Category Archives: Internationalism

How Che Guevara Taught Cuba to Confront COVID-19

Beginning in December 1951, Ernesto “Che” Guevara took a nine-month break from medical school to travel by motorcycle through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. One of his goals was gaining practical experience with leprosy. On the night of his twenty-fourth birthday, Che was at La Colonia de San Pablo in Peru swimming across the river to join the lepers. He walked among six hundred lepers in jungle huts looking after themselves in their own way.

Che would not have been satisfied to just study and sympathize with them – he wanted to be with them and understand their existence. Being in contact with people who were poor and hungry while they were sick transformed Che. He envisioned a new medicine, with doctors who would serve the greatest number people with preventive care and public awareness of hygiene. A few years later, Che joined Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement as a doctor and was among the eighty-one men aboard the Granma as it landed in Cuba on December 2, 1956.

Revolutionary Medicine

After the January 1, 1959, victory that overthrew Fulgencio Batista, the new Cuban constitution included Che’s dream of free medical care for all as a human right. An understanding of the failings of disconnected social systems led the revolutionary government to build hospitals and clinics in under-served parts of the island at the same time that it began addressing crises of literacy, racism, poverty, and housing. Cuba overhauled its clinics both in 1964 and again in 1974 to better link communities and patients. By 1984, Cuba had introduced doctor-nurse teams who lived in the neighborhoods where they had offices (consultorios).

The United States became ever more bellicose, so in 1960 Cubans organized Committees for Defense of the Revolution to defend the country. The committees prepared to move the elderly, disabled, sick, and mentally ill to higher ground if a hurricane approached, thus intertwining domestic health care and foreign affairs, a connection that has been maintained throughout Cuba’s history.

As Cuba’s medical revolution was based on extending medical care beyond the major cities and into the rural communities that needed it the most, it was a logical conclusion to extend that assistance to other nations. The revolutionary government sent doctors to Chile after a 1960 earthquake and a medical brigade in 1963 to Algeria, which was fighting for independence from France. These set the stage for the country’s international medical aid, which grew during the decades and now includes helping treat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the late 1980s and early ’90s, two disasters threatened the very existence of the country. The first victim of AIDS died in 1986. In December 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, ending its $5 billion annual subsidy, disrupting international commerce, and sending the Cuban economy into a free fall that exacerbated the AIDS epidemic. A perfect storm for AIDS infection appeared on the horizon. The HIV infection rate for the Caribbean region was second only to southern Africa, where a third of a million Cubans had recently been during the Angolan wars. The embargo on the island reduced the availability of drugs (including those for HIV/AIDS), made existing pharmaceuticals outrageously expensive, and disrupted the financial infrastructures used for drug purchases. Desperately needing funds, Cuba opened the floodgate of tourism.

The government drastically reduced services in all areas except two: education and health care. Its research institutes developed Cuba’s own diagnostic test for HIV by 1987. Over twelve million tests were completed by 1993. By 1990, when gay people had become the island’s primary HIV victims, homophobia was officially challenged in schools. Condoms were provided for free at doctors’ offices and, despite the expense, so were anti-retroviral drugs.

Cuba’s united and well-planned effort to cope with HIV/AIDS paid off. At the same time that Cuba had two hundred AIDS cases, New York City (with about the same population) had forty-three thousand cases. Despite having only a small fraction of the wealth and resources of the United States, Cuba had overcome the devastating effects of the U.S. blockade and had implemented an AIDS program superior to that of the country seeking to destroy it. During this Special Period, Cubans experienced longer lives and lower infant mortality rates in comparison to the United States. Cuba had inspired healers throughout the world to believe that a country with a coherent and caring medical system can thrive, even against tremendous odds.

COVID-19 Hits Cuba

Overcoming the HIV/AIDS and Special Period crises prepared Cuba for COVID-19. Aware of the intensity of the pandemic, Cuba knew that it had two inseparable responsibilities: to take care of its own with a comprehensive program and to share its capabilities internationally.

The government immediately carried out a task that proved very difficult in a market-driven economy – altering the equipment of nationalized factories (which usually made school uniforms) to manufacture masks. These provided an ample supply for Cuba by the middle of April 2020, while the United States, with its enormous productive capacity, was still suffering a shortage.

Discussions at the highest levels of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health drew up the national policy. There would need to be massive testing to determine who had been infected. Infected persons would need to be quarantined while ensuring that they had food and other necessities. Contact tracing would be used to determine who else might be exposed. Medical staff would need to go door to door to check on the health of every citizen. Consultorio staff would give special attention to everyone in the neighborhood who might be high risk.

By March 2, Cuba had instituted the Novel Coronavirus Plan for Prevention and Control. Within four days, it expanded the plan to include taking the temperature of and possibly isolating infected incoming travelers. These occurred before Cuba’s first confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis on March 11. Cuba had its first confirmed COVID-19 fatality by March 22, when there were thirty-five confirmed cases, almost one thousand patients being observed in hospitals, and over thirty thousand people under surveillance at home. The next day it banned the entry of nonresident foreigners, which took a deep bite into the country’s tourism revenue.

That was the day that Cuba’s Civil Defense went on alert to respond rapidly to COVID-19 and the Havana Defense Council decided that there was a serious problem in the city’s Vedado district, famous for being the largest home to nontourist foreign visitors who were more likely to have been exposed to the virus. By April 3, the district was closed. As Merriam Ansara witnessed, “anyone with a need to enter or leave must prove that they have been tested and are free of COVID-19.” The Civil Defense made sure stores were supplied and all vulnerable people received regular medical checks.

Vedado had eight confirmed cases, a lot for a small area. Cuban health officials wanted the virus to remain at the “local spread” stage, when it can be traced while going from one person to another. They sought to prevent it from entering the “community spread” stage, when tracing is not possible because it is moving out of control. As U.S. health professionals begged for personal protective equipment and testing in the United States was so sparse that people had to ask to be tested (rather than health workers testing contacts of infected patients), Cuba had enough rapid test kits to trace contacts of persons who had contracted the virus.

During late March and early April, Cuban hospitals were also changing work patterns to minimize contagion. Havana doctors went into Salvador Allende Hospital for fifteen days, staying overnight within an area designated for medical staff. Then they moved to an area separate from patients where they lived for another fifteen days and were tested before returning home. They stayed at home without leaving for another fifteen days and were tested before resuming practice. This forty-five-day period of isolation prevented medical staff from bringing disease to the community via their daily trips to and from work.

The medical system extends from the consultorio to every family in Cuba. Third-, fourth-, and fifth-year medical students are assigned by consultorio doctors to go to specific homes each day. Their tasks include obtaining survey data from residents or making extra visits to the elderly, infants, and those with respiratory problems. These visits gather preventive medicine data that is then taken into account by those in the highest decision-making positions of the country. When students bring their data, doctors use a red pen to mark hot spots where extra care is necessary. Neighborhood doctors meet regularly at clinics to talk about what each doctor is doing, what they are discovering, what new procedures the Cuban Ministry of Public Health is adopting, and how the intense work is affecting medical staff.

In this way, every Cuban citizen and every health care worker, from those at neighborhood doctor offices through those at the most esteemed research institutes, has a part in determining health policy. Cuba currently has eighty-nine thousand doctors, eighty-four thousand nurses, and nine thousand students scheduled to graduate from medical studies in 2020. The Cuban people would not tolerate the head of the country ignoring medical advice, spouting nonsensical statements, and determining policy based on what would be most profitable for corporations.

The Cuban government approved free distribution of the homeopathic medicine PrevengHo-Vir to residents of Havana and Pinar del Rio province. Susana Hurlich was one of many receiving it. On April 8, Dr. Yaisen, one of three doctors at the consultorio two blocks from her home, came to the door with a small bottle of PrevengHo-Vir and explained how to use it. Instructions warn that it reinforces the immune system but is not a substitute for Interferon Alpha 2B, nor is it a vaccine. Hurlich believes that something important “about Cuba’s medical system is that rather than being two-tiered, as is often the case in other countries, with ‘classical medicine’ on the one hand and ‘alternative medicine’ on the other, Cuba has ONE health system that includes it all. When you study to become a doctor, you also learn about homeopathic medicine in all its forms.”

Global Solidarity in the Time of COVID-19

A powerful model: Perhaps the most critical component of Cuba’s medical internationalism during the COVID-19 crisis has been using its decades of experience to create an example of how a country can confront the virus with a compassionate and competent plan. Public health officials around the world were inspired by Cuba’s actions.

Transfer of knowledge: When viruses that cause Ebola, mainly found in sub-Saharan Africa, increased dramatically in the fall of 2014, much of the world panicked. Soon, over twenty thousand people were infected, more than eight thousand had died, and worries mounted that the death toll could reach into hundreds of thousands. The United States provided military support; other countries promised money. Cuba was the first nation to respond with what was most needed: it sent 103 nurse and 62 doctor volunteers to Sierra Leone. Since many governments did not know how to respond to the disease, Cuba trained volunteers from other nations at Havana’s Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine. In total, Cuba taught 13,000 Africans, 66,000 Latin Americans, and 620 Caribbeans how to treat Ebola without themselves becoming infected. Sharing understanding on how to organize a health system is the highest level of knowledge transfer.

Venezuela has attempted to replicate fundamental aspects of the Cuban health model on a national level, which has served Venezuela well in combating COVID-19. In 2018, residents of Altos de Lidice organized seven communal councils, including one for community health. A resident made space in his home available to the Communal Healthcare System initiative so that Dr. Gutierrez could have an office. He coordinates data collections to identify at-risk residents and visits all residents in their homes to explain how to avoid infection by COVID-19. Nurse del Valle Marquez is a Chavista who helped implement the Barrio Adentro when the first Cuban doctors arrived. She remembers that residents had never seen a doctor inside their community, but when the Cubans arrived “we opened our doors to the doctors, they lived with us, they ate with us, and they worked among us.”

Stories like this permeate Venezuela. As a result of building a Cuban-type system, TeleSUR reported that by April 11, 2020, the Venezuelan government had conducted 181,335 early Polymerase Chain Reaction tests in time to have the lowest infection rate in Latin America. Venezuela had only 6 infections per million citizens while neighboring Brazil had 104 infections per million.

When Rafael Correa was president of Ecuador, over one thousand Cuban doctors formed the backbone of its health care system. Lenin Moreno was elected in 2017 and Cuban doctors were soon expelled, leaving public medicine in chaos. Moreno followed recommendations of the International Monetary Fund to slash Ecuador’s health budget by 36 percent, leaving it without health care professionals, without personal protective equipment, and, above all, without a coherent health care system. While Venezuela and Cuba had 27 COVID-19 deaths, Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, had an estimated death toll of 7,600.

International medical response: Cuban medicine is perhaps best known for its internationalism. A clear example is the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010. Cuba sent medical staff who lived among Haitians and stayed months or years after the earthquake. U.S. doctors, however, did not sleep where Haitian victims huddled, returned to luxury hotels at night, and departed after a few weeks. John Kirk coined the term “disaster tourism” to describe the way that many rich countries respond to medical crises in poor countries.

The commitment that Cuban medical staff show internationally is a continuation of the effort that the country’s health care system made in spending three decades to find the best way to strengthen bonds between caregiving professionals and those they serve. By 2008, Cuba had sent over 120,000 health care professionals to 154 countries, its doctors had cared for over 70 million people in the world, and almost 2 million people owed their lives to Cuban medical services in their country.

The Associated Press reported that when COVID-19 spread throughout the world, Cuba had thirty-seven thousand medical workers in sixty-seven countries. It soon deployed additional doctors to Suriname, Jamaica, Dominica, Belize, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. On April 16, Granma reported that “21 brigades of healthcare professionals have been deployed to join national and local efforts in 20 countries. The same day, Cuba sent two hundred health personnel to Qatar.

As northern Italy became the epicenter of COVID-19 cases, one of its hardest hit cities was Crema in the Lombardy region. The emergency room at its hospital was filled to capacity. On March 26, Cuba sent fifty-two doctors and nurses who set up a field hospital with three intensive care unit beds and thirty-two other beds with oxygen. A smaller and poorer Caribbean nation was one of the few aiding a major European power. Cuba’s intervention took its toll. By April 17, thirty of its medical professionals who went abroad tested positive for COVID-19.

Bringing the world to Cuba: The flip side of Cuba sending medical staff across the globe is the people it has brought to the island—both students and patients. When Cuban doctors were in the Republic of the Congo in 1966, they saw young people studying independently under streetlights at night and arranged for them to come to Havana. They brought in even more African students during the Angolan wars of 1975–88 and then brought large numbers of Latin American students to study medicine following Hurricanes Mitch and Georges. The number of students coming to Cuba to study expanded even more in 1999 when it opened classes at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). By 2020, ELAM had trained thirty thousand doctors from over one hundred countries.

Cuba also has a history of bringing foreign patients for treatment. After the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, 25,000 patients, mostly children, came to the island for treatment, with some staying for months or years. Cuba opened its doors, hospital beds, and a youth summer camp.

On March 12, nearly fifty crew members and passengers on a British cruise ship either had COVID-19 or were showing symptoms as the ship approached the Bahamas, a British Commonwealth nation. Since the Braemar flew the Bahamian flag as a Commonwealth vessel, there should have been no problem disembarking those aboard for treatment and return to the United Kingdom. But the Bahamian Ministry of Transport declared that the cruise ship would “not be permitted to dock at any port in the Bahamas and no persons will be permitted to disembark the vessel.” During the next five days, the United States, Barbados (another Commonwealth nation), and several other Caribbean countries turned it away. On March 18, Cuba became the only country to allow the Braemar’s over one thousand crew members and passengers to dock. Treatment at Cuban hospitals was offered to those who felt too sick to fly. Most went by bus to José Martí International Airport for flights back to the United Kingdom. Before leaving, Braemar crew members displayed a banner reading “I love you Cuba!” Passenger Anthea Guthrie posted on her Facebook page: “They have made us not only feel tolerated, but actually welcome.”

Medicine for all: In 1981, there was a particularly bad outbreak of the mosquito-borne dengue fever, which hits the island every few years. At the time, many first learned of the very high level of Cuba’s research institutes that created Interferon Alpha 2B to successfully treat dengue. As Helen Yaffe points out, “Cuba’s interferon has shown its efficacy and safety in the therapy of viral diseases including Hepatitis B and C, shingles, HIV-AIDS, and dengue.” It accomplished this by preventing complications that could worsen a patient’s condition and result in death. The efficacy of the drug persisted for decades and, in 2020, it became vitally important as a potential cure for COVID-19. What also survived was Cuba’s eagerness to develop a multiplicity of drugs and share them with other nations.

Cuba has sought to work cooperatively toward drug development with countries such as China, Venezuela, and Brazil, Collaboration with Brazil resulted in meningitis vaccines at a cost of 95¢ rather than $15 to $20 per dose. Finally, Cuba teaches other countries to produce medications themselves so they do not have to rely on purchasing them from rich countries.

In order to effectively cope with disease, drugs are frequently sought for three goals: tests to determine those infected; treatments to help ward off or cure problems; and vaccines to prevent infections. As soon as Polymerase Chain Reaction rapid tests were available, Cuba began using them widely throughout the island. Cuba developed both Interferon Alpha 2B (a recombinant protein) and PrevengHo-Vir (a homeopathic medication). TeleSUR reported that by April 20, over forty-five countries had requested Cuba’s Inteferon in order to control and then get rid of the virus.

Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology is seeking to create a vaccine against COVID-19. Its Director of Biomedical Research, Dr. Gerardo Guillén, confirmed that his team is collaborating with Chinese researchers in Yongzhou, Hunan province, to create a vaccine to stimulate the immune system and one that can be taken through the nose, which is the route of COVID-19 transmission. Whatever Cuba develops, it is certain that it will be shared with other countries at low cost, unlike U.S. medications that are patented at taxpayers’ expense so that private pharmaceutical giants can price gouge those who need the medication.

Countries that have not learned how to share: Cuban solidarity missions show a genuine concern that often seems to be lacking in the health care systems of other countries. Medical associations in Venezuela, Brazil, and other countries are often hostile to Cuban doctors. Yet, they cannot find enough of their own doctors to go to dangerous communities or travel to poor and rural areas as Cuban doctors do.

When in Peru in 2010, I visited the Pisco policlínico. Its Cuban director, Leopoldo García Mejías, explained that then-president Alan García did not want additional Cuban doctors and that they had to keep quiet in order to remain in Peru. Cuba is well aware that it has to adjust each medical mission to accommodate the political climate.

There is at least one exception to Cuban doctors remaining in a country according to the whims of the political leadership. Cuba began providing medical attention in Honduras in 1998. During the first eighteen months of Cuba’s efforts in Honduras, the country’s infant mortality dropped from 80.3 to 30.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. Political moods changed and, in 2005, Honduran Health Minister Merlin Fernández decided to kick Cuban doctors out. However, this led to so much opposition that the government changed course and allowed the Cubans to stay.

A disastrous and noteworthy example of when a country refused an offer of Cuban aid is the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After the hurricane hit, 1,586 Cuban health care professionals were prepared to go to New Orleans. President George W. Bush, however, rejected the offer, acting as if it would be better for U.S. citizens to die rather than to admit the quality of Cuban aid.

Though the U.S. government does not take kindly to students going studying at ELAM, they are still able to apply what they learn when they come home. In 1988, Kathryn Hall-Trujillo of Albuquerque, New Mexico, founded the Birthing Project USA, which trains advocates to work with African-American women and connect with them through the first year of the infant’s life. She is grateful for the Birthing Project’s partnership with Cuba and the support that many ELAM students have given. In 2018, she told me: “We are a coming home place for ELAM students—they see working with us as a way to put into practice what they learned at ELAM.”

Cuban doctor Julio López Benítez recalled in 2017 that when the country revamped its clinics in 1974, the old clinic model was one of patients going to clinics, but the new model was of clinics going to patients. Similarly, as ELAM graduate Dr. Melissa Barber looked at her South Bronx neighborhood during COVID-19, she realized that while most of the United States told people to go to agencies, what people need is a community approach that recruits organizers to go to the people. Dr. Barber is working in a coalition with South Bronx Unite, the Mott Haven Mamas, and many local tenant associations. As in Cuba, they are trying to identify those in the community who are vulnerable, including “the elderly, people who have infants and small children, homebound people, people that have multiple morbidities and are really susceptible to a virus like this one.”

As they discover who needs help, they seek resources to help them, such as groceries, personal protective equipment, medications, and treatment. In short, the approach of the coalition is going to homes to ensure that people do not fall through the cracks. In contrast, the U.S. national policy is for each state and each municipality to do what it feels like doing, which means that instead of having a few cracks that a few people fall through, there are enormous chasms with large groups careening over the edge. What countries with market economies need are actions like those in the South Bronx and Cuba carried out on a national scale.

This was what Che Guevara envisioned in 1951. Decades before COVID-19 jumped from person to person, Che’s imagination went from doctor to doctor. Or perhaps many shared their own visions so widely that, after 1959, Cuba brought revolutionary medicine anywhere it could. Obviously, Che did not design the intricate inner workings of Cuba’s current medical system. But he was followed by healers who wove additional designs into a fabric that now unfolds across the continents. At certain times in history, thousands or millions of people see similar images of a different future. If their ideas spread broadly enough during the hour that social structures are disintegrating, then a revolutionary idea can become a material force in building a new world.

• Author’s Note: Updates since this article was written for the June 2020 print issue of Monthly Review include the following:  By May 22, seventy-two countries had requested Interferon Alpha 2B. Cuba has sent healthcare professionals to at least thirty-seven countries to collaborate in combating the pandemic.  Over the past six decades over 400,000 Cuban medical professionals have worked in 164 countries and improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

Battle Against COVID-19 in a Fragmented World has Ruined illions of Lives

It is not only about physically surviving the pandemic. People miss people, and places, sometimes desperately. And they die when separated.

We are bombarded by briefings and numbers. We are scared into submission by horrifying medical stories, by shocking images, and then, simultaneously, by predictions of economic and social downfall. Day and night, day and night.

But somehow, so often during this so-called coronavirus emergency, we tend to forget that people are people, not numbers, and that bare survival is far from everything.

*****

For decades we were told: “You are living in a globalized world. Borders have become redundant”. Some reluctantly, others happily, accepted.

Rich Westerners invaded all corners of the world with their yachts, villas and third and fourth homes.

Poor Philippine and Indonesian maids and hotel employees have migrated to the Gulf, in search of decently paid jobs.

Interracial, intercontinental marriages and relationships became the norm.

By the end of 2019, hundreds of millions were living in several parts of the world, simultaneously. For different reasons, both rich and poor individuals. For some it became a lifestyle, for others bare necessity.

For better or worse, cultures were increasingly becoming intertwined. To many, the color of skin was increasingly irrelevant. At least to those few hundreds of millions, who have been living on this planet Earth, not just in Asia or Europe, Oceania, the Middle East, South or North America.

I have written a lot about this trend. Some of it was clearly positive, while I have been criticizing, decisively, many elements.

But it was the reality, and as many of us believed, an irreversible, permanent one.

Human beings were breaking up the chains of their past. Suddenly, they felt free to step out of their traditional cultures, religions, habits. They formed relations with human beings coming from other parts of the world. They were marrying people with thoroughly different cultures and backgrounds. They were moving to far away places. And not only young people. Often their parents, seduced by wanderlust, were deciding to retire thousands of miles away.

Men and women were doing research in deep rain forests, some of them deciding to stay there forever. Others were ruining these forests, becoming rich on shameless plunder.

So many stories, good and bad. So many reasons, wonderful and horrible, of globalized or internationalized life.

Then suddenly, the end. Full stop!

COVID-19, or call it novel coronavirus, has arrived.

It came from nowhere, its mortality rate low, that of the common flu, but remarkably contagious.

Abruptly, our world stopped.

Almost all proverbial liberties have been taken away from the people. So fast, and without plebiscites, referendums, debates. Police, drones, surveillance, have rapidly been employed against the citizens, virtually everywhere.

And then, almost from the start of the pandemic, the borders began closing down. Borders, which we used to be told, were there to stay open forever.

And the international, or for some of us internationalist life, was suddenly arrested.

The changes were implemented so rapidly that most of us had no time to react. We watched, helplessly, as frontiers were closed, airlines cancelled flights, and the movement of people came to an abrupt stop.

Across the border lines, disappearing beyond the horizon, were our families, or loved ones, our colleagues and comrades, as well as countries and cities for which we longed for.

*****

There was nothing much we could do, because this brutal global lockdown was performed “for our own good”. We found ourselves sheltered in prison, ‘so we, and others, could survive’. Or that’s what we were told.

We have not been allowed to take risks, nor to dare. Our loved ones have not been allowed to dare either.

We have all become soft and so easy to manipulate.  All that talk about freedom and democracy has quickly been forgotten.

In just one or two months, our planet has become fragmented, as never before. Borders have been closed, even between the countries of Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East.

Europeans, for instance, who were forced into great sacrifices in exchange for a borderless continent, were suddenly stuck with those existing sacrifices, but also with the re-erected frontiers.

With shocking speed, all the gains made by humanity — gains towards an open world — were annulled, liquidated.

I have to repeat: people were not asked. Nobody consulted them.

While several airlines began receiving billions of dollars in government subsidies, there has been no compensation for those hundreds of millions of people whose lives have been virtually ruined, reduced to near nothing by the travel bans, which have amounted to imprisoning multitudes in their current locations.

*****

Right now, almost the entire South America is “out of reach”, and so is Asia. Foreigners cannot enter the United States. Actually, most of the countries have turned themselves into fortresses.

Imagine that you have relatives living in a different part of the world. Imagine that your spouse is there, somewhere, or your house, or important work which you love, passionately. Imagine that some neoliberal government is using COVID-19 lockdown to cover up the speeding-up of the destruction of its rainforests, as is happening right now in places such as Brazil and Indonesia. Imagine that such governments are dispossessing indigenous people, and you cannot continue your work, which is to expose crimes against humanity and nature.

Millions of people depend on your investigative work, but you cannot go. The borders are closed, planes are not flying. “It is all for your own good”. “It is all for the sake of others”.

You may want to ask: “What about the good of those millions who are being robbed, impoverished, even killed by events unrelated, or just partially-related, to the COVID-19? Do they have the right to live? Do they have the right to be protected, defended?”

But, not many are asking those questions! And if they do, the mass media is not paying attention.

The novel coronavirus, it appears, is now all that matters, at least to some, or to the majority. Or to the regime.

It is like those proverbial hospitals, which are letting people die from cancer and strokes, because their emergency rooms and beds are being used exclusively to treat COVID-19 patients.

There is something essentially and morally wrong with this approach. Something deeply wrong, philosophically and logically, too.

*****

Do governments in, say, Europe, have the right to tell a husband whose wife is dying in Japan or Korea, that he cannot jump on a plane and go, in order to be with her?

Can a scientist be prevented from flying to a lab, on the other side of the world, if he or she is working on some urgent project that could improve life on our planet?

Can I be prevented from flying to Venezuela, where U.S. and Colombian mercenaries have just attempted yet another coup against a legitimate government?

Apparently, the answer is “Yes!”

It is the “new normal” yes.

Four or five months ago, it would all have been considered insane, unacceptable, even criminal.

But now, a flu pandemic, has suddenly created a new ‘morality’, as well as thoroughly new rules and norms for humanity.

And we do not have to look for important missions, or life and death situations, only.

There are hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of people, who are simply living on this beautiful planet of ours, not in just one particular country, and who cannot exist in any other way. Their culture is multiculturalism. I do not say that it is good or bad. It is simply a fact. Their health, even medical supplies, depend on this ‘lifestyle’, as well as their emotional well-being, and their work.

Without being able to travel, their personal relationships are falling apart, their houses and apartments are literally collapsing, and their life is losing its meaning.

Is anyone compiling statistics on how many human lives are being affected, or even ruined in this manner? The number is definitely staggering.

*****

Caution, of course! Caution is essential. The coronavirus should not be taken lightly. But not the extreme approaches, which could, for decades to come, set back those countless positive gains that have been made by our civilization.

To travel, to explore; getting to know “the Other”, trying to understand, to live with each other as one humanity: this is one of the great advances made by humankind. Imperfect, sometimes hypocritical or half-hearted, but a great advance, nevertheless. Not globalization, but internationalism, when things are at their best.

We thought that we could take these advances for granted. We strongly believed that they couldn’t be removed from us.

We fought for the others, for the people of all nationalities and races, to be able to enjoy them soon, too. We thought that we could win.

And now, all of a sudden, we have realized that everything was just a mirage.

One strike of a pen by some government official, and all our liberties can disappear, get cancelled. We get pushed into the corner, as if we were cattle, or kindergarten children.

True rights are only those rights that can never, under any circumstances, be taken away from us.

*****

The most frightening is the absolutism, extremism with which the regulations have been introduced.

A state of siege, perhaps, but not outright incarceration.

Travel could have been made difficult, but still possible.

I will say it as an anecdote, but there is some truth in it: I have a combat gas mask, which I use when covering riots, uprisings and revolutions. It has a huge filter. There is no way that if I was wearing it, I could get infected, or infect other people on an airplane. If that is not enough, I would be willing to wear some plastic disposable suit, all the way from, say, South America to Asia, with transit points in Europe. It would be an extremely uncomfortable, but safe (for me and everybody) way of travel. And when in Asia, say Japan, I’d be happy to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine. And even pay some reasonable fee, for ‘causing bother’.

But if I really need to go, if it is a matter of life and death for me, there should be some draconic option for me and for millions like me.

But there isn’t! The borders of the entire Asia and of South America are closed, hermetically. Even the borders of the United States are sealed, despite the fact that it has the highest rate of infected people. Only citizens and green card holders can board the inbound planes.

And so, human lives continue being ruined, on a just recently unimaginable scale.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, can be done, it appears. All of us are at the mercy of our regimes.

We had no idea, but now we know.

Even when these restrictions are lifted, nothing will ever be “normal”. People will be well aware of the fact that their lives can be shattered again, on any pretext, at any time.

*****

If a cure, or prevention, are ten times, or even hundred times deadlier than the disease, then it is immoral to be applying them.

Also, it is essential to remember, that there are many different ways in which human beings can die. Some people could easily perish even if their lungs are intact, and hearts are beating. They could die from sorrow, from the absence of loved ones, or from the meaninglessness of life in confinement.

Today’s struggle, and combat should not be exclusively against COVID-19. The battle should be simply for life, for each and every human life, no matter what viruses, conditions or circumstances are endangering it.

• First published by the 21 Century Wire

The Two Internationalisms

In recent years, internationalism — cooperation among nations for promotion of the common good — has acquired a bad reputation.

Of course, internationalism has long been anathema to the political Right, where a primitive tribalism and its successor, nationalism, have flourished for many years.  Focusing on their nation’s supposed superiority to others, a long line of right-wing demagogues, including Adolf Hitler (“Deutschland Über Alles”) and Donald Trump (“America First”), have stirred up xenophobia, racism, and militarism, often with some success in public opinion and at the polls.  Numerous nationalist imitators have either secured public office or are hungering for it in many parts of the world.

But what is new in recent years is the critique of internationalism on the political Left.  For centuries, internationalism was a staple of the progressive, avant garde outlook.  Enlightenment thinkers promoted ideas of cosmopolitanism and the unity of humanity, critics of war and imperialism championed the development of international law, and socialists campaigned for replacing chauvinism with international working class solidarity.  In the aftermath of two devastating world wars, liberal reformers roundly condemned the narrow nationalist policies of the past and placed their hopes for a peaceful and humane future in two world organizations:  the League of Nations and the United Nations.

A key reason for the decline of support for this internationalist vision on the political Left is the belief that internationalism has served as a cloak for great power militarism and imperialism.  In fact, there is some justification for this belief, as the U.S. government, while professing support for “democracy” and other noble aims, has all too often used its immense military, economic, and political power in world affairs with less laudatory motives, especially economic gain and control of foreign lands.

And much the same can be said about other powerful nations.  In their global operations during much of the twentieth century, were the British and French really concerned about advancing human rights and “civilization,” the Germans about spreading “kultur,” and the Russians about liberating the working class?  Or were they merely continuing the pattern — hough not the rhetoric — of their nationalist predecessors?

To continue this subterfuge, starting in 1945 they all publicly pledged to follow the guidelines of a different kind of global approach, cooperative internationalism, as championed by the United Nations.  But, when it came to the crunch, they proved more interested in advancing their economies and political holdings than in developing international law and a cooperative world order.  As a result, while pretending to honor the lofty aims of the United Nations, they provided it with very limited power and resources.  In this fashion, they not only used the United Nations as a fig leaf behind which their overseas military intervention and imperialism continued, but ended up convincing many people, all across the political spectrum, that the United Nations was ineffectual and, more broadly, that cooperative internationalism didn’t work.

But, of course, cooperative internationalism could work, if the governments of the major powers — and, at the grassroots level, their populations — demanded it.  A fully empowered United Nations could prevent international aggression, as well as enforce disarmament agreements and sharp cutbacks in the outrageous level of world military spending.  It could also address the climate catastrophe, the refugee crisis, the destructive policies of multinational corporations, and worldwide violations of human rights.  Does anyone, aside from the most zealous nationalist, really believe that these problems can be solved by any individual nation or even by a small group of nations?

Fortunately, there are organizations that recognize that, in dealing with these and other global problems, the world need not be limited to a choice between overheated nationalism and hypocritical internationalism.  In the United States, these include the United Nations Association (which works to strengthen that global organization so that it can do the job for which it was created) and Citizens for Global Solutions (which champions the transformation of the United Nations into a democratic federation of nations).  Numerous small countries, religions, and humanitarian organizations also promote the development of a more cooperative international order.

If the people of the world are to stave off the global catastrophes that now loom before them, they are going to have to break loose from the limitations of their nations’ traditional policies in world affairs.  Above all, they need to cast off their lingering tribalism, recognize their common humanity, and begin working for the good of all.

How to find a Tiger in Africa

Agostinho Neto declaring independence of Angola 11 November 1975

What I want to do here is something very simple. I want to explain how I began to search for Agostinho Neto. I also want to explain the perspective that shapes this search.1

When I was told about the plans for a colloquium I was asked if I would give a paper.2 I almost always say yes to such requests because for me a paper is the product of learning something new. So I went to the local bookstores to buy a biography of Dr Neto. The only thing I found available was a two-volume book by a man named Carlos Pacheco called Agostinho Neto O Perfil de um Ditador, published in 2016. The subtitle of the book is “A história do MPLA em Carne Viva”. When I went to the university library I found another book, a collection of essays by Mr Pacheco and a book by Mr Cosme, no longer in print.3

Obviously the sheer size of Mr Pacheco’s book suggested that this was a serious study. Since these two ominous tomes were the only biography I could find in print in a serious bookstore, it seemed to me that the weight of the books was also designed as part of Mr Pacheco’s argument. The two volumes, in fact, comprise digests of PIDE4 reports and Mr Pacheco’s philosophical musings about politics, culture, psychology etc. There is barely anything of substance about the poet, physician, liberation leader and first president of Angola, Agostinho Neto, in nearly 1,500 pages.

As I said, I knew little about Dr Neto, but I knew something about Angola and the US regime’s war against the MPLA.5 I was also very familiar with the scholarship and research about US regime activities in Africa since 1945—both overt and covert. I also knew that dictators were not rare in Africa. However, in the title of Mr Pacheco’s book was the first time I had ever heard Dr Neto called a dictator. What struck me was that Dr Neto was president of Angola from the time of independence until his death in 1979—a total of four years. In contrast his successor remained president for almost 40 years. So my intuition told me if Agostinho Neto was a dictator he could not have been a very significant one. However, I wanted to know what the basis of this charge was. Certainly he was not a dictator on the scale of his neighbour, Joseph Mobutu.6 I reasoned that Agostinho Neto was called a dictator for the same reason all heads of state are called “dictators” in the West—because he held office by virtue of processes not approved in London, Paris or Washington. In the jargon of the “West”—a euphemism for the post-WWII US Empire—anyone called a communist who becomes a head of state must be a dictator, since no one in their right mind could elect a communist and no communist would submit to an election.

However, there was apparently more to this accusation than the allegation that Dr Neto must be a communist and therefore a dictator. Agostinho Neto had good relations with the Cuban “dictator” Fidel Castro and he enjoyed the support of the Soviet Union. When there still was a Soviet Union, anyone enjoying its support, no matter how minimal or ambivalent, could be considered at least a “potential dictator”. Then I read about a brief but serious incident in 1977, an attempted military coup against the Neto government on 27 May, led by Nito Alves and José Van Dunen. The coup was defeated and all sources agree there was a purge of the MPLA and many were arrested and killed. Writers like Mr Pacheco argue that Dr Neto directed a blood bath in which as many as 20-30,000 people died over the course of two years. There appears to be agreement that many people were arrested and killed but the exact figures vary.7

However, I still wondered whether this incident and its apparent consequences were enough to justify calling Dr Agostinho Neto, dictator of Angola.

While researching for this paper, while searching for Agostinho Neto, I found many people who had an opinion about him but very few who actually knew anything about Neto, and often they knew very little about Angola.

First I would like to deal with the coup attempt and the aftermath because that is the most immediate justification for this epithet. I am unable to introduce any data that might decide the questions I feel must be raised, but that does not make them less relevant to an accurate appraisal of Dr Neto’s four years in office.

  1. How, in the midst of a civil war, and military operations to defend the country, including the capital from a foreign invader—the Republic of South Africa—are the casualties and deaths to be distinguished between police actions and military actions? What reasonably objective apparatus existed to produce the statistics upon which the count could be based?
  2. What was the specific chain of command and operational structure in place to direct the purge on the scale alleged by Dr Neto’s detractors? What was the composition of the forces operating under government direction during this period? What was the composition of the command at local level?

Without claiming to answer these questions—they would have to be answered by research in Angola—there are some points that make the bald assertions of those like Mr Pacheco, who claim Dr Neto is responsible for the violent aftermath, for the thousands of victims, far from proven.

Casualty reporting during war is highly unreliable even in sophisticated military bureaucracies like those of the US or Britain. There were rarely bodies to count after saturation bombing or days of artillery barrage. To add a sense of proportion Sir Douglas Haig, commanding the British Expeditionary Force at the Somme during World War I, ordered the slaughter of nearly 20,000 British soldiers in one day with total casualties of some 50,000—the excuse for this was war.8 One’s own casualties are usually a source of embarrassment. But in Angola, like in other African countries, the presence of a stable and professional bureaucracy capable of generating any kind of statistics was certainly sparse. Whether those statistics can be deemed objective is another issue.

The absence of written orders or minutes is not by itself proof that no orders were given. In fact, as has been established in the research on the whole sphere of covert action, written orders can be issued “for the file” while operational orders are transmitted—deniably—by word of mouth.9 Then the question has to be answered in reverse: how did the actual enforcement officers receive their instructions and from whom? Here it is particularly important to note that the MPLA could not have replaced all police and other security force rank and file with personnel whose loyalty to the new Angolan government was certain. This means that many police or other security personnel had been performing under orders of the New State officers until independence and were still on duty.10 The actual relationships these personnel had to the people in the districts where they were deployed would have been known, if not notorious. It is not unreasonable to infer that a general purge would give opportunities to people at all levels to solve “problems” arising from the fall of the Portuguese regime.

Then there is one other factor—a question raised by the fact that Mr Pacheco’s book relies almost entirely on PIDE reports about the MPLA. One can, in fact, read in several accounts of the independence struggle that the MPLA was thoroughly infiltrated by PIDE operatives. So do we know if the orders which rank and file personnel took were issued by bona fide MPLA cadre acting on instructions from the president or issued by PIDE operatives within the MPLA command structure? In fact, it is a highly practiced routine of covert operations, also by the PIDE during the independence war, to appear and act as if they were the MPLA while committing acts intended to discredit it.11 While it is true that the Salazar/ Caetano regime had collapsed the people who had maintained the regime—especially in covert operations—did not simply disappear. Moreover, the world’s premier covert action agency, the CIA, was an active supporter of all MPLA opposition and certainly of factions within the MPLA itself. We know about IA Feature because of the revelations of its operational manager, John Stockwell.12 We also know that the PIDE and the CIA worked together and we know that the US ambassador to Portugal during the period (1975 to 1979) was a senior CIA officer.13 We also know many details about the various ways in which covert operations were run then.14 What we do not know is the extent to which it may have been involved in the coup against Dr Neto. But there is room for educated guessing.

I do not believe it is possible to reconstruct the events of the purge with evidence that can provide reasonable assurance of what responsibility Agostinho Neto bears for the deaths and casualties attributed to that period—beyond the vague responsibility which any head of state may have for actions of the government apparatus over which he presides. There, are however, grounds for a reasonable doubt—for a verdict at least of “not proven”.

Which brings me to my second argument: from what perspective should the brief term of Agostinho Neto as president of the Angola be examined.

First of all we must recognise that Angola prior to 1975 was a criminal enterprise.

It began with the Atlantic slave trade, which really only ended in the 1880s (although slavery did not end). Then, like in all other colonies created by Europeans, a kind of licensed banditry was practiced, euphemistically called “trade”. By the end of the 19th century most of this organised crime was controlled by cartels organised in Europe and North America.15

Why do I call this organised crime and not commerce? First of all if one uses force to compel a transaction; e.g., a gun to make someone give you something, this is generally considered a crime and in Europe and North America usually subject to punishment as such. To travel to a foreign land with a gun and compel transactions, or induce them using drugs or other fraudulent means, does not change the criminal character—only the punitive consequences.

Angola’s economy was based on stolen land, forced labour, unequal/ fraudulent trading conditions, and armed force, the colour of law not withstanding. Neither Portuguese law (nor that of any other European state) would have permitted inhabitants of Angola to come to Portugal, kidnap its youth or force its inhabitants to accept the same conditions to which all African colonies and “protectorates” were submitted.

In other words, Agostinho Neto was the first president of an Angolan state. He, together with his supporters in the MPLA, created a republic out of what was essentially a gangster economy protected by the Portuguese dictatorship in Lisbon. Does this mean that all European inhabitants of Angola were gangsters? Certainly it does not. However, it can be argued that many Europeans or children of Europeans who were born in Angola recognised this when they began to demand independence, too. Some demanded independence to run their own gangs free of interference from abroad and some certainly wanted an end to gangsterism and the establishment of a government for the benefit of the inhabitants.

The performance of Dr Neto as president of Angola has to be measured by the challenges of creating a beneficial government from a system of organised crime and defending this effort against foreign and domestic armies supported by foreigners, specifically the agents of the gangsters who had been running the country until then.

But stepping back from the conditions of Angola and its plunder by cartels under protection of the New State, it is necessary to see Dr Neto’s struggle and the struggle for independence in Angola within the greater context of African independence. Like Nkrumah, Lumumba, Toure, Nasser, Qaddafi, Kenyatta, Nyerere and Cabral, what I would call the African liberation generation, Neto was convinced that Angola could not be independent without the independence of all Africa.16  In other words, he was aware that the independence from Portugal was necessarily only partial independence. Like the others of this generation Neto rejected race as a basis for African independence.

The position of African liberation leaders who rigorously rejected racialised politics has often been criticised, even mocked as naïve. It has often been pointed out—accurately—that the African states were created by Europeans and hence the ethnic conflicts that have laid waste to African development are proof that these liberation leaders were wrong: that either Africa could not transcend “tribalism” or that the states created could not manage the inherited territories in a modern way.

On the contrary, the African liberation generation was well aware of the problems inherited from European gangster regimes. Moreover they understood quite well that race was created by Europeans to control them, that there was no “white man” in Africa before the European coloniser created him. The “white man” was an invention of the late 17th century. First it was a legal construct—the granting of privileges to Europeans in the colonies to distinguish and separate them from African slave labourers. Then it was elaborated into an ideology, an Enlightenment ideology—white supremacy. By uniting the colonisers, who in their respective homelands had spent the previous thirty odd years slaughtering each other for reasons of religion, ethnicity, language, and greed, the Enlightenment ideals of ethnic and religious tolerance or even liberty bound Europeans together against slave majorities. By endowing these European servants with the pedigree of “whiteness” the owners of the plantation islands could prevent them from siding with other servants—the Africans—and overthrowing the gangsters and their Caribbean drug industry. The white “identity” was fabricated to prevent class alliances against the new capitalists.17

It is not clear if the African liberation generation understood the impact of African slavery in North America. Many post-war liberation leaders have admired the US and seen in it a model for independence from colonialism. Perhaps this is because in the preparations for entering WWI, the US regime undertook a massive propaganda campaign of unparalleled success in which the history of the US was virtually re-written—or better said invented. There are numerous stories about photographs being changed in the Soviet Union under Stalin to remove people who had fallen from favour or been executed. There is relatively little attention devoted to the impact of the Creel Committee, a group of US advertising executives commissioned by President Woodrow Wilson to write the history people now know as “the American Dream” and to sell it throughout the world.18 This story turns a planter-mercantile slaveholder state into an “imperfect democracy” based on fine Enlightenment principles of human liberty. In fact, the contemporaries of the American UDI saw the actions in Philadelphia and the insurgency that followed in the same terms that people in the 1970s saw Ian Smith and his Rhodesian National Front. It is very clear from the record that the US regime established by the richest colonials in North America was initiated to avert Britain’s abolition of slavery in its colonies. It was not an accident that African slaves and Native Americans were omitted from the protections of the new charter. On the contrary the new charter was intended to preserve their exclusion.

Which brings me to my concluding argument. I believe there are two widely misused terms in the history of the post-WWII era, especially in the histories of the national liberation struggles and so-called Third World: “Cold War” and “anti-communism”. Since the end of the Soviet Union it is even very rare that these terms are explained. The reintroduction of the term “Cold War” to designate US regime policies toward Russia is anachronistic and misleading.

To understand this we have to return to 1945. In San Francisco, California, shortly before the end of formal hostilities representatives of the Allies met and adopted what would be called the Charter of the United Nations. Among the provisions of this charter were some ideas retained from the League of Nations Covenant (which the US never ratified) and some new ideas about the future of what were called non-self-governing territories (i.e. colonies, protectorates etc.) The principle of self-determination, a legacy of the League used to carve up Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, was to be extended to all empires. After the propaganda war by which colonial troops (natives) were deployed in masses against Germany, Italy and Japan, to defend freedom and independence, it became clear that the exhausted and even more heavily indebted European colonial powers could not return to the status quo ante. Britain was incapable of controlling India and with the independence of India it would become increasingly difficult to justify or sustain rule of the rest of the empire. The Commonwealth idea basically kept the “white” dominions loyal.19 But how were the “non-whites” to be kept in line? The US regime made it clear that there would be no support for European empires of the pre-war type. So the stated policy of the Charter was that independence was inevitable—meaning that all those who wanted it had a license to get it.

At the same time, however, an unstated policy was being formulated—penned largely by George Kennan—that would form the basis for the expansion of the US Empire in the wake of European surrender. That unstated policy, summarised in the US National Security Council document0 – NSC 68 – was based on some fundamental conclusions by the regime’s policy elite that reveal the essential problem with which all liberation movements and new independent states would be faced but could not debate. NSC 68 was promulgated in 1947 but remained secret until about 1978.

Kennan who had worked in the US mission to the Soviet Union reported confidentially that the Soviet Union, although it had won the war against Germany, was totally exhausted and would be incapable of doing anything besides rebuilding domestically, at least for another 20 years! In another assessment he pointed out that the US economy had only recovered by virtue of the enormous tax expenditure for weapons and waging WWII. It would be devastating to the US economy—in short, a massive depression would return—if the war industry did not continue to receive the same level of funding (and profit rates) it received during the war.

Furthermore, it was very clear that the US economy consumed about 60 per cent of the world’s resources for only 20 per cent of the population. Kennan argued the obvious, that this condition could not continue without the use of force by the US regime.

Although the US appears as (and certainly is) a violent society in love with its military, in fact, foreign wars have never enjoyed great popularity. It has always been necessary for the US regime to apply extreme measures—marketing—to generate support for wars abroad. The war in Korea was initially just a continuation of US Asia-Pacific expansion (aka Manifest Destiny).20 When US forces were virtually kicked off the Korean peninsula, the machinery that had sold WWI to the masses was put in motion and the elite’s hatred of the Soviet Union was relit in what became known as the McCarthy purges. The McCarthy purges were necessary to turn the Soviet Union—an ally against Hitler—into an enemy even worse than Hitler (who, in fact, never was an enemy of the US elite, some of whom counted the Führer as a personal friend.21  It was at this point that anti-communism became part of the arsenal for the unstated policy of the US regime. Anti-communism was enhanced as a term applicable to any kind of disloyalty—meaning failure to support the US regime in Korea or elsewhere. It also became the justification for what appeared to be contradictions between US stated anti-colonial policy and its unstated neo-colonialism.

The term “Cold War” has been attributed to US banker and diplomat Bernard Baruch and propagandist Walter Lippman. It has become accepted as the historical framework for the period from 1945 until 1989.  However, this is history as propaganda. The facts are that as George Kennan and other high officials knew in 1947, the Soviet Union posed absolutely no threat to the US. On the contrary the secret (unstated) policy of the US—declassified in the 1990s—was to manufacture enough atomic weaponry to attack the Soviet Union twice. Generals like MacArthur and Le May were not extremists. They simply discussed US strategy openly.22 The point of the “Cold War” was to create a vision, which would explain the non-existent Soviet threat as a cover for the unstated policy of US imperial expansion—against national liberation movements—while officially supporting national liberation.

Together with anti-communism, the Cold War was a propaganda/ marketing strategy for undermining what every member of the African liberation generation knew intuitively, that the liberation of Africa depends not only on the liberation of every African country on the continent but on the liberation of the African diaspora. Anti-communism and the Cold War myth successfully isolated African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans from the international struggles for liberation and human dignity and an end to racist regimes.23 In that sense anti-communism is a direct descendant of white supremacy and served the same purpose. It is particularly telling that Malcolm X, who had matured in a sectarian version of black consciousness- the Nation of Islam—was assassinated after he returned from Mecca and an extensive tour of Africa and began to argue not only that African-Americans must demand civil rights, but that they must demand human rights and that these are ultimately achieved when humans everywhere are liberated.24 Malcolm was murdered not just for opposing white supremacy but also for being an internationalist.

If we look at the fate of the African liberation generation we will find that those who were committed internationalists and non-racialists were also socialists and not did not confuse possessive individualism with human liberty. We will also find that all the leaders of newly independent African states who were most vilified, deposed or murdered were those who did not surrender those ideals or the practices needed to attain them. They were not Enlightenment leaders building on European hypocrisy. They were Romantic revolutionaries who knew that there was no salvation—only honest struggle for liberation.25 I believe that Agostinho Neto was one of those Romantic revolutionaries. And the honest struggle is not over.

Neto’s Funeral in September 1979

• Photos courtesy of Fundação Antonio Agostinho Neto

  1. Monty Python’s Meaning of Life (1983) includes an episode set in South Africa as a parody of the film Zulu (1964). The upshot is that an army medical officer suggests that a tiger could have bitten off the leg of a fellow officer in the night. To which all respond, “a tiger in Africa?!”. Of course, tigers are indigenous to Asia but not Africa. Salazar was also to have attributed the indigenous opposition to Portuguese rule in Africa as “coming from Asia”. See also Felipe Ribeiro de Meneses, Salazar A Political Biography (2016).
  2. Presented at the colloquium “Agostinho Neto and the African Camões Prize Laureates” at the University of Porto, Portugal, on the 40th anniversary of Agostinho Neto’s death.
  3. Leonel Cosme, Agostinho Neto e o sua tempo (2004).
  4. PIDE, Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado, Salazar secret political police, also trained in part by the Nazi regime’s Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo).
  5. MPLA, Movimento popular de libertação de Angola: Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola.
  6. (Joseph) Mobutu Sese Seko, (1930 – 1997) dictator of Republic of the Congo (Zaire), today Democratic Republic of the Congo, aka Congo-Kinshasa to distinguish it from the French Congo/ Congo Brazzaville, previously Congo Free State and Belgian Congo. Mobutu seized power in the wake of the overthrow and murder of Patrice Lumumba and ruled from 1965 until 1997. See Georges Zongola-Talaja, The Congo from Leopold to Kabila (2002).
  7. Alberto Oliveira Pinto, História de Angola (2015); Adrien Fontaellaz, War of Intervention in Angola (2019),
  8. Jacques R. Pauwels, The Great Class War 1914-1918 (2018).
  9. Ludo De Witte, The Assassination of Lumumba (2001) originally De Moord op Lumumba (1999). The Belgian foreign minister during the “Congo Crisis” wrote several memoranda in which the government’s position was that no harm should come to Patrice Lumumba while the Belgian secret services were actively plotting his kidnapping and assassination. Historical research generally privileges documents and they survive eyewitnesses.
  10. Estado Novo, the term used to designate the Portuguese regime under the dictatorial president of the council of ministers (prime minister) Antonio Salazar Oliveira from 1932 until 1968 and then under Marcelo Caetano until April 1974.
  11. This is also discussed in Fernando Cavaleiro Ângelo, Os Flêchas: A Tropa Secreta da PIDE/DGS na Guerra de Angola 1969 – 1974 (2016) history of the PIDE’s Angolan counter-insurgency force. Since the concept and organisation of the Flêchas bears considerable resemblance to the PRU formed by the CIA in Vietnam under the Phoenix Program, it would not be surprising ifCIA cooperation with the PIDE extended to “Phoenix” advice (see Valentine, 1990 p. 159 et seq.).
  12. John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies (1978) Stockwell had left the agency before the extensive covert support for UNITA was enhanced under Ronald Reagan, despite the Clark Amendment. However, Stockwell noted that when he had returned from Vietnam duty and before getting the paramilitary assignment for IA Feature, he noticed that the busiest desk at headquarters was the Portugal desk.
  13. Frank Carlucci (1930 – 2018), US ambassador to Portugal (1975 – 1978), Deputy Director of the CIA (1978 – 1981).
  14. Philip Agee, CIA Diary (1975), and Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (1990) and The CIA as Organized Crime (2017) Douglas Valentine uses the terms “stated policy” and “unstated policy” to show the importance of overt and covert language in the conduct of political and psychological warfare.
  15. See Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (1944) and Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1982).
  16. Ghana, Congo-Kinshasa, Guinea-Conakry, Egypt, Libya, Kenya, Tanzania and Guinea Bissau, Mozambique: Nkrumah was overthrown by a military coup and forced into exile. Lumumba was deposed and murdered by a Belgian managed corporate conspiracy with US/ UN support. Cabral was assassinated. Both Mondlane and Machel were murdered. Years later Qaddafi would be overthrown after massive armed attacks, tortured and murdered by US agents. The general attitude rejecting “race” and “racialism” can be found in the speeches and writings of these leaders, esp. those delivered on the occasion of independence. See also CLR James, Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution (1977) and A History of Negro Revolt (1985) See also Jean-Paul Sartre Kolonialismus und Neokolonialismus (1968) in particular “Der Kolonialismus ist ein System” and “Das politische Denken Patrice Lumumbas” originally published in Situations V Colonialisme et Neocolonialisme.
  17. For a thorough elaboration of this see Gerald Horne, The Counter-Revolution of 1776 (2014) and The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism (2018).
  18. George Creel, How We Advertised America (1920) also discussed in Stuart Ewen, PR: A Social History of Spin (1996).
  19. “Dominion” status was granted under the Statute of Westminster 1931 to the “white colonies”: Canada, Irish Free State, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. This gave these colonies so-called responsible government based on local franchise, largely eliminating the jurisdiction of the British parliament in London.
  20. US war against Korea, combined with a Korean civil war, began in June 1950. A ceasefire was agreed on 27 July 1953. However, the war has not officially ended and the US regime maintains at least 23,000 personnel in the country—not counting other force projection (e.g. regular manoeuvres, atomic weapons and naval power, etc.).
  21. Prescott Bush, father/grandfather of two US Presidents Bush, was nearly prosecuted for “trading with the enemy” due to his dealings with the Nazi regime. Henry Ford had even been awarded a decoration by the regime. These were the most notorious cases in the US. There were many other forms of less visible support to the Hitler regime from US corporations before, during and after the war. The fact is that the US did not declare war against Hitler’s Germany. Hitler declared war on the US in the vain hope of bringing Japan into the war against the Soviet Union. See Jacques R. Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War (2002) The US war against Japan was a continuation of its standing objectives for expansion into China—see also Cummings (2009).
  22. This argument has been made and documented in the work of Bruce Cummings, The Origins of the Korean War (1981, 1990) and Dominion from Sea to Sea (2009).
  23. Gerald Horne, White Supremacy Confronted (2019).
  24. Also formulated very clearly in his Oxford Union speech, 3 December 1964. Malcolm X was assassinated on 21 February 1965.
  25. For an elaboration of the term “Romantic revolutionaries” see the work of Morse Peckham, especially a collection of essays, Romantic Revolutionaries (1970).

XXV Sao Paulo Forum Demonstrates that Venezuela is not Alone!

Photo by Alicia Jrapko

From July 25-28 the XXV Sao Paulo Forum took place in Caracas, Venezuela, with the participation of 190 organizations, political parties, social movements, workers’ movements, parliamentarians and intellectuals from Latin America, the Caribbean and several continents.

The date chosen for this historic meeting had a symbolic character to it. During those four days a number of coinciding historical events were celebrated such as the birth of the Liberator Simón Bolívar, the assault on the Moncada Barracks that marked the beginning of the Cuban revolution and the 65th anniversary of the birth of Commander Hugo Chávez.

The Forum of Sao Paulo is the oldest continuing event of progressive unity in Latin America.  The first Forum was held in the city of Sao Paulo Brazil in 1990 as an initiative of the historic leader of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz and the then leader of the Workers’ Party of Brazil (PT), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The two put out a call to political parties and organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean to discuss alternatives to neoliberal policies. Since then the Forum adopted the name of the city where it was born. Twenty-six countries from Latin America and the Caribbean make up the member countries of the Forum.

Today, the scenario of all Latin America is very different from previous forums. Of the two leaders who brought the idea of the Sao Paulo Forum to life, one is no longer physically present and the other one is serving an unjust sentence in a Brazilian prison for having had the audacity to lift 30 million Brazilians out of poverty. The triumph of the Bolivarian revolution in 1998, with the popular election of Hugo Chavez, opened the door to a new continental stage where progressive projects sprouted up in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and El Salvador.  The current situation is very different than it was then.  The integration of Latin America is now in jeopardy, and a number of countries in the region are led by puppet governments subordinate to the designs of the U.S. government. Venezuela has held on but it is in the cross hairs of the empire to bring about regime change at all costs. This reality made the Forum to be held in Venezuela all that more important.  Never before in the 29 years since its inception, has the host country been more besieged and blockaded than Venezuela today and it is here where the destiny of the Great Homeland lays in the balance.

Despite the difficult situation in this South American nation, whose only crime in the eyes of US imperialism has been to divert their vast natural resources for the betterment of those who had been poor and dispossessed, approximately 700 people merged with hundreds of Venezuelans in this critical 4 day meeting to discuss the burning questions of Latin America and also to reinvigorate the same spirit of regional integration sown by those who founded the Forum. Overall those in attendance came to show the world that Venezuela is not alone.

For those delegates coming from the United States they had to go through a series of added hurdles just to get there. After the suspension of diplomatic relations in January 2019 traveling to Venezuela has become more difficult with no direct flights from the US and no consulates to grant visas.  Nevertheless, activists were creative and found the way to be present including representatives of the Collective for the Protection of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC who occupied and protected the embassy for 37 days.

During the opening ceremony of the Forum, the First Vice-President of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and president of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, set the tone when he told the enthusiastic audience:

No one will be able to do it alone, it is the unity of the people that is necessary. The more they insist, the more we are going to solve our problems; here in Venezuela the right wing will not be able to govern. The right likes elections when they win, when the people win they don’t like it, the right doesn’t respect the process. They can’t, their nature doesn’t allow them. The right-wing is the same everywhere, we feel the support of the people but those people also need our support. We resisted and marched with the conviction that we are going to win. The people here don’t get depressed because with Chavez they learned to have a voice. We have even been threatened with everything including a military invasion, but we are willing to defend the Bolivarian revolution, which is a revolution for the peoples, not just for Venezuela. No one can do it alone.

Other speakers included Monica Valente, of the Brazilian Workers’ Party, and the Executive Secretary of the Sao Paulo Forum and the Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to Cuba, Adan Chávez. Also Julio Muriente Pérez, member of the National Hostosian Independence Movement of Puerto Rico. Muriente talked about the popular victory that just took place in Puerto Rico. “Thousands of Puerto Ricans raised the flag of dignity forcing the corrupt governor Ricardo Rosello to resign.” he said, as the audience stood up cheering, “It wasn’t that he resigned, the people took him out.”

It is important to note that this was not just a talking conference but a meeting of activists who on Saturday went out to the street along with thousands of Venezuelans to call for the US hands off Venezuela and all of Latin America. In all meetings inside and the rally outside, participants expressed their support to the only president of Venezuela elected by popular will — Nicolas Maduro Moros.

During the last day of the Sao Paulo Forum, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro reiterated his gratitude to the members of the Protection Collective of Venezuela’s Embassy in Washington. “Their performance reflects high morals for the defense of the dignity and sovereignty of the Venezuelan people,” the president said. He presented the activists with a replica of Simon Bolivar’s sword.

The closing ceremony took place after a walk to the Cuartel de la Montaña, in the 23 de Enero neighborhood, where the remains of Hugo Chávez rest. Present at the closing were Presidents Nicolas Maduro, President of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel, Diosdado Cabello, and Mónica Valente.

A Final Declaration of support for Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and other progressive governments under attack by US imperialism, and a demand for the freedom of Lula and other left-wing leaders imprisoned for political reasons was issued.

What the XXV Sao Paulo Forum demonstrated most was the essential and immeasurable examples, inherited from Fidel, to guide the revolutionaries of Latin America and the Caribbean; that is the unity of the left progressive forces and the practice of internationalism.

The Orientalism of Western Russophobia

Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the publication of Edward W. Said’s pioneering book, Orientalism, as well as fifteen years since the Palestinian-American intellectual’s passing. To bid farewell to such an important scholar shortly after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which Said fiercely criticized until his dying breath before succumbing to leukemia, made an already tremendous loss that much more impactful. His seminal text forever reoriented political discourse by painstakingly examining the overlooked cultural imperialism of colonial history in the West’s construction of the so-called Orient. Said meticulously interrogated the Other-ing of the non-Western world in the humanities, arts, and anthropology down to its minutiae. As a result, the West was forced to confront not just its economic and political plunder but the long-established cultural biases filtering the lens through which it viewed the East which shaped its dominion over it.

His writings proved to be so influential that they laid the foundations for what is now known as post-colonial theory. This became an ironic category as the author himself would strongly reject any implication that the subjugation of developing countries is a thing of the past. How apropos that the Mandatory Palestine-born writer’s death came in the midst of the early stages of the ‘War on Terror’ that made clear Western imperialism is very much alive. Despite its history of ethnic cleansing, slavery, and war, the United States had distinguished itself from Britain and France in that it had never established its own major colonies within the Middle East, Asia or North Africa in the heart of the Orient. According to Said, it was now undergoing this venture as the world’s sole remaining superpower following the end of the Cold War with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Today’s political atmosphere makes the Bush era seem like eons ago. Thanks to the shameful rehabilitation of neoconservatism by centrist extremists, Americans fail to understand how Trumpism emerged from the pandora’s box of destructiveness of Bush policies that destabilized the Middle East and only increased international terrorism. Since then, another American enemy has been manufactured in the form of the Russian Federation and its President, Vladimir Putin, who drew the ire of the West after a resurgent Moscow under his leadership began to contain U.S. hegemony. This reached a crescendo during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election with the dubious accusations of election interference made by the same intelligence agencies that sold the pack of lies that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. The establishment has even likened the alleged intrusion by Moscow to 9/11.

If a comparison between the 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans and the still unproven allegations of Russian meddling seems outrageous, it is precisely such an analogy that has been made by Russiagate’s own biggest proponents, from neoconservative columnist Max Boot to Hillary Clinton herself. Truthfully, it is the climate of hysteria and dumbing down of discourse to such rigid dichotomies following both events where a real similarity can be drawn. The ‘with us or against us’ chasm that followed 9/11 has reemerged in the ‘either/or’ post-election polarity of the Trump era whereby all debate within the Overton window is pigeonholed into a ‘pro vs. anti-Trump’ or ‘pro vs. anti-Russia’ false dilemma. It is even perpetrated by some on the far left; e.g., if one critiques corporate media or Russiagate, they are grouped as ‘pro-Trump’ or ‘pro-Putin’ no matter their political orientation. This dangerous atmosphere is feeding an unprecedented wave of censorship of dissenting voices across the spectrum.

In his final years, not only did Edward Said condemn the Bush administration but highlighted how corporate media was using bigoted tropes in its representations of Arabs and Muslims to justify U.S. foreign policy. Even though it has gone mostly undetected, the neo-McCarthyist frenzy following the election has produced a similar travesty of caricatures depicting Russia and Vladimir Putin. One such egregious example was a July 2018 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Russia’s Turn to Its Asian Past” featuring an illustration portraying Vladimir Putin as Genghis Khan. The racist image and headline suggested that Russia is somehow inherently autocratic because of its past occupation under the Mongol Empire during its conquest of Eastern Europe and the Kievan Rus state in the 13th century. In a conceptual revival of the Eurocentric trope of Asiatic or Oriental despotism, the hint is that past race-mixing is where Russia inherited this tyrannical trait. When the cover story appeared, there was virtually no outcry due to the post-election delirium and everyday fear-mongering about Russia that is now commonplace in the media.

The overlooked casual racism used to demonize Russia in the new Cold War’s propaganda doesn’t stop there. One of the main architects of Russiagate, former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, in an interview with NBC‘s Meet the Press on the reported meddling stated:

And just the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, which is a typical Russian technique. So we were concerned.

Clapper, whose Office of the DNI published the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”, has been widely praised and cited by corporate media as a trustworthy source despite his previous history of making intentionally false statements at a public hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee denying that the National Security Agency (NSA) was unconstitutionally spying on U.S. citizens.

The disclosures of NSA activities by whistleblower Edward Snowden that shocked the world should have discredited Clapper’s status as a reliable figure, but not for mainstream media which has continuously colluded with the deep state during the entire Russia investigation. In fact, the scandal has been an opportunity to rehabilitate figures like the ex-spymaster complicit in past U.S. crimes from surveillance to torture. Shortly after the interview with NBC, Clapper repeated his prejudiced sentiments against Russians in a speech at the National Press Club in Australia:

But as far as our being intimate allies, trusting buds with the Russians that is just not going to happen. It is in their genes to be opposed, diametrically opposed, to the United States and to Western democracies.

The post-election mass Trump derangement has not only enabled wild accusations of treason to be made without sufficient evidence to support them, but such uninhibited xenophobic remarks to go without notice or disapproval.

In fact, liberals have seemingly abandoned their supposed progressive credence across the board while suffering from their anti-Russia neurological disorder. In an exemplar of yellow journalism, outlets like NBC News published sensational articles alleging that because of the perceived ingratiation between Trump and Putin, there was an increase in Russian ‘birth tourism’ in the United States. More commonly known by the pejorative ‘anchor babies’, birth tourism is the false claim that many immigrants travel to countries for the purpose of having children in order to obtain citizenship. While there may be individual cases, the idea that it is an epidemic is a complete myth — the vast majority of immigration is motivated by labor demands and changes in political or socio-economic factors in their native countries, whether it is from the global south or Eastern Europe. Trump has been rightfully criticized for promoting this falsehood regarding undocumented immigrants and his executive orders targeting birthright citizenship, but it appears liberals are willing to unfairly apply this same fallacy toward Russians for political reasons.

In order to make sense of the current groupthink hysteria towards Moscow, it must be understood in its context as an extension of the ongoing doctoring of history regarding U.S.-Russia relations since the Cold War. Americans living within the empire are proselytized into a glorified and nationalist version of their entire background, beginning with merchants and explorers ‘discovering’ the continent and the whitewashing of indigenous genocide. This imaginary narrative includes the version of WWII taught in U.S. schools and the arms race with the Soviet Union that followed. The West presents an entirely Anglospheric perspective of the war starting with its very chronology. For example, it is said that the conflict ‘officially’ began with the September 1st, 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. This mythology immediately frames the war from an Eurocentric viewpoint by separating the Sino-Japanese war that was already underway as the Pacific Ocean theater began long before the ‘surprise’ Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and U.S. entry into the conflict.

The truth is that nearly everything Americans are taught about U.S. participation in the war is either a mischaracterization or a lie, with its role in the Allied victory inflated exponentially. The widely held misconception that the 1944 Normandy landings in the Allied invasion of France was the decisive turning point in Europe is a fairy tale. The ‘D’ in D-Day does not stand for ‘decision’ as many Westerners assume, and when the Allied forces converged on Germany from East and West it was the Soviets who captured Berlin. Although Operation Overlord may have been the largest invasion transported by sea in history, the real watershed in the Great Patriotic War was the Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad the previous year, the biggest defeat ever suffered by the German army. The U.S. only took on the Wehrmacht once it was exhausted by the Red Army which bore the real burden of overcoming Germany.

Just three years earlier, the British army had been completely vanquished by the Nazi armed forces. Omitted from Hollywood folklore like Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk is that the Germans were entirely capable of pressing on with an invasion of the British isles but abruptly halted their advance — what stopped them? Quite simply, Hitler’s fanatical desire to conquer the Soviet Union and eradicate communism which he regarded as a greater threat to the Third Reich than Western capitalism. It is not surprising that the Eastern Front became a higher priority considering that the ruling classes in Britain, France and the U.S. had previously financed the German rearmament in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.

The Germans did not hold the same hatred for the West that it reserved for the Russians. In fact, the Führer personally admired the U.S. so much for the extermination of its natives that he named his armored private train ‘Amerika’, a mobile version of the Wolf’s Lair. The Nuremberg race statutes were partly inspired by Jim Crow segregation laws in the U.S. and many of the defendants at the Nuremberg trials tried to excuse their atrocities by arguing the similarity between Nazi race theories and the eugenicist movement which actually originated in the United States. Auschwitz physician Josef Mengele was even previously employed as an assistant to the head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics Institute that was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Hitler also preferred an attack on the Soviets over an invasion of Britain because of the eugenics of Lebensraum. Nazi Germany, like Britain and France, was really an imperial settler colonialist state and Hitler viewed the Slav inhabitants of the USSR as ethnically inferior to the ‘master race.’ The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact had been a strategic move to buy time for the Soviets in preparation for a German onslaught, at the time the most powerful military power in the world. Britain and France had rebuffed Stalin’s efforts to form an alliance in 1938, leaving the USSR no choice but to sign a non-aggression pact with Germany, knowing full well it was only a matter of time until Hitler would eventually embark on his Masterplan for the East. Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 broke the agreement and the German dictator ultimately sealed his own fate. Although the Soviets were victorious, the slaughter that proceeded it had no parallel in human history as 27 million citizens would lose their lives in the fight compared to less than half a million Americans. Even worse, the West has made a mockery of this sacrifice with their refusal to fully acknowledge the USSR’s contribution despite the fact that they did the vast majority of the fighting and dying while 80% of all German casualties were on the Eastern Front.

Meanwhile, the Cold War had already begun before the Second World War even ended. Whether or not Stalin was fully aware of either the U.S. capability or plans to use the atomic bomb against Japan is still a matter of debate, as U.S. President Harry S. Truman changed his story numerous times over the years. Nevertheless, their use is incorrectly attributed by the West to have brought the war’s end and very few Americans realize this tale was told entirely for political reasons. The purported rationale was to allegedly save the lives of American soldiers that would be lost in a future Allied invasion of Japan planned for the Autumn of 1945. Controlling the narrative became crucial in ‘justifying’ the use of such deadly weapons which held the secret motivation to begin an arms race with the Soviets.

Stalin and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had agreed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945 that the USSR would eventually break its neutrality treaty with Japan and enter the Pacific theater later in the year. That was until Roosevelt died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage just a few months later while American nuclear physicists were busy at work enriching uranium in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Then, just a day prior to newly inaugurated President Truman’s meeting with Stalin at the Potsdam Conference in July, the U.S. army and Project Y successfully detonated a nuclear weapon for the first time with the Trinity test as part of the expensive Manhattan Project. After his face-to-face with Truman at Potsdam, whom everyone agrees at least hinted to Stalin of the new U.S. weaponry, the Soviet premier suspected the new U.S. leader would go back on the previous agreement at Yalta with Roosevelt that included compromises with the USSR in the Pacific.

The ugly truth is that the U.S. was well aware that the Japanese were willing to conditionally surrender on the basis of immunity for Emperor Hirohito. However, the U.S. secretly wanted to achieve an Allied victory ideally without Soviet participation so it could demonstrate its exclusive nuclear capability in order to dominate the post-war order. Japan didn’t relinquish following the first bombing of Hiroshima but the second, Nagasaki, three days later — both of which mostly impacted civilians, not its military. What else happened on August 9th, 1945? The Soviet Union declared war on Japan upon realizing that the U.S. was backtracking on its pledge with the underhanded use of ‘Fat Man and Little Boy’ that instantly killed more than 200,000 civilians. The timing gave the appearance that the bomb resulted in the surrender when it was the Soviet invasion of occupied Manchuria in the north against Japan’s military stronghold that was the real tipping point which led to an unconditional acceptance of defeat.

According to the Western narrative, the Cold War only began following Winston Churchill’s invitation to the U.S. by Truman after being surprisingly voted out of office in 1946. At Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, hegave a speech entitled “Sinews of Peace”, widely known as the Iron Curtain speech, where he condemned Soviet policies in Europe and popularized the moniker for the boundary dividing the continent after the war:

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an “iron curtain” has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.

Although the term ‘iron curtain’ predates Cold War usage to describe various barriers political or otherwise, what is not commonly known is that Churchill likely appropriated the term from its originator, none other than the German Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels himself, who used it in reference to the Soviet Union. In February 1945, he wrote in Das Reich newspaper:

If the German people lay down their weapons, the Soviets, according to the agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, would occupy all of East and Southeast Europe along with the greater part of the Reich. An iron curtain would fall over this enormous territory controlled by the Soviet Union, behind which nations would be slaughtered.

The ‘Nazi megaphone’ himself may have gotten the term from the Wehrmacht propaganda publication Signal which in 1943 published an article entitled “Behind the Iron Curtain” that described:

He who has listened in on the interrogation of a Soviet prisoner of war knows that once the dam is broken, a flood of words begins as he tries to make clear what he experienced behind the mysterious iron curtain, which more than ever separates the world from the Soviet Union.

Is it any wonder that British newspaper The Guardian is now illustrating cartoons in its anti-Russia propaganda today that imitate Goebbels’ anti-Soviet posters during WWII?  Although Stalin was unaware of Churchill’s lifting of Nazi phraseology, he still detected the resemblance between Western and Third Reich policies toward the Soviet Union in the Fulton speech during an interview with Pravda:

A point to be noted is that in this respect Mr. Churchill and his friends bear a striking resemblance to Hitler and his friends. Hitler began his work of unleashing war by proclaiming a race theory, declaring that only German-speaking people constituted a superior nation. Mr. Churchill sets out to unleash war with a race theory, asserting that only English-speaking nations are superior nations, who are called upon to decide the destinies of the entire world. The German race theory led Hitler and his friends to the conclusion that the Germans, as the only superior nation, should rule over other nations. The English race theory leads Mr. Churchill and his friends to the conclusion that the English-speaking nations, as the only superior nations, should rule over the rest of the nations of the world. Actually, Mr. Churchill, and his friends in Britain and the United States, present to the non-English speaking nations something in the nature of an ultimatum: “Accept our rule voluntarily, and then all will be well; otherwise war is inevitable.” But the nations shed their blood in the course of five years’ fierce war for the sake of the liberty and independence of their countries, and not in order to exchange the domination of the Hitlers for the domination of the Churchills. It is quite probable, accordingly, that the non-English-speaking nations, which constitute the vast majority of the population of the world, will not agree to submit to a new slavery.

It is easy to see the parallels between Stalin’s explanation for the geopolitical tensions underlying the Cold War and Edward Said’s postcolonial theory. From a Marxist perspective, one of Said’s shortcomings was a reductionism in understanding empire to cultural supremacy, one of the reasons he unfortunately conflated Marxism with Orientalism as well. When it came to the Cold War, Said also demonstrated a lack of understanding of internationalism. He wrote:

By the time of the Bandung Conference in 1955, the entire Orient had gained its independence from the Western empires and gained a new configuration of imperial powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Unable to recognize “its” Orient in the new Third World, Orientalism now faced a challenging and politically armed Orient.

Yet who foremost ‘armed’ the movements of national liberation? The USSR, including support for the Palestinians during most of its history. Nevertheless, Stalin’s description of the West’s prerogative for post-war hegemony based on the belief in its primacy has many overlaps with the idea that the Occident exercised patronizing dominance over the East. Today, even though the Berlin Wall has long since fallen and Eastern Europe is under free enterprise, the political establishment in the West is still clinging to this attitude and misunderstanding of Moscow to fulfill its need for an permanent global nemesis with a desire to eventually colonize Russia with foreign capital as it did under Boris Yeltsin.

Russia has historically possessed a unique and ambivalent identity located between the East and West, having been invaded by both European and Asian empires in previous centuries. Said included Russia in Orientalism in his analysis of European countries and their attitude toward the East, but did not note that Russia is in many respects the Orient within the Occident, as more than 75% of its territory as the largest nation in the world is actually located in Asia while three quarters of its population live on the European side. Russia may be partly European, but it is certainly not Western. Then again, Europe is not a continent unto itself but geographically connected to Asia with the arbitrary division between them based on cultural differences, not landmass, where Russia is an intermediate. Expansionism under Peter the Great may have brought Western European ‘cultural values’ and modernization to Russia, but the majority of its territory itself remains in Asia.

Even after the presumed end of the Cold War, Russia has been excluded from the European Union and instead joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), while developing strong ties with China. As recently disclosed documents from the National Security Archive prove, NATO has broken its promise to Mikhail Gorbachev during the George H.W. Bush administration that it not expand eastward following Germany’s enrollment. It has since added 13 countries since 1999, 10 of which were former Warsaw Pact states. Russia’s alliance with China has been solidified precisely because it is still not treated in the same regard as other European nations even after the adoption of a private sector economy. In order to justify its continued armament and avoid obsolescence, NATO has manufactured an adversarial relationship with Moscow.

Contrary to the widespread perception of his rhetoric, in terms of policy-making President Trump has been equally as hostile to Moscow as his predecessors, if not more so in light of the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). What the usual suspects behind the attempted soft-coup against him fail to understand is that Trump’s tact toward Putin is more likely an inverted version of the ‘only Nixon could go to China’ strategy, an unexpected style of diplomacy based on the pragmatic objective of containing Beijing by dividing America’s two primary foes. The liberals still in denial about their election defeat continue to underestimate Trump, but the Chinese are not fooled. The architect behind Nixon’s détente with Mao, Henry Kissinger, is even believed to have encouraged Trump to ease tensions with Moscow in order to quarantine China and don’t think they haven’t noticed. Ultimately, the divide between Trump and his enemies in the establishment is really a disagreement over strategy in how to surround China and prevent the inevitable downfall of the U.S. empire.

The ongoing demonization of Moscow is ultimately about China as well. It was only a matter of time until the uncertain allegations of election interference were also leveled against Beijing without proof as a Joint Statement from the U.S. intelligence agencies recently showed. Make no mistake — underneath the West’s Russophobia lies Sinophobia and as Washington’s real geopolitical challenger, China will in due course emerge as the preferred bogeyman. The bipartisan hawkishness has created an environment where rapprochement and diplomacy of any kind is seen as weakness and even a sign of treason, making the prospect of peace seemingly impossible. As China continues to grow, it will find itself more squarely in the cross-hairs of imperialism, regardless of whether Trump’s strategy to renew relations with Moscow against Beijing is successful. Until then cooler heads at the highest levels of government must prevail as they thankfully did at the height of the first Cold War for the sake of peace between Russia, the U.S. and the entire world.

Now Chad, then Mali: Why African Countries Are Normalizing with Israel

Forget the hype. Israel’s ‘security technology’ has nothing to do with why some African countries are eager to normalize relations with Israel.

What is it that Israel is able to offer in the technology sector to Chad, Mali and others that the United States, the European Union, China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa and others cannot?

The answer is ‘nil’, and the moment we accept such a truth is the moment we start to truly understand why Chad, a Muslim-majority country, has just renewed its diplomatic ties with Israel. And, by extension, the same logic applies to Mali, another Muslim-majority country that is ready to normalize with Israel.

Chadian President, Idriss Deby, was in Israel last November, a trip that was touted as another Benjamin Netanyahu-engineered breakthrough by the Israeli government and its allied media.

In return, Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, paid Deby a visit to N’djamena where they agreed to resume diplomatic ties. In their joint press conference, Deby spoke of ‘deals’ signed between Chad and Israel, but failed to provide more details.

Israel may try to present itself as the savior of Africa, but no matter how comparatively strong the Israeli economy is, Tel Aviv will hardly have the keys to solving the woes of Chad, Mali or any other country on the African continent.

Israeli media is actively contributing to the fanfare that has accompanied Netanyahu’s ‘scramble for Africa’, and is now turning its focus to preparations under way for another ‘historic visit”, that of Malian President, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, to Israel in the “coming weeks”.

Netanyahu is keen to schedule Maiga’s trip just before the April 9 date, when Israelis go to the polls to vote in the country’s early general elections.

Israel’s motives to normalize with Africa are inspired by the same reasoning behind Netanyahu’s international outreach to South America and other regions in the global South.

Despite the Trump-Netanyahu love affair at the moment, Israel has no faith in the future of the US in the Middle East region. The current Donald Trump administration, as the previous Barack Obama administration, has made clear and calculated moves to slowly deploy out of the region and ‘pivot’ elsewhere.

This has alerted Netanyahu to the fact that Israel would have to diversify its alliances as an American veto at the United Nations Security Council is no longer a guarantor to Israel’s regional dominance.

For years, Netanyahu has pursued an alternative course, which has become the only path for Israel to escape its international isolation. Unfortunately for Palestinians, Israel’s new strategy, of seeking separate alliances with UN General Assembly members seems to be paying dividends. Israel now hopes that other countries that have historically stood on the side of Palestinians – voting for Palestinian rights as a bloc at the UN – will follow the Chad and Mali examples.

The struggle between Israel and Arab countries in Africa, according to Dan Avni – a top Israeli Foreign Ministry official during the 1950s and ‘60s – is “a fight of life and death for us.” That statement was made during a time that the US had not fully and ardently committed to the Israeli colonial project, and Israel was in a desperate need to break away from its isolation.

Following the expansion of the Israeli colonial project in Palestine and other Arab countries after the 1967 war, the US unconditional political, economic and military support for Israel has addressed many of Israel’s perceived vulnerabilities, empowering it to become the uncontested bully of the whole region. At the time, neither Africa mattered, nor did the rest of the international community.

But now, a new Great Game is changing the rules once more. Not only is the US losing its grip in the Middle East and Africa – thanks to the rise of Russian and Chinese influences, respectively – Washington is also busy elsewhere, desperate to sustain its dwindling global hegemony for a bit longer.

Although ties between Washington and Tel Aviv are still strong, Israeli leaders are aware of a vastly changing political landscape. According to Israeli calculation, the ‘fight of life and death’ is drawing near, once again.

The answer? Enticing poor countries, in Africa and elsewhere, with political support and economic promises so that they would deny Palestinians a vote at the UN.

It is no surprise that the governments of Chad and Mali are struggling, not only economically, but also in terms of political legitimacy as well. Torn in the global struggle for dominance between the US and China, they feel pressed to make significant choices that could make the difference between their survival or demise in future upheavals.

For these countries, an alliance with Israel is a sure ticket to the Washington political club. Such membership could prove significant in terms of economic aid, political validation and, more importantly, an immunity against pesky military coups.

Considering this, those who are stuck discussing the Israeli ‘charm offensive’ in Africa based on the claim of Israel’s technological advancement and hyped water technology are missing the forest for the trees.

It is important to note that it is not the road to Tel Aviv that N’Djamena and Bamako are seeking, but rather the road to Washington itself. In Africa, as in other parts of the global South, it is often the US, not the UN that bestows and denies political legitimacy. For African leaders who enjoy no democratic credence, a handshake with Netanyahu could be equivalent to a political life insurance.

So, for now, Israel will continue to walk this fine line, usurping American resources and political support as always, while learning how to walk on its own, by developing a foreign policy that it hopes will spare it further isolation in the future.

It is yet to dawn on Israeli leaders that, perhaps, a shortcut to breaking its isolation can be achieved through respecting international law, the rights of the Palestinian people and the territorial sovereignty of its neighbors.

Diplomatic ties with Chad and Mali may garner Netanyahu a few more votes next April, but they will also contribute to the Israeli illusion that it can be an international darling and an Apartheid regime, simultaneously.

L’Antidiplomatico Interview with Andre Vltchek

Alessandro Bianchi: Let’s start from today’s crisis in the Sea of Azov. The European Union and NATO have given full support to Ukraine after the violation of Russian sovereignty by two Ukrainian vessels. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave his full support to Poroshenko, who declared martial law. What does a country like Italy risk in continuing its accession to NATO?
Interview

Andre Vltchek: Russia intercepted three Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait. The ships had, even according to Ukrainian authorities, several intelligence officers on board, as well as a number of light arms and machine guns. It was clear provocation, as the ships refused to inform Russian authorities about their intentions, and behaved in an aggressive manner. They were passing through Russian territorial waters. Ukrainian intelligence officers were obviously in charge of the entire operation. So, what is really so ‘alarming’ for the West? The ships were stopped, some crew members detained, and there is a serious investigation underway.

The ‘incident’ took place just days before the G20 meeting in Argentina, where Presidents Trump and Putin were supposed to meet. Also, it is only 4 months before the Ukrainian Presidential elections (March 2019), and Poroshenko is trailing behind the two leading candidates with only 8% of support. Ukraine under his leadership is so messed up that many flats in the capital city of Kiev will not be heated during this winter. Logically, Poroshenko provoked the crises, so he could pose as a strongman, hoping to at least gain some popularity. He has imposed martial law for 30 days although originally, he wanted it to last for 2 months. What does it mean? The press will be censored and criticism of the government, limited. Good for the grotesquely unpopular president? Definitely.

Also, it is obvious that the West, particularly the EU and NATO, are behind this new wave of dangerous madness.

Italy is part of both EU and NATO. As I am writing in my new essay, it is a nonsense to believe that “Europeans are brainwashed; that they do not know what the West is doing all over the world”. They know, or they at least suspect – most of them. But they pretend that they don’t know. In Europe, there is a shadowy deal between the government, corporations and the people. People want more benefits, and they do not care that the benefits come from plundering the world. If they get their benefits, they shut up. If they think they are getting too little, they protest, like recently in Paris. But do they care if tens of millions of ‘un-people’ die for those benefits? Of course not!

The same when it comes to Russia, China or Iran. Europeans in general and Italians in particular, know that there is some sort of vicious propaganda against those countries that refuse to yield to the Western diktat. But they will do nothing to stop it. It is sweet, isn’t it, to feel superior, ‘democratic’, and ‘free’. And it is horrible to admit that one lives in a place that is spreading terror to all corners of the world, robbing even the poor of all they have. These six weeks vacations could turn sour, if Italians were to decide to see who is really paying for them. So, they shut up, and will shut up, until it is ‘too late’.

Remember, countries like Russia and China have their own ‘democracies’ (rule of the people). It is not the Western system. Rulers and the masses communicate and interact in a direct way, in a very distinctive manner. And in both Russia and China, the people have ‘had enough’ of being bullied and brutalized by the West, for decades and centuries. Just a little bit more, and things will explode. If pushed further, Russia and China will respond. If provoked militarily, they will defend themselves. The same goes for Iran. Being part of the grouping that is terrorizing the world, Italy will have to pay the price, too.

AB: Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov asked the Western allies in Kiev to “intervene” and “calm down” the Ukrainian authorities, warning about the potential crossing of a “point of no return” between Russia and the West. Is the risk of war real even in light of the great gathering of NATO troops at the border?

AV: Yes, of course, it is real. Just turn the tables around: if Iran or China or Russia or Venezuela or Syria or Cuba did to the West what West is doing to them, would there be real risk of war?

This impunity and racist belief in total superiority, which is so prevalent in the West, has to stop. And soon it will stop. As they say in Chile: ‘By reason or by force’.

AB: You were recently in Syria, a country that thanks to the Russian intervention and the resistance of the Syrian people supported by the regional allies – Iran and Hezbollah above all – is slowly trying to return to normal. What country did you find?

AV: I found a beautiful, confident and proud country. I am also writing a long report about my visit there.

I met many victims, common people, but also a General, and a Minister of Education, who is also an accomplished novelist. His motto is: “Ministry of Education is like Ministry of Defense”. Correct: education without ideology and passion is just a waste of time.

Syria won. And there, the entire Arab world won together with it. Arabs were, for decades, thoroughly humiliated – by the West, by Israel, by their own leaders who were put on the throne by London, Paris and Washington.

As I have written many times, Aleppo is the Stalingrad of the Middle East. The losses were terrible, all over Syria. But the victory is tremendous, too. Pan-Arabism will blossom again. People in all countries of the region are watching and now they know: it is possible to defeat Western imperialism and its spooks, its terrorist implants.

Russia stood by its Arab sister with determination, but also very wisely. It used diplomacy whenever it could, and it used force only when there was no other way. In Syria, the Russians won people’s hearts. ‘Thank you, Russia!’, is everywhere, even engraved on traditional wooden boxes. The Russian language being my native tongue, opened so many doors, as it opened thousands of doors to me in Afghanistan (I never expected it there).

Syria has to finalize its victory, soon. And I will be back to cover events there. At the front if needed.

It is tremendously optimistic and beautiful to be in a country which did not prostitute itself; a country that stood tall, fought hard, for its own people and for the entire region. There is great confidence and kindness on the faces of people. Celebration is not loud, because, after all, so many people died. But people are out, till the morning, men and women, boys and girls. Cafes are packed; the streets of Damascus are bustling. But even in Homs and the destroyed suburbs of Damascus, life is defiantly returning to normal.

What a nation! Yes, they say ‘Thank you Russia!”. As an internationalist, I say: “Thank you Syria!”

AB: The chemical attack by the “rebels” in Aleppo yesterday unmasks the lies in the mainstream of these years. What role did the media play in allowing the terrorist gangs supported and funded by the West and Gulf allies to destroy Syria?

AV: A tremendous role. In Syria, the Western mass media finally ceased to exist. It became a prostitution force for the Empire, nothing else. But we all know that both the media and education are basically used for indoctrinating people, at least in the West and in its ‘client’ states.

There was so much provocation. The Gulf and the Western broadcasting companies were literally igniting the conflict, spreading lies, pushing people into rebellion against the government. They have blood on their hands, the same as Pashtun Service of the BBC has blood on their hands, as the VOA, Radio Free Europe and ‘free whatever’ have blood up to their armpits.

AB: Before Syria you did two important reports in Argentina and Mexico telling about the mutations under way in Latin America. Bolsonaro has won in Brazil, while in the next few days Lopez Obrador is preparing to settle in a Mexico that has turned left. At what stage is the dispute in Latin America, and what are the prospects for the left in the continent?

AV: Well, I worked for three weeks all over Mexico, before going to Syria. My big work in both Argentina and Brazil, had been done earlier.

Look, Ale, you and I know; are very well familiar with Latin America. I used to live in Mexico, Chile, Peru (during the so-called Dirty War) and Costa Rica. I have worked all over the continent.

What happened in Mexico is great, although one could say ‘overdue’. Now let us hope that President-Elect Obrador will be able to turn his magnificent country around, towards socialism. It will not be easy. There is plenty of terrible inertia. There are horrible ‘elites’ of European stock. And there is the United States, right next door, always ready to ‘intervene’. But I think he can do it. I trust him. I travelled all over this huge country, I spoke to people. It was all summarized by a gangster in Tijuana, a man who became a criminal out of desperation. He said, and I paraphrase: “I think it is close to impossible for Obrador to change things, but if he will do what he is promising, I will drop everything, and support him. This is the last chance for Mexico to change things peacefully. If he fails, we will take up the arms.”

Brazil, this is so difficult to explain. But essentially, there, in Latin America, more than anywhere else, the mass media which is in the hands of the right-wing, played an extremely significant and thoroughly destructive role. When I visited Amazonia, around Manaus and Belem, or Salvador Bahia, people would tell me: “Our life improved significantly. Now we have this and this and that. But Dilma has to go!” My God, I thought, am I dreaming? No, I was not. Basically, somehow, the elites hammered into people’s brains that if they are better off now, then it is because of their own personal success. But if some things are not going too well, it is the fault of the government.

“Corruption” is always used in the combat against left-wing governments in Latin America. Microscopes are used, to encounter any wrongdoing. It was used against Kristina Kirschner, against Lula, even against poor Dilma who was not corrupt at all, but suffered from the right-wing and West-backed ‘constitutional’ coup. But just imagine that stupidity, that absurdity: right-wing dictatorships in the Southern Cone but also in Brazil used dogs to rape women; they tortured prisoners, killed, ‘disappeared’ people, robbing everything they could put their hands on. And that is not ‘corruption’, right? Then some company offers to renovate an apartment of Lula’s, and he is in prison! Suddenly those fascists are playing the moral card. Do you know what Bolsonaro will do now? He will screw the entire Amazonia; do it almost ‘Indonesia-style’. He will allow that horrid deal with the Western corporations, the privatization of the aquifer shared with Paraguay, to go through. The third biggest passenger airplane manufacturer on earth – Embraer – will be sold to Boeing, for petty cash. Brazil will lose its rainforest, its industry, and its poor will lose their lifeline – government support. And this is not called corruption! Argentina under Macri is allowing the US to operate in Tierra de Fuego. The entire country is screaming from pain: electricity prices have gone up, the famous film industry is losing support, and the middle class is again going down the drain.

But I am optimistic. Latin American people have a great desire for socialist, in some places, communist societies. Whenever they are left alone, they fight for it, or vote for it. Then they get smashed. The West has overthrown, basically, all the truly left-wing governments of the continent, from the Dominican Republic, to Chile. But the process never stops. It begins all over again.

I only hope that one thing changes: you know, the West was very successful in implanting the idea in the heads of Latin Americans, that after all that has happened, Europe and even the US are somehow superior nations. And so, people look down on the truly great nations like China and Russia, in places like Brazil. It appalls me. I speak the language, and I clearly see what is happening. In Argentina, there is not much of a real left: the intellectuals there are connected to those defunct theories in Europe and North America, like ‘anarcho-syndicalism’. And there is nothing really revolutionary about those ideas. There are too many Westerners influencing Latin American revolutionary movements. They lost at home, became irrelevant, but still they insist on judging the world from a Western perspective. Still, somehow, many of them are admired in Latin America. And it always backfires: Westerners dilute revolutionary spirit. They also kidnap the South-South narrative. I would love to see Russian, Chinese, Venezuelan, Cuban, Syrian, Iranian or South African comrades running the state media in countries where the true left is winning. It would make a great difference!

AB: Argentina continues to sink under the weight of Mauricio Macri’s neoliberal austerity but the mainstream media are silent. Meanwhile, Evo Morales’ Bolivia continues, to the contrary, to record the highest growth rates in the region in a climate of stability. So, socialism works contrary to what they try to make us believe?

AV: Yes, of course, socialism works, Ale. If left alone, if it is not bathed in pus and blood, it prospers. Unfortunately, so far, whenever any country decides to go socialist, the West unleashes its campaign of terror, lies and economic banditry. Socialism is not some extreme utopia, but the most logical goal. The majority of people want to live in an egalitarian society, where they feel secure and safe, and where when sick they get treated, when they are thirsty for knowledge, they get educated for free. They want the state to work for them, not against them. They want their government to control companies, instead of companies controlling their governments.

AB: Meanwhile, in Venezuela, the economic, psychological and media war goes on. Will the Bolivarian government succeed in resisting this unprecedented attack?

AV: Yes, it will. But again, look how fragmented Latin America has become. People in Chile or Argentina watch CNN and FOX and they know much more about Miami or Paris, than about Caracas. The Brazilian President-Elect said that he would murder Maduro – still, people voted for him.

Latin America is mostly run by European elites. They robbed the continent, turned it into the part of the world with the greatest disparities. For any revolution to succeed here, it has to be radical and decisive. Democracy should be direct, not that multi-party idiotism implanted from the West – that is so easy to pervert and divert from outside, or with the use of social and mass media. Latin America cannot try to ape Europe and hope that it will prosper. Europe is based on the plunder of other parts of the world. Latin American countries do not have colonies, and the plunder is internal – the rich of European stock are plundering both the land and the native people.

AB: In one of his last articles Fidel wrote how “The alliance between Russia and China is a powerful peace shield able to guarantee the survival of the human race”. What is the legacy of Fidel Castro today two years after his death?

AV: Just tremendous! Even when the entire Latin America betrayed Cuba, Fidel and his people never surrendered. This is the spirit I admire. Cuba has a big heart – it fought for the independence of several African nations, it helps so many places on earth with their doctors, teachers, and rescue teams during natural disasters. Cuban art is some of the greatest on the planet. That is why Cuba has had a tremendous impact on me personally, and on my work as well. I proudly call myself a ‘Cuban-style internationalist’. I am endlessly grateful to Fidel, to the Cuban revolution and to Cuban people. In many ways, it is perhaps the greatest country in the world. A country I would never hesitate to fight for, or even to die for.

*****

• Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

Even in “Revolutionary Countries” Mass Media is Still in the Hands of the Right

How could a country win her fight against Western imperialism?  How could it become truly independent, if its people are fully conditioned, through the mass media and education, by the North American and European doctrines and world view?

Wherever I work and struggle in this world, I am always amazed, even shocked, by how powerful the Western tools of indoctrination are, how effective its propaganda is.

Even in such countries like Vietnam, where one would think, Communism won at a tremendous cost of millions of lives, people are now increasingly indoctrinated by the West. They are apathetic and progressively ignorant about the world. Yes, of course, officially the country is in solidarity with so many struggling and oppressed parts of the world, but ask common people on the streets of Hanoi what they know about the horrific things that are being done by multi-nationals in Africa or even in Indonesia; the great majority would say that they know close to nothing. And if you press harder, chances are that you will be told that they do not really care. It is because the Western official narrative has already infiltrated, entered everything here, from social media to NGOs. It also began influencing arts, television and education.

Ideological war is on, and it is real. It is tough, ruthless and often more destructive than a war fought by conventional weapons.

The victims of this war are human brains, human minds, culture, and sometimes entire political systems.

Your country loses an ‘ideological battle’, then another one, and soon you can find yourself living in a system which is totally foreign to you and to your people; to their history, traditions and desires.

*****

I am writing this essay in the city of Puebla, in Mexico. You know, the people of Mexico just recently voted, and overwhelmingly, they elected the left-wing Presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

For three weeks I travelled all around the country. I spoke to hundreds of people. Most of them were hopeful; most of them were instinctively longing for socialism. Usually, they do not call it ‘socialism’, because for decades they were told not to use this word in any positive context, but what they describe when they dream, is clearly a form of socialism, nevertheless.

But how can they define the position of their country in the world, or even their own position inside their country? You turn on the television set, and all you see is CNN in Spanish (‘Mexican edition’), or the extreme right-wing FOX, or some corporate-owned local TV station. Almost all international news in Mexican newspapers is taken from the Western press agencies.

Can socialism be built like this, based on the Western indoctrination, disinformation system?

Telesur is not even available on most of the cable television systems, so how?

*****

Again, this is really nothing new. For instance, since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, the mainstream media outlets were firmly in the hands of the right-wing individuals, and big business. Not all, but definitely most of them.

It used to be truly grotesque, and it still is: while most of the journalists supported Chavez, and later Maduro, they were too scared to write anything positive about the government, fearing that they would lose their jobs.

The insults (and lies) they were paid to regurgitate against the revolutionary system, would easily land them in jail in the United States and definitely in the UK – a country with draconic defamation laws. In Venezuela, most of them were allowed to write – to write garbage and outright lies. The more uncensored the hostile outburst were, the more ‘unfree’ the West called the Venezuelan media environment. The usual stuff, the usual logic of the propaganda: black is white, and cats are rats. Repeat it thousand times, and millions will believe it.

Revolutionary Bolivia is facing the same problems, and so was Ecuador during the previous, socialist administration (now, there, it is ‘business as usual’, with the Western media openly operating in the country, almost unopposed).

Brazil is living through the aftermath of something that could be loosely described as a ‘constitutional coup’ perpetrated by the right-wing establishment, against Dilma and her highly successful PT (socialist) government. The coup was only possible, because the mass media of Brazil, fully backed and fueled from abroad, consistently smeared all the great achievements of the left-of-center administration, putting individuals under a microscope, while describing as ‘corruption’ things that would be absolutely acceptable in Europe or the United States, not to speak about the right-wing countries all over the Latin America.

The smear campaign against Cristina in Argentina, is another example of the right-wing madness which pays.

But how would people know all this, if almost all sources of information are coming exclusively from one – right-wing – camp?

They feel something is happening – they feel it intuitively – but they find it extremely difficult to formulate what they feel precisely.

I witness this all-over Latin America, all over Africa, Asia Pacific, India and the Middle East.

It is a confusion, an unhealthy confusion, manufactured somewhere else, somewhere far away.

*****

Let’s face it: this is a truly bizarre situation.

The Western public is ‘discovering’ new and powerful media outlets, which are coming from the non-Western countries. Many people in London or New York are now hooked on RT, CGTN, Press TV, or Telesur. Masses are reading magazines like NEO (New Eastern Outlook, edited in Russia), or Countercurrents (India).

But in those countries that are clearly victims of the Western interventions and brutal neo-colonialist policies, almost all information sources available come from the West – from the very centers of the present world order.

*****

What can be done?

Lately there was plenty of ‘poor us’, or ‘they are after all of us’ statements in the alternative press, at least in the West.

Of course, they are!

Well, Comrades, war is war, even an ideological one!

What did you expect? That after we start attacking the system that has been literally raping the planet for several centuries the system would quietly die, or go away? That is not realistic.

The news that is actually lately coming our way is very good:

Many powerful media outlets that are opposed to the official Western narrative are already in place, or emerging.

In the non-Western world, there are above mentioned RT, PressTV, CGTN, Al-Mayadeen, Telesur. There is New Eastern Outlook (NEO), Sputnik, TASS, Countercurrents, and hopefully soon, Prensa Latina will rejuvenate itself.

They are all on air, already running, fully functional and counting on some of the best writers and thinkers on this Planet, as their contributors.

So, what is next?

We have to, and this is absolutely essential, reach people in the non-Western countries.

Some new media, even if it is totally anti-imperialist and in support of the oppressed world, is still using ‘old methods’, like interviewing almost exclusively people with either British or US accents, as if this would be giving them some enhanced credibility.

Also, there is too much accent on covering the West, and too little on covering what is happening in Africa, Latin America, Asia or the Middle East.

The people of Africa have had enough of Europeans and North Americans telling them ‘what they really are’, and what they should do. They have plenty to say about their own lives and their own countries. The same goes for the Asians.

In order to reach Africans, we have to talk to the African thinkers, revolutionaries, and, of course, to their common people; to talk to them “on the record”, not to listen to ourselves preaching to them.

Our media outlets should be different – truly global but above all, ‘internationalist’.

Chinese CGTN has adopted precisely this philosophy, and it works wonders. People are watching – all over Africa and all over Asia. RT did a tremendous job through their Spanish language broadcast. NEO’s greatest strength is in its in-depth coverage of Asia – the biggest continent on Earth.

Above all, we have to reach as many people in the entire occupied and oppressed world. If some big television stations with substantial budgets (like RT or CGTV) can afford to advertise, they should. And if they cannot convince the cable or satellite providers in Latin America, Asia or Africa to carry their broadcasts, they should concentrate on convincing millions of individuals to watch their programs online, through the internet, as I am doing right now, in Mexico.

*****

Things can be turned around, when there is dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism.

Russia, China and Iran are great examples. Soviet media during Gorbachev and Yeltsin eras was totally humiliated and forced into submission. For several dark years, all that the West was saying and writing was expected to be considered as pure gold by millions in both Russia and the former Soviet republics. But the West did not come to Russia with an olive branch. Dependency on the Western narrative was most likely one of the main reasons why the Soviet Union, and then Russia itself, virtually collapsed. Western propaganda was aiming at bringing the Russian people to their knees. It was clearly a vehicle of hostility and destruction.

But Russia soon regrouped. It got back to its feet. And its media has completely and brilliantly reinvented itself. Now, it is strong, brave and intellectually superb.

China also went through a period when ‘everyone educated’ was expected to parrot Western dogmas. Chinese universities and media outlets got infiltrated from abroad. Hostility towards Communism was steadily injected into Chinese students who were graduating from the European and North American universities. The main goal of the West has always been to derail the Chinese socialist system, and to make China subservient to the West. In the end, it did not happen. China quickly identified the subversion, and since then, has been taking appropriate measures. Its media, too, reformed. The once out-of-date CCTV changed into a sleek, attractive, informative one, a clearly left-wing CGTN. Its newspapers have improved as well.

Now Russian, Chinese, Venezuelan and Iranian international (and internationalist) media outlets are on the correct track. They are broadcasting in various languages, offering non-Western, anti-imperialist alternatives. The distribution of the messages is, however, still limping behind the quality of the news bulletins.

I am working all over the world, often in such ‘corners of the planet’ where hardly any journalist goes. And this is my friendly ‘warning’: our interpretation of events, our worldview, our coverage of the world events in not reaching many of the places where such coverage is desperately needed.

Not everywhere, but often: the poorer the country, the more it is at the mercy of Western propaganda.

It is our obligation, our internationalist duty, to reach the people who are suffering the most.

We are slowly but surely winning the ideological war. Now let us reach out to our brothers and sisters in the poorest, most devastated, as well as the most indoctrinated parts of the world. If we don’t, then what are we fighting for? Therefore, we will.

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Even in “Revolutionary Countries” Mass Media is Still in the Hands of the Right

How could a country win her fight against Western imperialism?  How could it become truly independent, if its people are fully conditioned, through the mass media and education, by the North American and European doctrines and world view?

Wherever I work and struggle in this world, I am always amazed, even shocked, by how powerful the Western tools of indoctrination are, how effective its propaganda is.

Even in such countries like Vietnam, where one would think, Communism won at a tremendous cost of millions of lives, people are now increasingly indoctrinated by the West. They are apathetic and progressively ignorant about the world. Yes, of course, officially the country is in solidarity with so many struggling and oppressed parts of the world, but ask common people on the streets of Hanoi what they know about the horrific things that are being done by multi-nationals in Africa or even in Indonesia; the great majority would say that they know close to nothing. And if you press harder, chances are that you will be told that they do not really care. It is because the Western official narrative has already infiltrated, entered everything here, from social media to NGOs. It also began influencing arts, television and education.

Ideological war is on, and it is real. It is tough, ruthless and often more destructive than a war fought by conventional weapons.

The victims of this war are human brains, human minds, culture, and sometimes entire political systems.

Your country loses an ‘ideological battle’, then another one, and soon you can find yourself living in a system which is totally foreign to you and to your people; to their history, traditions and desires.

*****

I am writing this essay in the city of Puebla, in Mexico. You know, the people of Mexico just recently voted, and overwhelmingly, they elected the left-wing Presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

For three weeks I travelled all around the country. I spoke to hundreds of people. Most of them were hopeful; most of them were instinctively longing for socialism. Usually, they do not call it ‘socialism’, because for decades they were told not to use this word in any positive context, but what they describe when they dream, is clearly a form of socialism, nevertheless.

But how can they define the position of their country in the world, or even their own position inside their country? You turn on the television set, and all you see is CNN in Spanish (‘Mexican edition’), or the extreme right-wing FOX, or some corporate-owned local TV station. Almost all international news in Mexican newspapers is taken from the Western press agencies.

Can socialism be built like this, based on the Western indoctrination, disinformation system?

Telesur is not even available on most of the cable television systems, so how?

*****

Again, this is really nothing new. For instance, since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, the mainstream media outlets were firmly in the hands of the right-wing individuals, and big business. Not all, but definitely most of them.

It used to be truly grotesque, and it still is: while most of the journalists supported Chavez, and later Maduro, they were too scared to write anything positive about the government, fearing that they would lose their jobs.

The insults (and lies) they were paid to regurgitate against the revolutionary system, would easily land them in jail in the United States and definitely in the UK – a country with draconic defamation laws. In Venezuela, most of them were allowed to write – to write garbage and outright lies. The more uncensored the hostile outburst were, the more ‘unfree’ the West called the Venezuelan media environment. The usual stuff, the usual logic of the propaganda: black is white, and cats are rats. Repeat it thousand times, and millions will believe it.

Revolutionary Bolivia is facing the same problems, and so was Ecuador during the previous, socialist administration (now, there, it is ‘business as usual’, with the Western media openly operating in the country, almost unopposed).

Brazil is living through the aftermath of something that could be loosely described as a ‘constitutional coup’ perpetrated by the right-wing establishment, against Dilma and her highly successful PT (socialist) government. The coup was only possible, because the mass media of Brazil, fully backed and fueled from abroad, consistently smeared all the great achievements of the left-of-center administration, putting individuals under a microscope, while describing as ‘corruption’ things that would be absolutely acceptable in Europe or the United States, not to speak about the right-wing countries all over the Latin America.

The smear campaign against Cristina in Argentina, is another example of the right-wing madness which pays.

But how would people know all this, if almost all sources of information are coming exclusively from one – right-wing – camp?

They feel something is happening – they feel it intuitively – but they find it extremely difficult to formulate what they feel precisely.

I witness this all-over Latin America, all over Africa, Asia Pacific, India and the Middle East.

It is a confusion, an unhealthy confusion, manufactured somewhere else, somewhere far away.

*****

Let’s face it: this is a truly bizarre situation.

The Western public is ‘discovering’ new and powerful media outlets, which are coming from the non-Western countries. Many people in London or New York are now hooked on RT, CGTN, Press TV, or Telesur. Masses are reading magazines like NEO (New Eastern Outlook, edited in Russia), or Countercurrents (India).

But in those countries that are clearly victims of the Western interventions and brutal neo-colonialist policies, almost all information sources available come from the West – from the very centers of the present world order.

*****

What can be done?

Lately there was plenty of ‘poor us’, or ‘they are after all of us’ statements in the alternative press, at least in the West.

Of course, they are!

Well, Comrades, war is war, even an ideological one!

What did you expect? That after we start attacking the system that has been literally raping the planet for several centuries the system would quietly die, or go away? That is not realistic.

The news that is actually lately coming our way is very good:

Many powerful media outlets that are opposed to the official Western narrative are already in place, or emerging.

In the non-Western world, there are above mentioned RT, PressTV, CGTN, Al-Mayadeen, Telesur. There is New Eastern Outlook (NEO), Sputnik, TASS, Countercurrents, and hopefully soon, Prensa Latina will rejuvenate itself.

They are all on air, already running, fully functional and counting on some of the best writers and thinkers on this Planet, as their contributors.

So, what is next?

We have to, and this is absolutely essential, reach people in the non-Western countries.

Some new media, even if it is totally anti-imperialist and in support of the oppressed world, is still using ‘old methods’, like interviewing almost exclusively people with either British or US accents, as if this would be giving them some enhanced credibility.

Also, there is too much accent on covering the West, and too little on covering what is happening in Africa, Latin America, Asia or the Middle East.

The people of Africa have had enough of Europeans and North Americans telling them ‘what they really are’, and what they should do. They have plenty to say about their own lives and their own countries. The same goes for the Asians.

In order to reach Africans, we have to talk to the African thinkers, revolutionaries, and, of course, to their common people; to talk to them “on the record”, not to listen to ourselves preaching to them.

Our media outlets should be different – truly global but above all, ‘internationalist’.

Chinese CGTN has adopted precisely this philosophy, and it works wonders. People are watching – all over Africa and all over Asia. RT did a tremendous job through their Spanish language broadcast. NEO’s greatest strength is in its in-depth coverage of Asia – the biggest continent on Earth.

Above all, we have to reach as many people in the entire occupied and oppressed world. If some big television stations with substantial budgets (like RT or CGTV) can afford to advertise, they should. And if they cannot convince the cable or satellite providers in Latin America, Asia or Africa to carry their broadcasts, they should concentrate on convincing millions of individuals to watch their programs online, through the internet, as I am doing right now, in Mexico.

*****

Things can be turned around, when there is dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism.

Russia, China and Iran are great examples. Soviet media during Gorbachev and Yeltsin eras was totally humiliated and forced into submission. For several dark years, all that the West was saying and writing was expected to be considered as pure gold by millions in both Russia and the former Soviet republics. But the West did not come to Russia with an olive branch. Dependency on the Western narrative was most likely one of the main reasons why the Soviet Union, and then Russia itself, virtually collapsed. Western propaganda was aiming at bringing the Russian people to their knees. It was clearly a vehicle of hostility and destruction.

But Russia soon regrouped. It got back to its feet. And its media has completely and brilliantly reinvented itself. Now, it is strong, brave and intellectually superb.

China also went through a period when ‘everyone educated’ was expected to parrot Western dogmas. Chinese universities and media outlets got infiltrated from abroad. Hostility towards Communism was steadily injected into Chinese students who were graduating from the European and North American universities. The main goal of the West has always been to derail the Chinese socialist system, and to make China subservient to the West. In the end, it did not happen. China quickly identified the subversion, and since then, has been taking appropriate measures. Its media, too, reformed. The once out-of-date CCTV changed into a sleek, attractive, informative one, a clearly left-wing CGTN. Its newspapers have improved as well.

Now Russian, Chinese, Venezuelan and Iranian international (and internationalist) media outlets are on the correct track. They are broadcasting in various languages, offering non-Western, anti-imperialist alternatives. The distribution of the messages is, however, still limping behind the quality of the news bulletins.

I am working all over the world, often in such ‘corners of the planet’ where hardly any journalist goes. And this is my friendly ‘warning’: our interpretation of events, our worldview, our coverage of the world events in not reaching many of the places where such coverage is desperately needed.

Not everywhere, but often: the poorer the country, the more it is at the mercy of Western propaganda.

It is our obligation, our internationalist duty, to reach the people who are suffering the most.

We are slowly but surely winning the ideological war. Now let us reach out to our brothers and sisters in the poorest, most devastated, as well as the most indoctrinated parts of the world. If we don’t, then what are we fighting for? Therefore, we will.

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook