Category Archives: Revolution

Eleven Theses on Socialist Revolution

How should we think about “socialist revolution” in the twenty-first century? I put the term in scare-quotes because it can be hard to believe anymore that a socialist, or economically democratic, civilization is even possible—much less inevitable, as Marx and Engels seem to have believed. Far from being on the verge of achieving something like socialism, humanity appears to be on the verge of consuming itself in the dual conflagrations of environmental collapse and, someday perhaps, nuclear war. The collective task of survival seems challenging enough; the task of overcoming capitalist exploitation and instituting a politico-economic regime of cooperation, community, and democracy appears completely hopeless, given the overwhelming crises and bleak horizons of the present.

Some leftists might reply that it is precisely only by achieving socialism that civilization can save itself from multidimensional collapse. This belief may be true, but if so, the prospects for a decent future have not improved, because the timeline for abolishing capitalism and the timeline by which we must “solve” global warming and ecological collapse do not remotely correspond. There is no prospect for a national, international, or global transition to socialism within the next several decades, decades that are pivotal for addressing ecological crises. In the United States, for example, it took Republican reactionaries almost a century of organizing starting in the 1940s to achieve the power they have now, and this was in a political economy in which they already had considerable power. It isn’t very likely that socialists, hardly a powerful group, will be able to overthrow capitalism on a shorter timeline. If anything, the international process of “revolution” will take much longer. Perhaps not as long as the transition from feudalism to capitalism, but certainly over a century.

It can seem, then, naïve and utopian even to consider the prospects for socialism when we’re confronted with the more urgent and immediate task of sheer survival. However guilty capitalism is of imposing on humanity its current predicament, the fact is that we can make progress in addressing the environmental crisis even in the framework of capitalism; for example, by accelerating the rollout of renewable and nuclear energy, dismantling the fossil fuel industry, regulating pesticides that are contributing to the decimation of insect populations, experimenting with geoengineering, and so on. These goals—and their corollaries, such as defeating centrist and conservative candidates for political office—should be the most urgent priority of left-wing activists for the foreseeable future. If organized human life comes to an end, nothing else matters much.

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t just forget about socialism for now, because it remains a distant goal, a fundamental value, and organizing for it—e.g., “raising the consciousness” of the working class—can improve lives in the short term as well. So it is incumbent on us to think about how we might achieve the distant goal, what strategies promise to be effective, what has gone wrong in the past, and what revisions to Marxist theory are necessary to make sense of past failures. We shouldn’t remain beholden to old slogans and formulations that were the product of very different circumstances than prevail today; we should be willing to rethink revolution from the ground up, so to speak.

I have addressed these matters in a book called Worker Cooperatives and Revolution, and more concisely in various articles and blog posts. Here, I’ll simply present an abbreviated series of “theses” on the subject of revolution that strike me as commonsensical, however heterodox some of them may seem. Their cumulative point is to reorient the Marxian conception of socialist revolution from that of a completely ruptural seizure and overthrow of capitalist states—whether grounded in electoral or insurrectionary measures—followed by a planned and unitary reconstruction of society (the “dictatorship of the proletariat”), to that of a very gradual process of economic and political transformation over many generations, in which the character of the economy changes together with that of the state. The long transition is not peaceful or smooth or blandly “reformist.” It is necessarily riven at all points by violent, quasi-insurrectionary clashes between the working class and the ruling class, between international popular movements seeking to carve out a new society and a capitalist elite seeking to prolong the current one. Given the accumulating popular pressure on a global scale, which among other things will succeed in electing ever more socialists to office, the capitalist state will, in spite of itself, participate to some extent in the construction of new economic relations that is the foundation of constructing a new society—even as the state in other respects continues to violently repress dissenting movements.

But the process of building a new economy will not be exclusively statist (despite the statism of mainstream Marxism going back to Marx himself). Transitions between modes of production take place on more than one plane and are not only “top-down.” In particular, as civilization descends deeper into crisis and government proves inadequate to the task of maintaining social order, the “solidarity economy,” supported by the state, will grow in prominence and functionality. A world of multiform catastrophe will see alternative economic arrangements spring up at all levels, and the strategies of “statist Marxism” will complement, or be complemented by, the “mutual aid” (cooperative, frequently small-scale, semi-interstitial) strategies of anarchism. These two broad traditions of the left, so often at each other’s throats, will finally, in effect, come together to build up a new society in the midst of a collapsing ancien régime. Crisis will, as always, provide opportunity.

1

Successful socialist revolution, meaning the creation of a society that eliminates differential ownership and control of economic resources and instead permits democratic popular control of the economy, has happened nowhere on a large scale or a “permanent” (“post-capitalist”) basis. Whether in Russia, China, Cuba, or elsewhere, the dream of socialism—still less of communism—has never been realized. According to Marxism, indeed, the very fact that these were isolated islands under siege by a capitalist world indicates that they signified something other than socialism, which is, naturally enough, supposed to follow capitalism and exist first and foremost in the “advanced” countries. The fact that these “socialist” experiments ultimately succumbed to capitalism is enough to show that, whatever progress they entailed for their respective populations, they were in some sense, in the long term, revolutionary abortions.

2

Marx was right that there is a kind of “logic” to historical development. Notwithstanding the postmodernist and empiricist shibboleths of contemporary historiography, history isn’t all contingency, particularity, individual agency, and alternative paths that were tragically not taken (because of poor leadership or whatever). Rather, institutional contexts determine that some things are possible or probable and others impossible. Revolutionary voluntarism, the elevation of political will above the painfully protracted, largely “unconscious” dialectical processes of resolution of structural contradictions and subsequent appearance of new, unforeseen conditions that are themselves “resolved” through the ordinary actions of millions of people, is a false (and un-Marxist) theory of social change. If the world didn’t go socialist in the twentieth century, it’s because it couldn’t have: structurally, in the heyday of corporate capitalism (monopoly capitalism, state capitalism, imperialism, whatever one calls it), socialism was impossible.

In short, on the broadest of historical scales, the “hidden meaning” of the past—to use a phrase beloved by Marx—is revealed by the present and future, as probabilities with which the past was pregnant become realities.

3

Marx therefore got the timeline of revolution radically wrong. He did not (and could not) foresee the power of nationalism, the welfare state, Keynesian stimulation of demand, the state’s stabilizing management of the crisis-prone economy, and the like. In fact, we might say that, falling victim to the characteristic over-optimism of Enlightenment thinkers, he mistook the birth pangs of industrial capitalism for its death throes. Only in the neoliberal era has the capitalist mode of production even finished its conquest of the world—which the “dialectical” logic of historical materialism suggests is a necessary precondition for socialism—displacing remaining peasantries from the land and privatizing “state-socialist” economies and state-owned resources. Given the distribution of power during and after the 1970s between the working class and the business class, together with the increasing mobility of capital (a function of the advancing productive forces, thus predictable from historical materialism), neoliberal assaults on postwar working-class gains were, in retrospect, entirely predictable.

4

Despite, or because of, its horrifying destructiveness, neoliberalism potentially can play the role of opening up long-term revolutionary possibilities (even as it presents fascist possibilities as well). Its function of exacerbating class polarization, immiserating the working class, eroding social democracy, ripping up the social fabric, degrading the natural environment, destabilizing the global economy, relatively homogenizing conditions between countries, hollowing out the corporatist nation-state and compromising the integrity of the very (anti-revolutionary) idea of “nationality,” facilitating a global consciousness through electronic media—a consciousness, in the end, of suffering and oppression—and attenuating the middle class (historically a pretty reliable bastion of conservatism): all this in the aggregate serves to stimulate mass protest on a scale that, eventually, the state will find unmanageable.

Fascist repression, it’s true, is very useful, but fascist regimes can hardly remain in power indefinitely in every country. Even just in the U.S., the governmental structure is too vast and federated, and civil society too thick and resilient, for genuine fascism ever to be fully consolidated everywhere, much less made permanent. Repression alone is not a viable solution for the ruling class.

5

Sooner or later, it will be found necessary to make substantive concessions to the masses (while never abandoning repression). Some writers argue that what these will amount to is a revitalization and expansion of social democracy, such a sustained expansion (under the pressure of popular movements) that eventually society will pass from social democracy straight into socialism. This argument, however, runs contrary to the spirit of Marxism, according to which society does not return to previous social formations after they have departed the stage of history. Fully fledged social democracy was appropriate to a time of industrial unionism and limited mobility of capital; it is hard to imagine that an era of unprecedented crisis and decaying nation-states will see humanity resuscitate, globally, a rather “stable” and nationalistic social form, even expanding it relative to its capacity when unions were incomparably stronger than today. While social democratic policies will surely persist and continue to be legislated, the intensifying dysfunction of the nation-state (a social form that is just as transient as others) will necessitate the granting of different kinds of concessions than centralized and expansive social democratic ones.

6

Here, we have to shift for a moment to considering the Marxist theory of revolution. Then we’ll see the significance of the concessions that states will likely be compelled to grant. There is a glaring flaw in Marx’s conceptualization (expressed, for example, in the famous Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy) according to which “an era of social revolution” begins when the dominant mode of production starts to fetter the use and development of the productive forces. The flaw is simply that the notion of “fettering” is semi-meaningless. Philosophers such as G. A. Cohen have grappled with this concept of fettering, but we don’t have to delve into the niceties of analytic philosophy in order to understand that the capitalist mode of production has always both fettered and developed the productive forces—fettered them in the context, for instance, of devastating depressions, disincentives to invest in public goods, artificial obstacles (like intellectual copyright laws) to the diffusion of knowledge, and, in general, a socially irrational distribution of resources; even as in other respects it still develops the productive forces, as with advances in information technology, biotechnology, renewable energy, and so on. In order to be truly meaningful, therefore, this concept of fettering needs revision.

7

The necessary revision is simple: we have to adopt a relative notion of fettering. Rather than an absolute conflict or a contradiction between productive forces and production relations, there is a conflict between two sets of production relations, one of which uses productive forces in a more socially rational and “un-fettering” way than the other. This revision makes the idea of fettering meaningful, even concretely observable. Capitalism, for example, was, in the final analysis, able to triumph over feudalism because it was infinitely better at developing productive forces, such that its agents could accumulate far greater resources (economic, scientific, technological, intellectual, cultural) than the agents of feudalism. The epoch of social revolution, properly speaking, lasted half a millennium, though it was punctuated by dramatic moments of condensed social and political revolution such as the French Revolution.

If the idea of fettering is to apply to a transition between capitalism and socialism, it can be made sense of only through a similar “relative” understanding, according to which a cooperative and democratic mode of production emerges over a prolonged period of time (hopefully not half a millennium) both interstitially and more visibly in the mainstream. As the old anarchic economy succumbs to crisis and stagnation, the emergent “democratic” economy—which does not yet exist today—does a better job of rationally and equitably distributing resources, thereby attracting ever more people to its practices and ideologies. It accumulates greater resources as the old economy continues to demonstrate its appalling injustice and dysfunction.

8

This theoretical framework permits an answer to the old question that has bedeviled so many radicals: why have all attempts at socialist revolution failed? The answer is that they happened in conditions that guaranteed their eventual failure. There was a radical difference between, for example, October 1917 and the French Revolution: in the latter case, capitalist relations and ideologies had already spread over Western Europe and acquired enormous power and legitimacy. The French revolutionaries were beneficiaries of centuries of capitalist evolution—not, indeed, industrial capitalist, but mercantile, agrarian, financial, and petti-bourgeois. This long economic, social, cultural, and political evolution prepared the ground for the victories of 1789–1793. In 1917, on the other hand, there was no socialist economy whatsoever on which to erect a political superstructure (a superstructure that, in turn, would facilitate the further and more unobstructed development of the socialist economy). Even industrial capitalism was barely implanted in Russia, much less socialism. The meaning of 1917 was merely that a group of opportunistic political adventurers led by two near-geniuses (Lenin and Trotsky) took advantage of a desperate wartime situation and the desperation of the populace—much of which, as a result, supported these “adventurers”—to seize power and almost immediately suppress whatever limited democracy existed. The authoritarian, bureaucratic, and brutal regime that, partly in the context of civil war, resulted—and that ultimately led to Stalinism—was about as far from socialism as one can imagine.

It is one of the ironies of the twentieth century that the Bolsheviks both forgot and illustrate a central Marxian dictum: never trust the self-interpretations of historical actors. There is always an objective context and an objective, hidden historical meaning behind the actions of people like Robespierre, Napoleon, or Lenin, a meaning they have no access to because they are caught up in the whirl of events (and, to quote Hegel, the owl of Minerva flies only at dusk, after the events). The fact that Lenin and his comrades were convinced they were establishing socialism is of no more than psychological interest. It is unfortunate that many Marxists today continue to credulously believe them.

9

Said differently, the twentieth-century strategy of “Marxist” revolutionaries to seize the state (whether electorally or in an insurrection) and then carry out a social revolution—by means of a sweeping, “totalizing” political will—is highly un-Marxist. It is idealistic, voluntaristic, and unrealistic: history moves forward slowly, dialectically, “behind the backs” of historical actors, not straightforwardly or transparently through the all-conquering will of a few leaders or a single political party. The basic problem is that if you try to reconstruct society entirely from the top down, you have to contend with all the institutional legacies of capitalism. Relations of coercion and domination condition everything you do, and there is no way to break free of them by means of political or bureaucratic will. While the right state policies can be of enormous help in constructing an economically democratic society, in order for it to be genuinely democratic it cannot come into existence solely through the state. Marxism itself suggests that the state—largely a function of existing economic relations—cannot be socially creative in such a radical way. Instead, there has to be a ferment of creative energy at the grassroots (as there was during the long transition from feudalism to modern capitalism) that builds and builds over generations, laboriously inventing new kinds of institutions in a process that is both, or alternately, obstructed and facilitated by state policies (depending on whether reactionaries or liberals are in power, or, eventually, leftists).

Nearly all attempts at socialist revolution so far have been directed at a statist rupture with the past, and have therefore failed.1 There is no such thing as a genuine “rupture” in history: if you attempt it, you’ll find that you’re merely reproducing the old authoritarianism, the old hierarchies, the old bureaucratic inefficiencies and injustices, though in new forms.2 Rather, the final, culminating stage of the conquest of the state has to take place after a long period of economic gestation, so to speak (again, gestation that has been facilitated by incremental changes in state policies, as during the feudalism-to-capitalism transition), a gestation that serves as the material foundation for the final casting off of capitalist residues in the (by then) already-partially-transformed state.

10

This brings us back to the question of how capitalist elites will deal with the popular discontent that is certain to accumulate globally in the coming decades. Since the political economy that produced social democracy is passing from the scene, other sorts of concessions (in addition to repression) will be necessary. In our time of political reaction it is, admittedly, not very easy to imagine what these might be. But we can guess that, as national governments prove increasingly unable to cope with environmental and social crises, they will permit or even encourage the creation of new institutional forms at local, regional, and eventually national levels. Many of these institutions, such as cooperatives of every type (producer, consumer, housing, banking, etc.), will fall under the category of the solidarity economy, which is committed to the kind of mutual aid that has already been rather prominent in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Capitalism’s loss of legitimacy will foster the conditions in which people seek more power in their workplaces, in many cases likely taking them over, aided by changes in state policies (such as the active promotion of a cooperative sector to provide employment in a stagnant economy) due in part to the presence of more socialists in government. Other innovations may include a proliferation of public banks, municipal enterprises (again, in part, to provide jobs at a time of raging structural and cyclical unemployment), and even universal basic income.

The subject of what types of “non-reformist reforms”—i.e., reforms that have the potential to serve as stepping-stones to a new economy—governments will be compelled, on pain of complete social collapse, to grant is much too complex to be explored in a brief article. Two points suffice here. First, the usual Marxist critiques of (worker) cooperatives and other ostensibly apolitical, interstitial “anti-capitalist” institutions—such as “mutual aid”—can be answered simply by countering that these are only one part of a very long and multidimensional project that takes place on explicitly political planes too. It is puzzling that so many radicals seem unaware that the transition to a new civilization is an incredibly complex, drawn-out process: for instance, over many generations, emergent institutions like cooperatives network with each other, support each other, accumulate and share resources in an attempt to become ever freer of the competitive, sociopathic logic of the capitalist economy. At the same time, all this grassroots or semi-grassroots activity contributes to building up a counter-hegemony, an anti-capitalist ethos in much of the population. And the resources that are accumulated through cooperative economic activity can be used to help fund political movements whose goal is to further transform the capitalist state and democratize the economy.

Second, the question naturally arises as to why the ruling class will tolerate, or at times even encourage, all this grassroots and statist “experimentation” with non-capitalist institutions. On one level, the answer is just that the history will unfold rather slowly (as history always does—a lesson too often forgotten by revolutionaries), such that at any given time it won’t appear as if some little policy here or there poses an existential threat to capitalism. It will seem that all that is being done is to try to stabilize society and defuse mass discontent by piecemeal reforms (often merely local or regional). Meanwhile, the severity of the worldwide crises—including, inevitably, economic depression, which destroys colossal amounts of wealth and thins the ranks of the obstinate elite—will weaken some of the resistance of the business class to even the more far-reaching policy changes. By the time it becomes clear that capitalism is really on the ropes, it will be too late: too many changes will already have occurred, across the world. Historical time cannot be rewound. The momentum of the global social revolution will, by that point, be unstoppable, not least because only non-capitalist (anti-privatizing, etc.) policies will have any success at addressing ecological and social disaster.

11

The argument that has been sketched here has a couple of implications and a single major presupposition. The presupposition is that civilization will not destroy itself before the historical logic of this long social revolution has had time to unfold. There is no question that the world is in for an extraordinary era of climatic chaos, but—if for a moment we can indulge in optimism—it might transpire that the ecological changes serve to accelerate the necessary reforms by stimulating protest on an absolutely overwhelming scale. Maybe, then, humanity would save itself in the very nick of time. If not, well, we’ll have a grim answer to the old question “Socialism or barbarism?”

One implication of the argument is that there is a kernel of truth in most ideological tendencies on the left, and radicals should therefore temper their squabbling. The old debates between, say, Marxists and anarchists are seen to be narrow, short-sighted, crabbed, doctrinaire, and premised on a false understanding of the timescales in question. If one expects revolution to happen over a couple of decades, then yes, the old sectarian disputes might acquire urgency and make some sense. But if one chooses to be a Marxist rather than a voluntarist, a realist rather than an idealist, one sees that global revolution will take a century or two, and there is temporal room for statist and non-statist strategies of all kinds.

A second implication, less practically important but of interest anyway, is that Marxists going back to the founder himself have misunderstood the prescriptions of historical materialism. There may well be something like a “dictatorship of the proletariat” someday, but, since idealism and voluntarism are false, it will (like the earlier “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”) happen near the end of the revolutionary epoch, not at the beginning. It is impossible to predict what form the state will take by then, or how the final removal of bourgeois remnants from government will further transform it. What can be known is only that in order to politically oust the ruling class, the working class needs not just numbers but resources, which hitherto it has lacked on the necessary scale. With the gradual—but, of course, contested and violent—spread of a semi-socialist economy alongside (and interacting with) the decadent capitalist one, workers will be able to accumulate the requisite resources to effectually compete against the shrinking business class, electing left-wing representatives and progressively changing the character of the capitalist state.

Meanwhile, in the streets, people will be figuratively manning the barricades, decade after decade, across a world tortured by the greed of the wealthy and the suffering of the masses. All their struggles, surely, will not be in vain.

  1. Other reasons for their failure have been operative as well, notably imperialist interference with the revolutionary process. But the effectiveness of such interference has itself shown the inadequacy of an exclusively “ruptural” strategy—the attempt to create socialism by political fiat in a still-overwhelmingly-capitalist world—because core capitalist nations usually find it easy to squash the political revolution when it hasn’t been preceded by generations of socialist institution-building across the globe, including in the heart of the most advanced countries.
  2. To repeat, this is the lesson of Marxism itself. We are embedded in the past even when trying to idealistically leap out of it and leave it behind. Insofar as Marx sometimes wrote as if a proletarian dictatorship could virtually “start anew,” enacting whatever policies it wanted and planning a new society as though from a blueprint, he forgot the gist of his own thought.
The post Eleven Theses on Socialist Revolution first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Crisis in Tunisia

On July 25, 2021, Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, froze the parliament, suspended the legal immunity of parliament members and took control of the general prosecutor’s office. He warned against any armed response to his actions: “Whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets.” In the hours after Saied’s announcement, huge crowds gathered in his support in Tunis and other cities, while the military blocked off the parliament and state television station.

The popularity of Saied’s decisions stems from the legitimate anger of Tunisians against their country’s parliament, which has become very unpopular. When the president sacked the health minister after a botched handling of vaccine walk-in centres and ordered the army to take control of the pandemic response, popular protests took place against the government, culminating in the present-day power shifts. These conjunctural changes are embedded in a structural framework which has permanently characterized Tunisia after 2011.

Neoliberalism

On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi – a Tunisian street vendor – set himself on fire following yet another instance of harassment and humiliation at the hands of local police and municipal officials.  Within hours of his self-immolation, protests began erupting across the town, rapidly gathering pace and spreading outwards to other urban centres. Bouazizi’s death was long and agonizing; when he finally died on January 4, 2011, the conflagration sparked by his act roared into the national capital. In a matter of days, dictator Ben Ali was forced into exile.

Tunisia’s people did not only oppose the political authoritarianism of the Ali administration, but also the neoliberal policies under his rule which created massive inequality, unemployment and widespread misery. The ruling elites completely ignored the latter dimension, choosing to impose further neoliberalism in the aftermath of the revolution. Tunisia’s current ruling party, the Islamist Ennahda, garnered votes as it had been outlawed under the Ali regime. Many people perceived it as revolutionary.

However, governments led by Ennahda implemented free market reforms in return for loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Fuel subsidy cuts, price rises and the dismantlement of public sector hiring synchronized with the enrichment of the bourgeoisie. Now, 10 years after the revolution, the rate of unemployment in Tunisia is nearly 18%. Max Ajl, Bassam Haddad, and Zeinab Abul-Magd note:

The state has absorbed the political effects of mass immiseration, distributing subsidies to popular classes to absorb social unease. Its primary role has been to contain the discontent by the carrot of subsidies and the stick of state violence while serving as a mechanism for increasing integration of Tunisia into the international division of labor: by increasing subjugation to the global law of value through currency devaluation, deepening trade agreements with the EU [European Union], and opening agriculture for foreign investment…Unrest has intensified. The government has become almost entirely a mechanism for ever-continuing accumulation.

Caesarism

Tunisian society – like any other society – is a totality structured in dominance. Among the various structural instances, one instance will have the dominant role: contradictions at other levels will find themselves displaced to this instance (thereby averting a revolutionary rupture) or many contradictions may become condensed in this instance (producing the possibility of a revolutionary rupture). The dominant instance will vary according to the social formation, but in all cases its role is determined – in the last instance – by the economy. In other words, the economy often exercises its effects indirectly by determining the specific efficacy of other instances.

Saied’s victory in the October 2019 presidential election displaced the economic limits of Tunisia’s post-revolutionary system to the level of politics. Disillusioned with the dysfunctional rules of status quo, Tunisians elected someone who sought to portray himself as an anti-politician. Running as an independent and nicknamed “Robocop” for his stern, monotonous character, Saied promised to crack down on corruption among the political class. His anti-corruption discourse steadily morphed into a wide-ranging narrative of anti-systemic populism; a desire for greater power soon made itself felt.

In April 2021, Saied declared, “The president is the supreme commander of the military and civilian armed forces. Let this matter be clear to all Tunisians”. A month later, Middle East Eye revealed the existence of a secret document, in which the president’s advisers invited him to carry out a “constitutional coup”. Thus, from the beginning, Saied’s presidency had the character of what Antonio Gramsci called “Caesarism” – a phenomenon in which an individual breaks the stasis in a socio-economic system by operating as an equilibrating factor between classes, demagogically representing the interests of the subaltern masses. Gramsci elaborates:

[T]he content is the crisis of the ruling class’s hegemony, which occurs either because the ruling class has failed in some major political undertaking for which it has requested, or forcibly extracted, the consent of the broad masses (war, for example), or because huge masses (especially of peasants and petit-bourgeois intellectuals) have passed suddenly from a state of political passivity to a certain activity, and put forward demands which taken together, albeit not organically formulated, add up to a revolution…The traditional ruling class, which has numerous trained cadres, changes men and programmes and, with greater speed than is achieved by the subordinate classes, reabsorbs the control that was slipping from its grasp. Perhaps it may make sacrifices, and expose itself to an uncertain future by demagogic promises; but it retains power, reinforces it for the time being, and uses it to crush its adversary and disperse his leading cadres, who cannot be very numerous or highly trained … When the crisis does not find this organic solution, but that of the charismatic leader, it means that a static equilibrium exists (whose factors may be disparate, but in which the decisive one is the immaturity of the progressive forces); it means that no group, neither the conservatives nor the progressives, has the strength for victory, and that even the conservative group needs a master.

In Tunisia, the hegemonic capacities of the post-2011 historical bloc gradually weakened as a neoliberal orientation came to be eagerly embraced by both Islamist and secularist political forces. The sporadic and inorganic nature of popular movements proved incapable in radically superseding this moribund conjuncture. Hence, Tunisians were gifted with Saied, who overcame the impasse by unleashing the Caesarist logic of delegation to a strongman. His ideological project has ended up with the current events, wherein Tunisians have been demobilized through a reconfiguration of the political arena. What should be the attitude of progressive sectors toward these transformations?

The leftist Workers’ Party of Tunisia (PCT) released a statement on July 26, 2021, condemning Saied’s moves and calling them a violation of the constitution. While acknowledging that the government has led the country into a deep economic crisis, PCT stated that Saied’s actions are not a solution to the problems facing the people as they threaten the country’s young democracy and have “launched a path towards re-establishing the system of absolute autocracy again.” The party has asserted that the way out of the crisis is “the work of the Tunisian people to establish a popular democracy based on the civil state, the power in the hands of the people, with sovereignty over the country’s capacities, resources and independent political decisions, and social justice and equality among all men and women.”

The post The Crisis in Tunisia first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Great Contest of Our Time Is between Humanity and Imperialism

Uttam Ghosh (India), Let Cuba Live, 2021.

Uttam Ghosh (India), Let Cuba Live, 2021.

On 23 July 2021, a full-page appeal appeared in the New York Times calling on United States President Joe Biden to withdraw the vindictive US blockade against Cuba. As that appeal went to press, I spoke to Chinese journalist Lu Yuanzhi of Global Times (GT). The remainder of this newsletter carries the contents of that interview, which ranges from the US policy against Cuba to the New Cold War against China.

Ryan Honeyball (South Africa), Unite Against Imperialism, 2021.

Ryan Honeyball (South Africa), Unite Against Imperialism, 2021.

Global Times: The novel coronavirus epidemic and the long-term US blockade have severely hit Cubans’ wellbeing. By exploiting Cuba’s current hardships, the US is exacerbating problems. As the sole superpower, the US has long pursued a hostile policy toward this small socialist country to its south. Why can’t the US tolerate a small socialist country in its periphery?

Vijay Prashad: Cuba, since 1959, has offered an alternative vision for humanity, one that puts the well-being of people before the requirements of profit. That Cuba – a poor country – was able to vanquish hunger and illiteracy rather quickly, while the US – a rich country – continues to be plagued by such elementary problems illustrates the humanity at the core of the socialist project. This is unforgivable for the elites in the US. Hence, they continue to tighten the wretched blockade against Cuba. In fact, they use all kinds of means – including social media warfare, a part of the hybrid war strategy – to undermine the confidence of the Cuban people. This was attempted on 11 July, but it failed. Tens of thousands of Cubans took to the street to defend their Revolution.

GT: Although the UN has overwhelmingly condemned the US blockade against Cuba for many years in a row, Washington has continued its inhumane policy. What does this mean for the US’ international image? US President Joe Biden said, ‘The US stands firmly with the people of Cuba’, but his administration has no intention to lift the blockade. Who are the audiences of such hypocritical diplomatic rhetoric?

VP: The US does not ‘stand firmly with the people of Cuba’. In fact, the US stands on the neck of the Cuban people. This is clear to the 184 member states of the UN that voted on 23 June to send a message to the US to end the blockade. The fact is that President Joe Biden has refused to even roll back the 243 coercive measures implemented by Donald Trump. The world recognises the cruelty of the blockade on Cuba and of the illegal sanctions policy that the US exercises against at least 30 countries around the world. But, because of the power of the US, there are only a few countries that are willing to do more than vote in the UN General Assembly on behalf of Cuba.

Cuba needs material support, which is lacking from the international community; this material support would include supplies for the Cuban pharmaceutical industry, for example, and it would include food. If the US does not roll back the blockade, will key countries of the world come together to break it?

Lizzie Suarez (US), Hands Off Cuba!, 2021.

Lizzie Suarez (US), Hands Off Cuba!, 2021.

GT: The US’ handling of the COVID-19 epidemic is obviously a failure, with the highest death toll across the world. In the face of the pandemic, the US capitalist system’s value of economics over human life has been fully exposed. The pandemic has put a dent in the US’ institutional advantages and discursive power. Has the capitalist system become dysfunctional in the face of major crises?

VP: The capitalist system is very good at generating vast amounts of commodities and very high qualities of certain kinds of commodities. It is good at producing high-value medical care, for instance, but not so good at producing quality public health care. This has to do with the profit motive. Since there is great social inequality, most of the public does not have cash in their pockets for quality health care, so health care simply is not affordable or possible for the vast majority. It is this attitude towards health and education that shows us the inhumane side of capitalism. During the pandemic, 64 countries spent more to service their external debt than on health care. Such are the ways of the capitalist system: to ensure that wealthy bond holders in the developed world make their money while the poor struggle to survive.

GT: China’s response to the pandemic has clearly demonstrated the strengths of its people-oriented philosophy and its political system. What is your take on the increasing influence of China’s political system after the pandemic? How can the outside world better understand the unique advantages of China’s political system under the leadership of Communist Party of China (CPC)? How can China better counter the West’s slander of the CPC?

VP: China’s approach to the pandemic has been along the grain of the World Health Organisation’s recommendation: use science, compassion, and collaboration to tackle the pandemic. The Chinese people volunteered to help each other, doctors who are Communist Party members volunteered to go to the frontlines, and the Chinese state opened its coffers to ensure that the disease was vanquished and that the people did not suffer from a prolonged economic downturn. There is much to be learned from this approach; our studies on CoronaShock delve into this.

This stands in stark contrast to the anti-science, inhumane, and narrowly nationalistic attitude of many of the Western countries and several others in the developing world; their approach led to chaos. It is because of the failure in places such as the US that Trump, for instance, began to blame China in a racist way for the emergence of the virus. We know scientifically that viruses appear for a variety of reasons, and none of them have to do with race. Chinese intellectuals and others need to offer clear accounts of Chinese developments, including the abolition of extreme poverty and the rather quick defeat of COVID-19. Such accounts will help people in other parts of the world understand the relationship between public action and state action in China. This is widely misunderstood, largely because of the information war pursued by the US and its allies. On 23 July, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research published a key text called Serve the People: The Eradication of Extreme Poverty in China based on field studies of the abolition of extreme poverty.

Justina Chong (People’s Republic of China), El cosechero (‘The Harvester’), 2021.

Justina Chong (People’s Republic of China), El cosechero (‘The Harvester’), 2021.

GT: The West’s narrative of the CPC in recent years has always avoided mentioning the CPC’s positive effects on China’s social progress and global economic development. Why can’t the West objectively evaluate the CPC?

VP: The West cannot be objective because the West fears the rise of Chinese science and technology. For the past 50 years, Western firms have monopolised the areas of high-tech, using intellectual property laws to lengthen their copyright advantages. Developments in China are an existential threat to the dominance of these Western firms in areas such as telecommunications, robotics, high-speed rail, and new energy technology. It is the fear of losing supremacy in these key tech sectors that drives the ‘new cold war’ against China and prevents a sober assessment of Chinese developments.

Rather than develop a sensible attitude, the West has gone in four directions. First, it has prosecuted a trade and economic war against China to maintain US economic and technological supremacy. Second, it has pressured developing countries and US allies to break with Chinese firms and isolate China. Third, it has attempted to smear China’s reputation by misleadingly using the framework of ‘human rights’ and by supporting anti-government and separatist forces within China. Lastly, it has pursued military provocation, particularly through the Quad alliance (Australia, India, Japan, and the US). These mechanisms blind the Western public to the realities of China.

GT: During China’s reform and opening up period, the country has been open to learning from Western societies. This has greatly boosted China’s development. Do you think there can be such an ideological emancipation in the West to take China’s political system seriously? 

VP: One hopes that clarity will come to the Western public, who are – as yet – guided by a political class that is doing the work for sectors of the economy that are threatened by Chinese scientific and technological developments. In the short run, no such positive evaluation is possible. It is more likely for such an evaluation to come in the countries of Africa, Latin America, and southern Asia, where people will understand the immense power of the abolition of extreme poverty and the immense power of the creation of an indigenous high-tech industry. Under Lula, Brazil abolished hunger through the Fome Zero programme, while the Left Democratic Front-led Indian state Kerala has recently embarked on a poverty eradication programme. These areas of the world can better appreciate the strides taken by the Chinese people than those who live in the West.

Yoemnis Batista Del Toro (Cuba), Untitled, 2021.

Yoemnis Batista Del Toro (Cuba), Untitled, 2021.

GT: Since Biden took office, his administration has spared no effort to rope in like-minded democracies to contain China, attempting to replicate the rivalry between the two blocs led by the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Do you think the democratic card is an effective way for the US to rally an anti-China camp?

VP: The idea of a community of democracies has a farcical edge to it because this new group is being put together to use all manners of force (diplomatic, economic, military, etc.) to pressure China and Russia to reverse their advances. A truly democratic group should abide by the UN Charter, which is exactly what the kind of sanctions policies enacted by the Western countries defies. That is why 18 countries have created the Group of Friends in Defence of the UN Charter. This is an important development, since it suggests that the point is to stand by the Charter and not to speak in the name of an abstract democracy that often means that a country must be subordinate to Western interests. The world does not wish to be divided into camps.

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) will be 60 years old this September. The appetite in the developing world remains for the NAM project. Countries do not want to pick sides in a ‘new cold war’ that no-one, apart from the US, wants. The divide is not between China and the US, a division that the US is trying to impose on the world: the divide is between humanity and imperialism.

GT: Your book Washington Bullets lists the assassinations and infiltrations of the US CIA in various places. US imperialism has been resisted on a global scale. How do you see the fate of US imperialism?

VP: The US remains a very powerful country, with the largest military force that is capable of action anywhere on the planet and with forms of soft power (such as cultural and diplomatic power) that are enviable. Despite the terrible record of US interference in the developing world – which I document in Washington Bullets (2020) – the US retains a powerful hold on the world’s imagination. There remains a view – however wrong it is – that the US operates its power in a benevolent manner and that it acts in the universal, and not nationalist, interest. The cultural power of the US is considerable, which is why the US is so easily able to wield the weapons of information against any adversary.

Roughly 30 years ago, Cuba’s Fidel Castro urged countries around the world not to neglect the battle of ideas. US imperialism is not eternal. It is being confronted now by the growth of multipolarity and regionalism. These are the key developments that cannot be stopped by the US military or by cultural power. Multipolarity and regionalism are the real movement of history. They will eventually prevail.

Gabriel de Medeiros Silveira (Brazil), Break the Wall, 2021.

Gabriel de Medeiros Silveira (Brazil), Break the Wall, 2021.

The art in this newsletter comes from the Let Cuba Live exhibition by Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, launched on the anniversary of the 26 July Movement’s founding in Cuba as peace-loving people across the world rally around the demand for an end to the US blockade.

The post The Great Contest of Our Time Is between Humanity and Imperialism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Washington Beats the Drum of Regime Change, but Cuba Responds to Its Own Revolutionary Rhythm

Préfète Duffaut (Haiti), Le Générale Canson, 1950.

In 1963, the Trinidadian writer CLR James released a second edition of his classic 1938 study of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. For the new edition, James wrote an appendix with the suggestive title ‘From Toussaint L’Ouverture to Fidel Castro’. In the opening page of the appendix, he located the twin Revolutions of Haiti (1804) and Cuba (1959) in the context of the West Indian islands: ‘The people who made them, the problems and the attempts to solve them, are peculiarly West Indian, the product of a peculiar origin and a peculiar history’. Thrice James uses the word ‘peculiar’, which emerges from the Latin peculiaris for ‘private property’ (pecu is the Latin word for ‘cattle’, the essence of ancient property).

Property is at the heart of the origin and history of the modern West Indies. By the end of the 17th century, the European conquistadors and colonialists had massacred the inhabitants of the West Indies. On St. Kitts in 1626, English and French colonialists massacred between two and four thousand Caribs – including Chief Tegremond – in the Kalinago genocide, which Jean-Baptiste Du Tertre wrote about in 1654. Having annihilated the island’s native people, the Europeans brought in African men and women who had been captured and enslaved. What unites the West Indian islands is not language and culture, but the wretchedness of slavery, rooted in an oppressive plantation economy. Both Haiti and Cuba are products of this ‘peculiarity’, the one being bold enough to break the shackles in 1804 and the other able to follow a century and a half later.

Osmond Watson (Jamaica), City Life, 1968.

Today, crisis is the hour in the Caribbean.

On 7 July, just outside of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, gunmen broke into the home of President Jovenel Moïse, assassinated him in cold blood, and then fled. The country – already wracked by social upheaval sparked by the late president’s policies – has now plunged even deeper into crisis. Already, Moïse had forcefully extended his presidential mandate beyond his term as the country struggled with the burdens of being dependent on international agencies, trapped by a century-long economic crisis, and struck hard by the pandemic. Protests had become commonplace across Haiti as the prices of everything skyrocketed and as no effective government came to the aid of a population in despair. But Moïse was not killed because of this proximate crisis. More mysterious forces are at work: US-based Haitian religious leaders, narco-traffickers, and Colombian mercenaries. This is a saga that is best written as a fictional thriller.

Four days after Moïse’s assassination, Cuba experienced a set of protests from people expressing their frustration with shortages of goods and a recent spike of COVID-19 infections. Within hours of receiving the news that the protests had emerged, Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel went to the streets of San Antonio de los Baños, south of Havana, to march with the protestors. Díaz-Canel and his government reminded the eleven million Cubans that the country has suffered greatly from the six-decade-long illegal US blockade, that it is in the grip of Trump’s 243 additional ‘coercive measures’, and that it will fight off the twin problems of COVID-19 and a debt crisis with its characteristic resolve.

Nonetheless, a malicious social media campaign attempted to use these protests as a sign that the government of Díaz-Canel and the Cuban Revolution should be overthrown. It was clarified a few days later that this campaign was run from Miami, Florida, in the United States. From Washington, DC, the drums of regime change sounded loudly. But they have not found find much of an echo in Cuba. Cuba has its own revolutionary rhythms.

Eduardo Abela (Cuba), Los Guajiros (1938).

In 1804, the Haitian Revolution – a rebellion of the plantation proletariat who struck against the agricultural factories that produced sugar and profit – sent up a flare of freedom across the colonised world. A century and a half later, the Cubans fired their own flare.

The response to each of these revolutions from the fossilised magnates of Paris and Washington was the same: suffocate the stirrings of freedom by indemnities and blockades. In 1825, the French demanded through force that the Haitians pay 150 million francs for the loss of property (namely human beings). Alone in the Caribbean, the Haitians felt that they had no choice but to pay up, which they did to France (until 1893) and then to the United States (until 1947). The total bill over the 122 years amounts to $21 billion. When Haiti’s President Jean-Bertrand Aristide tried to recover those billions from France in 2003, he was removed from office by a coup d’état.

After the United States occupied Cuba in 1898, it ran the island like a gangster’s playground. Any attempt by the Cubans to exercise their sovereignty was squashed with terrible force, including invasions by US forces in 1906-1909, 1912, 1917-1922, and 1933. The United States backed General Fulgencio Batista (1940-1944 and 1952-1959) despite all the evidence of his brutality. After all, Batista protected US interests, and US firms owned two-thirds of the country’s sugar industry and almost its entire service sector.

The Cuban Revolution of 1959 stands against this wretched history – a history of slavery and imperial domination. How did the US react? By imposing an economic blockade on the country from 19 October 1960 that lasts to this day, which has targeted everything from access to medical supplies, food, and financing to barring Cuban imports and coercing third-party countries to do the same. It is a vindictive attack against a people who – like the Haitians – are trying to exercise their sovereignty. Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez reported that between April 2019 and December 2020, the government lost $9.1 billion due to the blockade ($436 million per month). ‘At current prices’, he said, ‘the accumulated damages in six decades amount to over $147.8 billion, and against the price of gold, it amounts to over $1.3 trillion’.

None of this information would be available without the presence of media outlets such as Peoples Dispatch, which celebrates its three-year anniversary this week. We send our warmest greetings to the team and hope that you will bookmark their page to visit it several times a day for world news rooted in people’s struggles.

Bernadette Persaud (Guyana), Gentlemen Under the Sky (Gulf War), 1991.

On 17 July, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets to defend their Revolution and demand an end to the US blockade. President Díaz-Canel said that the Cuba of ‘love, peace, unity, [and] solidarity’ had asserted itself. In solidarity with this unwavering affirmation, we have launched a call for participation in the exhibition Let Cuba Live. The submission deadline is 24 July for the online exhibition launch on 26 July – the anniversary of the revolutionary movement that brought Cuba to Revolution in 1959 – but we encourage ongoing submissions. We are inviting international artists and militants to participate in this flash exhibition as we continue to amplify the campaign #LetCubaLive to end the blockade.

A few weeks before the most recent attack on Cuba and the assassination in Haiti, the United States armed forces conducted a major military exercise in Guyana called Tradewinds 2021 and another exercise in Panama called Panamax 2021. Under the authority of the United States, a set of European militaries (France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) – each with colonies in the region – joined Brazil and Canada to conduct Tradewinds with seven Caribbean countries (The Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago). In a show of force, the US demanded that Iran cancel the movement of its ships to Venezuela in June ahead of the US-sponsored military exercise.

The United States is eager to turn the Caribbean into its sea, subordinating the sovereignty of the islands. It was curious that Guyana’s Prime Minister Mark Phillips said that these US-led war games strengthen the ‘Caribbean regional security system’. What they do, as our recent dossier on US and French military bases in Africa shows, is to subordinate the Caribbean states to US interests. The US is using its increased military presence in Colombia and Guyana to increase pressure on Venezuela.

Elsa Gramcko (Venezuela), El ojo de la cerradura (‘The Keyhole’), 1964.

Sovereign regionalism is not alien to the Caribbean, which has made four attempts to build a platform: the West Indian Federation (1958-1962), Caribbean Free Trade Association (1965-1973), Caribbean Community (1973-1989), and CARICOM (1989 to the present). What began as an anti-imperialist union has now devolved into a trade association that attempts to better integrate the region into world trade. The politics of the Caribbean are increasingly being drawn into orbit of the US. In 2010, the US created the Caribbean Basic Security Initiative, whose agenda is shaped by Washington.

In 2011, our old friend Shridath Ramphal, Guyana’s foreign minister from 1972 to 1975, repeated the words of the great Grenadian radical T. A. Marryshow: ‘The West Indies must be West Indian’. In his article ‘Is the West Indies West Indian?’, he insisted that the conscious spelling of ‘The West Indies’ with a capitalised ‘T’ aims to signify the unity of the region. Without unity, the old imperialist pressures will prevail as they often do.

In 1975, the Cuban poet Nancy Morejón published a landmark poem called “Mujer Negra” (“Black Woman”). The poem opens with the terrible trade of human beings by the European colonialists, touches on the war of independence, and then settles on the remarkable Cuban Revolution of 1959:

I came down from the Sierra

to put an end to capital and usurer,
to generals and to the bourgeoisie.
Now I exist: only today do we own, do we create.
Nothing is alien to us.
The land is ours.
Ours are the sea and sky,
the magic and vision.
My fellow people, here I see you dance
around the tree we are planting for communism.
Its prodigal wood already resounds.

The land is ours. Sovereignty is ours too. Our destiny is not to live as the subordinate beings of others. That is the message of Morejón and of the Cuban people who are building their sovereign lives, and it is the message of the Haitian people who want to advance their great Revolution of 1804.

The post Washington Beats the Drum of Regime Change, but Cuba Responds to Its Own Revolutionary Rhythm first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Washington Beats the Drum of Regime Change, but Cuba Responds to Its Own Revolutionary Rhythm

Préfète Duffaut (Haiti), Le Générale Canson, 1950.

In 1963, the Trinidadian writer CLR James released a second edition of his classic 1938 study of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. For the new edition, James wrote an appendix with the suggestive title ‘From Toussaint L’Ouverture to Fidel Castro’. In the opening page of the appendix, he located the twin Revolutions of Haiti (1804) and Cuba (1959) in the context of the West Indian islands: ‘The people who made them, the problems and the attempts to solve them, are peculiarly West Indian, the product of a peculiar origin and a peculiar history’. Thrice James uses the word ‘peculiar’, which emerges from the Latin peculiaris for ‘private property’ (pecu is the Latin word for ‘cattle’, the essence of ancient property).

Property is at the heart of the origin and history of the modern West Indies. By the end of the 17th century, the European conquistadors and colonialists had massacred the inhabitants of the West Indies. On St. Kitts in 1626, English and French colonialists massacred between two and four thousand Caribs – including Chief Tegremond – in the Kalinago genocide, which Jean-Baptiste Du Tertre wrote about in 1654. Having annihilated the island’s native people, the Europeans brought in African men and women who had been captured and enslaved. What unites the West Indian islands is not language and culture, but the wretchedness of slavery, rooted in an oppressive plantation economy. Both Haiti and Cuba are products of this ‘peculiarity’, the one being bold enough to break the shackles in 1804 and the other able to follow a century and a half later.

Osmond Watson (Jamaica), City Life, 1968.

Today, crisis is the hour in the Caribbean.

On 7 July, just outside of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, gunmen broke into the home of President Jovenel Moïse, assassinated him in cold blood, and then fled. The country – already wracked by social upheaval sparked by the late president’s policies – has now plunged even deeper into crisis. Already, Moïse had forcefully extended his presidential mandate beyond his term as the country struggled with the burdens of being dependent on international agencies, trapped by a century-long economic crisis, and struck hard by the pandemic. Protests had become commonplace across Haiti as the prices of everything skyrocketed and as no effective government came to the aid of a population in despair. But Moïse was not killed because of this proximate crisis. More mysterious forces are at work: US-based Haitian religious leaders, narco-traffickers, and Colombian mercenaries. This is a saga that is best written as a fictional thriller.

Four days after Moïse’s assassination, Cuba experienced a set of protests from people expressing their frustration with shortages of goods and a recent spike of COVID-19 infections. Within hours of receiving the news that the protests had emerged, Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel went to the streets of San Antonio de los Baños, south of Havana, to march with the protestors. Díaz-Canel and his government reminded the eleven million Cubans that the country has suffered greatly from the six-decade-long illegal US blockade, that it is in the grip of Trump’s 243 additional ‘coercive measures’, and that it will fight off the twin problems of COVID-19 and a debt crisis with its characteristic resolve.

Nonetheless, a malicious social media campaign attempted to use these protests as a sign that the government of Díaz-Canel and the Cuban Revolution should be overthrown. It was clarified a few days later that this campaign was run from Miami, Florida, in the United States. From Washington, DC, the drums of regime change sounded loudly. But they have not found find much of an echo in Cuba. Cuba has its own revolutionary rhythms.

Eduardo Abela (Cuba), Los Guajiros (1938).

In 1804, the Haitian Revolution – a rebellion of the plantation proletariat who struck against the agricultural factories that produced sugar and profit – sent up a flare of freedom across the colonised world. A century and a half later, the Cubans fired their own flare.

The response to each of these revolutions from the fossilised magnates of Paris and Washington was the same: suffocate the stirrings of freedom by indemnities and blockades. In 1825, the French demanded through force that the Haitians pay 150 million francs for the loss of property (namely human beings). Alone in the Caribbean, the Haitians felt that they had no choice but to pay up, which they did to France (until 1893) and then to the United States (until 1947). The total bill over the 122 years amounts to $21 billion. When Haiti’s President Jean-Bertrand Aristide tried to recover those billions from France in 2003, he was removed from office by a coup d’état.

After the United States occupied Cuba in 1898, it ran the island like a gangster’s playground. Any attempt by the Cubans to exercise their sovereignty was squashed with terrible force, including invasions by US forces in 1906-1909, 1912, 1917-1922, and 1933. The United States backed General Fulgencio Batista (1940-1944 and 1952-1959) despite all the evidence of his brutality. After all, Batista protected US interests, and US firms owned two-thirds of the country’s sugar industry and almost its entire service sector.

The Cuban Revolution of 1959 stands against this wretched history – a history of slavery and imperial domination. How did the US react? By imposing an economic blockade on the country from 19 October 1960 that lasts to this day, which has targeted everything from access to medical supplies, food, and financing to barring Cuban imports and coercing third-party countries to do the same. It is a vindictive attack against a people who – like the Haitians – are trying to exercise their sovereignty. Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez reported that between April 2019 and December 2020, the government lost $9.1 billion due to the blockade ($436 million per month). ‘At current prices’, he said, ‘the accumulated damages in six decades amount to over $147.8 billion, and against the price of gold, it amounts to over $1.3 trillion’.

None of this information would be available without the presence of media outlets such as Peoples Dispatch, which celebrates its three-year anniversary this week. We send our warmest greetings to the team and hope that you will bookmark their page to visit it several times a day for world news rooted in people’s struggles.

Bernadette Persaud (Guyana), Gentlemen Under the Sky (Gulf War), 1991.

On 17 July, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets to defend their Revolution and demand an end to the US blockade. President Díaz-Canel said that the Cuba of ‘love, peace, unity, [and] solidarity’ had asserted itself. In solidarity with this unwavering affirmation, we have launched a call for participation in the exhibition Let Cuba Live. The submission deadline is 24 July for the online exhibition launch on 26 July – the anniversary of the revolutionary movement that brought Cuba to Revolution in 1959 – but we encourage ongoing submissions. We are inviting international artists and militants to participate in this flash exhibition as we continue to amplify the campaign #LetCubaLive to end the blockade.

A few weeks before the most recent attack on Cuba and the assassination in Haiti, the United States armed forces conducted a major military exercise in Guyana called Tradewinds 2021 and another exercise in Panama called Panamax 2021. Under the authority of the United States, a set of European militaries (France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) – each with colonies in the region – joined Brazil and Canada to conduct Tradewinds with seven Caribbean countries (The Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago). In a show of force, the US demanded that Iran cancel the movement of its ships to Venezuela in June ahead of the US-sponsored military exercise.

The United States is eager to turn the Caribbean into its sea, subordinating the sovereignty of the islands. It was curious that Guyana’s Prime Minister Mark Phillips said that these US-led war games strengthen the ‘Caribbean regional security system’. What they do, as our recent dossier on US and French military bases in Africa shows, is to subordinate the Caribbean states to US interests. The US is using its increased military presence in Colombia and Guyana to increase pressure on Venezuela.

Elsa Gramcko (Venezuela), El ojo de la cerradura (‘The Keyhole’), 1964.

Sovereign regionalism is not alien to the Caribbean, which has made four attempts to build a platform: the West Indian Federation (1958-1962), Caribbean Free Trade Association (1965-1973), Caribbean Community (1973-1989), and CARICOM (1989 to the present). What began as an anti-imperialist union has now devolved into a trade association that attempts to better integrate the region into world trade. The politics of the Caribbean are increasingly being drawn into orbit of the US. In 2010, the US created the Caribbean Basic Security Initiative, whose agenda is shaped by Washington.

In 2011, our old friend Shridath Ramphal, Guyana’s foreign minister from 1972 to 1975, repeated the words of the great Grenadian radical T. A. Marryshow: ‘The West Indies must be West Indian’. In his article ‘Is the West Indies West Indian?’, he insisted that the conscious spelling of ‘The West Indies’ with a capitalised ‘T’ aims to signify the unity of the region. Without unity, the old imperialist pressures will prevail as they often do.

In 1975, the Cuban poet Nancy Morejón published a landmark poem called “Mujer Negra” (“Black Woman”). The poem opens with the terrible trade of human beings by the European colonialists, touches on the war of independence, and then settles on the remarkable Cuban Revolution of 1959:

I came down from the Sierra

to put an end to capital and usurer,
to generals and to the bourgeoisie.
Now I exist: only today do we own, do we create.
Nothing is alien to us.
The land is ours.
Ours are the sea and sky,
the magic and vision.
My fellow people, here I see you dance
around the tree we are planting for communism.
Its prodigal wood already resounds.

The land is ours. Sovereignty is ours too. Our destiny is not to live as the subordinate beings of others. That is the message of Morejón and of the Cuban people who are building their sovereign lives, and it is the message of the Haitian people who want to advance their great Revolution of 1804.

The post Washington Beats the Drum of Regime Change, but Cuba Responds to Its Own Revolutionary Rhythm first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Defend the Cuba Revolution and Struggle for More Socialism, Not Less!

Hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, an economic crisis, broken supply chains, killer cops, mass incarceration, government surveillance, nuclear weapons, irrational anti-social mass shootings, normalized racism, homelessness, crumbling schools, depression, fear, suicides, and obscene disparities in incomes and wealth—all the features of a moribund, brutal, anti-human global colonial-capitalist system in the United States—and we are supposed to be defensive about socialism! Give me a break.

Yet, the propagandists of death never sleep. Even as their system is being exposed as the generator of global warming (climate change), nuclear madness, cultural degeneration, and strange, violent societies and people, the ideological dirty workers are busy diverting attention away from the failures of their system to the internal contradictions found within the few examples of societies struggling to remake themselves in ways that center the needs and aspirations of the people.

If the social and economic conditions in Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela are supposed to be the result of the inherent flaws of socialism, why the sanctions, subversions, and outright attacks on those projects? If socialism is such an inherently unproductive and unnatural system, just let them implode based on their own supposed internal contradictions.

But this is where the joke comes in. The propagandists will say these societies would indeed implode if it was not for some dictator or repressive system that keeps the population in check. This is where the trope of the brutal dictator and the suffering fearful people is deployed ready for liberal—and even radical—white saviorism. The social gains under an emerging socialist project like the reduction of poverty, literacy, and inequality, as well as the provision of free healthcare, education, and free or affordable housing are not mentioned or are dismissed as irrelevant because these policies supposedly come at the cost of freedom!

But people in the United States who are still able to think for themselves and have experienced the structural violence of capitalism have gained a new clarity. Sharpened by the revelations of the COVID-19 pandemic—which ripped away the carefully cultivated veneer of social mobility and civilization that hid the ugly inner workings of capitalism—they have discovered their individual experiences of exploitation and fear are shared by millions of people confined by capitalism to a life of toil, stunted humanity, and early death. That is why so many today have turned away from the illusions and corruption of capitalism toward the possibility of organizing a society informed by the values of cooperation, equality, community, peace, and life.

And that is the fear of the denizens of death. Joe Biden can caution Cuba not to “crack down” on protesters with a straight face. The same Joe Biden whose failure to defend democracy in Haiti created the crisis in that country. The same Joe Biden who claimed it was permissible for the Israelis to lob artillery shells into residential neighborhoods in Gaza because the Israeli colonialists had a right to defend themselves against the colonized Palestinians they were oppressing. And the same Joe Biden who has been silent on the over 70 deaths during the recent national strike at the hands of Colombian security forces, who have been armed and trained by the United States.

The Cuban revolution has survived 62 years of consistent subversion and outright attacks from the United States and its white-supremacist colonial allies. The revolution has nothing to be ashamed of. It has been a beacon of hope and a model for millions around the world. That Cuba needs to defend itself against capitalism and against the billions of people around the world living in abject poverty is absurd.

It is capitalism that degrades and destroys Mother Earth. It is capitalism that transforms water into a commodity, food into a luxury, education into an impossibility and basic healthcare into a distant dream. The colonial-capitalist system is responsible for millions dying in genocidal wars. It created race and perpetuates white supremacy. It is U.S. and European state policies in the form of sanctions that deny peoples and nations medicines in the midst of a pandemic. It is the rapacious greed of capitalists and the warmongering states they control that have imposed inhumane conditions on poor states, which has made it impossible to pay back the odious loans they often had been forced to assume. This situation creates devastating consequences for their people. Resources cannot be devoted to providing healthcare, education, housing, a clean environment, food, and a means to a living because the people’s resources must be used to pay bankers in the West.

This is not theoretical, but a fact. This is the reality of a capitalist world.

But across this capitalist world, the people are fighting back. They are taking their histories into their own hands. That is the threat of nations like Venezuela and Cuba. That is why Western capitalist nations slander China and attempt to mobilize their populations for the possibility of war. China has exposed what can be accomplished with central planning and a rational allocation of the people’s resources to address human needs.

To confuse the populations and mobilize them against their own interests, the capitalists deploy not only their traditional liberal and conservative ideologues. They let loose the social-imperialist intelligentsia—who are fundamentally anti-communist and Bernsteinian social democratic, at best—to provide a left cover to imperialist intrigue. This intrigue is framed as being in opposition to “authoritarianism,” a term and idea that bourgeois propagandists discovered through focus groups can be used to undermine left projects by mobilizing the sensibilities of the soft, materially corrupted and NGOed latte-left in the United States and Western Europe.

However, among millions of people in the global South and among the colonized and exploited working classes in global North countries, Cuba and its project will be defended and the call and struggle for socialism will continue. We see the choice. It has always been between the barbarism of the colonial-capitalist North and human freedom and transformation emerging from the South.

For nationally oppressed and exploited African peoples in the United States, we stand with the people of the South, where revolution is emerging. We will defend Cuba, support Venezuela, demand that North Korea’s sovereignty be respected, struggle against global militarization, and oppose U.S. and Western imperialism without equivocation, apology, or hesitation. We are clear on the enemy because we have seen it up close and personal since 1492.

The post Defend the Cuba Revolution and Struggle for More Socialism, Not Less! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Cuba’s Vaccine Shield and the Five Monopolies that Structure the World

Raúl Martínez (Cuba), Yo he visto (‘I Have Seen’), n.d.

Raúl Martínez (Cuba), Yo he visto (‘I Have Seen’), n.d.

In 1869, at the age of fifteen, José Martí and his young friends published a magazine in Cuba called La Patria Libre (‘The Free Homeland’), which adopted a strong position against Spanish imperialism. The first and only issue of the magazine carried Martí’s poem, ‘Abdala’. The poem is about a young man, Abdala, who goes off to fight against all odds to free his native land, which Martí calls Nubia. ‘Neither laurels nor crowns are needed for those who breathe courage’, Martí wrote. ‘Let us run to the fight … to war, valiant ones’. And in the rousing address by Abdala, comes these lyrical words:

Let the warlike valour of our souls
Serve you, my homeland, as a shield.

Martí was arrested and sentenced to six years of hard labour. Eventually, the Spanish imperial government sent the young Cuban into exile in 1871. He spent this time – much of it in New York – writing patriotic poems, producing political essays and commentary, and organising the resistance to Spanish imperialism. He returned home in 1895, only to be killed shortly afterwards in a skirmish, his legacy cemented in the war against the Spanish in 1898 and in the Cuban Revolution that began in 1959.

The lines from Martí about the ‘warlike valour’ serving as the country’s ‘shield’ form the basis for the name of the new Cuban vaccine, Abdala. This vaccine, the fifth to be produced in Cuba, was developed by the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) in Havana. In announcing the results of their trials, BioCubaFarma, the country’s leading biotechnology and pharmaceutical institution, noted that it had an efficacy rate of 92.28%, almost as high as the efficacy rate of the vaccines by Pfizer (95%) and Moderna (94.1%). The vaccine is administered in three doses, each given with a two-week gap. The Cuban authorities plan to vaccinate three quarters of the population by September. Already, more than 2.23 million vaccines have been administered to the 11 million Cubans on the island, 1.346 million people have been vaccinated with at least one dose, 770,390 with the second dose, and 148,738 with the third dose.

Juan Roberto Diago Durruthy (Cuba), Tu lugar (‘Your Place’), 2006.

Juan Roberto Diago Durruthy (Cuba), Tu lugar (‘Your Place’), 2006.

Cuba has already planned to export its vaccines to countries around the world and has now produced five different vaccine candidates, including Soberana 02 and the needle-free intranasal vaccine, Mambisa. The latter, which holds great promise for vaccine administration in low-resource countries, is named after guerrilla soldiers who fought in the Ten Year War (1868-1878) for independence from Spain.

Each of these vaccines has been developed under conditions of duress imposed by the illegal US blockade. Since 1992, the UN General Assembly has voted annually against the US blockade, except for 2020, when, due to the pandemic, there was no vote. On 23 June 2021, 184 member states of the United Nations again voted to end this blockade. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, said, ‘Like the virus, the blockade asphyxiates and kills. It must stop’. One of the casualties of the blockade has been Cuba’s inability to buy ventilators to treat critically ill patients, since the two Swiss companies (IMT Medical AG and Acutronic) who made them were purchased by a US company (Vyaire Medical, Inc.) in April 2020. Cuba has now developed its own ventilator in response.

At the same time, Cuba suffers from a shortage of syringes. Syringe manufacturers are entangled in one way or another with the US pharmaceutical industry. Terumo (Japan) and Nipro (Japan) have operations in the United States, while B. Braun Melsungen AG (Germany) is in a partnership with Concordance Healthcare Solutions (US). An Indian syringe firm, Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices Ltd., is linked to Envigo (US), which brings US government scrutiny to the Indian firm. In an act of concrete solidarity, a campaign is underway to raise funds towards the purchase of syringes for Cuba.

Belkis Ayón (Cuba), La consagración III (‘The Consecration III’), 1991.

Belkis Ayón (Cuba), La consagración III (‘The Consecration III’), 1991.

The Our World in Data project calculates that, as of 29 June, just over 3 billion doses have been administered worldwide, which amount to less than 1 billion people out of the 7.7 billion in the world who have been vaccinated. Just over 23% of the world population has had their first vaccine shot. But the data shows that vaccination drives have been predictably uneven. In low-income countries, only 0.9% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. In April 2021, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Gheybreysus said, ‘There remains a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines. On average in high-income countries, almost one in four people has received a vaccine. In low-income countries, it’s one in more than 500. Let me repeat that: one in four versus one in 500’. By May 2021, Ghebreyesus said that the world was in a situation of ‘vaccine apartheid’.

In February 2021, in one of our newsletters, Tricontinental: Institute of Social Research noted that we lived in a time of ‘three apartheids’. These apartheids include that of food, money, and medicine. At the heart of the medical apartheid is vaccine nationalism, vaccine hoarding, and, as Ghebreyesus put it, vaccine apartheid. Matters are quite grave. The COVAX vaccine alliance has seen vaccines move out of its reach both because of bilateral deals being made between the richer countries and the vaccine makers and because of the lack of financial support from the richer states to the poorer ones. The trends show that many countries will not see significant enough numbers of their population vaccinated before 2023, ‘if it happens at all’, says the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Raúl Corrales Fornos (Cuba), La caballería (‘The Cavalry’), 1960.

Raúl Corrales Fornos (Cuba), La caballería (‘The Cavalry’), 1960.

What is the cause of these three apartheids? The control that a handful of companies exercise over the global economy, driven by five types of monopolies, as our friend, the late Samir Amin, laid out:

  1. The monopoly over science and technology
  2. The monopoly over financial systems
  3. The monopoly over access to resources
  4. The monopoly over weaponry
  5. The monopoly over communications

We are looking closely at this list and the relationship between each of these elements, analysing it to see if anything has been left out. Amin argued that it is not the lack of industrialisation alone that impacts the subordination of countries; what has kept the world in a situation of great inequality, he suggested, were these five monopolies. After all, many countries in the world have developed industries over the past fifty years but remain unable to advance the social agenda of their populations.

Central to the discussion about vaccine apartheid are at least two of these monopolies: the monopoly over finance and the monopoly over science and technology. A lack of finances in hand draws many of the world’s states to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to various public investors (the Paris Club), or to commercial capital (the London Club). These financiers take their lead from the IMF, which has demanded that countries cut back on several crucial areas of human life – education and health care, for instance. Cutting funds for education drains countries’ potential to develop sufficient numbers of scientists as well as the scientific temper necessary to create essential technologies such as vaccine candidates. Cutting funds for health care systems and adopting intellectual property rules that block the transfer of technology leaves countries disarmed from being able to appropriately deal with the pandemic.

A lack of funds has driven many states to surrender the possibility that they could advance the well-being of their populations (as of April 2020, sixty-four countries spend more to service their debt than on healthcare). It is not enough to demand the transfer of technology to states in the midst of a pandemic so that they can make the vaccine. Technology is yesterday’s science; science is tomorrow’s technology.

To use the social wealth of a population, to teach science, and to establish a basic norm of scientific literacy are essential lessons of the pandemic. These are lessons well-learnt by the Cubans. This is why Cuba has, against all odds, developed five different vaccines. Abdala and Cuba’s four other vaccines stand as a shield against COVID-19. These vaccines emerge out of the social productivity of socialist Cuba, which has not surrendered to the ugliness of the five monopolies.

The post Cuba’s Vaccine Shield and the Five Monopolies that Structure the World first appeared on Dissident Voice.

In Defense of the Revolution: Cuba’s Historic Victory over Imperialism at Playa Girón

“For progressives and anti-imperialists all over the world, the mention of the Bay of Pigs—known in the Spanish-speaking world as Playa Girón—evokes joy and celebration,” wrote Carmelo Ruiz. “The United States, an empire accustomed to imposing itself even in the farthest corners of the world, could not prevail and enforce its will on an island country 90 miles away from its shores. The empire could be defeated after all.”1

In mid-April, 1961, the island nation of Cuba repelled a US military invasion at Playa Girón and captured over 1,200 invaders. Cuba’s victory, in self-defense, was a direct result of the people’s popular support for the Revolution, which was not anticipated by the invading army. In fact, the US planners hoped or imagined that the attack would trigger the people to rise up against the Cuban Revolution. Instead, the opposite happened.

The people’s militia

Following the 1959 Revolution, Cuba had armed and trained its people to form a civic-military alliance to defend their land. Cuba faced US attacks from day one of the Revolution — in addition to the all-out military assault at the Bay of Pigs, there were hundreds of documented terrorist attacks, bombings, and assassination attempts from 1959 onwards.2

On April 15, 1961, three Cuban airports were bombed by planes flying false Cuban decals that took off from CIA landing strips in Somoza’s Nicaragua, killing eight Cubans. Under the United Nations Geneva Convention, flying a false national flag constitutes the war crime of perfidy.3  The next day Fidel Castro told the people of Cuba to prepare for a full scale invasion, and declared the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution.

On April 17, 1961, about 1,500 troops armed, funded, and trained by the CIA, on a mission approved by first Eisenhower and then JFK, invaded the island of Cuba. The ground troops were supported by tanks, artillery, and army jeeps that disembarked from fourteen US army transport planes and five cargo ships, accompanied by a squadron of B-26 bombers.

The invading force was immediately spotted by Cuban fishermen, who alerted the local militia. The people’s militia of Cuba, the National Revolutionary Militia, sprung into action. 200,000 Cuban civilians, armed and trained by the Revolution, rose to defend their homeland, and Fidel came to the front lines to direct the operations of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Within three days the fighting was over, the invading army had been subdued, and over 1,200 invaders had been captured. The invading forces consisted of CIA agents and officers, CIA-trained mercenaries, soldiers, and generals from the defeated army of the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, and the sons of rich Cubans who had left the island when their plantations were expropriated by the Revolution.

The lies of imperialism

US State Department records reveal that they planned the attack “in such a manner to avoid any appearance of US intervention,” a tactic that should be recalled when we learn about contemporary military operations—often through the prism of the US media — whether in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Venezuela.4 US Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson actually denied US involvement in the attack when it was first reported. It was planned to appear as a case of bitter in-fighting between Cubans. Like the Romans, the US imperialists always try to create a justification for their murderous wars, so that they never appear to be the aggressor—whether it’s framed as a humanitarian intervention, a defense of democracy or, perhaps the most farcical, as a pre-emptive strike.

Instead of killing all the invaders, or keeping them for years in illegal prisons and torturing them, as the US does at Guantánamo Naval Base, Cuba traded the survivors back to the US for $50 million worth of food, tractors, and medical supplies.

“There can be no discipline without conscience,” Fidel Castro commented. “We sentenced them to pay compensation of $100,000 per prisoner, or alternatively a prison sentence. What we wanted was payment of compensation, not because of any need for money but rather as a recognition by the United States government of the Revolution’s victory—it was almost a kind of moral punishment.” The CIA tried to assassinate Castro during the negotiations.5

“Cuban workers and peasants decided more than 60 years ago they would no longer be servants for US imperialism or capitalism,” wrote Zach Farber for Liberation News. “They have been collectively punished for it ever since.”6

“The US attempt to invade Cuba at Playa Girón took place at a time when the US imperialists had already caused many tragedies through coups, military interventions and other interference in Latin America and the Caribbean,” wrote Canada’s Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. “Thus, the decisive victory of Cuba over the enemy forces at the Bay of Pigs, regarded as the first defeat of US imperialism in Latin America, had significance not only for Cuba but for all the peoples of the Americas.”7

The resistance

“Current and future generations of Cubans will continue on, no matter how great the difficulties may be,” said Fidel Castro during an interview with Ignacio Ramonet. “With ever greater energy, we will face up to our own shortcomings and errors. We will continue to fight. We will continue to resist. We will continue to defeat every imperialist aggression, every lie in their propaganda, every cunning political and diplomatic maneuver.

“We will continue to resist the consequences of the blockade, which will someday be defeated by the dignity of the Cuban people, the solidarity of other nations, and the almost universal opposition of the governments of the world, and also by the growing rejection on the part of the American people of that absurd policy which flagrantly violates their own constitutional rights.

“Just as the imperialists and their pawns suffered the consequences of a Playa Girón multiplied many times over in Angola, the nation that comes to this land to wage war will find itself facing thousands of Quifangondos, Cabindas, Morros de Medundas, Cangambas, Sumbes, Ruacanas, Tchipas, Calueques, and Cuito Cuanavales, and defeats such as those dealt to colonialism and apartheid in heroic nations such as Angola, Namibia and South Africa—defeats they’d never imagined would be linked to the history of this small Caribbean nation.”5

  1. Carmelo Ruiz, “Bay of Pigs, the CIA’s Biggest Fiasco, 55 Years Later,” Telesur English, 16 April 2015.
  2. Chomsky, Noam, “Cuba in the Cross-Hairs: A Near Half-Century of Terror,” Hegemony or Survival, Holt, 2003.
  3. United Nations “Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977.”
  4. US Department of State, Office of the Historian,  “A Program of Covert Action Against the Castro Regime,”  March 16, 1960.
  5. Fidel Castro and Ignacio Ramonet, My Life, Scribner, 2009.
  6. Zach Farber,  “60th anniversary of Cuban defeat of U.S. invasion at Playa Girón,” Liberation News, April 14, 2021.
  7. “60th Anniversary of U.S. Defeat at the Bay of Pigs, April 19, 1961: Cuba’s Historic Victory at Playa Girón,” Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), April 8, 2021.
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Unconventional US Warfare Won’t Stop Nicaragua’s Revolution

Republican strategist Karl Rove often advised his clients to attack not the enemy’s weaknesses but its strenghts. The bipartisan US foreign policy disinformation machine has taken Rove’s advice with tedious devotion. So, to attack Nicaragua, the machine’s fabrications and propaganda have targeted some of that country’s strengths: gender equity, Indigenous rights and autonomy, democracy, sovereignty, and a successful response to the pandemic, as well as the Sandinista government’s great popularity.

This should not surprise. It’s the same Rovian method used against Nicaragua’s friends and allies and countries the US designates enemies. For example, to attack Venezuela, the machine ignores the country’s electoral hyper-democracy and dubs the popular government “dictatorial.” To attack Cuba, the machine calls Cuba’s doctors and nurses working in the most medically underserved corners of the world and fighting the pandemic in dozens of other countries, “victims of human trafficking,” or else it calls them “spies.” To attack China, the machine smears China’s lightening-speed discovery and successful suppression of COVID-19. To attack Russia, the machine assails the overwhelmingly popular Crimean referendum as an invasion and undemocratic annexation, and it calls the East Ukraine resistance to the US-implanted coup government in Kiev as Russian aggression by proxy. To attack Syria, the machine disparages as aggressive the popular national defense against the West’s brutal proxy invasion and occupation, while delegitimizing the efforts of allies Russia and Iran to assist Syria.

And so on.

By now, this Rovian practice should be an imperial “tell,” which in poker (I’m told) is key to beating a bluffer. The peoples of the world now read these tells like neon signs. Not so North Americans, at least not yet. This new compendium of essays could not more thoroughly expose the imperial bluff against Nicaragua.

The Revolution Won’t Be Stopped: Nicaragua Advances Despite U.S. Unconventional Warfare (Alliance for Global Justice, July 2020) is a well-organized collection of essays, paragraph-length news briefs, and reference lists, covering recent Nicaraguan history, including the electoral return of the Sandinistas in 2007, through the 2018 counter-revolutionary, US-authored putsch, its aftermath, and the country’s recovery and response to COVID-19 in 2020. It is a compelling and useful collection, like the earlier collection published in 2019 by the Alliance for Global Justice, Live From Nicaragua: Uprising or Coup?. The dozen-plus authors include scholars, reporters and activists well-known in solidarity circles for their deep knowledge of Nicaraguan politics, history and society and their ability to present it with clarity and eloquence.

The story of Nicaragua’s remarkable social, political and economic progress under Sandinista government will be familiar to readers of the alternative press, despite the hostility and neglect of Nicaragua found in faux-alternative media (e.g., Democracy Now). Essays throughout the volume detail this progress, but it can be quickly gleaned from the Introduction by Magda Lanuza and the opening essay, “Economic and Social Progress Continues,” by Nan McCurdy and Katherine Hoyt. The country’s more dramatic achievements include the reduction of poverty and extreme poverty, each by half or more, free basic healthcare and education, virtually zero illiteracy, near doubling of electrification to reach virtually the entire population, and production of about 90% of its own food consumption (“food sovereignty”). Less well-known achievements include Nicaragua’s internationally recognized humane community policing system (ordinary Nicaraguans simply don’t fear their police), and the country’s ranking of fifth in the world in gender equity, just behind four Scandinavian countries (“Nicaraguan Women Take Their Rightful Place,” by Rita Jill Clark-Gollub). Despite recognition of these social and economic achievements, and many more, by international organizations including United Nations agencies, you wouldn’t know any of this if you follow only US corporate and government-sponsored media.

Perhaps the most fascinating essays are those that describe the unique politics that may be behind Nicaragua’s ability to survive and progress despite the US hybrid war of subversion, sanctions, disinformation, and the putsch of 2018. “Peace and Reconciliation in Nicaragua,” by Susan Lagos, explains the non-punitive treatment of members of Somoza’s National Guard after the 1979 revolution, the Contras after the war of the 1980s, and the putschists after 2018. This, along with the decision of the government to keep the national police off the streets during most of the very violent 2018 putsch, may strike one as excessively generous, forgiving and even pacifist to North American readers (including this one). But this piece shows how these practices may be effective in turning enemies into allies, such as when many former Contra sometimes became allies in opposition to the neoliberal policies of the rightist governments in power between 1990 and 2007. Further, these unusual military, policing and juridical policies, while certainly generous and forgiving, may also be good tactics, perhaps analogous to techniques used in martial arts to deflect the attack of a foe without using force, especially a much more powerful and determined foe like the US, the persistent author of assaults on Nicaragua from the 19th century to the present.

“Nicaragua’s Popular Economy: The Face of Five Centuries of People’s Resistance,” by Yorlis Luna, “Tourism in Nicaragua: Breaking with the Defunct Idea of Development,” by Daniel McCurdy, and the Afterword, “Nicaragua Puts People First in Pandemic Response,” by Nan McCurdy, all describe Nicaragua’s unique and successful economic and public health strategies. The Yorlis Luna and Daniel McCurdy pieces explain the theory and practice of Nicaragua’s “popular economy,” emphasizing the informal and smaller business sector, providing much of Nicaragua’s food, clothing and housing. It is a “self-managed, associative and solidarity-based economy,” based in pre-capitalist and pre-Hispanic economics, and which now provides “70% of employment, 42.3% of value added and 59.3% of income, excluding remittances.” It also generates most of the nation’s wealth. (See also, Live from Nicaragua: Uprising or Coup? A Reader, 2019, “The Popular Economy: Nicaragua’s Anti-Shock Therapy,” by Nils McCune and “A Creative, Enterprising and Victorious Economy to Defeat the Coup,” by Jorge Capelán.)

Nan McCurdy’s Afterward describes Nicaragua’s successful pandemic response. Lockdown would have been a luxury that Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the hemisphere, simply could not afford. But what it could do was mobilize health workers and brigadistas to make health check visits to most homes in the nation and give advice, set up COVID-19 hotlines, control entry points at borders and airports, urge 14-day self-quarantine to visitors, and rely on its public health system, which is the best in the region, even better than that of Mexico, a much richer country. As a result, Nicaragua has had fewer than 200 deaths from the disease as of this writing.

Other essays cover Nicaragua’s excellent progress in conservation and environmental policy, including significant conversion from fossil fuels to renewables (Stephen Sefton, Paul Oquist). Chuck Kaurman reviews the data showing the consistent popularity of the Sandinista party and leadership. Jorge Capelán summarizes a week of Nicaraguan news in September 2019, including the little-known but highly significant replacement of COSEP, the 2018 putschist business organization, with CONIMPYMES, an organization of small- and medium-size businesses, as Nicaragua’s representative at the Central American Business Council. The politics and imperial instrumentalization of the Sandinista’s opposition is dissected in a series of short essays by Barbara Larcom, Chuck Kaufman, Ben Norton, and Carlos Fonseca Terán.

Essays by Colleen Littlejohn and Adolfo Pastrán Aranciabia outline the post-revolutionary history of the autonomous regions of the Caribbean coast, which cover nearly half of Nicaraguan territory. It’s a story of material and social progress, increasing communal land rights for Indigenous and Afro-descendant people, and the success and popularity of the Sandinista party in the regions. It’s also a story of relative neglect under the neoliberal governments of 1990 to 2007, the interregnum between the periods of Sandinista governance. All this will surprise those who in recent months have read various reports of government indifference toward the lives and rights of its minority populations, but it will not surprise those who have followed the thorough debunking of these tales in the (actually) alternative press. (See, “Nicaragua Rebuffs Attacks at Human Rights Hearing,” by John Perry, 3/20/21; “Dismissing the Truth: Why Amnesty International is Wrong about Nicaragua,” by AFGJ, 2/26/19; “Nicaragua’s Indigenous Peoples—Neocolonial Lies, Autonomous Reality,” by Stephen Sefton, Tortilla con Sal, 3/5/21.)

The collection includes several essays exposing and refuting media and human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), which promote false, misleading and demonizing narratives about Nicaragua. (Brian Willson, Camilo Mejía, John Perry, Chuck Kaufman, Stephen Sefton, Nan McCurdy, and Nora Mitchell McCurdy)

It’s curious that these organizations fail to recognize human rights as a social, political and mass project, the kind of project Nicaragua is engaged in. When HRW, AI and others present North Americans with falsified and mischaracterized incidents as salient examples of Nicaraguan society and government, they willfully and disingenuously misunderstand the very idea of human rights, and fuel narratives that support deadly and destructive US sanctions and hybrid warfare. Indeed, this anthology reports Human Rights Watch’s explicit endorsement of US sanctions against Nicaragua (passed, by the way, by a unanimous voice vote Congress in 2018 and later expanded by presidential executive order in 2020). If these organizations really cared about human rights, they would celebrate Nicaragua’s unprecedented human rights accomplishments and compare them to the horrific abuse of human rights in some of Nicaragua’s Latin American neighbors, such as Honduras or Colombia, whose governments would not last a minute without US support.

It is a testament to Nicaragua’s exemplary success in being “the threat of a good example” that the US is hell-bent on destroying Nicaragua’s humane, liberatory, sovereign and democratic project. This book will help defend that example for the good of Nicaragua and all humanity.

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Nicaragua: Building The Good Life (Buen Vivir) Through Popular Revolution


As I traveled in Nicaragua on the recent Sanctions Kill delegation, one thing was clear:  social transformation (revolution) requires both political power and participation by the people. Without political power, revolutionary programs will not have the material resources they require. Without the participation of the people, revolutionary programs, even with resources, cannot be put into practice and defended.

Right now, Nicaraguans have both and they are making great progress in building a new society or as it is often referred to in Latin America, ‘Buen Vivir,’ (the good life). They are demonstrating what we mean when we say “transforming society to put people and the planet over profits.” And this is one of the reasons why the United States is targeting Nicaragua through hybrid warfare including a misinformation campaign, direct interference in the politics of the country and economic attacks. It is clear the United States is already working to undermine the upcoming presidential election in Nicaragua scheduled for November 7, but that is a necessary topic for another day.

In this newsletter, I will focus on two aspects of the ongoing Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua: building power through organizing peasant workers and building a multicultural society that respects the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples. Both contain lessons for activists in the United States.

Wall at the site of the tombs of revolutionary heroes in Managua (Margaret Flowers)

In the last newsletter, I wrote a bit about the history of the popular struggle in Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America that has a low-density population of around six million people. Through a mass armed movement, Nicaraguans ousted the US Marines in the early twentieth century but that was followed by almost 50 years of the brutal dictatorship of the US-backed liberal party led by the Somoza family. Throughout that period, a minority of people (5%) owned most of the land (80%).

In 1979, the same year that the US-backed Shah of Iran was defeated, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which began in the 1960’s, overthrew the Somozas and was finally able to start putting its 13-point socialist program into practice. Although there were setbacks during the US-backed Contra War of the 1980s and the neoliberal period from 1990 to 2006, in the past 14 years, Nicaragua has made major achievements that other poor countries and many a rich country like the United States have not been able to make.

Their successes include access to free education from preschool through the university level for all people, universal healthcare, land ownership, a pension, the empowerment of women, youth, and marginalized populations and more. Nicaragua has a primarily popular economy composed of cooperatives and small farms and businesses. It has achieved food sovereignty with 90% of the food consumed being produced locally and a growing agricultural export market. It is building infrastructure, particularly roads, electricity, and potable water. Currently, over 98% of homes have electricity and 75% of that comes from renewable sources. Almost one-fourth of the energy produced is geothermal as Nicaragua is a land of volcanos. Learn more in this Clearing the FOG episode taped in Nicaragua.

It took many decades to create the conditions in which these achievements could be made. The struggle to put the Sandinista revolution into practice and to defend the gains continues. Both the FSLN and the Rural Workers Association (ATC) are integral parts of that struggle.

Yorlis Luna, a professor and coordinator with IALA, lectures the delegation (Margaret Flowers)

The Rural Workers Association officially began forty-three years ago this week, although the work to start organizing and unionizing peasant workers began in the early 1970’s at the same time that the FSLN was growing. In my interview with Fausto Torres, who has been with the ATC from early on and currently serves as the Secretary of International Relations, he explains that the ATC and FSLN were born out of the same struggle with the ATC being composed of workers and the FSLN providing a political platform rooted in worker empowerment. Both arms of the revolution complemented each other. For example, the ATC provided food and safe houses for FSLN fighters during the Contra War and many Sandinistas who defended the revolution during that time came from the ATC.

After the Somoza dictatorship was overthrown, it was the ATC that made the agrarian reform, which transferred land from large landowners to over 120,000 peasant families, a reality and helped to defend those land gains. The ATC provided literacy programs and helped new land owners learn to make their small farms productive. Some land owners formed cooperatives.

After the Contra War, the ATC facilitated a reconciliation process between people who fought on both sides. Today, Sandinistas and former Contras live and work side-by-side in many communities and belong to the same cooperatives. The ATC continues to organize rural workers and educate them about labor laws and it has special programs for youth and women.

The ATC has several schools. One of its newer ones is the Latin American Institute of Agroecology or IALA (based on the name in Spanish), which educates people from all over Latin America. IALA incorporates traditional knowledge and the latest science to create practices that are sustainable, address the climate crisis and serve the cultural needs of local communities. In line with the values of the ATC and FSLN, emphasis is placed on the inclusion and empowerment of youth and women to support the development of new leaders.

In the early 1990’s, the ATC globalized its peasant movement by founding La Via Campesina, a member organization that currently operates in the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania and represents over 200 million rural families who are working to build a democratic and non-exploitative society. In addition to peasant workers, La Via Campesina members include migrants, landless peasants, and human rights defenders. There are four major areas of work: land reform, food sovereignty, peasant culture and socializing common goods. As an organization, it operates through collective leadership and participatory democracy. La Via Campesina values gender equality, youth participation, diversity, discipline and international solidarity. It is anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-patriarchal.

La Via Campesina runs a number of campaigns. One of them targets transnational corporations, particularly those based in the United States, that are pushing the “Green Revolution,” which is trying to dominate land ownership, control food production and push a toxic and exploitative food system based on profits for a few. A recent success in that struggle was the passing of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas in late 2018 at the United Nations. It should not be a surprise that the United States and some European Union countries opposed it.

The ATC and La Via Campesina are building the local and global popular movement necessary to challenge corporate power and capitalism and create a world that can protect the rights of all people and mitigate the climate crisis. We activists in the US have much to learn from them.

Aminta Zea explains who our group is for members of the community council in Tuapi (Margaret Flowers)

Another accomplishment in Nicaragua is their ongoing work in the Autonomous Zone, composed of 47% of the nation’s land on the Northern and Southern Caribbean Coasts, to restore the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendants who have been discriminated against for a long time. It offers a model for the United States to consider.

This work is grounded in the Nicaraguan Constitution passed after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship that values a multi-ethnic society. Due to the Contra War and the neoliberal period that followed, most of the gains have been made in the last decade or so since Daniel Ortega was restored as the president. There was a ten year period of negotiations between the government and the autonomous communities that resulted in the titles of 33% of the national territory being granted to twenty three Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples who requested them.

Indigenous leaders decide what parts of the land are to be used for housing or agriculture and the regulations regarding whether or not non-Indigenous people could live there. For example, the capital of the Northern Caribbean Coast, Bilwi, is owned by the people in Karata and they receive taxes from the city, which was formerly called Puerto Cabezas.

In recent years, unprecedented amounts of money have been spent on building highways to connect the communities with each other and with markets for their goods. There was also a big expansion in health care facilities and infrastructure for electricity and water. Education is also a high priority. Schools are multilingual to include the maternal language as well as Spanish and English. The university system is dedicated to multiculturalism and “rescuing” traditional knowledge. Their development plan is based on human development rather than exploitation.

Some of the major industries in the region include mining, forestry and cattle. They are working on mining methods that reduce the environmental impact and pollution from it. For timber, the community has to approve any plans and it owns and benefits from the entire process. Similarly for cattle, the community decides who can have cattle farms. As the climate crisis expands the “dry zone” outside of the Autonomous Region, non-Indigenous cattle farmers have been looking for other areas to raise their herds and this has been used by the United States as a way to attack Nicaragua through a false tale of assaults on Indigenous communities, known as “the Conflict Beef” story. This is far from the reality, as John Perry explains.

Although there have been a few small victories recently in the United States of returning land to Native American tribes, we still have a long way to go. Nicaragua demonstrates a model that is indigenous-led with the state playing a supportive role. Imagine if land in the United States was returned to the Indigenous Peoples who would control what is done on the land, including who could live there. This would go a long way to reversing the centuries of oppression and stolen wealth and could finally end the era of settler colonialism.

The Sanctions Kill delegation with members of the ATC in Managua (Friends of the ATC)

There is a lot we can learn from Nicaraguan people about how to organize, resist and build a multicultural society based on participatory democracy, empowerment and healing the Earth. The Sanctions Kill delegation provided a glimpse into this powerful work but there is more to know about the specific programs and how they could be translated into our work here to hold our government accountable and transform our society.

One concept that arose during the delegation is that of “revolutionary discipline.” Revolutions don’t just happen. They are the fruit of dedication to education and struggle. We can each practice revolutionary discipline in our communities through political education, organizing, putting pressure on the government and building alternative programs. Through this work, we will build the mass movement necessary to succeed.

We must also work to protect Nicaragua and other revolutionary societies that are targeted by US foreign policy for daring to defend their self-determination and sovereignty. We witnessed the violence and destruction of the 2018 US-backed coup attempt. We already see the US laying the groundwork to interfere in the presidential election in Nicaragua this November. Let us also put revolutionary discipline into practice by not allowing ourselves to be fooled by false media narratives and by raising our voices against US interference.

The photo at the top of this newsletter was taken at the ATC School in Managua. It reads “Globalize the Struggle, Globalize the Hope.” This is our call to action so that we can build a world of Buen Vivir for everyone.

The post Nicaragua: Building The Good Life (Buen Vivir) Through Popular Revolution first appeared on Dissident Voice.