Category Archives: Communism/Marxism/Maoism

The West Really Hates China

It appears that the Western public, both relatively ‘educated’ and thoroughly ignorant, could, after some persuasion, agree on certain very basic facts – for instance that Russia has historically been a victim of countless European aggressions, or that countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Iran or North Korea (DPRK) have never in modern history crossed the borders of foreign nations in order to attack, plunder or to overthrow governments.

OK, certainly, it would take some ‘persuasion’, but at least in specific circles of the otherwise hopelessly indoctrinated Western society, certain limited dialogue is still occasionally possible.

China is different. There is no ‘mercy’ for China in the West. By many standards, the greatest and one of the oldest cultures on Earth, has been systematically smeared, insulted, ridiculed and arrogantly judged by the opinion-makers, propagandists, ‘academia’ and mainstream press with seats in London, New York, Paris and many other places which the West itself calls the centers of ‘erudition’ and ‘freedom of information’.

Anti-Chinese messages are sometimes overt, but mostly thinly veiled. They are almost always racist and based on ignorance. And the horrifying reality is: they work!

They work for many reasons. One of them is that while the North Asians in general, and the Chinese people in particular, have been learning with zeal all about the rest of the world, the West is thoroughly ignorant about almost everything Asian and Chinese.

I personally conducted a series of simple but revealing ‘experiments’ in China, Korea and Japan, as well as in several countries of the West: while almost every North Asian child can easily identify at least a few basic ‘icons’ of Western culture, including Shakespeare and Mozart, most of the European university professors with PhDs could not name one single Korean film director, Chinese classical music composer, or a Japanese poet.

Westerners know nothing about Asia! Not 50% of them, now even 90%, but most likely somewhere in the area of 99.9%.

And it goes without saying, that Korea is producing some of the best art films in the world, while China and Japan are renowned for their exquisite classical art, as well as modern masterpieces.

In the West, the same ignorance extends to Chinese philosophy, its political system and history. In both Europe and North America, there is absolute darkness, withering ignorance, regarding the Chinese vision of the world. In Paris or Berlin, China is being judged exclusively by Western logic, by Western ‘analysts’, with unsurpassable arrogance.

Racism is the only fundamental explanation, although there are many other, secondary reasons for this state of affairs.

Western racism, which used to humiliate, attack and ruin China for centuries, has gradually changed its tactics and strategies. From the openly and colorfully insulting and vulgar, it has steadily evolved into something much more ‘refined’ but consistently manipulative.

The spiteful nature of the Western lexicon of superiority has not disappeared.

In the past, the West used to depict Chinese people as dirty animals. Gradually, it began depicting the Chinese Revolution as animalistic, as well as the entire Chinese system, throwing into the battle against the PRC and the Communist Party of China, such concepts and slogans as “human rights”.

We are not talking about human rights that could and should be applicable and respected in all parts of the world (like the right to life) protection for all the people of the Planet. That’s because it is clear that the most blatant violators of such rights have been, for many centuries, the Western countries.

If all humans were to be respected as equal beings, all countries of the West would have to be tried and indicted, then occupied and harshly punished for countless genocides and holocausts committed in the past and present. The charges would be clear: barbarity, theft, torture as well as the slaughter of hundreds of millions of people in Africa, the Middle East, what is now called Latin America, and, of course, almost everywhere in Asia. Some of the most heinous crimes of the West were committed against China and its people.

The ‘human rights’ concept, which the West is constantly using against China is ‘targeted’. Most of the accusations and ‘facts’ have been taken out of the context of what has been occurring on the global scale (now and in the history). Exclusively, Eurocentric views and ‘analyses’ have been applied. Chinese philosophy and logic have been fully ignored; never taken seriously. No one in the West asks the Chinese people what they really want (only the so-called ‘dissidents’ are allowed to speak through the mass media to the Western public). Such an approach is not supposed to defend or to help anybody; instead it is degrading, designed to cause maximum damage to the most populous country on Earth, to its unique system, and increasingly, to its important global standing.

It is obvious that the Western academia and mass media are funded by hundreds of millions and billions of dollars to censor the mainstream Chinese voices, and to promote dark anticommunist and anti-PRC nihilism.

I know one Irish academic based in North Asia, who used to teach in China. He told me, with pride, that he used to provoke Chinese students: “Do you know that Mao was a pedophile?” And he ridiculed those who challenged him and found his discourses distasteful.

But such an approach is quite acceptable for the Western academia based in Asia. Reverse the tables and imagine a Chinese academic who comes to London to teach Chinese language and culture, beginning his classes by asking the students whether they know that Churchill used to have sex with animals? What would happen? Would he get fired right away or at the end of the day?

*****

The West has no shame, and it is time for the entire world to understand this simple fact.

In the past, I have often compared this situation to some medieval village, attacked and plundered by brigands (The West). Food stores were ransacked, houses burned, women raped and children forced into slavery, then subjected to thorough brainwashing.

Any resistance was crushed, brutally. People were told to spy on each other, to expose “terrorists” and “dangerous elements” in society, in order to protect the occupation regime.

Only two “economic systems” were allowed – feudalism and capitalism.

If the villagers elected a mayor who was ready to defend their interests, the brigands would murder him, unceremoniously. Murder or overthrow him, so there would always be a status quo.

But there had to be some notion of justice, right?

Once in a while, the council of the brigands would catch a thief who had stolen few cucumbers or tomatoes. And they would then brag that they protect the people and the village. While everything had already been burned to ashes by them

Given the history and present of China, given the horrid and genocidal nature of the Western past, ancient and modern, given the fact that China is by all definitions, the most peaceful large nation on Earth, how can anybody in the West even pronounce the words like ‘human rights’, let alone criticize China, Russia, Cuba or any other country that it put on its hit-list?

Of course, China, Russia or Cuba are not “perfect countries” (there are no perfect countries on Earth, and there never will be), but should a thief and mass murderer be allowed to judge anybody?

Obviously yes! It is happening, constantly.

The West is unapologetic. It is because it is ignorant, thoroughly uninformed about its own past and present deeds, or conditioned to be uninformed. It is also because the West is truly a fundamentalist society, unable to analyze and to compare. It cannot see anymore.

What is being offered by its politicians and replicated by the servile academia and mass media, is totally twisted.

Almost the entire world is in the same condition as the village that I just described.

But it is China (and also Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, and other nations) that is being portrayed as villains and tormentors of the people. Black becomes white. War is peace. Slavery is freedom. A mass rapist is a peacemaker and a cop.

*****

Once again: The West hates China. Let us be totally honest.

China has to understand it, and act accordingly. Sooner rather than later.

As we have already determined, the hatred towards China is irrational, illogical, purely racist; mainly based to the superiority complex of Western “thinkers”.

But also, it is based on the subconscious fear of the Westerners that Chinese culture and its socialist system (with all its ‘imperfections’) are greatly superior to the culture of terror and thuggery spread throughout our Planet by both Europeans and then North Americans.

Several years ago, I was interviewed by various Chinese media outlets, including the legendary People’s Daily, China Radio International and CCTV (now CGTN).

They all wanted to know why, despite all those great efforts of China to befriend the world, there is so much Sino phobia in Western countries. I had to face the same question, again and again: “What else could we do? We tried everything… What else?”

Because of its tremendous hereditary optimism, the Chinese nation could not grasp one simple but essential fact: the more China does for the world, the less aggressively it behaves, the more it will be hated and demonized in the West. It is precisely because China is, unlike the West, trying to improve the lives of the entire planet Earth, that it will never be left in peace, it will never be prized, admired or learned from in such places like London, Paris or New York.

I replied to those who were interviewing me:

“They hate you, therefore you are doing something right!”

My answer, perhaps, sounded too cynical to the Chinese people. However, I wasn’t trying to be cynical. I was just trying to answer, honestly, a question about the psyche of Western culture, which has already murdered hundreds of millions of human beings, worldwide. It was, after all, the greatest European psychologist of all time, Carl Gustav Jung, who diagnosed Western culture as “pathology”.

But Who Really Hates China and How Much?

But let’s get numbers: who hates China and how much? Mainly, the Westerners – Europeans and North Americans. And Japan, which actually murdered tens of millions of Chinese people, plus China’s main regional rival, Vietnam.

Only 13% of the Japanese see China favorably, according to a Pew Research Center Poll conducted in 2017. 83% of the Japanese, a country which is the main ally of the West in Asia, see China “unfavorably”. In Italy which is hysterically anti-Chinese and scandalously racist at that, the ratio is 31% favorably, 59% unfavorably. Shocking? Of course, it is. But Germany does not fare much better, with 34% – 53%. The United States – 44% – 47%. France 44% – 52%. Entire half of Spanish nation sees China unfavorably – 43% – 43%.

Now something really shocking: the “rest of the world”. The numbers are totally the opposite! South Africa: 45% see China favorably, 32% unfavorably. Argentina 41% – 26%. Even the Philippines which is being pushed constantly by the West into confrontation with China: 55% favorably – 40% unfavorably. Indonesia that perpetrated several anti-Chinese pogroms and even banned the Chinese language after the US-sponsored coup in 1965: 55% favorably – 36% unfavorably. Mexico 43% – 23%. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: 52% – 29%. Chile 51% – 28%.

Then it gets even more interesting: Lebanon: 63% – 33%. Kenya: 54% – 21%. Brazil 52% – 25%. Tunisia 63% – 22%. Russia: 70% – 24%. Tanzania 63% – 15%. Senegal 64% – 10%. And the most populous country in Sub Saharan Africa, Nigeria – 72% – 13%.

The 2017 BBC World Service poll, Views of China’s influence by country, gives even more shocking results:

At the two extremes, in Spain, only 15% see China’s influence as positive, while 68% see it as negative. In Nigeria, 83% as positive and only 9% as negative.

Now, think for a while what these numbers really say.

Who is really benefiting from China’s growing importance on the world scene? Of course – the wretched of the Earth; the majority of our Planet! Who are those who are trying to stop China from helping the colonized and oppressed people? The old and new colonialist powers!

China is predominantly hated by Western imperialist countries (and by their client states, like Japan and South Korea), while it is loved by the Africans), most Asians and Latin Americans, as well as Russians.

Tell an African what is being said to the Europeans – about the negative or even “neo-imperialist”, influence of China on the African continent – and he or she will die laughing.

Just before submitting this essay, I received a comment from Kenya, from my comrade Booker Ngesa Omole, National Organizing Secretary, SDP-Kenya (Socialist):

The relationship of China and Kenya particularly and Africa generally has not only led to tremendous development both in infrastructure but also a genuine cultural exchange among the Chinese and African people, it has also made African people understand the Chinese people firsthand, away from the daily half-truths and lies generated against China and the Chinese people and transmitted en masse globally through the lie factories like CNN. It’s has also shown that there is a different way to relate to the so called development partners and the international capital, the Chinese have developed a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country as opposed to USA and Western Countries through IMF and World Bank who have imposed destructive policies on the continent that has led to the suffering and death of many African people, like that infamous Structural Adjustment Plan, that was a killer plan, after its implementation Kenyans unemployment skyrocketed, our country also became bankrupt .

Another comparison is the speed at which the projects are done, in the past we had a gruesome bureaucratic expensive process, which could take several years before any work could start on the ground. This has changed with the coming in of Chinese capital, we see the projects are being effected just in time, we see very high quality work contrary to what the western media want to portray that everything from China and Russia are fake before arrival.

*****

The Chinese system (Communism or socialism with Chinese characteristics), is in its essence truly internationalist.

As Chairman Mao Tse Tung wrote in his “Patriotism and Internationalism”:

Can a Communist, who is an internationalist, at the same time be a patriot? We hold that he not only can be but also must be… The victory of China and defeat of the invading imperialists will help the people of other countries…

Chairman Mao wrote this during the China’s liberation struggle against Japanese invaders. However, not much has really changed since then.

China is definitely willing and capable of putting much of the world devastated by Western imperialism, back onto its feet. It is big enough to do it, it is strong enough, it is determined and full of optimism.

The West produces, directly manufactures, crises and confrontations, like the one that took place in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, or the one that never really managed to ‘take off’ (mainly due to the disgust of the majority of the local people with the selfish and pro-Western protesters) in Hong Kong, in 2014.

However, those Western implants and proxies are all that most Europeans and North Americans know about China (PRC): ‘Human Rights’, Falun Gong, Tibet, Dalai Lama, ‘Northwest of the Country’ (here, they don’t remember, or cannot pronounce the names, but they were told in the mainstream Western media that China is doing ‘something sinister’ there, so that’s what they are repeating), Tiananmen Square, Ai Wei-Wei and few other disconnected barks, ‘events’, and names.

This is how this colossus with thousands of years of history, culture and philosophy, is perceived, judged, and how it is (mis-) understood.

The entire situation would be laughable, if it were not so tragic, so thoroughly appalling and dangerous.

It is becoming clear who really hates China: it is not the “world”, and it is not those countries on all the continents that have been brutalized and enslaved by the Western imperialists. There, China is loved.

Those who hate China are the nations which are not ready to let go of their de facto colonies. The nations who are used to a good, too good and too easy life at the expense of others. To them, historically egalitarian and now for many decades socialist/Communist (with Chinese characteristics) China poses a truly great threat. Threat – not to their survival or peaceful existence, but threat to their looting and raping of the world.

China’s internationalist attitude towards the world, its egalitarianism and humanism, its emphasis on hard work and the tremendous optimism of its people, may soon, very soon, break the horrid inertia and the lethargy injected by Europe and the United States into the veins of all raped, plundered and humiliated nations.

China Has Already Suffered Enough!

In his ground-breaking book “China Is Communist, Damn It!” a prominent China expert, Jeff Brown (who is presently based in Shenzhen) writes about the dehumanizing treatment, which the Chinese people had been receiving from Westerners, for centuries:

…untold numbers in the 19th century… were pressganged and kidnapped, to be sent to the New World to work as coolie slaves.

The racism conducted on these Chinese coolies was instructive. On the ocean voyage from China to Vancouver, Canada, they were tightly packed and kept in dark, poorly ventilated holds for the three-week trip, so they would not have any contact with the Whites traveling aboveboard. No sunlight, no fresh air. The crew on the ships routinely talked about these Chinese allies in terms of “livestock” and they were handled and treated as such. Actually, they were treated worse than cattle, pigs, sheep and horses, as there are laws that require animals get so much open air and exercise per day, while in transit…

This kind of inhumane treatment of Chinese citizens is dispassionately captured in the diaries of a British officer, charged with overseeing them,

‘As children, we were taught that Cain and Coolies were murderers from the beginning; no Coolie was to be trusted; he was a yellow dog… The task of stowing away Coolies is a tiresome one. In orders, it is alluded to as “embarkation”. By those experienced in the job, it is known more as “packing”. The Coolies are not passengers capable of finding each his cabin. The Coolies are so much cargo, livestock, which has to be packed away. While experiences are ceaselessly pressing upon him, his attitude towards existence is the attitude of a domesticated animal.’

British 2nd Lieutenant Daryl Klein, from his memoir, “With the Chinks”, spoken like a true Western imperial racist. Of course, chinks is the worst slur word to be used against the Chinese. It’s the equivalent of yellow nigger. The term Coolie is not any better. It’s like calling someone from Latin America a wetback. At least Lt. Klein was honest in his total dehumanization of the Dreaded Other.

There are countless examples of discrimination against, and humiliation of, the Chinese people by the Western colonialists, on the territory of China. The Chinese were literally butchered and enslaved in their own territory, by the Westerners and the Japanese.

However, there were also despicable crimes committed against Chinese people on the territory of the United States, including lynching, and other types of killing.

Hard working, many Chinese men were brought as slave laborers to the United States and to Europe, where they were often treated worse than animals. For no other reason but for just being Chinese. No apologies or compensation were ever offered for such acts of barbarity; not even decades and centuries later. Until now, there is a silence surrounding the topic, although one has to wonder whether it is really simple ‘silence’ that grows from ignorance, or whether it is something much more sinister; perhaps defiance and conscious or subconscious refusal to condemn the fruits of Western culture, which are imperialism, racism and consequently – fascism.

Gwen Sharp, PhD, wrote on June 20, 2014 for Sociological Images in his essay ‘Old “Yellow-Peril” Anti-Chinese Propaganda’:

Chinese men were stereotyped as degenerate heroin addicts whose presence encouraged prostitution, gambling, and other immoral activities.  A number of cities on the West Coast experienced riots in which Whites attacked Asians and destroyed Chinese sections of town. Riots in Seattle in 1886 resulted in practically the entire Chinese population being rounded up and forcibly sent to San Francisco. Similar situations in other towns encouraged Chinese workers scattered throughout the West to relocate, leading to the growth of Chinatowns in a few larger cities on the West Coast.

Throughout history, China and its people have suffered at the hands of Westerners, both Europeans and North Americans alike.

According to several academic and other sources, including a publication “History And Headlines” (History: October 9, 1740: Chinezenmoord, The Batavia Massacre):

On October 9, 1740, Dutch colonial overlords on the Island of Java (now a main island in Indonesia) in the port city of Batavia (now Jakarta, capital of Indonesia) went on a mad killing spree of ethnic cleansing and murdered about 10,000 ethnic Chinese. The Dutch word, “Chinezenmoord,” literally means “Chinese Murder.

Anti-Chinese massacres were also repeatedly committed by the Spanish occupiers of the Philippines, and there were countless other cases of anti-Chinese ethnic cleansing and massacres committed by the European colonialist administrations, in various parts of the world.

The ransacking of Beijing’s Summer Palace by French and British forces was one of the most atrocious crimes committed by Westerners on the territory of China. An outraged French novelist, Victor Hugo, then wrote:

We call ourselves civilized and them barbarians. Here is what Civilization has done to Barbarity.

*****

The West cannot treat Chinese people this way, anymore, but if it could get away with it, it definitely still would.

The superiority complex in both Europe and North America is powerful and unapologetic. There is real great danger that if unchecked and unopposed, it may soon terminate all life on our Planet. The final holocaust would be accompanied by self-righteous speeches, unrestrained arrogance, gasping ignorance of the state of the world, and generally no regrets.

Chinese people cannot be beaten on the streets of Europe or North America, anymore; they cannot be, at least theoretically, insulted directly in the face just for being Chinese (although that is still happening).

But there are many different ways to hurt and deeply injure a human being or the country.

My close friend, a brilliant Chinese concert pianist, Yuan Sheng, once told me, right after he left a well-paid teaching position in New York, and moved permanently back to Beijing:

In the United States, I used to cry late into the night, almost every night… I felt so helpless. Things they were saying about my country… And it was impossible to convince them that they were totally wrong!

Several years later, at the “First World Cultural Forum” held in Beijing, an Egyptian-French fellow thinker Amin Said argued that we are all victims of capitalism. I strongly disagreed, and confronted him there, in Beijing, and later in Moscow where we spoke, again, side by side.

Western bigotry, brutality and imperialism are much older than capitalism. I believe that the things are precisely the opposite: Western violent culture is the core of the savage capitalism.

Recently, while addressing students and teachers at one of old alternative and officially progressive schools in Scandinavia, I finally understood the scope of the creeping anti-Chinese sentiments in Europe.

During my presentation about the global conflicts being fueled by the United States and Europe, the audience was silent and attentive. I spoke at a huge hall, addressing some 2 – 3 hundred people, most of them future educators.

There was some sort of standing ovation. Then questions. Then discussion over coffee. There, precisely then, things got very wrong.

A girl came and with an angelic smiled uttered: “Sorry, I know nothing about China…. But what about the Northwest of the country?”

The northwest of China is a few times bigger than Scandinavia. Could she be more specific? No, she couldn’t: “You know, the human rights… Minorities…”

An Italian girl approached me, saying she is studying philosophy. The same line of questions: “I don’t know much about China, but…” Then her questions got aggressive: “What do you mean when you talk about ‘China’s humanism?’”

She was not asking, she was attacking. I snapped at her: “You don’t want to listen, you simply want to hear yourself repeating what they brainwashed you with.”

One of the organizers of the conference hated my interaction with her spoiled, rude, self-centered and uneducated brats. I could not care less. I told her directly to her face.

“Then why did you accept the invitation to be a keynote speaker?” she asked. I answered, honestly: “To study the Europeans, anthropologically. To face your racism and ignorance.”

Next day, the same. I showed my shocking documentary film Rwanda Gambit about how the West created the totally false Rwanda narrative, and how it triggered real genocide, that in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

But all that the audience wanted to discuss was China!

One said: “I saw a Chinese government company building two sports stadiums in Zambia. Isn’t it strange?”

Really? Strange? The Chinese health system is mainly based on prevention and it is successful. Building stadiums is a crime?

Another one recalled that in West Africa, “China was planting cashew nuts.” That was supposed to match centuries of horrors of Western colonialism, the mass murder and slavery of hundreds of millions of Africans at the hands of the Brits, French, Germans, Belgians and others.

At the airport, leaving back for Asia, I wanted to throw up and simultaneously, to shout from joy. I was going home, leaving this brainwashed continent – this intellectual bordello behind.

The West was beyond salvation. It will not stop or repent.

It can only be stopped, and it has to be stopped.

*****

Jeff Brown in his book China Is Communist, Damn It! pointed out one essential difference between the Chinese and Western mindset:

China and the West could not be more different. Western civilization is founded on Greek philosophy, culture, politics and economy. Ancient Greece was composed of hundreds of relatively small, independent city-states, which on a daily basis, were comparatively isolated from each other. They were separated by water or mountain ranges, ensconced in bays and valleys. Each city-state’s population could usually be counted in the thousands, not millions. There were a number of different dialects, with varying degrees of mutual comprehension, from familiar to total misunderstanding. Contact with each other was based on commerce and trade, grounding Western economy in the precepts of capitalism. The notion of personal agency in the West is founded in this economic system, where farmers, landowners, merchants and craftsmen were able to work and make business decisions individually, between themselves. Each city-state had its own independent government and over the centuries, there were phases of monarchy, oligarchy, tyranny and democracy. Local wars were frequent, to settle disagreements. These battles happened steadily, as ancient Greece’s agricultural production was not abundant, due to poor soils and limited tillable land. When food became scarce with droughts, agricultural trade could be interrupted, due to shortages, thus stoking the need for war, to reclaim the lost purchases of food.

Ancient and modern China could not be more radically different. Life, the economy and development all revolved around a large central government, headed by the emperor. Instead of being based on trade and commerce, China’s economy has always been founded on agricultural production and the harvests were and still are largely sold to the state. Why? Because the government is expected to maintain the Heavenly Mandate, which means making sure that all of the citizens have enough to eat. Therefore, farmers always knew that the grain they grew could very easily end up in another part of China, because of distant droughts. This whole idea of central planning extended to flood control. Communities in one area of China would be tasked to build dams or canals, not to help reduce flood risk for themselves, but for other citizens far away, downstream, all for the collective good.

The idea of independent city-states is anathema in China, as it always signaled a breakdown in the central power’s cohesion and governance, from border to border, leading to warlordism, strife and hunger.

Chinese socialist (or call it Communist) system has clearly roots in China’s ancient history.

It is based on sharing and cooperation, on solidarity and harmony.

It is a much more suitable system for humanity, than what the West spread by force to all corners of the world.

When the West succeeds in something, it feels that it has “won”. It drives the banner pole into the earth, gets some fermented drink to celebrate, and feels superior, unique.

China thinks differently: “if our neighbors are doing well and are at peace, then China will prosper too, and will enjoy peace. We can trade, we can visit each other, exchange ideas.”

In the ancient days Chinese ships used to visit Africa, what is now Somalia and Kenya. The ships were huge. In those days, Europe had nothing so enormous at its disposal. Chinese ships were armed against the pirates, but they mainly travelled with scribes, scholars, doctors and researchers.

When they reached the African shore, they made contacts with the locals. They studied each other, exchanged gifts (some Chinese pottery and ceramics are still being found near the island of Lamu).

There was not much common ground between those two cultures, at that time. The Chinese scribes recorded: “This is not yet right time for permanent contact”. They left gifts on the shore, and sailed home. Nobody died. Nobody was “converted”. No one was raped. African land still belonged to Africans. African people were free to do what they chose.

A century or two later, the Westerners arrived…

*****

I know China, but even better, I know the world in which China operates.

The more I see, the more I am impressed – I actually want China to be everywhere, and as soon as possible!

I have worked in all the tiny and large nations of Oceania (Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia), except in Niue and Nauru. There, the West divided this gorgeous and once proud part of the world, created bizarre borders, literally forced people to eat shit (dumping animal food in local stores), burdened them with foreign loans and introduced a culture of dependency and destruction (nuclear experiments, and military bases). Due to global warming, RMI, Kiribati and Tuwalu began “sinking” (in reality, the water is rising).

China came, with real internationalist determination. It began doing everything right – planting mangroves, building sport facilities for people in countries where over half of the population has to often live with diabetes. It constructed government buildings, hospitals, schools. The response of the West? They encouraged Taiwan to come, bribe the local governments and to make them recognize Taipei as the capital of an independent country, forcing China to break diplomatic relationships.

In Africa, I saw Chinese people building roads, railroads, even city trams, schools, hospitals, fighting malaria. This continent was only plundered by the West. Europeans and North Americans built nothing there. China did, and still does, miracles. Out of solidarity, out of internationalist principles so clearly defined decades ago by Chairman Mao.

And I don’t really care what the Western propagandists and ideologues think about the Chinese Communist Party, about Mao and about President Xi Jinping. I see results! I see China, huge, compassionate and confident, rising, and with its close allies like Russia, ready to defend the world.

China saved Cuba. The Western “left-wing” intellectuals said nothing about it. I did. I was attacked. Then, Fidel personally confirmed that I was correct.

China helped Venezuela and it helped Syria. Not for profit, but because it was its internationalist duty.

Saw China in action in East Timor, (Timor Leste), a tiny poor country that the West sacrificed, delivering it on a silver platter to the murderous Indonesian dictator Suharto and his military cronies. 30% of the people were brutally massacred. After independence, Australia began robbing the weak new government of the natural gas in a disputed area. China came in, built the energy sector and an excellent modern hospital (public), staffed with top Chinese surgeons (while Cuba sent field doctors).

Afghanistan? After 16 years of monstrous NATO occupation, this once proud and progressive (before the West manufactured terrorist movements there, to fight socialism) country is one of the poorest on Earth. The West built walls, barbed wire fences, military bases and total misery. China? China built a huge modern hospital wing, actually the only decent and functioning public medical facility in the country.

These are just some of many examples that I have been witnessing during my work, all over the world.

When I lived in Africa (I was based in Nairobi for several years), across the floor was a flat housing four Chinese engineers.

While the Westerners in Africa are almost always secretive, snobbish and arrogant, this group of Chinese builders was loud, enthusiastic and always in a great mood. They power-walked downstairs, in the garden, they ate, joked together. They looked like a good old “socialist realism” poster. They were clearly on a mission. They were building, trying to save the continent. And it was so clear how confident they were.

They were building, and I was making documentary films about what the West did to Africa, including my above-mentioned Rwanda Gambit.

It was clear where I stood. It was clear where the Chinese engineers stood. We stood with the people of Africa. Firmly. No matter what the Western propaganda, academia and mass media keep inventing, that is where we stood, and that is where we are standing right now, although geographically far apart. Once comrades, always comrades. And if we fall, that is how we fall – with no regrets, building a much better world.

And the people of Africa, of Oceania, Latin America and increasingly of Asia, are beginning to realize, to understand.

They are learning what The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is. They are learning about “Ecological Civilization“. They are slowly learning that not everyone is the same; that each country has a different culture and goals. They are learning that not everything in life is a lie or for profit. Yes, of course, resources are not unlimited and expenses have to be sometimes covered, but there is much more to life than just cold calculations.

The West and its client states cannot understand this. Or they can, but do not want to. As a moral entity, they are finished. They can only fight for their own interests, as their workers in Paris are only fighting for their own benefits; definitely not for the world.

The West tries to smear everything that is pure and it repeats that “everyone in this world is essentially the same” (a thief).

Their (mainly Western, but also South Korean, Taiwanese, Hong Kong and Japanese) academia is deeply involved. It has already infiltrated the entire world, particularly Asia, including China itself. It teaches young Chinese people that their country is actually not what they think it is! At some point, Chinese students were travelling to the West, in order to study… about China!

North American and European universities are spreading funding and trying to manipulate the best Chinese minds.

In other parts of Asia, again through funding and scholarships, the local academics “get matched” with the anti-Communist and pro-Western counterparts that operate at the universities inside the PRC.

This problem has been, fortunately, identified in the PRC, and the shameless attacks against the Chinese education system are being dealt with.

Mass media and bookstores are not far behind. Anti-Chinese propaganda is everywhere. Anti-Communist propaganda is everywhere.

Yet, China is rising. It is rising despite racism, the lies, and fake news.

Socialist, internationalist China is slowly but confidently marching forward, without confronting anyone, without making too much noise about the unfair, aggressive treatment it receives in the West and from countries like Japan.

It appears that its leadership has nerves of steel. Or perhaps those long thousands of years of great culture are simply allowed to speak for themselves.

When a great Dragon flies, you can bark, shout insults, even shoot at it. It is too big, too ancient, too wise and determined: it will not stop, turn back or fall from the sky. And when the people on Earth have enough time to observe it in its full glory and in full flight, they may, just finally may understand that the creature is not only mighty, but also tremendously beautiful and kind.

*****

• Originally published by New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Semper Fidelis or Das Kapital Uber Alles: From Eisenhower to Trump!

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

— Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)

I don’t think so. I think that the – the hook for many of our supporters was the idea that this was an unusual messenger for an important environmental message. You know, people who support environmental issues are constantly trying to find a way to preach beyond the choir, to reach beyond their base of people who are already on board, and I think one of the things that’s very appealing about the film, but primarily Jerry as a messenger, is that you don’t expect this message to come from a career military person.

And through Jerry, you’re – we’ve been able to reach this audience of military folks who maybe wouldn’t be attuned to the environmental message about the effects of toxins on health and things like that. So I think there was a real appeal to many of those organizations from that perspective.

— Rachel Libert, co-producer of filmSemper Fi

I’m thinking harder and harder about the Continuing Criminal Enterprise that is the Corporate State. Thinking hard about the buffoonery, really, “regular” citizens, and members of the armed services, taking hook-line-and-sinker the foundational belief that it’s we the people, by the people, for the people, because of the people.

How wrong my old man was, 32 years combined Air Force and Army, believing he was upholding some decency, some safety nets for all, old folks homes, jobs for college grads and those without any training. Turning in his grave, absolutely, if he could now witness the evisceration of our post office, libraries, public schools, health care, roads and infrastructure. He fought for government oversight, EPA, FDA, and the rights of nature over the thuggery of madmen and Mafiosi and financial philanderers. He witnessed the abuse and fraud of the US Military Lobbying Corporate Ripoff complex, up close and personal. When he was in Korea, he had the utmost respect for Koreans, on both sides of the line. When he was in Vietnam, he had the utmost respect for the Vietnamese. He taught me the words of General Smedley Butler when I was 12. Now how fucked up is that, man. Living half a century on that graveyard of lies, propaganda and insufferable patriotism.

Daily, that American exceptionalist clarion call is pummeled and delegitimized by purveyors of Capitalism – rapacious, arbitrary, steeped in usury, couched in profits over all, cemented by the few elites and their soldiers – Little Eichmann’s – to define all human and non-human life as anything for the taking, consequences be damned. It’s a bought and sold and resell system, United States. Many times, it’s a rip-off after rip-off system of penalties and penury.

Think of Capitalism as, in spite of the people, against the people, forever exploiting the masses. Daily, I have seen this played out as a kid living on military bases around the world; or in just one of a hundred examples, as a student at the University of Arizona watching white purveyors of capital squash the sacred mountain, Mount Graham, in the name of telescopes and tens of thousands of profits per hour for anyone wanting to peer through the scopes. Sticking to the Sonora, I saw the developers in Tucson and then in Kino Bay, Guaymas, all there to push ecosystems toward extinction and to hobble the people – of, for, by, because – with centuries of collective debt and decades of individual fines, levies, taxes, penalties, tolls, externalities. This has been a Greek tragedy of monumental proportions, my 61 years of hard living, shaped by Marxist ideology and informed with communitarian reality.

Name a system or an issue, and then I quickly and easily jump to the cause and effect of the problem, and searching for intended and unintended consequences, and then comprehending shifting baselines, and then inevitably, realizing the tragedy of the commons tied to anything enshrined in consumer capitalism, and then, finally, acceding to the full context of how exponential growth and the limits of growth all come pounding like an aneurysm into my brain.

Call it death by a thousand rules, death by a thousand loopholes, death by a thousand fine print clauses, death by a thousand new chemicals polluting land, soil, air, water, flesh. Death by another thousand PT Barnum adages from dozens of financial-extracting arenas — “a sucker is born every minute,” all tributes to this casino-vulture-predatory capitalism which is insanity as we go to war for, because, despite it all.

Teacher-journalist-social worker-activist-unionist: Who the hell said I had any place in this society of “money takes/speaks/controls/shapes all,” or the Holly-dirt celebrity that is Weinstein or Rosanne Barr, the lot of them, and the unending perversion of big business-big media-big energy-big finance-big pharma-big arms manufacturing-big war as the new coded and DNA-embedded value system, the existential crisis (hog) of culture, civil society, the commons, community, and nature?

The men and women I work with now, after a cavalcade of careers under my belt, are wounded soldiers, sometimes wounded warriors, and many times wounded children – both the inner child and the literal children of soldiers. We’ve had one-day-old babies and 83-year-old veterans in this shelter. Every type of service, every type of discharge, every kind of military history. Some were never deployed overseas, some were but in support capacities, and others saw combat.

That is the microcosm of society reflected in this homeless shelter. I’ve written about it here and here and here. The prevailing winds of one or two strikes, then one or two bad debts, then one or two evictions, or one or two convictions, and, one or two co-occurring maladies, or one or two levels of trauma, and you are almost out; and mix that up with failed relationships, and capitalism and militarism, joined at the hip like a six-legged frog, and we have homelessness. Living in garages, in mini-vans, on couches, in tents, on floors, in wooden boxes, in abandoned buildings, in cemeteries, in cars.

For veterans, there is some level of dysfunctional help through the VA, the medical and dental system, the psych wards, and with housing vouchers and some debt relief. Thank a veteran for his or her service to the country, well, that’s a sloppy invocation of superficial respect.

The crumbs of the octopus that is capitalism wedded to war trickle down to some sectors of society – those who were diagnosed before 18 with some developmental-psychological-intellectual disability and veterans who served. I am talking about vets who didn’t go full-bore and retire after 20-plus years. These vets sometimes ended up in for four or five years, some a few months, and as is the case, here, the hierarchy of character and demographics kicks in, as veterans deployed to war and those who were wounded in war get a higher level of “benefits” than, say, someone who was in a few months or a year with no splashy combat rejoinder to his or her record.

We have vets in continuous, long bureaucratic lines working on their service connected disability claims, and, it’s sometimes a huge Sisyphus game of producing medical record after medical record going up against the hydra of the US government, Arms Service Committee pols, and the western medical system that was bound for failure after the striped barber pole days ended. The military does not help, denying injuries on the job, in combat or otherwise.

Tinnitus or loss of hearing, well, that’s usually a given after even a few months of service in the military. Knees, hips, feet, back problems. Anxiety, depression, skin issues. Kidney, teeth, TBI issues. PTSD and MST (military sexual trauma). The list is a ten-volume encyclopedia.

What I’ve found is most guys and gals are not wired for the obscene confusion, machismo and endless stupidity of repetition and humiliation of barking dehumanizing orders and tasks coming out of service to our country – all branches of the military make the Sanford Prison Experiment look like a walk in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

A Documentary About Cover-up, Collective Guilt, Toxins in the Water, Death

The precipitating factor behind a review of a 2011 documentary, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, directed and produced by Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon, is I am working with a former Marine client as his social worker. In a homeless shelter for veterans; that moniker – social worker — is a deep one, a cover-all assignment, with wide ranging responsibilities, some anticipated and others surprisingly serendipitous.

His case, age 63, former Marine, in at age 17 with parents’ permission, is complicated – as if the other cases are not. A lot of these cases involve young men and women, virtually boys and girls, getting out of Dodge. Some with a sense of patriotism, for sure, and a few with aspirations of turning the military into a career. But make no bones about it, these people many times got caught up in the rah-rah patriotism of the day, Apple Pie, Mom, Hot Dogs and Football. Some were in it for the macho badge, and others wanted to learn avionics, electronics, logistics and nursing, etc. Many were discharged because of physical injuries or some sort of mental strain, or many were rifted for the unjust downright downsizing.

I’ll call my man Larry, and he grew up on the Oregon Coast, ending up hitching up with the Marine Corps because he wanted out of bubble of the small town and wanted in with a band of brothers.

Today, he is still tall, but a bit hunched over. His face is frozen in a heavy screen of sadness and fear. Both hands he is attempting to calm, but Parkinsonian tremors have taken over; he can’t hold a tray of food and drink, and he has no signature left. He has bruises on his arms and shines from falling over, tripping. He repeats himself, and knows it, telling me his words are coming out slurred.

He spent two years in prison for what amounts to minor (in my mind) medical fraud with his company. Those two years, he tells me, were nirvana. “The prison guards told me they had never anyone say they were glad to be in prison. I told them this was the calmest and most level I had ever been, or for at least years.”

His life was one of overwork, overreach, clients all over the Pacific Northwest, gambling addiction, big money from his business, lot of toys and big home, and children who ended up spoiled and broken as adults. Larry’s juggling a hoarder wife whose mother is dying, a heroin-addicted daughter with a child, another daughter in an abusive relationship, and countless appointments now to the VA, psychologists, counselors, OT and PT professionals, and support groups.

Today, he is quickly slipping into miasma of Parkinson’s, with all the symptoms and negative cycles of someone with Parkinson’s hitting him daily. He barely got a diagnosis, as early on-set, a few months ago; in fact, he’s been living with the Parkinsonian-triggered suite of maladies for up to 12 years, he tells me. “I remember my clients telling me I was repeating myself. I really think the stupid decision to defraud the state for a few hundred dollars was triggered by Parkinson’s.”

He and I have talked to support groups, looked at the literature around Parkinson’s, watched TED Talk’s focusing on the disease, gone to Michael J. Fox’s web site, and just honed in on what his life will be like in a year, two years, and five.

Right now, his Parkinson’s is one of nine major maladies tied to service connected disabilities the VA is now processing. This ties into the movie – Semper Fi – because my client was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, as part of the Marine Corps where learning the art of war was also combined with the silent spring of water contamination that eventually resulted in diseases that both affected the veterans but also their families, and civilians who used the water, as well as their offspring.

This is a three decades long exposure, 1957 – 1987, with an estimated 750,000 to 1,000,000 people who may been exposed to the cancer- and neurological disorder-causing chemicals. They consumed and bathed in tap water contaminated with “extremely high concentrations of toxic chemicals.”

The documentary follows three main protagonists fighting for their lives, the legacy of loved ones who were affected, and for the truth.

This is Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and according to the epidemiologists and scientists from the National Academy of Sciences, it is one of largest water contamination incidents in US history. We learn in the film the main carcinogens the people were exposed to — benzene, vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene (TCE), three known human carcinogens, in addition to perchloroethylene (PCE), a probable carcinogen.

The list of physical damage caused by exposure is long — Birth Defects, Leukemia, Neurological Damage, Bladder Cancer, Liver Damage, Ovarian Cancer, Breast Cancer, Lymphoma, Prostate Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Lung Cancer, Scleroderma, Kidney Damage, Miscarriage, Skin Disorders.

My guy Larry is afraid of watching the documentary, as he is now in a spiraling malaise and deep anxiety tied to the reality of what life with Parkinson’s is, and that maybe many of his life decisions, from infidelity in a marriage to spontaneous behavior like gambling addiction may have stemmed from the stripping of his neurological web by these solvents and fuels that were leaking into the water supply, a contamination known by the United States’ Marines.

Knowledge is power but it can be a leveling power, one that forces people to look at the totality of their lives as may be based on a stack of lies and false ideologies. The movie reveals to the audience that this is one of 130 military sites in the USA with contamination issues. Alas, as I’ve written about before, the US military is the largest polluter in the world, and other militaries have the same standards or lack thereof for storing fuel, solvents, cleaners and other chemicals utilized in the war machine of the West.

Three Lives Following the Chemical Trail, Lies and Deceit

The documentary looks at three lives intensely – a 24-year veteran of the Marines whose 9-year-old daughter Janey died of a rare type of leukemia, a man who was born on the base and raised there and then developed male breast cancer, and a female Marine who served years at the Camp and who throughout the film is going through chemo to fight her rare disease.

We see the gravestones at the military cemetery at Camp Lejeune and remarkable typographic evidence of strange deaths – babies buried after a day living, stillborn babies buried, families with two or three deceased individuals, the offspring of serving Marines buried in plots surrounded by others who prematurely died.

Jerry Ensminger, the former drill sergeant, pushes hard to attempt to understand how the Marines could have lied and covered up the years of contamination. He fights to understand how the chemical producers through their lobbyists could hold sway over the common sense duty of protecting the citizens of the United States who swore an oath to defend the US Constitution. In the end, Jerry Ensminger (Janey’s dad), Michael Partain (male breast cancer survivor), and Danita McCall (former Marine enlisted soldier) make for compelling film making, since the project went on for four years.

Here, Rachel, the co-producer, talks about Danita:

The woman who shook her head is a woman named Danita, who we also followed in the film. When we met Danita, she was actually healthy, but shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with cancer that honestly had metastasized so much in her body that I don’t think they could even say what the organ of – you know, what organ it started in. And we began to – in addition to following Jerry and Tom and the others, we also followed Danita as she fought to stay alive, as well as fought to get this issue out.

She did not make it in the time that we were making the film. And neither my co-director or I had ever experienced that in a project we’d worked on, and it was really hard. But Danita felt very strongly that her story should be in the film, and she – even though there were times where she was not feeling so great when we were trying to film her, because she had chemo treatment and whatnot, she really rallied through.

The ultimate sacrifice fighting for your life because of chemical-toxin induced cancers are eating at your very soul while also going up against the PR and hellish propaganda systems that define America, define the powerful, the political, the lobbies, the Captains of Industry, in this case, the chemical purveyors who have been given carte blanc the right to kill entire neighborhoods and classes of people and non-people species because Capitalism is predicated on unfettered rights of any snake oil salesman or demon shyster to bilk, bust, and bill for all the disease they perpetrate. Is anyone with a sound mind going to believe that Agent Orange and PCBs were not already deemed harmful to human life before they were even sprayed on the innocents of Vietnam? Does anyone believe the polluted, lead-flecked water of Flint doesn’t kill brain cells? Off-gassing, Volitile Organic Compounds, plastics, solvents, flame retardants, pesticides, fungicides, diesel fumes, nitrous oxide, fluoride, well, the list goes on and on, and those demons will hide, obfuscate, and downright lie to keep the pennies from Capitalism’s Heaven falling into their fat, off-shore, tax-free bank accounts.

Here, Jerry, talking to C-SPAN:

When any family ever have a child, especially a child, that’s diagnosed with a long-term catastrophic illness, without exception — because I’ve talked to so many other families, when Janey was sic– the first thing after you have a chance to sit down after the shock of the diagnosis wears off is that nagging question: Why? Well, I was no exception.
And I looked into her mother’s family history, my family history, no other child had ever been diagnosed with cancer.

We are talking about over one thousand Freedom of Information requests to have Navy, Marines and other government agency files open for public viewing. The concept of we the people, by the people, for the people – public health, safety, welfare – has never really been a reality, but a myth. For filmmaker Rachel Libert, she too has been caught with wide open eyes around how rotten the systems in place are for supposedly cross-checking and protecting people’s lives:

It’s been eye-opening for me. I think the thing that was probably the most eye-opening – I don’t consider myself a naive person, but I – I actually believed that our regulatory agencies were doing their job and protecting us, bottom line, that things that were really, really harmful and known to be carcinogens wouldn’t really be in our environment, in our water and things. And in making this film, I realized that that system is very flawed and that we aren’t as protected, and that was a very difficult thing for me to accept.

I mean, I certainly didn’t go into it thinking, oh, the government’s perfect and there are no problems, but that was a big revelation.

Again, the film is a microcosm of the world I live in, the world I work in, and the world of a Marxist struggling to make sense of the psychology of power and the impact of that power on the common people. Yes, schooling has helped with the American mythology of greatness. Yes, the Madison Avenue shills have aided and abetted the stupidity of a collective. Yes, the genocidal roots of this country’s illegal origin continue to splay the DNA of Americans. Yes, the food is bad, the air contaminated, the medicines polluted and the human spirit malformed in the collective American household. Yes, those in power are perversions, open felons, war mongers and money grubbers.

But, when you see over the course of four years – these main “actors” in the documentary are not paid – the Don Quixotes flailing at windmills, just replace Camp Lejeune with Love Canal or Monfort slaughter house, or fence-line communities around Houston or the flaming waters of the Cuyahoga River. Just spend a few years studying the largest Superfund site, Hanford in southern Washington. Just spend time looking at the research on Glyphosate (Monsanto’s DNA-killing Round-up). Just delve into the research on EMFs and cancers, or cell phones and brain lesions. Again, this so-called exceptionalist country is a purveyor of lies, purveyor of mentally deranged uber patriotism, and without exception, eventually, anyone going up against the system will quickly hold to him or her self the belief we all have been snookered by the Titans of Industry and the Wolves of Wall Street.

Here, the good Marine, 24 years in, Semper Fi, now a farmer in North Carolina, wondering just what he was fighting for:

Well . . . one thing that they’ve done over the years is that they have obfuscated the facts so much, they have told so many half-truths and total lies, they’ve omitted a lot of information to the media, and now if they were to sit down with me face-to-face, I could show them with their own documents and counter what they’ve been saying, and they don’t want to do that.

I mean, I have been very, very cautious throughout this entire fight to speak truth. I’ve told Mike Partain, when he got involved in it, and everybody else that gets involved in this situation, don’t ever speculate. If you’re talking to the media, if you’re talking to Congress, never speculate. If you don’t have a document out of their own files to back up what you’re saying, keep your mouth shut.

And going back to Mike Partain, when Mike got involved in this back in 2007, Tom was starting to fall out of the hike. Tom’s in his 80s. And Mike was a godsend. I mean, Mike has a degree in history. And he has also got investigative skills, because he is an insurance adjuster. He couldn’t – he couldn’t pay to raise his family on high school teacher’s pay, history teacher’s pay, so he went and got a job as an investigator.

Admirable, the story telling and truth Sather qualities in this film, for sure. The audience gets up close and personal with Jerry and Mike and Danita, and the directors let the soldiers tell the story. We get the cold hard stare down of the military brass. Indeed, for the uninitiated this story is compelling.

But also on the outer edges of this piece are the obscenities of blind obedience to command. There are some ugly truths to being a Marine, of following orders, of sadomasochistic drill sergeants, the culture of rape, the outright racism, and all the attendant issues tied to military service.

This is the fiftieth year after the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. The two or three soldiers who stood down some of the killers and reported the crime were vilified. That bastion of war, Colin Powell, was a junior officer whose job was to hunt down any incriminating evidence against the soldiers who reported the murders. Seymour Hersh won a Pulitzer for his reporting on My Lai. Yet, Colin Powell rose to power, ending up in another war criminal’s administration – Bush Junior. To think of all the illegal wars these soldiers have prepped for and gone to, one wonders if any soldier can believe anything around their sometimes teary-eyed salute the flag patriotism.

The USS Liberty, 51 years ago, and Israel murders 34 sailors, and wounds 171, yet deniability, no repercussions, and here we are, US DoD and US Military are the beckon call of Israel firsters running our government, and the blind allegiance to the apartheid and genocidal state 70 years after forced trail of tears for Palestine, and all those deniers now in positions of Fortune 500 power, and who decide the fate of the plebes, the foot soldiers of industry and military services.

Conversing with my veterans, so many are confused about aliens and Area 54 and reverse engineering from that Roswell kid from space; somehow a Trump is more palatable than an Obama than a Bush. How many times have I been spat upon and cursed when I fought against illegal wars, overt or proxy, in South America, Central America, the Middle East? How many times have I been yelled at for fighting against chemical plants or fighting for clean air, water, soil? How many times have I been called a Pinko Fag for fighting for spotted owls or gray wolves?

As an avowed revolutionary, Marxist, one who has been hobbled by the middling mush that is America, from acidified sea to oil slick sea, I can only say that George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain, respectively, say it correctly about this thing called “patriotism”:

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.

— George Bernard Shaw

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

— Mark Twain

I’ve got a more horrific story to tell about Larry, my former Marine. Yes, he might get some more service connected disability money coming in for the toxic water exposure he attained in North Carolina while on the Marine Corps base for a few years.

He is now stagnant, fearful of uncontrollable tremors, fearful of not getting words out, fearful of falls, fearful of a life now full of attendants, and as we all are, fearful of ending up destitute (he is in a homeless shelter, readers), and alas, his one asset — his brain — is now fogged and riddled with the bullet holes of anxiety and paranoia.

Yet, his toxic waters story pales in comparison to what happened to him as a 17-year-old at boot camp in Dan Diego. A story so bizarre and troubling, that it’s one the military has dealt with since time immemorial, when the first militaries came about under those pressed into service rules of the rich needing bodies to fight their unholy skirmishes, battles and world wars.

That story and series of human penalties Larry encompasses will come soon, but for now, imagine, a country run by the likes of Obama, Bush, Clinton, Trump, et al. Imagine those swollen jowls and paunchy millionaire politicians. Imagine their lies, their sociopathic inbreeding. Imagine the tortures they foment at night. Imagine these people sending people to war, and imagine the entire lie that is America, the land of the free.

Hell, in my own neck of the woods, Portland, again, we are a third world country when it comes to we, for, by and because the people:

In one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, the fight for clean water is taxing. From Salem, Oregon to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and from Flint, Michigan to the L’eau Est La Vie Camp in Louisiana, Americans are finding their access to clean water threatened.

Emma Fiala

The Significance of Karl Marx

I often have occasion to think that, as an “intellectual,” I’m very lucky to be alive at this time in history, at the end of the long evolution from Herodotus and the pre-Socratic philosophers to Chomsky and modern science. One reason for my gratitude is simply that, as I wrote long ago in a moment of youthful idealism, “the past is a kaleidoscope of cultural achievements, or rather a cornucopian buffet whose fruits I can sample—a kiwi here, a mango there—a few papayas—and then choose which are my favorite delicacies—which are healthiest, which savory and sweet—and invent my own diet tailored to my needs. History can be appropriated by each person as he chooses,” I gushed, “selectively employed in the service of his self-creation. The individual can be more complete than ever in the past!” But while this Goethean ideal of enlightened self-cultivation is important, perhaps an even greater advantage of living so late in history is that, if one has an open and critical mind, it is possible to have a far more sophisticated and correct understanding of the world than before. Intellectual history is littered with egregious errors, myths and lies that have beguiled billions of minds. Two centuries after the Enlightenment, however, the spirit of rationalism and science has achieved so many victories that countless millions have been freed from the ignorance and superstition of the past.

Few thinkers deserve more credit for the liberation of the human mind than Karl Marx. Aside from the heroes of the Scientific Revolution—Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, a few others—and their philosophical ‘translators’—Francis Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Diderot, David Hume—hardly any come close. But not only did Marx contribute to our intellectual liberation; he also, of course, made immense contributions to the struggle for liberation from oppressive power-structures (a struggle that, indeed, is a key component of the effort to free our minds). These two major achievements amply justify the outpouring of articles on the bicentennial of his birth, and in fact, I think, call for yet another one, to consider in more depth both his significance and his shortcomings.

My focus in this article is going to be on his ideas, not on his life or his activism. He was certainly an inspiration in the latter respect, but it is his writings that are timeless. The fanatical and violent hatred they’ve always elicited from the enemies of human progress, the spokesmen of a power-loving, money-worshipping misanthropy, is the most eloquent proof of their value.

*****

The central reason for Marx’s importance and fame is, of course, that he gave us the most sophisticated elaboration of the most fundamental concept in social analysis: class.

He was far from the only thinker to emphasize class. One might even say that the primary of class verges on common sense (despite what postmodernists think—on whom, see below). In his Politics, Aristotle already interpreted society according to the divergent interests of the poor and the rich. The semi-conservative James Madison, like other Enlightenment figures, agreed, as is clear from his famous Federalist No. 10:

[T]he most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes actuated by different sentiments and views.

Could anything be more obvious than this proto-historical materialism?

But Marx was unique in systematically expounding this materialism and grounding it in rigorous analysis of production relations—the concept of which he practically invented, or at least self-consciously elevated to a determining status and analyzed with exhaustive thoroughness. As everyone passingly familiar with Marxism knows, such notions as exploitation, surplus, surplus-value, and class struggle acquired a quasi-scientific—which is to say exact and precisely explanatory—character in the context of Marx’s investigation of production relations, in particular those of capitalism.

Given that historical materialism is often ridiculed and rejected, it isn’t out of place here to give a simplified account of its basic premises, an account that shows how uncontroversial these premises ought to be. This is especially desirable in a time when even self-styled Marxists feel compelled, due to the cultural sway held by feminism and identity politics, to deny that class has priority over other variables such as gender, sexuality, and race.

The explanatory (and therefore strategic, for revolutionaries) primacy of class can be established on simple a priori grounds, quite apart from empirical sociological or historical analysis. One has only to reflect that access to resources—money, capital, technology—is of unique importance to life, being key to survival, to a high quality of life, to political power, to social and cultural influence; and access to (or control over) resources is determined ultimately by class position, one’s position in the social relations of production. The owner of the means of production, i.e., the capitalist, has control over more resources than the person who owns only his labor-power, which means he is better able to influence the political process (for example by bribing politicians) and to propagate ideas and values that legitimate his dominant position and justify the subordination of others. These two broad categories of owners and workers have opposing interests, most obviously in the inverse relation between wages and profits. This antagonism of interests is the “class struggle,” a struggle that need not always be explicit or conscious but is constantly present on an implicit level, indeed is constitutive of the relationship between capitalist and worker. The class struggle—that is, the structure and functioning of economic institutions—can be called the foundation of society, the dynamic around which society tends to revolve, because, again, it is through class that institutions and actors acquire the means to influence social life.

These simple, commonsense reflections suffice to establish the meaning and validity of Marx’s infamous, “simplistic,” “reductionist” contrast between the economic “base” and the political, cultural, and ideological “superstructure.” Maybe his language here was misleading and metaphorical. He was only sketching his historical materialism in a short preface, the Preface to his Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, and could hardly have foreseen that generations of academic sophists would later pore over his words, pick at them, cavil at them, fling casuistries at each other until a vast scholarly literature had been produced debating Marxian “economic determinism.” As if the relative primacy of economic institutions—which is to say relations of production, class structures—that are, by definition, directly involved in the accumulation and distribution of material resources and thus power, isn’t anything but a truism, and can be seen as such on the basis of such elementary reasoning as in the preceding paragraph.

The Communist Manifesto’s epoch-making claim, therefore, that the history of all complex societies has been the history of class struggle is not ridiculous or oversimplifying, contrary to what has been claimed a thousand times in scholarship and the popular press; it is, broadly speaking, accurate, if “class struggle” is understood to mean not only explicit conflict between classes (and class-subgroups; see the above quotation from Madison) but also the implicit antagonism of interests between classes, which constitutes the structure of economic institutions. Particular class structures/dynamics, together with the level of development of productive forces they determine and are expressed through, provide the basic institutional context around which a given politics and culture are fleshed out.1

Thus, to argue, as feminists, queer theorists, and confused Marxists like Peter Frase are wont to, that class is of no special significance compared to group identities like gender and race is quite mistaken. Neither feminism nor anti-racist activism targets such institutional structures as the relation between capitalist and worker; or, to the extent that these movements do, they become class-oriented and lose their character as strictly feminist or anti-racist. If you want a society of economic democracy, in which economic exploitation, “income inequality,” mass poverty, imperialism, militarism, ecological destruction, and privatization of resources are done away with, the goal of your activism has to be to abolish capitalist institutions—the omnipotence of the profit motive, the dictatorial control of capitalist over worker—and not simply misogyny or vicious treatment of minorities. These issues are important, but only anti-capitalism is properly revolutionary, involving a total transformation of society (because a transformation of the very structures of institutions, not merely who is allowed into the privileged positions).

Moreover, as plenty of feminists and Black Lives Matter activists well know, you can’t possibly achieve the maximal goals that identity politics pursues while remaining in a capitalist society. Most or all of the oppression that minorities experience is precisely a result of capitalism’s perverse incentives, and of the concentration of power in a tiny greedy elite. This ties into the fact that, since the time of Marx and Engels, a colossal amount of empirical scholarship has shown the power of the Marxian analytical framework. (I summarize some of the scholarship here.) Even ideologies of race, nation, and gender are largely a product of class—of slavery and its aftermath in the U.S., of European imperialism, of attempts by the Victorian upper class to control working-class women’s lives and sexuality.

In the case of religious fundamentalism in the U.S., for example, historians have shown that since early in the twentieth century, and especially since the 1970s, conservative sectors of the business community have subsidized right-wing evangelical Christianity in order to beat back unionism and liberalism, which have been tarred and feathered as communist, socialist, godless, etc. More generally, for centuries the ruling class has propagated divisive ideas of race, religion, nationality, and gender in order, partly, to fragment the working class and so control it more easily and effectively. By now, leftists see such arguments, rightly, as truisms.

On the other hand, most intellectuals, including many academically trained leftists, also see Marxian “economistic” arguments as overly simplifying and reductivist. Mainstream intellectuals in particular consider it a sign of unsophistication that Marxism tends to abstract from complicating factors and isolate the class variable. “Reality is complicated!” they shout in unison. “You also have to take into account the play of cultural discourses, the diversity of subjective identities, etc. Class isn’t everything!” Somehow it is considered an intellectual vice, and not a virtue, to simplify for the sake of understanding. It’s true, after all, that the world is complex; and so in order to understand it one has to simplify it a bit, explain it in terms of general principles. As in the natural sciences, a single principle can never explain everything; but, if it is the right one, it can explain a great deal.

Noam Chomsky, with characteristic eloquence, defended this point in an interview in 1990. I might as well quote him at length. Since he is in essence just an idiosyncratic and anarchistic Marxist—in fact one of the most consistent Marxists of all, despite his rejection of the label—his arguments are exactly those to which every thoughtful materialist is committed.

Question: But you’re often accused of being too black-and-white in your analysis, of dividing the world into evil élites and subjugated or mystified masses. Does your approach ever get in the way of basic accuracy?

Answer: I do approach these questions a bit differently than historical scholarship generally does. But that’s because humanistic scholarship tends to be irrational. I approach these questions pretty much as I would approach my scientific work. In that work—in any kind of rational inquiry—what you try to do is identify major factors, understand them, and see what you can explain in terms of them. Then you always find a periphery of unexplained phenomena, and you introduce minor factors and try to account for those phenomena. What you’re always searching for is the guiding principles: the major effects, the dominant structures. In order to do that, you set aside a lot of tenth-order effects. Now, that’s not the method of humanistic scholarship, which tends in a different direction. Humanistic scholarship—I’m caricaturing a bit for simplicity—says every fact is precious; you put it alongside every other fact. That’s a sure way to guarantee you’ll never understand anything. If you tried to do that in the sciences, you wouldn’t even reach the level of Babylonian astronomy.

I don’t think the [social] field of inquiry is fundamentally different in this respect. Take what we were talking about before: institutional facts. Those are major factors. There are also minor factors, like individual differences, microbureaucratic interactions, or what the President’s wife told him at breakfast. These are all tenth-order effects. I don’t pay much attention to them, because I think they all operate within a fairly narrow range which is predictable by the major factors. I think you can isolate those major factors. You can document them quite well; you can illustrate them in historical practice; you can verify them. If you read the documentary record critically, you can find them very prominently displayed, and you can find that other things follow from them. There’s also a range of nuances and minor effects, and I think these two categories should be very sharply separated.

When you proceed in this fashion, it might give someone who’s not used to such an approach the sense of black-and-white, of drawing lines too clearly. It purposely does that. That’s what is involved when you try to identify major, dominant effects and put them in their proper place.

But instead of trying to systematically explain society by starting from a general principle and evaluating its utility, then proceeding to secondary factors like race or sex and using them to elucidate phenomena not explained by the dominant principle, the approach that tends to prevail in the humanities and social sciences is a sort of methodological relativism. In historical scholarship, for example, especially social history, you’re generally expected just to describe things from different perspectives. You should discuss gender, and race, and class, and various relevant “discourses,” and how people identified themselves, how they reacted to given developments, and perhaps issues of sexuality and the body, etc. Some knowledge may be gained, but often this work amounts to unanchored description seemingly for its own sake—description from an idealist perspective, not a materialist one. The anti-Marxian idealism is an essential quality of this mainstream writing, and is quite dominant in the humanities and social sciences.

*****

On the bicentennial of Marx’s birth, it’s intellectually shameful (though predictable) that idealism is still the primary tendency in scholarship and journalism. I’ve criticized bourgeois idealism elsewhere, for example here, here, and here, but it is worth discussing again because of how dominant it is, and how damaging.

What idealism means, of course, is an emphasis on ideas or consciousness over material factors, whether “social being”—economic conditions, institutional imperatives (the need to follow the rules of given social structures), interests as opposed to ideals or ideologies, and the necessities of biological survival—or, in the context of philosophical idealism such as that of Berkeley, Schopenhauer, and the logical positivists, the existence of mind-independent matter. Philosophical idealism, while no longer as respectable as it once was, persists in forms less honest and direct than that of Berkeley, especially in postmodernist circles and schools of thought influenced by the Continental tradition (e.g., phenomenology) and even American pragmatism. More important, though, is the type of idealism that disparages class and social being.

This idealism comes in different varieties. Its most common manifestation is the uncritical tendency to take seriously the rhetoric and self-interpretations of the powerful. As Marx understood and Chomsky likes to point out, humans are expert at deceiving themselves, at attributing noble motives to themselves when baser desires of power, money, recognition, institutional pressures, etc. are what really motivate them. The powerful in particular love to clothe themselves in the garb of moral grandeur. They insist that they’re invading a country in order to protect human rights or spread democracy and freedom; that they’re expanding prisons to keep communities safer, and deporting immigrants to keep the country safe; that by cutting social welfare programs they’re trying honestly to reduce the budget deficit, and by cutting taxes on the rich they only want to stimulate the economy. When journalists and intellectuals take seriously such threadbare, predictable rhetoric, they’re disregarding the lesson of Marxism that individuals aren’t even the main actors here in the first place; institutions are. The individuals can tell themselves whatever stories they want about their own behavior, but the primary causes of the design and implementation of political policies are institutional dynamics, power dynamics. Political and economic actors represent certain interests, and they act in accordance with those interests. That’s all.

The example I like to give of academics’ idealism is Odd Arne Westad’s celebrated book The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times, which won the Bancroft Prize in 2006. Its thesis is that “the United States and the Soviet Union were driven to intervene in the Third World by the ideologies inherent in their politics. Locked in conflict over the very concept of European modernity…Washington and Moscow needed to change the world in order to prove the universal applicability of their ideologies…” It’s a remarkably unsophisticated argument, which is backed up by remarkably unsophisticated invocations of policymakers’ rhetoric. It rises to the level of farce. At one point, after quoting a State Department spokesman on George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq—“I believe in freedom as a right, a responsibility, a destiny… The United States stands for freedom, defends freedom, advances freedom, and enlarges the community of freedom because we think it is the right thing to do”—Westad states ingenuously that the Iraq invasion was a perfect example of how “freedom and security have been, and remain today, the driving forces of U.S. foreign policy.” As if gigantic government bureaucracies are moved to act out of pure altruism!

Related to this idealism is the self-justifying faith of liberal intellectuals that ideals truly matter in the rough-and-tumble of political and economic life. John Maynard Keynes gave a classic exposition of this faith in the last paragraph of his General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, which has stroked academic egos for generations:

…[T]he ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. [?!] Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas… [S]oon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

These are backward fantasies, which grow out of a poor sociological imagination. The point is that the ideas that come to be accepted as gospel are those useful to vested interests, which are the entities that have the resources to propagate them. (In the typically bourgeois language of impersonal ‘automaticity,’ Keynes refers to “the gradual encroachment of ideas.” But ideas don’t spread of themselves; they are propagated and subsidized by people and institutions whose interests they express. This is why “the ruling ideas of a society are the ideas of its ruling class,” which has the resources to spread them.)

Keynes’ famous book itself contributed not at all to the so-called Keynesian policies of FDR and Hitler and others; in fact, such policies were already being pursued by Baron Haussmann in France in the 1850s, because they were useful in giving employment to thousands of workers and raising aggregate demand and thereby economic growth. Is it likely that had Keynes not published his book in 1936, the U.S. government during and after World War II would have pursued radically different, un-Keynesian economic policies? Hardly. Because they were useful to vested interests, those policies were bound to be adopted—and economists, tools of the ruling class, were bound to systematize their theoretical rationalizations sooner or later.

But liberals continue to believe that if only they can convince politicians of their intellectual or moral errors, they can persuade them to change their policies. Paul Krugman’s columns in the New York Times provide amusing examples of this sort of pleading. It’s telling that he always ends his analysis right before getting to a realistic proposal: he scrupulously avoids saying that for his ideas to be enacted it’s necessary to revive unions on a systemic scale, or to organize radical and disruptive social movements to alter the skewed class structure. Such an analytic move would require that he step into the realm of Marxism, abandoning his liberal idealism, and would thus bar him from being published in the New York Times.

If I may be permitted to give another example of liberal idealism: I recall reading a few years ago Richard Goodwin’s popular book Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties (1988), a memoir of his time as speechwriter and adviser to John F. Kennedy. It’s a flabby centrist whitewashing of history, a nostalgic apotheosis of Kennedy and America and democracy, etc., not worth reading on its merits. However—to quote myself

The book is enlightening as a window into the mind of the Harvard liberal, revelatory of the sort of thoughts this person has, his worldview. Liberalism from the inside. A prettified ideology, bland but appealing, with the reference to spiritual truths, reason, ideals of harmony and peace, a rising tide lifting all boats, the fundamental compatibility of all interests in society (except for those we don’t like, of course), the nonexistence of class struggle, government’s ability to solve all social ills, history as a progressive battle between knowledge and ignorance, light and darkness, reason and unreason, open-mindedness and bigotry, and any other set of binary abstractions you can think of. The whole ideology hovers above reality in the heavenly mists of Hope and Progress. It’s all very pretty, hence its momentary resurgence—which quickly succumbed to disillusionment—with Barack Obama. And hence its ability to get through the filters of the class structure, to become an element in the hegemonic American discourse, floating above institutional realities like some imaginary golden idol one worships in lieu of common sense. It serves a very useful purpose for business, averting people’s eyes from the essential incompatibility of class interests toward the idea of Gradual Progress by means of tinkering at the margins, making nice policies.

Such is the function of liberal idealism for the ruling class.

One other type of idealism that must be mentioned is the postmodernist variety (or rather varieties). It’s ironic that postmodernist intellectuals, with their rejection of “meta-narratives” and the idea of objective truth, consider themselves hyper-sophisticated, because in fact they’re less sophisticated than even unreflective doctrinaire Marxists. They’re not so much post-Marxist as pre-Marxist, in that they haven’t assimilated the important intellectual lessons of the Marxist tradition.

In both its subjectivism and its focus on “discourses,” “texts,” “meanings,” “vocabularies,” “cultures,” and the like, postmodernism is idealistic—and relativistic. Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, for example, tends to ignore class and particular economic and political contexts, instead concentrating on the opinions of reformers, philosophers, politicians, and scientists. (Far better—more illuminating—is Georg Rusche and Otto Kirchheimer’s Marxist classic Punishment and Social Structure, published in 1939.) Later on things got even worse, as with Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler’s much-heralded collection Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (1997). I can’t go into depth here, so suffice it to say that this book, like so much of postmodernism, consists essentially of playing around with ideas of cultural “contestations” and the tensions involved in people’s “negotiations” of disparate identities. The analyses are so particularistic and so purely descriptive, focusing, say, on (the cultural dimensions of) some little village in Senegal or some protest movement in Ecuador, that no interesting conclusions can be drawn. Instead there is a fluctuation between hyper-particularity and hyper-abstractness, as in the typical—and utterly truistic—“arguments” that the colonized had agency, that colonized cultures weren’t totally passive, that “colonial regimes were neither monolithic nor omnipotent” (who has ever said they were?), that “meanings” of institutions “were continually being reshaped,” and so on. After all the “analysis,” one is left asking, “Okay, so what?” It’s all just masturbatory play undertaken for the sake of itself. No wonder this sort of writing has been allowed to become culturally dominant.

The postmodern focus on the body, too, is, ironically, idealistic. Subjectivistic. Which is to say it’s more politically safe than Marxism, since it doesn’t challenge objective structures of class (except insofar as such subjectivism, or identity politics, allies itself with a class focus). Any intellectual who finds himself being accepted by mainstream institutions, as hordes of Foucault-loving postmodernists and feminists have—contrary to the treatment of materialists like Gabriel Kolko, Thomas Ferguson, Jesse Lemisch, David Noble, Staughton Lynd, Rajani Kanth, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, and many others—should immediately start to question whether his ideas get to the heart of the matter or do not, instead, distract from the workings of power.

Said differently, the problem with identity politics is that it doesn’t completely reject Margaret Thatcher’s infamous saying, “There is no such thing as society.” It takes a semi-individualistic approach to analysis and activism. A revolutionary answers Thatcher with the statement, “There is no such thing as the individual”—in the sense that the focus must be on institutional structures, which mold us and dominate us. To the degree that the focus turns toward the individual, or his identity, his body, his subjectivity, the radicalism becomes more anodyne (while not necessarily ceasing to be oppositional or important).

There is a great deal more to be said about postmodernism. For instance, I could make the obvious point that its particularism and relativism, its elevation of fragmentary “narratives” and its Kuhnian emphasis on the supposed incommensurability of different “paradigms,” is just as useful to the ruling class as its idealism, since it denies general truths about class struggle and capitalist dynamics. (See Georg Lukács’ masterpiece The Destruction of Reason for a history of how such relativism and idealism contributed to the cultural climate that made Hitler possible.) Or I could argue that the rationalism and universalism of the Radical Enlightenment, which found its fulfillment in Marxism, is, far from being dangerous or containing the seeds of its own destruction—as postmodernists and confused eclectic Marxists like Theodor Adorno have argued—the only hope for humanity.

Instead I’ll only observe, in summary, that idealism is not new: it is as old as the hills, and Marx made an immortal contribution in repudiating it. Idealism has always afflicted mainstream intellectual culture, all the way back to antiquity, when Plato viewed the world as consisting of shadows of ideal Forms, Hindus and Buddhists interpreted it in spiritual terms and as being somehow illusory, and Stoics were telling “the slave in the mines that if he would only think aright he would be happy” (to quote the classicist W. W. Tarn). Idealism persisted through the Christian Middle Ages, Confucian China, and Hindu India. It dominated the Enlightenment, when philosophes were arguing that ignorance and superstition were responsible for mass suffering and a primordial conspiracy of priests had plunged society into darkness. Hegel, of course, was an arch-idealist. Finally a thinker came along who renounced this whole tradition and systematized the common sense of the hitherto despised “rabble,” the workers, the peasants, the women struggling to provide for their children—namely that ideas are of little significance compared to class and material conditions. The real heroes, the real actors in history are not the parasitic intellectuals or the marauding rulers but the people working day in and day out to maintain society, to preserve and improve the conditions of civilization for their descendants.

Had there been no Marx or Engels, revolutionaries and activists would still have targeted class structures, as they were doing before Marxism had achieved widespread influence. Unions would have organized workers, radicals would have established far-left organizations, insurrections would have occurred in countries around the world. Marx’s role has been to provide clarity and guidance, to serve as a symbol of certain tendencies of thought and action. His uniquely forceful and acute analyses of history and capitalism have been a font of inspiration for both thinkers and activists, a spur, a stimulus to keep their eyes on the prize, so to speak. His prediction of the collapse of capitalism from its internal contradictions has given hope and confidence to millions—perhaps too much confidence, in light of the traditional over-optimism of Marxists. But having such a brilliant authority on their side, such a teacher, has surely been of inestimable benefit to the oppressed.

As for the narrow task of “interpreting the world,” the enormous body of work by Marxists from the founder to the present totally eclipses the contributions of every other school of thought. From economics to literary criticism, nothing else comes remotely close.

*****

Marx did, however, make mistakes. No one is infallible. It’s worth considering some of those mistakes, in case we can learn from them.

The ones I’ll discuss here, which are by far the most significant, have to do with his conception of socialist revolution. Both the timeline he predicted and his sketchy remarks on how the revolution would come to pass were wrong. I’ve addressed these matters here, and at greater length in my book Worker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States, but they deserve a more condensed treatment too.

Regarding the timeline: it has long been a commonplace that Marx failed to foresee Keynesianism and the welfare state. His biggest blind-spot was nationalism, or in general the power of the capitalist nation-state as an organizing principle of social life. Ironically, only a Marxian approach can explain why national structures have achieved the power they have, i.e., why the modern centralized nation-state rose to dominance in the first place. (It has to do with the interconnected rise of capitalism and the state over the last 700 years, in which each “principle”—the economic and the political, the market and the state—was indispensable to the other. See, e.g., Giovanni Arrighi’s The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times.)

In essence, while Marx was right to locate a capitalist tendency toward relative or even absolute immiseration of the working class, he was wrong that this tendency could not be effectively counteracted, at least for a long time, by opposing pressures. That is, he underestimated the power of tendencies toward integration of the working class into the dominant order, toward “pure and simple trade-unionism,” toward the state’s stabilizing management of the economy, and toward workers’ identification not only with the abstract notion of a social class that spans continents but also with the more concrete facts of ethnicity, race, trade, immediate community, and nation. These forces have historically militated against the revolutionary tendencies of class polarization and international working-class solidarity. They have both fragmented the working class and made possible the successes of reformism—the welfare state, social democracy, and the legitimization of mass collective bargaining in the wake of the Great Depression and World War II. Like other Enlightenment thinkers, Marx was too optimistic.

On the other hand, he was right that capitalism isn’t sustainable—because of its “contradictions,” its dysfunctional social consequences, and also its effects on the natural environment. No compromises between capital and wage-labor, such as the postwar Keynesian compromise, can last. The market is just too anarchic, and capital too voracious. Stability is not possible. Sooner or later, with the continued development of the productive forces, capital mobility will increase, markets—including the labor market—will become more integrated worldwide, elite institutional networks will thicken worldwide, and organized labor will lose whatever power it had in the days of limited capital mobility. In retrospect, and with a bit of analysis, one can see that these tendencies were irresistible. Genuine socialism (workers’ democratic control) on an international or global scale never could have happened in the twentieth century, which was still the age of oligopolistic, imperialistic capitalism, even state capitalism. In fact, it wasn’t until the twenty-first century that the capitalist mode of production was consolidated across the entire globe, a development Marx assumed was necessary as a prerequisite for socialism (or communism).

The irony, therefore—and history is chock-full of dialectical irony—is that authentic revolutionary possibilities of post-capitalism couldn’t open up until the victories of the left in the twentieth century had been eroded and defeated by hyper-mobile capital. The corporatist formations of social democracy and industrial unionism, fully integrated into the capitalist nation-state, had to decline in order for class polarization in the core capitalist states to peak again, deep economic crisis to return, and radical anti-capitalist movements to reappear on a massive level (as we may expect they’ll do in the coming decades). Many Marxists don’t like this type of thinking, according to which things have to get worse before they get better, but Marx himself looked forward to economic crisis because he understood it was only such conditions that could impel workers to join together en masse and fight for something as radical as a new social order.

The best evidence for the “things have to get worse before they get better” thesis is that the relatively non-barbarous society of the postwar years in the West was made possible only by the upheavals of the Great Depression and World War II, which mobilized the left on such an epic scale and so discredited fascism that the ruling class finally consented to a dramatic improvement of conditions for workers. Similarly, it’s quite possible that decades from now people will think of neoliberalism, with its civilization-endangering horrors, as having been a tool of (in Hegel’s words) the “cunning” of historical reason by precipitating the demise of the very society whose consummation it was and making possible the rise of something new.

But how will such a revolution occur? This is another point on which Marx tripped up. Despite his eulogy of the non-statist Paris Commune, Marx was no anarchist: he expected that the proletariat would have to seize control of the national state and then carry out the social revolution from the commanding heights of government. This is clear from the ten-point program laid out in the Communist Manifesto—the specifics of which he repudiated in later years, but apparently not the general conception of statist reconstruction of the economy. It’s doubtful, for example, that he would have rejected his earlier statement that “The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class.” Moreover, he seems to have endorsed Engels’ statement in Anti-Dühring that “The proletariat seizes state power, and then transforms the means of production into state property.” It appears, then, that both he and Engels were extreme statists, even though, like anarchists, they hoped and expected that the state would (somehow, inexplicably) disappear eventually.

In these beliefs they were mistaken. The social revolution can’t occur after a total seizure of state power by “the proletariat” (which isn’t a unitary entity but contains divisions)—for several reasons. First, this conception of revolution contradicts the Marxian understanding of social dynamics, a point that few or no Marxists appear ever to have appreciated. It exalts a centralized conscious will as being able to plan social evolution in advance, a notion that is utterly undialectical. According to “dialectics,” history happens behind the backs of historical actors, whose intentions never work out exactly as they’re supposed to. Marx was wise in his admonition that we should never trust the self-interpretations of political actors. And yet he suspends this injunction when it comes to the dictatorship of the proletariat: these people’s designs are supposed to work out perfectly and straightforwardly, despite the massive complexity and dialectical contradictions of society.

The statist idea of revolution is also wrong to privilege the political over the economic. In supposing that through sheer political will one can transform an authoritarian, exploitative economy into a liberatory, democratic one, Marx is, in effect, reversing the order of “dominant causality” such that politics determines the economy (whereas in fact the economy “determines”—loosely and broadly speaking—politics).2 Marxism itself suggests that the state can’t be socially creative in this radical way. And when it tries to be, what results, ironically, is overwhelming bureaucracy and even greater authoritarianism than before. (While the twentieth century’s experiences with so-called “Communism” or “state socialism” happened in relatively non-industrialized societies, not advanced capitalist ones as Marx anticipated, the dismal record is at least suggestive.)

Fundamental to these facts is that if the conquest of political power occurs in a still-capitalist economy, revolutionaries have to contend with the institutional legacies of capitalism: relations of coercion and domination condition everything the government does, and there is no way to break free of them. They can’t be magically transcended through political will; to think they can, or that the state can “wither away” even as it becomes more expansive and dominating, is to adopt a naïve idealism.

Corresponding to all these errors are the flaws in Marx’s abstract conceptualization of revolution, according to which revolution happens when the production relations turn into fetters on the use and development of productive forces. One problem with this formulation is that it’s meaningless: at what point exactly do production relations begin to fetter productive forces? How long does this fettering have to go on before the revolution begins in earnest? How does one determine the degree of fettering? It would seem that capitalism has fettered productive forces for a very long time, for example in its proneness to recessions and stagnation, in artificial obstacles to the diffusion of knowledge such as intellectual copyright laws, in underinvestment in public goods such as education and transportation, and so forth. On the other hand, science and technology continue to develop, as shown by recent momentous advances in information technology. So what is the utility of this idea of “fettering”?

In fact, it can be made useful if we slightly reconceptualize the theory of revolution. Rather than a conflict simply between production relations and the development of productive forces, there is a conflict between two types of production relationstwo modes of productionone of which uses productive forces in a more socially rational and “un-fettering” way than the other. The more progressive mode slowly develops in the womb of the old society as it decays, i.e., as the old dominant mode of production succumbs to crisis and stagnation. In being relatively dynamic and ‘socially effective,’ the emergent mode of production attracts adherents and resources, until it becomes ever more visible and powerful. The old regime can’t eradicate it; it spreads internationally and gradually transforms the economy, to such a point that the forms and content of politics change with it. Political entities become its partisans, and finally decisive seizures of power by representatives of the emergent mode of production become possible, because reactionary defenders of the old regime have lost their dominant command over resources. And so, over generations, a social revolution transpires.

This conceptual revision saves Marx’s intuition by giving it more meaning: the “fettering” is not absolute but is in relation to a more effective mode of production that is, so to speak, competing with the old stagnant one. The most obvious concrete instance of this conception of revolution is the long transition from feudalism to capitalism, during which the feudal mode became so hopelessly outgunned by the capitalist that, in retrospect, the long-term outcome of the “bourgeois revolutions” from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries was never in doubt. Capitalism was bound to triumph after it had reached a certain level of development.

But the important point is that capitalist interests could never have decisively “seized the state” until the capitalist economy had already made tremendous inroads against feudalism. Likewise, socialist or post-capitalist interests can surely not take over national states until they have vast material resources on their side, such as can only be acquired through large-scale participation in productive activities. As the capitalist economy descends into global crisis/stagnation over the next twenty, fifty, and a hundred years, one can predict that an “alternative economy,” a “solidarity economy” of cooperative and socialized relations of production will emerge both in society’s interstices and, sooner or later, in the mainstream. In many cases it will be sponsored and promoted by the state (on local, regional, and national levels), in an attempt to assuage social discontent; but its growth will only have the effect of hollowing out the hegemony of capitalism and ultimately facilitating its downfall. And thereby the downfall, or radical transformation, of the capitalist state.

I can’t go into the detail necessary to flesh out this gradualist notion of revolution, but in my abovementioned book I’ve argued that it not only radically revises the Marxian conception (on the basis of a single conceptual alteration), in effect updating it for the twenty-first century, but that it is thoroughly grounded in Marxian concepts—in fact, is truer to the fundamentals of historical materialism than Marx’s own vision of proletarian revolution was. The new society has to be erected on the foundation of emerging production relations, which cannot but take a very long time to broadly colonize society. And class struggle, that key Marxian concept, will of course be essential to the transformation: decades of continuous conflict between the masters and the oppressed, including every variety of disruptive political activity, will attend the construction—from the grassroots up to the national government—of anti-capitalist modes of production.

Glimmers of non-capitalist economic relations are already appearing even in the reactionary United States. In the last decade more and more scholars, journalists, and activists have investigated and promoted these new relations; one has but to read Gar Alperovitz, Ellen Brown, and all the contributors to Yes! Magazine, Shareable.net, Community-Wealth.org, etc. A transnational movement is growing beneath the radar of the mass media. It is still in an embryonic state, but as activists publicize its successes, ever more people will be drawn to it in their search for a solution to the dysfunctional economy of the ancien régime. Local and national governments, unaware of its long-term anti-capitalist implications, are already supporting the alternative economy, as I describe in my book.

I’ll also refer the reader to the book for responses to the conventional Marxian objections that cooperatives, for instance, are forced to compromise their principles by operating in the market economy, and that interstitial developments are not revolutionary. At this point in history, it should be obvious to everyone that a socialist revolution cannot occur in one fell swoop, one great moment of historical rupture, as “the working class” or its Leninist leaders storm the State, shoot all their opponents, and impose sweeping diktats to totally restructure society. (What an incredibly idealistic and utopian conception that is!) The conquest of political power will occur piecemeal, gradually; it will suffer setbacks and then proceed to new victories, then suffer more defeats, etc., in a century-long (or longer) process that happens at different rates in different countries. It will be a time of world-agony, especially as climate change will be devastating civilization; but the sheer numbers of people whose interests will lie in a transcendence of corporate capitalism will constitute a formidable weapon on the side of progress.

One reasonable, though rather optimistic, blueprint for the early stages of this process is the British Labour Party’s Manifesto, which lays out principles that can be adapted to other countries. Such a plan will necessarily encounter so much resistance that, early on, even if the Labour Party comes to power, only certain parts of it will be able to be implemented. But plans such as this will provide ideals that can be approximated ever more closely as the international left grows in strength; and eventually more radical goals may become feasible.

But we must follow Marx, again, in shunning speculation on the specifics of this long evolution. He is sometimes criticized for saying too little about what socialism or communism would look like, but this was in fact very democratic and sensible of him. It is for the people engaged in struggles to hammer out their own institutions, “to learn in the dialectic of history,” as Rosa Luxemburg said. Nor is it possible, in any case, to foresee the future in detail. All we can do is try to advance the struggle and leave the rest to our descendants.

*****

Marx is practically inexhaustible, and one cannot begin to do him justice in a single article. His work has something for both anarchists and Leninists, for existentialists and their critics, cultural theorists and economists, philosophers and even scientists. Few thinkers have ever been subjected to such critical scrutiny and yet held up so well over centuries. To attack him, as usefully idiotic lackeys of the capitalist class do, for being responsible for twentieth-century totalitarianism is naïve idealism of the crudest sort. Ideas do not make history, though they can be useful tools in the hands of reactionaries or revolutionaries. They can be misunderstood, too, and used inappropriately or in ways directly contrary to their spirit—as the Christianity of Jesus has, for example.

But in our time of despair and desperation, with the future of the species itself in doubt, there is one more valid criticism to be made of Marx: he was too sectarian. Too eager to attack people on the left with whom he disagreed. In this case, Chomsky’s attitude is more sensible: the left must unite and not exhaust its energy in internecine battles. Let’s be done with all the recriminations between Marxists and anarchists and left-liberals, all the squabbling that has gone on since the mid-nineteenth century. It’s time to unite against the threat of fascism and—not to speak over-grandiosely—save life on Earth.

Let’s honor the memory of all the heroes and martyrs who have come before us by rising to the occasion, at this climactic moment of history.

  1. In my summary of G. E. M. de Ste. Croix’s 1981 masterpiece The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World, from the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests, I added the following thoughts to the foregoing account: “Class struggle is central to history in still more ways; for instance, virtually by analytical necessity it has been, directly or indirectly, the main cause of popular resistance and rebellions. Likewise, the ideologies and cultures of the lower classes have been in large measure sublimations of class interest and conflict. Most wars, too, have been undertaken so that rulers (effectively the ruling class) could gain control over resources, which is sort of the class struggle by other means. Wars grow out of class dynamics, and are intended to benefit the rich and powerful. In any case, the very tasks of survival in complex societies are structured by class antagonisms, which determine who gets what resources when and in what ways.”
  2. In reality, of course, political and economic relations are fused together. But analytically one can distinguish economic activities from narrowly political, governmental activities.

For His 200th Birthday, Honoring Marx As An Activist

In 1888, Marx wrote, “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

On this 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx we focus on Marx as a political activist, rather than what he is best known for, an economist and philosopher who wrote some of the most important analyses explaining capitalism and putting forward an alternative economic model.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx wrote, “The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.” He believed political change stems from the history of conflicts between people who are exploited against the people who are exploiting them. This exploitation leads to conflict and revolt. Marx posited revolution as “the driving force of history.”

The root of the political struggle for Marx was the economic system creating a struggle between classes. This conflict has varied throughout history; e.g., the serfs vs. the lords in the Feudal Era, the slaves vs. their owners in the era of slavery, and today between workers and their bosses or capitalists.

Iconic picture of the 1848 revolution in Berlin. Unknown artist. Public domain.

Marx Was a Political Activist Working to Change the World

In an interview with Immanuel WallersteinMarcello Musto described Marx’s political activism, noting:

For all his life, Marx was not merely a scholar isolated among the books of London’s British Museum, but always a militant revolutionary involved in the struggles of his epoch. Due to his activism, he was expelled from France, Belgium and Germany in his youth. He was also forced to go into exile in England when the revolutions of 1848 were defeated. He promoted newspapers and journals and always supported labor movements in all the ways he could. Later, from 1864 to 1872, he became the leader of the International Working Men’s Association, the first transnational organization of the working class and, in 1871, defended the Paris Commune, the first socialist experiment in history.

Wallerstein adds that Marx played a major role in organizing people on an international level and that “Marx’s political activity also involved journalism…. He worked as a journalist to get an income, but he saw his contributions as a political activity. He had not any sense of being a neutral. He was always a committed journalist.”

At 24 years of age, Marx was writing fiery articles opposing Prussian authoritarianism. The newspaper he edited was closed in 1842 by the government, he was exiled and moved to Paris from where he was expelled in 1844.

In 1848, Marx and Engels published the Communist Manifesto.  “The Manifesto” was written as a declaration of the principles of socialism for the Communist League in Brussels. It remains a statement of the core principles of socialism to this day. At 45 years of age, Marx was elected to the general council of the first International where he was active in organizing the International’s annual congresses.

Marx’s vision of socialism had nothing in common with one-party dictatorships like the former Soviet Union that declared themselves to be socialist or communist. For Marx, the key question was not whether the economy was controlled by the state, but which class controlled the state. A society can only be socialist if power is in the hands of workers themselves.

Photo: Dean Chahim/flickr/cc)

Our Tasks: Expose Inequality, Create New Economic Systems

Marx’s critique of capitalism focuses on how it inevitably leads to concentration of wealth. Marxism was seen as extinct after the Reagan-Thatcher eras and the end of the Soviet Union. But, now after nearly 40 years of neoliberalism, the inequality of deregulated global capitalism has made the occupy meme of the 99 percent versus the one percent a factual reality.

The Independent reports on Marx’s anniversary:

Unsurprisingly, several decades of neoliberalism have been the greatest testament to how a deregulated capitalism, red in tooth and claw, siphons wealth to the top 1 per cent or even 0.1 per cent. Recent figures show that the wealthiest eight billionaires in the world (whom you could fit into a people carrier) have as much wealth as the bottom half of the global population, or some 3. 5 billion people. Astonishingly, the equivalent figure was the 62 wealthiest billionaires in 2016. Back in 2010 it was more than 300. This is how rapidly wealth is being sucked up to the top – this may be termed the vacuum-up effect as opposed to the myth of trickle-down economics.

In the United States, three people hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the domestic population, “a total of 160 million people or 63 million American households.” Roughly a fifth of USians “have zero or negative net worth.” That figure is even higher for black and Latino households, the result of decades of discrimination. In some US corporations, the CEO earns more than 1,000 times the average worker; i.e., workers would have to toil more than nine centuries to make as much as the CEO makes in just one year.

The contradiction between extreme wealth and widespread poverty and economic insecurity, between the efficient production of goods and services and the refusal to share the prosperity created by efficiency, and between the use of natural resources and the destruction of the planet and enormous threats of climate change are leading people to see the failures of capitalism.

In 2017, the National Review reported that a poll found as many as 40 percent of people in the U.S. “now prefer socialism to capitalism.” A 2016 YouGov survey found that respondents younger than 30 rated socialism more favorably than capitalism, 43 percent vs. 32 percent. “Socialism” was the most looked-up word on Merriam-Webster’s site in 2015. “Socialism has been near the top of our online dictionary look-up list for several years,” said editor-at-large Peter Sokolowsk.

In 2014, David Harvey, a top Marxist academic, wrote, in Seventeen Contradictions And the End of Capitalism, that the extreme contradictions are leading to major transformations:

“It is in a political climate such as this that the violent and unpredictable eruptions that are occurring all around the world on an episodic basis (from Turkey and Egypt to Brazil and Sweden in 2013 alone) look more and more like the prior tremors for a coming earthquake that will make the post-colonial revolutionary struggles of the 1960s look like child’s play.”

How will that change occur? The answer is in part up to what those working for change do. Youssef El-Gingihy writes in the Independent of one likely possibility:

The transition of capitalism to an alternative political and economic system will likely play out over a protracted period, even if it is catalyzed by revolution. Much in the same way that feudalism evolved into capitalism through the dual industrial (economic) and French revolutions (political), in which the bourgeoisie superseded the aristocratic order preceded by the 17th-century English civil war.

We see the slow transition in process with the development of a myriad of economic democracy projects that give workers control of their employment through worker cooperatives, give communities control over their development through land trusts, give people direct control over budget decisions through participatory budgeting and democratize banking through public banks. These are some efforts to create an economy that serves the people without limiting control to workers, whose numbers are shrinking due to automation. Many of these new economic models are in their early stages of development.

Marx believed that:

No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.

The lessons of Karl Marx show that our tasks are to heighten class conflict by exposing the reality of abhorrent inequality and create new systems to replace failing capitalism.

Is China Neoliberal?

On 2 March, the Real News interviewed Steve Cohn, author of Competing Economic Paradigms in China (Routledge, 2017). Host Sharmini Peries began by asking:

Professor Cohn, in your book you analyze the transition of the Chinese economy from Maoist to ‘iron rice bowl’ policy to a neoliberal policy. What kind of domestic factors contributed to this transition?

Part of Cohn’s response was:

I think the Chinese government, starting with Deng Xiaoping but has continued since then, came to the conclusion that certain capitalist-oriented policies were necessary to increase the social surplus under the state’s control and also to prevent China from falling behind technologically. These leaders, I think, felt that neoclassical economics was a reliable theory that would facilitate this project of adopting some capitalist techniques, and they supported it very aggressively in many ways… [Italics added]

China neoliberal?

The present writer has been living off-and-on in various parts of China since 2003. At first I was skeptical to Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, but I have observed the development in China first-hand along with the diminishment of poverty (as evidenced by the relative scarcity of mendicancy and homelessness).

Neoliberalism

What is neoliberalism? To start, it is not new, and it is not liberal. It is predicated on prioritizing the private sphere over the public sphere; i.e., allowing the so-called free-market to decide. Hence, the role of the government is to be minimized, with privatization, cutting social programs, deregulating finance, and imposing austerity prescribed.

Yet, can one seriously ascribe neoliberalism to China with its state-owned enterprises, state-owned banks, and expanding social programs?

In his book Profit over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (Seven Stories Press, 1999), distinguished professor Noam Chomsky referred to a World Bank report that China was not following neoliberal dictates; instead China was described as “the most interventionist and price-distorting government of all.”

Chomsky quoted the eminent economic historian Paul Bairoch who stated that “there is no doubt that the third world’s compulsory economic liberalism in the nineteenth century is a major element in explaining the delay in its industrialization.” Given the enviable economic development of China, the Communist Party was evidently correct to eschew neoliberalism and chart its own course.

*****
Host Peries presented another surprising nugget that the US was directing the Chinese economy:

… You write about international or US-based organizations such as the American Economic Association, the Ford Foundation, the World Bank, and other such institutions that the Chinese sort out to influence their economic policy and drive the direction of a capitalist economy that they adopted. The interesting point you make about this is that this influence was invited. Why did the Chinese government officials accept this or want this kind of influence?

Cohn replied,

I don’t think the Chinese even to this day fully realize the extent to which there’s a socialization, as well as an intellectual kind of understanding involved with graduate school.

So I think they underestimated it, that impact on the students and the difficulty of unpacking these ideological and political factors… [Italics added]

Cohn uses terms such as thinks and feels throughout the interview. This conveys an appearance of uncertainty as to what he discusses.

Later Cohn said,

You can see what they’ve [Chinese Communist Party officials] done; you’re not quite sure what they’re thinking. There certainly have been a lot of social problems, environmental problems, inequality in particular, financial fragility, the problem of various debt crises in China. But my suspicion is that the Chinese leaders feel that their strategy has in some important ways to them empowered China. And I think that they probably feel they can deal with problems of environmental and other side effects of this.

What’s interesting in terms of paradigm competition is trajectories… [Italics added]

One Chinese Trajectory: Poverty Elimination

What are the Chinese trajectories? One example should suffice to refute the notion of China as a neoliberal state: China is on target to eliminate poverty. What capitalist country prioritizes such a goal?

A Global Times op-ed argued,

As a socialist country, it would be an agony — if not a disgrace — for the country’s elites to sit idle and not extend a helping hand to the needy.1

Xinhua reported, “China lifted 12.89 million rural people out of poverty in 2017 as it progresses towards its target of eradicating poverty…”2

This poverty elimination is verified by the World Bank which cites 753 million people lifted out of poverty between 1978 and 2010. China is presented as an example for the rest of the world in how to eliminate the scourge of poverty:

The country’s poverty reduction offers lessons for other countries…. Its approach combines combines government leadership and support from all social sectors with farmers playing a major role, and integrates general and special favorable policies, poverty alleviation programs and social safety nets.3 [Italics added]

Tiananmen Square

Particularly noteworthy in the Real News interview were the references to “Tiananmen Square protests” and “the repression following Tiananmen Square.” No mention was made of a Tiananmen Square massacre, as has been a repetitive staple in corporate media reporting.

Wei Ling Chua wrote a compelling exposé on this disinformation, Tiananmen Square “Massacre”? The Power of Words vs. Silent Evidence, which noted the many retractions of what many western journalists had initially reported.4

Missing Background to the Real News Interview

I asked Wei, who also wrote Democracy: What the West Can Learn from China, for his take on the Real News interview. Wei wrote back:

There are too many issues in the video, I would like to have a quick comment on the following:

1. People tend to overlook the fact that it was Mao who lay the foundation for Chinese access to the world that allowed Deng economic integration with the world economy in 1978:

  1. in 1949, China was broken and bankrupt at the time Mao took over;
  2. Due to the Cold War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam war, China was under western economic, financial, technological and banking sanctions; as well as USSR technological sanctions;
  3. despite these adversaries, Mao managed to defeat the US led military coalition in the Korea War; helped the Vietnamese defend itself from US invasion. That made China a world force that the US could not ignore;
  4. Mao managed to make use of the complex relationship between the USSR and US, and woo the US via ping-pong diplomacy, and eventually resulted in Nixon’s visit to China, laying the foundation for China to access the world;>
  5. Mao’s vision of classifying the world into First World (Western nation), 2nd world (USSR), and the Chinese alliance with the 3rd world (Africa, Latin America, Asia etc) eventually paid off after making use of the new relationship with Nixon, and  winning the majority vote in the UN to get the PRC onto the UN security council.
  6. Without all these foundations for China to access the world, there would have been no reforms under Deng.
  7. At the time Deng took over the leadership in China, Mao had already eliminated illiteracy, doubled the life expectancy of the population, armed China with nuclear, rocket and satellite technology, and a lot of basic industries for consumer products. Without all these, there would be no foundation for any further progress to access the world.
  8. So to credit China prosperity solely on Western capitalism is not objective.

2. The author [Cohn] also failed to mention the fact of the Chinese modelling more towards the Singaporean economic model than the west. Despite Singapore being recognised as one of the freest economies in the world, 60% of Singapore’s GDP is generated by the Singaporean government investments; so in China, despite being opened up to international and private funds and investment, the state still controls much of the economy;

3. 30 years after Deng’s reforms, China encountered problems like any western society: income gaps, housing affordability and the growth in GDP v social stress; but it is China who acts on to ratify the issues;

4. [Current Chinese chairman] Xi Jinping only wants the part of market logic to award and motivate people who work hard and be innovative, but dislikes an uncontrolled market economy that allows the wealthy to eventually dictate supply and prices of everything;

5. Unlike the west that privatised everything, Xi not only wants SOEs to become bigger and stronger, he also introduced a policy for the government to pay for and own a 1% share of every registered business in China; the law states that with the 1%, government officials will attend all executive meetings and have the power to stop any decision that is harmful to the country.

Conclusion

For those who aspire to a world not riven by extreme wealth and income inequality, China is a potential antipode to unfettered capitalism. China pursues socialism. The Chinese Communist Party also rejects hegemony and war. Thus China stands forth as an alternative model to aggressive capitalist imperialism. However, it is important that China be considered as to which point it is in its political-economic trajectory. At present, Chinese leaders state that China is in the earliest stages of socialism. Nevertheless, along its trajectory China ought to be fairly scrutinized for adherence to it announced political and social goals.

  • The original source of this article is Asia-Pacific Research.
    1. Li Hong, “Shaking off poverty is an obligation for China,” Global Times, 14 January 2018.
    2. Xinhua, “China brings nearly 13 mln people out of poverty in 2017,” Global Times, 1 February 2018.
    3. Chengwei Huang, “Ending poverty in China: Lessons for other countries and the challenges still ahead,” World Bank, 14 October 2016.
    4. See review.

    Why is China Lifting the Two-term Limit for Xi Jinping?

    The modern, affluent new China. Incomprehensible to many Western minds.

    Why does the CPC want to remove the expression that the President and Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms” from the country’s Constitution?

    Why is China lifting the two-term limit for Xi? The answer can be found by reading the amendment itself (and remembering a little history):

    1. In the seventh paragraph of the Preamble to the Constitution, “the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thought of Three Represents” is amended to read “the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”; “improve the socialist legal system” is amended to read“improve the socialist rule of law”; before “work hard and self-reliantly” is inserted “apply a new vision of development”; and “promote the coordinated development of the material, political and spiritual civilizations, to turn China into a socialist country that is prosperous, powerful, democratic and culturally advanced” is amended to read “promote the coordinated development of the material, political, spiritual, social and ecological civilizations, to turn China into a strong modern socialist country that is prosperous, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful, and to realize the great rejuvenation for the Chinese nation.” This paragraph is accordingly amended to read: “The victory in China’s New-Democratic Revolution and the successes in its socialist cause have been achieved by the Chinese people of all nationalities, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, by upholding truth, correcting errors and surmounting numerous difficulties and hardships. China will be in the primary stage of socialism for a long time to come. The basic task of the nation is to concentrate its effort on socialist modernization along the road of Chinese-style socialism. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the Chinese people of all nationalities will continue to adhere to the people’s democratic dictatorship and the socialist road, persevere in reform and opening to the outside world, steadily improve socialist institutions, develop the socialist market economy, develop socialist democracy, improve the socialist rule of law, apply a new vision of development, and work hard and self-reliantly to modernize the country’s industry, agriculture, national defense and science and technology step by step and promote the coordinated development of the material, political, spiritual, social and ecological civilizations, to turn China into a strong modern socialist country that is prosperous, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful, and to realize the great rejuvenation for the Chinese nation.”1

    A little history: In 1980, Deng Xiaoping challenged China to provide a basic xiaokang society by 2020, ‘a society in which no one is poor and everyone receives an education, has paid employment, more than enough food and clothing, access to medical services, old-age support, a home and a comfortable life’.

    That goal will be 100% achieved in 2020, so it’s time to set new goals that will take China in the direction Mao set for it: a harmonious dàtóng society.2 Since, as Mao observed, it will probably require 100 years to reach dàtóng and since Reform and Opening has achieved its purpose, it’s time to set China back on the Communist road again. That is, after all, the overall job of the Communist Party! Duh!

    The only people who will be surprised by Xi’s return to (more) Communism is those who thought that Reform and Opening represented China’s capitulation to Capitalism, the Western media and Western Chinese ‘experts’. The Chinese people will not be. 90% of them greatly enjoyed their earlier experiments with Communism, despite their problems and shortcomings. Today, 75% of them feel nostalgic about the Cultural Revolution and President Xi called it ‘a dream that could not be realized at the time’.

    Why could not the dream of the Cultural Revolution be realized in the 1960s? Because the West placed China under crushing embargoes and constantly threatened it with nuclear attacks, so Deng decided to get strong before permitting any more communist progress–for which he was much criticized by Maoists, though he was probably correct (the USA only stopped bombing China in 1989).

    2021 will begin a new era, in which China is strong enough to do whatever it chooses so Xi is responsible for coming up with his own thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era.

    He will fill in the details on June 1, 2021, the centenary of Mao’s founding of the CCP but Xi told the 19th Party Plenum in 2017:

    1. China’s GINI under Mao was the best in the world but, as Deng warned, some grew richer than others during Reform and Opening and China became almost as unequal as the USA. So, until 2039, we must devote ourselves to re-creating a society in which wealth and income are so equitably distributed that the world will envy us.
    2. Once our GINI is fixed, until by 2049, we must complete the job of making China, once again, the envy of the world: the richest, most beautiful, most powerful, most harmonious society on earth: a prosperous, modern, Socialist society.

    Since Xi is the architect of this program and since his first term was so successful, it makes sense for him to stay for a third term, just as it did for America’s greatest President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    In the early twentieth century, the great Chinese thinker and reformer Kang Youwei wrote a book entitled Dàtóng shu (Book on the Great Community) in which he advanced an original and radical interpretation of datong, drawing mainly on both Liyun and another of the Confucian classics—the Gongyang Commentary to the Spring and Autumn Annals, which propounds a theory of progress in human history from the Age of Disorder to the Age of Ascending Peace and finally to the Age of Universal Peace, the idea of the common good in traditional Chinese social and political philosophy. The Chinese Communist Party’s current ideology, including the “preliminary stage of socialism” and the “xiaokang society,” are best understood in light of the concept of “datong” (Mao constantly advocated datong).

    Deng conferring with Mao: Two visionary giants


    Datong is where the Great Way prevails. It is usually interpreted to refer to a Golden Age in prehistoric times, that the ideal society that has subsequently declined. In the datong society “the world was shared by all alike. The worthy and the able were promoted to office and men practiced good faith and lived in affection. Therefore they did not regard as parents only their own parents, or as sons only their own sons.”

    Although this has never been officially recognized, there is in fact a surprising degree of convergence between some important ingredients of Kang Youwei’s datong thought and the official ideology currently propagated by the Chinese Communist Party. According to this ideology, the Marxist vision of the communist society is still the highest ideal pursued by the Party and the Chinese people. However, this ideal can only be realized after socialist society has reached a high level of development. “The development and perfection of socialism is a long historical process.”10 China is, and will remain for a long time, in the “preliminary stage of socialism,” because China, as an “economically and culturally backward” nation, needs to undergo “socialist modernization.”11 The theory of the preliminary stage of socialism implies that full socialism cannot be practiced yet, and China may legitimately borrow capitalist techniques from the West. Not all means of pro- duction will be socialized and subject to public ownership, and there will still be economic inequality among the Chinese people. The idea that the ideals of social- ism and communism will be realized, and will only be realized, in the course of a long process of historical development and social evolution thus converges with Kang’s idea of historical progress and his vision of the datong world in which socialist or communist principles will be applicable in economic life.

    The official view of the current level of economic development in Chinese society is that it has just reached the xiaokang level. It is hoped that by the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (2021), China will have reached a “higher level of xiaokang society,” and by the centenary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (2049), it will have reached the level of a middle-level developed country and will have “basically completed its modernization”.  Thus the term xiaokang, which dates back more than two millennia ago to Liyun, is still being used today to refer to the second-best level of development. The concept of “harmonious society” advocated in recent years by the Chinese Communist Party also draws on traditional Chinese thought, particularly the Confucian vision of social harmony and amicable social relationships.

    In the final analysis, the datong philosophy in Liyun and in Datong shu speaks not only to the Chinese people but to the whole of humankind. It is a philosophy that is universalist in nature rather than particularistic and dependent on a particular culture or religion. As a philosophy of the common good, it is a valuable contribution to the common heritage of mankind. Though ancient in origin, it still speaks to the needs, circumstances, and challenges faced by the contemporary world. Though Chinese in origin, datong is capable, as Kang Youwei has demonstrated,of entering into dialogue with the utilitarian, socialist, and liberal traditions of the West. It is to be hoped that datong thinking will continue to develop and contribute to the Chinese social and political philosophy of the twenty first century.

  • First published at the Greanville Post.
    1. This article, among other changes, adds Presidents Hu Jintao’s and Xi Jinping’s political ideologies to the Preamble; replaces “legal system” (法制) with “rule of law” (法治; which is effectively rule bylaw, one could argue); and modifies the goal of the Chinese people’s endeavors in accordance with the phrase used in Xi’s report to the Party’s 19th Congress.] — NPC Observer
    2. The Concept of “Datong” in Chinese Philosophy as an Expression of the Idea of the Common Good. Albert H.Y. Chen. The Common Good: Chinese and American Perspectives.

    World is Burning while Western Left is Quarrelling

    It really is a shame, and it is tiring, but it is actually nothing new: there is now total disarray amongst those countless ‘progressive’ and ‘semi-left’ Western intellectuals, publications, movements and political parties.

    Cowardice, bloated egos, lack of discipline and intellectual pettiness are often to blame, but that is not all.

    It is now absolutely clear that the Western left lost patently and shamelessly. It has almost no power, it has no courage to fight or to take risks, and it counts on no real political following in Europe, North America, Australia or New Zealand. ‘The masses’, those proverbial ‘oppressed masses’, have lately been electing and voting in various semi-fascist populists, unapologetic right-wing demagogues, and mainstream pro-business brutes.

    Entire Marxist ‘theoretical certainties’ have been collapsing in front of our eyes. Or at least they have been in the West.

    *****

    To a great extent, what is now happening is absolutely natural. The European left betrayed as early as in the 1980’s, by becoming too soft, too undisciplined, too cautious and too self-centered. It put pragmatism above the ideals. It rapidly adopted the lexicon of the liberal ideological establishment, complete with Western perceptions of human rights, democratic principles and political correctness. It ceased to be revolutionary; it essentially stopped all revolutionary activities, and it abandoned the core element of any true left-wing identity – internationalism.

    Without at least some basic internationalist principles, the left is now essentially reduced to some sort of local trade union level: “Let us fight for better labor conditions and health care at home, and to hell with all that neo-colonialist plunder of the world which is expected to pay for almost all of our benefits. As long as we eat well and have long vacations, why should we rebel, why should we fight?”

    The Western left has also failed to honestly address global history and especially the role which both Europe and North America have been playing in it. Many so-called ‘progressive’ Western thinkers have essentially adopted the imperialist rhetoric and revanchist interpretation of various key historic events, hence becoming ‘anti-Communist’ themselves.

    After that, almost everything was lost, went down the drain.

    Revolutionary flags were burned, at least metaphorically. Good old slogans were ditched. Then, instead of marches and violent demonstrations and clashes with the authorities representing the regime, increasingly comfortable couches in front of the latest high-definition television sets got quickly filled with millions of flabby over-indulgent bodies.

    *****

    Now really ugly fights over the shrinking pie are raging. Theoretical Trotskyists and theoretical Maoists are at each other’s throats. There are, of course, Leninists, and others, many others.

    Things went much further, still: these days, in the West, most ‘progressives’ go ‘by the issues’, refusing to commit to anything greater, full-heartedly. This position is increasingly in vogue, and it essentially shouts: ‘I have my own philosophy. I don’t need any ideology at all.’

    No revolution has ever been won like this. But in the West, there is no desire for true revolution. Belonging to left is mainly just a pose, with a social media account and a selfie. It is not serious, and it is not intended to be.

    There are, of course, Anarcho-syndicalists with their air of superiority and lofty theories that would be outrightly rejected and laughed at by the great majority of the truly oppressed people in places like Asia or Africa.

    Lately, I don’t even know, anymore, who is who, in that small and petty world. I am not monitoring it, I hardly participate in theoretical discussions.

    I write, using basically just two publications as my platform, from which my writing goes to the world, in various languages.

    But that ‘small and petty world’ is obviously monitoring me. And what it sees, it does not like.

    *****

    After launching with one of the mightiest publications in the West (I don’t really want to name the publication, but my readers, most likely know which one I’m talking about) some 300 essays in the last 7 or 8 years, I was literally dumped by it at the very end of 2017. I will never find out the real reason, but most likely it was due to my ‘too left wing’ convictions, and too anti-Western, too open rhetoric. And, yes, there was actually some hint: The editors did not like it that I write for ‘Russian state-sponsored media’, which in turn has some links to allegedly radical left-wing sites in the U.S.

    In the eyes of the anti-Communist, ‘we-go-by-the-issues’ Western media, any ‘state sponsored’ or ‘state controlled’ media is bad, extremely bad!

    Even if it belongs to those countries that are heroically fighting against Western imperialism, trying to save our Planet. Or perhaps it is considered especially bad if it belongs to such countries. It obviously applies to the Chinese, Russian, Venezuelan, Cuban, or Iranian media outlets. In summary – it applies to all media worldwide that is fighting to prevent the Western monstrous imperialist endgame from taking place; to the media that is fighting with force and zeal, and with (lately) tremendous success.

    Instead of obediently waiting for the Western right or Western left, to define the world, now the Chinese, Russians, Latin Americans and the Middle Easterners are suddenly daring to re-define events that are taking place on this Planet. They are interviewing Westerners themselves, while holding a mirror to those monsters that became both the European and North American societies.

    And instead of letting only Westerners speak, there are suddenly African, Asian, Russian, Arab and Latin American people appearing in front of the cameras.

    Instead of that ‘noble’ “look what we are doing to the world”, the true victims but also true revolutionaries are leading passionate debates.

    Instead of some PhD professor in London debating whether China is truly Communist or not, it is now Chinese people speaking up, clarifying what their own country is and is not.

    And the Western left does not like it. It is clear that it does not like such developments at all.

    The Western left ‘does not like any state-sponsored media’. It does not like it when others are speaking. Well, it may be even deeper than that: it appears that it does not really like anyone who is really fighting and who is winning: it does not like the left that is actually holding power!

    Because the Western left is much more part of the West than of the left.

    Because deep down, it is comfortable, even obsessed with its exceptionalism.

    Because despite those horrid centuries of colonialist and imperialist plunder of the world by Europe and North America, it does not truly believe that the crimes were committed because of Western culture and way of thinking.

    Because, deep down, it really does not think that the non-Western nations and their media and thinkers are capable of defining and describing the world accurately, or even describing their own countries accurately. Non-Westerners simply cannot and should not be trusted. Only Western intellectuals have some sort of inherited right to make fully qualified decisions on such important topics as: whether China is Communist or not, whether Russia under President Putin is a progressive country or not, whether Iran is socialist or just a brutal religious state, whether Assad’s government is ‘legitimate’, whether the North Korean leadership is ‘insane’ or whether President Maduro of Venezuela ‘just went too far’.

    *****

    As the world is finally preparing to defend itself against the inevitable Western aggressions, as the people of Asia, Russia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East are discovering their own voices silenced for centuries by colonialist barbarity, as it is while the governments of these countries are making such discussion platforms possible, the Western left is howling at the moon, beating its chest in self-righteous narcissist gestures, and essentially insulting those who are fighting, standing tall, building much better world and yes – governing!

    In several countries of South America, the left has recently been defeated precisely because it was too influenced ‘ideologically’ (or more precisely, ‘anti-ideologically’) by those weak, obsolete and overcautious Western pseudo-revolutionaries. Latin Americans should not, and hopefully will not, make similar mistakes in the future.

    No revolutionary country can aim at perfection, yet. Revolution is not a bed of roses, said Fidel. Defending one’s country against brutal foreign invasions is not always a pretty business: it is thoroughly messy and bloody stuff.

    The weak and soft-skinned Western left can demand from non-Western revolutionary governments both ‘purity’ and a ‘silk-gloved-approach’, simply because it has no idea (or it doesn’t care) what it is like to govern in countries consisting of millions of men, women and children who have been forced to live in absolute shit, after being robbed of everything by European and North American slave drivers. One simple mistake which those governments make, one sign of weakness, and their countries will go up in smoke, end up in ruins, in oblivion: like Iraq, like Afghanistan, like Yeltsin’s Russia, or like China during the “century of humiliation”.

    *****

    The ‘over-sensitivity’ of the Western left is actually only a façade, it is not real.

    Just as an example, the editors of the above-mentioned magazine, which has so unceremoniously stopped publishing my work, never showed any interest in my well-being or safety. I think if I would have dropped dead in one of the war zones I have covered, they’d hardly notice. Articles and essays signed by me would simply stop coming. Everyone is, after all, replaceable. To offer any support would be below their dignity. But to ask, regularly, for the reader’s financial support, never has been.

    The ‘State-sponsored’ media in the revolutionary countries does treat their people differently. At least some of it does.

    *****

    And quarreling goes on. I lost interest in the details. It is all time consuming and irrelevant.

    In the meantime, I feel more and more comfortable writing for those new and proud media outlets, worldwide, edited far away from the West. I like it when my comrades are getting strong, when they are winning. I want them to govern and to govern well. And I want their countries to survive.

    Things are that simple!

    It is a great honor to show my films on TeleSur and Al-Mayadeen, to write for the New Eastern Outlook, China Daily, Countercurrents, and Russia Today. I enjoy appearing live, regularly, on PressTV.

    I feel that each word that I write and utter through those media outlets is intended for my friends, for my comrades, for our struggle and for a much better world.

    And let me repeat: I want my friends and comrades to win, to succeed, and yes, to govern!

    The Western left can keep quarreling, chewing itself: ‘Who said what? Who is real left and who is not? Who is pure Marxist and who is simply some social democrat?”

    Not all Western left media outlets are as described above. There are still some wonderful writers and editors in the West, too. But the overall situation in Europe and North America is deteriorating.

    The governing and struggling revolutionary and internationalist left in the independent countries does not usually have time for lofty debates. We have Moscow, Beijing, Caracas, Havana, La Paz, Damascus and many other wonderful cities behind our backs – to defend. We will deal with the theory later, much later, after we win, after there is real peace, accompanied by justice, after all of us on this planet can proudly be what we really are – ourselves and defined by ourselves!

    *****

    • First published in New Eastern Outlook

    The Life of Fidel Castro: A Marxist Appreciation


    Marxism taught me what society was. I was like a blindfolded man in a forest, who doesn’t know where north or south is. If you don’t eventually come to truly understand the history of the class struggle, or at least have a clear idea that society is divided between the rich and the poor, and that some people subjugate and exploit other people, you’re lost in a forest, not knowing anything.

    — Fidel Castro

    [Humans] make [their] own history, but [they] do not make it out of the whole cloth; [they] do not make it out of conditions chosen by [themselves], but out of such as [they] find close at hand.

    Karl Marx

    The Epoch of Fidel

    Fidel Castro was one of the outstanding revolutionary leaders over the entire course of recorded world history. His astonishing and heroic life experiences are intertwined with the accomplishments, example, and practice of the Cuban Revolution that he was the central leader of.

    The political and personal integrity of Fidel Castro stood rock-solid in the face of decades of tremendous, unremitting pressures directed by the US government to destroy the Cuban Revolution (and him personally through murder).

    The skilled resistance Fidel personified at the head of the politically conscious, organized, and mobilized Cuban masses gave him the moral high ground over decades in the treacherous waters of world politics in the “Cold War” era and beyond.

    As I wrote in my October 9, 2017 essay “Our Che: 50 Years After His Execution“:

    … During the Fidel hate-fest produced by the US media oligopolies after his death, there were small demonstrations, in the hundreds at most, of “die-hard” longtime opponents of the Cuban Revolution – a clear minority today even among Cuban-Americans. The antecedents of these now fast-fading counter-revolutionary forces in 1962 filled the Orange Bowl football stadium in Miami to welcome the return to the United States of the captured mercenary invaders who were defeated at the so-called Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron in Cuba). That occurred after the Cuban revolutionary government exchanged them, well fed and in one piece – that is, never tortured – in exchange for medicines, after negotiations.

    The relatively tiny and politically insignificant anti-Fidel protests in 2017 Miami were endlessly repeated in incessant, loop coverage by the cable oligopolies, in a crude manipulation aimed at creating the impression that Fidel was a hated ‘dictator.’ Meanwhile, in Cuba, millions upon millions of Cubans, across every generation, lined the cities and countryside throughout the nation to pay respect and love for ‘the undefeated’ Fidel to his final resting place in Santiago de Cuba.

    The ashes of Fidel Castro on the way to Santiago de Cuba

    Fidel and the enduring example of the Cuban Revolution consumed the US ruling class with an unrelenting scorn and hatred. They seethed at the sheer effrontery of the Cuban revolutionaries carrying out a socialist revolution in the interests of the working class, the peasantry, and the oppressed, that is, in the interests of the vast majority of the Cuban people.

    This is the case, notwithstanding the mass migrations encouraged – and uniquely expedited legally to the United States – by Washington for decades. This reached 7-10% of the Cuban population, resulting in a kind of Cuban diaspora. This self-exiling was centered initially on the Batista-era police, army, and gangster personnel, followed by the Cuban ex-bourgeoisie and owners of expropriated latifundia, and, finally, as the political confrontation between revolutionary Cuba and the United States government intensely sharpened, quickly came to include broad layers (but by no means all) in the Cuban professional and middle classes, a relatively affluent small minority. For example, some 3,000 out of the 6,000 doctors in Cuba before the Revolution emigrated from Cuba to the United States in this period. Most Cuban workers and peasants rarely, if ever, saw a doctor their entire lives in “the good old days” when median life expectancy in Cuba was 52 (it’s now 78). For many years now, the island has produced some 10,000 Cuban doctors a year and, at the Latin American School of Medicine, the largest medical school in the world, has trained, free of charge, tens of thousands of doctors from all over the world who are now practicing in working-class and impoverished communities in their countries. Similar comparisons can be made for all other contemporary Cuban professions.

    The special venom and hatred preserved for Fidel Castro by Washington and Wall Street, by all the representatives and spokespeople of world capitalism and imperialism, was, of course, a badge of honor for the Cuban revolutionary. Certainly, the once powerful virtual industry of anti-Castro misinformation and propaganda has been politically defeated worldwide. But it has resources and lingers on in the continued, weakened US anti-Cuba policy of economic war and political hostility, and in the renewed efforts by the Donald Trump White House to pressure and threaten socialist Cuba, following the establishment of formal Washington-Havana diplomatic relations in 2015.

    Of course, genuine social and people’s revolutions, such as the Cuban Revolution, inevitably generate bitter hatreds and resentments from the overthrown and vanquished ruling classes. The special hatred of the overturned Cuban ruling classes, allied with Washington and defeated in the course of the Cuban Revolution, toward Fidel, the personification of their social and political vanquishers, is of a piece with how the representatives and beneficiaries of the Confederate slavocracy in their era – and their dwindling band of political heirs, to this day – felt about Abraham Lincoln, William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, and others, not to speak of revolutionary abolitionists like John Brown, Frederick Douglass, Wendell Phillips, and Harriet Tubman.1

    Fidel after laying a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC in 1959.

    The fact is that Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution successfully and heroically, under the banner of revolutionary socialism, defied the US government diktat. At the time, this was unique in US-Latin American relations. This in an era of full-spectrum US economic, financial, military, and political dominance across the Americas. This was seen by successive US White Houses and Congresses as an utter and unacceptable affront. Rampant CIA (always under the direction of the Executive Branch of the US government) disinformation and misinformation campaigns – perhaps the classic “fake news” model – began in the 1960s in response to the Cuban Revolution and its successful development and world resonance. This is factually unassailable and has long been part of the public record from released, once “classified” documents.

    Two books that document covert US anti-Cuban subversive campaigns.

    Washington’s Factories of Fabrication

    There were, in fact, (now known in detail from then-secret government documents released under the US Freedom of Information Act), major US government operations, with significant assigned personnel and large budgets, employed specifically to disseminate disinformation and misinformation, that is false information with the deliberate intention to deceive, about the actual reality and facts of the Cuban Revolution and its leadership. This was a classic “fake news” model.

    Many millions of dollars, employing no doubt hundreds of personnel directly and indirectly – were spent on so-called “psychological-warfare operations” (psy-ops) to spread lies – about revolutionary Cuba in the form of gossip, innuendo, and rumors made up out of whole cloth, on the theory, I suppose, that if you throw enough bullshit against a wall, some is bound to stick.

    The modus operandi in the CIA’s factories of falsification were the spreading of conspiracy theories, fabricated to cause confusion and, hopefully, cause divisions and splits in the revolutionary leadership. Among the most notorious lies spread far and wide concerned two of the Cuban Revolution’s most revered revolutionary heroes and martyrs, Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto Che Guevara.

    Camilo Cienfuegos and Fidel Castro

    Revolutionary hero Camilo Cienfuegos didn’t really die in a plane crash after a mission to counter anti-revolutionary activity centered around Huber Matos in Camaguey, but was actually killed by Fidel Castro, who was “threatened” and “feared” Camilo’s popularity. (Matos, an icon of counter-revolutionary exiles for years, was sentenced and incarcerated for 20 years for sedition and treason, that is, collaboration with US government agencies in the period leading up to the Bay of Pigs mercenary invasion. Camilo Cienfuegos was dispatched to relieve Matos of his military command and arrest him and his top adjutants. Matos was one of a relative handful of revolutionary combatants in M-26-J who opposed the radicalization of the Revolution in a socialist direction, politically split from the Movement, and went over to the side of US subversion and intervention.)

    Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

    Another particularly notorious example of such CIA “psychological operations” was the worldwide effort to plant false stories in big-business and other media outlets, about a supposed falling out and political rupture between Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Che Guevara did not really go out of public view to organize anti-imperialist struggles in Africa and Latin America, but was actually imprisoned and even killed by Fidel Castro. (When that Big Lie was no longer operative, a new mendacity was promoted that Fidel refused to “rescue” Che in Bolivia and “allowed” him to die, still peddled to this day.)

    This was during a period in 1965-66 where Che, with the full moral and political support of Fidel and the central Cuban communist leadership, had disappeared from public view and was preparing and organizing revolutionary armed struggles in first the Congo, and then Bolivia.

    Such efforts by US intelligence agencies over the years were, of course, accompanied, and complemented by, more direct, material attempts – hundreds of times in documented fact – to assassinate Fidel Castro and other popular leaders of the Revolution and the Cuban government and other repeated acts of terrorism and economic sabotage.

    The ”Dictator”

    Commitment to overturning the revolutionary government led by Fidel Castro in Cuba was never, for over five decades, a source of serious division between the Democratic and Republican parties ruling in Washington. The Fidel Castro government was caricatured and slurred as a personal dictatorship in Cold War propaganda, as well as a puppet and client of the Soviet Union.

    The most common presentation and image of Fidel Castro in these circles was that of a “bellicose” and “unaccountable” dictator. The more “moderate” version, which, more or less, acknowledges the big social and human advances of the Cuban Revolution and its record, unmatched in this world, of international solidarity, presents a “benevolent” dictator (whose absence would surely be the end of Cuban socialism).

    Contrary to this boilerplate of anti-Castro propaganda, perhaps Fidel Castro’s most distinct leadership quality was how he continually, in the most difficult and challenging circumstances, before, during, and for decades after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, was his skill, ability, and political perspective to forge teams of outstanding individuals, the opposite of “yes-men,” toadies, and sycophants. There has never been anything in Cuba remotely resembling a state-fostered Stalin- or Mao-like “cult of personality” around Fidel. Just the opposite, laws were enforced keeping his name, and any other living leader, off public sites such as statues and streets. Raul Castro, in his moving tribute to Fidel on December 3, 2016, said, “Fidel was always against the cult of personality until his dying days. He was consistent with that attitude, insisting that after his death his name and figure never be used to name plazas, avenues, streets, and other public places, as well as the building of statues.” The Cuban National Assembly has passed a law implementing Fidel’s wish.

    The reality was that Fidel Castro was never any kind of personal dictator with the inclination, desire, or power to rule arbitrarily. Undoubtedly Fidel Castro had great political authority and personal popularity. Nevertheless, one of Fidel Castro’s greatest strengths and characteristics as a revolutionary and a leader was his ability to foster and develop united team leadership based on ideas, program, and revolutionary ethics. To forge inclusive and collaborative teams of revolutionary fighters, men and women, of Spanish, African, and other national origins, and from different social and class backgrounds.

    This was the case not only during the revolutionary struggle for power, but over decades in the face of all the enormous challenges and threats from a resentful imperial ex-overlord ninety miles away during the Cold War. These disciplined and revolutionary teams navigating the treacherous waters of that tumultuous era in world politics. Revolutionary fighters such as Ricardo Alarcon, Juan Almeida, Raul Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos, Victor Dreke, Vilma Espin, Ernesto Che Guevara, Armando Hart, Melba Hernandez, Jose Ramon Machado, Frank Pais, Manuel Pinero, Jorge Risquet, Raul Roa, Celia Sanchez, Haydee Santamaria, Ramiro Valdes, Harry Villegos, and countless others who were the remarkable individual products of the struggle for the Cuban Revolution, its defense, and its revolutionary internationalism around the world. Such individual human material, capable of organizing, leading, and sustaining a mass revolutionary struggle for power, has to have within themselves the discipline, sacrifice, creative thinking, tactical savvy, culture, and humanity that are the opposite of sycophants and toadies.

    At any rate it is ludicrous beyond even the most primitive logic to think that “one-man rule” (as Hillary Clinton once described the Cuban government led by Fidel) could have survived the unremitting onslaught of US imperialism – the most powerful economic and military counter-revolutionary machine in world history – for nearly 60 years. Actually, all of the truly bloody right-wing military and family dictatorships that Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean endured throughout the 20th Century – from Batista’s Cuba to Somoza’s Nicaragua to Pinochet’s Chile, from Guatemala to Haiti to Uruguay to Argentina — were sustained, supported, and armed by Washington.

    This era of US domination peaked during the era of “Operation Condor,” from the mid-1970s, where Washington and its ultrarightist military partners in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay ran death squads and other terrorist operations against working-class, peasant, democratic, and revolutionary forces across the Americas. In those terrible years, “totalitarian” “Communist” Cuba was perhaps the major force in the Hemisphere that was actively promoting grass-roots struggle to restore democratic rights and space in Latin America and fight for social justice. This goes a long way to explaining the broad contempt and derision held for US anti-Cuba policy across the Americas.2

    Under the leadership of this popular revolutionary team, with the indefatigable Fidel as the central spokesperson and holding great political authority, Cuba forged an infant revolutionary government stamped by the interests, social dominance, and political authority of workers and farmers.

    This translated socially and politically to concrete measures and progressive policies, backed by mass mobilizations and assemblies of Cuban working people and the clear, large majority of the Cuban population. These policies included: radical land reform; massive youth-led drives that succeeded in eradicating illiteracy; the legal obliteration of race discrimination and historic advances for Afro-Cubans; the self-organization of Cuban women into the Federation of Cuban Women and truly remarkable in policies and practices promoting women’s rights and equality; the massive expansion of trade unions and workers control and management of industry; and the establishment of free, high-quality health care and education for all Cubans.

    All of this was in the interests of, and with the participation of, the large majority of Cuban society. Counter-revolutionary organizations grew up that became aligned to the US government and acted under its general political direction. Like all great revolutionary transformations and overturns in history, the Cuban Revolution became marked by profound social and class – and thereby political – polarization. There never has been, and never will be a genuine people’s revolution – overturning the existing social and political order – that does not, by definition, impose its authority on the defeated classes.3

    The Main Source of Fidel’s Legacies

    Fidel Castro was a great humanitarian, one of the world’s great promoters of universal health care and universal access to quality education. He inspired and led the organization of an amazing legacy of Cuban medical internationalism and relief and aid for peoples devastated by hurricanes, earthquakes, and other so-called “natural disasters.” All of this has gained near-universal recognition and love.

    Fidel Castro led some of the greatest advances in the fight against racism and white supremacy and the oppression of women for any nation-state in world history.

    Fidel Castro had a mastery of the strategy and tactics, the art, of revolutionary politics. But this was never not some abstract Machiavellian skill-set in intrigue, as portrayed in literature and drama from time immemorial.

    Fidel Castro was a world-historic military figure and commander. This aspect of his legacy is often ignored or downplayed in the “democratic West.” But the truth is that Fidel was at the center of two distinct, major, world-impacting military campaigns: the 1956-1958 Cuban revolutionary war and the war with apartheid South Africa from 1976-1990 in Angola and southern Africa. In both cases Fidel stands out as a practitioner of military science and the logistics, organization, strategy, and tactics that were tested and led to clear victory. In both cases Fidel was fighting forces backed clearly, albeit covertly, by the United States government. These were two world-changing events with a decisive military component. Both unfolded under the military command of Fidel Castro.

    Fidel Castro also became, as head of state, a skilled and savvy “statesman” and negotiator who advanced and expanded Cuba’s diplomatic ties and relations on a world scale in the face of the US blockade, as well as in Cuba’s highly complex relations with both enemies, allies, and friends. Picking up steam in the 1980s and 1990s Cuban diplomacy eventually established diplomatic relations with every country in the western Hemisphere, Washington being the last holdout until 2015 under the Barack Obama administration. Fidel had an important political part in breaking open negotiations that led to cease-fires and an eventual end to decades of armed conflicts and war in Colombia.

    Fidel Castro had great oratorical and literary skills. He communicated largely through speeches. These may have been famous, generally, for their length, and were thus easily and cheaply caricatured by his opponents as a way to avoid dealing with their content. I have had the personal privilege and excitement of witnessing a dozen or so speeches by Fidel Castro, short, long, and very long (up to six hours), in both massive and much smaller settings. While sometimes exhausted and straining to concentrate, I was never bored.

    Fidel’s speeches, especially addresses to the Cuban people, registered the candor and transparency of familiarity, taking up the social, economic, international, and other challenges facing Cuba. Fidel’s speeches were full of statistics and empirical data, quotes from studies, news accounts, books, political opponents word-for-word, and international press agencies. But they were also filled with big ideas, razor-sharp analysis, political acuity, and philosophical depth.

    Fidel sometimes found it hard to resist imparting any and every important fact, document, or statistic to his audience. How his clearly “photographic memory” could even retain ten percent of them all (as he generally spoke with few notes, and, of course, without a teleprompter) was beyond my wildest ability to understand. All of this without a trace of the racist, “populist,” megalomaniacal bombast associated with the most effective fascist demagogues like Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler.

    Fidel often said his style was not to impose his ideas but to convince.  In the early years of the Revolution Fidel’s speeches explaining to Cubans the historic roots of racist discrimination and the oppression of women and the revolutionary government’s policies are master classes in this method.4

    In his speeches to mass rallies, workplaces, large and very small communities, revolutionary international gatherings, and in historic speeches to the United Nations General Assembly, Fidel retained an unsurpassed ability to break down and communicate big ideas and history. This rational and fact-based mastery of the spoken word undoubtedly places Fidel Castro in the pantheon of great orators in contemporary history. (See a comprehensive archive of Fidel’s speeches here.)

    Fidel’s Marxism

    Any of these specific accomplishments stand out on their own.  Any one by itself would mark an exceptional life. Taken together, looking at Fidel’s life and practice as a whole, they all flowed from Fidel’s embrace of socialism and Marxism as a coherent world outlook and guide to revolutionary action, as he understood it and further developed it, in the course of the Cuban revolutionary struggle. Fidel fought his entire conscious political life under that banner.  Moreover, Fidel’s works – written and spoken – made a great contribution to the development of Marxism and socialism, in theory and practice. Fidel’s life underlines the truth of Lenin’s political and organizational perspective that ‘’without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement.”

    Influenced by revolutionary democratic, socialist, and Marxist ideas and theories as a young, rebellious man, already familiar with the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, he embraced, assimilated, and developed the dialectical and materialist world outlook and methodology.

    Fidel defended the Marxist method and the integrated philosophical world outlook of dialectical and historical materialism. And yet Fidel Castro, the staunch communist and materialist-atheist, inspired and was embraced by countless Christians, Muslims, Jews and believers of every denomination and creed. Of course, as with everything else about the “polarizing” Fidel this was usually – but not mechanically or uniformly – expressed along class lines. (See the brilliant dialogue between Fidel and the Christian Liberation Theologist Carlos Alberto Libânio Christo, known as Frei Betto, in the best-selling, widely translated Fidel and Religion (Ocean Press, 2006).5

    Proletarian Internationalism

    All of us are products of the space and times we live in, but Fidel, to an extraordinary degree, also shaped his times, the times of an entire epoch. Fidel’s impact was not in the interests of the oppressors and exploiters, the colonial masters and white supremacists; the imperialist warmongers out for markets and loot; and the ruling-class beneficiaries of grotesque inequality, racism, and misogyny. His life, and the historical impact of his life, was dedicated to the interests of toiling humanity, of workers and peasants, of oppressed nations and nationalities, of women ground down by unspeakable subjugation and “tradition.” Fidel Castro was the ally and champion of all who fought for social justice, for human progress and a better world, and for the revolutionary transformation of the capitalist world order and its inhuman social relations. Fidel practiced international solidarity decade after decade, under always changing objective circumstances in the world, and often under conditions of great difficulty and danger for revolutionary Cuba.  He embodied what the Marxist movement had once termed proletarian internationalism. Fidel and the Cuban Revolution’s legacy of international solidarity remains the anchor of Cuba’s foreign policy to this day.

    For Fidel and the young Cuban revolutionaries he was part of and led, this was not a hollow, ritual phrase, something to give lip service to only to contradict in practice, but a genuine belief and a genuine practice. In 1976 Cuba sent volunteer revolutionary combatants to the front-line of newly independent Angola to beat back the invading behemoth of the South African apartheid state (covertly backed by Washington). In 2014 Cuba rushed doctors and medical personnel to West Africa in what became the decisive turning point in containing and overcoming the 2014-15 Ebola epidemic.

    Marx and Engels

    Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the founders of scientific socialism, gave, as theoreticians, activists, and political leaders, a tremendous impulse and dynamic to the modern workers movement in the late 19th Century and beyond to this day. But, of course, neither revolutionary wielded governmental or state power, although they both, as leaders of the International Working Men’s Association, keenly observed and drew the lessons from the 1871 Paris Commune – following the unfolding Franco-Prussian War which exploded in the heart of Europe – the first seizure of governmental power by a mass working-class and popular movement.

    Marx and Engels

    Furthermore, both Marx and Engels died at the dawn of the qualitative leaps in the development of 19th Century capitalism. Their prescient writing on the development of British imperialism in their lifetimes anticipated, but did not directly experience, the qualitative, epochal transformation of world capitalism into 20th Century nationally-based, monopolized, and oligarchic finance capitalism. And the concurrent revival of direct imperialist expansion out of the rapidly industrializing capitalist centers and a massive overproduction of capital searching for raw materials, cheap labor, new markets to conquer and subordinate, and super-profits.

    Colonial Empires were spawned in the United Kingdom, France, and much of the rest of Western Europe; e.g., Belgium in the Congo, the Netherlands in Indonesia, and so on. German colonialism was late to the European enterprise and the United States entered the “Age of Empire” signaled and accelerated by the 1898 Spanish-American War. This directly impacted on the burning question of Cuban independence and sovereignty, as the colonial rule in Cuba of the pre-capitalist fraying and hollowed-out Spanish Empire disintegrated, and was displaced by US neo-colonialism and decades of yanqui economic and political domination.

    The 20th Century Latin American political arena which was characterized by a state of, more or less, permanent political turmoil and intensifying class struggle under conditions of massive poverty and social inequality, that was interlocked with foreign, mainly US, economic and political domination. Since the 1898 Spanish-American War, which marked the origins of the modern American Empire, Washington engaged in frequent overt and covert violent invasions, interventions, and subversion across the Americas, over the subsequent decades. (For a comprehensive list of US interventions in the Americas since 1898 click here.)

    Lenin

    Vladimir Lenin

    V.I. Lenin, the central leader of the November 7, 1917 Russian Revolution, and the Communist International founded in 1919, died in January 1924, at the age of 55, as the Soviet workers state he led, was beginning to recover from the utter devastation of the 1918-22 Civil War. This was an exceedingly brutal war, coming directly on top of the carnage of World War I, starting in 1914 on the Eastern-Russian front. Millions upon millions of dead and brutalized.

    The Civil War pitted conservative and reactionary forces from the overthrown ruling classes – with liberal and “moderate socialist” forces forming at the end of the anti-Bolshevik line – aiming to crush the new revolutionary power.  These fragmented forces, without any agreed social or military policies between them, gained strength as they were soon backed up, armed, and otherwise supported by the allied major powers; e.g., Great Britain, France, and the United States, who were still, but not for much longer, furiously engaging in the World War I bloodbath.

    These forces were beyond livid that Lenin’s government had withdrawn Russia from the war and called for the immediate end, on all sides, to what they accurately termed an imperialist war. The Bolshevik-led government dispatched People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Leon Trotsky to negotiate with the German imperialists in the name of the Russian state they now headed, and which was still formally at war with Germany and its allies (and losing badly to).

    Adding insult to injury, in what was a huge political blow and embarrassment, Trotsky was authorized to publicly release the secret protocols between the overthrown Tsarist Monarchy (and the “Provisional Government” which followed it) and the European military powers. These released documents were politically explosive as they exposed the expansionist, aggrandizing, and colonial aims of the warring imperialist powers.

    The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution accelerated and deepened the growth of global mass anti-war sentiment and action, including among soldiers. With the – totally intertwined politically with the Bolshevik Revolution – outbreak of anti-war and revolutionary struggle inside Germany in 1918, and the political collapse of its war effort, the political imperative to end the inter-imperialist slaughterhouse became inevitable, and an armistice was signed in November 1918.

    The thus victorious – if exhausted and facing political turmoil and instability at home – British, French, and US “Allied Powers” hardly lost a beat and stepped up military attacks and intervention against the Bolshevik government. Eventually well over a dozen other major or lesser powers directly intervened on Russian territory, joining in the cause to overthrow Lenin’s government, fighting in conjunction with the so-called “White Army.” This greatly added to the length and ferocity of the Civil War.6

    Lenin’s revolutionary government was under siege from practically the moment it took power through the mass organizations of elected workers, soldiers, and poor peasant councils (soviets) in November 1917. There was hardly any period of time while Lenin was alive that his revolutionary government could lose its focus on defeating the imperialist-backed counterrevolution.

    When Lenin died in January, 1924, his actual political legacy became practically buried inside the Soviet Union by the massive impoverishment and military bleeding of Russian society over the entire period. The subsequent political developments in the battered Soviet Union after Lenin’s death, and the consolidation of governmental power under Joseph Stalin in the late 1920s and early 1930s, led to the eventual physical elimination of the entire generation of revolutionaries, including virtually the entire Red Army leadership, identified with Lenin, from 1936-1938. Conservative figures for the Stalinist purges start with over 100,000 Communists executed. And yet another false, endlessly repeated, assertion and narrative is that Stalinism was the continuation of Leninism when the two were actually antithetical. As I will return to below, opponents and propagandists against the Cuban Revolution, including those positioning themselves on the left, have generally tried to smear Fidel Castro and the Revolution itself as “Stalinist.” (For Fidel’s actual views on Stalin and Stalinism, see the last sections of this essay.)

    The Longevity of Fidel

    In Fidel’s political lifetime, peers such as Malcolm X, Maurice Bishop, and Thomas Sankara also emerged as outstanding revolutionary leaders. Malcolm X was a strong supporter of the Cuban Revolution. More and more consciously in the last two years of his life, following his split from Elijah Muhammed’s Nation of Islam, Malcolm X had started to embrace anti-capitalist and socialist views when he was murdered in February 1965. (See my essay “To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination.)

    Maurice Bishop led the 1979 Grenadian Revolution and Thomas Sankara led a revolutionary popular government from 1983-87 in Burkina Faso. Both were conscious revolutionary Marxists who briefly wielded central governmental and state power. Maurice Bishop was overthrown and murdered in a coup by counter-revolutionary secret factions in the government and state led by Bernard Coard. Thomas Sankara  was overthrown and assassinated in a coup led by Minister of State Blaise Compaore, with covert support from the French state, in October 1987.

    The brutality, terror, and chaos from Coard’s counter-revolutionary coup became the pretext for the Ronald Reagan Administration to invade and occupy Grenada and dispatch Coard’s hated regime. Cuban construction workers, who were working on the unfinished, renamed in 2009 Maurice Bishop International Airport, resisted the US invasion. Fidel Castro was furious at the anti-Bishop coup and Maurice Bishop’s murder along with seven of his leading comrades from the New Jewel Movement-led revolutionary government that lay destroyed.

    Compaore managed to consolidate a repressive and regressive regime, under the cover of a series of rigged elections, that lasted 27 years. He was forced to resign in October 2014 after a sustained mass uprising, fleeing to the Ivory Coast. Maurice Bishop was 39 and Thomas Sankara was 37 when they were executed.

    Fidel and Malcolm X

    Fidel and Maurice Bishop

    Fidel and Thomas Sankara

    Ernest Che Guevara, born in Argentina and of Irish heritage, was recruited to Fidel Castro’s July 26 Movement as the guerrilla army’s doctor in Mexico in 1956. In the Cuban revolutionary war, Che became a top military commander and led the decisive Battle of Santa Clara that opened the road to the collapse of the Batista regime and the triumphant march of Fidel into Havana.  Che left Cuba in 1965 to organize revolutionary internationalist missions in the Congo and then Bolivia, fully backed by Fidel and the Cuban government. Che was executed after his capture in Bolivia in October 1967 at the age of 39. (See my essay Our Che: Fifty Years After His Execution.)

    Che Guevara

    Fidel survived and carried on. His example is bound to be a permanent, weighty, and material political force for future generations and time immemorial. Fidel’s example is certain to be continually renewed and embraced again and again by new generations of social-justice fighters and revolutionaries.

    Without exaggeration or illusion, this is politically true also in the United States, where accurate information about Cuba is available and disseminated, and where there is clear and large majority opposition to continuing US economic and travel sanctions. There is also a growing layer of Americans who are politically sympathetic to the Cuban Revolution and its social and internationalist policies, as they hear even some of the truth.

    Many hundreds of thousands of US citizens and legal residents have visited the island over the decades and especially in recent years, and seen its reality with all its strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and contradictions, which the Cuban people and government disdain to ignore or sweep under the rug.7

    Unintended Consequences of World War II

    An entire epoch of anti-imperialist and revolutionary struggle was ushered in by the titanic consequences and dynamics of World War II and the post-war era. A new world relationship of forces was consolidated “geopolitically” in the post-war “Cold War” period. There was a shift in the gravitational forces of revolutionary struggles towards colonial independence struggles which became intertwined with class struggles in the advanced capitalist-imperialist states.

    Coming seemingly out of the blue, less than fifteen years after the end of World War II, the Cuban Revolution entered the world as the dust was starting to settle from the consequences of the post-World War II.

    These consequences, intended and unintended, included:

    1) The decline and displacement of the British, French, and other European colonial Empires. These had been, more or less, maintained up until World War II but were now completely upturned by the actual unfolding of events during and after the war.

    2) The rise of US imperialism, which displaced the European powers militarily, economically, financially, and politically in world capitalist economic and military structures. This registered the relative dominance of US capital in the post-war capitalist order. US capitalism boomed during the war, which was not fought on continental US soil. In heavy and industry, manufacturing, finance, and living standards, US capitalism dwarfed its capitalist rivals.

    3) The rise of the Soviet Union – its survival and geographic and political expansion – followed its utterly heroic victory over Nazi Germany at an exceeding bloody price in the largest bloodbath in human history on the World War II Eastern Front. The Soviet government and Red Army went from the cusp of annihilation in the opening five months of Hitler’s invasion with the Nazi war machine advancing on Moscow in late 1941 to the conquering of Berlin in April 1945.  This gave a new lease on life and great political prestige to the Stalin-led Soviet Union and the “world Communist movement,” despite gross political errors and crimes (a point I will return to). In Europe, Communist Parties in a number of countries such as Yugoslavia, Italy, France, and Greece became mass parties leading broad military formations and where they were leading forces in largely working class and popular anti-Nazi resistance movements. A people’s revolution became a socialist revolution in Yugoslavia. Communist Parties in France and Italy for many years after got up to 40% of the vote in national parliamentary elections.

    Revolution in Asia

    Japan was the most advanced, industrialized capitalist economy in all of Asia and had secured its colonial rule in a territorially united Korea from 1905-10. A brutal, militarized Japanese imperialism struggled mightily to displace European colonial rule with its own in the World War II period.  That war era in the entire Asian Continental and Pacific Rim, South Asia, and southeastern Asia began militarily years sooner than the September 1, 1939 German-Nazi invasion of Poland. Imperial Japan’s 1931 invasion and occupation of Chinese Manchuria deepened in 1937 into full-scale Japanese anti-China aggression. This was ineffectively countered by the Kuomintang regime of Chiang Kai-chek. After the Japanese government decided to bomb the US territory and major naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December 1941 the so-called “Pacific Theater” became a bloody back-and-forth war between the established colonial powers and the ambitious Empire-building and consolidating (or so they hoped) Japanese imperialist aggressors, who became allied with Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and other Axis forces.

    The main unintended consequence of World War II in Asia was that the violent and bloody conflict between imperialist powers created space for independence and national liberation struggles. Invariably the most consistent and courageous independent fighters were influenced by, and many embraced, left-wing, socialist, and communist world outlooks, looking to the oppressed masses, workers and peasants, as the primary force to deliver national salvation. The war and the erosion of the colonial empires accelerated an unstoppable dynamic toward national sovereignty and independence. In particular, the Chinese and Vietnamese Revolutions, led by liberation forces and leaderships identifying themselves as Communist, such as Mao Zedong and Zhu De in China and Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap in Vietnam, had a worldwide political impact and influence.

    This was certainly the case with Fidel Castro’s generation of revolutionary-minded patriotic youth in Cuba and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, including Ernesto Guevara in Argentina, all living under the dominance of the US behemoth in the Western Hemisphere. This domination of US capital and US power in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America generally took different forms than direct colonial rule on the European model.

    Fidel Castro devoured these world events as he came of age in exactly this mid-20th Century vortex of history growing up as a teenager, student, and young adult on the island of Cuba in the center of the Caribbean. Fidel developed a political consciousness and identity that was forged, in its essential core, out of the global colonial independence and national liberation struggles.

    Fidel and the Historical Moment

    The Cuban Revolution took place in a Western Hemisphere firmly in the “sphere of influence” of Washington and US capital. Cuba found itself at the center of the Cold War. The Cuban Revolution ushered out the 1950s period: from the Korean War and its stalemated end; the 1953 death of Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khruschev’s “de-Stalinization; the 1954 Vietnamese victory over French imperialism at Dien Bien Phu and the Geneva Accords imposed on the Vietnamese; the 1956 British-French-Israel Suez War with Egypt; the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary; and the late-Eisenhower era abortive thaw and détente of US-Soviet relations.

    In any case, immediately upon the seizure of power, the Cuban revolutionaries began to establish fraternal, internationalist links with anti-imperialist fighters worldwide. But Fidel and the other young revolutionary fighters around the July 26 Movement also looked to and had an independent political (and sympathetic) stance toward the legacy of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, augmented by their total embrace of the 1949 Chinese Revolution and the Ho Chi Minh-led national liberation movement in Vietnam. Cuba was the first Latin American nation to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1960.

    Volatility and Permanent Crisis in Today’s Capitalist World Order

    Today’s volatile political world – over 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact-allied governments – is increasingly marked by an accelerating unraveling of that great post-World War II capitalist world order, politically dominated by US military and economic power and a so-called “socialist camp” centered on the Soviet Union, that was also a world military power. Nevertheless, the old, fraying world structures still stamps the framework of world economics, finance, politics, and social relations towards the end of the second decade of the Twenty-First Century.

    What has been developing, with accumulating force again today, ten years after the financial crash and near-meltdown of the so-called “Great Recession” of 2007-08, is the relative erosion and decline of US economic, financial, and political power, and Washington’s overall weight in world politics and “global affairs” today. This has been unfolding objectively over a number of years, in this still-young 21st Century.

    This political reality has been much lamented by Democratic and Republican party establishments, and has deepened political divergences and factionalism within, across, and between both big-business parties. This has been deepening in the opening period of the Donald Trump White House. (As the US rulers wring their hands over whether Trump is accelerating this erosion and decline with his impulsive methods and demagogy in the US and internationally, I cannot recall, in my lifetime, such a joint crisis within both capitalist parties, and the lesser-evil, two-party oligarchy.)

    In this context, revolutionary Cuba today – and this is the living legacy of Fidel – has become, in word and deed, the leading voice for working people and oppressed nations and peoples in every tribune at hand in today’s world.  In the worldwide Battle of Ideas that Fidel stressed continually in his last years, the Cuban Revolution is the living, resonant, politically attractive socialist alternative to today’s capitalist world disorder with its grotesque inequality and permanent fueling of war. Understanding this is the opposite of any residual 1960s or ancient Cold War-era nostalgia.

    Before the Revolution: Fidel the Activist and Organizer

    Fidel Castro, the offspring of a Spanish-immigrant who became a prosperous landowner, entered political life as a student activist at the University of Havana. He set up a law practice under permanent financial stress insofar as his clients were invariably poor and destitute working people facing the daily blows and rigged social relations of the Cuban neo-colonial state. And he could never bring himself to charge them.8

    Fidel remained true to his rebel student youth in this period. He deepened his youthful convictions and principles through theoretical and political study, with and was active in, the multi-class Orthodox People’s Party founded and led by Eduardo Chibas in 1947. That party put the fight against the corruption that enveloped Cuban politics and economics at its center and projected what could be termed a left-wing “populist” program for the promotion of a Cuban identity, economic independence, and social reforms. (See Ramonet p. 83-88 for Fidel’s assessment of the Ortodoxos and the other middle-class political tendencies.)

    The late-1940s and early 1950s was a rich period in Cuban politics in general, and student and youth politics in particular. Revolutionary ideas were in the air, transmitted through such figures as the revolutionary socialist martyrs Julio Antonio Mella and Antonio Guiteras. This was a period of mounting social and political crisis in Cuba leading up to the 1952 military coup that installed Fulgencio Batista in power. Fidel entered into this with all his heart and soul and brain. “I began to acquire a more radical political awareness, and I was learning more and more about Marx and Lenin. I was reading Engels and other authors and works on economics and philosophy, but mainly political works – the political ideas, the political theories of Marx.” (See Ramonet, p. 89-90.)

    The seizure of power by military forces led by Fulgencio Batista on March 10, 1952 abrogated the 1940 Cuban Constitution, a relatively progressive document that incorporated land reform, health care, public education, and a minimum wage. The 1940 Constitution was itself inspired by the 1933-34 mass struggles of workers and youth and the political upheavals that followed the collapse of the repressive regime of Gerardo Machado. Batista, a prominent military figure, had emerged from the turmoil and political instability of the “1933 Revolution” as the dominant figure in the Cuban state across a series of “elected” weak and corrupt regimes.

    Batista managed to get himself directly elected President during World War II from 1940-44, posing as a progressive in the “anti-fascist world camp.” Cuban Communists, renamed the Popular Socialist Party (PSP) in 1944, actually joined the Batista Cabinet, taking two ministerial posts in those years. This became an important factor in the development of the July 26 Movement as an independent revolutionary formation in the period that opened up after the Batista coup.9

    During this time Batista accumulated a tidy fortune, living it up in south Florida after his single term allowed under the Constitution ended. Facing certain defeat in the 1952 election he was contesting, Batista orchestrated the military coup which was backed by Washington, the real power in the Cuban neo-colony.

    Batista’s coup accelerated the political and social crisis in Cuba, as he moved to consolidate an exceedingly venal and repressive regime. Batista’s government allied itself with top US organized-crime mafias, promoting a tourism based on promoting Cuba’s island beauty and beaches with casino gambling and prostitution on a grand scale. The period is captured with great artistry and verisimilitude in the classic Francis Coppola film The Godfather Part II. The dictatorship allied with the most reactionary sectors of Cuban society, and with the US organized crime families and gangster enterprises that had become a key component of Havana and Cuba’s economic and commercial activity. Even as the Batista government became more unpopular and more hated by the year, it necessarily became even more dependent on, subservient to, and propped up by Washington, then under the Republican Dwight Eisenhower Administration, with Democratic Party control of both the US House of Representatives and Senate. The support for Batista was solid and bipartisan, if increasingly anxious, in Washington right up to the collapse of the regime.10

    Under the conditions of Batista’s deeply unpopular regime, there sprung up a plethora of competing factions, student and left-wing radicals, the Popular Socialist Party, small groups calling themselves “Trotskyist,” militant workers in the divided Cuban labor movement working clandestinely, and among the bourgeois liberal and conservative opposition political forces. All contested for political influence and a mass base amidst the general opposition and revulsion to the Batista coup and its attempts to consolidate a stable government.

    Fidel exploded into the center of Cuban politics on July 26, 1953 with a highly organized armed attack by 160 young, largely working-class, fighters on the Moncada and Bayamo Barracks of the Batista dictatorship. These were highly disciplined and trained combatants motivated by patriotic and revolutionary purpose.

    Along with Fidel, the other central leaders of the preparation and organization of the July 26, 1953 attacks were Abel Santamaria and Jesus Montane. The plan and political perspective of the Moncadista insurrectionists was to seize the two Barracks, disarm the government troops, seize broadcast and other means of communication, and call for a mass uprising.

    The outcome of the assault can be said to be a classic example of military defeat becoming political victory. In this case a military defeat transformed into a dynamic political advance and the ultimate victory of the Cuban Revolution within less than five years. (See Ramonet pages 104-134 for a fascinating account of the Moncada assault, the unanticipated difficulties and errors, and the necessary retreat and aftermath.)

    Abel Santamaria was tortured to death by Batista’s troops following his surrender and capture. Fidel, Jesus Montane, Raul Castro, Juan Almeida and other rebels survived with some luck, but the post-attack scene was mark by extraordinary bestial conduct, which quickly became public, on the part of Batista’s henchmen, with unspeakable torture and murder of disarmed youth being the fate of most. Cuban public opinion was horrified, and this became a factor in preserving the lives of the survivors.

    Public revulsion also began to overlap with growing sympathy for the July 26 youth. Growing anti-Batista mass demonstrations and protests mounted against the increasingly isolated and repressive regime. Fidel’s stirring speech in his defense before the kangaroo court – “Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.” – presented the program and political orientation of the insurrectionists. It was reproduced and widely circulated by the growing cadre of organized supporters who became the July 26 Movement (M-26-J). The pamphlet History Will Absolve Me became a key recruiting tool for the Movement and its major programmatic document.

    Political pressure on the Batista government became focused on a mass campaign for amnesty for the Moncada fighters, which also built the Movement. All the fighters were released after barely two years of incarceration. Batista and his goons evidently believed their death squads would be more likely to get away with murder outside the prison walls than within. The July 26 Movement emerged as the most, dynamic, creative, and attractive political force in the unfolding pre-revolutionary situation developing inside Cuba in the mid-1950s.

    Raul Castro, Juan Almeida, Fidel Castro and other Moncadistas released in May 1955

    Fidel, Raul, Juan Almeida, and other Moncadistas were eventually able to get to Mexico where colonies of Latin American freedom fighters were to be found, and who worked and played in overlapping social and political circles.

    In Mexico, Fidel and his team began recruiting cadre who received military training (from a veteran Republican fighter in the 1930s Spanish Revolution and Civil War) for a planned landing in the Cuban countryside, the launching of a rural guerrilla war, and the concurrent launching of a nationwide revolutionary movement politically connected to the armed struggle in every corner of Cuba. What became a vibrant, clandestine urban movement led by figures like Armando Hart, Enrique Oltuski, Frank Pais, Celia Sanchez, and Haydee Santamaria whose responsibilities included funneling arms and trained cadre to the guerrilla army.

    Among the first recruits to the expeditionary army was Dr. Ernesto Guevara, an Argentine and the only non-Cuban among the guerrilla army in formation. Guevara had organized a clinic for impoverished workers and peasants in Guatemala before escaping, and also ending up in Mexico, one step ahead of the death squads of the CIA-installed murderous military regime that overthrew the democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz government. Soon he had befriended a number of July 26 Movement cadre, including Raul Castro. Ernesto became Che, the affectionate moniker affixed to him by his Cuban pals soon to become his comrades.

    It was the July 26 Movement that emerged at the head of a genuinely mass, revolutionary movement to overthrow Batista and his regime. M-26-J seized state power under a clear and definite social and political program that it began to implement. Fidel became the central leader of a revolutionary government directing and organizing a new type of state power and social relations in the 20th Century and reaching out politically everywhere across the Americas and worldwide.

    The July 26 Movement was, in practice, a centralized combat organization, the expression, in a political-military form, of a political vanguard. In the military defeat of Batista’s US-backed Cuban army, what became, from the twelve or so (out of 82) ambushed survivors of the Granma expedition, the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) that defeated the far more numerous – and strongly equipped and armed by Washington –  Cuban army under Batista’s command.11

    Leading a Socialist Revolution

    In the definition given by Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky in his History of the Russian Revolution, “The most indubitable feature of a revolution is the direct interference of the masses in historic events…the forcible entry of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny.” In that sense, the Cuban Revolution was a genuine people’s revolution.

    Its radicalization and transformation into a socialist revolution was based on mass mobilizations and mass participation. All flowing out of a new mass consciousness. But this collective united action of the popular majority was the concentrated political expression of the transformation of millions of individual human beings who, in the words of Karl Marx, describing the insurgent workers of the Paris Commune, decided to “storm the heavens.” This dialectical interplay between individual and mass is the dynamic human spring in any genuine people’s revolution.

    The working teams of outstanding cadre forged and trained under Fidel’s central leadership had boundless faith in the ability of working people and the oppressed to enter the realm, on a truly mass scale, of struggle and organization. These were professional revolutionaries, volunteers for a cause, motivated by patriotic and, for many, socialist convictions. Individuals prepared to embrace the discipline required for effective action, if, and it was a big “if,” there was a leadership that was honest, self-sacrificing, politically savvy, courageous, and prepared to go all the way. In a 1987 interview with Italian television journalist Gianni Mina, Fidel said, “You can’t be a revolutionary without a large dose of idealism and a tremendous confidence in human beings. A sceptic can’t be a revolutionary. A revolutionary is an optimist, someone who believes in human beings.”

    What the Cuban Revolution conquered socially, in the interests of the large majority in its opening years, is all the more remarkable when we realize it was done in the teeth of violent, unscrupulous, permanent aggression by the United States government. This aggression included the April 1961 mercenary invasion by counter-revolutionary exiles organized by the CIA that was smashed at the Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron to Cubans).12

    President John Kennedy’s “Operation Mongoose,” a program of unbridled terrorism, economic sabotage, death squads and assassination teams (some 600 assassination plans and programs were put into play against Fidel Castro alone by the spooks of Washington in these years) was now intensely in play after the Bay of Pigs debacle. Concrete preparations and projections were well underway for a direct US invasion, which “Mongoose” aimed to soften the ground for.

    These were the conditions, with Cuba facing the total devastation of a full-scale US assault by air, land, and sea, that led the Soviet government led by Nikita Khrushchev to propose to the Cuban government placing nuclear weapons in Cuba as a deterrence to the coming US invasion. Decisive in the Cuban government’s reluctant acceptance, was the Soviet presentation of the necessity of the missile placement, in order to, as Castro put it in the Ramonet interviews, ”to improve the balance of strategic forces.” Specifically, Khrushchev hoped to acquire, with a fait accompli, the leverage to eliminate operational US nukes near Soviet borders in Turkey. (See my essay55 Years After: Political Legacies of the Cuban Missile Crisis” for more on Operation Mongoose and the unfolding of events leading to the nuclear missile crisis.

    Revolutionary Cuba in the 1960s became the political and organizing center across the Americas for revolutionary struggle against US domination and the rule of the oligarchies – two things that were hand in glove.

    In the early years after the triumph of the Revolution, the CIA set up in South Florida the largest base operation at that point, in its history. Daily operations were spun and run into Cuba involving plans for sabotage, terrorism, assassination, and so on. Organized, trained, funded, and directed from Washington, the operatives – by and large – were Cuban exiles. Thousands of Cuban citizens lost their lives as a result of such actions over the years.

    The Agrarian Reform

    With all this as a daily backdrop, Fidel and the Cuban revolutionaries carried out their program and policies, with mass support and mobilizations, utterly transforming Cuba.

    The centerpiece for implementing, through popular mobilization and governmental power, the July 26 Movement’s program of radical social reforms was the transformation of the Cuban countryside by the Agrarian Reform Law. Agrarian reform was the fulcrum for the social and economic transformations heralded by the Revolution. Deliberations to codify in law, and implement in practice, a comprehensive agrarian reform began within the central July 26th Movement leadership almost immediately after the military victory, and the establishment of a provisional government. The most profound direction and input came from the collaboration between Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. The agrarian reform was seen as the necessary foundation and catalyst for Cuba’s industrial development.13

    The National Institute of Agrarian Reform was organized to implement the Law, with Fidel Castro as President and Che Guevara appointed head of the Department of Industrialization on October 8, 1959. Che held the central political and administrative responsibility within INRA.

    Che organized and trained an INRA militia of 100,000. Their responsibilities included seizing control of expropriated land, supervising distribution, and helping to establish viable farm cooperatives. Some 500,000 acres of confiscated land was owned by US corporations. INRA, under Che’s direction, financed highway construction, built housing for peasants and farming cooperatives, and other industrial projects, including resorts for tourists.

    All these economic measures dynamically interacted with the implemented radical social policies and laws that fundamentally altered and transformed social relations on the island to the clear benefit of the oppressed and exploited large majority of the Cuban population. These included a massive, successful campaign to wipe out illiteracy, and, what was particularly annoying to foreign and domestic big-business owners, progressive labor laws that greatly expanded trade-union membership and facilitated struggles for higher wages and better working conditions. Revolutionary laws and policies abolished racist Jim Crow-style segregation and discrimination policies, leading to huge advances for Cubans of African origins. The Revolution dealt big blows against the oppression of women including: legalizing the right to abortion (the first country in the Western Hemisphere to do so); the establishment of day-care facilities; equality in pay; greater access to education and professional training; and the eradication of organized prostitution with job training for ex-prostitutes. (It is estimated that one out of three women in Havana were super-exploited in the gangster-run commercial “sex industry.”)

    These measures were not yet explicitly socialist; banking, manufacturing, and large-scale wholesale and retail distribution remained in private hands. However, the anti-capitalist tendency was clear and the encroachments on the prerogatives of domestic and foreign capital were intolerable to the ruling classes. With the implementation of the Agrarian Reform Law it was clear to all that social relations in Cuban society were being fundamentally transformed and that working people in the city and countryside were becoming politically and socially dominant.

    Moreover, the evaporation of the old neo-colonial state and its repressive apparatus – the Cuban “deep state” so to speak — left a vacuum in political and social relations, into which stepped the highly radicalized, organized, and mobilized Cuban working people and youth led by the team around Fidel Castro. This was a leadership team of exceptional political and personal audacity and courage, who knew where they wanted to go and were not afraid of the dangers and consequences. The neo-colonial Army, police, courts, prisons, and the entire “criminal justice system” evaporated and were dismantled, with the new bodies and institutions stamped with a different class character.

    The unfolding of the Cuban Revolution recalls the poetry of Bob Dylan’s classic “The Times They Are A-Changin’:

    The line it is drawn
    The curse it is cast
    The slow one now
    Will later be fast
    As the present now
    Will later be past
    The order is
    Rapidly fadin’
    And the first one now
    Will later be last
    For the times they are a-changin’

    Fidel and the Liberation of Southern Africa

    April 1974 saw a coup by left-wing military officers in Portugal against the semi-fascist Salazarist regime there and its unsustainable colonial wars in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and the Cape Verde Islands where Portugal held colonies, more or less, for centuries. The coup unleashed pent-up mass struggles inside Portugal for democratic and workers’ rights. First and foremost, it expedited the collapse of Portugal’s colonial holdings. Negotiations with the new Portuguese government led to the target date of November 11, 1975 for the establishment of formal Angolan independence.

    The broadest-based and predominant Angolan independence organization was the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) which was poised to take governmental power out of the political situation left with the disintegration of Portuguese rule and the withdrawal of Portuguese troops.

    The South African apartheid regime sensed the danger to it in these developments. Prior to the formal, scheduled Angolan Declaration of Independence, South African forces forged alliances, which they clearly dominated, with reactionary forces of the more narrow and insular, ethnic-tribal-based Angolan FNLA and UNITA organizations. These organizations were also aligned with the United States as well as the pro-imperialist and exceedingly venal Mobutu dictatorship in “Zaire.” (Joseph Mobutu’s regime had changed the name of the Congo to “Zaire,”) The apartheid South African regime, with covert US support, had begun incursions into Angola, which led to a full invasion on October 1975, weeks before the formal establishment of Angolan Independence.

    With Mobutu’s troops directly supporting the FNLA from Zaire to the west, and apartheid South Africa’s troops accompanying UNITA from bases in the South African colony of Namibia (an illegal occupation under rulings by the United Nations), the South African apartheid army and its pro-imperialist allies were on the verge of seizing the Angolan capital of Luanda when, in one of the most selfless acts of revolutionary internationalism in history, the Cuban government dispatched the first contingents of what became tens of thousands of combat troops. Within months the Cuban forces had routed the South African-Zairean invasion.

    Cuban leader Jorge Risquet, the African director of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, who was centrally involved in the policymaking and execution of policy within the Cuban government in those historic days, pointed out in an interview from the excellent French documentary “Cuba: An African Odyssey,” that “Angola needed soldiers and weapons at that time. The South Africans were advancing, so they couldn’t wait until the 11th because the South Africans and Mobutu would reach Luanda. There’d be no independence. [Angolan President Augustino] Neto sent a message to the Soviet government, but they said they weren’t prepared to do anything inside Angola before November 11. We, however, were ready.”

    Fidel Castro said, in the same film, “When on October 23, Angola was invaded by regular South African forces, we couldn’t just sit and watch. And when the MPLA asked for our help, we offered the aid necessary to prevent apartheid from being installed in Angola.”14

    The Cubans assembled every available, and then some, air transport carrier to transport heavy-weapons specialists and Special Forces on the first flights, making 70 transatlantic crossing round trip to Luanda between November 7 and December 9, 1976. The bulk of Cuban troops, which initially reached 35,000 infantry by the end of 1976, and equipment were transported by ship, boats, and other waterborne vessels commandeered from all available ships in the Cuban Merchant Marine. The volunteer troops were conscious of the political and military imperative of the mission at the gates of Luando.

    The Cuban leadership carried this out without even informing the Soviet government beforehand, which they knew would have opposed the Cuban intervention as an obstacle and irritant to their pursuit of post-Vietnam possibilities of détente with Washington. What Cuba did was done for nothing material in return, out of pure revolutionary duty, and human solidarity.

    Cuban troops routed the South African-led invasion and repelled the otherwise inevitable South African seizure of the Angolan capital of Luanda. Cuban troops remained in Angola for over a decade to check South African military aggression. During this extraordinary period the clear victories of the largely Afro-Cuban military forces and their African allies defeated the mighty apartheid army. The political impact of South African military reversals inspired the entire continent, not least of all the militant, revolutionary-minded youth of South Africa’s townships and the South African Black working class.

    The South African racists were bitter that the covert support and encouragement given to them by the Ford-Kissinger government could not be publicly expressed. As word of the South African aggression became public, Washington was paralyzed politically, unable to identify openly with the apartheid regime it was allied with covertly. South African Defense Minister and future South African President P.W. Botha, said in 1978, “[W]e crossed a border …in the case of Angola [and] we did so with the approval and knowledge of the Americans. But they left us in the lurch. [We] …went in there and operated in Angola with their knowledge…they encouraged us to act and, when we had nearly reached the climax, we were ruthlessly left in the lurch.”

    The stunning “fact-on-the-ground” was that the mighty white supremacist army (which included puppet African troops) had been stopped and pushed back on the road to Luanda by largely dark-skinned Cuban and Angolan forces, with Cuban combat fighters the decisive factor.

    Months after the victory over the apartheid army by the Cuban armed forces – made up of internationalist volunteers – came the June 1976 mass upsurge inside apartheid South Africa. The urban townships exploded following the historic high-school student uprising in the impoverished Johannesburg ghetto of Soweto (South West Township). There is no question of the interconnection. Oppressed South Africans, especially industrial workers and youth in the Townships and “Bantustans,” connected to the mass African National Congress underground resistance, knew about, and were emboldened by, the defeat of the racist army in Angola by the revolutionary Cuban combatants. Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu certainly knew about it in the prisons of Robben Island, apartheid’s Alcatraz, off Cape Town.

    Despite bloody repression that murdered 600-700 in the streets of Soweto, the South African regime began to weaken and politically disintegrate. The Soweto Uprising, in fact, signaled the beginning of the end for the apartheid regime and that hated imperialist bastion.

    At each political and military turning point of the 1976-1999 war between Cuba and its allies and apartheid South Africa and its allies, covertly backed by Washington, Fidel’s clear Marxist revolutionary perspective was that a military victory of apartheid South Africa in Angola would inevitably be a decisive victory that would prolong the life of the white-supremacist regime for an entire, and not inconsiderable period. It would be akin in its political impact to Hitler’s destruction of the German worker’s movement, Franco’s defeat of the Spanish Republic, and Pinochet’s coup in Chile. It takes a long time for the working class and oppressed nations to recover and revive after an historic defeat or major setback. This is a law of the class struggle and politics.

    The ability to clearly see the price, first of all for the African masses of every country in southern Africa, of an apartheid state victory, is what led to the bold (and exceedingly risky for the Cuban state) measures undertaken in 1976 and again in the decisive 1988 crisis and emergency. The latter events involved initially an on-the-ground and in-the-air debacle and disaster, under the direction of Soviet military advisors, that went forward against the strong, razor-sharp opposition of Fidel and all the top Cuban leadership on-the-ground in Angola. What Fidel and the Cubans did was to turn a disaster into a decisive military victory at the small town of Cuito Cuanavale on the banks of the Lomba River in Angola.15

    After the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, the apartheid army was forced into a headlong retreat back to South Africa where the African townships were now in open, permanent, mass rebellion. It was Endgame for the apartheid regime. The South African rulers, and eventually their covert allies in the Ronald Reagan Administration, were forced to negotiate massive concessions in formal talks with revolutionary Cuba, the ANC, and other southern African liberations forces. In 1990, Namibia won its independence; Nelson Mandela and all the anti-apartheid political prisoners were freed; and the ANC and all the banned anti-apartheid organizations were legalized.

    Over 300,000 Cubans – doctors, teachers, and engineers alongside combatants – served in Angola in the over ten-year period. Over 2,000 died.

    Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela

    These giant, world-historic, world-changing accomplishments – defending the sovereignty and independence of Angola, winning the independence and sovereignty of Namibia, and the unraveling and defeat of the apartheid state – unfolded with Fidel’s political and military leadership the decisive factor. These events without question laid the historic foundation for the new, relative rise of Africa in the world. This alone would be enough to secure Fidel’s role at the top summits of history’s liberators.

    Preventing “Another Cuba” in the “Cold War” Years

    Cuba did become allied to the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact-states during the “Cold War” decades. This was probably decisive in preventing the Cuban Revolution from being overwhelmed by the economic and military power of the United States in the first years of the Revolution. The fate and survival of the Cuban Revolution – at the Bay of Pigs and during the Cuban Missile Crisis – became a major “flashpoint” of that “Cold War” period.

    From its beginning, the Cuban Revolution and its leadership found a great resonance worldwide, and especially across Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Both big-business parties in the US were determined to use the apparatus of US power in the Hemisphere to counter that sympathy and prevent the emulation of the Cuban Revolution, and its extension in a period of intensifying national liberation and class struggles in the Americas. This included inside the United States with the rising Black liberation struggle and the growing mass movement against US aggression in Vietnam and Indochina. There was a growing layer, particularly among African-Americans, Latinos, and student youth, but also many others, who were attracted to and sympathetic to the Cuban Revolution.

    Washington’s policy was to overturn the revolutionary Cuban government and stamp it out as a dangerous, but short-lived, revolutionary meteor that would crash back down to earth. But, Washington failed to defeat the Cuban Revolution. Nevertheless, US imperialism did manage, at a huge cost to the working people and for democratic rights in the Hemisphere, to defeat revolutionary struggles and popular upsurges in Latin America in the 1960s and 70s, and again in Central America in the 1980s.

    It was the liberal Democratic Administration of Lyndon Johnson, continuing the policy of his assassinated predecessor, that orchestrated and provided key material and political support to the 1964 military coup in Brazil that deposed the reformist government of Joao Goulart in Brazil. The brutal military regime there lasted until 1985. Among the greatest of Goulart’s sins in the eyes of Washington was his government’s refusal to break diplomatic relations with Cuba. The Johnson Administration invaded the Dominican Republic with nearly 25,000 troops in 1965 to “restore stability” after a military coup against the elected, progressive government of Juan Bosch, and to prevent an unfolding revolutionary dynamic there. Johnson demagogically presented this gross violation of Dominican sovereignty as the need to prevent “another Cuba.”

    Additionally, the Johnson White House, as it was escalating the US war against Vietnam, also oversaw the defeat of continental guerrillas, under the leadership of Ernesto Che Guevara, that were battling US-backed military and oligarchic regimes across the Americas from bases in Bolivia. The Johnson “National Security team” expedited the murder by summary execution of Che – captured in combat and unarmed – by US-backed Bolivian military forces in October 1967. The subsequent Republican White House of Richard Nixon, at the same time it was exerting itself to prevent a political-military collapse and defeat in Vietnam and Indochina, closely collaborated with the Chilean military and bourgeoisie to overthrow the elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile in September, 1973.

    Chile

    On September 4, 1970 Salvador Allende was elected President of Chile with a plurality of the vote, 36.6 percent, against two divided liberal and conservative bourgeois parties. Allende was a leader of the Chilean Socialist Party (SP), a mass working class party. The SP-led government and coalition, Unidad Popular, included the Chilean Communist Party, another large working-class party, and liberal middle-class parties and groups.

    Allende’s government coalition in its first year carried out a number of far-reaching and popular reforms, including nationalizing foreign holdings in the copper, nitrate, iron, and coal industries. Land reform legislation passed under previous capitalist Christian Democratic-party led government began to be implemented, in a political dynamic where landless peasants were already seizing land and working it. Space was conquered for increased trade union organization and workers won and received under Unidad Popular significant wages increases. A law was passed guaranteeing a daily quart of milk for children. Thousands of political prisoners were released. Allende’s government re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1971 and quickly developed warm relations with the revolutionary Cuban government. It spoke out strongly against US aggression in Vietnam, infuriating the Richard Nixon Administration.

    In subsequent municipal and national legislative elections Unidad Popular increased its vote to up to nearly 50%, some 44 per cent in the 1973 parliamentary elections. Class, social, and therefore political polarization sharply increased. The Allende-led governmental coalition faced tremendous pressures from big-business and financial class forces, the Catholic Church hierarchy, and broad middle-class layers in Chile. These forces, in turn, were backed by, and actively collaborated with, United States government agencies and spooks. Washington carried out destabilization projects and plots, under the Richard Nixon-Henry Kissinger White House and State Department. These were widely known at the time, but, many years later, have been officially documented in great detail from records and archives released under the Freedom of Information Act.

    (Pathfinder Press has published Fidel Castro on Chile, New York, 1982 with an introduction by Elizabeth Stone, a comprehensive compilation of speeches, interviews, press conferences, and interactions with Chilean workers and trade unionists, peasants, and students from November 10 to December 4, 1971. In speech after speech, Castro foresees – in a cumulative master class in the Marxist method – the gathering, impossible-to-be-avoided political, social, and class showdown. He did everything in his power to prevent a historic defeat and slaughter of working people in Chile similar to what Che Guevara had witnessed in 1954 Guatemala. The classic documentary The Battle of Chile, shot during the Allende years, smuggled out of Chile, and finished in Cuba, shows how workers and peasants, ready to defend their gains, arms in hand, waited in vain to be mobilized, organized, and armed as the defense of democratic space and constitutional legality that was being abandoned by the Chilean ruling classes and was, in fact, collapsing.)

    A wave of brutal, bloody US-backed military regimes ruled across the South American continent during this period. Washington’s policies were largely motivated by a hatred and fear of the consequences of any potential extension of the Cuban Revolution. That is, revolutionary Cuba’s appeal to the oppressed and exploited peoples of the Hemisphere to rise up and conquer their national and social liberation. During these dark days of brutal rule by the US-backed militaries and oligarchies it was, in fact, the Cuban “dictatorship” that aided in every way it could – in a non-sectarian manner – the progressive and revolutionary forces defending democratic freedoms, political space, trade union legality, farmers rights, and so on. Is it any wonder that Washington’s shameless lectures to Cuba on “human rights” and “democracy” are met with such derision and contempt and have been unable to gain significant political traction in this Hemisphere.

    Fidel speaking to a mass rally in Chile, November 1971

    Certainly Washington’s problem with Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution is that, to his everlasting credit, the revolutionaries he led did not turn the other cheek, and give in, in the face of imperialist subversion and aggression. Revolutionary Cuba did not turn into 1954 Guatemala or 1973 Chile. They defended themselves and continue to defend themselves. Washington, the European Union “statesmen,” and the big-business media and house pundits call this “violations of human rights.”

    Central America Revolutionary Upsurge in the 1980s

    A decade of revolutionary upsurge, fierce counter-revolutionary response, in the finest traditions of the Latin American oligarchies and ruling classes, and US covert and increasingly open intervention and threats, was ushered in with the 1979 triumphs of the Nicaraguan Revolution, led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), and the Grenadian Revolution, led by Maurice Bishop’s New Jewel Movement. Revolutionary armed struggles against military tyrannies in El Salvador and Guatemala unfolded in the early-1980s.

    The response of Washington, under the new Ronald Reagan White House, and Democratic Party majorities in both Houses of Congress, was the not-secret-for-long covert campaign to arm, train, finance, and organize logistics for the terrorist contra army. The contras naturally drew heavy on remnants of the overthrown Somoza-family dictatorship and oligarchy. Washington fostered a large base in Honduras to stage bloody terrorist raids into Nicaragua.

    In El Salvador, Reagan’s team worked hard to put a “democratic’ face on the “moderate” “center” Jose Napoleon Duarte regime, but the operative, dynamic force, over this entire period, umbilically tied to the growing US military presence and intervention, were the rightist death squads slaughtered some 70,000, in a country of around 4.5 million at the time. (That would be the equivalent of 3.5 million people in the US at the time or 1,167 separate 9-11-2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center at around 3,000 an attack.)16

    Fully in line with its proletarian internationalist traditions, Cuba did everything its could to promote and defend the Sandinista Revolution, the Grenadian Revolution, and the liberation forces in El Salvador and Guatemala. In Nicaragua and Grenada, the revolutionary workers and farmers governments and mobilized working people and youth in both countries were carrying out powerful economic policies and social programs in the interests of workers and peasants, with immediate results in massive growth is popular access to health care, education, and the arts.

    The Reagan Administration counter-revolutionary drive also targeted Cuba, which, in the words of then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig, was the “source of the problem.”

    In Nicaragua, despite the military defeat of the contra army, the war-battered, exhausted, and devastated country saw an erosion of mass participation and support for the Revolution by the late-1980s. In that context and pressure, there were also important political shifts in Sandinista policies, in particular delays in the implementation of land reform, that contributed to the electoral defeat and collapse of the Sandinista-led government in 1990. In this same period, by the late 1980s, military and political stalemates led to negotiated settlements in El Salvador and Guatemala. All of this meant that the revolutionary wave from 1979 had definitively ended without further victories, and with two historic losses in Nicaragua and Grenada.

    The shock, and accompanying positive material effect for the capitalist class, of the political and economic stabilization of neo-colonial capitalist rule, after the great expectations and inspiration 1979 ushered in, could only lead to a widespread political demoralization and a trend toward the rejection of Marxist and socialist ideas for so-called “neo-liberalism” exemplified by the rightist trajectory of some prominent ex-leftist intellectuals such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Teodoro Petkoff, and Jorge Castenada. Suddenly, the “Washington Consensus” and “neoliberalism” were ascendant. Neo-liberal governments were elected from Argentina to Peru to Brazil carrying out the Pinochet “Chicago School” economic program under a veil of capitalist “democracy.” A decade of “neo-liberal globalization” carried out a program of attacking workers and unions, driving down the value of labor, driving farmers off the land, and promoting anti-labor austerity and cutting already minimal social programs while promoting financial speculation, borrowing, and massive debt.

    Moreover, by 1991, the Soviet Union and the “socialist camp” had politically collapsed. Triumphalist propaganda exalted the supposed “triumph of liberal capitalist democracy,” “the end of socialism,” and even “the end of history” altogether. The capitalist ideological and political offensive, full of righteous arrogance and full of itself, was on full throttle.

    Nevertheless, in the “neo-liberal decade” of the 1990s, it was Cuba, and popular organizations like the Confederation of Cuban Workers CTC) or the Cuban Institute for Friendship With the People’s (ICAP) that called and organized trade unionists and solidarity activists across the Western Hemisphere and around the world to Conferences dedicated to struggle against “neo-liberal globalization.”

    The “Special Period”

    The collapse of the USSR and the “socialist camp” devastated the Cuban economy, threatening the gains of the Revolution and the Revolution itself, more than it had ever been, before or since, even when Washington nuclear missiles were aimed at it, when US invasion forces were gathering, and when the US Navy was sealing Cuba off from the world.

    Cuba’s economy had become tied to the Soviet Union and the “socialist camp” to the point where 85% of its economic exchange was with it. Fidel had attempted to shift the Cuban economy, through the mid-1980s “Rectification” campaign, a politically-led attempt to revive Che’s economic policies and orientation, among other important social and political changes. But this was aborted under the rapid unfolding of events in the USSR and Eastern Europe from 1989-1992.

    Almost overnight economic exchanges and ties to the “socialist camp” evaporated. Cuba’s economic output fell 35%. Factories shut down for lack of parts. Produce rotted in fields as farm equipment could not move. Oxen replaced tractors. Surgeries were performed in the open sun for lack of electricity. Blackouts were the norm. Those dog days across the 1990s became known as the “Special Period.”

    It was precisely at this time that US economic and travel sanctions were deepened and intensified. Bipartisan Washington, under both the first George Bush and William Clinton White Houses hoped that, once and for all, it could be rid of the “pestilence” of the Cuban Revolution, its example and outsized political resonance and influence in the Americas and the world. It was inconceivable to the US government that the “Castro” Revolution could survive these blows. Washington passed legislation, the Torricelli and Helms-Burton “Acts,” that tightened the US economic, commercial, and financial embargo and attempted to “internationalize” it into a de facto military blockade. This was to be done by pressuring and threatening with penalties other countries or enterprises that independently traded with Cuba.17

    The Cuban Five meet Fidel and his wife Dalia Soto del Valle

    It can be said that Fidel’s last great triumph as a revolutionary leader was the struggle, with the Cuban people, to successfully lead the nation through, and beginning to fight its way out of, the “Special Period.”

    Cuba began to climb out from the “Special Period” at the turn of the 20th Century. Fidel’s government deployed teams of economists, diplomats, and negotiators around the world seeking investment capital, negotiating trade deals and financing, figuring out ways of getting around the US blockade, and so on, and making important progress. Cuban working people stepped up to the plate to build high-rise and other new hotels and food markets to rebuild the tourism industry. Tourism, which quickly expanded, brought in urgently needed foreign exchange to maintain the basic conquests of the Revolution in free and high-quality medical care and education. A key to Cuban economic advances was new economic and political relations with Venezuela, Brazil, and other Latin American countries that were prepared to stand up to Washington’s pressure, as well as increased economic ties with China and Vietnam.

    At this time Latin America was undergoing major political shifts with mass resistance growing to the so-called “neo-liberal Washington Consensus” policies of austerity and assaults on working people. In particular, the Bolivarian government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, elected President in 1998 after a mass uprising against austerity measures was met with murderous repression, forged a close alliance with revolutionary Cuba, that included providing oil and energy needs to the island, while Cuba provided 30,000 thousand doctors and teachers that greatly boosted the access to 10 million Venezuelan working people to quality medical care and education. Over time, in this period, all Latin American governments united to oppose Washington’s attempts to isolate and overturn the Cuban government and Revolution. It was Fidel Castro’s government that mobilized world public opinion against the US-backed attempted coup of April 2002 in Venezuela.

    Fidel, the “world Communist movement” and Socialism

    Fidel politically defeated his enemies in his lifetime and in history. The Cuban Revolution not only survived the decades-long US government onslaught, but implemented and consolidated historic social and cultural advances. To this day, Cuba’s example and its deeds of international solidarity resonate in today’s political world and with new generations of socialist and revolutionary-minded fighters in every corner of the globe.

    It is clear that Cuba punches “way above its weight” in world politics. Fidel’s enemies for all their efforts have not been able to manufacture a false narrative – and have it stick – on the great Cuban revolutionary.

    Fidel was an opponent of dogma and often expressed a striking critique of the stultification of Marxism in the Soviet bloc. In a January 12, 1968 speech at the closing session of the Cultural Congress of Havana at the Charles Chaplin Theater, Castro said:

    [N]othing could be more anti-Marxist than dogma, nothing could be more anti-Marxist than the petrification of ideas. And there are even ideas propounded in the name of Marxism which seem to be truly fossils. Marxism has had thinkers of genius: Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Lenin, to mention the outstanding founders. But Marxism needs to develop, break away from a certain rigidity, interpret today’s reality from an objective, scientific viewpoint, conduct itself as a revolutionary force and not as a pseudo-revolutionary church. These are the paradoxes of history. How, seeing sectors of the clergy becoming revolutionary forces, can we resign ourselves to seeing revolutionary forces become ecclesiastical forces.

    The emergence of the independent Cuban communist leadership was a political and ideological challenge to the bastions of “official” Marxism in the Soviet Union of the post-Stalin and Khrushchev era from 1953-1964 and also to the variant coming out of the political, economic, and human turmoil in China during the era of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution where intense political-factional warfare broke out within the Chinese Communist Party and government.

    There may seem to be little immediate residual relevance to these decades-ago polemics and divisions within what was once called the “world Communist movement.” But for a revolutionary Marxist and the working-class movement, understanding the lessons and history of the past are indispensable in developing a consciousness, methodology, and program for today and tomorrow.

    Today, all “traditional” political tendencies in the workers movement and the “left” are being shaken up by the ascent of so-called populist movements and parties, “right” and “left.” Longstanding social-democratic parties and organizations have been thrown into turmoil and crisis in country after country in Europe and attempts to forge a similar “progressive,” “mixed economy” perspective in in Latin America and elsewhere in the so-called “emerging markets.” (What I would call a “Left Keynesian” outlook and perspective.)

    Today, the permanent crisis of building effective, international working-class leadership and organizations, based on fraternal collaboration and solidarity in common struggle, remains weak and unresolved. But it is increasingly on the table as social and class polarization, and inevitable political volatility and instability, mounts everywhere, from the richest to the most destitute countries on Earth, and everywhere in between.

    Today, the permanent crisis of building effective, international working-class leadership based on fraternal collaboration and solidarity in common struggle, remains weak and unresolved. But it is increasingly on the table as social and class polarization, and inevitable political volatility and instability, mounts everywhere.

    Yet, this is also an era where the fact and example of the Cuban Revolution survives and leads. It is this anti-imperialist, socialist, and Marxist legacy of Fidel Castro needs to be studied by young people turning to anti-capitalism and socialism, and to revolutionary struggle around the world, including in the United States, Europe, and other industrialized capitalist countries. Many will perhaps be surprised at the fruits of their study.

    Fidel and Stalinism

    Political and ideological attacks on Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolutionary government from the propaganda machinery of the capitalist world have generally attempted and continue to attempt to identify the Cuban Revolution with “Stalinism,” no matter how little serious understanding of that actual historical phenomenon there is on the part of anti-Cuban propagandists. Of course, defenders and apologists for capitalism and imperialism love to equate “Communism” and Marxism with Stalinism, and to collapse the latter into the former.

    Historically, the terms “socialism” and “communism” were more or less interchangeable. After the Russian Revolution, a sharp polarization in the workers movement developed between supporters and opponents of the Bolsheviks in the radicalizing workers movement, with Lenin and the Bolsheviks identifying as “Communists.” This political division was reflected and registered in the different labels. This deepened with the consolidation of Stalin’s regime which retained the label “Communist” as did the large majority of Communist Parties in the world that allied with the Soviet government and Stalin’s Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

    The objective and subjective circumstances facing the Cuban Revolution, and the responsibilities upon Fidel as the central spokesperson of the revolutionary leadership, made a certain circumspection a necessary political quality and characteristic. The art of revolutionary politics – a test that every sectarian fails – is not always saying everything you may think you know, but saying what is necessary, always speaking the concrete truth, and backing up your words with deeds, and with action.

    At the same time, the alliance – including the military component – with the Soviet Union and the “socialist camp,” was decisive in the very material survival of the Cuban Revolution, at least in the crucial early years when Washington’s open commitment, backed by furious actions and deeds, was to utterly eradicate the revolutionary government. Moreover, Fidel and the Cuban leadership were genuinely grateful for the solidarity and material aid they received from the Soviet Union and its allies.

    The Fidelistas were drawn into, whether they liked it or not, the raging political battles within the “world Communist movement.” This was a period where the schisms between the Soviet and Chinese Communist Parties and governments were becoming toxic even as US aggression against Vietnam began to escalate and eventually dominate world politics throughout the decade of the 1960s and early 1970s. The contemporary questions roiling the “world communist movement” essentially dealt with the long decades of the rule of Joseph Stalin’s government in the Soviet Union from its consolidation of power by the late-1920s, following the January 1924 death of Lenin, and the failure of Lenin’s death-bed attempts to remove Stalin as the General Secretary and a central leader of the Soviet Communist Party.

    The Cuban leaders thought deeply about all these questions. Che Guevara, in particular, grappled with these questions very concretely as he prepared to depart from Cuba to provide central revolutionary political-military leadership for revolutionary armed struggle first in the Congo and then Bolivia and the Latin America Continent. Even before that in the period prior to 1965, when Che was a primary spokesperson and emissary of the Cuban Revolution in world politics, making numerous political and diplomatic travels, establishing relations with many countries, and visiting the “socialist camp.” The experience led him to think out, develop, and write down serious criticisms of the economic, social, and political practices of the Soviet and Eastern European governments and parties.

    Cuban practices, despite pressures to conform to and assimilate the economic and social policies of their Soviet bloc allies, tended to diverge in many concrete arenas: land reform, the approach to family farmers and the peasantry as a class, culture and art, criminal justice and legal norms, hostility to torture, electoral procedures, women’s rights, and foreign policy. But, and this was central to the “Rectification” campaign, and, later, the lessons drawn from the “Special Period,” there was a tendency to copy, especially in economic practices, the experience and mechanisms of the Soviet Union and the “socialist camp.”

    Under these circumstances, Fidel and the Cuban revolutionary leadership could not say everything they thought publicly, although if we look at the actual historical record, it is quite remarkable how much was said and how the independent revolutionary perspectives of the Cuban leadership was projected internationally. Vietnam was the sharpest expression of this, in the public speeches and statements of Fidel and Che.18

    Fidel’s 1973 visit to Quang Tri in southern Vietnam raising the Khe Sahn Battalion Flag

    The Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia

    As I note in the essay, “55 Years Later: Political Legacies of the Cuban Missile Crisis“:

    Soviet-Cuban tensions escalated in this mid-1960s period, although never to the point of a public break. Nevertheless, sharp, concrete political and theoretical differences were registered between the Soviet and Cuban leaderships in this period over the US escalation in Vietnam and serious political divergence in Latin America. In several speeches in 1966 and 1967 Fidel Castro publicly excoriated the Soviet government for its economic and political relations with Latin American repressive and reactionary regimes.

    The betrayal and execution of Che in 1967 sharpened the existing tensions and was followed by the [Anibal] Escalante intrigue and covert plotting against the revolutionary government. In terms of the economic relations and exchange between Cuba and the Soviet Union during these clashes, there was limited but noticeable Soviet measures affecting the struggling Cuban economy which was being whipped by the US economic blockade, particularly in the Americas. In this period, the first decade of the Cuban Revolution, Cuba struggled with diplomatic isolation in the Western Hemisphere under US pressure, with only Canada and Mexico maintaining formal diplomatic ties.

    While all of this was impacting on the Cuban leadership and Cuban-Soviet relation –  and while, at the same time, the United States government, on the cusp of the Vietnamese “Tet Offensive,” had 500,000 troops and personnel in Vietnam, employing massive, destructive, and murderous firepower – in August 1968, the Soviet Union, with the participation of troops from four other of its allied Warsaw Pact states, invaded Czechoslovakia with some 200,000 troops, and overthrew the “reform” and popular government of Alexander Dubcek, who was the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.

    Fidel Castro gave very critical, even bitter, support to the invasion in a highly anticipated public speech. The speech was so critical that the Soviet press maintained a censorious public silence on its content, despite the bottom-line support. Aside from the inevitable denouncement from Washington and the European capitalist powers who had been handed by Moscow a propaganda bonanza and opportunities for political advantage in the “Cold War” chessboard, the Soviet invasion caused huge divisions and opposition from large Communist Parties in Europe and elsewhere, and near-universal opposition among left-wing forces and revolutionary-minded tendencies worldwide.

    Fidel’s position as elaborately, and even passionately, presented in an August 23, 1968 highly anticipated speech, was internally consistent. He said the invasion “unquestionably entailed a violation of legal principles and international norms” and “it cannot be denied that the sovereignty of the Czechoslovak State was violated. That would be a fiction [and] an untruth. And the violation was, in fact, of a flagrant nature…From a legal point of view, this cannot be justified…Not the slightest trace of legality exists. Frankly, none whatsoever.”

    Nevertheless, Fidel accepted the premise and assertion that Czechoslovakia was heading toward a restoration of capitalism which meant it would fall into the arms of world imperialism, weaken the “socialist camp,” and thereby greatly weaken anti-imperialist struggles around the world, particularly in Vietnam, but also the Cuban Revolution at that conjuncture. Leaving aside whether Fidel Castro was accurately assessing the dynamics of the so-called “Prague Spring” of Dubcek reforms and government, it is clear that Fidel’s position was shaped by anti-imperialist “camp” theories that was a seemingly intractable political framework at that height of the Cold War.

    The Cuban Revolution paid a high price politically for a number of years for their position, despite the harsh criticisms and nuances in Fidel’s speech. It reinforced the views of those who identified the Castro leadership with “Stalinism,” and won over even more liberals, progressives, and leftists to that subjective, shallow viewpoint.

    Nevertheless, Fidel never reversed his initial judgment and position of critical support for the Soviet invasion. (In the Ramonet interviews, Fidel said “[F]urthermore, we said we thought that the first issues raised in Czechoslovakia were unobjectionable, because they tended to improve Socialism. The denunciation of the methods of governance, the bureaucratic policies, the divorce [from] the masses, all those denunciations were unquestionably correct. But from fair slogans there had been a move towards an openly reactionary policy.  And we – bitterly, sadly – had to approve that military intervention. The preservation of the unity and strength of Socialism in the face of imperialism was for us vital, of first priority.” For his full nuanced position in Ramonet see pages 579-580. (In 1979 Fidel opposed the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan on grounds of international law.)

    Fidel on Stalin

    On a number of occasions Fidel Castro spoke clearly and forthrightly, with great reflection and insight, on the figure of Joseph Stalin and Stalin’s impact on history and world politics, including the politics of the “world Communist movement.” In the Ramonet interviews Fidel said,

    I, deep inside, was more critical of Stalin, because of some of his mistakes. He was to blame, in my view, for the invasion of the USSR in 1941 by Hitler’s powerful war machine, without the Soviet army ever hearing a call to arms. Stalin also committed serious errors – everyone knows about his abuse of force, the repression, and his personal characteristics, the cult of personality. But yet he showed tremendous merit in industrializing the country, in moving the military industry to Siberia – those were decisive factors in the world’s fight against Nazism. So, when I analyse it, I weigh his merits and also his great errors, and one of those was when he purged the Red Army due to Nazi misinformation – that weakened the USSR militarily on the eve of the Fascist attack…He disarmed himself, he weakened himself, and he signed that terrible German-Soviet pact, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and other things.

    In a 1992 interview with Sandinista leader Tomas Borge, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro went into more detail:

    We should keep in mind, first of all, that the Soviet Union had the misfortune of Lenin dying relatively young. It needed him to live a further 10, 15 or 20 years…Lenin would have been able to rectify many of the negative trends that arose within the soviet revolutionary process after his death. Thus, Lenin’s absence – the vacuum his death left in the theoretical sphere as well as the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union – is a factor that had a great influence on what happened next.

    Castro then focused on “first of all, for his infringements on legality. Stalin committed enormous abuses of power,” as well as “Stalin’s character, his terrible distrust of everything, [which] made him commit several other mistakes: one of them was falling in the trap of German intrigue and conducting a terrible, bloody purge of the armed forces and practically beheading the Soviet Army on the eve of war.”

    Going into detail Fidel contrasts the practice of revolutionary Cuba to Stalin’s “worst mistakes” in agricultural policy and “forced collectivization” of farms.

    It seems to me that the process of socialization of the land should have been started earlier and developed progressively…It seems to me that the attempt to socialize the land in an extremely short period of time historically, by means of violence, was very costly, both economically and in terms of human suffering. That was a serious mistake under Stalin’s leadership…What I don’t believe is that anything forced them to have then carried out an accelerated process of compulsory collectivization…We’ve always understood that small plots of land have limited production possibilities, but we never engaged in any compulsory collectivization.

    Estimates of the number who died in the mass famines in Soviet Ukraine in this period are in the millions.

    Castro credits Stalin’s organizational and administrative talents, and his eye for detail, for the relatively rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and for the, by any measure, heroic accomplishment of Soviet workers of dismantling and transporting whole war industries and factories east of the Ural Mountains, and out of the range of the Nazi Luftwaffe, as the Nazi onslaught advanced, a process Stalin evidently directly oversaw and supervised. By this point, Stalin had given considerable ground in military decision making to the rebuilt Red Army officer corps.

    Castro’s stated views on Stalin are particularly animated and sharp on the period leading up to and during World War II, particularly on the political morality of the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact. These give important insights into the primacy that Fidel gives, in revolutionary politics, to internationalist Marxist principles, and not giving up the moral high ground. He contrasts and compares – within the limits of any analogy – the practice of the Cuban Revolution to Stalin and Stalinism. The Borge interview takes place in the real-time period where the Soviet Union had just collapsed as a nation-state. As he recalled to Borge:

    I was 13 when World War II began, and I read all the newspapers. I had been avidly reading all of the newspapers, all the international news, ever since the Spanish Civil War…I read the newspapers in the years proceeding World War II, and I read the news every day during the war years. This is without mentioning the books I read about the military events of the time and about political events after the war.

    Stalin [did] something that I will always criticize, because I think it was a flagrant violation of principle: his seeking peace with Hitler at all costs, to gain time. In our long revolutionary life and in the already relatively long life of the Cuban Revolution, we have never negotiated even one principle to gain time or obtain any other kind of practical advantage…all my life, ever since I developed a political and revolutionary awareness, I have considered that pact to have been a terrible mistake in Soviet foreign policy, a mistake that Stalin made in those years leading up to the war…Moreover, I think that, far from providing more time, that nonaggression pact reduced the time available…I think it was a terrible mistake from the point of view of principles and of international opinion…all my life, I’ve thought that the little war against Finland was another terrible mistake, both from the viewpoint of principles, and from that of international law. That’s what I have always thought.

    He drives home this crucial point, which was also made in the November 2005 speech at the University of Havana:

    [Stalin] went on making one mistake after another that brought the Soviet Union into disrepute among large sectors of world public opinion and placed Communists around the world…in an extremely difficult position, having to defend all those things in their own countries. Communists all over the world…had to engage in a kind of hari-kari to defend the Soviet Union…they found themselves forced to defend such unpopular things as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the occupation of a part of Polish territory, and the war with Finland.

    At this point he tells Borge:

    Now that we’re talking about this, I should take the opportunity to tell you that I’ve never spoken about these things this way with any journalist before.

    Castro continues:

    I think they were terrible political mistakes – and mistakes of principle as well – that we would never have made. The history of the Cuban revolution bears this out, because the Revolution never abandoned its principles. Never, for national convenience or any other reason, did the Revolution abandon any legitimate cause in the world, nor did it abandon any revolutionary movements, even though our adversary was the powerful US government….The things I mentioned go contrary to…doctrine…[and] political wisdom. Even though it is true that the Soviet Union had a year and nine months between September 1939 and June 1941 in which to rearm, the one who made himself much stronger – ten times as strong – was Hitler. If Hitler had gone to war against the Soviet Union in 1939, he would have done it less damage than in June 1941…He made another extremely serious mistake in June 1941 when the German had concentrated millions of soldiers, thousands of planes, tens of thousands of tanks and armored vehicles and hundreds of divisions…along the border. Faced with such clearly aggressive intentions – it was impossible to disguise them – Stalin clung to the theory that it was an act of provocation…and acted like an ostrich, sticking his head in the sand. He didn’t mobilize the troops…So what happened?…Hitler launched a “surprise” attack on the Soviet Union…How do you launch a “surprise” attack with millions of soldiers? Well, it was done, and Hitler’s troops attacked a country that wasn’t mobilized.

    Fidel on Stalinism – Brazil 1990

    In March 1990 Fidel traveled to Brazil to attend the Inauguration of Fernando Collor de Mello, the first directly elected president since the Brazilian military regime gave up formal political power in 1985. Collor de Mello defeated the left-wing Workers Party candidate Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva by 6%, in what was widely considered a manipulated outcome. Collor de Mello was the scion of one of the top ruling-class families of Brazil with vast media holdings. His was one of the first governments identified with the “Washington Consensus” and “neoliberal austerity” policies, registering pro-imperialist advances under conditions of inflationary spirals and massive state debt, to take office in the wake of the end of the revolutionary upsurge in Central America and the Caribbean and the collapse of the USSR and the governments of its Warsaw Pact allies. Within two years Collor de Mello was impeached for numerous “gross corrupt acts.”

    In that period, the political dynamic in Latin American, where mass struggles for democratic rights were growing, was also prying open democratic and political space in a number of countries and, at the same time, registering a relative political slippage and retreat in Washington after the brutal “Condor” years. Politically, Fidel’s visit was part of the successful initiatives of Cuban revolutionary diplomacy in this period. The Cuban government saw, and seized on, the new, and highly contradictory, political conditions in Latin America in that period, to break out of Washington’s imposed diplomatic isolation for socialist Cuba in the Americas. This was a very successful campaign over a number of years, occurring at the same time Cuba was reeling from, coping with, and struggling mightily to ameliorate and get out of the “Special Period.”

    Fidel’s expansive trip to Brazil was six days full of speeches and encounters up and down Brazilian society.

    In 1990 Brazil, in this period when the “socialist camp” was disintegrating in real time and the Cuban government had begun preparing the Cuban people for the economic tsunami that they knew was about to smash into Cuba, Fidel spoke expansively on Stalinism and the Cuban Revolution. The political importance represented by Fidel’s remarks was underlined by the publication in Cuba of the small book Back in Brazil in 1990, under the copyright of both Fidel and the Jose Marti Publishing House.

    In a meeting with a Christian “base community” at the Anhembi Convention Center in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 17, 1990 Fidel gave an extensive back-and-forth in the mass meeting attended by 1300 activists and chaired by prominent Catholic theologian Leonardo Boff, Methodist Minister Taria Marra, and Lutheran Minister Milton Schwantes.

    Asked about Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika in the USSR (in what turned out to be the last year-and-a-half of the Soviet state) and if Cuba would have such an “opening” and “democratic process,” Castro answered:

    [We] had already begun our process of rectification of errors and negative tendencies. Naturally, our process couldn’t be the same as that of the USSR, because we didn’t make the same mistakes they made.  We made other mistakes of a different kind and we had to rectify them, because doing the things they did over there would have been like removing a corn with a remedy prescribed for a toothache…We didn’t have phenomena like those stemming from Stalinism in our country – that never occurred and neither did abuse of authority, for at certain historical moments highly negative violent processes against peoples took place in the Soviet Union.

    We’ve never used violence against even a single one of our citizens; we’d never stoop to doing that, because the day we did such a thing, using torture, committing crimes, we’d be outraged ourselves. There’s never been a case of political crime in our country; we had revolutionary laws, revolutionary courts, revolutionary trials, and even spies, terrorists who were executed with due process, but we’ve never laid a finger on anybody to make him speak or tell anything…That hasn’t stopped people from spreading the most atrocious and infamous lies about our country…but, obviously, great abuse of authority took place at certain times in the USSR, and there were phenomena which did not exist in Cuba.

    …Other things happened in Cuba and one of them was that, in spite of the originality our Revolution always had, there were some things we copied from them and in our process of rectification this is one of the things we’ve rectified so far. I mean methods we copied from them with bad results in our country…We are distancing ourselves from mistakes; we don’t think much of using capitalist categories in constructing socialism while they, on the other hand, are moving in the direction of introducing capitalist categories more and more…We respect what they’re doing, because I really think [what] a country does must be respected. I’m simply answering your question…We’ve been careful to avoid as much as possible privileges for our leaders, officials, cadres; we struggle against that but, above all, we’ve made a big effort to uphold the unity between our Party and the people, between the Revolution and the people. Because what has happened in several of these countries is that there was a gap between the Party and the people, between the government and the people. If we commit those mistakes we won’t last two minutes next to the United States, a powerful country that blockades us, pressures us, harasses us, wants to destroy us. Without a united, organized, and armed people to defend the Revolution, we couldn’t exist next to the United States, and so reality shows that we haven’t made those types of errors.

    Driving home the point, Fidel indicates the steely political resolve that led Cuba successfully through the “Special Period” and into the new horizons, and challenges, for Cuban socialism today:

    Does it seem like the easiest thing in the world to make a revolution 90 miles away from the United States and resist for over 30 years the imperialist blockade, the hostility, the slander, the war against us, the permanent threats, which have forced us to invest so many resources and so much energy, and make so many sacrifices. Who was going to save socialism in Cuba, the Soviet tanks? The Soviets were over there, far away from us, they couldn’t have arrived in Cuba in time. The tanks that can come rapidly to Cuba are the US tanks, do you understand? That actually helped us a lot.

    Instead of saying, what a misfortune it is living so close to the United States, I can say, what a good fortune to have lived so far away from the borders of the Soviet Union. It never occurred to us to trust that the Soviets would come to save our Revolution, had we divorced ourselves from the masses and the people and started to make all sorts of mistakes. And, in addition, what good fortune that was, because any revolution that is unable to defend itself is a revolution not worth saving. What good is any revolution that must depend on others to save it?

    Fidel Castro and the Crisis of Revolutionary Leadership in the World

    History will record that the team of revolutionary fighters gathered around Fidel Castro made a giant effort to move forward the struggle for revolutionary leadership in the world. Cuban revolutionary theory and practice was animated by a strong anti-bureaucratism articulated in the speeches and writings of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, that was bound together by a profound internationalist spirit of solidarity. This entire perspective and outlook was a return to – and spurred the revival of in a new generation of revolutionary-minded youth – a creative, and human-being centered, Marxism after decades of stultification and dogma in theory, as well as horrible crimes and betrayals in its name in practice, by the government led by Joseph Stalin and his acolytes in the Soviet Union and the so-called “socialist camp.” (See especially Socialism and Man in Cuba by Che Guevara, Pathfinder Press edition and Fidel Castro’s 1962 speech on sectarianism and bureaucracy.)

    The consolidation of the socialist Cuban Revolution meant that for the first time since the opening years of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, revolutionary internationalists were in the leadership of a workers’ state. They not only held domestic power but, in their foreign policy, had the political perspective of extending the Revolution and using the political authority and material resources of the workers state – within the limits of the possible – to collaborate with and aid fellow revolutionists.

    Taken as a whole, Fidel’s accomplishments stand unique in the history of the revolutionary workers’ movement and the national independence and liberation struggles that unfolded fiercely in the blood-soaked 20th Century.

    In the following year after the 2005 University of Havana speech, Fidel underwent emergency intestinal surgery with a long recovery period. In February 2008 Fidel announced that he would not take up his government positions and on February 24, 2008 Raul Castro became President of the Cuban Council of State. On April 19, 2011 Fidel resigned from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba. At each step of Fidel’s illness and his physical inability to continue in his positions, his class enemies and anti-Cuba propagandists, who were tied to the line of “the dictator” and the “one-man show” smugly prophesized the quick collapse and implosion of the Cuban Revolution. Some are reverting to the same nonsense as President Raul Castro prepares to step down in April 2018 at the end of his term.

    When Fidel Castro delivered the famous October 18, 1967 memorial speech for Ernesto Che Guevara in the Plaza de la Revolucion before over one million Cubans, he said about Che that, “An example such as this can never be eliminated by anything or anyone.” No more profound truth can be said about Fidel. It was Fidel’s fate, to the great benefit of oppressed and exploited humanity, to survive as a revolutionary fighter, head of state, dominant figure in international politics, and so much more until the age of 90. His ideas, ethical revolutionary practice, moral stature, and identification with revolutionary Marxism and the struggle for a socialist world and a classless society are immortal and imperishable and will never be erased.

    As Frederick Engels said at the graveside of Karl Marx:

    Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat…Fighting was his element. And he fought with a passion, a tenacity and a success such as few could rival… His work [including]… a host of militant pamphlets, work in organizations in Paris, Brussels and London, and finally, crowning all, the formation of the great International Working Men’s Association — this was indeed an achievement of which its founder might well have been proud even if he had done nothing else. And, consequently, Marx was the best hated and most calumniated man of his time. Governments, both absolutist and republican, deported him from their territories. Bourgeois, whether conservative or ultra-democratic, vied with one another in heaping slanders upon him. All this he brushed aside as though it were a cobweb, ignoring it, answering only when extreme necessity compelled him. And he died beloved, revered and mourned by millions of revolutionary fellow workers — from the mines of Siberia to California, in all parts of Europe and America…His name will endure through the ages, and so also will his work.

    Let the oppressors, the warmongers, the racists, the oppressors of women, the oligarchies, and the capitalist ruling classes rage and tremble at the memory of Fidel Castro, and rejoice at his passing. His towering physical presence is now ashes buried in Santiago de Cuba, the cradle of the Cuban Revolution. But they are not finished, they will never be finished, with Fidel Castro. And he is not through with them.

    • Author’s Note: This essay is dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth Febe Velasquez

    1. Lincoln’s great merit was sanctioning and implementing, in the crucial 1863-64 period culminating in his 1864 re-election, truly revolutionary measures to actually abolish slavery on the ground (and later constitutionally with the Congressional passage of the Thirteen Amendment), and thereby implementing the radical abolitionist program. These measures included the recruitment and training of free Black and ex-slaves into the Union Army, which became a decisive factor in the defeat of the Confederate Army, as the Union forces became a vehicle for the escape, migration to Union Army lines, and liberation of millions of slaves (although large numbers died of disease, malnutrition, and poverty in the process). In my judgement, this fact transcends and overcomes the bulk of Lincoln’s pre-Civil War political and legislative career, with its fine distinctions, measured gradualism, adaptations to white-supremacist ideology, and his overweening pragmatism on the “slavery question.” Fidel was a lifelong admirer of Lincoln, laid a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in 1959, and always kept a bust of Lincoln in his office. Also see Karl Marx and Frederick Engels profound and essential writings and correspondence on the US Civil War and Lincoln.
    2. See Isaac Saney’s “Cuba, Human Rights, and Self Determination: A Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Commission” for an objective, fact-based, and compelling presentation of Cuban election procedures and participatory democratic norms, constitutional, and political space. Fidel once commented on the development of Cuban political institutions, “You strangle us for forty years and then criticize us for the way we breathe.”
    3. See Frederick Engels seminal essay and polemic “On Authority”.
    4. On March 29, 1959, for example, Fidel took up, without pandering one milligram to residual popular prejudice or social backwardness, the question of racism at a mass rally of Cuban workers: “I believe it is my duty to tell the people about the things on my mind and how they must collaborate with their revolutionary government and how it is helping them…But not everybody’s mentality has developed enough in the revolutionary way; a revolutionary consciousness is lagging behind the people’s feelings.  The people’s feelings are all revolutionary, but their mentality is still not wholly so.  The people’s mentality is conditioned by many inherited prejudices, many vestiges of the past, and many old customs.  If the people want to overcome this evil they must begin by recognizing it…Battles must be won by us…the battle against unemployment; the battle to raise the standards of the lowest paid workers; the battle to bring down the cost of living; and one of the most just battles that must be fought, a battle that must be emphasized more and more, which I might call the fourth battle — the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. I repeat:  the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers.  Of all forms of racial discrimination, the worst is the one that limits the colored Cuban’s access to jobs.  It is true that there is in our country in some sectors the shameful procedure of barring Negroes from jobs. Everybody knows I am not a demagogue. Everybody knows I hate demagogy…[The first form] of racial discrimination we must combat is racial discrimination at work centers…

      [This]…limits access to places where a living can be earned.  It limits the Negro’s chances of satisfying his needs, and so we commit the crime of denying the chance to work to the poorest group particularly. While the colonial society made the Negro work as a slave, made the Negro work more than anybody else, and without pay, we commit the crime in our current society, which some have wanted to call a democratic society, of doing just the opposite and trying to prevent him from working to earn a living.  And so, while the colony worked him to death and beat him to death, we want to starve our colored brothers to death. It ought to be necessary to issue a law to establish a right that is earned by the mere fact of being a human being and a member of society.  It ought not to be necessary to issue a law against an absurd prejudice.

      What should be proclaimed is anathema and public condemnation against those men, full of leftover prejudices, and who are unscrupulous enough to discriminate against a Cuban, to mistreat a Cuban, over a matter of lighter or darker skin, because, after all, we all have a lighter or darker skin…But nobody can consider himself of a pure race, least of all the whites. The same way that we are going to organize and wage a campaign for buying domestic products, without a law or legal penalties being needed, we are going to put an end to racial discrimination at work centers by waging a campaign to end this shame, to end this hateful, repugnant system with a new slogan:  work opportunities for every Cuban, without discrimination for race or sex.  Let there be an end to racial discrimination at work centers; let whites and blacks all get together to end hateful racial discrimination at work centers.  In this way we will gradually build the new fatherland. We must mingle at recreation centers…At school black and white learn to live together like brothers. And if they mingle in the public schools they mingle afterwards at recreation centers and they mingle everywhere. But when they are educated separately, and the aristocrats educate their children apart from the Negroes, it is logical that later whites and blacks cannot mingle at cultural or recreation spots. [We will build] playing fields at public schools where blacks and whites can play together, and also establish clubs — or let us change the name and call them recreation centers — as we are going to do at all beaches; we are going to provide recreation centers for public school children, where they can have fun, play, and enjoy the bounties of nature, and know the joy to which every child has a right, the white child and the black together, as in the schools…”

    5. There has never been, in the practice of the Cuban Revolution, any laws or campaigns against religious belief or believers, although religious cover was often used by CIA-trained counter-revolutionary enemies of the Cuban Revolution in their violent struggle against the revolutionary Cuban government, leading to tensions and pressures, including with church hierarchies. A sectarian rule barring religious believers from being members of the Cuban Communist Party was not overturned until 1991. In 1992 the Cuban Constitution was amended to deem Cuba a secular state, as opposed to the previous characterization as “atheist.”
    6. The caricature that has become the mainstream narrative of the Russian Revolution in “Western” academic and journalistic circles paints it as a minority coup against a “democratic” government. This will be repeated ad nauseum in this centenary year of the Bolshevik triumph. In actual fact, the overthrown Provisional Government was never elected to anything by anyone and continually postponed having universal parliamentary elections. Such elections were actually held after the November 7 Revolution, under Lenin’s government, from previously drawn up candidate lists, that no longer accurately registered the fundamental changes on the ground, most importantly the major split of the peasant-based Socialist Revolutionary (SR) party, with the reconstituted Left SR’s now allied with the new Bolshevik government, that was carrying out land reform and ratifying land seizures taking place on a mass scale by landless peasants, including soldiers from the broken ex-Tsarist Army.

      The election results were majorities or large pluralities for the Bolsheviks in the cities and majorities for the former Socialist Revolutionary (SR) party in the countryside, and the collapse of electoral support for the liberal capitalist and “moderate” socialist parties. The Bolsheviks were the overwhelming choice of soldiers who voted at the various war fronts. (See John Reed’s 10 Days That Shook the World for the actual numbers of the Constituent Assembly elections). After foreign subversion and intervention began and the bloody Russian Civil War broke out and deepened, and the Bolshevik government dissolved the, by then, incoherent “Constituent Assembly.” The Bolshevik idea was to transcend and replace the bourgeois parliamentary system that had developed out of early British class struggles, the 1776 US and 1789 French Revolutions, 19th Century Latin American independence struggles, and the 1848 bourgeois-democratic revolutionary upsurge in Europe, with the soviet system of mass workers, peasants, and soldiers elected councils. This political program and perspective came under overwhelming pressure during the Civil War and its aftermath and Lenin’s death in January 1924. The soviet system eventually became, under Stalin’s rule, a formal construct with little political content or genuine working-class or popular participation. The closest approximation to the forms and norms the Bolsheviks tried to develop is in Cuba today.

    7. Every year since 1992 the United Nations General Assembly has voted to condemn Washington’s “Economic, Commercial, and Financial Embargo” against Cuba.  As I wrote in a 2013 article, “Isolation: Another Vote on Washington’s Anti-Cuba Policy at the United Nations“:

      Washington’s formal political isolation over its anti-Cuba policy can hardly be more complete. Is it possible to imagine any significant political issue in world politics uniting so many disparate entities often in significant conflict with each other — from the semi-feudal ultra-reactionary ‘Sunni’ Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the ‘Shi’ite’ Islamic Republic of Iran, from India to Pakistan and Syria to Turkey; ‘North’ Korea and ‘South’ Korea; Russia and Georgia, and so on across the spectrum from the most industrialized capitalist ex-colonial powers in Europe and Japan to their most ‘underdeveloped’ ex-subjects in the so-called Third World?

      And, it has to be underlined, that this vote was in defense of Cuba — a revolutionary socialist government ruling over a state where capitalist property relations have been overturned since the early 1960s and which has renounced nothing of its revolutionary legacy, heritage, and program even as it maneuvers and navigates in the reality of a disintegrating capitalist world order?

      On November 1, 2017 the UN General Assembly voted by the margin of 191-2 (with the United States and Israel voting no) registering the posture of the Donald Trump White House which has escalated bellicose rhetoric against Cuba and moved to further restrict travel back and forth between Cuba and the United States. In 2016, in the last period of the Barack Obama Administration, which had seen through the establishment of US-Cuban formal diplomatic relations in 2015, Washington and Tel Aviv had abstained. US bilateral and extraterritorial economic, commercial, and financial sanctions against Cuba continued under the Obama Administration. Despite its deferential vote with Washington at the UN, Israel and Cuba have significant economic exchanges with no sanctions and freedom of travel between the two nations.

    8. In Fidel Castro: My Life, A Spoken Autobiography by Fidel Castro and Ignacio Ramonet, Scribner 2008, Fidel describes how “[In] July 1947, at the age of twenty-one I joined the Cay Confites expedition to fight against the dictatorship of Trujillo, since in my first year [at the University of Havana] I’d been designated chairman of the [Federation of University Student’s] Committee for Dominican Democracy. I’d also been named Chairman of the Committee for Puerto Rican Independence.” While the expedition was a debacle, Castro called it “an experience of great political importance,” which he describes on p. 97-98.
    9. In one of his last addresses to the Cuban people on November 17, 2005, Fidel gave a major speech at the University of Havana before becoming ill and undergoing major surgery less than one year later.  The wide-ranging speech is a remarkable and noteworthy document for many reasons. In it Fidel zeroed in on questions of economic waste, bureaucracy, and corruption as Cuba was beginning to emerge from the economic crisis and “Special Period” starting in the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

      In the speech Castro spoke candidly about how the PSP was politically discredited among the revolutionary-minded youth of his generation, when it allied with Batista and joined his government. Referring to “the erroneous direction that was imposed by Stalin on the international movement,” pushing the PSP alliance with Batista. “By then, Batista had suppressed the famous strike of April 1934 that followed his coup against the provisional government in 1933 which was unquestionably revolutionary in nature and to a large degree, the result of the historical fight of the workers’ movement and the Cuban communists. Before that anti-fascist alliance, Batista had assassinated countless numbers of people and robbed incredible sums of money, and had become a flunky of Yankee imperialism.  The order came from Moscow: organize the anti-fascist front.  It was a pact with the devil.  Here the pact was with the fascist ABC and Batista, a fascist of a different color, who was both a criminal and robber of the public coffer. And further in the speech, “[T]hat alliance with Batista…who had repressed students and the public in general. The young people resented [Batista’s] power very much; the workers who had always seen their interests continuously defended by the communist leaders were firmly loyal to the Party, but it was amongst the youth and wide popular sectors of society that there was the most justified rejection of Batista.”

    10. See Contesting Castro: The United States and the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution by Thomas Patterson, Oxford University Press, 1994 on the Dwight Eisenhower White House’s endeavors to make contact with anti-Batista forces, including the July 26 Movement. This, of course, was conditioned by the growing political turmoil and crisis in Cuba as the Batista regime grew more hated and isolated, and as the armed struggle – politically led by Fidel Castro – was advancing.
    11. Ernesto Che Guevara’s Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War 1956-58, (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1996), remains the classic, first-hand account of the course of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. It is a literary and historical gem.
    12. A panel at The Cuban Playa Giron Museum commemorates the defeat of the counter-revolutionaries. One of its panels reads: “The social composition of the mercenary brigade revealed the interests that they hoped to re-establish. An analysis of prisoners demonstrated that 800 of them, or their families, had owned 370,628 hectares of land [around 916,000 acres], 9,666 houses or buildings, 70 factories, 10 sugar refineries, five mines and two banks. They also included 135 soldiers of the tyrant Batista, and 65 criminals, among whom were three known murderers and torturers.” Fidel Castro personally interviewed and interrogated each prisoner and reported these figures and more at a massive May Day 1961 rally in Havana, eight days after the Cuban victory.
    13. Accurate statistics for pre-revolutionary Cuba regarding social and class composition and demographics are often incomplete, unreliable, and easy to manipulate. Slightly less than half of the Cuban population lived in the countryside according to the 1953 Cuban Census. Categories of landless peasants, family farmers (also mostly impoverished), and agricultural workers overlapped. Land ownership was dominated by giant monopolies or latifundia. The overriding factor to understand the pre-revolutionary social and class structures and system in Cuba was the domination of US capital in the overall Cuban economy. In his first-hand 1968 account, The Economic Transformation of Cuba (Monthly Review Press, New York), Edward Boorstein writes, “Sugar dominated the economy. Together with its byproducts, alcohol and molasses, sugar made up about 80 percent of the exports and paid for the bulk of the imports. The sugar companies controlled 70 to 75 percent of the arable land; they owned two-thirds of the railroad trackage; most of the ports and many of the roads were simply adjuncts of the sugar mills. The sugar industry employed about 25 percent of the labor force. The export of sugar and its byproducts constituted 20 to 30 percent of the gross domestic product. But this last percentage does not give sugar its true importance: most of the rest of the gross product depended on sugar.

      “The sugar industry was seasonal, unstable, and stagnant, and it imparted these characteristics to the whole economy. It employed about four to five hundred thousand workers to cut, load, and transport the cane during the three or four months of the harvest season, and then left them to starve during the rest of the year. The price and demand for sugar rode up and down with war and peace and business cycles, taking the whole Cuban economy with them. Since export outlets for Cuban sugar were growing only slowly, the whole Cuban economy stagnated.

      “Even apart from sugar, there was great concentration in Cuban exports. When tobacco, minerals, and coffee are added, 94 to 98 percent of total exports is accounted for. Tobacco exports, next in importance after sugar, also stagnated. They were about as high in 1957-1958 as in 1920-1921. The earnings from minerals and coffee were small and uncertain.

      “With exports stagnating, the only way the Cuban economy could have advanced was by increasing production for domestic use…[But] diversification and growth of agricultural output was blocked by the landholding system…Some new manufacturing industries producing for the Cuban market were being established, but they were foreign enclaves, appendages of the American or some other foreign economy…

      “Most of the land in Cuba was monopolized by huge latifundia – sugar plantations and cattle ranches – that sprawled across the countryside. Both sugar grower and rancher practiced extensive agriculture which wasted land, limited employment opportunities, and kept agricultural output down.”

    14. For a dramatic, beautifully rendered account, by the Nobel Prize in Literature-recipient Gabriel Garcia Marquez, of the Cuban mission, named “Operation Carlota,” in honor of an African slave in Cuba who, in 1843, was killed leading an uprising of women slaves in the city of Matanzas, against the Spanish slave masters and colonizers, click here.
    15. For the full, documented, and riveting account of all of this, see Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria and the Struggle for Southern Africa 1976-1991 by Piero Gleijeses, University of North Carolina Press, 2013. This volume, along with the previous Conflicting Missions University of North Carolina Press 2003 are classic works where Gleijeses weaves together in meticulous detail and documentation, the amazing history of Cuban internationalism in Africa, telling the full story of the defeat and unraveling of the South African apartheid state. Gleijeses, a noted scholar at Johns Hopkins University, was able to gain unprecedented access to US, Soviet-bloc, apartheid South African, and Cuban previously secret archives and documents.
    16. I visited El Salvador in November 1988 as part of an international labor delegation, representing the Washington Area Labor Committee on Central America and the Caribbean. We went there to attend the 20th Congress of the National Federation of Salvadoran Worker’s Unions (FENASTRAS). FENASTRAS organized, at the time, some 20,000 workers in many industries, including textile, garment, transport, and fishing. FENASTRAS wanted to test the waters and political space to hold a public Congress. Having an international trade-union delegation, with representatives from the US, UK, and other European countries (including, as I remember, a top Norwegian union leader) to physically attend the Congress was not only an act of solidarity but would hopefully be a protection for the gathered Salvadoran workers. The US folks flying into San Salvador were met furtively by two FENASTRAS leaders. Both were targeted by death squads. We learned details of the astonishing 800 FENASTRAS members and leaders who had been murdered by right-wing death squads tied to Washington. When we arrived to the FENASTRAS headquarters sandbags were stacked ten-feet high. I remember five minutes before the Congress was to start there were only the international delegation and a handful of Salvadorans. As I was thinking to myself, “well, this is a bust,” within the next five minutes hundreds of workers poured in using routes and means planned out for enhanced security. The Congress was a big success, but one year later, two of our hosts, including the dynamic and courageous General Secretary Elizabeth Velasquez, affectionately called Febe by workers, a textile worker and mother of three who organized a large plant making Levis and Calvin Klein jeans in San Salvador, and another FENASTRAS leader, Jose Daniel Melendez were among the ten people murdered when a powerful bomb devastated the FENASTRAS headquarters.
    17. At this time, anti-revolutionary Cuban-American organizations, with histories of violence and terrorism against Cuba, illegally organized from US territory, stepped up subversive provocations against Cuba, targeting in particular the rapidly expanding Cuban tourism industry. A terrorist bomb killed an Italian tourist. After repeated attempts to get the US government to act against this, a team of Cuban revolutionaries were dispatched to South Florida to infiltrate and monitor these groups clandestinely. Until they were arrested in 1998, the Cuban Five – Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez, and Ramon Labanino – preempted a number of planned attacks. A major international campaign organized over many years demanding freedom for the Cuban Five. The last three incarcerated Cuban heroes were released in December 2014, as part of the agreement between Cuban President Raul Castro and US President Barack Obama to restore US-Cuban diplomatic relations. Fidel had promised the Cuban people they would return, and he lived to see it.
    18. Che’s “Message to the Tricontinental,” was published by the Organization of Solidarity with the Peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America (Ospaal) in April 1967, while Che was fighting in Bolivia. It included a direct, stinging rebuke to the Soviet and Chinese governments: “US imperialism is guilty of aggression — its crimes are enormous and cover the whole world. We already know all that, gentlemen! But this guilt also applies to those who, when the time came for a definition, hesitated to make Vietnam an inviolable part of the socialist world; running, of course, the risks of a war on a global scale-but also forcing a decision upon imperialism. And the guilt also applies to those who maintain a war of abuse and snares — started quite some time ago by the representatives of the two greatest powers of the socialist camp.

    The Cold War Now and Then

    He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.

    – President Trump re Vladimir Putin after their meeting in Vietnam.

    Putin later added that he knew “absolutely nothing” about Russian contacts with Trump campaign officials. “They can do what they want, looking for some sensation. But there are no sensations.”1

    Numerous US intelligence agencies have said otherwise. Former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, responded to Trump’s remarks by declaring: “The president was given clear and indisputable evidence that Russia interfered in the election.”

    As we’ll see below, there isn’t too much of the “clear and indisputable” stuff. And this, of course, is the same James Clapper who made an admittedly false statement to Congress in March 2013, when he responded, “No, sir” and “not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Lies don’t usually come in any size larger than that.

    Virtually every member of Congress who has publicly stated a position on the issue has criticized Russia for interfering in the 2016 American presidential election. And it would be very difficult to find a member of the mainstream media which has questioned this thesis.

    What is the poor consumer of news to make of these gross contradictions? Here are some things to keep in mind:

    How do we know that the tweets and advertisements “sent by Russians” -– those presented as attempts to sway the vote -– were actually sent by Russians? The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), composed of National Security Agency and CIA veterans, recently declared that the CIA knows how to disguise the origin of emails and tweets. The Washington Post has as well reported that Twitter “makes it easy for users to hide their true identities.”2 Even if these communications were actually sent from Russia, how do we know that they came from the Russian government, and not from any of the other 144.3 million residents of Russia?

    Even if they were sent by the Russian government, we have to ask: Why would they do that? Do the Russians think the United States is a Third World, under-developed, backward Banana Republic easily influenced and moved by a bunch of simple condemnations of the plight of blacks in America and the Clinton “dynasty”? Or clichéd statements about other controversial issues, such as gun rights and immigration? If so, many Democratic and Republican officials would love to know the secret of the Russians’ method. Consider also that Facebook has stated that 90 percent of the alleged-Russian-bought content that ran on its network did not even mention Trump or Clinton.3

    On top of all this is the complete absence of even the charge, much less with any supporting evidence, of Russian interference in the actual voting or counting of votes.

    After his remark suggesting he believed Putin’s assertion that there had been no Russian meddling in the election, Trump – of course, as usual – attempted to backtrack and distant himself from his words after drawing criticism at home; while James Clapper declared: “The fact the president of the United States would take Putin at his word over that of the intelligence community is quite simply unconscionable.”4

    Given Clapper’s large-size lie referred to above, can Trump be faulted for being skeptical of the intelligence community’s Holy Writ? Purposeful lies of the intelligence community during the first Cold War were legendary, many hailed as brilliant tactics when later revealed. The CIA, for example, had phony articles and editorials planted in foreign newspapers (real Fake News), made sex films of target subjects caught in flagrante delicto who had been lured to Agency safe houses by female agents, had Communist embassy personnel expelled because of phony CIA documents, and much more.

    The Post recently published an article entitled “How did Russian trolls get into your Facebook feed? Silicon Valley made it easy.” In the midst of this “exposé,” The Post stated: “There’s no way to tell if you personally saw a Russian post or tweet.”5 So … Do the Cold Warriors have a case to make or do they not? Or do they just want us to remember that the Russkis are bad? So it goes.

    An organization in Czechoslovakia with the self-appointed name of European Values has produced a lengthy report entitled “The Kremlin’s Platform for ‘Useful Idiots’ in the West: An Overview of RT’s Editorial Strategy and Evidence of Impact”. It includes a long list of people who have appeared on the Russian-owned TV station RT (formerly Russia Today), which can be seen in the US, the UK and other countries. Those who’ve been guests on RT are the “idiots” useful to Moscow. (The list is not complete. I’ve been on RT about five times, but I’m not listed. Where is my Idiot Badge?)

    RT’s YouTube channel has more than two million followers and claims to be the “most-watched news network” on the video site. Its Facebook page has more than 4 million likes and followers. Can this explain why the powers-that-be forget about a thing called freedom-of-speech and treat the station like an enemy? The US government recently forced RT America to register as a foreign agent and has cut off the station’s Congressional press credentials.

    The Cold War strategist, George Kennan, wrote prophetically: “Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.”6

    Writer John Wight has described the new Cold War as being “in response to Russia’s recovery from the demise of the Soviet Union and the failed attempt to turn the country into a wholly owned subsidiary of Washington via the imposition of free market economic shock treatment thereafter.”

    So let’s see what other brilliance the New Cold War brings us. … Ah yes, another headline in the Post (November 18, 2017): “British alarm rising over possible Russian meddling in Brexit”. Of course, why else would the British people have voted to leave the European Union? But wait a moment, again, one of the British researchers behind the report “said that the accounts they analyzed – which claimed Russian as their language when they were set up but tweeted in English – posted a mixture of pro-‘leave’ and pro-‘remain’ messages regarding Brexit. Commentators have said that the goal may simply have been to sow discord and division in society.”

    Was there ever a time when the Post would have been embarrassed to be so openly, amateurishly biased about Russia? Perhaps during the few years between the two Cold Wars.

    In case you don’t remember how stupid Cold War Number One was …

    • 1948: The Pittsburgh Press published the names, addresses, and places of employment of about 1,000 citizens who had signed presidential-nominating petitions for former Vice President Henry Wallace, running under the Progressive Party. This, and a number of other lists of “communists”, published in the mainstream media, resulted in people losing their jobs, being expelled from unions, having their children abused, being denied state welfare benefits, and suffering various other punishments.
    • Around 1950: The House Committee on Un-American Activities published a pamphlet, “100 Things You Should Know About Communism in the U.S.A.” This included information about what a communist takeover of the United States would mean:Q: What would happen to my insurance?A: It would go to the Communists.Q: Would communism give me something better than I have now?A: Not unless you are in a penitentiary serving a life sentence at hard labor.
    • 1950s: Mrs. Ada White, member of the Indiana State Textbook Commission, believed that Robin Hood was a Communist and urged that books that told the Robin Hood story be banned from Indiana schools.
    • As evidence that anti-communist mania was not limited to the lunatic fringe or conservative newspaper publishers, here is Clark Kerr, president of the University of California at Berkeley in a 1959 speech: “Perhaps 2 or even 20 million people have been killed in China by the new [communist] regime.” One person wrote to Kerr: “I am wondering how you would judge a person who estimates the age of a passerby on the street as being ‘perhaps 2 or even 20 years old.’ Or what would you think of a physician who tells you to take ‘perhaps 2 or even twenty teaspoonsful of a remedy’?”
    • Throughout the cold war, traffic in phony Lenin quotes was brisk, each one passed around from one publication or speaker to another for years. Here’s U.S. News and World Report in 1958 demonstrating communist duplicity by quoting Lenin: “Promises are like pie crusts, made to be broken.” Secretary of State John Foster Dulles used it in a speech shortly afterward, one of many to do so during the cold war. Lenin actually did use a very similar line, but he explicitly stated that he was quoting an English proverb (it comes from Jonathan Swift) and his purpose was to show the unreliability of the bourgeoisie, not of communists.“First we will take Eastern Europe, then the masses of Asia, then we will encircle the United States, which will be the last bastion of capitalism. We will not have to attack. It will fall like an overripe fruit into our hands.” This Lenin “quotation” had the usual wide circulation, even winding up in the Congressional Record in 1962. This was not simply a careless attribution; this was an out-and-out fabrication; an extensive search, including by the Library of Congress and the United States Information Agency failed to find its origin.
    • A favorite theme of the anti-communists was that a principal force behind drug trafficking was a communist plot to demoralize the United States. Here’s a small sample:Don Keller, District Attorney for San Diego County, California in 1953: “We know that more heroin is being produced south of the border than ever before and we are beginning to hear stories of financial backing by big shot Communists operating out of Mexico City.”Henry Giordano, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1964, interviewed in the American Legion Magazine: Interviewer: “I’ve been told that the communists are trying to flood our country with narcotics to weaken our moral and physical stamina. Is that true?”Giordano: “As far as the drugs are concerned, it’s true. There’s a terrific flow of drugs coming out of Yunnan Province of China. … There’s no question that in that particular area this is the aim of the Red Chinese. It should be apparent that if you could addict a population you would degrade a nation’s moral fiber.”Fulton Lewis, Jr., prominent conservative radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist, 1965: “Narcotics of Cuban origin – marijuana, cocaine, opium, and heroin – are now peddled in big cities and tiny hamlets throughout this country. Several Cubans arrested by the Los Angeles police have boasted they are communists.”We were also told that along with drugs another tool of the commies to undermine America’s spirit was fluoridation of the water.
    • Mickey Spillane was one of the most successful writers of the 1950s, selling millions of his anti-communist thriller mysteries. Here is his hero, Mike Hammer, in “One Lonely Night”, boasting of his delight in the grisly murders he commits, all in the name of destroying a communist plot to steal atomic secrets. After a night of carnage, the triumphant Hammer gloats, “I shot them in cold blood and enjoyed every minute of it. I pumped slugs into the nastiest bunch of bastards you ever saw. … They were Commies. … Pretty soon what’s left of Russia and the slime that breeds there won’t be worth mentioning and I’m glad because I had a part in the killing. God, but it was fun!”
    • 1952: A campaign against the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) because it was tainted with “atheism and communism”, and was “subversive” because it preached internationalism. Any attempt to introduce an international point of view in the schools was seen as undermining patriotism and loyalty to the United States. A bill in the US Senate, clearly aimed at UNESCO, called for a ban on the funding of “any international agency that directly or indirectly promoted one-world government or world citizenship.” There was also opposition to UNESCO’s association with the UN Declaration of Human Rights on the grounds that it was trying to replace the American Bill of Rights with a less liberty-giving covenant of human rights.
    • 1955: A US Army 6-page pamphlet, “How to Spot a Communist”, informed us that a communist could be spotted by his predisposition to discuss civil rights, racial and religious discrimination, the immigration laws, anti-subversive legislation, curbs on unions, and peace. Good Americans were advised to keep their ears stretched for such give-away terms as “chauvinism”, “book-burning”, “colonialism”, “demagogy”, “witch hunt”, “reactionary”, “progressive”, and “exploitation”. Another “distinguishing mark” of “Communist language” was a “preference for long sentences.” After some ridicule, the Army rescinded the pamphlet.
    • 1958: The noted sportscaster Bill Stern (one of the heroes of my innocent youth) observed on the radio that the lack of interest in “big time” football at New York University, City College of New York, Chicago, and Harvard “is due to the widespread acceptance of Communism at the universities.”
    • 1960: US General Thomas Power speaking about nuclear war or a first strike by the US: “The whole idea is to kill the bastards! At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!” The response from one of those present was: “Well, you’d better make sure that they’re a man and a woman.”
    • 1966: The Boys Club of America is, of course, wholesome and patriotic. Imagine their horror when they were confused with the Dubois Clubs. (W.E.B. Du Bois had been a very prominent civil rights activist.) When the Justice Department required the DuBois Clubs to register as a Communist front group, good loyal Americans knew what to do. They called up the Boys Club to announce that they would no longer contribute any money, or to threaten violence against them; and sure enough an explosion damaged the national headquarters of the youth group in San Francisco. Then former Vice President Richard Nixon, who was national board chairman of the Boys Club, declared: “This is an almost classic example of Communist deception and duplicity. The ‘DuBois Clubs’ are not unaware of the confusion they are causing among our supporters and among many other good citizens.”
    • 1966: “Rhythm, Riots and Revolution: An Analysis of the Communist Use of Music, The Communist Master Music Plan”, by David A. Noebel, published by Christian Crusade Publications, (expanded version of 1965 pamphlet: “Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles”). Some chapters: Communist Use of Mind Warfare … Nature of Red Record Companies … Destructive Nature of Beatle Music … Communist Subversion of Folk Music … Folk Music and the Negro Revolution … Folk Music and the College Revolution
    • 1968: William Calley, US Army Lieutenant, charged with overseeing the massacre of more than 100 Vietnamese civilians in My Lai in 1968, said some years later: “In all my years in the Army I was never taught that communists were human beings. We were there to kill ideology carried by – I don’t know – pawns, blobs, pieces of flesh. I was there to destroy communism. We never conceived of old people, men, women, children, babies.”
    • 1977: Scientists theorized that the earth’s protective ozone layer was being damaged by synthetic chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons. The manufacturers and users of CFCs were not happy. They made life difficult for the lead scientist. The president of one aerosol manufacturing firm suggested that criticism of CFCs was “orchestrated by the Ministry of Disinformation of the KGB.”
    • 1978: Life inside a California youth camp of the ultra anti-communist John Birch Society: Five hours each day of lectures on communism, Americanism and “The Conspiracy”; campers learned that the Soviet government had created a famine and spread a virus to kill a large number of citizens and make the rest of them more manageable; the famine led starving adults to eat their children; communist guerrillas in Southeast Asia jammed chopsticks into children’s ears, piercing their eardrums; American movies are all under the control of the Communists; the theme is always that capitalism is no better than communism; you can’t find a dictionary now that isn’t under communist influence; the communists are also taking over the Bibles.
    • The Reagan administration declared that the Russians were spraying toxic chemicals over Laos, Cambodia and Afghanistan – the so-called “yellow rain” – and had caused more than ten thousand deaths by 1982 alone, (including, in Afghanistan, 3,042 deaths attributed to 47 separate incidents between the summer of 1979 and the summer of 1981, so precise was the information). Secretary of State Alexander Haig was a prime dispenser of such stories, and President Reagan himself denounced the Soviet Union thusly more than 15 times in documents and speeches. The “yellow rain”, it turned out, was pollen-laden feces dropped by huge swarms of honeybees flying far overhead.
    • 1982: In commenting about sexual harassment in the Army, General John Crosby stated that the Army doesn’t care about soldiers’ social lives – “The basic purpose of the United States Army is to kill Russians,” he said.
    • 1983: The US invasion of Grenada, the home of the Cuban ambassador is damaged and looted by American soldiers; on one wall is written “AA”, symbol of the 82nd Airborne Division; beside it the message: “Eat shit, commie faggot.” … “I want to fuck communism out of this little island,” says a marine, “and fuck it right back to Moscow.”
    • 1984: During a sound check just before his weekly broadcast, President Reagan spoke these words into the microphone: “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I have signed legislation to outlaw Russia, forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” His words were picked up by at least two radio networks.
    • 1985: October 29 BBC interview with Ronald Reagan: asked about the differences he saw between the US and Russia, the president replied: “I’m no linguist, but I’ve been told that in the Russian language there isn’t even a word for freedom.” (The word is “svoboda”.)
    • 1986: Soviet artists and cultural officials criticized Rambo-like American films as an expression of “anti-Russian phobia even more pathological than in the days of McCarthyism”. Russian film-maker Stanislav Rostofsky claimed that on one visit to an American school “a young girl trembled with fury when she heard I was from the Soviet Union, and said she hated Russians.”
    • 1986: Roy Cohn, who achieved considerable fame and notoriety in the 1950s as an assistant to the communist-witch-hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy, died, reportedly of AIDS. Cohn, though homosexual, had denied that he was and had denounced such rumors as communist smears.
    • 1986: After American journalist Nicholas Daniloff was arrested in Moscow for “spying” and held in custody for two weeks, New York Mayor Edward Koch sent a group of 10 visiting Soviet students storming out of City Hall in fury. “The Soviet government is the pits,” said Koch, visibly shocking the students, ranging in age from 10 to 18 years. One 14-year-old student was so outraged he declared: “I don’t want to stay in this house. I want to go to the bus and go far away from this place. The mayor is very rude. We never had a worse welcome anywhere.” As matters turned out, it appeared that Daniloff had not been completely pure when it came to his news gathering.
    • 1989: After the infamous Chinese crackdown on dissenters in Tiananmen Square in June, the US news media was replete with reports that the governments of Nicaragua, Vietnam and Cuba had expressed their support of the Chinese leadership. Said the Wall Street Journal: “Nicaragua, with Cuba and Vietnam, constituted the only countries in the world to approve the Chinese Communists’ slaughter of the students in Tiananmen Square.” But it was all someone’s fabrication; no such support had been expressed by any of the three governments. At that time, as now, there were few, if any, organizations other than the CIA which could manipulate major Western media in such a manner.7

    NOTE: It should be remembered that the worst consequences of anti-communism were not those discussed above. The worst consequences, the ultra-criminal consequences, were the abominable death, destruction, and violation of human rights that we know under various names: Vietnam, Chile, Korea, Guatemala, Cambodia, Indonesia, Brazil, Greece, Afghanistan, El Salvador, and many others.

    Al Franken

    Poor Al, who made us laugh for years on Saturday Night Live, is now disgraced as a woman molester – not one of the worst of the current pathetic crop, but he still looks bad. However, everything is relative, and it must be pointed out that the Senator is guilty of a worse moral transgression.

    The erstwhile comedian would like you to believe that he was against the war in Iraq since it began. But he went to that sad country at least four times to entertain American troops. Does that make sense? Why does the Defense Department bring entertainers to military bases? To lift the soldiers’ spirits, of course. And why does the military want to lift the soldiers’ spirits? Because a happier soldier does his job better. And what is the soldier’s job? For example, all the charming war crimes and human-rights violations in Iraq that have been documented in great detail for many years. Didn’t Franken know what American soldiers do for a living?

    Country singer Darryl Worley, who leans “a lot to the right,” as he puts it, said he was far from pleased that Franken was coming along on the tour to Iraq. “You know, I just don’t understand – why would somebody be on this tour if they’re not supportive of the war? If he decides to play politics, I’m not gonna put up with it.”8

    A year after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Franken criticized the Bush administration because they “failed to send enough troops to do the job right.”9 What “job” did the man think the troops were sent to do that had not been performed to his standards because of lack of manpower? Did he want them to be more efficient at killing Iraqis who resisted the occupation? The volunteer American troops in Iraq did not even have the defense of having been drafted against their wishes.

    Franken has been lifting soldiers’ spirits for a long time. In 2009 he was honored by the United Service Organization (USO) for his ten years of entertaining troops abroad. That includes Kosovo in 1999, as imperialist an occupation as you’ll ever want to see. He called his USO experience “one of the best things I’ve ever done.”10 Franken has also spoken at West Point (2005), encouraging the next generation of imperialist warriors. Is this a man to challenge the militarization of America at home and abroad?

    Tom Hayden wrote this about Franken in 2005 when Franken had a regular program on the Air America radio network: “Is anyone else disappointed with Al Franken’s daily defense of the continued war in Iraq? Not Bush’s version of the war, because that would undermine Air America’s laudable purpose of rallying an anti-Bush audience. But, well, Kerry’s version of the war, one that can be better managed and won, somehow with better body armor and fewer torture cells.”11

    While in Iraq to entertain the troops, Franken declared that the Bush administration “blew the diplomacy so we didn’t have a real coalition,” then failed to send enough troops to do the job right. “Out of sheer hubris, they have put the lives of these guys in jeopardy.”8

    Franken was implying that if the United States had been more successful in bribing and threatening other countries to lend their name to the coalition fighting the war in Iraq the United States would have had a better chance of WINNING the war.

    Is this the sentiment of someone opposed to the war? Or in support of it? It is actually the mind of an American liberal in all its depressing mushiness.

    To be put on the tombstone of Western civilization

    On November 15, 2017, at Christie’s auction house in New York City, a painting was sold for $450,312,500.

    1. Washington Post, November 12, 2017.
    2. Washington Post, October 10, 2017.
    3. Washington Post, November 15, 2017.
    4. Reuters, November 12, 2017.
    5. Washington Post, November 2, 2017.
    6. Wikipedia entry for George Kennan
    7. Sources for almost all of this section can be found in William Blum, “Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire” (2005), chapter 12; or the author can be queried at moc.loanull@6mulbb
    8. Washington Post, February 16, 2004.
    9. Ibid.
    10. Star Tribune, Minneapolis, March 26, 2009.
    11. Huffington Post, June 2005.

    Socialist Planning Circles

    Common objections to socialist planning from below

    In my last article, “Do You Socialists Have Any Plans? Why We Need Socialist Architects“, I argued that the only way 21st century socialism is going to get any traction with working class people is to not only have a socialist vision, but also to have feasible plans which suggest transitions in between the current capitalist crisis and our ultimate vision.

    In that article, I presented the following objections along with their rebuttal through a dialogue between two workers: an older worker, Andrew, and a young, anarchist worker, Sean. The objections of Sean to socialist planning transitions were:

    • Marx said a plan isn’t necessary—the workers of the future will figure this out.
    • Workers are only capable of dealing with survival needs. Planning is too remote from every-day life for them.
    • Plans are rigid and can’t do justice to the complexity of social life.
    • Plans aren’t implemented as politics gets in the way. (Stalin’s chaotic five-year plan)
    • There is something inherently revolutionary about collective spontaneity.

    Let’s examine some small but hopeful moments that could benefit from and be deepened by socialists who have collective experience making socialist plans.

    Disaster socialism as a precursor

    In his book Introduction to Collective Behavior and Collective Action, David Miller cites convincing research demonstrating that natural disasters bring out the best rather than the worst in people. Contrary to centrist newspapers’ mantras about “looting”, most people respond to a crisis heroically. Instead of mainstream newspapers’ warmed-over version of a Lord of the Flies scenario, if we examine the mass behavior in the recent hurricanes to hit Florida, Texas, Mexico and Puerto Rico, we find stories of people acting altruistically, in socialist ways. From a socialist point of view, the problems with the crowd’s altruistic response to these disasters is that after the storm people have not built socialist institutions that can help them extend their altruism longer before the return to a rapidly collapsing capitalism. Yet the behavior of masses of people in natural disasters is very close to how people behave in revolutionary situations. How can we preserve and deepen the memory of such collective creativity?

    Workers cooperatives

    Capitalists have done a good job of convincing people that there is “no alternative to capitalism because all socialism is Stalinism – and that has failed. This ignores the fact that workers’ self-management, workers’ control, and worker cooperatives currently exist and many are surviving with better production records than capitalist businesses or workers under state socialism. (Seymour Melman’s book After Capitalism provides a wonderful description of this). In the case of worker cooperatives, they are managed and run by workers themselves, most of whom have ownership in the company. Through regularly held general assemblies, workers decide together what will be produced, how much will be produced, how long and how hard they will work and what they will be paid. They also decide what tools and resources they will purchase and what they will do with the surplus. This is a radical departure from companies where workers have no say in any of these matters. John Curl’s book, For All the People documents the history of workers’ co-ops.We don’t expect miracles from any worker co-op because they still have to exist within a decaying world capitalist system. However, worker co-ops and the flashes of “disaster socialism” are promising.

    Rank-and-file union democracy

    As many of you know, radical unions in the early 20th century in the United States like the Wobblies used to talk about workers running things on their own, having “One Big Union”. Now unions have given up any vision of workers running anything. Instead, they preside over the most myopic concerns at sparsely attended meetings. In fact, when my partner once asked her shop steward at the university where she worked, “why don’t all these separate unions unite under one union instead of having numerous small ones? Wouldn’t we be stronger united?”, the steward looked at her like she was from another planet. Despite this, one small bright spot in the United States is Labor Notes, a monthly publication which tracks union activity around the US from the point of view of the rank-and-file. These monthly reports are union workers’ experiences with the strategies and tactics they used to combat employers and were largely independent of union leadership.

    What is missing from these scenes of “disaster socialism” workers’ co-ops and rank-and file union democracy is a unified political party which coordinates, synchronizes, deepens and expands all these activities and spreads them to wider sectors of society with some kind of transition program. We don’t have such a party, but if we did the party would need a coordinated plan to link these experiences together in time and space.

    Limitations of Trotskyist transition programs

    Unlike anarchists, Leninists have experience with state power and understand the importance of a socialist transition program which takes years and decades to implement. In the United States, the Socialist Workers Party used to lay out a transition program as part of their presidential runs. We think this was a very good idea. The problem here is that all the imaginary planning was done by the vanguard party. “The workers”, as Lenin said, “can attain only a trade union consciousness”. They need to be injected with the collective imagination of the vanguard. But the workers of Russia during the first four years of the revolution and the Spanish workers during the Spanish Revolution of 1936-1939 showed more collective imagination than any vanguard party. They developed general assemblies, workers’ councils, and direct democracy by politically mandating delegates rather than representatives. Optimally, these delegates were rotated and were strictly recallable. These were the inventions of working class collective creativity that were not imposed on them by any socialist leadership. In the case of Russia, it was the Bolshevik party that reacted and supported these councils or “soviets”, for a time. But the origin of these political forms were workers, peasants and soldiers.

    Filling in the Gaps

    As I said in my previous article, socialists are very good at criticizing capitalism. You can get us to argue about what would and wouldn’t be allowed in our ideal socialist society: whether or not to abolish inheritance; how people should be compensated for their work or whether we use labor vouchers or dissolve all mediated exchange of products and services. But the moment you say “what about the messy transition from the current capitalist crisis to our ideal conditions?”, almost everyone disappears.

    There are a few visionaries who propose scenarios about what socialist futures might look like and how to get there, including David Schweickart, John Romer, Michael Albert, and Erik Olin Wright. But do radical organizers use these plans? No. They either don’t know about them or they do know, and they dismiss them because the theorists are academics. But worse, they don’t even think plans are necessary. At best, radical organizers go from socialist principles directly to strategies, tactics and then to collective actions. My claim in this article is that between principles and actions there needs to be socialist plans that inform strategies and tactics. Plans mediate between principles and strategies. They ground principles, making them more tangible while they give wings to strategies by keeping the long-view in mind.

    Here is what I don’t understand. Socialists have no problem starting and sustaining book clubs in which they discuss and learn what the great theorists say. There are book clubs about politics, economics, history and anthropology. But there are no meeting groups where socialists are forced to write detailed plans to answer questions such as:

    • Give me a snap-shot version of how a socialist future will work in terms of politics, economics, the workplace, housing and education.
    • How long do you project it would it take, and by what process are you going to get there?

    If I weren’t already a socialist these are the questions I would expect most socialists to be able to answer readily. If they couldn’t do this I’d never take them seriously. If fiction-writing groups get together and write stories, why don’t socialists get together and share their dreams as architects of socialism?

    My Personal experience with socialist planning circles

    About three years ago, four of us got together for over a year and engaged in what we called a “socialist planning circle”. We met for three hours once every two weeks. We each developed our own plans for the most basic social institutions that would need to be reorganized as part of the revolution – food production, basic housing, energy harnessing, transportation systems, and workplace organization, to name a few.

    The kind of controversies we addressed were:

    • Economic allocation systems: who is entitled to what under what conditions?
    • What does a transition out of the wage system look like?
    • How do we institute a global minimum wage to keep capitalists from leaving a country?
    • How to we abolish finance capital? Is there a place for “socialist banks?”
    • How might food cooperatives reorganize food production?
    • If we want to abolish the prison system, what do we do with people who continue to engage in anti-social activities?
    • By what process would shortening the work week be institutionalized?
    • Which social industries can afford to be localized and which, say, energy system might need to remain centralized?
    • How to coordinate workers’ councils from the local to regional level?
    • Will we still have a need for political parties and if so, how would they be organized?

    Our procedure in socialist planning circles

    We agreed on an area in social life from our master list, say economic allocation. Over the next two weeks we each created our own vision of the future about economic allocation. We each made a table entitled “The Current Crisis of Capitalism” and followed it through in six phases:

    • Transition one phase
    • Justification for transition one
    • Transition two phase
    • Justification for transition two
    • Ideal condition
    • Justification for ideal condition

    Once the phases were identified:

    • Each of us presented our plan for economic allocation at the next meeting
    • We criticized and discussed each other’s plans
    • Two weeks later we synthesized the plans into a written document
    • We picked a new topic and repeated the steps

    What was invigorating about this process was how often we already had ideas about these topics but we didn’t know we had them because we never asked ourselves, let alone anyone else. We also learned a great deal from the criticism from other members. Some of us were hesitant about our own plans but we could be critical of the plans of others. These criticisms in turn led us to look at our own hesitant plans in a new way. What was also interesting was the need to prioritize in what order we would restructure things in a socialist manner. It’s like a parody of the old show “Queen for a Day”. If the gods said you had a week to build a socialist system, what would you do first, second and third?

    Justification for socialist planning circles

    A socialist planning circle is a small group of 4 to 8 people formed with the intention of:

    • Giving socialists confidence that we can plan the future now while living under capitalism. This involves learning and practicing our skills at planning transition programs for the infrastructure, structure and superstructure of socialist society among ourselves. We rehearse our scenarios in the hope that when capitalism collapses we have some semblance of a collective, structured understanding as to what is to be done because we have shaped, criticized and refined our plans through thought, discussion, writing, criticism and revision over weeks, months and years.
    • Once we have experienced this process in a pilot group, we establish new groups to provide a supportive atmosphere to help working class people build confidence that they are smart enough to coordinate production across their workplaces.

    There is a need for working class visionaries who learn to collectively imagine socialist futures, not by reading books, but by writing and sharing our imaginations now, before capitalism completely collapses. We need to rehearse, rehearse and rehearse our socialist plans with each other. We need to begin to cultivate our social imaginations now, rather than waiting for leaders or vanguard parties to do this for us. We have to have the nerve to say, “I can imagine transportation systems could be run this way, or food distribution should be run that way”. This project requires us to take seriously our socialist claim that we know how things could work in an ultimate sense, as we imagine how we navigate in the immediate future through the muddy, murky waters of getting from the crisis to our ideal conditions.

    Objections

    Why don’t you just start a reading group of socialist visionaries like you mentioned earlier rather than reinventing the wheel?

    For the same reasons that you don’t begin scientific research with a literature review. You begin with your hypothesis and what the reasons are you think will support it. Then you do the literature review. Otherwise what you think is buried by the literature review. The same thing is true for art. You don’t begin drawing the figure by measuring it with a ruler. You begin with a gesture drawing, so you bring life into the drawing. You measure later. In the case of socialist planning, I’m convinced that people have an unconscious knowledge of how social organization could be. It is currently buried within them and needs to become conscious and worked on. The scenarios of scholars would only bury this unconscious knowledge. In the revolutionary situations that are coming, we are going to have to figure this out by ourselves anyway.

    Socialist planning circles are too abstract and not connected to the working class. Getting together and spinning socialist plans pulls us away from the daily struggles of poor and working-class people. It will draw people who just want to talk and not act.

    This is a danger in a discussion group in which there is no reading and where no preparation is required. It is less of a problem in a structured reading group because the individuals must make the effort to read the book in order to discuss it. A socialist planning group requires imagination and preparation, just the way a painting group would require people to bring two paintings to show for the next meeting or a songwriters’ group would expect people to come up with two songs for the next meeting. In some ways planning is more difficult than imagining ideal conditions. Ideal conditions ask you to imagine how things could be in an ultimate sense. Socialist planning groups ask, “How are you going to get there”. In my opinion, the second requires a far more active commitment. A socialist planning group would very quickly shed ‘dead weight” people who just wanted to talk.

    These plans will dissolve once they face the realities of real social life

    Any socialist who participated in these groups would know that when they return to their political practice much of the plans they learned to cultivate in the group would crumble and dissolve. However, the collective memory of some of these plans would remain and grow stronger by continuing in the socialist planning hot-houses over weeks, months and even years.

    For example “participatory budgeting” is a way for people to become involved in local economics by having a say in the prioritization of the city’s budget. This exercise is designed to give residents practice in how to plan economically. But years ago, anarchist Murray Bookchin argued that the basic unit of city governance should not be city council, but neighborhood assemblies. City budget priorities were proposed at these local assemblies. Does that mean the city council in a capitalist city would accept that local neighborhood assemblies should exist at all? Of course not! Neither are they likely to agree if these assemblies decided that they wanted real estate “developers” kicked out along with a reduction of the police force. The important thing is to awaken in working class people a taste for planning and running things independently of the outcome.

    The subtitle of this article was very carefully chosen. I am not advocating a static blueprint. I am advocating building scaffolds. In a technical sense a scaffold is defined as a temporary structure outside a building used by workers while constructing or repairing a building. Scaffolds are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for buildings. Scaffolds are not buildings. But without scaffolds there would be no buildings. The buildings themselves are like the socialist institutions of the future. The scaffolds are the means by which we build that future. There will be no socialist “buildings” without scaffolds.

    As capitalism continues to decline, we will have more “disaster socialism” situations because the chickens are coming home to roost in capitalist ecological policies. Workers’ co-ops may spread because they will pay better entry level wages than capitalists and they are less likely to fire people in times of crisis. Rank-and-file democracy in unions will spread as workers become increasingly disgusted by a union leadership wedded to the Democratic Party. In all these circumstances the memory and enactment of socialist planning circles’ scaffolds could only deepen and organize what is already going on.

    Optimally socialist planning circles would be an institutionalized, ongoing structure within a working-class party. It could certainly be implemented within the Green Party. But we can’t wait for these organizations to do this. Socialist planning circles should begin now. If organizations form later to house socialist planning circles, fine, but we cannot afford to wait for them to see the light. We must be our own light. If they these political forms emerge later, they will be lucky to have us!