Category Archives: Ukraine

“A Load Of Tosh”: The BBC, “Showbiz News” And State Propaganda

On January 22, BBC News at Ten carried a piece by ‘defence’ correspondent Jonathan Beale reporting a speech by General Sir Nick Carter, the British Army’s Chief of General Staff. Carter gave his speech, pleading for more resources in the face of the Russian ‘threat’, at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), an establishment thinktank with close links to the military and corporate media.

Beale began his BBC News piece with a prologue of raw propaganda, delivered in an urgent and impassioned tone:

Russia’s building an increasingly modern and aggressive military. Already tested in battle in Syria, using weapons Britain would struggle to match – like long-range missiles. In Ukraine, they’ve been using unconventional warfare, electronic cyber and misinformation. And they’re even on manoeuvres on Europe’s doorstep, with large-scale exercises near Nato’s borders. Enough to worry the head of the British army who tonight gave this rare public warning.

The essence of Carter’s ‘rare public warning’ was that:

Russia was building an increasingly aggressive expeditionary force and the potential military threats to the UK “are now on Europe’s doorstep”… the Kremlin already boasted an “eye-watering quantity of capability” – a level the UK would struggle to match… Britain “must take notice of what is going on around us” or… the ability by the UK to take action will be “massively constrained”.

Carter continued:

Rather like a chronic contagious disease, it will creep up on us, and our ability to act will be markedly constrained – and we’ll be the losers of this competition.

The army chief’s warning had been approved by the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

On News at Ten, Beale’s reporting of the speech amplified the army chief’s message – in other words, the Defence Secretary’s stance – by deploying such key phrases as:

‘Increasingly aggressive’, ‘tested in battle’, ‘Britain would struggle to match’, ‘manoeuvres on Europe’s doorstep’, ‘near Nato’s borders’.

There was, of course, no mention of US/Nato encroachment towards Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union (contravening assurances given to Gorbachev), or the US bases and military exercises close to Russia’s borders as well as globally, or the long history of US threats and major crimes around the world. Nor was there any reference to Ukraine which has routinely been reported as an example of Russian ‘aggression’. John Pilger observes that the BBC along with others, including CNN, the New York Times and the Guardian:

played a critical role in conditioning their viewers to accept a new and dangerous cold war.

All have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia when, in fact, the coup in Ukraine in 2014 was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and Nato.

Beale’s credulous reporting of the army chief’s speech was an exemplar of ‘public broadcast’ media whipping up fear to promote state interests.

Later, standing outside the Ministry of Defence, Beale said:

This intervention by the head of the army is as much an appeal for more money for defence as it is a warning about the threat posed by Russia.

And yet Beale had earlier dramatically highlighted the ‘worrying’ facts, asserting they were ‘enough to worry the head of the British army’ – in other words, that the army chief really was worried; not dissembling. Beale’s subsequent comment was a token, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it acknowledgement of the reality: that Carter’s speech was aimed at propping up UK military power.

Note that Beale’s ‘neutral’ reporting was not about an ‘alleged threat posed by Russia’; simply the ‘threat posed by Russia’. This subtly insidious use of language occurs daily on ‘impartial’ BBC News.

And, as ever, such a report would be incomplete without an establishment talking head from a ‘defence and security’ think tank. Professor Michael Clarke, a senior RUSI fellow, was on hand to perform the required role. This was BBC News in standard establishment/state/military/corporate mode.

Beale was duly confronted by several people on Twitter about his promotion of UK state and military propaganda on the Russian ‘threat’. One Twitter user put to the BBC journalist:

The only thing the MSM [mainstream media] is good for is fake news, falsification and manipulation of truth & propaganda. Ask yourself for whose benefit?

This is a reasonable starting point for a debate about the major news media. Beale did not distinguish himself with the quality of his response:

What a load of tosh.

In contrast, Beale’s ‘opinion-free’ response to the army chief’s propaganda speech was:

Coherent, detailed and impressive speech by @ArmyCGS @RUSI_org tonight making the case for investment in #defence. CDS [Chief of Defence Staff] in waiting?

Imagine if the BBC man’s observations had been reversed. It is, of course, completely unthinkable that a BBC reporter would respond to a major military or political speech with:

What a load of tosh.

It would be equally unthinkable for a BBC journalist to respond to a speech by, for example, Noam Chomsky with:

Coherent, detailed and impressive speech tonight exposing Western war propaganda.

And likewise, a dissident expert would never be invited to respond scornfully, or even sceptically, to a speech by the likes of Sir Nick Carter on the BBC’s News At Ten.

Further examples are pumped out daily by this ‘globally respected’ broadcaster. On January 8, Fiona Bruce introduced an item about Syria on BBC News at Ten with the phrase: ‘Syrian government forces, backed by Russia’. Why does BBC News not regularly use the phrase, ‘Saudi government forces, backed by the United States and the UK’ when reporting on bombs dropped on Yemen? The answer should be obvious.

On January 29, Huw Edwards announced on BBC News at Ten:

We talk exclusively to the head of the CIA about the threat from Russia.

Note the duplicitous wording once again. Not ‘alleged’ threat or ‘claimed’ threat, far less ‘hyped-up’ threat. BBC correspondent Gordon Corera‘s ‘interview’ of the CIA’s Mike Pompero was a travesty of journalism, with no meaningful challenge or context. That the US is regularly regarded by global public opinion as a major threat around the world was totally off the agenda. You will wait in vain for an exclusive interview on BBC News at Ten with a senior figure about the ‘threat from the United States’.

Ironically, just the previous day, Piers Morgan had conducted a sycophantic ITV ‘interview’ with Donald Trump. The object of the exercise was clearly to garner high viewer ratings, and thus boost advertising revenue; not to challenge the US president in any meaningful way.

Afterwards, the BBC’s John Simpson, the epitome of ‘serious’ BBC News journalism, mocked Morgan:

The art of the political interview, Piers, is to push your interviewee hard – not let them spout self-evident tosh. That’s just showbiz.

But when it comes to a showbiz-style BBC News interview with the head of the CIA? A convenient silence.

When one of our readers, Steve Ennever, uploaded the BBC’s CIA interview to YouTube, complete with Huw Edwards’ introduction, it was swiftly removed – within an hour or so – under pretence of a ‘copyright claim‘. What is the publicly-funded BBC so afraid of? The clip of the interview does appear on the BBC News YouTube channel. But why should they have a monopoly on it? Are they actually fearful of public-interest media activism that focuses on BBC News clips?

It is notable that all the brave BBC News voices go quiet at times like this. As far as we could tell, there was not a single dissenting voice about the BBC ‘exclusive’ interview plugging CIA propaganda. The conformity is remarkable and yet systemic.

The uncomfortable truth for the BBC is that the gap between showbiz and BBC ‘news’ is narrow. In fact, there is a significant overlap. Worse than that, BBC News is all too often a conduit for propaganda that promotes wars, corporate interests, ‘patriotism’, military pageantry, excessive consumerism and calamitous inaction on climate.

As we have previously noted, a persistent feature of BBC News reporting on Yemen, for instance, is that the UK’s complicity in Saudi war crimes and Yemen’s humanitarian disaster is buried. To take another example, this BBC News headline is permissible:

Taliban threaten 70% of Afghanistan, BBC finds

But these are not:

US threatens 100% of Afghanistan, BBC finds
US threatens 100% of Iraq, BBC finds
Global opinion finds US a major world threat, BBC finds

And when the BBC takes a rare look at propaganda, it only does so in order to examine the propaganda of Official Enemies. Thus, BBC News will robustly critique Russian propaganda in a way it never does with the West’s.

In summary, it does not take extensive observation to discern the general pattern of BBC News ‘journalism’ on matters of great significance:

1. Western military or political leader says something.
2. BBC News provides headline coverage.
3. Policy ‘expert’ from a right-wing or ‘centrist’ think tank is quoted in support.
4. BBC correspondent provides supportive ‘analysis’.
5. Token sceptical voice is briefly quoted.*
6. Extensive follow-up; talking points on BBC programmes such as Newsnight, Daily Politics, etc.

*Optional

When Eleanor Bradford, a former BBC Scotland health correspondent, rightly drew attention to the corporation failing women over the issue of pay equality, British historian Mark Curtis added an important corollary:

It’s true. Why should women be paid less than men for conveying state propaganda under the guise of news? It’s only fair they should receive same salaries as all male govt employees.

Curtis has published several books revealing the UK’s real role in world affairs, based on diligent research of previously secret government records. He is currently releasing declassified documents that reveal the reality of post-WW2 British policy towards numerous countries, as opposed to the propaganda version of events that has filled books, newspapers, magazines, television and radio programmes, and even infected academia.

Curtis explains the rationale for his project:

The British public has little idea what has been done, and is being done, in their names.

I want everyone to be able to see at least some of the documents that I have seen because they tell a much truer story of this country’s real role in the world than they will hear on the BBC or read in The Telegraph.

Curtis is addressing some of the most ‘ignored episodes’ in British foreign policy – such as the UK’s support for the Idi Amin coup in Uganda in 1971, and for the welcoming of the Pinochet military takeover in Chile, the covert operation to overthrow Sukarno in Indonesia in the late 1950s, and the covert UK war in Yemen in the 1960s.

Curtis notes that now-released internal files reveal that:

there is no interest in the human rights of the people that live in regions like the Middle East, Africa or Asia – British policy is all about geopolitics, promoting commercial interests and upholding Britain’s power status.

Moreover, the files show that:

the British public is largely viewed as a threat and they therefore shouldn’t be allowed to know what is being done in their names…The danger is that the public might deflect elites from their policy course – this is unacceptable to Whitehall.

Curtis rightly points to the need to challenge traditional sources of ‘news’ which keep the public ignorant of crucial facts and context. Non-mainstream sources should be encouraged and supported:

Social and alternative media is very encouraging – this is where people should be getting more and more of their information, bypassing mainstream sources.

Ironically, it was a ‘renegade producer’ from the BBC who encouraged newspaper journalist John Pilger to start making documentaries. Charles Denton taught Pilger that:

facts and evidence told straight to the camera and to the audience could indeed be subversive.

Pilger encourages young journalists today to ‘make a difference’ by breaking the silence surrounding the reality of Western foreign policies. He adds a warning:

The moment they [young journalists] accept, say, the BBC view of the world, that there are only two sides to an argument, and both those sides are on what we call the establishment side, then it’s over.

Consensus and Complicity

There’s nothing less democratic than bipartisanship. The term itself is a ruse that falsely indicates universal consensus where there is really only a minority consensus among elites — and their sniffling lemmings in the bourgeois press. The bipartisan consensus is a tireless ogre that roams the demotic plain, kneecapping democratic debate wherever it presents itself. It crushes fledgling dialogue, suppresses the flash of dialectical insight. And that is precisely what the bipartisan consensus is meant to do, because the one percent knows full well that, like Chairman Mao once limned, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.” Best keep the potboiler of debate under vice grip.

Another phrase to describe subjects on which there is no debate on Capitol Hill is “nonpartisan issues,” a term coined by notorious Cold War enthusiast Dean Acheson. But nonpartisan topics are simply policies agreed upon by the one percent, whose unanimity renders all further discussion superfluous. Yet they are almost always policies about which the global public is deeply divided: healthcare, war, military budgets, social programs, education. Even in the U.S., where the inescapable reach of propaganda artificially biases millions in favor of elite opinion (which is nearly always against their own interests), even then, these policies rip communities apart. The 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza astonished the world with its brutality. For the first time in a long time, the nets of Zionist propaganda shredded and the issue exploded into public consciousness. But this is what the universal agreement in the halls of Congress want so desperately to dodge.

Case in point. A couple of weeks ago on CNN a report surfaced of some Arab legislators in the Knesset protesting the appearance of Vice President Mike Pence, who was on hand to confirm President Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and to announce that he’d be moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the ancient city sometime next year. The report laid out the bare facts of the matter, that the Arab bloc in the Knesset was furious about Pence’s appearance and was forcibly removed by security. One watched as the angry Arabs were pulled and pushed and finally shoved out of the body politic by a phalanx of Jewish legislators. The next clip showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a handful of other smug elites vigorously applauding the ejection of the unruly protesters. Rather than detail what the Arab parliamentary Balad party was protesting, the reporter merely hastened to add that Netanyahu and his thuggish coterie were not clapping for the protest, but rather for its suppression. Not that any viewer with a pulse would have thought otherwise, but it’s always best to make sure. To that same end, or rather to a different one, the White House video feed was abruptly cut off as soon as the ruckus began.

The article that supported the video report naturally repeated Pence’s miserly blather about a two-state solution, a concept that the administration had just cruelly undermined with its needless publicity about Jerusalem and the embassy. (Evidently, the president felt it was time for another spineless genuflection at the throne of Zionism.) But this is a textbook example of bipartisanship at work in the media, which habitually parrots the blandishments of the state about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which itself is a diaphanous euphemism with no tether to reality. Any journalist with a trifle of historical awareness would note that American leaders have been rehearsing the tired tropes of diplomacy for decades, while the vice grip on Gaza and the appropriation of land in the West Bank continues apace. Don’t for a minute assume that there’s not an inverse relationship between calls for accord and clandestine aggression. The former enables the latter in a vicious cycle of lie and illegality.

The Arab Knesset members were protesting a policy that proposes to annex Jerusalem entirely for Israel. This means denying it as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Always note the denial implicit in the assertion. This policy then buries the prospects for real peace beneath a mountain of insult and prejudice that renders laughable the idea that Washington is an ‘impartial mediator.’ The Knesset contingent were condemning both land theft and mass impoverishment. In the last decade, Israel has launched three brutal assaults on Gaza, producing more captive refugees, debilitating infrastructure so that Gazans only have a few hours of electricity a day and polluted drinking water all day as their economy predictably shrinks under the siege.

Despite these increasingly visible cruelties and deprivations, the bipartisan consensus on Israel is one of the more visible areas of accord in Washington. Barack Obama, frequently profiled for his contentious relations with Netanyahu, happily signed over a record four billion dollars a year to Tel Aviv in military aid, in addition to keeping silent about Israeli abuses. Trump has only extended this largesse and added his indelible rhetorical flourishes just to leave no doubt that he thinks less than nothing of Israel’s Arab prisoners, which include the detention of hundreds of children like Ahed Tamimi, guilty of the crime of resisting the crime of occupation (something stipulated as the legal right of the occupied in the Geneva Conventions).

Not An Isolated Phenomenon

The rhetorical emphasis of peace to disguise violence is not confined to the battle over Jerusalem. Newsweek had a headline last fall that read, “U.S. sends troops to Russian border, officials say they want ‘peace, not war’ with Russia.” Can the mainstream press corps not make an independent judgment on NATO actions without having to parrot a press release from the DOD? Newsweek did exactly the latter, serving as a media pass-through for the transparent lies of the state. This is, in both the CNN and Newsweek examples, an abdication of the fourth estate. The role of journalism is to challenge power, hold it to account, afflicting the comfortable while comforting the afflicted. The kind of faux journalism practiced by these mainstream outlets is plain stenography, a kind of pathological ventriloquism that reifies the dictates of the powerful, and patronizingly peddles them to the powerless.

The platitudes repeated by Pence are by any historical measure entirely worthless, but the CNN journalist is incapable of concluding this, given the sycophancy he has internalized perhaps as a career-saving measure. So, too, the absence of historical knowledge, scrubbed from the tabula by relentless disinformation, allows a droid journalist to transmit falsity without the slightest pang of conscience. In a historical vacuum, there is no cognitive dissonance.

In a similar vein, a 2015 article by The New York Times reviews a Pew Research poll. The article takes as its starting point the legitimacy of potential Russian attack on a NATO nation. Of course, the poll asks European citizens if their countries should defend a NATO ally if attacked by Russia, thereby using Russian aggression as a pretext for the research. The article fails to critique the idea that Russia would attack a NATO country. Rather it uses Russian soldiers in Ukraine as a support for the pretext of an expansionist Kremlin, naturally leaving out the defensive nature Russian assistance in a conflict that began with a U.S.-sponsored coup in Kiev and a fascist attack on ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. The western consensus needn’t be challenged.

People sometimes ask how it is that we’ve come to be so anti-intellectual as a culture. Societies built on violence often repress the reality of their origins behind a veneer of noble intentions. Our national narrative tells us we were founded on the proposition that all men are created equal. On paper, perhaps, but what of the actuality? After all, the country was built on unbelievable violence, first the slaughter of the natives, second the enslavement of Africans. Honest reflection was a psychologically costly luxury that most founders couldn’t afford as they forged a nation from the bones of fellow humans.

Our Complicity

By creating the perception of a false consensus, bipartisanship works like a narcotic on the body politic. It lulls us into acquiescence. In the face of disturbing evidence, we rely on leaders from ‘both sides of the aisle’ to supply us with calming rhetoric, with pledges of impartiality, and appropriate gestures of solemnity by which we can distill their pure intentions. Surely, they want what’s best, but the political realities of the situation reduce us to incremental gains. Thus we make token reform the enemy of radical change. It isn’t a “radical reconstruction of society” that we seek, though we desperately need it, but rather a comforting lexicon of vows to pursue a negotiated settlement. A promissory note of future amity. We no longer demand action, just feeling. Just the rehearsed magniloquence and pacifying oratory of the political stalemate. So long as you mouth a desire for a two-state solution, anything else can be plausibly denied behind the fog of politics.

A peace candidate is no longer someone that wants actual peace. Rather he is someone that wants a less costly war than his opponent. The nonpartisan, that is to say bipartisan, agreement that conflict is our lifeblood is a non-issue, as it were. John Kerry and Barack Obama were considered peace candidates when they criticized the management of the Iraq War. Kerry quibbled that we ought to get Interpol involved and Obama thought we should point our biggest guns at Afghanistan instead. Kerry thought we were mismanaging the war, Obama that we were hitting the wrong targets. The latter won a Nobel Peace Prize for shading to the left of a right-wing extremist president, after which he had the effrontery to dazzle the assembled greybeards in Oslo with a pro-war speech. The prize should have been revoked and the entire committee shuttered until further notice, but alas, there’s nothing a corporate liberal likes better than a black man with a message of peace. (Still waiting for our national Malcolm X holiday.)

Christopher Hitchens once pithily described this superficial bipartisanship as, “a consensus a hundred miles wide and a millimeter deep.” So true. Elites confer, agree, and execute. The unwashed demos is never consulted, even though men like Pence deliver messages in the Knesset that supposedly come “from the hearts of the American people.” Wouldn’t it be nice to let the Zionists in Tel Aviv know what the American people really think about dumping billions of dollars a year into Israel’s arsenal of repression? Into their apartheid panopticon? Their ethnically exclusive democracy?

French sociologist Jacques Ellul thought propaganda was a binary construct that was assembled cooperatively between publisher and reader. Ellul said propaganda sustains the western citizen. In a secular world, it replaces religion as his raison d’etre. The reader’s assent is required. We go to the Times to have our values affirmed. If there’s already nonpartisan consensus around an issue, so much the better. It satisfies our wish to opt out of citizenship, get back to polishing our selfies, and piling up consumer debt.

Is all this the sign of a desiccated society that has lost its capacity to resist? Pacified by the drug of consumerism, sated by creature comforts, anesthetized by ubiquitous misinformation. If so, it would only capitalize on our desire to believe. As novelist James Ellroy once wrote in another context, “You carry the seed of belief within you already.” How easy to water the seed with the elaborate conflict-avoidance strategy of unanimity. How easy to settle into received opinion after a weary day at work. Just the thought of a “radical reconstruction of society itself,” to use King’s phrase, exhausts the sleep-deprived mind. More manageable to focus on smaller goals, like supporting stronger safeguards on drone attacks. Unpacking the use of drones themselves — really, is now the right time for that discussion? Like King wrote from a Birmingham jail cell, the real threat is the pacified liberal, the one who offers rhetorical support for your radical program, but counsels patience and advises you that now may not be the best time for your ‘reconstruction.’ Surely some future date will provide ample room for honest democratic dialogue. Just not now.

New Defense Strategy: War With Great Nations and Arms Race

This week, following the recent announcement of a new National Defense Strategy that focuses on conflicts with great powers and a new arms race, the Pentagon announced an escalation of nuclear weapons development. The United States’ military is spread across the world, including several dangerous conflict areas that could develop into an all-out war, possibly in conflict with China or Russia. This comes at a time when US empire is fading, something the Pentagon also recognizes and the US is falling behind China economically. This is not unexpected considering that one year ago President Trump sought an inaugural parade that put tanks and missiles on display.

New National Defense Strategy Means More War, More Spending

The new National Defense Strategy announced last week moves from the ‘war on terror’ toward conflict with great powers. Michael Whitney, writing about the conflict in Syria, puts it in context:

Washington’s biggest problem is the absence of a coherent policy. While the recently released National Defense Strategy articulated a change in the way the imperial strategy would be implemented, (by jettisoning the ‘war on terror’ pretext to a ‘great power’ confrontation) the changes amount to nothing more than a tweaking of the public relations ‘messaging’. Washington’s global ambitions remain the same albeit with more emphasis on raw military power.

The move from military conflict against non-state actors; i.e., ‘terrorists’, to great power conflict means more military hardware, massive spending on weapons and a new arms race. Andrew Bacevich writes in American Conservative that war profiteers are popping open the champagne.

Bacevich writes the ‘new’ strategy is placed in the false claim that the US is “emerging from a period of strategic atrophy.” The claim is laughable as the US has been in never ending war with massive military spending throughout the century:

Under Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump, U.S. forces have been constantly on the go. I’m prepared to argue that no nation in recorded history has ever deployed its troops to more places than has the United States since 2001. American bombs and missiles have rained down on a remarkable array of countries. We’ve killed an astonishing number of people.

The new strategy means more spending on weapons to prepare for conflict with Russia and China. Not bothering with reality, Secretary of Defense JimMattis claimed: “Our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare—air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace. And it is continually eroding.”  He described the Pentagon’s plans for ‘procurement and modernization’; i.e. the arms race that includes nuclear, space and traditional weapons, cyber defense and more surveillance.

The Pentagon announced its Nuclear Posture Review on February 2, 2018. The review calls for updating and expanding the nuclear arsenal in order to respond to perceived threats, in particular by “great powers,” e.g. Russia and China, as well North Korea and others. Peace Action described a review written by Dr. Strangeglove, adding: “The expansion of our nuclear arsenal called for in the Nuclear Posture Review would cost the American taxpayers an estimated $1.7 trillion adjusted for inflation over the next three decades.”

Bachevich concludes “Who will celebrate the National Defense Strategy? Only weapons manufacturers, defense contractors, lobbyists, and other fat cat beneficiaries of the military-industrial complex.” To further the glee of weapons makers, Trump is urging the State Department to spend more time selling US weapons.

Escalating Conflicts Risk War Globally

In his first year as president, Donald Trump handed over decision-making power to “his generals” and as expected, this resulted in more “warfare, bombing and deaths” in his first year than the Obama era. There has been “an almost 50 percent increase of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria during Trump’s first year in office, leading to a rise in civilian deaths by more than 200 percent compared with the year before.” Trump has also broken the record for special forces, now deployed in 149 countries or 75 percent of the globe.  So much for ‘America First.’

Many areas risk escalation to full-scale war, including conflict with Russia and China:

Syria: The seven-year war in Syria, which has killed 400,000 people, began during Obama’s presidency under the guise of destroying ISIS. The real goal was removal of President Assad. This January, Secretary of State Tillerson made the goal clear, saying that even after the defeat of ISIS the US would stay in Syria until Assad was removed from office. The US is moving to Plan B, the creation of a de facto autonomous Kurdish state for almost one-third of Syria defended by a proxy military of 30,000 troops, mainly Kurds. Marcello Ferrada de Noli describes that in response, Syria aided by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah “continues victorious and unabated in its pursuit to retake the full sovereignty of its nation’s territory.” Turkey is moving to ensure no Kurdish territory is created by the US.

North Korea: The latest dangerous idea coming from the Trump military is giving North Korea a “bloody nose.” This schoolyard bully talk risks a US first strike that could create war with China and Russia. China has said if the US attacked first it would defend North Korea. This aggressive talk comes when North and South Korea seek peace and are cooperating during the Olympics. The Trump era has continued massive military exercises, practicing attacks on North Korea that include nuclear attacks and assassination of their leadership. The US did take a step back and agree not to hold such war games during the Olympics.

Iran: The US has sought regime change since the 1979 Islamic Revolution removed the US’s Shah of Iran. The current debate over the future of the nuclear weapons agreement and economic sanctions are focal points of conflict. While observers find Iran has lived up to the agreement, the Trump administration continues to claim violations. In addition, the US, through USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy and other agencies, is spending millions  annually to build opposition to the government and foment regime change, as seen in recent protests. In addition, the US (along with Israel and Saudi Arabia) is engaged in conflict with Iran in other areas, e.g. Syria and Yemen. There is regular propaganda demonizing Iran and threatening war with Iran, which is six times the size of Iraq and has a much stronger military. The US has been isolated in the UN over its belligerence toward Iran.

Afghanistan: The longest war in US history continues after 16 years. The US has been hiding what is happening in Afghanistan because the Taliban has an active presence in about 70 percent of the country and ISIS has gained more territory than ever before resulting in the Inspector General for Afghanistan criticizing DoD for refusing to release data. The long war included Trump dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb in history and resulted in allegations of US war crimes that the International Criminal Court seeks to investigate. The US has caused devastation throughout the country.

Ukraine: The US supported coup in the Ukraine continues to cause conflicts on the Russian border. The US spent billions on the coup, but documents outlining the Obama administration’s involvement have not been released. The coup was complete with Vice President Biden’s son and John Kerry’s long term financial ally being put on the board of the Ukraine’s largest private energy company. A former State Department employee became Ukraine’s finance minister. The US continues to claim Russia is the aggressor because it protected its Navy base in Crimea from the US coup. Now, the Trump administration is providing arms to Kiev and stoking a civil war with Kiev and western Ukraine against eastern Ukraine.

These are not the only areas where the US is creating regime change or seeking domination. In another strange statement, Secretary of State Tillerson warned Venezuela may face a military coup while winking that the US does not support regime change (even though it has been seeking regime change to control Venezuelan oil since Hugo Chavez came to power). Tillerson’s comment came as Venezuela negotiated a settlement with the opposition. Regime change is the mode of operation for the US in Latin America.  The US supported recent questionable elections in Honduras, to keep the coup government Obama supported in power. In Brazil, the US is assisting the prosecution of Lula, who seeks to run for president, in a crisis that threatens its fragile democracy protecting a coup government.

In Africa, the US has military in 53 of 54 countries and is in competition with China, which is using economic power rather than military power. The US is laying the groundwork for military domination of the continent with little congressional oversight — to dominate the land, resources and people of Africa.

Opposition to War and Militarism

The anti-war movement, which atrophied under President Obama, is coming back to life.

World Beyond War is working to abolish war as an instrument of foreign policy. Black Alliance for Peace is working to revitalize opposition to war by blacks, historically some of the strongest opponents of war. Peace groups are uniting around the No US Foreign Military Bases campaign that is seeking to close 800 US military bases in 80 countries.

Peace advocates are organizing actions. The campaign to divest from the war machine kicks off from February 5 to 11 highlighting the economic cost of war. A global day of action against the US occupation of Guantanamo Bay is being planned for February 23, the anniversary of the US seizing Guantanamo Bay from Cuba through a “perpetual lease” beginning in 1903. A national day of action against US wars at home and abroad is being planned for April. And Cindy Sheehan is organizing a Women’s March on the Pentagon.

There are many opportunities to oppose war in this new era of “Great Power” conflict. We urge you to get involved as you are able to show that the people say “No” to war.

Will Aliens Save Humanity?

It was July 1st, 1952 when Look magazine carried this story: “Flying Saucers— The Hunt Goes On” with the byline: “Fearful of danger from the skies, the United States Air Force is launching a secret search to discover once-and-for-all what is the mysterious, unbelievable thing Americans keep sighting overhead.”

At the time, the Air Force confirmed more than 800 sightings of flying saucers with reports from outposts all across the country, including “our vital atomic installation sites.” Atomic sites were specific areas of intense interests for the odd fast-moving saucers.

Flash forward 65 years: Interviews with U.S. military personnel validate the presence of strange UFO craft shutting down nuclear missile sites, turning the instruments off, inoperative, and overriding human controls. All of which is shocking to the nth degree!

Visitors from outer space obviously do not like nuclear stuff in the hands of humans. Otherwise, why focus on shutting down nuclear sites? Any force powerful enough to shut down nuclear weapon silos is so far beyond the capabilities of earthlings that they can dictate whatever they want. Still, why shut down missile sites? If “intention” is exposed by activity, then their message says nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons should go the way of the dodo bird.

A documentary film d/d July 2, 2017, UFOs and Nukes: The Secret Link Revealed by UAMN TV is fascinating, almost beyond belief.

There are many, many documentaries about UFOs but mostly ill conceived, unsubstantiated and horribly contrived. UAMN’s may be one of the only films that seems credible (hopefully, maybe) because of the quality of first-hand witness accounts and use of declassified military documents.

UFOs and Nukes: The Secret Link Revealed is a Robert Hastings film. He was born in Albuquerque, NM in 1950 at a military base where atomic weapons were engineered. His father served in the USAF. From 1966-67, the family was stationed at Malmstrom AFB, Montana. During one particular incident of UFO activity over a Minuteman missile site, Hastings personally witnessed five UFOs tracked on radar at base air control. That experience led to a lifetime of research. The film’s message comes thru very clearly. Humans should not be messing around with nuclear power. Didn’t Einstein also say that?

Hastings’ film is based upon declassified U.S. government documents and personal accounts of military officers, revealing that, as early as December 1948, UFOs began showing up at American nuclear laboratories, bomb storage depots, weapons tests grounds, and as time went on, intercontinental weapons missile sites.

ICBM launch officers from the 1960s and 1970s have come forward with Encounters of the Third Kind, stating that UFOs hovered over launch facilities as ICBMs suddenly malfunctioned, unable to launch or react to commands by human operators. Additionally, ground level security guards made panicky calls to underground mission control officers, informing them of the presence of unidentified circular craft maneuvering in the sky above ICBM launch silos.

In September 2010 several high-ranking retired military officers came forth in Washington, D.C. to discuss these encounters, as follows:

Captain Robert Salas, U.S. Air Force, retired in 1967, was a first lieutenant stationed at Malsmtrom Air Force Base in Montana as a missile launch officer. On March 24th a ground-based security guard called Capt. Salas to report, whilst screaming into the phone, that a red glowing object was hovering over the front gate.  Immediately thereupon, the ICBMs locked into a “no-go” condition, as if a magical wand waved across the sky, shutting down the ICBMs.

Lt. Col Dwynne Arneson, retired USAF in 1967, was officer in charge of the Air Force communications center at Great Falls, Montana. In March he received a message from a junior officer that hovering UFOs had shut down missile launch operations.

Captain Bruce Fenstermacher, USAD retired from Warren AFB Wyoming 1976. Security guards reported a 50’ long cigar-shaped white object hovering in the sky. When Capt Fenstermacher later met with the security guard, he was in the fetal position and could not be calmed down.

According to U.S. unclassified documents, missile sites in the former Soviet Union also experienced identical malfunctioning problems during the same time frame.

The Freedom of Information Act revealed documents confirming, as early as December 1948, UFOs were sighted at Los Alamos, the birthplace of nuclear weapons. That same lab tested the first atomic bomb only three weeks before dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. The documents claim that UFOs consistently appeared in the area. The Oak Ridge Nuclear Lab in Tennessee also experienced UFOs, as did the Hanford Processing Plant in Washington State, and so did the Savannah River Complex, a plutonium-manufacturing site in South Carolina.

UFO sightings began to occur in earnest at U.S. missile sites as early as 1962. Lt Col Philip Moore, USAF retired Walker AFB, was in command at missile Complex Seven in charge of a launch crew for ICBMs. His ground crew reported a bright light above Site Six that rapidly accelerated, instantly stopped, and instantly changed directions, nothing like they had ever witnessed before.

Every ICBM base in the U.S. reported incidents of objects hovering over missile facilities. Often, USAF personnel tracked the UFOs on radar, performing maneuvers vastly beyond man-made capabilities.  Radar operators were stunned as the objects flew at speeds of thousands of MPH, made sharp angled turns, and instantly stopped in mid air. Air Force interceptors chased some of the objects in futile attempts.

At Vandenberg AFB in 1967 Dr. Robert Jacobs (lieutenant at the time) said he witnessed a UFO intercept and destroy a test ICBM flight. He filmed the missile launches with a telescopic camera. A dummy warhead at speeds of 5,000-6,000 MPH was shot four times and destroyed by a UFO that he captured on film. The CIA captured his film.

Before the CIA took the film, Jacobs’ superior officer Major Mansmann, using a magnifier, studied the film in detail frame-by-frame. Here’s what he saw: The shape was a classic disc with a raised bubble in the center. The entire lower saucer glowed, and it rotated slowly. As it shot beams of light at the USAF dummy warhead, the saucer first positioned itself to aim and shoot, happening at speeds of 6,000 MPH.

In another close encounter, USAF Capt. Jay Earnshaw at Warren AFB WY in 1965 was in command of the site. The security control officer called him to report strange objects, 5 to 6 oblong lights hovered above the gate. Meantime, missile launch sites at N. Dakota and S. Dakota reported similar incidents.

Maj Gaylan King, USAF retired Ellsworth AFB SD in 1966 reported a saucer hovering over his missile site with a reddish light beaming down at the missile.

Capt. David Schindele, Minot AFB ND in 1966, reported an object 80’-100’ in diameter sighted around his missile launch pads. All of his missiles went off “alert status” and shut down as the object hovered.

Furthermore, according to Hastings’ web site, as recently as October 2012, multiple UFO incidents occurred at ICBM sites in Montana.

Meantime, the world community already knows, first-hand, the destructive power of nuclear, and Japan is number one on the hit parade, to wit: (1) August 6, 1945, Hiroshima atomic bomb attack with 70,000 reported dead (probably higher), (2) August 9, 1945 Nagasaki atomic bomb attack, 39,000 reported dead (probably higher), (3) December 5, 1965 Broken Arrow coast of Japan- A US Navy aircraft with one nuclear bomb fell off the USS Ticonderoga into five-mile depth water, never recovered, (4) March 1981- 100 workers accidentally exposed to radiation doses of 155 millirem/day during repairs of nuclear power plant, (5) June 1999- Shika Plant control rod malfunction exposes operators to uncontrolled sustained radiation, (6) Tokaimura Nuclear Accident- a uranium processing facility accident exposed three workers to excessive radiation, two died and 116 received large doses, (7) March 11, 2011- Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant experiences three Full-Monty blowouts or Total Meltdown, proving that the China Syndrome is reality. Next, they’ll hold Olympics Games (2020) in radiation zones of Fukushima.

Not only that, the world community already knows that deadly out of control nuclear power destroys people in bunches sans war. Chernobyl (1986) is the A-Team primo example of how that works, as 800,000 healthy Russian and Ukrainian Chernobyl “liquidators” (average age of 33-yrs) worked to control the meltdown. Over 120,000 have died with another 30%-40% disabled for life with chronic illnesses and genetic and perigenetic permanent damage to their descendants.  Yes, radiation damage is passed on from generation to generation to generation.

Furthermore, Chernobyl is an example of nuclear radiation accidents bringing heartache and harm to innocent citizens who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are 2,397,863 people registered with Ukraine’s health ministry to receive ongoing Chernobyl-related health care. Of these, 453,391 are children — none born at the time of the accident. Their parents were children in 1986. These children have a range of illnesses: respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, eye diseases, blood diseases, cancer, congenital malformations, genetic abnormalities, trauma.”1

Meantime, Rocketman’s ICBMs and nuclear warheads (North Korea) grow ever more real and threatening, as the Leader of the Free World (Trump) and The Great Leader (Kim Jong Un) occasionally exchange babyish words of wisdom, a bit of an oxymoronic undertaking.

Judging by Japan’s 70-year experience with nukes and the ongoing generation-by-generation-by-generation damage and destruction to Chernobyl survivors, it appears UFOs may be on to something when they manipulate nuclear warheads, dead stop, but then again, what about the credibility of all of the retired military officers who spoke up about UFOs hovering over ICBM missile sites? Are military officers in charge of top-secret military installations that contained enough nuclear power to blow parts of Earth to smithereens credible witnesses?

You’ve gotta wonder what’s going on and are UFOs sending a message?

  1. Source: Chernobyl’s Kids With Bodies Ravaged By Disaster, USA Today, April 17, 2016).

The Biggest Elephant in the Room

When he began campaigning for the leadership of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn would cut through the dull trivia that routinely characterises these contests and suddenly say that it was time to address the elephant in the room. In the breathless hush that would always follow those words he would continue that it was time to discuss the illegal Iraq War of 2003. The point he was making was valid – the fact that the Labour Party had supported a monstrous and unlawful military adventure, a fact that no one wanted to mention. But it wasn’t the real elephant in the room, it wasn’t even a baby-sized hippo – compared with the Labour Party’s real elephant – which is still seldom addressed – the fact that the founding values of the party were utterly trashed and trampled on by Tony Blair and his chancellor and subsequent successor Gordon Brown; and that their many supporters, the “Blairites”, still deeply infest the party. But even that subject, large as it is, pails to insignificance compared with the biggest elephant in the room which very few are prepared to notice.

Roy Medvedev, one of the first Russian communist writers to produce a critical history of the Stalin years, hit the nail on the head. Quoting Rosa Luxemburg’s words, “Self-criticism – ruthless, harsh self-criticism, which gets down to the root of things – that is the life-giving light and air of the proletarian movement”, he wrote, in the foreword to his book “Let History Judge“, “[I]t is Communists who should be the strictest judges of their own history. Otherwise it will be impossible to restore the unity, moral purity, and strength of this great movement”.

Most of us, communists or otherwise, are not very good at strictly judging our own histories. Mostly that’s because we’re routinely taught highly sanitized versions of our history by those we most trust to tell us the truth – our own families, teachers, priests, and the mainstream media – versions of history which may include some factual content concerning events we could justifiably be proud of – or at least not too ashamed of – but which carefully exclude, or lie about, all the other events which should not only shame us, but make us feel rage.

We are instead conditioned to see our countries as “great”, our people the finest and fairest in the whole world. Anything which challenges or questions the conditioning is instantly dismissed as contemptible heresy, even sometimes provoking shrill demands for the execution of the blasphemer.

But harsh self-criticism is indeed, as Rosa Luxemburg said and Roy Medvedev knew, life-giving light and air.

A vast and terrifying pestilence has swept over the entire world. The mildest manifestation of it produces a constant depression and darkness, a total absence of light at the end of the tunnel. For many others it produces an ever-present terror which pervades the air every second of their lives, similar to the way many people feel when they are ruled by a psychopathic tyrant who, acting on a whim, may strike them down at any time of the day or night. The worst manifestation of it is its awesome destructive power, effortlessly capable of snuffing-out every living thing anywhere on Earth, and poisoning the land for billions of years into the future. Many people in the Middle East have long called this vast pestilence “The Great Satan”. Everyone else knows it as the government of the United States.

Almost since the day it was first created, the US government has displayed behaviour similar to that of a psychopath – obsessed only by its own instant gratification, and not only completely indifferent to the pain and suffering to others this invariably causes, but often gleefully elated by it. From its earliest treacherous and terrible exterminations of countless thousands of native Americans, through its first experiments in foreign expansion in Hawaii, Central America, Cuba and the Philippines – when it learnt that it could act with reckless impunity on a global stage and never be held to account for its actions – to today where it can and does wreak death and destruction anywhere it chooses every single year – without any consequences to itself – this terrifying pestilence hovers over every corner of the globe like a dense cloud of lethal poisons which might at any second suddenly descend and wipe out life for the rest of time.

A recent example of its awesome destructive power was clearly visible in Syria, for example, a country which, by Middle Eastern standards, was a beacon of peace and civilisation, freedom and democracy – until the US government decided it had to be destroyed. Its preferred method for doing this these days is to exploit local “useful idiots” on the ground supported by overwhelming US air power: US war planes destroy any target they like – without incurring any danger to themselves – and the “useful idiots” supply the essential “boots on the ground” to take any risks to personal safety, and occupy the lands devastated by US war machines. This achieves US government objectives without incurring any significant losses to American lives – an important requirement for political tranquillity at home.

Previous recent examples of this same method for the illegal removal of governments the US deems unsuitable were on display in Libya, where the relatively good government of Colonel Gaddafi – by African and Middle Eastern standards – was overthrown, and in the Ukraine, where at least $5B was “invested” by the US in illegally removing a sovereign government through civil war.

The global pestilence is maintained by a global network of US military bases located in just about every country in the world, and the US openly boasts that it could strike down any city anywhere within one hour). The US is the only country in the world with this terrifying capability, yet we’re routinely expected to believe that the real threats to world peace come from military nonentities such as North Korea or Iran. We’re also routinely encouraged to believe that Russia and China are also serious threats to our safety, and although they are both powerful nations, neither country has ever shown imperialist ambitions that come even close to those of the US government.

The US government frequently behaves like the global policeman – but it has no right to do so. The United Nations is the only institution that has any lawful claim to that role. But not only is the UN often prevented by the US from carrying out its legitimate responsibilities, it’s also used by the US to provide a veneer of legitimacy to its imperialist actions.

Take, for example, the recent decision by the US government to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem/Al Quds. By convention, embassies are usually located in the capital cities of countries, and the US action was highly provocative as it provided enormous weight to the rulers of Occupied Palestine to claim ownership of the eastern section of that city, which is de facto Palestinian territory.

The move provoked predictable outrage all around the world from countries who have long sympathised with the plight of oppressed Palestinians. On the 21st December a draft resolution was put before the UN General Assembly rejecting the US decision. The US was highly infuriated that anyone should criticise its actions this way, and the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, wrote to every country prior to the vote to warn, “The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us.” She followed up her letter by tweeting, “On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names”.

Here we have the US ambassador to the UN, a very responsible position, treating other ambassadors as though they were a classroom of naughty five-year-olds. Is there any better example of the sublime arrogance of the US, or finer proof of the intimidation it routinely assumes is its right to use on the global stage?

However, in an extraordinary display of defiance against teacher, an overwhelming majority of countries supported the resolution and voted against the US. Time will tell if these countries have the real courage of their convictions, and refuse to move their embassies from Tel Aviv.

These are just a couple of recent examples of the global tyranny of the US government. There are many, many more. The American actions are, of course, highly contemptible, but the supine silence of most of the rest of the world, effectively endorsing the criminality of the Empire, is every bit as contemptible – but, of course, understandable: the US has shown time and time again that there is every reason to fear it. Like the playground bully, it controls everyone not through their freely-given support but through terror and inflicting terrible violence.

This is the biggest elephant of all dominating the room which, here in the first world, only a very few of us notice: the fact that the biggest of all of our planet’s problems are directly linked to the US government. Vast swathes of the rest of the planet know it – people living in the Middle East, much of Asia, most of Latin America; but here in the first world, the supposed beneficiaries of the American Empire, most people appear not to notice the terrible harm being wreaked by our Great Protector. From the economic injustice which inflicts starvation and disease on hundreds of millions of people, to the environmental catastrophe that’s now causing the biggest mass extinction of species since the age of dinosaurs, to the illegal wars that slaughter hundreds of thousands and ruin the lives of millions more… the one common factor that joins all of these terrible events together with a golden blood-soaked thread is the US government. Using its total control of the global economic system, or resorting to its awesome military might stationed in almost every country around the world, the US government is directly in charge of all that happens – and is therefore directly responsible for it.

At first glance it would seem there’s nothing we can do about this. After all, overthrowing the US regime by force is too ridiculous to consider, even if a moral case for using violence could somehow be constructed. So how else can we do what must be done?

The first and most essential requirement is to notice the elephant, to see the truth and criticise it in the same way as we would criticise it if it were being perpetrated by anyone else. How would we respond if it were Russia, say, or China that were locating military bases in every corner of the globe, and launching illegal wars from those bases? What would we think if Russia or China, say, were spying on us every minute of every day by using a terrifying global network of spies, secret police and ruthless murderers? What would we say if Russia or China, say, were controlling our economy in such a way that benefitted their multi-billionaires at the expense of our own people? What would we do if Russia or China, say, were destroying our fragile life-sustaining planet before our very eyes? Surely we would condemn those actions, and demand change? So why then do we not demand the same change when all those terrible things are being perpetrated every day of the week by the biggest of all elephants in the room – the US government?

More people need to see the elephant, to look at him through clear and honest eyes, and then lead him quietly out of the room to some place where he can no longer do any harm. Although this analogy is deeply unkind and unfair to elephants, who are the most splendid and wonderful of creatures, it’s otherwise a useful expression to use for something that’s blindingly obvious, but which people somehow fail to see. The US government is the single biggest threat to our planet. It must be quietly and peacefully made safe by the only people who could do it, the people of the USA.

Starting with the ruthless self-criticism that Rosa Luxemburg so rightly identified as essential, the American people need to be the strictest judges of their own government and do what must be done: create a new federal constitution based on direct democracy, and that recognises and acts upon the global injustices and environmental catastrophes being perpetrated by the existing model. It’s already too late for the millions of unnecessary dead and tens of millions of unnecessary refugees, and the thousands of species being made extinct with every passing year. It’s far too late for them. It’s now just a question of how much can we limit the needless human and environmental disasters for which future generations will rightly condemn us. The truth about the terrifying pestilence must be seen for what it is. As Lenin said, “We need complete, truthful information. And the truth should not depend on whom it is to serve”1

  1. Roy Medvedev. Let History Judge, Frontispiece.

Venezuela declares Craib Kowalik, Canada’s Chargé d’Affaires in Caracas, persona non gratas

Lying is so common in diplomacy that it can be hard to tell heads from tails in international disputes. In the recent tussle between Caracas and Ottawa, for instance, Venezuela says it is trying to protect itself from foreign “interference” while Canada claims it is promoting “democracy and human rights”. Given the ever-present possibility of a complete disregard for truth on both sides, which government might be more credible in this instance?

Let us consider the background.

Last week Venezuela declared Canada’s chargé d’affaires in Caracas persona non grata. In making the announcement the president of the National Constituent Assembly Delcy Rodriguez denounced Craib Kowalik’s “permanent and insistent, rude and vulgar interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela.”

Is Rodriguez’s explanation for expelling Kowalik convincing? In recent months foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has repeatedly criticized Venezuela’s elected government and Canada is part of the so-called Lima Group of foreign ministers opposed to President Nicolás Maduro. Following Washington’s lead, Ottawa has also imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials and supported opposition groups. In one project, the Canadian embassy distributed $125,212 through the Canadian Funding to Local Initiatives program, which “provided flexible, modest support for projects with high visibility and impact on human rights and the rule of law, including: enabling Venezuelan citizens to anonymously register and denounce corruption abuses by government officials and police through a mobile phone application in 2014-15.”

In August outgoing Canadian ambassador Ben Rowswell, a specialist in social media and political transition, told the Ottawa Citizen: “We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.” (Can you imagine the hue and cry if a Venezuelan ambassador said something similar about Canada?) Rowswell added that Canada would continue to support the domestic opposition after his departure from Caracas since “Freeland has Venezuela way at the top of her priority list.”

So, obviously it’s hard to argue with Rodriguez’ claim that Canada has been “interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela.”

But, what to make of Freeland’s statement — when Ottawa declared Venezuela’s top diplomat persona non grata in response — that “Canadians will not stand by as the government of Venezuela robs its people of their fundamental democratic and human rights”?

A series of decisions Freeland’s government has pursued over the past two weeks make it hard to take seriously Canada’s commitment to democracy and human rights:

  • Canada signed a defence cooperation arrangement with the United Arab Emirates. According to Radio Canada International, the accord with the monarchy “will make it easier for the Canadian defence industry to access one of the world’s most lucrative arms markets and bolster military ties between the two countries.”
  • Canada sided with the US, Israel and some tiny Pacific island states in opposing a UN resolution supporting Palestinian statehood backed by 176 nations.
  • Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen promoted Canadian energy and mining interests during a meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is seeking international legitimacy after winning a controversial election (re-run) boycotted by the opposition.
  • The Liberals added Ukraine to Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List, which allows Canadian companies to export weapons to that country with little restriction. President Petro Poroshenko, who has a 2% popular approval rating, needs to make gains in the Ukraine’s civil war to shore up his legitimacy.
  • Just before expelling Venezuela’s chargé d’affaires Ottawa officially endorsed an electoral farce in Honduras. Following Washington, Global Affairs tweeted that Canada “acknowledges confirmation of Juan Orlando Hernandez as President of #Honduras.” But, Hernandez defied the country’s constitution in seeking a second term and since the election fraud on November 26 his forces have killed more than 30 pro-democracy demonstrators. Author of Ottawa and Empire: Canada and the Military Coup in Honduras Tyler Shipley responded:  “Wow, Canada sinks to new lows with this. The entire world knows that the Honduran dictatorship has stolen an election, even the Organization of American States (an organization which skews right) has demanded that new elections be held because of the level of sketchiness here. And — as it has for over eight years — Canada is at the forefront of protecting and legitimizing this regime built on fraud and violence. Even after all my years of research on this, I’m stunned that Freeland would go this far; I expected Canada to stay quiet until Juan Orlando Hernandez had fully consolidated his power. Instead Canada is doing the heavy lifting of that consolidation.”

During the past two weeks Canadian decision makers have repeatedly undermined or ignored democracy and human rights.

While Caracas’ rationale for expelling Canadian diplomats appears credible, the same cannot be said for Ottawa’s move. In the tit-for-tat between Canada and Venezuela Canadians would do better to trust Caracas.

The Life of Fidel Castro: A Marxist Appreciation


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

— Fidel Castro

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

Karl Marx

The Epoch of Fidel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington’s Factories of Fabrication

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

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

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

Camilo Cienfuegos and Fidel Castro

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

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

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

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

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

The ”Dictator”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Main Source of Fidel’s Legacies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fidel’s Marxism

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

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

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

Proletarian Internationalism

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

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

Marx and Engels

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

Marx and Engels

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

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

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

Lenin

Vladimir Lenin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Longevity of Fidel

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

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

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

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

Fidel and Malcolm X

Fidel and Maurice Bishop

Fidel and Thomas Sankara

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

Che Guevara

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

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

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

Unintended Consequences of World War II

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

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

These consequences, intended and unintended, included:

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

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

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

Revolution in Asia

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

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

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

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

Fidel and the Historical Moment

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

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

Volatility and Permanent Crisis in Today’s Capitalist World Order

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

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

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

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

Before the Revolution: Fidel the Activist and Organizer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading a Socialist Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Agrarian Reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fidel and the Liberation of Southern Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chile

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

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

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

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

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

Fidel speaking to a mass rally in Chile, November 1971

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

Central America Revolutionary Upsurge in the 1980s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Special Period”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fidel, the “world Communist movement” and Socialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fidel and Stalinism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fidel on Stalin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At this point he tells Borge:

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

Castro continues:

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

Fidel on Stalinism – Brazil 1990

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fidel Castro and the Crisis of Revolutionary Leadership in the World

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

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

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

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

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

As Frederick Engels said at the graveside of Karl Marx:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Hiding Truth in Canada

Freedom of expression includes not saying what you don’t want to. So these updates which may give some insight to ‘truth management’ in Canada start out with the journalist’s right to protect his/her sources. Refusing to reveal a source to the court in both the U.S. and Canada can place a journalist in jail. The extremes of countering an individual’s wishes not to reveal information have become the state’s domain due to current policies on torture. U.S. officials who have approved torture are allowed to enter Canada although torture is clearly against Canadian law. And the law is further compromised by government agencies accepting from other countries information which is obtained by torture.

1. The House of Commons has unanimously passed Bill S-231, allowing journalists to not reveal confidential sources unless required by a Superior Court judge.1 Superior Court judge approval will also be required for the police investigation of a journalist or search of his/her premises. While this seems to protect the journalist’s rights by taking such decisions out of the hands of lesser court judges, it still officially grants the state the right to criminalize a journalist for protecting his/her sources. Decency and professional standards stand in contradiction.

2. The Supreme Court has decided unanimously, that the records concerned with the abuse of native Americans at Canada’s residential schools, 38,000 accounts, will be destroyed.2 Individuals will have fifteen years to retrieve the records of their abuse. The destruction of records deprives the future of the truth. Without history the lessons may have to be learned all over again. Canada’s government wanted to archive the documents for historical record: analysis of church and government’s roles in the abuse of First Peoples remains incomplete.

3. In Ottawa a plaque at Canada’s new Holocaust Memorial Monument has been removed in response to protests that the text didn’t specifically deal with Jews. The text read: “The National Holocaust Monument commemorates the millions of men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust and honours the survivors who persevered and were able to make their way to Canada after one of the darkest chapters in history. The monument recognizes the contribution these survivors have made to Canada and serves as a reminder that we must be vigilant in standing guard against hate, intolerance and discrimination.” However the monument is shaped as a Star of David, during the Holocaust an emblem which applied only to the Jewish people.3 The monument also specifies the experience of Europe’s Jewish communities on the interior walls.4 Text of the replacement plaque has not been released.

In addition to Jewish peoples and depending on the region of Europe, millions of people who weren’t Jews were rounded up and killed, Roma, Poles, Russians, Serbs, Non-Aryans, communists, nationalists, dissidents, homosexuals, handicapped, old people, sick people, prisoners, prisoners of war, resistance fighters died in labour camps, concentration camps, by injection, gas chanbers, on scaffolds, in the fields of resistance, at mass graves or through starvation and disease. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau inaugurated the monument on September 27th, 2017, but was publicly chided for not specifying Jews in his speech, and for the lack of specific reference in this particular plaque.

Historical note: Edwin Black in his book, War against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Attempt to Create a Master Race,  relies less on the concept of the Holocaust as a war against the Jews, than on the Nazi’s attempt to create a genetically ‘superior’ race. Since the early 1920’s German eugenics research and resulting programs were heavily funded by the U.S.’s Rockfeller Foundation. Nazi programs of “racial hygiene” paralleled the rising anti-Semitism of the laws. In 1933 Reich Statute Part I, No 86, the Law for the Prevention of Defective Progeny was a mass sterilization law for those considered feebleminded, schizophrenic, manic depressive, and those with chorea, epilepsy, physical deformities, deafness, inherited blindness5 While the Rockefeller Foundation didn’t officially approve of the Reich’s policies in eugenics it continued to fund German eugenics mightily. If one considers the Holocaust a war on  Jews rather than a war of racial hygiene for the purity of a Nordic master race, then one needn’t investigate the wealthy and powerful sources of the crime, or reject the human sacrifices of eugenics.

4. As an alternative to re-writing history the perception managers have the option of not letting history occur – if it counters business interests. And Canadian courts have the option of placing publication bans or gag orders on what the public is allowed to know about what happens in legal proceedings. In Vancouver under the Conservative Harper government, environmental groups mobilizing to understand and counter the claims of large corporations to place pipelines across native lands, were infiltrated by government/police agencies. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is taking the government to court6 for allegedly spying on environmentalists of Lead Now, Stand Earth, the Dogwood Initiative and Sierra Club of B.C.; government spying criminalizes groups and people attempting to contribute to National Energy Board hearings on pipeline approval. Objections were initially raised before the Security Intelligence Review Committee (the watchdog committee for the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency) which rejected the case and forbid the environmentalists from publicly revealing evidence about the review. The environmentalists’ lawyer sees the gag order as a violation of freedom of expression. The Review Committee has used its authority as a tool of oppression. The gag order doesn’t benefit the people but CSIS protected corporate interests, and currently these are under some pressure.

In what the Mayor of Montreal Denis Coderre finds a victory for the people, TransCanada has cancelled the 15.7 billion dollar Energy East pipeline.7 Its destruction of the environment will simply not occur. An estimated 236 million tons of carbon will not pollute the atmosphere. TransCanada also cancelled its Eastern Mainline pipeline. Reliant on freedom of expression and information sharing, grassroots mobilization across Canada has won an initial victory.

5. Information on the case of Alexandre Bissonnette remains tightly controlled and slightly…awry (“At the suspect’s court appearance on February 21, 2017, the judge ordered a publication ban”). There’s restricted release of any police evidence or the results and extent of any investigations into Quebec City’s Mosque murder of six Muslim worshippers this past January 29th. On October 2nd another charge was laid against the single suspect, Alexandre Bissonnette, for an additional attempted murder.8 So there are now six charges of “attempted murder with a restricted weapon” and the six charges of first-degree murder remain. To avoid time limits before the case is nullified, with the judge’s warning, the CBC assures us the Crown is passing over holding a preliminary inquiry, to simply proceed with the indictment. The CBC reports that the Mosque’s Muslim community still wants to know why Alexandre Bissonnette hasn’t, logically, incurred terrorism charges. The Crown Prosecutor has replied that murder is the most serious crime in Canadian law. This doesn’t really address a public understanding that charges of terrorism increase the terms of prison time at sentencing. So Canadians are denied the privilege of understanding the prosecutor’s compassion for this only suspect in a rather complicated and thorough murder of six Muslims at worship. The case goes to trial in court, December 11th.

6. The Huffington Post notes that Canada leads the United States in the number of corrupt companies blacklisted by the World Bank.9 We remember that this is the same World Bank which forced “austerity” on Greece in an attempt to sway the country to a more profitable fascism. The World Bank is not considered morally or ethically “fussy.” But #1 in the world Canada has 117 companies (mostly SNC-Lavalin-related) which the World Bank considers too corrupt for even them to do business with, while 2nd in the world U.S. has only 46 companies which are actually named. A difficulty with economic corruption is that it translates into the infrastructures of entire populations. For instance, one of Canada’s SNC-Lavalin companies is Candu Energy, famous for designing nuclear reactors.

7. An article by Tony Seed reveals that Canada’s Defence Cooperation Agreement with the Ukraine, not only allows expanded arms sales to a fascist government of the Ukraine but allows increased sales to Saudi Arabia by Canadian companies; i.e., Pratt & Whitney Canada, Esterline GMC Electronics.10 Saudi Arabia is currently bombing a poverty stricken Yemen where a million cases of cholera are expected before November. According to Democracy Now!:11 “The ongoing U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign has destroyed Yemen’s health, water and sanitation systems…”.  An ongoing but ignored genocide warning continues for the people of Yemen.12

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and former International Minister of Trade, Chrystia Freeland, currently negotiating the NAFTA agreement for Canada, has found it difficult to resist Canada’s anti-Russian, pro-U.S. policy in the Ukraine which blends easily with her own beginnings as a journalist for a Canadian Ukrainian nationalist newspaper (See “The Tactical Use of the Ukraine“). Supplying Saudi Arabia with weapons at this point should be considered a crime against humanity of major proportions and not concern simply the Canadian weapons suppliers but their government facilitators. Which leads us to the purpose of lies, of perception management, of suppressing news, of hiding the truth from the people. If capable of perceiving the damages they cause, surely the people would object.

  1. Gloria Galloway,”Ottawa passes legislation to protect journalists’ anonymous sources from police,” The Globe and Mail, October 4, 2017.
  2. Kathleen Harris, “Indigenous residential school records can be destroyed, Supreme Court rules,” CBC News, October 06, 2017.
  3. Senator Linda Frum in “Conservative MP wants answers after National Holocaust Monument flub,” CTV News, October 5, 2017.
  4. Bruce Campion-Smith. “National Holocaust Monument plaque pulled after panel omits mention of Jews,” thestar.com.
  5. War against the Weak, p.299.
  6. Mike De Souza and Carl Meyer, “Trudeau government taken to court over alleged spying during Harper years,” National Observer, October 4th 2017.
  7. Jake Johnson, “Huge ‘People Over Pipeline’ Victory as TransCanada Forced to Kill Energy East,” Common Dreams, October 5, 2017.
  8. Catou MacKinnon, “Crown charges Quebec City mosque shooter with attempted murder of attack witnesses,” CBC News, October 2, 2017.
  9. “World Bank’s Corrupt Companies Blacklist Dominated By Canada,” September 18, 2013, The Huffington Post.
  10. Tony Seed. “Background on Canada-Ukraine defence agreement: A ‘rich, mutually beneficial’ arms trade,” June 11, 2017, Tony Seed’s Weblog.
  11. “Yemen: ICRC Warns of New Outbreaks as Cholera Cases Near 1 Million,” October 03, 2017.
  12. Nightslantern.ca has carried genocide warnings for the people of Yemen since 2015 here. See 2015; 2016; 2017.

Nazi Demonstration in Kiev

On 14 October 2017, those Ukrainian political parties with a nostalgia for Nazism, organized a torch lit march in Kiev, in remembrance of Stepan Bandera, the founder of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) - a person who makes us recall chilling events in the past. Stepan Bandera was integrated into Gladio, the Nato stay-behind networks established at the end of the Second World War. There is no doubt that exactly 58 years ago, he was assassinated by Soviet services in (...)

Finding Our Way Back to Truth by Following a String of Facts

If you find yourself lost and confused in a dark wood, then perhaps following this network of knots strung on a long string of dates listed below will help you find your way back home, where the bread of truth awaits you on the kitchen table.

As we know, children love to trace, to connect the dots, to make connections, but often the connections they make frighten adults who try to ignore their points or offer some ridiculous circumlocutions.  Maybe we adults are much like children in our desires to make connections, but the thought of it frightens us, even when we are already frightened by being lost amidst a forest of propaganda. Suppose we could for a while calm those fears and concentrate long enough to trace through the dim glimmerings of a faded pattern a clarifying story that would jolt us into an awareness that could change our lives and society.  I offer here an arc of history that you may consider tedious.  Try patience.  I could yell, I could scream, I could try all the classical argumentation and logic that comes “naturally” to me.  I could be a wise guy, amuse you, try to provoke you, curse, sing a song, stomp my feet – even write post-modern gibberish.  As Andre Vltchek says, it’s hard – I’m putting it nicely – to get through, to have an impact that counts. We desperately want to believe in a world where we really are children and BIG Daddy (apologies to Burl Ives) has told the truth. And yet we know that is an illusion.  Obviously I have reached some stern conclusions, but I think the conclusions follow from the facts.  See what you think.  Follow these knots.  They are a sampling. There are many more.

  • 1957 – Massachusetts Senator John Kennedy delivers a Senate speech in support of the Algerian liberation movement, in support of African liberation generally, and against colonial imperialism. The speech causes an international uproar, and Kennedy is harshly attacked by Eisenhower, Nixon, John Foster Dulles, and even liberals such as Adlai Stevenson.  He is praised in the third world.
  • 1959 – George H. W. Bush moves his oil company – Zapata Offshore – to Houston, Texas. One of Zapata’s drilling rigs, Scorpion, having been moved from the Gulf of Mexico the previous year, is now operating 54 miles north of Cuba
  • 1960 – On March 17 President Eisenhower approves the Bay of Pigs project.
  • 1961 – On January 17, in anticipation of Kennedy’s inauguration in three days, the Belgian government in complicity with the CIA assassinates Congolese nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba. On February 13th a devastated Kennedy receives a belated phone call informing him of Lumumba’s murder.
  • 1961 – April. More than a week before the CIA led Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba – code-named the Zapata Operation – the CIA discovers that the Soviets have learned the date of the invasion and informed Castro. Knowing the invasion is doomed in advance, the CIA Director Allen Dulles doesn’t tell Kennedy.  When the invasion fails, the CIA blames JFK who angrily says he wants “to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”  Kennedy fires Dulles.
  • 1962 – On June 13 Lee Harvey Oswald, ex-Marine and alleged traitor, returns from the Soviet Union with a loan from the State Department that also arranges for him, together with his Russian wife, to be met at the dock in Hoboken, New Jersey by Spas T. Raikin, an official of an anti-communist organization with extensive intelligence connections. Oswald soon moves to Dallas, Texas where, at the behest of the CIA, he is chaperoned around by CIA asset and George H. W. Bush’s old friend, George de Mohrenschildt.
  • 1963 – June 10. JFK delivers his famous American University address calling for an end to “a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.”
  • 1963 – On October 11 Kennedy issues National Security Action Memorandum 263 calling for the withdrawal of 1,000 American troops from Vietnam by the end of 1963 and all of them by the end of 1965.
  • 1963 – November 2. At the last minute JFK cancels his trip to Chicago to attend the Army-Air Force football game when it is learned that a four-man rifle team has plotted to assassinate him.  The four are never charged or named, but an alienated ex-Marine scapegoat with CIA connections, Thomas Arthur Vallee, is arrested on a pretext. Vallee works in a building overlooking a dog-leg turn where JFK’s car was to pass.
  • 1963 – November 22. JFK is shot in Dallas on a dog-leg turn at 12:30 P.M. and dies at 1 P.M.  At 1:38 P.M. Walter Cronkite makes the first public announcement of the president’s death.  At 1:45 P.M. George H. W. Bush, who is in Tyler, Texas an hour and a half southeast of Dallas, telephones Houston FBI agent Graham W. Kitchel to inform him that he’s heard gossip that a Houston man, James Parrot, has been talking about killing Kennedy when he comes to Houston (JFK had been in Houston the day before).  Parrot is questioned and deemed harmless.  Bush tells the FBI agent that he’ll be going to Dallas in the evening, though he fails to mention that he was there the night before.  At 1:50 PM the Dallas police arrest Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas Theatre and charge him with the murder of Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippett.  A few minutes after Oswald’s arrest and his exit out the front door to waiting police cars, a second Oswald is arrested in the theatre and surreptitiously taken out the back door. Later in the day Oswald is charged with also killing President Kennedy from behind from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository.  But the fatal shot to Kennedy’s head comes from his right front.
  • 1963 – Two days later Jack Ruby kills Oswald, who claimed he was a patsy, in the Dallas police building. That same afternoon LBJ tells Henry Cabot Lodge that “I am not going to lose Vietnam.”
  • 1963 – November 29. LBJ announces the formation of the Warren Commission whose key member is Allen Dulles, the former CIA Director fired by Kennedy.
  • 1963 – On December 24th Johnson tells the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “Just get me elected, and then you can have your war.”
  • 1964 – August. The fraudulent Tonkin Gulf Incidents and Tonkin Gulf Resolution. The Admiral in charge of the U.S. fleet is George Stephen Morrison, the father of the singer Jim Morrison, who the following year will settle into Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles together with, among others, Frank Zappa, “Papa” John Philips, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills, all children of parents of the military/intelligence complex.  Johnson orders the bombing of North Vietnam.  The Vietnam War starts in earnest.
  • 1964 – September. The Warren Commission findings are made public. Oswald is declared the lone assassin with the magic bullet explanation being the key.
  • 1966 – The CIA’s Phoenix Program, an intelligence gathering, assassination, “pacification,” and drug running program, is organized in Vietnam. It conducts countless assassinations and tortures throughout Vietnam. Its organizational structure later becomes the structure for Homeland Security and the “war on terror,” while its drug-dealing modus operandi, joined to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), floods the United States with illegal drugs up to the present day.
  • 1967 – Martin Luther King delivers his Riverside Church speech – “A Time to Break Silence” – denouncing the Vietnam War and calling for opposition to it, while linking it to social, racial, and economic oppression at home. He says that the three linked devils of militarism, racism, and economic exploitation can only be solved together.
  • 1967 – On June 8 Israel attacks the USS Liberty in international waters, killing 34 U.S. sailors and Marines and wounding 171 others.
  • 1968 – April 4. Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis.  The authorities blame it on James Earl Ray, a petty criminal loner.  It is later proven that King was killed by U.S. government forces in coordination with Memphis police and local Mafia.
  • 1968 – On June 6 in Los Angeles, Senator Robert Kennedy, on the cusp of becoming the Democratic nominee for president, is assassinated. The accused lone assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, was standing in front and to the right of RFK. None of the bullets from his gun struck the Senator. The autopsy shows Kennedy was killed by a bullet from behind and below that entered his head behind his right ear.  Sirhan is subsequently convicted as the lone crazed gunman, despite many witnesses seeing a girl in a polka dot dress with a male companion, running down the back stairs of the hotel, shouting. “We shot him!  We shot him!  We shot Senator Kennedy.”
  • 1968 – November. Richard Nixon, vowing to end the Vietnam War, is elected President after secretly sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks.  He subsequently continues the war and secretly expands it to Cambodia and Laos.
  • 1972 – June 17. Five CIA employees and veterans of the Bay of Pigs operation are arrested inside the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee.  Together with H. Howard Hunt (CIA) and G. Gordon Liddy, they are later indicted.  The burglars are caught by a security guard who notices that these skilled undercover operatives have taped locks open from the outside so that the tape is showing.
  • The Watergate story is primarily reported by reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who work at the Washington Post under Editor Ben Bradlee. Woodward had earlier served in Naval Intelligence, as had Bradlee, while Bradlee and the Washington Post have deep ties to the CIA and intelligence communities.
  • 1973 – September 11. A CIA organized coup overthrows the socialist government of Chilean President Salvador Allende, killing thousands.
  • 1974 – August 9. Nixon is forced to resign.  He is the second president in eleven years to be removed from office.  Gerald Ford, a former member of the Warren Commission, assumes the presidency.  Dick Cheney is named White House Chief of staff and Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense.
  • 1976 – January 30. Having been nominated by Ford, George H. W. Bush assumes the Directorship of the CIA, despite critics arguing that he has no intelligence experience.  He serves in that capacity for 365 days.
  • 1976 – George de Mohrenschildt, Oswald’s CIA handler and George H. W. Bush’s old friend, writes a letter to CIA Director Bush begging for help “we are being followed everywhere….”
  • 1977 – March 27. George de Mohrenschildt, about to be questioned by investigator Gaeton Fonzi of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, allegedly commits suicide in Florida.
  • 1979 – November 4. Fifty-two Americans are taken hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
  • 1980 – Ronald Reagan is elected president and George H. W. Bush, vice-president. It is later alleged that Bush, CIA officer Robert Gates, and CIA Director William Casey met secretly with Iranian officials in Paris before the election and made a secret deal to insure Reagan/Bush an election victory by not releasing the hostages before the vote.  The hostages were subsequently released a few minutes after Reagan and Bush were sworn in on January 20, 1981.
  • 1985-88 – The Iran-Contra scandal plays out as it is discovered that the Reagan administration was secretly selling arms to Iran in exchange for hostages and using the proceeds to illegally arm the anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua in violation of the Boland amendment. Oliver North becomes the public face of the secret machinations while Reagan and Bush plead ignorance.  Many are indicted, while Bush, when running for president in 1988, claims he was “out of the loop.”
  • 1988 – July 16. In the midst of the presidential campaign pitting Bush against Dukakis, the Nation magazine publishes an article by Joseph McBride, “The Man Who Wasn’t There, ‘George Bush,’ CIA Operative.”  The article centers around a newly discovered memo from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, dated November 29, 1963, concerning the JFK assassination and an oral briefing the bureau had given on November 23rd regarding the assassination to “Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency.”  A Bush spokesman denies it was candidate Bush.
  • 1988 – July 3. The USS Vincennes shoots down in Iranian airspace civilian Iran Flight 655 killing 299, including 66 children. Vice President Bush says, “ I will never apologize for the U.S.  I don’t care what the facts are … I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.”
  • 1988 – George H. W. Bush is elected president.
  • 1990-91 – President Bush attacks Iraq, called the Gulf War, public and congressional support for which is given a huge boost on the testimony of a nurse who claims she witnessed Iraqi soldiers In Kuwait City hospital grabbing babies out of incubators and throwing them on the floor to die. It is later discovered that the “nurse” in question was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States and that she hadn’t lived in Kuwait at the time.  Her story had been hatched by the Hill and Knowlton public relations firm and was a lie – a successful lie.
  • 1991 – May 19. A few weeks after filming had begun on Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK, the Washington Post’s national security reporter George Lardner, Jr. writes a scathing review of the film based on a stolen copy of the first draft of the screenplay.
  • 1991 – December 20. Stone’s film, JFK, is released.
  • 1991 – On December 24 President Bush grants pardons to six former members of the Reagan/Bush administration facing prosecution in the Iran-Contra scandal.
  • 1993-2000 – President Bill Clinton bombs Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Sudan … killing untold numbers of people, while maintaining economic sanctions on Iraq.
  • 1995 – April 19. The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, blamed exclusively on Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Evidence pointing to others involved was dismissed, even the report of Air Force General Benton K. Partin, the U.S. Air Force’s top explosive expert, showing in detail that explosives were planted inside the building at critical structural points on the third floor.
  • 1996 – May 12.  On CBS’s Sixty Minutes Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albrecht says that the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of the sanctions are worth it.
  • 1997 – The Project for the New American Century, a neo-conservative enterprise, three of whose signees are Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Jeb Bush, is launched. Among other things, they call for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Ten signees of the statement of principles go on to serve in the George W. Bush administration.
  • 1999 – On April 26 CIA headquarters was named the George Bush Center for Intelligence in honor of former president George H.W. Bush who served as CIA Director for 357 days.
  • 1999 – A jury in Memphis, Tennessee returns a verdict in a civil trial brought by Martin Luther King’s family concluding that King was killed, not by James Earl Ray, but by a conspiracy involving agencies of the U. S. government and the Memphis police.
  • 2000 – September. The Project for the New American Century releases a position paper, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” stating that the United States will not be able to enforce its will on Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan and maintain a Pax Americana “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”  The paper introduces a new word to refer to the United States of America – “the homeland.”
  • 2000 – November. George W. Bush is elected president after a disputed ballot count and the intervention of the Supreme Court.  Dick Cheney becomes vice-president and Donald Rumsfeld is named Secretary of Defense.
  • 2001 – May 1. George W. Bush gives a major foreign policy speech at the National Defense University and says that the U.S.A. must be willing to “rethink the unthinkable,” giving public notice that the U. S. planned to withdraw from the ABM treaty. He warns against “weapons of mass destruction” and “weapons of terror” in the hands of rogue actors.  The speech closely follows the reasoning of the PNAC paper of the previous year in urging an aggressive foreign policy.  Cheney and Rumsfeld are in the audience.
  • 2001 – June 22-23 Exercise Dark Winter takes place at Andrews Air Force base. The scenario involves anonymous threatening letters sent to mainstream media.  The letters threaten more letters to come with anthrax.  Judith Miller, author of Germs, and a notoriously deceptive Iraq war hawk for The New York Times, participates, playing Judith Miller of the New York Times.
  • 2001 – September 11. The terrorist attacks in NYC and Washington, D.C. occur.  The media immediately starts referring to them as another Pearl Harbor, a new Pearl Harbor.  CBS News reports that before going to bed at night George W. Bush wrote in his diary, “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.”  The site of the Twin Towers is first referred to as “ground zero,” a nuclear war term, by Mark Walsh, identified as a freelancer for Fox News by the Fox News interviewer on the street of lower Manhattan.  Presciently anticipating the official explanation for the buildings collapse, Walsh adds that the towers obviously collapsed “mostly due to structural failure since the fires were too intense.”
  • 2001 – September 12. The New York Times headlines a story: “Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush that Became the Unthinkable.”  Another headline under the byline of future editor Bill Keller, Iraq war hawk, reads, “America’s Emergency Line: 9/11.”  The endless emergency and war on terror begin.  Henceforth, for the first time in American history, a very important day is referred to by numbers, not by name – an emergency phone number.
  • 2001 – September 22. Tom Ridge is named Director of the newly created Homeland Security and becomes in charge of politically motivated terror alerts.
  • 2001 – September-October. Real and fake anthrax attacks occur.  A sham investigation follows with the FBI eventually accusing government scientist Bruce Ivins on little to no evidence, resulting in Ivins’ alleged suicide.
  • 2001 – Throughout the first three weeks of October the major media use the word “unthinkable” repetitively, echoing its association with nuclear war, just as the World Trade Center site is similarly referred to as “ground zero,” another nuclear term. A phony “anthrax” letter containing a harmless white powder, postmarked in St. Petersburg, Florida on September 20, is sent to Tom Brokaw of NBC. The letter, not made public until October 22 after the media’s repeated use of the word “unthinkable,” begins: “The Unthinkabel” Sample Of How It Will Look.  Judith Miller of the New York Times receives an anthrax threat letter also sent from St. Petersburg.
  • 2001 – October 7. The U.S.A attacks Afghanistan.
  • 2001 – October 27. The Patriot Act is passed.
  • 2001 – December 4. George W. Bush says when he was outside the classroom in Florida on September 11th he “had seen this plane fly into the first building.  There was a TV set on….”  Problem: No one saw the first plane hit the North Tower since it wasn’t televised live.  Much later a tape someone had made was shown on television.
  • 2002 – October 2. At the Cincinnati Museum Center President Bush gives a speech linking Saddam Hussein to the September 11 attacks and says that “we cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”  He urges the disarming of Iraq.
  • 2002-10 – Regular color-coded terrorist alerts
  • 2003 – February. Secretary of State Colin Powell gives false testimony at the U.N., asserting that Iraq possesses chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and must be confronted.
  • 2003 – March. The U. S. attacks Iraq based on lies.
  • 2003-8 – Bush wages war on Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Homeland “security” leads to indefinite detention, black sites, torture, spying on Americans, the loss of Constitutional rights, etc.
  • 2007 – February 10. Barack Obama, having been a U.S. Senator for 2 years 1 month announces he is running for president.
  • 2008 – September. An international financial meltdown occurs.  The government claims it was unforeseen.  The Bush administration bails out the big banks and financial institutions.
  • 2008 – November. A seriously inexperienced Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, comes out of nowhere to be elected president on a populist platform of “hope” and “change.”  He receives more backing from Wall Street than his Republican rival.  Liberals and progressives go wild for joy.  Hope and change is proclaimed.
  • 2009 – Lawrence Summers, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, takes up his position as head of Obama’s economic team. Timothy Geithner, former head of the New York Federal Reserve, whose father, Peter Geithner, oversaw the Ford Foundation’s programs in Indonesia developed by Obama’s mother (who also worked for another notorious CIA front, USAID) becomes Secretary of the Treasury.  And Robert Gates, former CIA Director and George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense continues in that position for Obama.
  • 2009 – March. Obama meets with the CEOs of fifteen big banks and tells them that “my administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks …. I’m not out there to go after you. I’m protecting you.”
  • 2009 – Obama intensifies the war on Afghanistan.
  • 2009 – October 9. Obama is given the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • 2009 – December. Obama sends 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, saying this “will bring this war to a successful conclusion.”
  • 2010 – Obama vows to carry forward the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans.
  • 2010 – and ongoing. Obama chooses his drone war kill list every Tuesday; says the killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki “is an easy one.”
  • 2011 – Obama and partners attack Libya and brutally kill Muammar Gaddafi. Libya descends into chaos. Hilary Clinton exults.
  • 2009 – and ongoing. Obama attacks Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, etc. Does nothing to stop the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians.  Supports and arms terrorists in Syria and other countries.  Engineers a coup d’etat in Ukraine and supports neo-Nazi forces attacking eastern Ukraine.  Encircles Russia with NATO troops and military exercises.  Starts a new Cold War.  Maintains military commissions and indefinite detention.  Prosecutes more whistleblowers than all previous American presidents combined, but does not prosecute any banksters or torturers.  Charges Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, Jeffrey Sterling, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, et al of violating the 1917 Espionage Act.  Acquiesces in the military coup against the democratically elected leader of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi and his subsequent imprisonment.  Spies on Americans and other countries. Maintains a national state of emergency and the Patriot Act with minor adjustments.  Prosecutes “the war on terror” initiated by George W. Bush.  Rules over a technological, computerized war of killing all over the globe and a technological, computerized spying apparatus here at home.  Spreads USAFRICOM throughout Africa, killing black Africans and undermining governments with Special Forces.  And does all this and more with a smile.  Then, before leaving office he creates the fraudulent Russia gate story to continue the new Cold War and to undermine any possible cooling of US/Russians tensions under a possible Trump presidency.
  • 2016 – Trump is elected President to the shock and awe of the Democrats and their supporters. Immediately, the undermining of Trump begins to make sure he doesn’t follow through on his promise to reduce nuclear tensions with Russia.
  • 2017 – Donald Trump, the new reality-TV president, takes office and comes under incessant attack from the Democrats and the main stream media. He reneges on most of his campaign promises, including reconciliation with Russia, and tweets so many moronic messages that he plays into the Democrats’ hands. Propaganda expands exponentially as the game of personality politics plays on.  Meanwhile, the structures of oligarchic rule continue un-abated, both at home and abroad.  Trump continues Obama’s war policies, killing people around the world.

It should be clear from this small portion of events over the years that there is a connecting link, that there is a bloody thread running through them connecting key players and the obvious ongoing presence of a secret structure that recruits its team to maintain this oppressive system. To see it should be gutsy child’s play. It is not an issue of either/or; we can’t explain how we have come to this terrifying situation of rule by a murderous, militarized national security apparatus serving the wealthy elites by concentrating on either individuals or structures.  People such as Barack Obama, the Bushes, Trump et al don’t emerge from thin air (though in Obama’s case it seems that way, and some have speculated on his CIA links).  These people grow out of a system that has cultivated and nurtured them.  They become spokesmen for the secretive and powerful moneyed forces some call the Deep State, the shadow government, the power elite, etc.  (The scholar Peter Dale Scott sees a hidden link between the JFK assassination, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and 9/11.)  Spokesmen, yes, they are that, but executive spokesmen; they are not innocent victims; they are free executive executioners, ordering death and destruction around the world and threatening a nuclear holocaust.  People and ongoing structures are intertwined.  Individuals count, but so do structures.

We are now living within a structure of non-stop and almost total propaganda that individuals, with the help of alternative structures of communication such as alternative media, can penetrate and understand, but only if they are willing to trudge through the forest of history that will allow for context and the connecting of dots.  In the end, it takes desire and work.  There are no excuses when, at least for now, the World Wide Web makes available so many voices for truth.  Many individuals concluding alike can lead to change.  Connect and be outraged.  This is the path to true patriotism, a love of one’s home country and the world that is our home.  We are not lost children without a way out of the forest of deception and fear.  Follow the knotted string to freedom.  Add to it.

The psychiatrist Allen Wheelis once wrote a brilliant little book called, How People Change.  His “childish” conclusion was that they change because they want to.  Simple but true.