Category Archives: Guatemala

The Millstone around Trump’s Neck?

This Bible passage (Matthew 18:1-6) is getting a lot of attention recently. Let me use the King James Version so beloved by evangelicals:

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

This text has been used to criticize Trump’s grotesque child-abusing border policy by a range of Christian groups, pro- and anti-Trump and maybe some others. Anyway the passage occurred to me as I watched the news, and I’m not even Christian, just familiar from childhood with gospels. I can understand why it might have crossed a few million other minds simultaneously as this horror story unfolded.

Some of the most moving passages in the New Testament deal with the treatment of children. When the chief priests in the Temple in Jerusalem hear children cheering Jesus and complain, he cites Psalm 8:2 about how praise for the Lord comes out from the mouths of babes and sucklings (Matthew 21:16). In Mark 10:13-16 Jesus, in response to protests he is spending too much time with children, says famously, “Suffer the little children to come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Et cetera.

This is why Karl Marx told his daughter Eleanor (after, as she recounted, “patiently elucidating the story of the carpenter whom the rich men killed”): “We can forgive Christianity much because it taught us the worship of the child.” (Not once but often in her childhood, according to her account.) Marx was very pro-child.

In 1975 McGraw-Hill published a volume in its Karl Marx Library series entitled On Education, Women and Children. I don’t have it on hand and can’t readily cite it now but remember feeling impressed by Marx’s psychological insights about how children grow up.

Socialist societies, to the extent that societies deserving that designation have ever existed, have placed priority on the care of children. Certainly children’s housing, security, education, medical care. These efforts have been widely studied in this country and sometimes inspired “socialist” institutional changes. One could mention the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a federal assistance program begun during the New Deal in this country in 1935 (but ended during Bill Clinton’s tenure in 1996).

The International Year of the Child pronounced by UNESCO in 1979 led to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ten years later. (One must mention, however, that the U.S. withdrew from UNESCO last October—in protest of its bias against Israel, surprise, surprise—and the U.S. Congress has never ratified the Convention.)

In the U.S. groups like Focus on the Family depict themselves as protectors of children (or imagined children, including every human egg fertilized as we speak). One of the most horrible pieces of recent U.S. legislation is referred to as the “No Child Left Behind” act. Hillary Clinton ran twice as a mother—-so warmly maternal, did you notice?—who had told us it takes a village to raise a child.

The worship of the child, that is to say, passed from Christianity into Marxism and the socialist experiments that prompted in response global reforms. But in the 90s triumphant capitalism became crueler; most notably, the 1994 crime bill endorsed by Clinton virtually criminalized a generation of black youth. Still, there remained a thin veneer of humanitarianism. Clinton’s attorney general had the good sense to let Elian Gonzalez return to his dad in Cuba, for example, in 2000.

But now the world hears these reports and sees these images of the U.S.A. that had once said: “Give me your tired and your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Now the message is: You tired, poor people, hardly breathing after your 1000-mile trek, need to be detained as criminals, the children among you held separately and dispersed all over the country pending some possible reunion somewhere at some point, there being no guarantee parents won’t be deported while their children remain in confinement. That’s not as evil as stuff terrorists have done to children in Iraq and Syria. ICE is not ISIS. But it’s shockingly bad.

All of Latin America knows that Trump is a racist buffoon using anti-immigrant (especially anti-Hispanic immigrant) sentiment and the issue of the wall to maintain his appeal to his base. The “zero policy” is overwhelming supported by Republican Party voters.

But It’s one thing to inveigh against Mexican advantages within NAFTA or accuse Mexico of sending its rapists to the U.S. It’s one thing to insult leaders of neighboring nations. That’s just adults, acting childish.

It’s another to cruelly treat Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan families including those seeking asylum, ripping parents from their kids after their hazardous 1000-mile trek. It’s another thing to compound childhood trauma with more trauma, to show the state of the power to enforce obedience to its laws.

In a CIA study of world infant mortality rates, the U.S. stands at 170 out of 225—behind virtually all of Europe, and, of course, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Macao, Hong Kong. It is tied with Serbia. Trump’s stand on Planned Parenthood promises no improvement.

How can you more alienate normal humanity than inflicting pain on children, wrenching them from their mother’s arms? There are several millstones around Trump’s neck, but this could be the one that drags him down.

More on “Keeping Families Together”

Good on everyone who rallied in such large numbers on behalf of keeping families together. I will generalize and break down the participants into three groups. The first was composed of folks who may have participated in their first protest and responded with genuine empathy and moral outrage regarding a transparently immoral situation. They are well-intentioned and believe the Federal government is not acting in ways commensurate with America’s highest ideals. For them, the blame largely lies with Trump but they’re not opposed to hearing more discussion on the subject.

A second group understood that public pressure must be sustained to force any meaningful change. They also grasp that this didn’t begin with Trump but with a long history of brutal bipartisan U.S. policy in Central America‘s Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These three countries suffer the first, fourth and fifth highest homocide rates in the world. U.S action on behalf of empire stoked this desperate situation; this second group also refuses to exempt the Democrats for their complicity, including Obama’s horrific immigration policies. They know that in 2014, Hillary Clinton spoke in favor of deporting thousands of Central American migrant children, saying “We have to send a clear message that just because your child gets across the border doesn’t mean your child gets to stay.”

These participants largely connected the dots and know the history of U.S. officials breaking and destroying families both here and abroad from the very beginning. These folks might have read books like Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States or Robert Jensen’s Citizens of the Empire. Further, they might have wondered, as did commentator Elizabeth Oram, that considering this past, “Where were the masses, outrage, the fury? Do we care about families or do we just want to make a partisan challenge to an embarrassing Republican?” In addition, the second group are right to worry there will be 24/7 efforts by DNC-level Democrats to coopt the movement and use it to protect incumbants and increase their seats in November.

Those in the third group might have a ”Hate Has No Home Here” yard sign, mouth the right phrases and take part in one-off, media-celebrated, “feel good,“ anti-Trump events. And not a few of them come across as self-righteous while keeping cognitive dissonance at bay. As Noam Chomsky observes, such people are “…deeply and deliberately apolitical in the sense they do not seek to address issues of power, resources, decision making, or how to bring about change.”

I take no pleasure in saying it’s the latter who must “get woke“ from their moral amnesia if they’re serious about safeguarding children and families everywhere. It’s not too late but time is exceedingly short.

What Dead GIs Would Say To the World on Memorial Day About Being Praised As Heroes

A lot of people in Third World nations previously invaded, currently being invaded, or suffering sanctions and the threat of invasion by Americans, will be watching telecasts via satellite of festive celebrations on Memorial Day in the great United States of America.

Telecasted news coverage of the Memorial Day holiday in the USA will show video clips of parades and speeches glorifying America’s military and sanctifying war itself, obscuring the mourning of the deceased soldiers by families and friends. Many people watching in countries Americans invaded, will surely be wincing, their gaze turning serious and solemn, as they hear American GIs, who died while dutifully taking part in the killing, maiming and destroying in dozens of smaller countries all around the world, praised as heroes.

Many people watching the telecast in the countries Americans invaded will have gotten to know these mostly young American men who died invading their country in a deeper and more poignant sense than even their own parents. For example, of the two and a half million uniformed Americans, who were sent to Vietnam, hundreds of thousands mingled with Vietnamese up close in following out criminal orders and experienced a variety of emotions, some feeling guilt, shame and anger about the horrific suffering they were creating within a soft-spoken Buddhist population.  Final body count statistics show fifteen Vietnamese defenders killed for every one American GI killed – imagine how many Americans GIs felt about this sickening ratio which they were perpetrating. This author, during Veterans For Peace meetings, has heard members speak personally of never-forgotten-atrocities they were pained to take part in. I remember one veteran telling of picking up the cap of a Vietcong his unit had killed and finding a picture of what must have been the Vietcong’s wife and child secured in the cap’s lining, and thinking ‘we just created another orphan and widow.’ The citizens of nations bombarded and invaded must sometimes wonder what the dead American soldiers being thanked and praised on Memorial Day by politicians and generals, would say if they could speak out from their graves.

Your author can well imagine what his four basic training bunk buddies, whose bodies were thrown into a hole somewhere in North Korea, would say about being thanked for dying for their country every Memorial Day. During sixteen weeks of basic training, how very full of life and fun they were, as most 18 or 19 olds are. Likable Ed, Joe, Bob and Bill found themselves in a very poor country – people speaking a language they could not understand – in mortal combat with Koreans in their Korea. They were told they were fighting communism, but they would have realized while dead in that hole that they were sent to die to protect capitalism, colonial capitalism, the opposite of freedom for most of the world. They would have been pissed to know criminal media portrays them as just so stupid to have been suckered into killing fellow human beings and dying young – for who and for what?

Granted that many who died in military action, remained to the end duped and loyal to the propaganda they had been fed, gung-ho to kill anyone designated as ‘communist’ or ‘terrorist,’ but a much greater multitude of those GIs who lost their lives in combat in someone else’s country, had come to see the truth of an imperialist USA, ruled by its wealthy speculative investors on Wall Street, who use the nation’s armed forces, as Martin Luther King said, “to make atrocity wars and covert violence to protect unjust predatory investments overseas.”1

Let’s suppose these hundreds of thousands of savvy dead Americans chose someone well spoken from their midst to be a spokesperson for all of them – the dead GIs who died fighting citizens of some country far from America – dead GIs who finally lost faith in their countrymen, their ministers, priests and rabbis, their universities.

Further suppose that having lost faith in their own countrymen, who had sent them to a ignominious death, these angry dead Americans had their spokesperson speak to the whole world, and especially to that great majority of humanity living in the Third World in nations once attacked or being attacked by Americans in uniform today, figuring that only the people in the nations attacked are capable of uniting and using their huge numerical superiority to halt America’s blood lust. Here below, in this author’s imagination, is what this intelligent phantom spokesperson for the dead GIs might best say:

(What Dead GIs Would Say To the World on Memorial Day About Being Praised For Their ‘Heroic Sacrifice’ – if They Could)

On Memorial Day, while our family and friends mourn our permanent absence, conglomerate-owned criminal media, having used our patriotism to have us fight unjust wars based on fake news and lies, now hypes our humiliating death as beautiful military service. All this unctuous praise is heard from commentators whose TV channels deceived us into participating in senseless massacres of millions of innocent human beings right inside their own beloved countries.

We expect those who mourn us as fallen comrades, must do so in bitter heartbreak and anger. For more than a half century, all of us veterans, both living and dead, were tricked into criminal disservice, in many cases genocidal disservice, to our country and humanity. While only some relatively few of us paid with our lives for our ignorance and naive belief in our country’s honorability, tens of thousands of living veterans are physical or mental cripples.

Confronted with constant indoctrination to love of war by fear promoting corporate mass disinformation media, veterans, who have survived, must remember that we who have paid the highly profiled ‘ultimate sacrifice’ [read threw away our lives for worst than nil] were sent to our death by capitalists to make money on the deaths of those we were killing. Our own vastly smaller number of deaths are praised as heroic, but the death of millions we were sent to attack are carefully never mentioned.

Whether we gave our lives in that ‘good war’ against the fascism that American industrialists and bankers seeking huge profits helped build up by rearming Germany, or died during the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which presidential candidate Obama fluffed off as “a dumb war,” our politicians pat our families on the back with the same ‘compassionate’ thank you.

For whether we died fighting the powerful land, sea and air forces that had attacked and declared war on our country, or died after being lied to and deceived into committing war crimes in near defenseless small nations, it makes no difference to Wall Street. The Street makes money either way – from the death and destruction of a ‘good’ and officially declared war, or atrocious crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.

Whether we lose a war, after murdering millions of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, or stalemate, after bringing death to  three million Koreans, our deaths are considered to have contributed to saving all those millions from having to live under communist governments.  We note that our government today, ironically enjoys lucrative trade, and has the warm relations, with the communist governments of China and Vietnam.  Today, no one repeats the slogan ‘better dead (like us), than red!‘

Whether some hundreds of us died killing Afghanis in Afghanistan to be better able to chase the Saudi Arabian, Osama bin Laden for years, or merely a dozen of us fell during the manslaughter of a thousand Panamanians, who stood in the way of America’s successful capture of their former CIA enrolled drug dealing President, we receive the same gratitude from the industrial-military-complex during commercial TV programing

Whether we were two dozen, dying during our invasion of the Dominican Republic to prevent the restoration of democracy and their elected but overthrown President, or three hundred blown away in our sleep by a suicide truck bomber in Lebanon, we all died in government issued clothes and were worthy of a thank you from the Presidential advisors whose plans our commanding generals were carrying out (for the profits of Wall Street scions).

Whether we fell serving atrocities happening before our very eyes or were victims of errant friendly fire, we receive the same level of appreciation from politicians and media. They hold us up as exemplary, to entice ever new bamboozled young men and women recruits to aspire to similar glorification.

We, the guilt ridden American military dead, appeal to the good people in all the nations invaded by Americans and Europeans to effect the same level of solidarity that the racist neocolonial speculative investment banker driven imperialists of the countries of mostly Caucasian population display2, and bring their five centuries of genocidal plunder to an end earlier than otherwise.

Confronted with constant indoctrination to love war by fear promoting corporate mass disinformation media, veterans, who have survived, must remember that we who have paid the highly profiled ‘ultimate sacrifice’ [read threw away our lives for worst than nil], are watching from our graves as criminal media portrays us as just so God damned willing to have forgone forty or fifty years of mornings, love, friendship, sunsets, and the sheer exhilaration of being alive, to have been shot like pig in a poke or shredded by some stupid land mine, as some mentally challenged moral failures as human beings chart the value of their dividends and derivatives watching the stock market figures while their hired CIA criminals keep their beholden politicians and media personalities in line.

And just one more thing. Let the Third World understand that that dippy ‘why me worry,’ Mr. and Mrs. average American overwhelmed with their personal enjoyments, it is they who are responsible for the murderous crimes of their US government. They, yes, the American-entertainment/news-advertising-TV-mesmerized public, glued to the flashing screens of idiot boxes, and suckered by charming commentators reading them the fake news from the prompter above their TV camera, unseen on the screen being watched.  They are responsible for all the deaths of the millions we were ordered to kill. Some day they will hear that Martin Luther King held all of them, that is, all Americans and himself responsible, not reelected government officials.3 The US  President is just one public servant, don’t let Americans shrug their responsibility off on him foolishly, for his being so highly profiled in the criminally collaborating fake news networks.

On Memorial Days no one should focus obsequiously on us. We paid both the price of our ignorance and our parents and teachers indifference to their citizen responsibilities.  Though they saw a good deal of the death and dying on TV they had no or too little compassion to act. Quite apart from the loving attention of dear families and acquaintances, we voiceless dead veterans despise your media anchors feigned pious interest in ‘honoring’ our cadavers.

Let a Third World in solidarity get Americans to join the human race and mourn the people we were sent to kill but fell in love with before dying ourselves. Everyone who died, died because of American indifference. Those millions of innocent beautiful people that we killed in their own beloved country, be it Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Congo, Guatemala, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, their dead children now belong to America more than to their parents. Americans violently took these children from their parents and sunshine and games, saw to these children never growing up to be men and women (oh, collaterally, of course).

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark in his book The Fire This Time: US War Crimes in the Gulf wrote, and has since kept repeating, “the greatest crime since World War II has been US foreign policy.” America’s most famous defector from the war establishment would, of course, would be gratified to hear this spoken of by activists who present themselves as anti-imperialists and protest their government’s deadly use of America’s Armed Forces on innocent populations overseas, but do not tell the whole truth; namely, that the atrocities they protest are in reality prosecutable crimes against humanity and crimes against peace under the Nuremberg Principles of International Law, which former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark reminds us, are part of the law of the land by Article Six of the United States Constitution.

This is why the spokesperson for the GIs, who died in warfare on innocent populations directed an appeal to Majority Humanity in the ever targeted for plunder Third World and not to intellectuals and professors of the still plundering First World. It is the beautiful ordinary people of the Third World, less neutered by commercialized modernity, who will eventually throw forth leaders, who will not continue the mesmerizing diplomatic gentlemen’s agreement not to ever mention the law in regard to the First World’s free handed destruction of country after country of the former outrightly colonial Third World.

Crimes are meant to be prosecuted, and criminals made to pay for what they have done! Otherwise, how on earth will the US-led Western speculative investors in profitable genocidal crimes against humanity ever stop investing in the massive murder of millions of children in their own beloved countries, often as not in their own homes in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Congo, Guatemala, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, just to name some of the nations in which lives have been taken to a total of tens of millions in order to maintain, as Martin Luther King cried out, “unjust predatory investments.”3

  1. Martin Luther King’s New York Sermon that shook the world, “Beyond Vietnam – a Time to Break Silence“.
  2. Every single nation of majority Caucasian population, even tiny Lichtenstein, Andorra and Monaco, is a member nation of the coalition that murderously occupies Afghanistan.
  3. Ibid.

Guatemala’s President against the ICAIG, Sweden and Venezuela

Guatemala has requested that the ambassadors of Sweden (Anders Kompass) and Venezuela (Elena Alicia Salcedo Poleo) be replaced. These two diplomats very actively supported the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (ICAIG). This Commission, established by the United Nations and approved by the Guatemalan Assembly, is tasked with helping the Attorney General and the country's police. President Jimmy Morales has already tried to expel the Commission's President after the (...)

Shakespeare said it best

Much ado about nothing.

That’s the “Russian interference” in the 2016 American election.

A group of Russians operating from a building in St. Petersburg, we are told in a February 16 US government indictment, sent out tweets, Facebook and YouTube postings, etc. to gain support for Trump and hurt Clinton even though most of these messages did not even mention Trump or Clinton; and many were sent out before Trump was even a candidate.

The Russian-interference indictment is predicated, apparently, on the idea that the United States is a backward, Third-World, Banana Republic, easily manipulated.

If the Democrats think it’s so easy and so effective to sway voters in the United States why didn’t the party do better?

At times the indictment tells us that the online advertising campaign, led by the shadowy Internet Research Agency of Russia, was meant to divide the American people, not influence the 2016 election. The Russians supposedly wished to cause “divisiveness” in the American people, particularly around controversial issues such as immigration, politics, energy policy, climate change, and race. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” said Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the inquiry. “We must not allow them to succeed.”1

Imagine that – the American people, whom we all know are living in blissful harmony and fraternity without any noticeable anger or hatred, would become divided! Damn those Russkis!

After the election of Trump as president in November 2016, the defendants “used false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies in support of then president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

The indictment also states that defendants in New York organized a demonstration designed to “show your support for President-Elect Donald Trump” held on or about November 12, 2016. At the same time, defendants and their co-conspirators, organized another rally in New York called “Trump is NOT my President”.

Much of the indictment and the news reports of the past year are replete with such contradictions, lending credence to the suggestion that what actually lay behind the events was a “click-bait” scheme wherein certain individuals earned money based on the number of times a particular website is accessed. The mastermind behind this scheme is reported to be a Russian named Yevgeny Prigozhin of the above-named Internet Research Agency, which is named in the indictment.2

The Russian operation began four years ago, well before Trump entered the presidential race, a fact that he quickly seized on in his defense. “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” he wrote on Twitter. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

Point 95 of the Indictment summarizes the “click-bait” scheme as follows:

Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist.

Although there’s no doubt that the Kremlin favored Trump over Clinton, the whole “Russian influence” storm may be based on a misunderstanding of commercial activities of a Russian marketing company in US social networks.

Here’s some Real interference in election campaigns

[Slightly abridged version of chapter 18 in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; see it for notes]

Philippines, 1950s:

Flagrant manipulation by the CIA of the nation’s political life, featuring stage-managed elections with extensive disinformation campaigns, heavy financing of candidates, writing their speeches, drugging the drinks of one of the opponents of the CIA-supported candidate so he would appear incoherent; plotting the assassination of another candidate. The oblivious New York Times declared that “It is not without reason that the Philippines has been called “democracy’s showcase in Asia”.

Italy, 1948-1970s:

Multifarious campaigns to repeatedly sabotage the electoral chances of the Communist Party and ensure the election of the Christian Democrats, long-favored by Washington.

Lebanon, 1950s:

The CIA provided funds to support the campaigns of President Camille Chamoun and selected parliamentary candidates; other funds were targeted against candidates who had shown less than total enchantment with US interference in Lebanese politics.

Indonesia, 1955:

A million dollars were dispensed by the CIA to a centrist coalition’s electoral campaign in a bid to cut into the support for President Sukarno’s party and the Indonesian Communist Party.

Vietnam, 1955:

The US was instrumental in South Vietnam canceling the elections scheduled to unify North and South because of the certainty that the North Vietnamese communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, would easily win.

British Guiana/Guyana, 1953-64:

For 11 years, two of the oldest democracies in the world, Great Britain and the United States, went to great lengths to prevent Cheddi Jagan – three times the democratically elected leader – from occupying his office. Using a wide variety of tactics – from general strikes and disinformation to terrorism and British legalisms – the US and Britain forced Jagan out of office twice during this period.

Japan, 1958-1970s:

The CIA emptied the US treasury of millions to finance the conservative Liberal Democratic Party in parliamentary elections, “on a seat-by-seat basis”, while doing what it could to weaken and undermine its opposition, the Japanese Socialist Party. The 1961-63 edition of the State Department’s annual Foreign Relations of the United States, published in 1996, includes an unprecedented disclaimer that, because of material left out, a committee of distinguished historians thinks “this published compilation does not constitute a ‘thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions’” as required by law. The deleted material involved US actions from 1958-1960 in Japan, according to the State Department’s historian.

Nepal, 1959:

By the CIA’s own admission, it carried out an unspecified “covert action” on behalf of B.P. Koirala to help his Nepali Congress Party win the national parliamentary election. It was Nepal’s first national election ever, and the CIA was there to initiate them into the wonderful workings of democracy.

Laos, 1960:

CIA agents stuffed ballot boxes to help a hand-picked strongman, Phoumi Nosavan, set up a pro-American government.

Brazil, 1962:

The CIA and the Agency for International Development expended millions of dollars in federal and state elections in support of candidates opposed to leftist President João Goulart, who won anyway.

Dominican Republic, 1962:

In October 1962, two months before election day, US Ambassador John Bartlow Martin got together with the candidates of the two major parties and handed them a written notice, in Spanish and English, which he had prepared. It read in part: “The loser in the forthcoming election will, as soon as the election result is known, publicly congratulate the winner, publicly recognize him as the President of all the Dominican people, and publicly call upon his own supporters to so recognize him. … Before taking office, the winner will offer Cabinet seats to members of the loser’s party. (They may decline).”

As matters turned out, the winner, Juan Bosch, was ousted in a military coup seven months later, a slap in the face of democracy which neither Martin nor any other American official did anything about.

Guatemala, 1963:

The US overthrew the regime of General Miguel Ydigoras because he was planning to step down in 1964, leaving the door open to an election; an election that Washington feared would be won by the former president, liberal reformer and critic of US foreign policy, Juan José Arévalo. Ydigoras’s replacement made no mention of elections.

Bolivia, 1966:

The CIA bestowed $600,000 upon President René Barrientos and lesser sums to several right-wing parties in a successful effort to influence the outcome of national elections. Gulf Oil contributed two hundred thousand more to Barrientos.

Chile, 1964-70:

Major US interventions into national elections in 1964 and 1970, and congressional elections in the intervening years. Socialist Salvador Allende fell victim in 1964, but won in 1970 despite a multimillion-dollar CIA operation against him. The Agency then orchestrated his downfall in a 1973 military coup.

Portugal, 1974-5:

In the years following the coup in 1974 by military officers who talked like socialists, the CIA revved up its propaganda machine while funneling many millions of dollars to support “moderate” candidates, in particular Mario Soares and his (so-called) Socialist Party. At the same time, the Agency enlisted social-democratic parties of Western Europe to provide further funds and support to Soares. It worked. The Socialist Party became the dominant power.

Australia, 1974-75:

Despite providing considerable support for the opposition, the United States failed to defeat the Labor Party, which was strongly against the US war in Vietnam and CIA meddling in Australia. The CIA then used “legal” methods to unseat the man who won the election, Edward Gough Whitlam.

Jamaica, 1976:

A CIA campaign to defeat social democrat Michael Manley’s bid for reelection, featuring disinformation, arms shipments, labor unrest, economic destabilization, financial support for the opposition, and attempts upon Manley’s life. Despite it all, he was victorious.

Panama, 1984, 1989:

In 1984, the CIA helped finance a highly questionable presidential electoral victory for one of Manuel Noriega’s men. The opposition cried “fraud”, but the new president was welcomed at the White House. By 1989, Noriega was no longer a Washington favorite, so the CIA provided more than $10 million dollars to his electoral opponents.

Nicaragua, 1984, 1990:

In 1984, the United States, trying to discredit the legitimacy of the Sandinista government’s scheduled election, covertly persuaded the leading opposition coalition to not take part. A few days before election day, some other rightist parties on the ballot revealed that US diplomats had been pressing them to drop out of the race as well. The CIA also tried to split the Sandinista leadership by placing phoney full-page ads in neighboring countries. But the Sandinistas won handily in a very fair election monitored by hundreds of international observers.

Six years later, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Washington’s specially created stand-in for the CIA, poured in millions of dollars to defeat Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in the February elections. NED helped organize the Nicaraguan opposition, UNO, building up the parties and organizations that formed and supported this coalition.

Perhaps most telling of all, the Nicaraguan people were made painfully aware that a victory by the Sandinistas would mean a continuation of the relentlessly devastating war being waged against them by Washington through their proxy army, the Contras.

Haiti, 1987-1988:

After the Duvalier dictatorship came to an end in 1986, the country prepared for its first free elections ever. However, Haiti’s main trade union leader declared that Washington was working to undermine the left. US aid organizations, he said, were encouraging people in the countryside to identify and reject the entire left as “communist”. Meanwhile, the CIA was involved in a range of support for selected candidates until the US Senate Intelligence Committee ordered the Agency to cease its covert electoral action.

Bulgaria, 1990-1991 and Albania, 1991-1992:

With no regard for the fragility of these nascent democracies, the US interfered broadly in their elections and orchestrated the ousting of their elected socialist governments.

Russia, 1996:

For four months (March-June), a group of veteran American political consultants worked secretly in Moscow in support of Boris Yeltsin’s presidential campaign. Boris Yeltsin was being counted on to run with the globalized-free market ball and it was imperative that he cross the goal line. The Americans emphasized sophisticated methods of message development, polling, focus groups, crowd staging, direct-mailing, etc., and advised against public debates with the Communists. Most of all they encouraged the Yeltsin campaign to “go negative” against the Communists, painting frightening pictures of what the Communists would do if they took power, including much civic upheaval and violence, and, of course, a return to the worst of Stalinism. Before the Americans came on board, Yeltsin was favored by only six percent of the electorate. In the first round of voting, he edged the Communists 35 percent to 32, and was victorious in the second round 54 to 40 percent.

Mongolia, 1996:

The National Endowment for Democracy worked for several years with the opposition to the governing Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRR, the former Communists) who had won the 1992 election to achieve a very surprising electoral victory. In the six-year period leading up to the 1996 elections, NED spent close to a million dollars in a country with a population of some 2.5 million, the most significant result of which was to unite the opposition into a new coalition, the National Democratic Union. Borrowing from Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, the NED drafted a “Contract With the Mongolian Voter”, which called for private property rights, a free press and the encouragement of foreign investment. The MPRR had already instituted Western-style economic reforms, which had led to widespread poverty and wiped out much of the communist social safety net. But the new government promised to accelerate the reforms, including the privatization of housing. By 1998 it was reported that the US National Security Agency had set up electronic listening posts in Outer Mongolia to intercept Chinese army communications, and the Mongolian intelligence service was using nomads to gather intelligence in China itself.

Bosnia, 1998:

Effectively an American protectorate, with Carlos Westendorp – the Spanish diplomat appointed to enforce Washington’s offspring: the 1995 Dayton peace accords – as the colonial Governor-General. Before the September elections for a host of offices, Westendorp removed 14 Croatian candidates from the ballot because of alleged biased coverage aired in Bosnia by neighboring Croatia’s state television and politicking by ethnic Croat army soldiers. After the election, Westendorp fired the elected president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, accusing him of creating instability. In this scenario those who appeared to support what the US and other Western powers wished were called “moderates”, and allowed to run for and remain in office. Those who had other thoughts were labeled “hard-liners”, and ran the risk of a different fate. When Westendorp was chosen to assume this position of “high representative” in Bosnia in May 1997, The Guardian of London wrote that “The US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, praised the choice. But some critics already fear that Mr. Westendorp will prove too lightweight and end up as a cipher in American hands.”

Nicaragua, 2001

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was once again a marked man. US State Department officials tried their best to publicly associate him with terrorism, including just after September 11 had taken place, and to shamelessly accuse Sandinista leaders of all manner of violations of human rights, civil rights, and democracy. The US ambassador literally campaigned for Ortega’s opponent, Enrique Bolaños. A senior analyst in Nicaragua for Gallup, the international pollsters, was moved to declare: “Never in my whole life have I seen a sitting ambassador get publicly involved in a sovereign country’s electoral process, nor have I ever heard of it.”

At the close of the campaign, Bolaños announced: “If Ortega comes to power, that would provoke a closing of aid and investment, difficulties with exports, visas and family remittances. I’m not just saying this. The United States says this, too. We cannot close our eyes and risk our well-being and work. Say yes to Nicaragua, say no to terrorism.”

In the end, the Sandinistas lost the election by about ten percentage points after steadily leading in the polls during much of the campaign.

Bolivia, 2002

The American bête noire here was Evo Morales, Amerindian, former member of Congress, socialist, running on an anti-neoliberal, anti-big business, and anti-coca eradication campaign. The US Ambassador declared: “The Bolivian electorate must consider the consequences of choosing leaders somehow connected with drug trafficking and terrorism.” Following September 11, painting Officially Designated Enemies with the terrorist brush was de rigueur US foreign policy rhetoric.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs warned that American aid to the country would be in danger if Mr. Morales was chosen. Then the ambassador and other US officials met with key figures from Bolivia’s main political parties in an effort to shore up support for Morales’s opponent, Sanchez de Lozada. Morales lost the vote.

Slovakia, 2002

To defeat Vladimir Meciar, former prime minister, a man who did not share Washington’s weltanschauung about globalization, the US ambassador explicitly warned the Slovakian people that electing him would hurt their chances of entry into the European Union and NATO. The US ambassador to NATO then arrived and issued his own warning. The National Endowment for Democracy was also on hand to influence the election. Meciar lost.

El Salvador, 2004

Washington’s target in this election was Schafik Handal, candidate of the FMLN, the leftist former guerrilla group. He said he would withdraw El Salvador’s 380 troops from Iraq as well as reviewing other pro-US policies; he would also take another look at the privatizations of Salvadoran industries, and would reinstate diplomatic relations with Cuba. His opponent was Tony Saca of the incumbent Arena Party, a pro-US, pro-free market organization of the extreme right, which in the bloody civil war days had featured death squads and the infamous assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

During a February visit to the country, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, met with all the presidential candidates except Handal. He warned of possible repercussions in US-Salvadoran relations if Handal were elected. Three Republican congressmen threatened to block the renewal of annual work visas for some 300,000 Salvadorans in the United States if El Salvador opted for the FMLN. And Congressman Thomas Tancredo of Colorado stated that if the FMLN won, “it could mean a radical change” in US policy on remittances to El Salvador.

Washington’s attitude was exploited by Arena and the generally conservative Salvadoran press, who mounted a scare campaign, and it became widely believed that a Handal victory could result in mass deportations of Salvadorans from the United States and a drop in remittances. Arena won the election with about 57 percent of the vote to some 36 percent for the FMLN.

After the election, the US ambassador declared that Washington’s policies concerning immigration and remittances had nothing to do with any election in El Salvador. There appears to be no record of such a statement being made in public before the election when it might have had a profound positive effect for the FMLN.

Afghanistan, 2004

The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, went around putting great pressure on one candidate after another to withdraw from the presidential race so as to insure the victory for Washington’s man, the incumbent, Hamid Karzai in the October election. There was nothing particularly subtle about it. Khalilzad told each one what he wanted and then asked them what they needed. Karzai, a long-time resident in the United States, was described by the Washington Post as “a known and respected figure at the State Department and National Security Council and on Capitol Hill.”

“Our hearts have been broken because we thought we could have beaten Mr. Karzai if this had been a true election,” said Sayed Mustafa Sadat Ophyani, campaign manager for Younis Qanooni, Karzai’s leading rival. “But it is not. Mr. Khalilzad is putting a lot of pressure on us and does not allow us to fight a good election campaign.”.

None of the major candidates actually withdrew from the election, which Karzai won with about 56 percent of the votes.

The Cold War Forever

On March 7 British police said that a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, a city southwest of London. The police said that Skripal had been “targeted specifically” with a nerve agent. Skripal was jailed in Russia in 2006 for passing state secrets to Britain. He was released in 2010 as part of a spy swap.

Because nerve agents are complex to make, they are typically not made by individuals, but rather by states. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that the Skripal case had “echoes” of what happened to Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB Operative who British officials believe was poisoned in London by Russian agents in 2006, becoming the first victim of lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome. Before he died, he spoke about the misdeeds of the Russian secret service and delivered public deathbed accusations that Russian president Vladimir Putin was behind his unusual malady.

Because of this the Skripal poisoning looks like an open-and-shut case.

But hold on. Skripal was sent to Britain by the Russian government eight years ago in an exchange of spies. Why would they want to kill him now, and with Putin’s election coming up? And with the quadrennial football (soccer) World Cup coming up soon to be played in Russia. Moscow is very proud of this, publicizing it every day on their international television stations (RT in the US). A murder like this could surely put a serious damper on the Moscow festivities. Boris Johnson has already dropped a threat: “Thinking ahead to the World Cup this July, this summer, I think it would be very difficult to imagine that UK representation at that event could go ahead in the normal way and we would certainly have to consider that.”3 It was totally predictable.

Because political opposition is weak, and no obvious threat to the ruling United Russia Party, what would the government gain by an assassination of an opposition figure?

So if Russia is not responsible for Skripal’s poisoning, who is? Well, I have an idea. I can’t give you the full name of the guilty party, but its initials are CIA. US-Russian Cold Wars produce unmitigated animosity. As but one example, the United States boycotted the Olympics that were held in the Soviet Union in 1980, because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union then boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Ideology and Evolution

New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet recently declared: “I think we are pro-capitalism. The New York Times is in favor of capitalism because it has been the greatest engine of, it’s been the greatest anti-poverty program and engine of progress that we’ve seen.”4 The man is correct as far as he goes. But there are two historical factors that enter into this discussion that he fails to consider:

    1. Socialism may well have surpassed capitalism as an anti-poverty program and engine of progress if the United States and other capitalist powers had not subverted, destabilized, invaded, and/or overthrown every halfway serious attempt at socialism in the world. Not one socialist-oriented government, from Cuba and Vietnam in the 1960s, to Nicaragua and Chile in the 1970s, to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, to Haiti and Venezuela in the 2000s has been allowed to rise or fall based on its own merits or lack of same, or allowed to relax its guard against the ever-threatening capital imperialists.
    2. Evolution: Social and economic systems have evolved along with human beings. Humankind has roughly gone from slavery to feudalism to capitalism. There’s no reason to assume that this evolution has come to a grinding halt, particularly given the deep-seated needs of the world in the face of one overwhelming problem after another, most caused by putting profit before people.
  1. New York Times, February 16, 2018.
  2. Mueller Indictment – The “Russian Influence” Is A Commercial Marketing Scheme,” Moon of Alabama, February 17, 2018.
  3. The Independent (London), March 6, 2018.
  4. Huffington Post, February 27, 2018.

Palestine,Israel, the US: How the South Pacific Countries are Selling their Votes

Here it goes again! Several countries of Oceania (also known as South Pacific Nations), or however you want to call that vast, beautiful but thoroughly devastated part of the world, have voted “for Israel”, “for the United States’ proposed resolution at the United Nations”, and therefore, “against Palestine”.

As reported on December 22, 2017 by Al Jazeera:

The United Nations General Assembly has voted by a huge majority to declare a unilateral US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void”.

At an emergency session of the General Assembly on Thursday, 128 countries voted in favour of a resolution rejecting US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision on December 6.

Nine countries voted against, while 35 abstained.

Trump had earlier threatened to cut aid to UN members who would vote against his decision.

Did scarcely inhabited island-nations that are lost in the middle of a tremendous body of water, go crazy?

Before Crossing in Kiribati

After all those horrific nuclear experiments committed there, against their people, by the United States, France and the UK; could local people sincerely believe that the truth as seen from Washington is the only legitimate truth on Earth?

After the naked modern-day colonialism, which is being implemented by Australia, New Zealand, and France, and, of course, by the United States, have the people of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia become blind?

After total dependency, after decades of humiliation and virtual slavery, do the inhabitants of Oceania believe that their fellow victims in Palestine do not have the right to live in their own state, without barbed wire; that they shouldn’t have their own historical capital?

The answer to all these question is, actually: “No”.

They do what they are doing simply and only because they have no choice.

*****

When working on my book, Oceania, travelling all over the South Pacific, I visited a Jesuit priest and the region’s prominent intellectual, Francis X. Hezel. Our encounter took place in the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) – Pohnpei.

Father Hezel has been amassing important materials and documents in his private archive, proving beyond any doubts that the US occupation of Micronesia after WWII led to a dramatic decrease of life expectancy and the standard of living of the islanders. He explained:

Life here became shorter, and much worse than under the Japanese imperial rule. And this was not some ‘Communist propaganda’. It is written right here, in the report produced during that period by the US Department of State.

But back to ‘voting’, or what is often called “vote selling”. Father Hezel offered a very explicit story to illustrate the reality:

One day I had an entire television crew from Israel parked at my office. I had no idea what they were doing here. Why would they travel so far, to such a small and insignificant country? Finally I understood: the Israeli public was fascinated with this place; they wanted to know who are those people who keep voting in the U.N. against most of Security Council resolutions, in this way supporting Israel and the United States against the entire world…

In my book Oceania, I later wrote:

Pacific Island votes at the UN are openly for sale, especially when peace in the Middle East is at stake. To illustrate the absurdity of the game: at a time when several countries in the region are becoming uninhabitable as a result of global warming, both Nauru and Kiribati, itself one of the sinking nations and therefore a victim, voted against the Kyoto Protocol.

But it is not only profit that propels tiny nations in Oceania to sell their votes; it is also the fear of retribution.

“In the late 90’s our government voted at the UN against the US on the issue of landmines, recalled the then Foreign Minister of Marshall Islands (RMI), Tony deBrum. “As a result, our party lost the elections.”

In December 2017, out of the nine countries that voted against the UN resolution, one was the United States itself, while the other eight were: Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, FSM, Nauru, Palau, and Togo. Two were de facto US semi-colonies in Latin America, ruled by brutal pro-Washington cliques, one a tiny and dependent African nation, while four were the Micronesian and Polynesian nations and, of course, Israel.

*****

The Pacific Island nations are selling their votes, for profit or out of fear.

US Star Wars base on Kwajalein, Marshall Islands

The West is also using them in an attempt to isolate China.

Presently, six countries of Oceania have fully established diplomatic relations with Taiwan, after being, as was described to me by the former Foreign Minister of RMI, Tony deBrum, “encouraged” by the West.

Stumps of palm trees – Kiribati

These countries are: Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

At least three of them – Tuvalu, Marshall Islands and Kiribati – are at the frontline of the climate change disaster: they are becoming uninhabitable due to the global warming and consequent rising of sea level.

China is the only country that has been willing to, altruistically, help the countries of Oceania: by building anti-tsunami walls, by planting mangroves, by elevating schools, hospitals and government buildings, or by building sports facilities in places where around 90% of adults is suffering from diabetes, often due to dumping there some of the most unhealthy food from the US, Australia and elsewhere.

The more successful China got in helping South Pacific nations, the more ‘encouragement’ Taiwan received from the West; an ‘encouragement’ to come, to corrupt local ‘elites’, and to push China away. Any country that recognizes Taiwan as an independent nation gets diplomatic relations with China (PRC) broken immediately. Everyone knows it. And there is not one Western country that would take such an insane step.

After China leaves, the countries of Oceania can only rely on the pathetic, cynical and hypocritical “foreign aid” offered by the West, while their corrupt leaders negotiate with New Zealand and Australia the final ‘evacuation project’. Entire countries like Tuvalu may soon be forced to move abroad.

*****

The selling of votes by South Pacific Island nations appears to be shameful, but, in fact, it is nothing else than an act of total desperation.

The Empire has reached great mastery in implementing the “divide and rule” strategy.

The victims, often defenseless and robbed of everything, are forced to vote against those who are suffering similar fate at the opposite side of the world.

Palestinians are involuntarily living in a cage.

People of Oceania, who used to be the greatest seamen, are surrounded by the vastest expanse of water on Earth, but in the same time they are confined to tiny specks of land, often scarred by Western military bases. Trash and decay are everywhere. Hopelessness rules.

Palestinian kids in Gaza

Oceania knows almost nothing about ‘modern Palestine’. Palestinians know almost nothing about Oceania.

Empire looks dumb but it is not. It is ‘only’ evil. It knows everything about both parts of the world. And it is torturing them relentlessly and with perverse sadistic delight.

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• Originally published in New Eastern Outlook

Israel, Guatemala and Apartheid

Guatemala's President, Jimmy Morales (photo), has announced that his country would move its embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. James Morales Cabrera is a professor of Baptist Theology and a huge admirer of the United States. So much so, he changed his Christian name to Jimmy to make it more American. He took the position of being a strong critic of the lack of morality. Together with brother Sammy, he starred in the television series Moralejas (« Morales ») and in seven films, one of which (...)

Our Che: 50 Years After His Execution

(Author’s note: This is an updated, re-edited essay, based on a 2007 written for a Celebration of Ernesto Che Guevara’s life held in October 2007 in New York City in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of his execution, attended by 300 people.)

*****

Che died defending no other interest, no other cause than the cause of the exploited and the oppressed of this continent. Che died defending no other cause than the cause of the poor and the humble of this earth.

— Fidel Castro, October 18, 1967

Che Lives!

On October 9, 1967, the highest levels of the United States government transmitted orders to CIA-operative Felix Rodriguez who passed them on to Washington’s flunkies in the Bolivian military regime. The orders were to murder Ernesto Che Guevara – a wounded combatant captured in battle. They proceeded to display Che’s mutilated corpse to gawking journalists and selected spectator-voyeurs before burying his remains in what they planned on forever being a secret, unmarked grave.

Above all, the Washington decision-makers understood there could be no trial, even a phony formality in their own rigged courts, for Ernesto Che Guevara. As Fidel Castro stated in his extraordinarily powerful and moving tribute to Che given before one million Cubans on October 18, 1967, the imperialist “thugs, oligarchs, and mercenaries” shamelessly conceded why they murdered the wounded and disarmed Che. “…They explain why they did it. They assert that Che’s trial would have been quite an earth shaker, that it would have been impossible to place this revolutionary in the dock.”

By murdering Che in cold blood and then clandestinely dumping his body, the hope and expectation was that Che’s physical extermination and hidden bones would be “the end of the story,” that is, the end of Che’s historic political impact and significance. As they clinked champagne glasses – and this is literally true – in the offices of the National Security Agency of the Lyndon Johnson White House upon receiving confirmation of Che’s death, Washington’s central political officers truly thought that Che would be quickly forgotten or at most faintly remembered as a minor historical footnote. How different reality turned out!

50 years later it is quite clear that – beyond the image – the life and example of Ernesto Che Guevara continues to resonate strongly in world politics. Che’s revolutionary legacy, his ideas and example, continue to inspire new generations of youth and working people, particularly throughout the Americas, but in truth across the entire globe. Young people and working people today who understand that a better world – a socialist world – is possible, and who are ready to fight for it. For decades now, embodying contemporary history, Ernesto Che Guevara has personified uncompromising anti-imperialist struggle for freedom, justice, and equality…by any means necessary, as his contemporary and fellow revolutionist Malcolm X put it.

Fidel and Che

The November 26, 2016 passing, at the age of 90, of the great Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, leads us to revisit the historic military and political collaboration between Fidel and Che, the two revolutionary Marxist fighters and close friends who worked together with an outstanding team of Cuban revolutionary fighters, men and women, as they planned a military and political campaign against the venal and brutal Fulgencio Batista dictatorship – backed by the United States government until essentially the bitter end.1

When Fidel Castro died, there was, in the United States, a veritable down-pouring of calumny across the established, corporate media, echoed in much of the so-called “democratic West.”  We can certainly expect more of this mendacity as the 50th Anniversary of Che’s death approaches.2

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 actually filled the Orange Bowl football stadium in Miami to welcome the return to the United States of the captured mercenary invaders who were defeated in April, 1961 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 drawn out negotiations.

The relatively tiny and politically insignificant anti-Fidel Miami protests in 2017 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 driven through the streets of Holguin, Cuba

The Spector of Che in the 21st Century

The specter of Che Guevara continues to haunt the imperialist world. This 50th Anniversary of his cowardly assassination is bound to see another wave in the perpetual concerted campaign to throw mud and slander, disinformation and half-truths, on the memory and example of Che. A new wave over time from the big-business media and publishing houses, with op-ed pieces, new books and films adding to an already lamentable list. There will be endless anti-communist and anti-socialist trolling online. All these efforts are inevitable and every fighter for revolutionary socialist change, and every person who takes seriously concrete historical truth, will be compelled to defend the person, ideas, and legacy of our Che.

Of course, it is precisely because Che’s legacy is so powerful that bourgeois governments and their corporate media, especially in the United States, must counter this with renewed regurgitations of myths and false assertions. The method involved is repetition of what in current parlance is called “fake news.”

The continuity of Che’s revolutionary socialist legacy is naturally intertwined with the Cuban Revolution – of which he was both a product and central creator. The Cuban Revolution, having survived the economic unraveling of the early 1990s, first described by Fidel Castro as the “Special Period,” has emerged from that crisis stronger, more attractive, and weightier in world politics today. Leading Cuba through the cataclysmic crisis of the Special Period was Fidel Castro’s last historic revolutionary political triumph in defense of the Cuban Revolution, Cuban sovereignty, and the Cuban workers state.3

Fifty years after Che’s execution, the capitalist world order of 2017 is crisis-ridden, stuck in a seemingly permanent economic stagnation marked by lingering weakness and volatility, even as the social impact of decades of so-called “neo-liberal globalization” — that is austerity and assaults on the rights and living standards of the working class — continue to accumulate: deepening of social inequality; sharpening class and social polarization; recurrent crises in bourgeois politics and capitalist parliamentary democracies.

The burning question of revolutionary leadership is no less central in the second decade of the 21st Century than in the 1960s. Or as it was in the 1930s, when the successive defeats of popular revolutionary struggles and working-class upsurge were consecutive starting with the triumph of Adolph Hitler’s Nazis in Germany in 1933 and consequent pulverization of the worker’s movement, the trade unions, and all democratic rights in Germany through to the crushing of the Spanish Revolution by 1938. That latter defeat accelerated the events directly leading to, laying the basis for, the devastation of World War II in Europe. An unintended consequence of that worldwide imperialist slaughter was the acceleration of colonial independence movements and struggles for national liberation, including what became socialist revolutions in China and Vietnam. The Cuban Revolution was part of that international dynamic.

Cuba today maintains the revolutionary Marxist outlook of Che and Fidel in its foreign policy. When the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959 it revived a genuine proletarian internationalism that had been battered by gross abuses, betrayals, and defeats since the death of V.I. Lenin and the early foreign policy of the Soviet Union.

Socialist Cuba in 2017 is a state power with a foreign policy that actively promotes international solidarity, an internationalism based on the interests and struggles of the working people of the world. This is true in both political ideas and actual deeds.

The Unintended Consequences of World War II

The strategic perspective of Fidel and Che after the revolutionary triumph was to organize and coordinate a revolutionary leadership, throughout the Americas and worldwide, out of the mass upsurges and anti-imperialist struggles for colonial independence and national liberation that exploded on every continent where colonial domination began to erode during, and in, the aftermath of the earth-shattering events of World War II. This is the post-World War II world that the Cuban Revolution and its workers and farmers government of young revolutionists was born into on January 1, 1959.

The pre-World War II world order, dominated by the already decadent and fraying British and French colonial empires, was now being further battered by the blows of a resurgent, aggressive German-Nazi imperialism. British and French “democratic” colonialism and imperialism found themselves at war with fascist Germany despite striving throughout the 1930s to appease it. An unintended consequence of the massive multi-front, multi-national slaughterhouse and holocaust of World War II in Europe was accelerating the conditions for the eventual collapse of the colonial empires.

In Asia and the Pacific Rim, the British, French, and other Western European colonial powers along, with the United States, already an emerging Pacific military and economic power (and minor colonial power in the Philippines, Guam, Samoa, and the US Hawaiian territory) faced an aggressive Japanese imperialism that had already invaded and occupied Chinese Manchuria in 1931, escalated its military aggression there in 1936-37, and bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December 1941.

Independence movements grew rapidly everywhere in formerly colonial lands, often with a mass revolutionary dynamic. This was true in all the arenas where the titanic militaries of existing and competing imperialist powers and the more minor colonial players clashed in Asia, Africa, the Middle East in the 1930s, 1940s and beyond. A huge historic transformation was the political outcome.

Indian independence was gained in 1948. The Chinese Revolution triumphed in 1949. French imperialism tried to reconquer Vietnam and Indochina before being routed at Dienbienphu in 1954. The French imperialists, employing truly epochal brutality, managed to hold on in Algeria until 1962. Eventually, the British, French, Belgian, and Dutch governments, with much stress and strain, were forced to retreat and concede formal national political sovereignty across much of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Rim. The world political situation that the triumphant Cuban Revolution entered into and impacted on in 1959 was one where that pre-war order was coming apart and there was concurrently the consolidation of the framework and intensification of the so called “Cold War” epoch.

Splits in the “World Communist Movement”

Additionally, within the “world Communist movement,” great political schisms began to develop in this new post-war period, which saw the triumph of the Chinese Revolution and the consolidation of a government led by Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party in 1949; revolutionary independence struggles in Vietnam and Korea in the aftermath of the Japanese defeat and the French attempts to recover its doomed colonial power and “glory” in Indochina.

Political divisions intensified after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. At the 1954 Geneva Accords “Agreement” Soviet and Chinese diplomats pressured the Ho Chi Minh government, which had just routed the French at Dienbienphu, to make major concessions to the United States. In 1956 there was a stunning international impact from a speech by top Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev denouncing (and by doing so acknowledging and revealing appalling criminal abuse on a massive scale under Stalin (a speech which the US government made sure did not stay “secret” for long). The 1956 Soviet-Warsaw Pact invasion of Hungary was great political grist for anti-communist Cold War propaganda (propaganda is most effective when it is a least partly factual true) and, along with the Stalin “revelations” utterly roiled the Communist Parties worldwide. By 1958 there was some motion for a Cold War “thaw” between Washington and Moscow which seemed directed, at least in part, at the post-revolution Chinese government, “Red China” in US government and corporate media parlance. By 1959, when the Cuban revolution triumphed and Washington began to direct counter-revolutionary efforts against the island, the “Sino-Soviet split,” with increasingly intense polemics and inflammatory exchanges, was exploding into public view. This was the political world the Cuban Revolution entered into and consolidated power in.

“Create two, three…many Vietnams”: Che and Vietnam

From the late 1950s into the early 1960s, US attempts to prop up the illegal and increasingly hated and isolated Ngo Dinh Diem regime in the artificially divided “South Vietnam,” were faltering. By the mid-1960s, JFK’s Washington had brutally dispatched a murdered Diem and embarked on a course and policy of militarily defeating the Vietnamese liberation movement through a massive expansion of US firepower and troop levels reaching 500,000 by 1968.

The “Sino-Soviet split” had deleterious effects for Vietnam, a cause extremely close to the Cuban revolutionaries, and Che Guevara in particular. Che left Cuba and embarked on his revolutionary internationalist mission. He wrote the historic “Message to the Tricontinental.”

This was equally: a cool, objective survey of the world political situation in 1966-67 which placed the Vietnamese Revolution and US aggression at the center of world politics; and a fiery revolutionary manifesto calling for stepped-up international solidarity with Vietnam. “It is not a matter of wishing success to the victim of aggression,“ Che wrote, “but of sharing his fate; one must accompany him to his death or to victory.”

The “Message to the Tricontinental,” was published by the Organization of Solidarity with the People’s 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.

In the document, Che also noted the impact of the Vietnam War on US soldiers and on the US politics:

Over there, the soldiers of imperialism encounter the discomforts of those who, accustomed to the standard of living that the United States boasts, have to confront a hostile land; the insecurity of those who cannot move without feeling that they are stepping on enemy territory; death for those who go outside of fortified compounds; the permanent hostility of the entire population. All this is provoking repercussions inside the United States. It is leading to the appearance of a factor that was attenuated by imperialism at full strength: the class struggle inside its own territory.

How close and bright would the future appear if two, three, many Vietnams flowered on the face of the globe, with their quota of death and their immense tragedies, with their daily heroism, with their repeated blows against imperialism, forcing it to disperse its forces under the lash of the growing hatred of the peoples of the world!

Caricatures

Che has been endlessly caricatured. And not only by the conscious enemies of his revolutionary ideas and practice. That is to be expected. Perhaps more pernicious are the caricatures of those claiming, sincerely or not, admiration or sympathy with Che’s ideas and example.

A predominant caricature presents Che as a quixotic utopian and romantic adventurer, perhaps with a death wish. Someone to be admired, even exalted, as a mythic hero but not someone to be learned from. Someone certainly not realistic in his “naïve” faith in the capacities of oppressed humanity. Such “admiration” of the Che icon in place of the actual, human Ernesto Guevara in truth buries Che’s ideas and strips them of contemporary relevance and applicability. By reducing Che to an icon, his revolutionary Marxist world outlook, his fraternal, collaborative, and democratic methods of work, his serious attention to scientific knowledge, objective facts, and honest study as the basis of practice and action are also buried. The Che of mythology is presented as a starry-eyed utopian idealist. The actual Che was a voracious reader and highly cultured man of science, a revolutionist of action deeply grounded in theoretical study and practical experience.

On October 15, 1967, six days after his murder, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba passed a resolution creating a commission of leading members “to orient and direct all the activities aimed at perpetuating the memory of Major Ernesto Guevara.” That pledge has been, and continues to be, fulfilled in revolutionary Cuba. Fortunately, Che’s writings have been preserved in Cuba, Latin America, in the United States, in fact, everywhere in the world. No matter how much mud the liberal and conservative imperialists, the agents of the Latin American oligarchies, and the big-business media throw mountains of mud at Che’s memory on the 50th Anniversary of his murder, Che’s revolutionary message will continue to reach and inspire millions as a guide to action.

In today’s volatile, class polarization of world and national politics – ushered in with the 2007-08 cascading Wall Street-sparked crisis of the world capitalist crisis and international depression and downturn, which continues to unfold in 2017, we need more than ever the clarity of ideas and political perspective of Che.

Our Che is not merely a revered figure from the distant past. Our Che is a guide for the generation of today in the Americas and world-wide who are looking for serious and effective ways to fight this crisis-ridden world economic and social order, with its obscene inequality and haughty class privilege, its brutal wars generally tied to the subjugation of oppressed nationalities, the oppression of women, and environmental degradation. Most importantly, our Che is a beacon, illuminating what we are for, not merely what we are against.

It is also necessary to rescue Che from an imagery that appears more benign than the reactionary anti-Che boilerplate. This is the Che of the capitalist marketplace, where his image is a commodity to buy and sell, an abstract symbol, a handsome face to be adorned as a fashion statement maybe connoting some vague notion of “rebellion” or “idealism.” The capitalist market seeking profit works to reduce Che to a harmless icon stripped of his actual ideas. We get the myth of Che to divert us from his ideas, which have been preserved in his writings and speeches. Che T-Shirts and refrigerator magnets are fine, but what is really important is to read Che. What is really significant, what really honors his memory and example, is to study Che. And in his own words, before someone else’s rendition and “analysis.” You will be treating yourself because Che was a beautiful, profound, and clear writer and thinker. (At the end of this essay is an essential bibliography.)

To understand the extraordinary human being that Che became, you must start with how “ordinary,” in a sense, he was and place him in his times and experiences. Che’s ideas were developed by, and combined with, his experiences in the struggles of the oppressed and exploited majority. Grasping this is the only way to understand and truly embrace Ernesto Che Guevara.

Che in History

The Cuban Revolution triumphed on January 1, 1959 when the July 26th Movement, of which Che had become a central political and military leader, led the workers and peasants of Cuba to governmental and state power over the US-backed Batista dictatorship. The Cuban socialist revolution has proven to have been particularly powerful, enduring, principled, and resonant. Nearly sixty years later, that power remains and has effectively defended itself from an unrelenting economic and political war organized in Washington.4

Che was one of the 82 men—most of whom perished within days, any number of whom could have become another “Che”— with outstanding human, revolutionary and patriotic qualities, organized under the command of Fidel Castro, who jammed aboard the Granma yacht, converted into a troop carrier, which landed on the Cuban coast. They were almost wiped out following a betrayal and logistical failures and regrouped. What unfolded over the next two years was a brilliantly fought rural guerrilla war that was complemented by a vast urban revolutionary underground, and in less than three years the July 26 Movement swept into governmental power, unleashing the mass action of millions of Cuba’s oppressed and exploited majority. (See Tad Szulc’s Fidel: A Critical Portrait for biographical sketches of the outstanding individuals who made up the Granma expedition.)

The Crucible of Guatemala

Ernesto Guevara was not atypical as a middle-class Argentine boy, suffering from acute asthma but athletic nonetheless. He was a serious student who also liked to have a good time, sensitive to injustice but whose early social and political viewpoint did not go much beyond a definite humanitarian imperative. It was in Guatemala that the revolutionary transformation of Ernesto Guevara began.

Ernesto Guevara arrived in Guatemala in 1953 as the government of Jacobo Arbenz had taken office, elected by the votes of workers and peasants hoping for an alleviation of their miserable conditions of life and work. In the early 1950s, Guatemala, as elsewhere in Central America and Latin America, was ruled by an ultra-wealthy oligarchy of semi-feudal landlords and a comprador bourgeoisie wholly linked and subordinate to foreign, mostly US, capital. Imperialist domination forged a Guatemalan economy geared toward the production of food for export to US and European markets. Food produced on giant plantations by super-exploited labor, kept in line by state and private armed violence.

The dominant company in the Guatemalan economic landscape was the US-based United Fruit Company (since rebranded as Chiquita Brands International). The lawyer for United Fruit was John Foster Dulles who became Secretary of State under President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953.

Under the Arbenz government political space opened up for the super-exploited majority. Arbenz promoted and began to implement very mild reforms, including agrarian reforms that affected United Fruit’s vast holdings. Washington reacted with fury and proceeded step-by-step to organize an eventually successful CIA-directed military coup which overthrew Arbenz and installed the ferociously murderous right-wing military dictatorship of Carlos Castillo Armas. Subsequent military regimes armed and backed by Washington have murdered some 100,000 Guatemalan working people.

The young Ernesto Guevara went to Guatemala, like many South American patriots and developing anti-imperialists, attracted to the democratic and progressive promise of the Arbenz regime. The future Che had already received his medical degrees and the title of Doctor. Idealistic and full of passion for and determination to serve the oppressed and destitute, Dr. Guevara went to work, under programs sponsored by the Arbenz government, in the vast barrios of unspeakable impoverishment that made up the social reality of US-dominated and directed “democracy” in Guatemala. Dr. Guevara noticed from the outset that the symptoms and diseases he would treat and correct were always being reproduced out of the social relations and conditions that swirled around his modest clinic, oblivious to the skills and techniques employed inside. An important conclusion was thereby reached by the 25-year-old future revolutionary who wanted to be a revolutionary doctor. To be a revolutionary doctor, he decided, there would first have to be a revolution.

Guatemala became the crucible that forged the future Che. The extensive FBI and CIA files on Ernesto Guevara began during his time in Guatemala. (See Che Guevara and the FBI: The US Political Police Dossier on the Latin American Revolutionary, edited by Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith. Ocean Press 1997.)

Che watched, with increasing frustration and exasperation, as the coup-forces prepared for their strike while the Arbenz government proved unable or unwilling to prepare counter-measures, especially by spotlighting and campaigning against the US subversion and physically preparing, training, and arming workers and peasants to defend the Constitutional government. (19 years later Fidel Castro did everything in his power to prevent a similar historic defeat and slaughter of working people in Chile, when, in 1973, the US-backed coup overthrew the elected and Constitutional government of Salvador Allende, as workers and peasants ready to defend their gains arms in hand waited in vain to be mobilized, organized, and armed.)

Ernesto Guevara escaped from Guatemala to Mexico, one step ahead of right-wing death squads which had him targeted. He landed in Mexico City, a destitute refugee at one point selling pencils and photographs on the streets, radicalized and transformed in the Guatemalan crucible.

CIA-organized military coup in Guatemala

Mexico City

Meanwhile, on July 26, 1953 Fidel Castro, Abel Santamaria, Raul Castro, Juan Almeida, and dozens of other revolutionary Cuban youth stormed the Moncada Barracks of the US-backed military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which had taken power the previous year, overturning the 1940 Cuban Constitution. Defeated in the assault, the young rebels emerged politically victorious as a number of factors converged, resulting in the establishment of the July 26th Movement led by Fidel Castro. These included; the orgy of torture and murder unleashed by Batista’s police and army on the surrendered rebels, revulsing Cuban public opinion; the power of Fidel Castro’s defense speech, “History Will Absolve Me,” at his subsequent trial, detailing the rebel program and widely circulated throughout the island; and the rapid spread of a massive campaign for political amnesty for the imprisoned rebel leaders which forced their release in 1955. Under surveillance from Batista’s death squads Fidel Castro and other July 26th Movement leaders left Cuba, regrouped in Mexico City, organizing and gathering forces, beginning training and preparations for an invasion and a revolutionary armed struggle against the US-backed tyranny.

Che’s escape from Guatemala and Fidel’s forced exile found them both in Mexico City, where colonies of Latin American freedom fighters were to be found and who worked and played in overlapping social and political circles. Soon Ernesto had befriended a number of July 26th Movement cadre, including Raul Castro. Ernesto became Che, the affectionate moniker affixed to him by his Cuban pals soon to become his comrades.

Fidel recalled:

I first met Che one day in July or August 1955. And in one night…he became one of the future Granma expeditionaries, although at that time the expedition possessed neither ship, nor arms, nor troops. That was how, together with Raul, Che became one of the first two on the Granma list…

In those first days [Che] was our troop doctor, and so the bonds of friendship and warm feelings for him were ever increasing. He was filled with a profound hatred and contempt for imperialism, not only because his political education was already considerably developed, but also because, shortly before, he had had the opportunity of witnessing the criminal imperialist intervention in Guatemala through the mercenaries who aborted the revolution in that country.

A person like Che did not require elaborate arguments. It was sufficient for him to know Cuba was in a situation and that there were people determined to struggle against that situation, arms in hand. It was sufficient for him to know that those people were inspired by genuinely revolutionary and patriotic ideals. That was more than enough.

Che quickly went from troop doctor to unmatched military leader—fearless and audacious— with the most important assignments. It was Che who devised and implemented the defeat of Batista’s numerically far-superior (in numbers and equipment, if not motivation) forces in the decisive Battle of Santa Clara in late-1958. This broke the back of Batista’s army which rapidly disintegrated. After Santa Clara Washington and the Cuban oligarchy were unable to do anything to prevent the triumphant march into Havana by Fidel’s converging guerrilla armies as the Cuban masses exploded in a festival of revolutionary joy and struggle.

Che in Command during the Decisive Battle of Santa Clara

The Che who became a central leader of the Cuban Revolution that seized power on January 1, 1959, was a voracious reader of the entire range of democratic and revolutionary thought from Goethe, Voltaire, and the European Enlightenment to Darwin, Einstein, and Freud, as well as Simon Bolivar, Jose Marti, and the deep tradition of Latin American revolutionary nationalism. He had already become a convinced Marxist from a thorough study of the works of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, and V. I. Lenin. Additionally, Che’s mind had assimilated the essential thoughts and precepts of modern science and mathematics.

Illiterate and semi-literate peasants and others recruited to his guerrilla army in Cuba, and later in the Congo and Bolivia recalled in amazement and love how Che would always incorporate into the fighter’s daily routines time for the study of language, mathematics, science, and history, in addition to literacy classes. It was Che who organized the “Rebel Radio” which broadcast from combat zones during the Cuban revolutionary war.

Che the Executioner?

One of the first tasks of the triumphant revolutionaries was to establish justice for the thousands of Cuban families whose sons and daughters, mothers, fathers, and neighbors had been tortured and slaughtered on the streets and in the dungeons of the Batista regime. The martyred dead numbered at least 20,000 in a country then of 6 million (the equivalent of over 650,000 dead in a country the size of the US at the time). A messy people’s justice had already begun with the end of the military-police regime as spontaneous retributions took place against known torturers and murderers whose cover and protection had vanished and who were unable to reach safety – and escape justice – in the United States.

Che was assigned the task of establishing a just and fair but also transparent and certain justice and to bring the process under revolutionary control, ensuring due process, defense lawyers, and fair proceedings. This was done in an exemplary way. Popular, public tribunals were organized. Volumes of public testimony were given, with horrific testimony of the vile tortures and bestial murder recorded and made public. Some 200 of the worst torturers and murderers of the US-backed Batista tyranny were shot by firing squads. No one has ever offered a shred of evidence that anyone innocent was executed. Whatever one’s opinion of the death sentences that were implemented, backed by the great majority of the population, no one can say, or has ever shown, that the guilt of those executed was not established beyond the shadow of a doubt. Batista’s cops and thugs were, after all, known to all. In their glory days, prior to the revolutionary victory, those brought to justice strutted their power and brutality over what they thought would be forever helpless victims; they never dreamed they would face their victims and their victim’s families in a legal proceeding.

This process of bringing to justice the worst criminals of the hated Batista regime led to an orgy of hypocrisy and phony moral outrage in the big-business press and among Democratic and Republican politicians in the United States. The highly orchestrated propaganda campaign was a major pretext in a concerted campaign to turn public opinion, which had been very sympathetic to Fidel Castro and the rebel cause, against the Cuban Revolution as radical social reforms began to be implemented which affected US business interests and the US economic and financial domination of the island ushered in by the US rout of Spain in the 1898 Spanish American War.

Che’s efficient and thorough carrying out of his assignment overseeing the trial and sentences, including the executions, has led to grotesque caricatures of Che as a “ruthless executioner” and “mass murderer” by conservative and liberal haters and slanderers of the Cuban Revolution, including ten years ago in the Hollywood box- office flop The Lost City, produced and directed by prominent actor and Cuban-American hostile opponent of the Cuban Revolution, Andy Garcia.

Washington and the big-business media’s crocodile tears for Batista’s torturers and murderers stands in sharp contrast to their approval or silence towards the mountains of corpses piled up by US-backed military regimes and death squads in Latin America and the Caribbean before and especially after the Cuban Revolution from Trujillo, Duvalier, and Somoza to Pinochet and the Argentine generals.

Che and the Transition to Socialism

For several years after the revolutionary triumph Che carried out essential tasks for the revolutionary government, including an appointment to head up the national bank in 1959. This was an absolutely daunting task which placed Che at the nerve center of the Cuban economy during its qualitative, revolutionary transformation. The Cuban revolutionaries were determined to mobilize the Cuban people, galvanized by the triumph of the Revolution, to advance concrete economic and financial policies that would develop and industrialize the Cuban economy within the emerging new social relations of the Cuban Revolution. This included forging new planning mechanisms and incentives for increasing labor productivity in agriculture and industry and for the entire Cuban economic and financial system.

By 1961 in the newly nationalized industries, from which most expert management personnel from previous private owners had left, and where in the case of US-owned factories and plants, the spare parts and skills to maintain and upgrade machinery were being embargoed and were sorely lacking. What Che had faith in was the revolutionary potential of the workers and peasants, and to mobilize the tremendous enthusiasm unleashed among the large majority of the Cuban people and youth to tackle these problems, learning the industrial and management skills needed to industrialize Cuba.

Cuba was moving toward a new social contract – crystalized in the forging in real time of a new state, in the wake of the actual collapse of the old neo-colonial state and its repressive police-military apparatus, its prisons, its courts, and its entire “criminal justice system. This new state that emerged under this historical crucible was fundamentally stamped by the working class which was becoming the dominant social and political force in the government and the state, including in the new armed forces that were in direct continuity with the guerilla army. The same dynamic applied to the new revolutionary police forces, and the new judicial and legal systems. Working people and young people, as well as many students, intellectuals, and revolutionary-minded individuals from the middle and even the affluent classes, united in the heat of the revolutionary moment when, as Lenin said, decades happen in weeks. Ordinary people stepped in to manage and get running factories and farms producing as world politics (and Cold War politics) swirled around the Cuban Revolution.

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” Lenin

Revolutionary Cuba’s leaders were not able to control the pace and tempo of the economic measures, for the simple reason that the entire framework for the unfolding struggle was the hostility and policies of the US government.

Step by step the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations moved to asphyxiate the workers’ and farmers’ government that was consolidating power with mass support. Concurrently – and dialectically intertwined –the Cuban revolutionaries moved to overturn the dominance of the capitalist market and bourgeois social relations and establish the new pre-eminence of conscious and progressive economic planning. The amazing, egalitarian social measures that marked, and have made so attractive, the Cuban Revolution: the eradication of illiteracy within two years; the massive expansion of free, quality medical care; the establishment of an excellent public school system embracing every single Cuban child without exception; the radical uprooting and legal extirpation of the system of racist discrimination, the Cuban version of Jim Crow; the eradication of the “free market” in the sale of women’s bodies for vile sexual gratification (and the annihilation of the whole machinery of the US-based Mafia where the oppression of women was essential to the business) as part of a radical program of women’s emancipation, including the right to abortion.

These achievements that are marveled at or grudgingly acknowledged even by opponents of socialism could only have been possible with the economic measures that transformed the class character of the Cuban state: radical land reform; nationalization of banking and capitalist industry; state monopoly of foreign trade; central planning based on human needs over “market” (that is private capital) prerogatives; the breaking up of imperialist and Cuban-owned sugar and other plantations replaced by peasant co-operatives and land redistribution; the retention and consolidation of private, family farms protected and aided by the workers state; and radical rent reductions followed by a massive expansion in home ownership, on the basis of human need over private profit.5

Che’s economic writings are particularly brilliant and thought-provoking, with stress on the consciousness and transformation of the human being as the foundation of socialist economics, combined with the most modern application of science and technology, statistical rigorousness, and scrupulous accounting methods. (See Fidel Castro’s October 8, 1987 speech “Che’s Ideas Are Absolutely Relevant Today” reprinted in the valuable Che Guevara: Economics and Politics in the Transition to Socialism by Carlos Tablada, Pathfinder Press, 1998. Also see Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution by Helen Yaffe, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.)

In these years Che became particularly beloved among Cubans – from fellow revolutionists to rank-and-file working people because of his selflessness, his integrity, his modesty, and his abhorrence of privilege, routinism, and bureaucracy. Che was the example, which became legendary, of being the hardest worker in whatever task he was undertaking.

To the same degree that Che was respected and loved by Cuba’s workers and peasants, he was hated by the landlords and capitalists and Mafioso whose world of privilege, obscene inequality, and vile criminality and brutality was smashed to bits forever by the Cuban revolutionaries. Che was also hated and feared by the supervisors of the decrepit Cuban ruling class, who resided in Washington and on Wall Street.

Che’s Internationalism

Among his many tasks in Cuba’s revolutionary leadership Che became the embodiment of Cuba’s revolutionary foreign policy – one of the most enduring features of world politics since the revolutionary triumph on New Year’s Day 1959 to this day.

In forums friendly and hostile – from the Organization of American States meeting at Punta del Este, Uruguay in 1964 to the United Nations that same year, Che spread the word and policies of the Cuban Revolution in language diplomatic and revolutionary.

Che addresses the UN General Assembly

Fidel Castro recalled often that Che made him promise, while they were still fighting in the Sierra Maestra, that the future revolutionary government would create no obstacle when the day came that Che wished to participate in and organize revolutionary struggles elsewhere in Latin America.

While Che was traveling the globe as a most effective protagonist of Cuba’s foreign policy, while he was playing a leading part in the broad establishment of diplomatic relations and trade with a wide range of nations, he was also laying the basis for the organization of a revolutionary continental army to engage in a continent-wide battle against the Latin American oligarchies and the domination of US imperialism which was their first and last prop.

For much of 1965, prior to returning to the battlefield of Latin America, and with the political and logistical support of the Cuban government, Che attempted to work with followers of murdered Congolese President Patrice Lumumba to establish a revolutionary front to fight the neo-colonial regime. These reactionary forces were backed by South African mercenaries, the Belgian colonialists, and Washington. The effort failed. Che’s brutally honest and objective account and concrete analysis of the failed struggle contains many lessons, and is also a profound example of the Marxist method. (See The African Dream: The Diaries of the Revolutionary War in the Congo by Ernesto Che Guevara, Grove/Atlantic, 2001.)

Patrice Lumumba just before his murder by CIA-backed mercenaries

After the Congo failure, Che returned to Cuba and immediately, again with the full backing and collaboration of the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, immersed himself into preparations for a secret return to Latin America with a selected team of fighters.

Che’s strategic perspective was to build a guerrilla base in Bolivia to begin an armed struggle against the US-armed and sustained military regime there, which could link up with other vanguard forces continent-wide as part of rising mass struggles against the imperialist-backed oligarchies and military dictatorships throughout the Americas.

Che’s book Guerrilla Warfare (Vintage Books, 1969) is a profound and historical document on the art and politics of military struggle. That is, the strategy and tactics of revolutionary armed struggle against entrenched military dictatorships which are defending the oligarchies and oppressing the workers, peasants, and masses. This in a context where all avenues and space for independent legal, constitutional, and democratic struggle have been closed and snuffed out.

In it he writes:

Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.

Che’s heroic effort, based in Bolivia, was betrayed and defeated prior to significant mass upsurges and deepening class struggles that did unfold in the late 1960s and early 1970s. (See Fidel Castro’s “A Necessary Introduction” in Bolivian Diary by Ernesto Che Guevara, Pathfinder Press, 1994 for Fidel’s description of the factor of betrayal in the defeat of Che’s guerrilla forces.)

Che and the Next Waves of Struggle in Latin America

There is a continuity of struggle that links Che’s heroic Bolivian campaign to the battles against Latin American military dictatorships in the 1960s and 1970s and the eventual opening of political space, democratic and worker’s rights, that are again under pressure today; the revolutionary upsurges in Central America in the 1970s and 1980s; and the decade of mounting and deepening popular struggles against the “Washington Consensus” of economic and financial policies of austerity, privatization, and attacks on workers living that led to major shifts in Latin American politics to the left at the opening of the 21st Century.

The worldwide impact of the 2007-2009 economic and financial crisis had a somewhat delayed but finally devastating impact across the Americas. Major economies like Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and Argentina, dependent on exports of raw material commodities such as oil, copper, soy and other agricultural products to markets in the advanced capitalist countries were thrown into economic turmoil by the so-called “Great Recession” and the financial shocks that began in the United States and spread to the EU. This necessarily led to political volatility and turmoil. Tremendous pressures have been put on left-wing political parties and tendencies that gained governmental power (and carried out various progressive policies in the interests of working people in the period of high commodity prices) as the still-fully capitalist economies they oversee became immersed in economic downturn. This gave some traction to more conservative, neoliberal forces that managed to replace the Worker’s Party government in Brazil in 2016 with a parliamentary coup and a similar result earlier in Argentina after presidential elections in 2015. Venezuela has had the most devastating economic downturn where the crash of the price of oil has combined with economic sabotage and escalating violence and provocation by US-backed forces determined to overturn the Nicolas Maduro government, although they are badly divided over tactics, methods, and political postures.

As this is written on October 9, 2017 it is certain that, in the coming years, the framework for the class struggle and unfolding political battles for power – outside and inside of capitalist parliamentary institutions which are weakening, rife with corruption, and seemingly unable to address let alone resolve accumulated and intensifying social and political crises.

The conditions of struggle in Latin America and the Caribbean are far different – and far more favorable – for workers and peasants today than at the time of Che’s heroic struggle. Those who murdered Che fifty years ago will be forever buried with contempt. Che’s banner has been continually picked up and carried forward by millions as the coming historic class battles in the Americas and every corner of the globe for solidarity, national and social liberation continue to unfold. Our Che will be present as an inspiration, political guide, and example, with Fidel, of revolutionary leadership.

CHE LIVES!!

  1. Washington, in the last years of the second Dwight Eisenhower White House, did endeavor to make contacts with anti-Batista forces, including the July 26 Movement. This, of course, was conditioned by the growing political ferment 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. See Contesting Castro: The United States and the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution by Thomas Patterson, Oxford University Press, 1994.
  2. Shortly after Fidel’s passing, I witnessed a United Nations tribute to him which filled the General Assembly arena. Ambassador after Ambassador – including most eloquently and with serious content, from nations such as Bolivia, Namibia, South Africa, Venezuela, and Vietnam who directly experienced Cuban internationalism – spoke with respect to the Cuban revolutionary and head of state. Not a single diplomat from the United States, the “Eurozone,” or Japan took the rostrum in a ceremony that lasted several hours. It was also noticeable how the fine words of some repressive capitalist governments in the so-called “emerging” or “developing” countries who did take the rostrum contrasted with how quickly you would land in the slammer or worse in those states if you held and promoted Fidel’s socialist ideas…and tried to practice them in defense of the oppressed and exploited masses at home.
  3. Prior to the Special Period, some 85% of Cuba’s commercial and economic exchange within the total Cuban economy was with the Soviet Union and Soviet-allied Eastern European governments and states. From 1989-1991 these governments all became defunct. The consequence was, virtually overnight, a devastating 35% contraction of Cuba’s economy. Washington, smelling blood in anticipation of the final smashing of the Cuban Revolution, naturally stepped up its economic and political war. Bipartisan legislation, most blatantly the Helms-Burton law, was enacted, which, among its other anti-Cuba components, aimed to impose US economic, commercial, and financial sanctions and penalties on any sovereign nations that carried out trade and economic exchanges with Cuba. The clear goal was the imposition of an extraterritorial economic blockade. “Regime change” through asphyxiation. Helms-Burton was signed into law by President William Clinton, and remains in place today. It will have to be formally repealed by the US Congress to end all US anti-Cuba sanctions.
  4. Today, while Washington under President Barack Obama, retreated significantly with the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba, US economic and travel sanctions and extraterritorial penalties continue, as does US occupation of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and subversive “regime change” programs. As this is being written President Donald Trump is stepping up political attacks on Cuba at the United Nation as the UN General Assembly prepares on November 1, 2017 to again overwhelmingly condemn the US “economic, commercial, and financial embargo.” Prior to the vote Trump announced measures to expel more than a dozen Cuban diplomats from the US, end visa processing for Cubans visiting or invited to the US, and further restrict US travel to the island.
  5. The private owners of nationalized foreign enterprises in Cuba, with their governments negotiated satisfactory compensation with the revolutionary government, in accordance with international law. The US government, at the time, was already planning and organizing for its overthrow, and was therefore in contemptuous rejection of any negotiations for compensation to US owners of Cuban assets being nationalized.

Rename the Lester B. Pearson Airport

Many monuments, memorials and names of institutions across Canada celebrate our colonial and racist past. Calls for renaming buildings or pulling down statues are symbolic ways of reinterpreting that history, acknowledging mistakes and small steps towards reconciling with the victims of this country’s policies.

At its heart this process is about searching for the truth, a guiding principle that should be shared by both journalists and historians.

In an article headlined “Everything is offensive: Here are Canada’s other politically incorrect place names” Tristin Hopper concludes that “Lester Pearson’s record still holds up pretty well” unlike a dozen other historical figures he cites who have streets, institutions and statues named in their honour. Notwithstanding the National Post reporter’s portrayal, there are compelling historical arguments for renaming the airport, school board, road, college, peace-park, civic centre, housing project, schools and foreign affairs headquarters celebrating the long-time diplomat.

As I outline in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: the truth may hurt, the former Nobel Peace Prize winner was an aggressive militarist and imperialist. There is even a case to be made that the former external minister and prime minister could be posthumously tried for war crimes.

In the foreword to my book Noam Chomsky argues that Pearson abetted war crimes by having Canadian International Control Commission (ICC) officials deliver US bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership in 1964. As prime minister, Pearson also had ICC officials spy on North Vietnam for Washington, approved chemical weapon (Agent Orange, Purple and Blue) testing in Canada, ramped up weapons sales to the US and provided various other forms of support to Washington’s violence in Indochina.

A decade and a half earlier Pearson aggressively promoted Canadian participation in another conflict that left millions dead. He threatened to quit as external minister if Canada failed to deploy ground troops to Korea. Ultimately, 27,000 Canadian troops fought in the 1950–53 UN “police action” that left up to four million dead. At one point the US-led forces only stopped bombing the north of the country when they determined no building over one story was still standing.

Pearson had a hand in many other unjust policies. During the 1947 UN negotiations over the British Mandate of Palestine Pearson disregarded the interests of the indigenous Palestinian population. He also played an important role in the creation of NATO, describing its 1949 formation as the “most important thing I participated in.” In the 1950s he backed CIA coups in Iran and Guatemala as well as the violent suppression of independence struggles in Algeria, Kenya and elsewhere. As Prime Minister in the mid 1960s, Pearson brought nuclear tipped Bomarc missiles to Canada, supported the US invasion of the Dominican Republic and military coup against Ghana’s president Kwame Nkrumah.

Expect liberals (of both the big and small l variety) to react emotionally to any effort to remove Pearson’s name from public entities. As part of the promotion for my Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy I put together a press release titled The Top 10 Things You Don’t Know About Canadian Foreign Policy. Number 1 was “Many commentators, including the world’s leading intellectual, Noam Chomsky, consider Lester Pearson a war criminal.” I sent the list and offered a review copy to a reporter at Embassy, Canada’s leading foreign policy newsletter at the time. He responded with outrage: “Frankly, I’m not that interested in Chomsky’s opinions, especially when they smear great Canadians like Mike Pearson. I know you’re a radical, but have some pride in Canada!”

Chomsky describes a similar experience with former CBC radio host Peter Gzowski. Happy to have him criticize US foreign policy, the long-time Morningside host became furious when Chomsky said, “I landed at war criminal airport”. Gzowski questioned: “What do you mean?” to which Chomsky responded, “the Lester B. Pearson Airport”, detailing Pearson’s contribution to the US war in Vietnam. In response, writes Chomsky, Gzowski “went into a tantrum, haranguing me for a number of minutes”, which prompted an outpouring of listener complaints.

The reality is many people are emotionally tied to the self-serving myths created to justify the actions of important historical figures. But the job of historians and journalists is to seek the truth, not to simply repeat propaganda.

The World Remembers 64th Anniversary of the West-Sponsored Coup in Iran

After WWII, the West had one huge ‘problem’ on its hands: all three most populous Muslim countries on Earth – Egypt, Iran and Indonesia – were clearly moving in one similar direction, joining a group of patriotic, peaceful and tolerant nations. They were deeply concerned about the welfare of their citizens, and by no means were they willing to allow foreign colonialist powers to plunder their resources, or enslave their people.

In the 1950’s, the world was rapidly changing, and there was suddenly hope that the countries which were oppressed and pillaged for decades and centuries by first the European and then North American geopolitical and business interests, would finally break their shackles and stand proudly on their own feet.

Several Communist countries in Eastern Europe, but also newly liberated China, were actively helping with a rapid de-colonizing process in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Those developments were exactly what the West in general and both the U.K. and the U.S. in particular, were not ready or willing to accept. ‘Ancient’ belief in some sort of ‘inherited right’ to colonize, to loot and to control entire the non-white world, was deeply engraved in the psyche of the rulers in both Europe and North America.

Peaceful, tolerant and socially oriented Islam was seen as a tremendous threat, at least in London, Washington, and Paris. It had to be stopped, even destroyed — resolutely and by all available means. Only the pre-approved Wahhabism, which was collaborative with the West and from the onset at least partially ‘co-produced’ by the British Empire, was singled-out and allowed to ‘bloom and succeed’.

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Iran fell first, in 1953.

Actually, it did not fall; it was brutally destroyed.

According to the logic of the Empire, Iran had to be derailed and ruined, in order to prevent a so-called ‘domino effect’.

As written by Irfan Ahmad, an Associate Professor of Political Anthropology at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne and author of “Islamism and Democracy in India”:

…Major theatre of de-democratization was Iran, whose elected government was overthrown, in 1953, by a US-UK alliance. Mohammad Mosaddeq was Iran’s elected prime minister. He enjoyed the approval of Iran’s parliament for his nationalization program. The US and UK organized a CIA-led coup to oust Mosaddeq – because Iran refused make oil concessions to the West. During World War II, the UK had taken control of Iran to prevent oil from being passed to its ally, the Soviet Union. Through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the UK continued to control Iran’s oil after the war. The French-educated Mosaddeq was highly critical of Iran’s draining of resources to the West. Soon after getting elected as prime minister in March 1951, Mosaddeq and his National Front alliance had moved to nationalize Iranian oil and throw out foreign control of oil fields. One such was the Abadan refinery, then the largest in the world. The UK retaliated by imposing economic sanctions, backed by its heavy naval presence in the region. Mosaddeq, however, was undeterred; his popularity only increased among the Iranian people. Faced with Mosaddeq’s resistance, the UK-US alliance staged a coup to over throw Mosaddeq’s government.

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Egypt was next.  France, the U.K. and Israel attacked it in 1956 during the so-called “Suez Canal Crises”. Although the invasion eventually ended and the Canal stayed in the hands of Egypt, the country never fully recovered. There were further Israeli attacks and invasions, and after President Gamal Abdel Nasser passed away in 1970, gross meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs by the Western countries. Gradually, Egypt was turned into an impoverished client state.

In Indonesia, a progressive and religiously tolerant President Ahmed Sukarno was overthrown more than a decade after Mohammad Mosaddeq in Iran. The coup took place in 1965, with direct involvement of the United States. Between 1 and 3 million people were brutally slaughtered.

Sukarno’s main ‘sins’, at least in the eyes of the Western Empire, consisted of strong left wing, patriotic stands, which included nationalization of almost all natural resources. Sukarno was also one of the founding fathers of the non-aligned movement.

By the end of the 1960’s, socialism in the Muslim countries had been almost thoroughly demolished. A dark era of collaboration, particularly in the [Persian] Gulf region, arrived.

The 1953 coup in Iran was later replicated in various parts of the world, even as far as Latin America.

For years it is has been no secret that the U.S and the U.K. planned and executed this deadly event.

In its article, CIA admits role in 1953 Iranian coup, published on 19 August 2013, The Guardian reported:

The CIA has publicly admitted for the first time that it was behind the notorious 1953 coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, in documents that also show how the British government tried to block the release of information about its own involvement in his overthrow.

On the 60th anniversary of an event often invoked by Iranians as evidence of western meddling, the US national security archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified CIA documents.

The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government,” reads a previously excised section of an internal CIA history titled The Battle for Iran.

Declassified, U.S Department of State “Top Secret” documents from 1952, also clearly demonstrated great appetite of the U.K. to perform the coup in Iran:

Subject: Proposal to Organize a Coup d’etat in Iran

Problem:

The British foreign Office has informed us that it would be disposed to attempt to bring about a coup d’état in Iran, replacing the Mosadeq Government by one which would be more “reliable”, if the American government agreed to cooperate…

Although the U.S. government was originally hesitant about supporting the U.K. in planning to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, it soon changed its mind and allowed the CIA to plot and execute the coup.

What followed was 26 years of perversely brutal rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi, as well as of the British-US control over almost all great natural resources of Iran.

In brief: the West performed an experiment on Iran and on its people: how would the country react to a bloodbath, to overthrowing its popular leader, to a theft of its resources?

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As it did for centuries, the U.K. ‘scored’: it correctly predicted that it would be able to ‘get away with murder’. It managed to convince its offspring, the United States, that huge international crimes pay, as long as they are committed barefaced.

And the US industrialized these crimes, as it earlier did production of automobiles or radio sets. Crimes got mass-produced. One ‘inappropriate’ government after another got overthrown, destroyed; all over the world: Congo, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam… Crimes were piling up, and still are.

1953 in Iran marked the beginning of a ‘new chapter’ in the world history – a terrible and brutal chapter.

Iranian people and Iranian leadership are well aware of it. The country that suffered so much, the country which lost hundreds of thousands of its sons and daughters to Western imperialism, geopolitical games as well as naked greed, is now standing tall and strong, unwilling to surrender or to even budge.

It wants to go forward, it is going forward, but in its own direction, at its own pace, for the benefit of its people.

Iran is not alone. There is now an entire powerful alliance in place, consisting of countries from all over the world: an alliance of those who are not afraid to confront deadly expansionism and consequent terror. From Bolivia to China, from South Africa to Russia, Syria, Venezuela and the Philippines, people are remembering Iran of 1953, determined to defend their countries and the world against the greatest evil, which is imperialism!