Latin America: US faces imperialist challenge in its own backyard

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The US war of independence, 1776-1783, helped unify the new bourgeois class in North America, defined the nation-state and, therefore, sped up the development of capitalism. The consolidation of capitalism as a system, along with the extension of the market, shaped the American bourgeoisie?s perception of the European colonial powers, then present in the American continent as dominant forces, as enemies to fight on the economic and military terrains. This aspect of the dynamic of capitalism led the US to develop the Monroe doctrine (1823), which it used to shape the diplomatic argument in support of the national independence movements in the Latin American countries. In fact, though, it would be a threat to the old colonial powers of Europe, insofar as the declaration of ?America for the Americans? presented by the Doctrine, served a mechanism for the American bourgeoisie to define the American continents as territory under its own domination, and thus designated Latin America as its own ?backyard?.

It is clear that the domination of the US on the continent is due to the economic difficulties in Latin America, which prevented the dynamic of accumulation of capital to occur at the same rate as in the North. We need to underline, though, that this backwardness is also attributed to political difficulties, which prevented the unification of the bourgeoisie and the perspective of the unification of the Latin American nation-states. The degree of dispersion was so high that well into the middle of the 19th century in a great part of the Latin American continent internal conflicts existed which destroyed the social fabric and did not allow capitalism to proceed in the destruction of the vestiges of old modes of production. About the understanding of how such conflicts cause a ?delay? in the development of history, Engels, following the same idea exposed by Marx in the ?Communist Review? #1, London, 1847, wrote in ?The Revolutionary Movements of 1847?: ?We have witnessed with satisfaction the defeat of Mexico by the United States. This represents an advancement, because when a country is up to its neck in imbroglio, perpetually weakened by civil wars and with no way out for its own development (?) when this country is forcefully pushed into historical development, we can?t help but regard this as a step forward. In the interests of its own development, it was appropriate that Mexico fell under the ?protection? of the United States.? The Politics of Strangulation: An expression of capitalist decadence

It was in this way that the development of capitalism in North America and the backwardness in the rest of the continent helped establish the ties of domination by Uncle Sam (1). By the end of the 19th century the US had widened its territorial extension through the military invasion of Mexico and the domination of Puerto Rico and Cuba with the Treaty of Paris (1898). Doubtlessly, this tendency was reinforced when the system entered its period of decadence, around the first decades of the 20th century. During this period, the US used the ?Roosevelt corollary?(1904) to justify its right to invade Latin American territories where American property was endangered. The US? threatening and belligerent attitude was confirmed by the expansion of its economic and military power over Panama and its canal. Although the US stayed out of the first imperialist butchery of 1914 until 1917, it continued to strengthen its dominance over all the Americas. Its power widened globally through its participation in the Second World War, and was consolidated through the formation of the Western Bloc and the beginning of the Cold War. During this period of imperialist struggles between the two blocs (US and USSR), the US did not cease to pay attention to and be aggressive toward its ?allies?, the minor Latin American imperialisms. The US took special care that the imperialist forces of the opposing bloc (the USSR) did not intrude in the continent (2). This situation gave birth to the Organization of American States, with programs such as the ?Alliance for Progress?, and the structuring of the ?Schools for the Americas? (founded in 1946 in Panama for the military training and the ?teaching? of torture to Latin American soldiers) along with military incursions, among others: Guatemala (1954), Dominican Republic (1965), Granada (1983. We should not forget the long list of coup d?etats directed by the US in the South American countries during the 70?s. The ?danger of the Soviet bloc? was used by the US as a pretext to justify its invasions of the Latin American countries. When the Soviet bloc fell the new ?world order? of peace and prosperity which the US promised did not materialize in Latin America or anywhere else in the world. Plan Colombia: Uncle Sam reasserts its power in Latin-America

Contrary to the propaganda spread by the bourgeoisie, the collapse of the Stalinist bloc has not brought the ?reign of peace?. Rather, the loss of the underlying reason for the adherence of imperialist countries in a bloc (the confrontation with the other bloc), formed the basis for the tendency toward continuous confrontations, and the loss of a lasting framework for cohesion. In this ?new order?, various imperialist forces have challenged the leadership of the US, to the point where they have established a presence in Latin America, violating the sanctity ofUncle Sam?s backyard. Since the fall of the Eastern bloc, anti-US feelings have proliferated within the every Latin American bourgeoisie, as in the case of Fujimori and his overtures to Japanese imperialism, the birth of the Zapatista National Liberation Front (EZLN), which is supported by various European imperialist powers, and the attention given to Cuba by European capital. Lately, H. Chavez of Venezuela has become a problem for the US, not because his government puts in question the capitalist relations of production, but because it can be converted into a beachhead through which rival imperialist forces can intervene in Venezuela and the rest of Latin America.

Faced with the continuous threat by its imperialist rivals, the US hopes to regain its leadership by means of force, as demonstrated in Iraq, and even if Latin America does not pose the same level of confrontation in terms of political, military, or economic strategic issues as the Middle East, and therefore does not require actions of the same magnitude, the necessity to strengthen US power over the area is not diminished. This is why with the so-called Plan Colombia (Pl-Co) (3), the US hopes to regain its power over the South American continent as a whole.

Using the fight against drug trafficking and the Colombian guerrillas -over which the US is more and more losing control, and which open the door to the support or the intervention of European capital- as a pretext, the US has implemented a process of militarization by which it will soon ?remind? the local bourgeoisies of which political alliances they have to follow. The US military presence is a threat for anti-US sentiments. Although it cannot mobilize a great number of soldiers (it has only deployed 500, officially), and its attention is for now focused on the Middle East, the US utilizes Colombian, Ecuadorian, Peruvian, and Panamanian soldiers in a military unit to keep control of the southern horn, opening out from Colombia..

This military project obviously shows how desperate North American capital is to regain lost terrain. Most importantly, this expresses the level of barbarism attained by capitalism. In fact, not only are the bombings of civilian populations activated (at levels that are at times greater than the ones reached in El Salvador during the confrontations of the 80?s against the guerrillas), but also, highly toxic chemicals are being used to destroy coca plantations (4), causing the displacement of great numbers of people who, in the process, become pauperized.

The implementation of Pl-Co has produced a slow but steady process which has not stopped in the face of the claims made by European imperialist powers. In October 2000, the spokesperson for the European Union (EU), Renaud Vignal, in an open criticism of the North American project said: ?Plan Colombia is not my plan?The position of the French government and the EU regarding Plan Colombia is that it?s not our business?. In the same way, at the 2nd Conference of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the European Union (ALCUE, 2002), the European powers made a ?subtle? critique of Pl-Co by calling for a ?negotiated solution?. This caused alarm in the US, and that?s why it has been fixed up a bit in certain areas which could raise doubts about its purpose or cause discontent among the Latin-American bourgeoisie. It was at the 3rd ALCUE (May 2004) that, although the US did not participate, its presence was felt through the announcement that the Mexican government, which traditionally has played the role of the US? ?best man? in Latin America, will establish ties with sectors of the Colombian guerrillas, in particular with the National Liberation Front to negotiate the disarmament. Ties will not be established with the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolutionarias de Colombia), which has been so close to the European Union that at the time of the government-FARC ?dialog? in 2002, the EU agreed to discuss financial support with the guerrillas. The US rapprochement with the NLF allows for the neutralization of forces over which the US had lost control, while at the same time preparing the terrain for a better development of its military adventure.

Latin America has been traditionally under the political control of the US, but if it is to be so in the future, it is necessary to strengthen the US military presence in order to stop ?the radical positions [which fuel] anti-American feelings?, as mentioned in the March 2004 report by J.Hill, Chief of the Southern Command.

Under these circumstances, the working class cannot take sides for any of the disputing imperialist forces. Neither can it get involved in the ?defense of the nation?. The only alternative the working class has in the face of the acceleration of war and barbarism in Latin America, as in the rest of the world, is the combat against the real cause of humanity?s sufferings: capitalism.

Tatlin, July 2004.


1. This process of domination is the product of the predatory nature of capitalism and it does not have a solution. This is why the nationalist and ?independentist? ideas postulated by the ?Latin-America economic school?, promoted by the UNO through CEPAL in the 60?s and 70?s, and which are nostalgically used today by the left apparatus of capital, are false.

2. It?s important to remember that in preparation for WWII the US led -or at least complacently allowed, as the British government expressed it ? the oil expropriation of Mexico. Although this benefited North American companies mostly, and above all the Sinclair Pierce Group, it also negatively affected the British oil companies, and, by means of the ?good neighbor policy?, the Mexican oil production became tied up with the US war economy.

3. Plan Colombia (1998) was initially called ?Plan of development for Colombia?s south?.

4. Some reporters point out that ?fusarim oxyporum? is spread indiscriminately. This chemical, they say, caused ebola in Africa.