ultimately, of course, they would like to seize power and try to set up "popular democratic" regimes in which communism would reign. That being out of the question, they are attempting a gradual approach, minimizing their difference with the non-Communist left, playing down their ties with international communism, and, in general, seeking to gain some degree of respectability and acceptance. In this, they have been notably unsuccessful. The Communists concentrate on trying to infiltrate as best they can into intellectual circles and also into key positions in government, organized labor, student groups, and public-opinion media. They then attempt to sow the seeds of chaos, disunity, and other conditions designed to break down the normal democratic functions.

Appraisal of Forces Combating Communism

    In appraising communism's chances in the Americas, there are, it seems to me, certain fundamental points to be recognized. I outline them, with the sober reminder that neither we nor our friends to the south can ever be complacent in the face of communism's eternal threat to man's freedom and welfare.

    The first and foremost point to remember is that the Communists by themselves represent no immediate threat to the Latin American countries themselves nor to United States national security, for they are in no position anywhere in the hemisphere to gain power through legitimate means. This is not to say that, even though they are by themselves a minority, the Communists do not represent a constant danger. With their underground cadres ever alert to take advantage of popular discontent arising out of turbulent political conditions or widespread economic crisis, the Communist apparatus requires continued vigilance. To gain power through the ballot, Communist agents masquerade as super-nationalists, hoping to penetrate behind the scenes where they can effectively work for a foreign principal. The example of the Arbenz regime's betrayal of national interests in favor of alien ideology and its subsequent overthrow at the hands of the very Guatemalan people it sought to defraud is too fresh in memory to be forgotten throughout the hemisphere.

    It was because of the events in Guatemala following the election of President Arbenz that the Tenth lnter-American Conference (the pro-Communist Foreign Minister of Guatemala dissenting) approved at Caracas in March 1954 a resolution on the "Intervention of International Communism in the American Republics." Known as resolution 93, it declares that, if the international Communist movement should come to dominate the political institutions of any American state, that would be a threat to the sovereignty and political independence of us all, endangering the peace of America and calling for immediate consultations regarding appropriate action to be taken. On a permanent basis, it further calls for continuing disclosures and exchanges of information between the various American Republics which would counteract the subversive activities of the international Communist conspiracy.

    In line with this resolution, there is a new vigilance and awareness on the part of virtually all the signatories to the so-called Caracas resolution of the need to identify those who spread the propaganda or who travel in the interests of international communism. There is an awareness of the need to ascertain the source of their funds and the identity of their agents. Nevertheless, there is much more to be done as the Communist web of intrigue and subversion continues to spin itself out under ever-changing guises.

    The second encouraging factor I would emphasize is that behind this shield of organized governmental anti-Communist effort stands an equally individual but nonetheless potent defense. I refer to the fact that atheistic communism is an anathema to the deeply religious Latin American people. For, if the continent to the south of us is blessed with a rich storehouse of still-buried raw materials, its inhabitants are endowed with a profound belief in God and the spiritual treasures of free men. I am convinced that those Latin Americans who enjoy personal liberty and social justice, along with others who still aspire to reach the eternal goals of all really democratic societies, will not sell their precious birthrights for a mess of Soviet totalitarian pottage, no matter how alluring its description or how deceptive its package.

    The third factor to be counted on to work against the Communist cause is the very nature of human intelligence, as keen and perceptive in the Americas as anywhere. The "cult of personality" in the Soviet Union, theoretically banished after the end of Stalinism's bloody tyranny, again raises its head on the shoulders of a Khrushchev, as the Molotovs and Zhukovs suddenly fall at his feet. American public opinion was deeply shocked when the Soviet overlords crushed a valiant unarmed Hungarian people by brute force. It is to the everlasting credit of the peoples of America that their appointed representatives to the United Nations last month, in the name of human rights and the very dignity of man, sought to save the lives of Hungarian freedom fighters arrested because they had sought to liberate their homeland from Communist oppression. Soviet propaganda boasts following the Sputnik launchings conveyed veiled military threats against the free world. These attempts at intimidation were not lost upon the American Republics.

    Symptomatic of this recognition in Latin America of the Communist danger was the forthright order of the day issued last November 27, anniversary of Brazil's abortive Communist uprising of 1935, by the Brazilian Minister of War, General Henrique Teixeira Lott. General Lott likened communism to a "venomous serpent seeking to poison all humanity," said its "materialistic and brutish philosophy" was repugnant to Brazilian sentiments, and reaffirmed "with conviction our decision to remain faithful to the sacred principles which govern the Brazilian nation."

    I could also cite here such recent public announcements as that of President Manuel Prado of Peru in favor of closer cooperation between the countries of Latin America and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the struggle against, as he very well put it, "Marxist imperialism"; or the address of President Jose Maria Lemus of El Salvador in which he warned of the existence of a Communist threat aimed at gaining control of local labor unions and political parties; or the newspaper interview of Brazilian Foreign Minister Jose Carlos de Macedo Soares in which he said that, despite cultural and sports missions and offers of economic and technical assistance, the Soviet Union's attempts to divide Brazil from the United States and to win new converts for its ideology in Latin America had achieved no noticeable success.

    The fourth point to be made in this summary review of basic forces working in the hemisphere against communism is the ever-increasing cultural exchange and cooperation between the various American Republics, based on century-old ties. Our official programs, important as they are, form only a small part of the overall picture. Of the Latin Americans who study abroad, over 74 percent come to the United States. As many of our Latin American neighbors visit here as tourists, more United States citizens are going to live in Latin America, while Latin Americans, unrestricted by quota visa regulations, are relatively free to take up permanent residence in this country. If Spanish is becoming the second language of the United States, so English is rapidly on its way to similar status in Latin America. As the President's brother, Dr. Milton Eisenhower, has so succinctly pointed out:

Fortunately, while there are wide variations in the types of institutions and degrees of democracy among the American nations, their peoples are all motivated by deep underlying spiritual forces. They desire independence; they want to live in peace and to work for rising eco- nomic, educational, and social levels. Such is our common cultural heritage. Such are our common aspirations.

Growing Awareness in U.S. Business Community

    Let us turn for a moment to the United States companies doing business in Latin America. More and more they have come to realize that public relations is a vital part of the substance of their operations. They recognize that the American business community abroad is just as much a target of the agents of international communism as is the United States Government itself. Communist agents seek to discredit American businessmen, to disparage American products, to stir up criticism of American financial methods, to invite labor difficulties. Even though American industrial concerns abroad are in the vanguard of those who practice modern industrial relations, Communist agents are always trying to promote strikes or violence against them. It is reassuring to note greater awareness in the United States business community of the need for their representatives to possess a breadth of culture and a perceptiveness which will enable them to quickly understand and to adjust themselves to the atmosphere in which they are working abroad. Of equal value is an in- telligent curiosity and a human approach expressed through a genuine, sympathetic, and active interest in the welfare of the communities where they are stationed. American private enterprise has much of which to be proud, including its role in the vanguard against communism in America and elsewhere. Indeed, its best reference is the high level of our own economy and the lasting contributions to other nations the world over which have flowed from our system of the "people's capitalism."

    If the foregoing are perhaps the most obvious factors successfully at work combating communism in Latin America, there is one rather new development which may well portend what could be a real revolutionary contribution on the side of democratic social betterment and civic progress in the hemisphere. You will recall that at the Buenos Aires Economic Conference last August Secretary of the Treasury Anderson raised the question as to whether excessive military expenditures on the part of many Latin American Republics were not in fact draining their national resources and impeding highest living standards for their populations. (2) Now we recognize the need to maintain forces adequate to provide internal security and for the mutual (defense of the hemisphere. The problem for any country, of course, is to determine how much is necessary to spend for these purposes. It might be argued that unnecessary expenditures play into the hands of Communist propagandists. Conversely, therefore, spending on productive private industrial capacity or public works would improve standards of living, thereby helping to develop a fundamental and lasting immunity to Communist subversion. Hemisphere reaction to Secretary Anderson's query has reflected, in my judgment[,] a widespread readiness to study this question further, and it is my hope that in 1958 some constructive action along these lines may be achieved.

    The most persuasive reason to question the need for large and expensive military establishments arises out of the realization that in the Americas we have developed a hemispheric approach to security which is sealed in the Rio treaty. We have unanimously agreed that an attack on any one state would be considered as an attack on all. This concept of collective security has served as a pattern for the strengthening of the entire free world.

    Our purpose is peace, both with the rest of the world and among ourselves. The repeatedly successful application of the Rio treaty in halting almost immediately outbreaks of armed aggression has proved beyond doubt the desire and ability of the countries of the Americas to live peacefully together. In short, resort to war as a means of settling disputes in the Americas has become virtually unthinkable.

Soviet Trade Offensive

    Against this background of a peaceful American Continent, determined to work together as free men to improve our lives and those of our children, we now are confronted by press headlines of a so-called Soviet trade offensive in Latin America. The phrase, of course, is dramatic, but what does it really mean? Undoubtedly, as compared to the situation of previous months, there have been more reports recently of offers being made by Soviet spokesmen and salesmen to exchange Russian manufactured goods for Latin American raw materials. But, of course, as businessmen you know that there is a long way from an offer to a closed deal. We need to keep the facts as we know them in perspective.

    In 1957, according to latest estimates, Latin American trade with the Soviet bloc actually decreased around 12 percent, which means that Latin American trade with the Soviet bloc represented a little more than 1 percent of all Latin American trade. This 1 percent in turn was concentrated largely in four Latin American countries--Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, and Uruguay. If the dollar value of Cuban sugar exports to the U.S.S.R. had not shown a temporary sharp rise as a result of exceptionally high world prices, Latin American trade totals with the Soviet bloc in 1957 would have shown an overall drop of about one-quarter as compared to 1956. According to unofficial figures, Argentine trade was off more than 50 percent, while Brazil's slight increase contrasted with Uruguay's small decrease.

    There is understandably a desire on the part of our neighbors to examine cannily their trade with the Soviet bloc, particularly with an eye to the utilization of credits which have accumulated as a result of previously unsatisfactory trade relations. Undoubtedly my colleagues in the various Foreign Offices of Latin America are well aware of the many pitfalls involved in trade with the Soviets. Their countries have already experienced bitter dissatisfaction with bloc compliance under commercial agreements and especially the growth of inconvertible balances. To wipe out such a balance, reported to be $20 million, I understand, the Argentine Government has just announced dispatch of a mission to Eastern Europe. Another probable cause of Latin American caution, if experience is any teacher, is the knowledge that the Soviet bloc often seeks to use trade as a means of getting "a foot in the door." What this then invites, as we have seen in this country, as well as in Canada, Argentina, Iran, Australia, and Peru--to name a few with somewhat the same bitter experience--is the use of Soviet-bloc personnel, protected by diplomatic immunity, for improper and illegal activities, including subversion and espionage.

    In citing the dangers of trade with the Soviets, I do not wish to overlook that some of the Latin American Republics are now faced with serious economic problems, characterized in most cases by abnormally large supplies of raw materials unable to find their way into normal export channels. We are also concerned with these problems, for we realize we live in a world of interdependence, with the fates of Latin America and the United States inextricably intertwined.

Record of U.S. Assistance

    When critical needs have arisen, the record shows that we have not failed to assist our American allies. A glance over the last 2 years reflects the varied and numerous channels of our assistance. The Export-Import Bank issued loan authorizations totaling $659 million. Our share of the jointly operated United States technical assistance program reached $68 million. Through the technical assistance programs of the Organization of American States and the United Nations we contributed an additional $11.7 million. $80 million was granted as special aid. Under P. L. 480 legislation for the disposal of agricultural surpluses, the United States made available to Latin America $221 million. In 1957, the only year of its existence, a special fund authorized under the amendment sponsored by your distinguished Senator, Mr. Smathers, provided about $20 million of long-term credit for colonization, public health, and sanitation purposes. Through the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, of which we are members, Latin America drew down $160 million to meet balance-of-payments requirements and borrowed another $120 million. United States assistance to the other American Republics has also taken the form of our participation in financial stabilization programs amounting to over $200 million, consisting of U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve Bank, and IMF pledges of currency. These programs still serve as invisible partners, ever ready to lend a friendly helping hand to overcome monetary emergencies. Thanks to such a program, the rate of increase in the cost of living in Chile, for instance, was reduced by more than 50 percent in 1957, for the second consecutive year. This is a record of courage and determination of which the IbaƱez administration and the Chilean people can well be proud. The same might be said for the achievements of the other countries fighting back valiantly against the ravages of inflation.

    The current reports of Soviet trade offers were very well described by Secretary Dulles at his last press conference. (3) He pointed out the Communists always like to fish in troubled waters but concluded he did not think the Soviets would catch many unwary Latin American customers. And, the Secretary declared, if the need of Latin America grows as a result of its present economic difficulties, our desire to meet that need will correspondingly grow.

    What I feel is most important to grasp is that the Communists, no matter how ultranationalist their pretensions and protestations, are really not interested in helping solve Latin America's problems but rather in complicating them. For in their Marxist credo the end always justifies the mans.

Communism's Cancerous Threat

    If I have repeatedly emphasized the Communist use of nationalism as a Trojan horse of political penetration, it is because I consider such deception a most despicable betrayal of one of our most precious American heritages. The love of one's country is one of man's noblest sentiments. But, like the other great sentiments, it is susceptible to base exploitation, to a perversion that can convert the love of one's nation to a fierce chauvinism and to hatred for one's neighbor.  Our American system stands for genuine and legitimate love of nation. It is an ever-evolving system for national,self-realization. It calls for the kind of cooperation which will make it possible for each nation in our inter-American system to develop its human and natural resources so that its highest national aspirations will be fulfilled. Our American system is true international cooperation, for it is based on respect for national self-determination and on respect for the will to develop the national community, which is so alive in Latin America today.

    Communism, however, is the grave enemy of the national community. Whenever it penetrates, it seeks to disturb, to agitate, to subvert, to destroy. It is not a movement of conscience which seeks to bring to light the responsible quarrel with conditions as they are in order to improve those conditions. Its aim is to pick the quarrel which will confuse and destroy the national community, the quarrel which will paralyze the will to develop the nation, the quarrel which will pervert the love of nation to hate of one part of the nation for another part, and hate of the nation's neighbors.

    I bear great faith in our American system; I have an abiding belief in our common patriotic love of country; and I feel deeply that communism's cancerous threat to the national life of each of the 21 American Republics clearly exposes communism as the dangerous enemy of our finest traditions of nationhood.

    I am confident that I echo the sentiments of the leaders and the peoples of the Americas when I leave you with this closing thought-that there is no place in this God-given and God-fearing New World of 360 million souls for anything resembling the materialistic and atheistic concepts of godless communism.

1 Address made before a joint meeting of the Miami-Dade County Chamber of Commerce and the United Nations Association of Greater Miami at Miami, Fla.,on Jan, 14 (press release 10 dated Jan. 13)

2  BULLETIN of Sept. 16, 1957, p. 463.

3 Ibid., Jan. 27, 1958, p. 131.

* U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING Office: 1958 O--457088