April 11, 2017

1947. U.S. Prestige Under Attack in the Americas

The World Divided
"Time to Bridge that Gulch" - Editorial cartoon by Bruce Russell, 1945
New York Times correspondent Bill Lawrence was a longtime friend and colleague of Bill Downs. In 1947 Lawrence wrote about Soviet propaganda in the Western Hemisphere aimed at eroding American influence. From The New York Times on January 1, 1947:
U.S. Prestige in Americas Is Under Wide Red Attack
Communist Propaganda Aided by Pan-Slav Movements—Russia 'Always Right'

A propaganda effort helpful only to the Soviet Union and harmful to the United States is under way throughout Latin America through formal channels of the Communist party, including its newspapers and radio stations. It is aided by the activities of Pan-Slav movements, "front" groups and, to some extent, by the official information service of the Latin American Federation of Labor (CTAL).

In brief, this propaganda preaches that wherever differences exist between the United States and the Soviet Union, Russia is right and the North American republic always is wrong.

The United States is pictured as a wealthy, wicked nation that, if it could not dominate the world economically, would not hesitate to use its atomic bomb to ravage the nations that were opposing it. Communist papers do not hesitate to fake news when necessary to blacken the reputation of the United States. They play upon the Latin Americans' ancient fears of the economic and military might of the "Colossus of the North," and chant constantly that every economic ill afflicting Latin American countries is owing to "Yanqui imperialism."

Uncle Sam Pictured as Ogre

Uncle Sam, as represented by President Truman, and Secretary of State Byrnes are portrayed as the disrupters of the "Big Three" unity that won the war and as the authors of a military-assistance plan that would enslave the Latin American countries and send their young men to fight on foreign soil as cannon fodder to aid imperialistic Wall Street circles.

On one day the atomic bomb is a terrible thing, which the United States should not seek to retain alone, but should share with the Soviet Union. On another day the effects of the atomic bomb are depreciated; the experiment at Bikini, first labeled as saber-rattling, is now dismissed as a puny thing that demonstrates that it was the entry of Russia into the Pacific war rather than the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that persuaded the Japanese to surrender at once.

As the Communist parties are unlikely to assume formal power in any Latin American country in the near future, it is the opinion of many Americans who have kept in close touch with the party's organizing and propaganda activities in Latin America that the most useful role the party can play at present is to diminish the influence of the United States and build up the prestige of the Soviet Union, thus dividing public opinion in the Western Hemisphere.

Moscow Views Well Known

This is not to say that it is possible to establish the direct contact of a Soviet agent with each anti-United States article that appears in the Communist press of Latin America. That is not necessary. Moscow's views are world news, transmitted by non-Communist newspapers, press associations and radio stations, and supplemented by a two-hour daily program in Spanish beamed by the Moscow radio to Latin America.

But, because the influence of the propaganda is to a certain extent minimized by the fact that it appears in newspapers openly labeled as Communist-minded, efforts are under way now in a number of Latin American republics to organize front groups, which would also serve Moscow's foreign policy aims more clandestinely.

The most important of these organizations are the Pan-Slav movements, which receive official Soviet encouragement, especially in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil. There are several hundred thousand immigrants from Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria in those Latin American countries.

These immigrant groups have their own foreign language newspapers and are most active in Argentina, where their foreign policy line accords with that of the Soviet Union and of the new regimes installed within the Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe.

Cultural Institutions Organized

In addition, the Soviet legations and embassies have organized cultural institutes and publish official information bulletins in a number of the countries. The cultural institutes provide an opportunity for direct Soviet contact with local populations and the leaders of pro-Soviet sentiment, but they have not been too successful. The official information bulletins do not have large circulations.

The assistance given to Soviet foreign policy by the official news bulletins of the Latin American Federation of Labor, sent to its affiliates throughout the hemisphere for republication in trade union papers, is important because it is not labeled Communistic. Those labor papers circulate among many persons who do not belong to the Communist party.

For the most part, the CTAL news sheet seems to carry a disproportionate amount of comment on foreign affairs, and this comment, reflecting the opinions of Vicente Lombardo Toledano, support, in general, the Moscow line, especially in its criticism of United States activity in China and Eastern Europe.

Editorial Reversals Needed

The Latin American newspapers most subject to Moscow influence reflect the often quick reversals of Soviet policy. For months the Communist papers denounced the activities of President Juan Perón in Argentina, but when the Soviet Union and Argentina established diplomatic relations, the same newspapers saw evidence of a democratic victory in President Perón's election against the opposition of the United States.

Because the news stories and editorials in the Communist press throughout the hemisphere are almost identical, a few examples of Soviet doctrine transmitted by the Communist press will indicate the kind of propaganda being fed the Latin American peoples.

The articles said the Americans got what they deserved when Yugoslav gunners shot down two military air transports for violating Yugoslav sovereignty.

They picture the Inter-American Military Aid Program as a great danger for Latin American countries, "which will see themselves submitted to the designs of a high military hierarchy that will dispose of all our resources for the organization of a great army ready to be sent to war."

They think United States troops should be withdrawn from China, but they are silent on the presence of Soviet troops.