ON THE WORLD TODAY
Axis propaganda is encountering increasing difficulties in Latin America. The Nazi members of the advertising firm are just as clever as they were during the years when we were jittery over the effects of their propaganda in the other Americas. But their propaganda now has much less to offer the Latin Americans in the way of plausibilities and beguilements.
Down to a few months ago, the thesis of an eventual Axis victory was at least faintly tenable. Now it is not. In result, Nazi propaganda more and more of late has resorted to a series of desperate and unconvincing lunges. The net effect of these has been to amuse Latin American audiences almost as much as those in the United States.
A striking instance of this tendency appears in the Nazi counterattack on the Central and South American journey of Vice President Henry A. Wallace. About the Wallace mission and the Wallace speeches the Nazis have constantly developed two lines of interpretation, of almost record incompatibility even for the Nazis. They are: (1) that Mr. Wallace has made his visits from Costa Rica to Chile as an agent of Wall Street imperialism ; and (2) that Mr. Wallace is also the spearhead of a plot for the bolshevization of Latin America and for the destruction of private property and religion in the southern republics.
The Japanese touch
The only point at which this record for glib irrationalities has been topped was in a communication from Tokyo, making the same general charges but insisting that the corrupting mission from the
United States was conducted by that prominent elected official, “Vice President Sumner Welles.”
For the Brazilians, the Nazi line achieved high burlesque. For, although the Vice President’s itinerary did not touch Brazil at all, or bring him within several thousand miles of Rio de Janeiro, the Nazis have strenuously insisted that one of the junket’s main objectives was to persuade Brazil to send a huge army to North Africa. Then United States troops could “take over" Brazil while its defenders were away fighting the treacherous Yankees’ battles for them.
Of course, from the Nazis’ point of view it may seem worth while at whatever cost to keep in circulation ideas that the United States is at one and the same time a Red menace and a financial octopus, as well as a treacherous ally. But, as the repercussions from the Wallace trip suggest, the cost is growing.
Some genuine gains
From our side, the Wallace trip was a distinct success, viewed as a propaganda operation. The Vice President spoke everywhere on subjects in which thoughtful groups in the Latin American republics have been most deeply interested: improved living and health standards; industrial development and wider trade opportunities; better social security measures; and, above all, the granting to the Latin American peoples of a legitimate place in world peace plans.
Mr. Wallace made short speeches on these points in his strongly accented but fluent and correct Spanish. He paid touchingly genuine tributes to Latin American leaders in these branches of progress, from Bolivar on down to the Chilean social security experts of today. Probably no traveling statesman ever spoke more effectively the language of inter-American friendship or made the coöperation of the Western Hemisphere republics for their mutual good seem more reasonable and practical. Against a personality like Wallace’s the Nazi technique of sneer and insinuation breaks its poisoned lances.
Big business speaks
Whether another important traveler bearing new light on inter-American plans and programs had equivalent success on his mission is somewhat more open to question. Shortly before the Vice President took off, Mr. Eric A. Johnston, President of the United States Chamber of Commerce, returned from a tour of leading Latin American countries with the information that the Latin American leaders do not wish to be helped toward prosperity by the United States on a WPA basis, but are hoping for great industrial and economic developments through the assistance of private capital and private enterprise.
Regardless of whether this WPA reference carried a slap at the methods of government financing by which most Latin American economic developments have been promoted from Washington during the emergency and war years - Mr. Johnston rather obviously was suggesting that major responsibility for Latin American economic progress in the post-war period should be returned to big banking and big business.
It is doubtful at the moment whether Mr. Johnston was as reassuring to Latin American public opinion generally as some of his business friends in South America unquestionably told him that he was. Most Latin American countries and governments have been happier under the system of government financing — mainly through the ExportImport Bank during the past few years—than they were in their former relations with Gringo big business.
Consequently, over against the backlog of impressions created by undertakings like the Wallace trip, suggestions along the Johnston pattern inevitably disturb considerable sectors of Latin American feeling. As the 1944 elections approach, increasing concern is bound to develop, both in and out of governments, over the post-war interAmerican policies and programs of the United States. Are they to be conducted in the orthodox spirit of the Good Neighbor policy or by political forces which are at least benevolently neutral toward the penetration plans of big business?
Fortunately, nothing concrete has happened on the American fronts to increase these latent doubts and hesitations. Indeed, developments on the economic fronts have been highly reassuring. Brazil has received an additional twenty-million-dollar Export-Import Bank advance to speed up construction of her new steel plant at Volta Redonda; and an additional fourteen million dollars for the important Victoria-Minas Railway and for developing her vast Itabira iron deposits.
Venezuela has enacted a new oil law raising royalties on production from 11 to 16 3/2 per cent, with no open complaints from the people whom the Nazis call “dangerous plutocratic imperialists.” The slow business of organizing a rubbergathering industry in the Amazon Valley appears finally to have reached a genuine operating stage.
The French colonies
On the political sector there are two potential hot spots: French Guiana, where a bloodless popular movement ousted the Vichy governor in March; and Martinique, where something along the same line seemed likely to happen to Admiral Georges Robert, Vichy Commissioner General for all the French colonies in the Americas. If the Guiana precedents are followed, the State Department will facilitate the appointment of Giraudist successors to the Vichy regime rather than de Gaullists.
This action is bound to intensify the rivalry between Giraud and de Gaulle partisans in quite a number of American capitals besides Washington. But it does not seem likely at the present writing that the State Department will be influenced by de Gaullist protests. The State Department, in fact, is thoroughly cheerful about the results of its policies toward the French American colonies. The feeling of the Department is that by letting the Martinique and Guiana situations “ride” since the fall of France, now nearly three years ago. the United States has escaped the embarrassments of either countenancing or conducting a military attack on lands within the American Hemisphere.