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U.S. Intervention in Central America: Kellogg’s Charges of a Bolshevist Threat

By the early 20th century, U.S. companies dominated the economies of the five Central American republics, controlling most of the banana production, railroads, port facilities, mines, and banking institutions. This export-based economy also maintained a social hierarchy of a small number of large landowners and millions of landless peasants. Nicaragua offers a case study of both American domination of the region and local and international resistance to that domination. During the 19th century Nicaragua was among the main contenders for an interoceanic canal and thus drew major railroad and steamship investors from both Britain and the United States. The United States intervened in Nicaragua four times during the 1890s to protect U.S. economic interests during periods of political unrest. In 1912 U.S. marines landed once again to maintain a pro-American government; this occupation lasted until 1925. As this January 1927 memorandum submitted to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee indicated, Secretary of State Frank Kellogg justified U.S. occupation of Nicaragua on the basis of communist threats from Mexico and the Soviet Union. The United States brokered a peace treaty between Nicaraguan liberals and conservatives that allowed the two parties to share political power, but U.S. influence and economic power remained intact.

The Bolshevist leaders have had very definite ideas with respect to the role which Mexico and Latin America are to play in their general program of world revolution. They have set up as one of their fundamental tasks the destruction of what they term American imperialism as a necessary prerequisite to the successful development of the international revolutionary movement in the New World.

The propagation of Communistic ideas and principles in the various countries of Latin America is considered secondary to the carrying on of propaganda against the aims and policies of the United States.

Thus Latin America and Mexico are conceived as a base for activity against the United States. Communists in the United States have been repeatedly instructed to devote special attention to the struggle against “American imperialism” in Latin America and to the organization of resistance to the United States. Bolshevist aims in this respect were succinctly set forth in a resolution of the Third Congress of the Red International of Trade Unions, July 8 to 22, 1924, as follows. It was resolved:

"4—To unite the national struggle against American imperialism in individual countries in a movement on a scale of the whole American continent, embracing the workers of all countries of Latin America and the revolutionary forces of the United States. Mexico is a natural connecting link between the movement of the United States of North America and Latin America; therefore Mexico must be the centre of union.

“7—In the name of the Trade Union Educational League of the United States, to appeal to the toilers of Latin America with a call to create a united front against American imperialism.”

Similarly a representative of the American Communist Party speaking at the sixth session of the Enlarged Executive Committee of the Communist International on Feb. 4, 1926, declared:

“The last and most important task of our party is the fight against imperialism. The Communist Party of America must become the defender of the oppressed peoples of Latin America. The time is not long distant when Latin America will become the China of the Far West and Mexico the Canton of Latin America.”

In the theses approved at the sixth session of the Enlarged Executive Committee of the Communist International it is stated, with respect to Latin America:

“Latin America also can and must become a basis of support of the liberation movement against imperialism (against the imperialism of the United States). In the present state of things the nations living in Latin America are as a majority oppressed nations which sooner or later will be drawn into the struggle against the imperialism of the United States.”

During the past few years the Bolshevist leaders have been giving more and more attention to anti-American activities in Mexico and Latin America. The Communists in the United States have been criticized for not displaying sufficient energy in this sphere. Very specific instructions in this regard were issued to the Communists in the United States in the “resolution on the American Question” adopted at the sixth enlarged plenary session of the Executive Committee of the Communist International at Moscow on March 15, 1926.

It pointed out "to the American Communist Party the tremendous importance which the labor movement (and the movement for independence) is assuming in the countries of South America. There is no doubt that in the future struggle for the overthrow of the yoke of the bourgeoisie of the United States the working class and the peasantry of Latin America will play a tremendous role.

"The American Communist Party must not be a party of self-centered interests, but must become a party which understands how to raise the question of the hegemony of the proletariat in the whole movement for freedom which is directed against the imperialists of the United States. Moreover, it is necessary that the Workers (Communist) Party maintain the closest contact with the labor movement in the colonies of Cuba, the Philippines, &c., and support them in their fight against American imperialism.

In view of this the Executive Committee of the Communist International instructs the Central Committee of the American Communist part to devote the most serious attention to the tasks cited, and above all to appoint an earnest group of party workers to participate in the current work in Latin America in agreement with the presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International."

In accordance with Moscow’s instructions the American Communists during the last two years have been placing special emphasis on their anti-American work in Mexico and Latin America. Considerable attention was given to this matter at the fourth convention of the Worker’s (Communist) party in Chicago, Aug. 21–20, 1925. A special organization known as the All-American Anti-Imperialist League has been created by the American Communists to carry out the instructions of Moscow in the matter of organizing Latin America against the United States.

The following is taken from a report on “anti-Imperialist work” delivered at the Fourth National Convention referred to above:

"The fifth congress of the Communist International severely criticized nearly all the Communist parties in the imperialist countries for not carrying on a sufficiently energetic campaign against imperialism.

"Under the present Central Executive Committee the Workers' Party of America has for the first time made anti-imperialist work one of its basic activities. The outstanding feature of our work against American imperialism is that it has entered the field of active practical cooperation with the oppressed peoples of American imperialism, the most important step in this connection being the successful organization of the All-America Anti-Imperialistic League.

"In January of this year, 1925, a subcommittee was elected by the Central Executive Committee which assumed charge of all the anti-imperialistic activities of the party. This committee prepared material for campaigns, furnished articles on imperialism for the party press, drew up manifestoes and leaflets, and was the medium through which the party cooperated with anti-imperialist organizations in Latin America.

"Manifestoes were issued to the Cuban Labor Congress held at Havana, to the International Marine Transport Workers' Convention held at New Orleans, several manifestoes to the Mexican workers and to the Filipinos, a special May Day manifesto to the workers of Latin America, a manifesto in connection with the Tucna-Arica affair, and other manifestoes and leaflets which will be referred to later on.

"Direct contact with Mexico was maintained throughout the period, through the visits of Comrades Johnstone, Gomez and Lovestone to Mexico and through steady correspondence. Comrade Wagenknecht visited the Philippines and established connections there. Correspondence connections were also established with greater or less success, with practically every country in Latin-America as well as with Hawaii and the Philippines. Through our activities five Filipino delegates were secured for the International Transport Conference in Canton for which our party was commended by the Communist International.

“Our party has carried on a consistent campaign, both in this country and in Latin America, against the ”labor imperialism" of the so-called Pan American Federation of Labor. Comrade Johnstone attended the convention of the Pan American Federation of Labor at Mexico City in November of last year (1924) and cooperated with the Mexican party in its strategy in connection with this convention.

"Comrade Games was sent to Mexico in April of this year (1925) and attended the convention of the Communist party of Mexico as fraternal delegate from our party. During this visit plans for joint action of the Mexican, Central American and United States parties against imperialist policies of the Pan American Federation of Labor were adopted.

"Our party was largely instrumental in the establishment of the All-American Anti-Imperialist League, which, although organized only a few months ago and still in its initial stages, has aroused a real response in Latin America, despite the miserably small funds which we were able to put into this work. The All-American Anti-Imperialist League was endorsed by the Communist International and the Red International of labor unions.

"The league is a non-partisan international organization admitting to affiliation all groups in the Americas willing to take up the fight against American imperialism. It aims to give driving force and centralized expression to the national liberation movements in Latin America, Hawaii, the Philippines Islands &c., in alliance with the movement of this country.

"The All-America ‘Anti-Imperialist League’ has a special secretariat located in Mexico City, under whose supervision the monthly Spanish language organ of the league, which has now published five issues is edited, as well as special manifestoes, leaflets, &c. Our party has contributed toward defraying the expenses of the monthly magazine El Libertador and toward other expenses of the Mexico City secretariat, but lack of funds has made it impossible to give adequate support in this respect.

"A regular section of the All-America Anti-Imperialist League has been formed in Cuba, with Julio Astornio Mella as secretary, and is extremely active, holding mass meetings, lectures, &c. Labor, peasant and student organizations in Costa Rica, Panama, Salvador and Peru have affiliated with the league, but no regular sections have been formed in these countries as yet. Contacts have been established with some of the foremost intellectuals of Latin America, who are supporting the league and writing for its monthly organ.

"At the suggestion of our party, the league sent out the call for the observance throughout America of ‘Anti-Imperialist Week’ (June 29 to July 4) calling upon an anti-imperialist organizations in special literature to conduct mass meetings, hold demonstrations in front of American consulates and embassies, &c. Our party published a special leaflet for Anti-Imperialist Week and actively cooperated in its observance.

"Tentative plans are already being laid, also at the suggestion of our party for an All-America Anti-Imperialist congress to be held at Buenos Aires some time next year.

The fourth convention listed among the concrete tasks of the party:

"To carry on a systematic and active agitation against American imperialism, particularly in Latin America. To demand the withdrawal of American armed forces from foreign lands.

“To give active support to the activities of the All-America Anti-Imperialist League.”

The same convention adopted a lengthy resolution with respect to the struggle against American imperialism. This resolution pointed out that:

“There is sufficient homogeneity to permit the building of a powerful continental movement of workers and farmers against American imperialism, and sufficient resentment due to the occupation of the Central American and Caribbean countries, the sustaining of autocracies such as those of Venezuela and Peru by United States aid, the interference in the internal affairs of all of the countries, the system of financial and military advisers, the monopolistic Monroe Doctrine and the robbery of the tremendous natural resources of Latin-America.”

The resolution declared that there were “millions groaning under the American imperialist rule” in the Philippines, Porto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, &c., and that it was the task of the Communists to give active support to the anti-American movements in the various countries in Latin America. The resolution continues:

"42. There is a strong tradition of Latin American solidarity which is a historic force for the unification of the anti-imperialist movements of the various Latin American countries. This will be an important weapon in the struggle against Wall Street.

"The All-America Anti-Imperialist League was created as the expression of the liberating movement of all the exploited peoples of the Continent. The Workers Party took part in the creation. Represented in the league are also the Communist parties of Mexico, Central America and South America, as well as student groups, labor organizations, peasant leagues and national societies in various countries.

"43. For us the League constitutes an organizational expression of our determination to fight aide by side with the exploited peoples of America’s colonies and semi-colonies. While we strive to make the groups affiliated to the All-America Anti-Imperialist League recognize in the Communists and the Communist International, the leaders of the world struggle against imperialism, we must work conscientiously to build up the league itself, to push it into activity and to make of it a powerful driving force for the overthrow of American imperialism.

Plans for Joint Action.

"44. The following is our concrete program of joint action with the exploited peoples for the struggle against American imperialism:

"(a) Expose the purpose and methods of American imperialism everywhere.

"(b) Demand independence for all American colonies and unconditional withdrawal of American troops from Latin-American, Chinese and other foreign soil.

"(c) Actively support Latin-American strikes against American concerns.

"(d) Ideological and practical struggle against the doctrine of Pan-Americanism.

"(e) Expose and struggle against the so-called Pan-American Federation of Labor as an agency of American imperialism, and the Mexican and American parties shall work out joint plans for exposing the true character of the Pan-American Federation of Labor and propagate the idea of the formation of a Latin-American Labor Federation with anti-imperialist tendencies.

"(f) Interchange of delegates at conventions and close cooperation with the Communist Party of Latin-America; fraternal relations with the parties of the Far East.

"(g) Help build the All-American Anti-Imperialist League into a powerful organization for the overthrow of American imperialism.

"(h) Immediately strive to build up sections of the All-American Anti-Imperialist League in parts of the United States, through affiliation of resident organizations of Mexicans, Filipinos, Chinese, &c.

"(i) Support the proposed plan of the All-American Anti-Imperialist League for an All-American conference against imperialism.

“(j) The Machete, organ of the Mexican Communist Party, and El Libertador, organ of the Anti-Imperialist League (published in Mexico) should be circulated among the Spanish-speaking workers of the United States.”

The activities and plans of the American Communists as regards the organization of opposition to the United States in Mexico and Latin America are summed up admirably in a resolution passed by the Central Executive Committee of the Worker’s (Communist) Party on Nov. 12, 1926. This resolution reads as follows:

"The tasks of our party at the present time, as set forth in the resolution of the political committee are those presented by the conditions of imperialism. American imperialism is able to win over large sections of the American workers by . . . sharing with them a small part of super-profits and continues to extend its hegemony in foreign fields.

"However, the steady expansion of American capitalism upon an imperialist bases is accompanied by the enormous extension of the vulnerable surface which it presents to attack. Recent months have furnished striking evidence of the widespread movement for Latin-American unity against Wall Street.

"We cite particularly the present attitude of the Calles Government in Mexico—its general Latin Americanism, its policy in Central America, its tendency toward cooperation with the All-American, Anti-Imperialist League, and the decision of President Calles to send a personal representative to the Brussels World Conference Against Imperialism.

"The comintern has repeatedly indicated that a basic task of any party situated in an imperialist country is to stimulate and give aid to the nationalist and national revolutionary movements in the colonial and semi-colonial countries under the heel of imperialism. This, together with the work among the American masses, forms the basis of our party work.

"While our party has made considerable progress to anti-imperialist work, it is still far from a proper realization of the importance of this work. A far greater proportion of the party’s resources must be utilized in anti-imperialist activities, District executive committees must have standing subcommittees on anti-imperialist activity, and these must be directed by capable comrades. The party machinery on a district as well as a national scale must be drawn into this work.

"The anti-imperialist work has been greatly hampered by lack of sufficient comrades. The party must take measures to create and train a corps of comrades engaged directly in anti-imperialist work.

"In spite of many handicaps, we have done much to build the All-American Anti-Imperialist League into an organization engaged in actual struggle against imperialism. We have carried on systematic work inside of the Pan-American Federation of Labor and have achieved some valuable results there.

"We have participated in work against United States imperialism in a number of Latin-American countries, notably Mexico, Porto Rico, Cuba, Panama and Peru. We have also established some contact with the Philippine independence movement, although we have yet to establish our own nucleus there.

"The main task for the period immediately ahead is the building of a substantial section of the A. A. A. I. L. (All-American Anti-Imperialist League) in the United States itself. This will be accomplished through the affiliation of groups organized around specific issues, such as hands-off Mexico committees, &c.

“The Workers' (Communist) Party must remain the central factor in the United States section of the A. A. A. I. L., grouping around itself as closely as possible other working-class organizations.”

The significance of Mexico in the eyes of the so-called Soviet Government is revealed in the following extract from the report of Tchitcherin, made at the third session of the Union Central Executive Committee in March, 1925:

"Resumption of Diplomatic Relations with Mexico in America—In this matter we still stand before a question mark. But in this time we have succeeded in re-establishing diplomatic relations which give us a political base in the new continent with the neighbor of the United States, Mexico. The Mexican Government is based on the right trade unions and the radical small bourgeoisie.

“The Soviet Republic is extraordinarily popular in Mexico. Our plenipotentiary representative, Pestkovsky, met in Mexico the most enthusiastic reception, receiving constantly from all aides expressions of the most friendly, even enthusiastic, attitude toward the Soviet Republic. Mexico gives us thus a very convenient political base in America for the development of our further ties.”

As respects relations between the Soviet legation in Mexico City and Communist activities being carried on in Mexico there is the following evidence:

1. Statement by Mexican Labor Deputy Ricardo Trevino in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies on Sept. 19, 1925:

“I cannot say which are the better elements, whether our or the reds or those whom the Russian Minister brought. And on this point I must say that there are documents in which it is established that certain red and Communist elements receive money from the said Minister and from the Communists at Moscow in order to work along Communist lines in Mexico against the United States, whereby they would provoke an international conflict.”

2. A communication addressed to the Soviet Minister by the Central Committee of the Mexican Federation of Labor by direction of the seventh congress of that organization:

"To the Minister of Russia in Mexico City:

"On the other hand, there was also considered by the convention the report referring to the fact that in the diplomatic mission in your charge moral and economic support is lent to so-called Communist radical groups, the enemies of the Mexican Federation of Labor and of our Government.

“This Central Committee was ordered by the convention to inform you, in your character as representative of Russia, in Mexico, that the Mexican labor movement represented by this confederation maintains the principle that the workers of each country must be organized in accordance with their opinions and necessities, and that no nation has the right to impose, nor to lay down for another, the doctrine which must control its activities.”

Resolution adopted March 6, 1926, at the seventh annual convention of the Mexican Federation of Labor.

"• • • That a courteous invitation be extended by the Central Committee to the diplomatic representative of Russia accredited to Mexico, so that this office may abstain from lending mortal and economic support to the so-called radical group enemies of the Mexican Federation of Labor and of the Government.

Source: Memorandum submitted January 12, 1927, to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

See Also:"To Abolish the Monroe Doctrine": Proclamation from Augusto César Sandino
"Un Colombian con Sandino": U.S. Intervention in Central America