The immigrant proletariat, the Muslim ban, and the capitalist class

Editor’s note: This piece was originally written on February 1, 2017 so it is outdated in some respects, but broadly still valid. This is reposted from Dissident Voice.

The Trump administration has dug in its heels, declaring that the 90-day (for now) Muslim ban on refugees, from seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia), enshrined in a January 27th executive order, is just “extreme vetting” and that the media is engaging in “false reporting.” In contrast, hundreds of diplomats have criticized the travel ban, top Democrats have criticized the ban while Republicans like Paul Ryan have said it necessary to protect the “homeland.” Also Jewish groups, over six thousand academics, varying UN agencies, and pro-refugee groups have criticized Trump’s action, along with protests in airports across the country, while immigrants have suffered with more crackdowns to come.

Numerous companies and CEOs have put out critical statements about Trump’s order. This included the top executives of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Airbnb, Box, GE, Lyft, Uber (later on), Koch Industries, TripAdvisor, SpaceX/Tesla Motors, JPMorganCase, and Goldman Sachs, most of whom pledged to help their own employees directly affected. [1] Others that spoke out on the ban included the head of the Internet Association, an industry trade group for the Internet industry, with some investors, like Chris Sacca, sending thousands of dollars to the ACLU, just like Lyft, Tim Cook of Apple declaring that “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do” and Twitter mirroring this by saying “Twitter is built by immigrants of all religions. We stand for and with them, always.” [2] Some exploited the misery of the order by trying to help their bottom line: Airbnb said that it would “provide free housing to detainees and travelers” affected and Starbucks is planning to hire 10,000 refugees “over five years in the 75 countries where it does business,” starting with those people who “have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel.” [3] What seems clear is that the actions of Trump may have crossed a “red line” as Hunter Walk, a partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Homebrew VC, told the Washington Post, indicating possible anti-Trump action by Silicon Valley in the future, as more companies realize it is a “bigger risk to their investors and bottom line to stay quiet than it is to protest Trump’s ban on refugees and travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, betting vocal opposition to the executive order scores them a moral and fiscal victory.” [4]

Such statements mean that the one group that remains constant in opposition to the racist executive order is a sect of the capitalist class. While the recent lawsuits filed in Darweesh v. Trump, Aziz v. Trump, Doe v. Trump, Sarsour v. Trump, San Francisco v. Trump, Louhghalam et al v. Trump, have mainly made constitutional arguments against the racist immigration ban, one suit revealed more about the interests of the capitalist class, especially those in the tech industry. This lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General of the State of Washington, Bob Ferguson, and joined by Expedia and Amazon, among other companies, declared the following, showing how this industry depends on immigrants:

Immigration is an important economic driver in Washington. Many workers in Washington’s technology industry are immigrants, and many of those immigrant workers are from Muslim-majority countries. Immigrant and refugee-owned businesses employ 140,000 people in Washington. Many companies in Washington are dependent on foreign workers to operate and grow their businesses. The technology industry relies heavily on the H-1B visa program through which highly skilled workers like software engineers are permitted to work in the United States. Washington ranks ninth in the U.S. by number of applications for high-tech visas. Microsoft, a corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, is the State’s top employer of high-tech—or H-1B visa holders and employs nearly 5,000 people through the program. Other Washington-based companies, including Amazon, Expedia, and Starbucks, employ thousands of H-1B visa holders. The market for highly skilled workers and leaders in the technology industry is extremely competitive. Changes to U.S. immigration policy that restrict the flow of people may inhibit these companies’ ability to adequately staff their research and development efforts and recruit talent from overseas. If recruiting efforts are less successful, these companies’ abilities to develop and deliver successful products and services may be adversely affected Microsoft’s U.S. workforce is heavily dependent on immigrants and guest workers. At least 76 employees at Microsoft are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen and hold U.S. temporary work visas. There may be other employees with permanent-resident status or green cards. These employees may be banned from re-entering the U.S. if they travel overseas or to the company’s offices in Vancouver, British Columbia. Seattle-based company Amazon also employs workers from every corner of the world. Amazon’s employees, dependents of employees, and candidates for employment with Amazon have been impacted by the Executive Order that is the subject of this Complaint. Amazon has advised such employees currently in the United States to refrain from travel outside the United States. Bellevue-based company Expedia operates a domestic and foreign travel business. At the time of this filing, Expedia has approximately 1,000 customers with existing flight reservations in or out of the United. States who hold passports from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen. The Executive Order will restrict business, increase business costs, and impact current employees and customers.

Such a section comprises six paragraphs of Washington State’s argument against the immigration order, a section that the lawsuit depends on to be successful. Immigrants are clearly vital to the tech industry. Of the 250,000 Muslims living in the San Francisco Bay Area, who are mostly of Arab or South Asian descent, many of them work at “companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.” [5] These immigrants are seen as “essential” to the growth of Silicon Valley, with 37 percent of workers in the area being foreign-born, with immigrants creating “some of America’s biggest tech companies,” like Yahoo, Apple, or Google, and allowing them to survive (and “boom”), since they rely on “talent from abroad to fill positions and to meet their global ambitions.” [6] After all, the “superstars of the high-tech industry are all immigrants” as one article points out.

Since immigrants account for a “significant part of the workforce in the tech industry,” the industry has advocated for looser laws to “increase the flow of skilled immigrants into the U.S.” and is heavily reliant on the H-1B visa program. The program, which started in 2000 with bipartisan support, “allows software engineers and other skilled workers to work in the U.S.,” resulting in their active role in the political arena to push for looser immigration restrictions. [7] Hence, Silicon Valley is afraid of the upcoming immigration restrictions during the Trump administration. This is especially the case since Trump has reportedly drafted an executive order to overhaul the H-1B visa program, which companies depend on so they can “hire tens of thousands of employees each year,” the “talent” they need to thrive, with their support of Trump basically non-existent in the recent presidential campaign. [8]

By the mid-1990s, those who live in the Valley divided “along racial and economic lines” with older and wealthier whites “concentrated in the west Valley,” Latinos have fanned across the floor of the valley, with many of the immigrants poor, bringing with them “crowding and new welfare burdens,” a division that angers many Latinos. [9] In recent years, the immigrant community which undergirds Silicon Valley has been in trouble. [10] With immigrant youth comprising a major portion of “both the population and the workforce in the Silicon Valley,” the Valley had “deep disparities when it comes to the lives of undocumented immigrants,” with such youth facing barriers in accessing education, concentrated in low-wage jobs, and serving as a diverse and “core part of the Silicon Valley community.” Immigrants from the Asian continent, whether Chinese, Filipino, or otherwise, form, as of April 2015, the “largest racial block in Santa Clara County, exceeding the proportion of non-Hispanic white residents for the first time.”

Despite such dependence on immigrants, the tech industry does not treat these employees fairly or justly. One academic report in 2012 says that the stated reasons of the tech industry (lack of study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), rapid technological change, and needing to hire best and brightest workers for “innovations” to occur) cannot be confirmed upon close inspection, leaving cheap labor as “the remaining explanatory factor.” The report goes on to say that legal loopholes allow for foreign workers to be unpaid drastically compared to American-born workers, with many of the workers coming from India, China, and the Philippines, along with other Asian immigrants, comprising from 50-80% of the workforce of top technology companies, with the tech industry claiming a “labor shortage” and lack of talent, although this cannot be supported by existing data. Interestingly, even the conservative media scoffs at the claims of the tech industry, with arch-conservative National Review declaring that work permits “are basically de facto green cards and give the foreign national complete flexibility in the job market” and that the visa program will hurt the middle class (not sure if that’s true) while the similarly aligned FrontPage Magazine questioned the shortage of “high-skilled American labor,” saying that the visa program provides “a supply of lower-wage guest workers.” [11] Of course, they oppose the claims for anti-immigrant reasons and don’t really care about the well-being of immigrant workers in the United States.

Mistreatment of immigrants in Silicon Valley is nothing new. There is no doubt that high-skilled immigrant workers “are being exploited by employers,” with the H1-B visa program benefiting the corporate bottom line, especially providing protection against unions and labor strikes, but hurting the workers. The program itself gives employers great power over workers, allowing them to “hire and fire workers…grant legal immigration status…[or] deport the worker” if they don’t do what they like. In 2014 Wired magazine reported on a study showing that major tech companies (ex: Cisco, Apple, Verizon, Microsoft, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Google) have pocketed wages and benefits from workers, especially among new Indian immigrants to the Valley, leading to an “ecosystem of fear” in the area among the workforce. The tech companies collectively withheld at least $29.7 million from such workers, forcing them to pay fees they shouldn’t have to pay, creating a form of indentured servitude, as some called it, where there exists an “underground system of financial bondage by stealing wages and benefits, even suing workers who quit,” making “business and profit by having cheap labor” as one worker put it. [12] This shows that the tech companies are, in their own way, engaging in a form of organized crime against the immigrant proletariat. Such crimes are only part of their business model which includes top Silicon Valley CEOs conspiring in wage-fixing to drive down the wages of 100,000 engineers, ultimately involving one million employees in all.

With the exploitation of the immigrant proletariat, mainly those that are “high-skilled,” by the tech industry, this explains the harsh opposition from Silicon Valley to Trump’s executive order. Without the visa program, the industry would likely collapse or at least be weakened. As for other industries, immigrants are employed in jobs across the US economy, even as they face similar constraints to the native-born poor along with restrictions related to their citizenship status, especially in cities like New York. As a result, it can be said that immigrants ultimately benefit the US economy, even those that are undocumented, and are not a drag on the “native-born” section of the working class, making the country a better place for all, as even free-marketeers and libertarians would admit. [13] This is important to point out with nativists getting a new lease on life under the Trump administration.

As we stand now, the authoritarianism of the Obama administration has increased under Trump’s nightmarish state in regards to immigrants, Muslims killed by drone bombing, and violence supported by the murderous empire across the world, among much more. While we should undoubtedly be critical of bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives who claim to have the “answers” and solution to fighting Trump, rejecting their pleas to move the capitalist Democratic Party “more left” to fight the “bad Republicans,” there is no reason to sit idly by. We must get involved in pushing for revolutionary politics by at minimum engaging in actions that show solidarity with the immigrant proletariat, whether documented or undocumented, in the United States. In the end, perhaps we should heed what Homer Simpson declared about immigrants all those years ago:

Most of here were born in America. We take this country for granted. Not immigrants like Apu [who immigrated from India and on a green card], while the rest of are drinking ourselves stupid, they’re driving the cabs that get us home safely. They’re writing the operas that entertain us everyday. They’re training out tigers and kicking our extra points. These people are the glue that holds together the gears of our society. [14]

 

Notes

[1] Nathan Bomey, “Elon Musk to seek CEO consensus on changes to Trump immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Fredreka Schouten, “Koch network slams Trump immigrant ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017. As Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors and SpaceX) tried to “seek a consensus” among fellow business CEOs who were affected with the order and trying to work with Trump, Uber changed course from crossing a picket line and profiting from the misery, to condemning Trump’s action as impacting “many innocent people” and the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, declaring “I’ve…never shied away…from fighting for what’s right,” even as they continue their horrid practices with exploitation of their workforce.

[2] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017.

[3] Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017

[4] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017; John Ribeiro, “US tech industry says immigration order affects their operations,” CIO, Jan. 29, 2017; Anthony Cuthbertson, “How Silicon Valley Is Fighting Back Against Trump’s Immigration Ban,” Newsweek, Jan. 30, 2017;

Eric Newcomer, “Silicon Valley Finds Its Voice as Immigration Ban Fuels Outrage,” Bloomberg Technology, Jan. 30, 2017; PCMag staff, “Here’s What Silicon Valley Is Saying About Trump’s Immigration Ban,” PC magazine, Jan. 29, 2017; Matt Richtel, “Tech Recruiting Clashes With Immigration Rules,” New York Times, Apr. 11, 2009. On the subject of US-Mexico migration some companies have tried to get on the game as well: an Israeli company said they will help build the “great wall” on the US-Mexico border.

[5] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017.

[6] John Blackstone, “Tech industry, fueled by immigrants, protesting Trump’s travel ban,” CBS News, Jan. 31, 2017; Kerry Flynn, “Immigrants have built America’s tech industry,” Mashable, Jan. 31, 2017; Carmel Lobello, “The tech industry’s case for immigration reform,” The Week, June 2, 2013; Sarah McBride, “One quarter of U.S. tech start-ups founded by an immigrant: study,” Reuters, Oct. 2, 2012. Even a Forbes contributor, David Shaywitz,” said that immigrants are an “inextricable part of the valley’s cultural fabric and a vital element of its innovative potential.”

[7] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017; Katie Benner, “Obama, Immigration and Silicon Valley,” BloombergView, Jan. 22, 2015; Gregory Ferenstein, “No Exceptions For Tech Industry: High Skilled Visas Now Tied To Comprehensive Reform,” TechCrunch, Dec. 1, 2012; Stephen Moore, “Immigration Reform Means More High-Tech Jobs,” CATO Institute, Sept. 24, 1998; Jessica Leber, “Silicon Valley Fights for Immigrant Talent,” MIT Technology Review, July 26, 2013; Amit Paka, “How Legal Immigration Failed Silicon Valley,” TechCrunch, Sept. 7, 2015.

[8] Peter Elstrom and Saritha Rai, “Trump’s Next Immigration Move to Hit Closer to Home for Tech,” Bloomberg News, Jan. 30, 2017; Gretel Kauffman, “How Trump’s immigration stances could affect the tech industry,” Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 20, 2016; David Z. Morris, “Tech Industry Could be “First to Suffer” From Trump’s Immigration Stances,” Fortune, Nov 19, 2016; Salvador Rodriguez, “Why Tech Companies Need Immigrants to Function,” Inc, Jan. 30, 2017; Paresh Dave and Tracey Lien, “Trump’s shocking victory could squeeze Silicon Valley on immigration and trade,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2016; David Jones, “Silicon Valley Up in Arms Over Proposed H-1B Overhaul,” E-Commerce Times, Jan. 31, 2017; Marisa Kendall, “Trump poised to overhaul H-1B visas relied on by Silicon Valley tech,” Mercury News, Jan. 31, 2017; Hansi Lo Wang, “In Silicon Valley, Immigrants Toast Their Way To The Top,” NPR News, Apr. 19, 2014; Marie-Astrid Langer, “Silicon Valley Wants High-Skilled Immigration on Campaign Agenda,” Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18, 2015.

[9] Andrew Murr, “Immigrants In The Valley,” Newsweek, Dec. 25, 1994.

[10] Some immigrants are doing well however. Even by 1998, one study found that “Chinese and Indian immigrants were running a quarter of the high-tech businesses in Silicon Valley, collectively accounting for more than $16.8 billion in sales and over 58,000 jobs.”

[11] Ian Smith, “Obama Games the Visa System to Lower Wages and Please the Tech Industry,” National Review, September 30, 2015; Arnold Ahlert, “The Tech Industry’s Immigration Lies,” FrontPage Magazine, April 2, 2014.

[12] The report shows that most of those who are the “well educated, highly skilled and specialized foreign workers” accepted under the H1-B Visa program are from China, India, the Philippines, and South Korea, with thousands of other petitions accepted from the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, France, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Nepal, Venezuela, Colombia, Italy, Russia, and Spain, among other countries.

[13] H.A. Goodman, “Illegal immigrants benefit the U.S. economy,” The Hill, Apr. 23, 2014; Rowena Lindsay, “How immigration helps the US economy: Report,” Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 24, 2016; Ted Hesson, “Why American Cities Are Fighting to Attract Immigrants,” The Atlantic, Jul. 21, 2015; Daniel Griswold, “Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World,” Insight (CATO Institute publication), Feb. 18, 2002; Rohit Arora, “Three Reasons Why Immigrants Help the U.S. Economy,” Inc, Feb. 24, 2015; Timothy Kaine, “The Economic Effect Of Immigration,” Hoover Institution, Feb. 17, 2015; Sean Hackbarth, “Immigrants are Good for the Economy,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Dec. 5, 2014; A. Barton Hinkle, “Immigration Is Good for the U.S. Economy,” Reason, Jul. 21, 2014; Minyoung Park, “The vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the US are here working: BAML,” Yahoo! News, Jul. 21, 2016.

[14] This speech is made by Homer near the end of the Simpsons episode, Much Apu About Nothing (Season 7, episode 23, May 1996) when Homer has the realization that the measure that would deport immigrants from Springfield, proposition 24, proposed by the loyal mayor, Joe Quimby, to distract from the “bear tax” to pay for the worthless “Bear Patrol” is wrong. Regardless, the measure passes anyway, with 95% approval, and Homer declares that democracy “doesn’t work” while all of the immigrants have gained citizenship (after passing the citizenship test), except for Groundskeeper Willie, who goes on a ship back to Scotland.

“It is homeland or death”: From British colonialism to the Zimbabwean liberation war

Picture of the Great Enclosure, part of the Great Zimbabwe ruins (courtesy of Wikimedia).
Picture of the Great Enclosure, part of the Great Zimbabwe ruins (courtesy of Wikimedia).

Every day the Western bourgeois media concocts another story about Zimbabwean President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s faults. [1] The “human rights” organizations like Amnesty and “Human Rights” Watch join in on the charade, siding with the opposition in the country, which is predictably backed by the United States and the West. As a result, the revolutionary state of Zimbabwe is rocked by political turmoil because the neoliberal opposition leads to polarization, not due to the policies of Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF party. The masses of Zimbabwe are “one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death” as Reason Wafawarova, an Australian political writer for the government-owned newspaper, The Herald, writes at the bottom of many of his editorials. In order to recognize this perspective, this article will examine where Zimbabwe’s history from before European contact into the last days of the 1960s.

The history of Zimbabwe dates back to years before the first White imperialist would be be out of their womb. The earliest kingdom in the region may date back to 500 C.E.. with the area known as Great Zimbabwe settled in the 11th century, and more substantially by the thirteenth century, with many states around the region “built around stone forts.” [2] The term Zimbabwe can be used to designate, at a minimum, the Zambesi-Limpopo cultures. These cultures, with peoples who were state-builders and iron users, flourished in the region of present-day state of Zimbabwe, n the centuries before European arrival. [3] During the pre-European period, the area was part of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, an African civilization lasting from the eleventh century (roughly 1220) to the fifteenth century (roughly 1450) which was called “Monomotapa” by the Europeans, with building of large stone palaces, which were known as “Zimbabwe.” [4] This empire had access to mineral resources and coastal trade, mainly with traders from the Asian continent, especially China.

The famous stone ruins at Great Zimbabwe are worth describing. Near the capital of “Southern Rhodesia” in the 1960s, Salisbury (present-day Harare), there were “two outstanding buildings” which were named by Europeans the “Acropolis” and the “temple”/”elliptical building,” with the plain beneath the “Acropolis,” stands a “solid fortress, with strong battlements” which is made from local granite, constructed by Zimbabweans. The complex building is “300 feet long, 220 feet broad” with walls that “were 20 feet thick and 30 feet tall” along with stepped “recesses and covered passages, the gateways and the platforms” which were hewed out elaborately with “soapstone bird-gods” inside and outside the structure. [5] Walter Rodney added that there were “encircling brick walls” at this site, and in other parts of the African continent where Bantu-speaking people were inhabitants, which was “characteristically African” and that undoubtedly a large amount of labor was needed to construct buildings. [6] He added that such workers likely came from particular ethnic groups with possible subjugation and subsequent social class delineations, but that there wasn’t simply “sheer manual labor” because the structures themselves had a level of advanced “skill, creativity, and artistry” which went into construction of the walls, doors, inner recesses, and decorations of the buildings. There were also great brick constructions, which dated back to the 14th century, which were commonly referred to as “temples” which served religious purposes since the religious aspect of development in that society was greatly important, just as it was across the African continent. [7]

The various societies that constituted a developed (and advanced) Zimbabwean culture lasted a total of a thousand years. People constructed dams for irrigation, raised cattle, sowed grain, and traded across the Indian Ocean, with chiefs enjoying “fine pottery or china” while sitting at-top of warring cultures. [8] These cultures, with no system of writing, were “highly stratified,” with chiefs and priests, miners, and specialized craftsmen, the latter who created ornaments with exact skill and lightness of touch. [9] There was also mixed farming, with cattle valued as important work animals, and major terracing and irrigation which is comparable to that of ancient Rome, or civilizations in Asia, making Zimbabweans, what we now would call “hydrologists.” [10] In the society itself, there were several ethnic groups which mixed: Khosian type hunters or “Bushmen” who were long-time residents, and newcoming Bantu-speakers from the north, all of which had varying pottery styles and burials, with certain ethnic groups, likely, relegated to inferior status so that “labor for agriculture, building, and mining” as necessary for societal needs. [11]

While the kingdoms long fought off “barbarian invaders,” they couldn’t stand against the Portuguese. After the collapse of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, there was the Kingdom of Mutapa, which the Portuguese confronted in the 1500s. This empire, first ruled by Mwene Mutapa, from 1415 to 1450, who appointed governors to rule over numerous localities outside the capital, spreading from Zimbabwe to Mozambique’s hinterland, with the center of the Mutapa empire at Great Zimbabwe at first, and later moving northward. [12] While those living in the region at the time were predominantly Sotho-speakers, many of those in the ruling class were pastoralists who had religious rituals with objects symbolizing cattle, possibly meaning that cattle owners were honored in society, and paid homage to their ancestors. As Immanuel Wallerstein argues, the Portuguese went on the full offensive, sacking coastal cities, reducing Indian Ocean trade, which was a “severe blow to Zimbabwe peoples” as the Portuguese, with firearms, went into the interior, taking sides, and undermining “the whole structure” of the kingdom. [13] Still, they were too weak to establish a colonial administration, only having enough power to destroy and cause destruction.

This could have been helped by the fact that in Zimbabwe and Congo, social organization was low until the 15th century. This was even the case despite significant political structures in the area as tentacles of the transatlantic slave trade encroached on Africa. [14] In later years, as the Mutapa empire waned and dissipated in 1760, there was the Rozvi empire, lasting from 1684 to 1834. The lords of the both empires encouraged production for “export trade, notably in gold, ivory, and copper” with Arab merchants living in the kingdom. The Zimbabwean region, at the time, was still connected to the “network of Indian Ocean commerce.” A “single system of production and trade,” was organized by collecting tribute from other states. [15] In later years, the Mthwakazi, a Ndebele kingdom, existed until the late 19th century, when the British colonists come into the picture. Despite the fact that indigenous kingdoms in present-day Zimbabwe ultimately faltered, there is no doubt that such development showed that there were advanced societies on the continent before the Europeans arrived. The idea that there was some “dark continent” with people running around like “savages” as European imperialists imagined in their racist, colonialist minds is utterly false.

In 1889, the British South African Company came to Zimbabwe, later naming it “Rhodesia” after British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Not only did this name override the indigenous name of Zimbabwe, which came from the Shona language and meaning venerated or stone houses, but it showed that the age of imperialist exploitation was at hand. In 1895, African history was whitewashed when a prospector was sent by the South African company to exploit the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, making it harder to know what the gold smelters of Zimbabwe produced years earlier. [16] History was lost to greedy White settler capitalism. Luckily, while most of the “copper and gold objects were largely destroyed and melted down” by 1902, similar objects at the Mapungubwe have been found, objects which were “unravaged by Europeans with a civilizing mission.” As a result, historians can recognize the reality of African and Zimbabwean history, not the whitewashed one “handed down.” Even with this, there is no doubt that Cecil Rhodes, his imperial agents, and “settler pests,” came in to Zimbabwe to “rob and steal,” coming north from present-day Botswana to raise a flag at (Mount) Harare, later renamed Salisbury by the White settlers. [17] While these new invaders marveled at “surviving ruins of Zimbabwe culture,” they assumed, from their Eurocentric perspective, that it had been built by White people.

This exploitation went beyond the erasure of culture. In the economy of Southern Africa and Rhodesia under British colonialism, Africans were treated as cheap labor who were prohibited from growing cash crops so their labor could be exploited by White “owners.” [18] These “owners” included those such as Standard Bank, a financial organization which was founded on loot of Rhodes and De Beers, headquartered in London, which expanded from the Cape Colony to Mozambique, Rhodesia, and Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana) in 1895. [19] Still, this was not accepted without resistance. There were numerous bloody battles between the indigenous African population and invading settlers. [20] During this time, when power began to be exclusively held by Whites, native Africans engaged in rebellions against White settlers, but these rebellions were crushed. [21] This didn’t stop Robert Mugabe, a Zimbabwean revolutionary, who was pivotal in the anti-colonial struggle, to see those who rebelled as first African revolutionaries in Zimbabwe. He remembered how folklore about past struggle was told to them by their parents so they could explain “how White men came to the country, how he grabbed the land.” [22] Mugabe also added that

“In a society where you have a class whose main purpose and accepted privilege is to exploit others, naturally it rebuffs. If the majority of people are being oppressed, being exploited, you can’t avoid, if you have any moral principles at all, the call to do something about it.”

In the years that followed, the British South African Company continued to control the British colony of Rhodesia. In 1923 this changed. As a result of plans made by White British colonists, settler migrants came to the colony after WWI with the London government granting the settlers a “Letters Patent Constitution” which made it a “self-governing colony.” [23] This designation meant that settlers had the right to secede or not, but the British retained “control over defence and foreign policy, certain reserve powers” which included issuing discriminatory legislation to control the African population. Hence, the British colony of Southern Rhodesia was born, the following year, comprising the area of the republic of Zimbabwe, founded in April 1980, splitting from the Northern section, called “Northern Rhodesia,” covering the area of the independent republic of Zambia, formed in October 1964. As the years went on, the oppression mounted. While the idea of “reserve powers” was supposedly to protect African interests, it became ineffective with the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 revised in 1941, and in a number of other times, a law that formed the basis of the “social and racial structure” in Rhodesia. [24]

Even with the settlers with official power, the British monarch in the colony itself is represented by the governor and there were “British errand boys” who lived as White settlers. The greedy mentality of the colonists led to more divisions. Such colonists divided the country into two portions: the “native” area for Black Africans and Crown or European land for White settlers. [25] Predictably, the “rich and fertile land” was occupied by White settlers and the “sandy, semi-dry land” given to Black Africans, land from which they can be expelled from if minerals are found or settlers want to buy a farm in the area. Adding to this insult were laws on the books, enacted in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, which evicted Africans from “European land,” gave the government control of all the aspects of African life, and gave each family eight acres for “living in farming.” [26] The latter measure was one of social control, in an attempt to keep Africans poor and give White settlers “cheap and exploitable labor for the mines, farms, light and heavy industries.” Hence is fundamentally the reason for why the fight over land is so important in present-day Zimbabwe.

In the 1950s there were other sea changes in Southern Rhodesia. While the White settlers celebrated “sixty years of progress” in 1950, oppressed Africans did not see it the same way. African civilization had become the largely the domain of Christian missionaries, with different forms of education (“European,” “African,” “Asian,” and “Coloured”)  “separated budgeted for.” [27] To enforce the inequality, more was spent on European education than on African education. In 1953, officially, the structure of the colony changed, with the creation of the Central African Federation (CAF), comprising the areas of present-day Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi (Nyasaland), in an effort led by Southern Rhodesian settlers under the direction of Godfrey Huggins. [28] To reinforce this, the British colony received, between 1950 and 1958, 10 armored cars, 22 Spitfires, 32 fighter aircraft, 16 trainer aircraft, 8 transport aircraft, 2 light transport aircraft from UK, and 18 bomber aircraft, all from from London, while NATO accompanied this by providing bombers and armaments. [29]

Of course, this action was done without the approval of Africans. As the settler oppression became even more ruthless, “African resistance rekindled” against racist laws, enacted to maintain settler dominance, and against the idea that racial discrimination was the “order of the day” in Zimbabwe. [30] In 1957, a chapter of African National Congress (ANC) organized in the country, led by Joshua Nkomo, with the chapter joining the ANC in South Africa which had been created in 1912. [31] The following year, as the record shows, Nkomo began his contact with the Soviets, which would prove as a major force in the liberation struggle to come. [32] During this time period, the political aspirations of the Black masses seemed modest, as nationalists only wanted simple political rights which they demanded in clearly nonviolent demonstrations. [33] This perception was also because the struggle was reformist since the major groups were not forceful or anti-capitalist. [34] However, after demonstrations were banned by the colonialist government, there was more frustration, with moderation turning to militancy and passive resistance turning into civil disobedience. The stage was set for set for full scale civil war.

In the 1960s, the anti-colonial struggle in Zimbabwe heated up. In December 1961, after frustrations with previous nationalist groupings such as the National Democratic Party (NDP), established in January 1960, which pushed for a constitutional conference, with party members demonstrated, rioted and committed acts of arson in hopes of changing the conditions in Zimbabwe, Nkomo formed the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union, or Zapu, just after the NDP was banned. [35] As for the actions of the NDP, as Mugabe put it many years later, some of those in the organization were some of the first to use petrol bombs in 1960 as a “means of pressure, not really to destroy life” and that there were strikes and demonstrations in 1961. [36]

Zapu named Nkomo as President, Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa as vice-president, Ndabaningi Sithole as chairman, Jason Moyo as information secretary, and Mugabe as publicity secretary. The organization embarked on pushing the failed policies of the NDP, with Nkomo banned from coming into Zimbabwe under legalistic jargon from the colonialist state. [37] Furthermore, Nkomo wanted to encourage the British government to agree to nationalist demands, and the organization boycotted the settler elections in Dec. 1962, with Nkomo declaring that that Zapu must “continue in any form desired by the people at a given time, and under different circumstances. But I must repeat, that we shall never, I repeat never, form any new Party.” [38] In order to back up these claims, Zapu and related freedom fighters engaged in civil disobedience, arson, sabotage, and demonstrations against the White minority government, which they refused to talk with, rightly so. [30] Nkomo was imprisoned and official Black opposition banned in 1962 by the white colonialist government. The Soviets played a major helping hand in this liberation struggle, giving massive support for Zapu, which made its first contact with them through the ANC in South Africa, with the Soviets continuing their opposition to the settler government in Zimbabwe at major international forums time and time again, with Nkomo and other top leaders went on troops worldwide in an effort to garner international support. [40]

In 1963, the equation changed. The “more radical elements” of the anti-colonial Zimbabwe opposition, who were mostly in prison, broke away from Zapu to form Zanu, the Zimbabwe African National Union. [41] This new grouping, which had come about due to anger against Nkomo by those who accused him of allowing the White settlers to unite and different strategy, was led by Sithole. It believed in immediate armed confrontation with the White settlers and self-reliance while Zapu wanted intervention from the international arena. [42] Broadly speaking, Zapu was aligned with the Ndebele and Zanu was aligned with the Shona. Additionally, those in Zanu, including Mugabe of course, were progressive nationalists who wanted immediate action, while Zapu represented the more conservative nationalists, seeming to only engage in slow maneuvers. [43] Predictably, the Zapu denounced Zanu as dividing the movement. At a “people’s conference,” supposedly to solve problems within the Zimbabwe liberation movement, attendees resolved that Nkomo was the only leader of the anti-colonial liberation movement in Zimbabwe, that bans on African nationalist organizations. throughout Africa must be denounced, that “divisive tendencies” must combated, and vigilance against the settler regime continued. [44] Additionally, the conference declared that “active resistance” against the settler regime would continue, rejected cooperation with the British, and expelled the “four conspirators” which formed Zapu (Sithole, Mugabe, Washington Malianga, and Leopard Takawira). [45] The attendees declared that these individuals were “dividing” the Zimbabwean people through forming their own party, seeing it as an imperialist divide-and-control policy. [45]

Due to these differences, the conflict between Zapu and Zanu erupted. At times it became violent. While some may be included to do so, it is wrong to discount the Zanu group wholesale. For one, Mugabe, a top leader in the group, spent 11 months in detention which hurt his son psychologically, who later died from malaria. [46] Years later, he summarized, in part, the beliefs of Zanu, by saying that “you cannot fight for grievances by pleading…you can only do so by getting to the root cause of the problem and that’s the problem of power.” [47] As for Zapu, it suffered from the justified defection of members to Zanu. A number of the key figures of Zanu’s armed wing had played a role in leading Zapu’s armed wing, taking with them “operational information and many individual cadré.” This altered the “balance of power in the liberation movement,” leaving Zapu with the short end of the stick, something from which it would not recover from in the years to come. While the idea of reconciliation between the two “wings” of the liberation movement was proposed, it was quickly abandoned within the country as untenable. [48] The same year, the Central African Federation dissolved and military power was handed over to Winston Field, leading to continued oppression.

As the liberation movement in Zimbabwe split, so did the funding. Zapu representatives went to a number of socialist countries, still supported by the Soviets, and based in Zambia with the military wing of ZIPRA (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army). [49] As for Zanu and their military wing, the Zimbabwean African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), they received much of their support from Maoist China. The latter socialist state promoted the idea of guerrilla warfare as a way to win the liberation war. Simply put, Zanu, later led by Mugabe, had a pro-China leaning while Zapu, led by Nkomo, had a pro-Soviet leaning. Black leaders in nations such as Mozambique, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola, supported the guerillas with training areas and pitched camps, while the White settler government in Zimbabwe formed “a well trained, moderately equipped, and integrated armed force.” Ultimately, the split between Zapu and Zanu never healed, manifesting itself in problems which continue in Zimbabwe to this day. Arguably, Zapu, also supported by Cuba, the short-lived United Arab Republic (U.A.R.), and the German Democratic Republic (GDR or “East Germany”), followed Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin’s teachings while Zanu, with their varying external networks, followed the teachings of Mao Zedong. [50] This meant that Zanu worked to mobilize the rural peasantry, Zapu worked to mobilize the urban proletariat.

This manifestation of the Sino-Soviet split, begun in part by Nikita Khrushchev’s traitorous “Secret Speech” denouncing the supposed “wrongs” of Joseph Stalin, meant that China determined more of the direction of the Zimbabwe liberation struggle than the Soviets. Beijing’s association with Zimbabwe goes back to the liberation struggle, a time when Zanu cadres went to China to get guerrilla training and attended classes in Ghana taught by Chinese instructors. [51] As a result of Chinese support, Zanu was transformed from a splinter organization into a full-fledged participant of the liberation struggle, and it became more bold, criticizing the alliance of the Soviet-aligned ANC and Zapu, saying this allowed racists to consolidate their forces. [52] In later years, Zanu revamped its strategy to be more Maoist, with armed struggle based in “support of the people,” by the early 1970s, as Mugabe said years later. As a result of the guerrilla warfare tactics by Zanu and traditional military tactics by Zapu, along with  with Zanu freedom fighters trained by the Vietcong and Chinese in guerrilla tactics, with the fighters returning from the latter country coming back radicalized, the White settler government adjusted their system of racist terror. [53] China, for their part, was active in aiding liberation in the country, seeing as a way to counter “Soviet hegemonism” and “Sovietism” with their support as part of their anti-superpower and anti-Soviet agenda. Hilariously, this was misread by the White apartheid government as a way to get Western capitalists and China to work together and fight the Soviets, but the Chinese would have no part in such an “agreement.”

The Zimbabwean liberation movement was up against a formidable adversary. Between 1960 and 1963, the White settler government had received four transport aircraft, 12 fighter aircraft, and 30 armored fighting vehicles, called Ferret armoured cars, from London, along with three light helicopters from France. [54] The colonial organization in 1965, in Zimbabwe, was changed. In 1964, a White minority government, called UDI (Universal Declaration of Independence), was illegally created by Ian Smith, imposing apartheid rule and invalidating the phony 1961 constitution. [55] But the British “lacked the [political] will to put down this constitutional treason,” even as they had the will to disarm those that opposed the new government, so the UN instituted sanctions and gave sympathy to the liberation movement, setting the stage for guerrilla warfare in years following. During the period, Smith’s government received 10 light aircraft and 20 towed guns from Italy, along with one transport aircraft from the United States and 12 armored cars from apartheid South Africa. [56]

Still, the Zimbabwean revolutionaries did not give up. As resistance against the settler government continued to grow, and the Rhodesian Front whipped up White nationalist sentiment, Zimbabweans argued that “freedom can only be achieved by confrontation and determination.” [57] The Soviets still backed the moderate Nkomo over Mugabe, who was more radical and Marxist. This was partially due to Mugabe’s call to run his own organization while Nkomo was willing to rely on aid from the Cubans and Soviets. The Soviets also felt this aid was important since they saw China’s aid in this struggle as “hostile” even if that meant supporting someone less radical. It is also worth pointing out that that despite Cuba’s support for Zapu broadly, they did help the military wing of Zanu, which also received military training in Mozambique. This shows yet again that Cuba is not some “Soviet satellite,” as ignorant bourgeois commentators will bark.

While one could argue that Zapu was more internationalist since they sought assistance from Ghana, Egypt, the Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO), GDR (“East Germany”), and Eastern European nations within the Warsaw Pact, which interestingly gave Fidel Castro more of a role as a “benefactor of third world liberation,” allowing them to be better trained and equipped than the Zanu’s military wing, Zanu connected with exiled Black nationalist Robert F. Williams. [58] They asked Williams to send copies of his publication, The Crusader, in exchange for copies of their paper, the Zimbabwe News. It is worth pointing out that despite charges that Zapu was some US-backed organ because of their reported skepticism of “accepted” liberation organizations in Southern Africa, the publication criticized Moscow, said that the Soviets were collaborating with US imperialism, criticized ANC for being pacifist, took a Black Power stand, promoted those such as H. Rap Brown, and frequently cited Mao Zedong, along with pronouncements of African socialism. [59] Hence, the Zapu claim that Zanu was US-sponsored falls flat and is almost a joke. Such a claim is also further invalidated by the fact that Zapu’s strategy to discredit Zanu leaders was “based on personal accounts and accusations” in papers such as the Daily News, which effectively served as a pro-Zapu and anti-Zanu outlet. [60]

Despite their differences, there is no doubt that Zapu and Zanu had a tough fight. For Zanu, they engaged in armed struggle, first tested in April 1966 in Sinoia, in an engagement that proved “tactically manageable” but shook the “Rhodesian White community.” [61] Such events, followed by freedom fighters of Zanu and Zapu going off to socialist countries to train, coming back “to intensify the armed struggle,” were downplayed by the information department of the UDI, who claims that all was well in the country, with news of battles suppressed in their totality. The same was the case for those guerrillas in the Zapu-ANC alliance, which engaged in a rough, bloody battle in August 1967, which resulted in heavily censored news inside of the country. [62] Zanu, pointed this out the same year, arguing that the illegal White government in Zimbabwe was trying to stoke ethnic discord by stressing “ancient wars among Africans” in radio and news commentaries, along with in schools, saying that the government was circulating letters that purport to be from the GDR (“East Germany”) as a way of stirring up mischief. [63] As for the tactics used by Zapu, some argued they had no significant impact, an assessment which resulted in a new strategy formulated, with a plan to send a joint military force across the Zambezi River into northwest Zimbabwe. This was done with the realization of the nature of their enemy as “British imperialism assisted by NATO” while understanding “the savagery role of the Washington government,” vowing the fight until the end. [64]

Internationally, Zapu and Zanu played differently. Zanu members were critical of Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture) leading SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), arguing that Carmichael was partnering with Zapu and ANC, which was only partially true since in his autobiography, he says that he supported the Pan-African Congress more than other organizations, seeing it as mature, principled, and young, a bit like SNCC. [65] Still, it worth noting that this “alliance of convenience” between the ANC and Zapu may have seemed sound by many but also could be arguably “narrow and selfish” with a wider alliance of nationalist parties in the region perhaps a better strategy. [66] In Algiers, the location of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Eldridge of the Black Panthers met with Charles Chikarema of Zapu who introduced him to an Elaine Klein, an American woman who worked with the Ministry of Information in Algeria, who let Eldridge be officially invited to the country along with a Black Panther Party delegation, removing his dependency on Cuba as a place of exile. [67] Due to this development, and the fact that Sithole of Zanu appeared in court, at one point, saying that he publicly wanted to disassociate himself from “any subversive activities” and from any “form of violence,” it is likely that the Black Panther coalition and support group in Zimbabwe was pro-Zapu. [68] However, one cannot be completely sure about this since Zanu was much more Black nationalist. The latter was clear when the Zimbabwe News declared that “Christianity has been used as a subtle instrument to destroy Zimbabwe culture” which some was a statement that went “too far.” [69]

By 1969, the situation in Zimbabwe was worsening. With financial interests in White-ruled Africa, Africans continued to be oppressed by about two hundred British firms in companies led by a small “White group of capitalists,” while 86% of Zimbabweans worked (and lived) in rural areas on European farms or subsisting as cash-crop farmers. [70] Additionally, education was not free (or compulsory), Whites earned much more than Black Africans by far, and no African nationalist organization could hold weight, with the masses angry about the system of the whole, not just the UDI government. [71] It was clear that the British government would not “stand idle while a truly people’s socialist revolution is on the verge of reality in Zimbabwe” with British intervention in the country either to save their “kin” or to put in place a “neo-colonialist puppet regime.” [72] While this did not happen by 1970, the UDI elites consolidated their control. At that time, they had a strong military force, consisting of 3,400 regular troops, 6,400 police troopers, 28,500 reserve police, two infantry battalions, 1,200 Air Force personnel, 4,000 Air Force personnel in reserve, and one field artillery piece. [73] They also had advanced airplanes, helicopters, and other machinery, many from Western capitalist states, along with an alliance with South Africa. This included, in part, South African troops in Zimbabwe, aided by Britain and US military personnel, along with fascist organizations across the Western capitalist world supporting the horrid White settler government. [74]

There were a number of continuities throughout the 1960s in the Zimbabwean liberation struggle. For one, Zimbabwean women subverted traditional gender roles by fighting as freedom fighters, sometimes in fatigues, along with providing troops with food and clothing, and they later earned praise for their valuable “contributions to the revolution.” [75] This was likely the case in Zanu and Zapu. There is no doubt that the violence of the apartheid government in Zimbabwe led to armed resistance among the liberation movement, along with Nkomo to be imprisoned in a concentration camp, one of the ways the government tried to keep the populace under control, from 1964 to 1970, along with killing of many comrades in the process. [76] It is worth noting that Mugabe was also imprisoned from December 1963 until November 1974, but was still part of the liberation struggle. The bloody battle for liberation in Zimbabwe, between the White settler-rulers and “black guerrilla movements” through the 1960s and until the late 1970s, as even the US State Department acknowledged, was part of something bigger. There were liberation groups and revolutionaries across East Africa ranging from The Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO), the Southwest African People’s Organization (SWAPO), ANC, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Zanu, and Zapu, all of which “utilized Tanzanian training camps” so they could “prepare and plan anticolonial wars” against White settler governments in the region. [77] Such developments interested Black nationalist Robert F. Williams greatly, not surprisingly. As John Nkomo of the Zapu grouping, said years later, they worked closely with Nordic countries, such as Sweden, the latter which cooperated with Zanu and Zapu, allowing them to bring equipment back to Zimbabwe, with some equipment later donated to Zambia since they had “sacrificed so much.”

Notes

[1] Such stories have been published in the Zimbabwe Independent, News24, International Business Times UK, New Zimbabwe, The Zimbabwe Mail, NewsDay, ZimEye, and The Zimbabwe Daily, among many others.

[2] Immanuel Wallerstein, Africa: The Politics of Independence: An Interpretation of Modern African History (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), 22.

[3] Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1982), 65.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Wallerstein, 22.

[6] Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, 65.

[7] Ibid, 64.

[8] Immanuel Wallerstein, Africa: The Politics of Independence: An Interpretation of Modern African History (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), 23; Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1982), 48.

[9] Wallerstein, 23; Rodney, 66.

[10] Rodney, 66.

[11] Rodney, 66-67.

[12] Rodney, 64, 67.

[13] Wallerstein, 23.

[14] Rodney, 134.

[15] Rodney, 67-68.

[16] Wallerstein, 23.

[17] Rodney, 65.

[18] Ibid, 165, 233.

[19] Ibid, 163.

[20] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle (ed. Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu), Cairo: Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization, 1972, second edition), 14.

[21] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Sadly, the original name of this documentary or its British announcer, clearly a journalist at the time, is not known. On the webpage for the film, a horrid anti-Mugabe book is linked, a book by a French academic who wants to think “beyond” the Zanu-PF.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 14-15.

[24] Ibid, 15.

[25] Ibid, 15-16.

[26] Ibid, 16-17.

[27] Ibid, 17-19.

[28] Ibid, 20-21.

[29] This information comes from the SIPRI trade register.

[30] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 19.

[31] Ibid, 20-21; Chenhamo Chimutengwende, “Zimbabwe and White-Ruled Africa,” The New Revolutionaries: A Handbook of the International Radical Left (ed. Tariq Ali, New York: William Morrow & Company, 1969), 241.

[32] Ian Taylor, China and Africa: Engagement and Compromise (New York: Routledge, 2006), 107-108.

[33] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary.

[34] Chimutengwende, 241-242.

[35] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 22-23.

[36] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Mugabe also said that his wife at the time, Sally Mugabe, participated in a women’s demonstration in 1961.

[37] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 24-25.

[38] Ibid, 25.

[39] Ibid, 26-29; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary.

[40] Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 351; Alex Thomson, An Introduction to African Politics, p. 144. There is also an academic article by Dumiso Dabengwa titled “Relations between ZAPU and the USSR, 1960s–1970s: A Personal View” which may shed light on this subject.

[41] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary.

[42] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 24-25. Part of this armed confrontation included the conviction that “physical attacks on Whites and their property were necessary.”

[43] Chimutengwende, 242.

[44] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 31-32, 33-37.

[45] Ibid, 32-37.

[46] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Mugabe himself had declared in December 1962 that it was time to move to armed struggle.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 38. After this idea of reconciliation was abandoned from within the liberation movement, it became an “external, non-Zimbabwe wish, not worth pursuing” as Zapu argued in this publication.

[49] It is also worth pointing out that China funded the Pan-African Congress while the Soviets supported the African National Congress in South Africa.

[50] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 21-22, 40; Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe: Harare and Highfield, 1940-1964 (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2008), 141, 146, 161. Despite the futility of the Zanu-Zapu power struggle, reportedly the split between Zanu and Zapu was a “class divide” with Zanu supporters including college students (and peasants) and Zapu supporters being the “old guard.” Also, reportedly, Zapu was better in urban settings than Zanu.

[51] Taylor, China and Africa, 106-108. In earlier years, the Chinese trained and sent armed to Zapu, but this changed after the Sino-Soviet split came into full force in the later 1960s.

[52] Ibid, 108-109.

[53] Ibid, 107-110, 113.

[54] This information comes from the SIPRI trade register.

[55] Ibid; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 47-49; “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. Also, top British colonial personnel continued talks with the regime, allowing it to stand under legal fictions, and putting in the farce of sanctions, reinforcing their “colonial responsibility” in Rhodesia.

[56] This information comes from the SIPRI trade register.

[57] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 40-41; Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe, 148. Comes from a letter in 1964 from Zimbabwean mothers.

[58] Robeson Taj Frazier, “A Revolution is Not a Dinner Party: Black Internationalism, Chinese Communism and the Post World War II Black Freedom Struggle, 1949-1976,” Spring 2009, Dissertation for University of California, Berkeley, p. 179. Zapu guerrillas also reportedly received training in Algeria, Bulgaria, North Korea, and the Congo region. Also, one Zapu guerrilla told a Zimbabwean court in 1968 that in the Soviet Union, guerrillas had classes lasting four months on a wide range of topics including “political science, aspects of intelligence work…use of codes and ciphers.” and given a rundown on work of “the CIA, MI6 and MI5, and the French and Federal German intelligence organisations” along with being taught how to use “explosives, hand-grenades, and how to use and assemble guns, rifles and pistols.”

[59] Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun, 247, 258. Horne, who obviously thinks more highly of Zapu than Zanu, claims that the US was more skeptical of Zapu than Zanu because Zapu was friendlier to Eastern European socialist nations, claims that Zanu boosted “marginal forces with suspicious origins” like COREMO (Mozambique Revolutionary Committee), and that Nkomo dealt with African Americans more diplomatically than Zanu. These claims should be treated very skeptically

[60] Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe, 141.

[61] Chimutengwende, 245-246.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun, 255.

[64] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 60-65.

[65] Robeson Taj Frazier, “A Revolution is Not a Dinner Party,” p. 153, 182.

[66] Chimutengwende, 244. It is worth noting that both the ANC and Zapu groups had a “fairly formal structure with a commander and a political commissar,” with both “dressed in semi-military uniforms” from 1966 to 1968, at least.

[67] Gaidi Faraj, “Unearthing the Underground: A study of radical activism in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army,” Fall 2007, Dissertation for the University of California, Berkeley, p. 197.

[68] Maxwell C. Standford, Jr., “We Will Return in the Whirlwind: Black Radical Organizations 1960-1975,” January 3, 2003, Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, Ohio, p. 277-278; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 39-40.

[69] Thomas Turino, “Race, Class, and Musical Nationalism in Zimbabwe,” Music and the Racial Imagination (ed. Ronald M. Radano, Philip V. Bohlman, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 572.

[70] Chimutengwende, 238-239, 248.

[71] Ibid, 239-240, 248.

[73] Ibid, 250. Examples cited include those of Sekou Toure or Albert Karume.

[74] Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 50-51.

[75] Ibid, 52-55.

[76] Linda Lumsden, “Good Mothers with Guns: Framing Black Womanhood in the Black Panther, 1968-1980,” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 86, No. 4, Winter 2009, p. 908, 919; Taylor, China and Africa, 107-108; Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe, 146; Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 42, 44-46, 66. In a 1976 article, The Panther extolled the “egalitarian, gun-toting example of women revolutionaries who fought alongside men” in Palestine and Zimbabwe.

[77] Robeson Taj Frazier, “A Revolution is Not a Dinner Party,” p. 156.

Gun control and armed resistance: a critical history

Courtesy of Akinyele Omowale Umoja's We Will Shoot Back (p. 197)
Courtesy of Akinyele Omowale Umoja’s 2013 Black resistance history, We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement (p. 197)

The days in the United States may seem dark indeed but with Trump in power and the authoritarianism will increase from its current murderous norm. This means that any pretense for nonviolent respectfulness as a “solution” on its own should be abandoned. Last month, I promised to write about this subject and now I am delivering on that promise, with views which are different from those I expressed in the past. [1] To be clear, I’m no “gun nut” or “gun enthusiast,” a label that liberals and progressives throw around, and do not subscribe to the views of the NRA (National Rifle Association) or any of its supporters. This article is the beginning of a two part series, with this article recounting the history of gun control laws, which is interconnected with the story of armed self-defense and armed resistance. In order to construct this history, those of liberal, conservative, and radical viewpoints are used together.

A critical history of gun control, armed self-defense and armed resistance

For much of US history, gun laws have been interlinked with racism and racial politics, at minimum. The first targets of gun control measures were enslaved Blacks, with the fear of “Black rebellion and…fear of weapons in Black hands,” aiming to prevent the possession of weapons by Black people in America. [2] Specifically, the first gun control measure was in colonial Virginia in 1664, with similar measures passing in 1712 and in 1831 after Nat Turner’s rebellion. [3] From here, it is worth jumping forward to the traditional founders, often called the “Founding Fathers” in our hero-centric culture. When the Second Amendment was proposed as part of the bourgeois freedoms (“The Bill of Rights”), demanded by Anti-Federalists, later the first Republicans, which mainly included dispossessed farmers and slaveowners, it was not racially equal. Those who wrote and ratified it, had numerous laws on the books which were racially exclusive, banning enslaved Blacks (and even free Blacks) from having guns, in fear of revolt across the thirteen states of the new country. [4] Some have even argued that the amendment itself was not meant to protect individual’s right to bear arms but to prevent the federal government “from usurping control of state militias and undermining their slave patrol duties” and was used by the author of the amendment, James Madison, as part of his “1789 campaign to win election to the House of Representatives” and gain support for the “Bill of Rights” on the whole. [5]

After the new rights were put in place, there were some gun laws were so intrusive that they would be emphatically rejected by the NRA and others if laws of a similar character were proposed today. One such law, in 1792, on the federal level, mandated that “every eligible man…purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia” with guns inspected and put on public rolls. [6] Some may take this to mean that such laws were not racist after all. However, such a law was likely to prevent rebellions by farmers and dispossessed revolutionary war veterans, like those in Western Pennsylvania, in 1786 and from 1791-1794, over economic inequality, taxes (of numerous types), foreclosure, debt enforced by the courts, and other forms of resentment. [7] Hence, such gun laws were a form of social control aimed at Whites. Laws that were racist continued into the 19th century, with Blacks allowed to possess arms in Virginia in the early 1800s but “had to obtain permission from local officials” which was unlikely. [8] Another form of social control aimed at White gun owners were concealed carry laws in the 1820s where purportedly “violence-prone men” were limited in using their weapons, an example cited by gun control advocates as “the first modern gun control laws” with the aim of “reducing criminal violence among whites.” [9] Such an explanation is historically inaccurate because the first gun laws were in the 17th century, as noted in the previous paragraph. Additionally, the first bans on concealed weapons were in the Southern states of Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, seen then limiting a practice of criminals. Then, by the mid-1900s, most US states had concealed carry laws rather than banning guns completely within their state borders, implying that they these laws were a form of social control.

For enslaved Blacks, guns were an important and vital tool (one of many tools) of resistance against their chains of human bondage. They were used to protect against violent White supremacists, police, and terrorist vigilantes. Without guns, they were defenseless and could not win their freedom or initiate an armed rebellion, rejected by most as a “losing strategy” since enslaved Blacks were a “minority in a predominantly white country.” [10] Still, they were at least “313 slave actions, or alleged revolts by groups of ten or more slave[s]” from 1526, 16 years after the first 50 enslaved Blacks are transported to the North America (on January 22, 1510) and start of the African slave trade in the Americas, until 1860, compared to thousands in other parts of the Americas (not within the United States). After one such rebellion, in 1831, by Nat Turner, which was recently Hollywoodified in Birth of a Nation, planters repressed abolitionists and actions of rebellious Blacks as guns were controlled even more tightly. [11] Such restrictions were not a surprise. Brutal slaveowner Thomas Jefferson, one of the “Founders,” worried to John Adams, in an 1821 letter, that enslaved Blacks, once free, would have the right to bear arms and that they might “seek and gain political influence and power,” leading to possible revolt. [12]

Some advocates of gun control have said that it is “sad” to admit that “our gun rights history…is stained with racism,” which commenced when Blacks, free and enslaved, were banned from owning firearms, with the means of enforcing this being “slave patrols” where armed White men went around to “ensure that blacks were not wandering or gathering where they were not permitted, engaging in suspicious activity or acquiring forbidden weapons” with such functions in some areas “taken over by state militias.” [13] I’m not sure why it is sad to admit this. It is better to recognize it as a part of US history which is glossed so easily that heart-throbbing gun rights advocates have taken up the cause of spreading this information instead of progressives, which is a damn shame. Anyway, Blacks being prohibited from owning guns was even ruled as legal by North Carolina and Georgia Supreme Courts in the 1840s! [14] At the same time, during the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) case, denying Blacks, like Dred Scott, an enslaved Black man whose story is not fully known, whether enslaved or free, standing (or humanity) in court, declaring the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, and saying that enslaved Blacks in U.S. territories cannot be freed by an act of Congress, guns was part of the reason cited by racist and bigoted Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of the Supreme Court, for this decision. [15]

Gun control was clearly aimed at Blacks (enslaved and free) and Whites (to an extent) as a form of social control before the Civil War. Some resisted this imposition, including Harriet Tubman, who was a “conductor” of the underground railroad, carrying a firearm (debate it if was a pistol or rifle) to fend off “possible attacks from slavecatchers” and rescuing more than 300 people from slavery with her gun by her side. [16] Frederick Douglass, one of the major leaders of the abolitionist movement, declared that a good revolver was critical for Blacks to stay free, specifically commenting that gaining freedom in the South would require “the ballot-box, the jury-box and the cartridge-box.” [17] Before the Civil War, some Black female fugitive slaves fired back at slavecatchers, while others engaged in armed self-defense or armed resistance, even as Blacks in the South were not allowed to possess guns, with such guns used in these struggles taken from those in the hands of White folks. [18] With the onset of the Civil War, Blacks gained guns, legally, for the first time, with Black soldiers as a decisive force during the war. [19] 

But, the victory for the Union, and ultimately for Black peoples in the American South mainly, would not last. Many southern Blacks predicted that they would need their weapons to “defend themselves against racist whites unhappy with the Confederacy’s defeat,” a prediction proven true when “recalcitrant white racists committed to the reestablishment of white supremacy determined to take those guns away from blacks” and reassert control. [20] It was then that “Black Codes” were passed to reestablish White power across the South, with measures banning Blacks from owning liquor and guns, with some laws cloaked in “neutral, non-racial terms,” which was enforced by groups of White men who “began terrorizing black communities.” [21] These vigilante enforcers took different names in every locale, but mainly came to be known by the name of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), along with many others, with intimidation campaigns which disarmed Blacks and served as gun control organs arguably. [22] Newly freed Blacks were not passive or fell into their “assigned” state of subservience, but actively resisted such intimidation and White terrorism, forming Union Leagues with Black militia attachments and Black rifle clubs, even as there was no attempt to disarm such White racist vigilantes, leading to some communities unable to resist racist assaults as they were left “vulnerable and disarmed.” [23]

Such gun control efforts in the Reconstruction period have been used by guns rights supporters on the right-wing, in the present, to advance the argument that “gun control is racist.” This argument seemingly assumes that gun control began during the Reconstruction period. While gun control supporters are right that this is incorrect, some argue laughably that laws before the Civil War were “enacted to provide for the public’s safety, not to discriminate against any particular minority, and were enforced uniformly against all state residents” which whitewashes the actual history to make it sound nice, happy, and glad, denying that laws were racist and/or a form of social control. [24] Still, such people cannot deny that there were “discriminatory gun control laws at this time—and other times—in our history that specifically targeted blacks.” It is more accurate to say, like Detroit Black man Rick Ector, that “gun control has racist roots” even if you disagree with his assertion that denying people “the opportunity to own a gun and to protect themselves…is the epitome of racism.” [25]

In the following years of the Reconstruction, the ability of Black Americans to own guns was under attack. The Supreme Court eviscerated the true meaning of the 14th Amendment, in United States v. Cruikshank  and The Slaughter-House Cases, among others, which allowed racism to be further greenlighted in the South, with groups, like the KKK, engaging in forcible disarmament of free Blacks and imposing White supremacy through “rape and murder of countless ordinary blacks” as they gained (and held) power throughout the American South. [26] Once again, this did not happen without resistance. In 1892, in pamphlet entitled “Southern Horrors,” Ida B. Wells, a Black female crusader against lynching, declared that mob violence was only ameliorated when “blacks exercised manly self-defense” because “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home.” [27] Specifically, the resistance to White terror after the rise of the KKK and legal violence of Southern government led to what became the modern civil rights movement starting in the early 20th century. [28]

The NAACP and W.E.B. DuBois were at the forefront of such a movement. In 1906, after the Atlanta “race riot,” DuBois patrolled his home with a shotgun. His aggressive statements following this event and his purchase of a gun were not just a one-time event. [29] In fact, as the editor of the NAACP’s magazine, still printed today, called The Crisis, DuBois championed “armed self-defense,” casting it as a duty, a viewpoint also held by NAACP leaders Walter White and Louis Wright, among others. During the 1919 “race riot” in Chicago, DuBois urged robust self-defense through the use of “bricks and clubs and guns” even as he cautioned against “blind and lawless offense against all white folk” and in 1921 he invoked self-defense as he urged Blacks to migrate into the North. Organizationally, the NAACP cut its teeth defending those Black Americans who engaged in armed self-defense, with major litigation. This included defense of a Black sharecropper, named Pink Franklin, who shot the planter “who laid claim to him under a peonage contract” in 1910, and was freed by 1919. Another case was that of Ossian Sweet, a man who feared White “mobbers” and being called a coward when going into his home in 1925. So he carried “a sack full of guns and ammunition” and a mob gathered. By the end of the encounter, one white man was killed by “Negro gunfire” and the NAACP hired “Clarence Darrow to defend the Sweets” while they used the “case to fuel a fundraising juggernaut.” Some instances didn’t go as well, such as Sgt. Edgar Caldwell, a WWI veteran, who shot (and killed) a trolley driver who stomped on him “after throwing him from the whites-only section.” Caldwell only survived two years on death row “before he was executed” despite the NAACP raising money for his defense. Finally, it is worth noting that DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and Marcus Garvey came together in thought (likely not in reality), as they found “basic agreement” on the idea of armed self-defense by Black Americans.

Dr. Ossian Sweet & his East Side Garland home
Dr. Ossian Sweet & his East Side Garland home

Beyond the NAACP, Black Americans were fending for themselves. Up until the 1950s (and beyond), Black women defended themselves from harassment and physical assault by White men with pistols or “handy” rifles. [30] As Jim Crow and Jane Crow intensified in the wake of the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision which legalized “separate but equal” racial segregation in the American South, states enacted “gun registration and handgun permit laws” with such laws passed in Mississippi (1906), Georgia (1913), and North Carolina (1917), along with others following in Missouri (1919) and Arkansas (1923). [31]

At this point, gun control laws expanded beyond social control of White folks and anti-Black racism to other marginalized social groups. Such laws included the infamous Sullivan Act, which was put in place to “keep the immigrant populations from carrying pistols” and served as what some call the “the forefather of today’s modern “may issue” gun permit laws” for concealed carry. [32] Some guns rights advocates claim that California’s roots of its gun control legislation is “tied to white anxiety over Mexican-Americans and Chinese-Americans at the beginning of the 20th century.” [33] While more research would be needed to see if this claim is accurate, there is one reality that is clear: discriminatory gun laws in the Northern United States were passed from the 1910s until the 1930s. These laws, which came about as a result of immigration of “unsavory types”, were thoroughly embedded with racism and directly promoted and crafted by the National Rifle Association (NRA). [34] Specifically as a response to urban gun violence and crime often pegged on immigrants, especially those from Italy and Eastern Europe, the president of the NRA, Harvard-educated lawyer Karl Frederick, helped draft “model legislation to restrict concealed carry of firearms in public.” These laws, such as the Uniform Firearms Act in Pennsylvania in the 1920s, allowed police to determine who was “suitable” to carry a gun, with “racial minorities and disfavored immigrants…usually deemed unsuitable.” [35] Later on, in 1934, when Congress was considering restrictions on “”gangster guns” like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns,” the NRA endorsed the law, showing that it was not the “aggressive lobbying arm for gun manufacturers” that it is today. [36]

During the 1930s, some of those in the working class directly engaged in armed self-defense. The Communist Party (CP) mobilized mass support with “the Scottsboro defense campaign, the miners’ strike of 1931, the unemployed movement, and the underground and armed self-defense organization of thousands of sharecroppers under conditions of the most vicious repression,” helping to prepare the working class for “the enormous battles of the late 1930s.” [37] Such sharecroppers came together in the Sharecropper’s Union, starting in Alabama in 1932, which expanded its membership to “about 12,000 poor farmers and farm laborers,” who were mostly Black, with some White workers, “in five Black Belt states of the Deep South.” [38] With the CP’s members among the leadership, this union organized rural poor to resist plantation owners and ally with urban working class folks. Since the conditions in the South made “elementary demands” have “revolutionary significance,” the sharecroppers organized their struggle as one with arms, engaging in “revolutionary armed self-defense” to meet what they saw, accurately, as “counterrevolutionary terror” with pitched armed battles in Tallapoosa County, Alabama (Camp Hill in 1931 and Reeltown in 1932) and Lowndes County, Alabama, in 1935. [39]

As the years went by, armed self-defense was undoubtedly still used but no new gun control legislation was passed, with new laws not reappearing until the 1960s. One person who threatened armed self-defense was Paul L. Robeson. In 1946, he challenged the refusal by President Harry S. Truman to sponsor anti-lynching legislation by telling him that if the federal government would not protect Blacks, they would “exercise their right of armed self-defense.”[40] This threat was not based in thin air but in the reality and likely actions of Black Americans. Robeson later attended a world peace conference in Paris in 1949, saying that Black Americans should not fight “against the Soviet Union on behalf of their own oppressors” and as a result, the bourgeois media and US government “launched an attack of unprecedented ferocity against Robeson that lasted for nine years.”

By the 1950s, the tradition of armed self-defense continued. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the up and coming leaders in the civil rights movement, took measures to protect himself, making his home an “arsenal.” [41] He applied for a concealed carry permit, under a law that the NRA had promoted thirty years earlier, in 1956, after his home was bombed, but the application was rejected. Still, his house was protected by armed guards for sometime before he fully endorsed the methods and practice of nonviolence. However, he was not the first one.

In 1954, those in the NAACP chapter, mostly “upper-class Blacks,” in Monroe, North Carolina, fled due to attacks by the Klan, leaving Robert F. Williams and Dr. Albert E. Perry as the only two members. [42] With Williams (henceforth referred to as Robert) and Perry at the helm, the Monroe NAACP branch gained a new life and character. Soon enough the organization consisted of veterans in the leadership, housewives and “fed up” working-class people from the local area. [43] In 1958 and 1959, Robert, a WWII veteran, led the chapter, apart from civil rights activism, to defend two “black children below the age of ten were sentenced for sexual molestation because a white girl kissed them,” in what was called the “Kissing Case.” They were pardoned due to popular pressure, resulting in the Klan engaging in vigilante action by burning crosses in front of their houses.

However, the equation changed in May 1959. A Monroe court acquitted a “white man for the attempted rape of a black woman,” leading Robert to declare on the steps of the courthouse that “this demonstration today shows that the Negro in the South cannot expect justice in the courts. He must convict his attackers on the spot. He must meet violence with violence, lynching with lynching.” [44] He later clarified his statement by saying that he was only saying that if the US Constitution could not be “enforced in this social jungle called Dixie,” then Blacks need to “defend themselves even if it is necessary to resort to violence,” explaining that

“that there is no law here, there is no need to take the white attackers to the courts because they will go free and that the federal government is not coming to the aid of people who are oppressed, and it is time for Negro men to stand up and be men and if it is necessary for us to die we must be willing to die. If it is necessary for us to kill we must be willing to kill.” [45]

Of course, this resulted in his suspension as president of the NAACP branch, leading his wife, Mabel, to be elected president in his place. [46]

Other than the civil rights activism, the NAACP chapter had another role. In 1957, Robert, along with his wife Mabel, and others in the community, organized a rifle club to defend themselves from attacks by the KKK, with the base of the club coming from the NAACP branch that Robert led. While Black men dominated the new club, some Black women were members, and the club’s actions were broadly a success. [47] Robert, and the actions of the club, became a “classic example” of armed self-defense and “militant community action,” meaning that he and his chapter were controversial, with disputes with Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, just like Malcolm X years later. [48] The club, which was associated with the NRA likely because they thought those in the club were White, hilariously enough, the club used guns to defend Freedom Riders and the local community. [49] Anger from moderate bourgeois civil rights organizations like the mainstay of the NAACP and continuing horrid conditions in the South led Robert and others to question the usefulness of nonviolence, showing that the “meaning of civil rights activism was not set in stone but constantly contested and reconstructed.” [50] Robert later formed a unique ideology “from elements of black nationalism, Marxism, and radical republicanism.” [51]

Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.
Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.

Throughout the late 1950s, armed self-defense was advocated by numerous peoples of the Black community, organized mainly in “small and scattered groups” until the early 1960s. [52] Most of those who took up arms were Black men, who dominated the “organized and formal” armed self-defense in the South. However, some women took up arms to defend their families and later nonviolent civil rights activists. [53] Ultimately, Blacks in the South saw their struggle as one to stay alive, and then to fight for the right to vote, among other political rights, meaning that they were not about  revenge as White slaveowners like Jefferson had guessed. [54]

While it is valid to say that nonviolent direct action defeated racial segregation, American apartheid more accurately, in the South, it is also worth acknowledging that field organizers, nonviolent in their stance, in the Deep South, were “often protected by armed farmers and workers.” [55] It is also worth remembering that a “civil rights victory” was not inevitable, but that the role of armed Blacks helped this occur. In 1964, Robert P. ‘Bob’ Moses, director of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)’s Mississippi project, declared that “it’s not contradictory for a farmer to say he’s nonviolent and also pledge to shoot a marauder’s head off.” [56] Like Moses, many advocates for Black civil rights and for desegregation appreciated the importance of guns in the South, especially by Black veterans and informally organized community groups. Such groups and individuals helped protect racial justice advocates, seeing the protection as a necessity, with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), SNCC, and Martin Luther King (MLK) refusing to publicly criticize the use of armed self-defense. [57] This made it clear that, the saying that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” was true in the south, for the “southern freedom movement.” [58]

The tradition of armed self-defense in the US South was connected with the civil rights movement, with many believing in nonviolent resistance, with gunfire and the threat of gunfire helping nonviolence, which some veterans of the movement describe as “aggressive confrontations,” serving as an effective tactic for change. [59] While this was the reality, and this resistance did end “mental paralysis” which made Blacks unable to break free of “white supremacy” fully, nonviolence was not a way of life for many in the southern Black community with households having guns and armed supporters protecting field organizers. [60] Conflict between fears of bigoted (and racist) Whites and needs of Blacks to defend themselves arose again later in the 1960s, leading to more radical Black activists who believed in varying forms of Black liberation and Black nationalism, and splitting from the arguably bourgeois civil rights movement. [61] Many Blacks, not just Black activists, apart from Malcolm X, were undertaking the slogan of armed self-defense as a way to protect themselves from violent repression of Blacks by racist Whites. [62]

Robert, Mabel, and the other members of the Williams family suffered from his strong stance against nonviolent respectfulness and in favor of armed self-defense. In August 1961, Mabel held off police who were coming to arrest Robert for a “so-called kidnapping of a white couple,” when he was actually trying to free the white couple from an angry mob. [63] Eventually, each one of them fled to Cuba after he was pegged with “kidnapping” changes. In the process, Robert rejected the idea of Black nationalism, along with Marxism, thinking that it “putting class before race,” at least as he saw it. These beliefs, while readers may disagree with them, are not a surprise for him since the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), which had supposed “rigid Marxism,” was engaging in destalinization and embracing Khrushchev’s revisionism, as opposed to anti-revisionism. As a result, Robert made a lasting friendship with the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist group, but also produced a newspaper named The Crusader and broadcast a radio show for Southern Blacks called Radio Free Dixie. [64] While he said that the Cuban government was limiting his work, it is more likely this was the work of the CPUSA, which had, at the time, removed themselves from actively supporting the struggle of suffering Blacks. As a result, in 1965, after arguing in favor of radical internationalism, he moved to the People’s Republic of China, where he stayed in exile. He later returned to the United States in 1969, and was pardoned of his “crimes” in 1975. Still, to many, his actions (which were not his own of course) still represented “the tactical power of armed self-defense as a tool against reactionaries of all stripes” and the power of Black nationalism. [65]

Through the 1960s, while Williams was in political exile (1961-1969), Blacks in the United States were not giving up the use of the gun to protect themselves and/or assert their rights as human beings. In 1964, while SNCC respected the desire of the Black masses to engage in armed self-defense, James Foreman admitted that “I dare say that 85 per cent of all Negroes do not adhere to non-violence. They are allowing the non-violent movement to go ahead because it is working.” [66] The same year, the Progressive Labor Movement, a radical communist group formed two years earlier which had been expelled from the CPUSA for pro-China sentiments, declared that

Black people, if they are to be free, must develop political power outside of the present power apparatus through armed self-defense, political councils, the creation of an economic base, seizing land and factories and finally, uniting with all workers struggling for revolution.” [67]

At the same time, a former preacher for the socially conservative, but Black nationalist, Nation of Islam (NOI), Malcolm X, who has been mentioned earlier, became even more spoken out. In 1964, Malcolm argued for Black rifle clubs, which the White commercial press were “hysterical” over, and for armed self-defense against White reactionaries, even telling Lew Rockwell, the head of the Nazis, that if MLK or anyone in his demonstration were harmed, then the Nazis would face “maximum physical retaliation.” [68] This belief was centered around the idea that nonviolence in and of itself was a lie that would hurt more Blacks, meaning that people should be armed and able to defend themselves rather than giving up their rights. [69] Malcolm directly embodied this in an iconic image in Ebony magazine, in 1964, with unknown origins, showing him with a M-L carbine, standing at the window, watching for those who were out to kill him.

Iconic Ebony picture, in 1964, of Malcolm x with gun
Ebony picture of Malcolm X with a gun

Sadly, Malcolm was gunned down by NOI members, on February 21, 1965, with twenty-one bullets riddling his body, likely with the help of the NYPD, CIA, and FBI, all who would have an interest in seeing him dead and “neutralized.”

Apart from Malcolm, there was one group that engaged in armed self-defense to protect civil rights activists. It was called the Deacons for Defense and Justice. This group defended civil rights workers against attacks from the KKK and other White supremacists, with a masculinist appeal and awareness of their place in history. [70] The group expanded across the Deep South, including into Louisiana’s Natchez area, with Black women not being actively involved (since they were actively excluded) but they did participate on an “individual and informal basis,” with women defending their homes “with armed force,” and others participating with men in target practice in auxiliaries called Deaconesses. [71] Specifically, there were at least six women associated with the Deacons, showing that armed self-defense wasn’t only a male phenomena.

Some gun control advocates claim that the Deacons do not support the idea that the “armed resistance won the civil rights movement,” which no one is arguing, saying that the Deacons were a “little-known group that had no discernible impact on the national civil rights movement.” [72] The argument, which rests on the fact that the group didn’t form until the summer of 1964, ends up citing certain “respectable” historians and uses huge MLK quotes. Ultimately, the Deacons, who were roughly active from 1964 to 1968, helped the national civil rights movement by allowing it to have victories in the Deep South, showing that fighting against segregation and racial injustice was a worthy cause. While one can argue that the results of the movement did not challenge the White power struggle on a national level, laws such as the Civil Rights Act in 1965 or Voting Rights Act in 1964 would have not been possible without the work of the Deacons. Without the Deacons protecting civil rights workers, it would have been harder to push for such laws since there would have been fewer victories against Southern racial apartheid, regardless of how much they accomplished in retrospect.

By 1965, Blacks were becoming more impatient than ever at the pace of the civil rights movement, and nonviolent respectfulness, which did not fundamentally challenge the White power structure nationwide. That year, in Watts, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, these emotions came out. The Progressive Labor Party (PLP), called the Progressive Labor Movement in earlier years, declared that this action was unorganized and faced tremendous odds, but that for a brief time of two days the people “liberated their own community and kept out the police.” [73] Still, they lamented that such resistance is too weak to meet the enemy at hand, meaning that there needed to be self-defense organizations to help them organize to defend themselves, along with independent political organizations to fight for their demands and lead them forward. Not everyone held this opinion of course. MLK argued that the Watts uprising was no model to be praised, but did recognize that such “riots” were the “language of the unheard.” The same year as Watts, there was a battle waged in “Bloody Lowndes” County, Alabama, which ended in 1966 with defeat, even as the efforts of a southern grassroots Black Power movement was gaining more strength, with visions of such Black freedom not yet realized. [74] It is worth mentioning here that there was armed self-defense in the North as well, during the 1960s and before, but this writer has not read about this in detail so they such instances have not been included in this article.

In October 1966, a new group came into the political scene: the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), formed by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. This organization began in Oakland, California around the “basic need for armed self-defense” and creating an “all-round program of self-defense” with demands for basic, human needs, a minimum program “designed to unfold into the maximum program of socialist revolution.” [75] The Panthers, influenced by Robert and Malcolm’s efforts, used guns as self-protection by openly carrying them in public and displaying them for everyone, especially the local police to see. The regular practice of “policing the police” in patrols happened after an incident in February 1967 when Newton, Seale, and several others, armed with guns, were stopped by police, with Newton refusing to let the police see a gun, with the police, after a huge crowd gathered, not challenging him and backing off. [76] Newton and Seale were frustrated with civil rights movement’s failed promise, leading to more violence and oppression by the police, pushing the belief that the gun would be a way to gain liberation. As for recruits who were within the BPP, they were taught about socialism and Black nationalism, in classes organized by other Panthers, and learned how to “clean, handle, and shoot guns.” [77]

Black Panthers inside of the California state house on May 2, 1967
Black Panthers inside of the California state house on May 2, 1967

One event of the Panthers electrified the nation and brought gun control back into the picture. In 1967, in an effort to stop the Panthers from brandishing guns in “an effort to police the police” and prevent police brutality, a measure was proposed to reduce their self-defense efforts. [78] In May of that year, a number of Panthers, with loaded weapons, went to the state legislature in Sacramento (in a “gun-in”) to oppose this form of racial repression, in an act which some say was the “birth” of the modern debate over gun rights, but this is inaccurate as such armed self-defense efforts had surfaced for years and years before. [79] On May 2, a day when eighth grade students were gathering to lunch with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, thirty young Black Panthers, with the 24 men holding guns and six women only accompanying them as comrades, took to the steps of the state capitol building carrying “revolvers, shotguns, and pistols.” [80] On those steps, Seale, reading a statement written by Newton (part of which is here), declared the following, connecting domestic and international struggles, a true statement of “intersectionality”:

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls upon the American people in general and the Black people in particular to take careful note of the racist California Legislature, which is now considering legislation aimed at keeping the Black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of Black people. At the same time that the American government is waging a racist war of genocide in Vietnam, the concentration camps in which Japanese Americans were interned during World War II are being renovated and expanded. Since America has historically reserved the most barbaric treatment for nonwhite people, we are forced to conclude that these concentration camps are being prepared for Black people, who are determined to gain their freedom by any means necessary. The enslavement of Black people from the very beginning of this country, the genocide practiced on the American Indians and the confining of the survivors to reservations, the savage lynching of thousands of Black men and women, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and now the cowardly massacre in Vietnam, all testify to the fact that towards people of color the racist power structure of America has but one policy: repression, genocide, terror and the big stick. Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated and everything else to get the racist power structure in America to right the wrongs which have historically been answered by more repression, deceit, and hypocrisy. As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in  Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalates the repression of Black people throughout the ghettoes of America. Vicious police dogs, cattle prods and increased patrols have become familiar sights in Black communities. City Hall turns a deaf ear to the pleas of Black people for relief from this increasing terror. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense believes that the time has come for Black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late. The pending Mulford Act brings the hour of doom one step nearer. A people who have suffered so much for so long at the hands of a racist society, must draw the line somewhere. We believe that the Black communities of America must rise up as one man to halt the progression of a trend that leads inevitably to their total destruction.” [81]

While this act, and the subsequent marching inside the assembly chambers, gave the Panthers a nationwide reputation, a fear of Black people with guns led to new gun restrictions. [82] Specifically in response to this incident, Republican assemblymember Don Mulford, pushed forward the Mulford Act stronger than before, pledging to make the bill tougher. Then-Governor Reagan declared that there was “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons” and said that guns were a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will,” imposing no “hardship on the honest citizen” (referring to good-natured White people) signing the bill into law only a few months later. [83] Of course, the NRA supported this law and other gun control in the 1960s.

The following year, in 1968, the US Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Gun Control Act of 1968, with both laying the foundations for the existing carceral state. The latter law, which banned felons from buying guns, expanded gun dealer licensing, and prohibited import of cheap “poorly made guns that were frequently used for crime by urban youth,” making it clear that the law wasn’t about controlling guns but “was about controlling blacks.” [84] Yet again, the NRA supported the law, praising it in their American Rifleman publication, along with a federal report in 1968 following suit blaming urban unrest, to an extent, on “easy availability of guns,” and arguing for firearm controls. Some claim that the passing of these laws meant that “attitudes toward gun rights shifted” for a temporary time “in favor of more racially neutral gun control policies” but this denies the idea that gun control laws are a form of social control yet again. [85]

In the meantime, the Black liberation movement was gaining strength. In 1968, the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) was formed, lasting until 1971, embodying the ideas of economic independence, Black empowerment, and self-determination by “creating a Black nation within a nation,” calling for a homeland in “the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina — subjugated land in which people of African descent were enslaved,” states that are part of what is commonly called the “Black Belt.” [86] As part of RNA practices, they had a “cadre of young black men armed with rifles,” willing to engage in armed self-defense, with armed women serving as security for the RNA’s Land Celebration Day in 1971, with a picture from that day opening this article.

A handbill for the RNA
A handbill for the RNA

As for the BPP, there was also a change. As the male bravado of the Panthers was tamped down, Black female writers changed the game, along with illustrations by Emory Douglas, especially, in The Black Panther newspaper, showing “poor black women resisting authority in everyday life.” [87] Such women carried guns and were framed as equals with men, not those who were subservient. In later years however, the FBI engaged in infiltration and psychological warfare against the Panthers (among many other radical left groups) as part of COINTELPRO, even as they started the free breakfast program in January 1969 and were hated by FBI head J. Edgar Hoover with a passion. Organizational disputes between SNCC, the BPP, and other organizations led to divisiveness, even as newspaper circulation of The Black Panther reached 250,000 in 1970, with Eldridge Cleaver kicked out of the party in March 1970, leading to the creation of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). After this point, the remaining parts of the party leadership were torn apart, with Cleaver, Seale, and Newton going their separate ways, and the party collapsing in 1982.

Back in the late 1960s, support for gun control was across the board. In the 1968 presidential election, Bobby Kennedy, before his assassination, supported gun control of “private citizens” but not cops of course, and George McGovern also supported gun control, which some said would be “a major step in disarming the people.” [88] The following year, the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence or National Violence Commission for short, declared in the introduction to their final report that “violence in United States has risen to alarmingly high levels…[which is] dangerous to our society…it is jeopardizing some of our most precious institutions, among them schools and universities…it is corroding the central political processes of our democratic society.” [89] Specific measures they recommend, to bring violence “under control” and “better control,” are is creation of “central offices of criminal justice” and private citizen organizations “as counterparts” (possibly the idea of police unions) and most importantly, “the adoption of a national firearms policy that will limit the general availability of handguns.” [90] In later pages, the commission said that there needs to be a push for “responsible participation” by young people in America “in decision-making” as a possible “substitute for the violence that born in frustration,” along with admitting that “without the deterrent capability essential for security against external attack, internal freedom and security would not be possible,” implying that a huge military with a Soviet boogeyman is needed to keep US citizens “in line.” [91] They also argue that all Americans have to recognize “the basic causes of violence in our society and what must be done to achieve liberty and justice for all” and that strong measures must be taken to end the “rising tide of individual and group violence.” [92]

The commission was not alone in these remarks. Wacked out general Ramsey Clark, who has the imperialistic idea of “progress” across the continent, by saying it created conditions making crime “common,” declared that “revolutionary crime and illegal conduct intended to alter institutions impose rioting, mob violence, unlawful confrontation, arson and trespass on a weary society.” [93] Adding to this, he said that one of the elements of a “violent environment” which “violent crime” springs from is the “prevalence of guns,” implying that he supports gun control. [94] Others said however, in 1970, that violence was an “ambiguous term” and that “order,” like violence, is “politically defined” and argued that national commissions in 1919, 1943, and 1968 do not mention (or consider) the connection of war (in this case in Vietnam) and domestic violence, an important fact to consider. [95]

On the far right, there was a new development. The gun control efforts in the 1960s, which aimed to disarm “urban and black radicals” led to backlash. Hardline NRA supporters took over the leadership of the NRA, changing it from fighting for sport shooting into a group engaging in “aggressive political lobbying to defeat gun control” and leading to the modern gun-rights movement today. [96] People like Maxwell Rich, of the old NRA, were pushed out of the way, with a man named Harlon Carter, leading his allied rank-and-file members to engage in a coup to take over the leadership in May 1977. [97] He and his loyal followers transformed the NRA, for the worse, into a pro-gun powerhouse and juggernaut where mistrust of law enforcement was one of the main beliefs. At the same time, as the GOP and NRA rejected gun control, Blacks, faced by increased violence in US cities and the crack cocaine epidemic, driven in part by the CIA’s activities, embraced it. [98]

As for the Left, support for armed self-defense and armed resistance was continued by certain sections and groups. Some argued that the “question of armed struggle” was a matter of expediency determined by political crisis in the country, potential of support from the masses at-large, and need of the people to engage in armed self-defense. [99] A few years later in April 1972, the “Revolutionary Union” group declared that “…even in an organized mass way, armed self-defense is incapable of completing the revolutionary task, and in time will even become less useful for defense,” saying that ultimately the only “real defense” of the populace is to “destroy the enemy…[through] offensive action and an organized military force.” [100] One such ideology that included armed self-defense were the ideas of Maoism, which also defended extra-legal tactics and preparation for military struggle, contrasting from the cautious perspectives of “Old Left”groups, the former which was embraced by those such as the BPP. [101] In the Chican@ community, called the Mexican-American community today, armed resistance was used. The Chican@ nationalist organization, the Brown Berets, composed of “lumpen” and working-class elements, proposed the Chicano Moratorium (1969-1971 at least) to raise awareness about the Vietnam War as a “civil rights issue,” also advocated for armed self-defense and armed struggle, as part of their anti-capitalist viewpoint, as necessary tools for liberation. [102]

Picture of eleven members of Brown Berets, the date of which is not known
Picture of eleven members of Brown Berets, the date of which is not known

While some argued against armed resistance, saying it was illegal and coercive, numerous groups still supported it. [103] In 1974, Ethel Shepton of the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), in Boston, argued against racial segregation, fighting for community control of schools in Black neighborhoods, along with armed self-defense against racist reactionaries, the right of “Black children to go to any school,” and the demand that the government “break up the fascist gangs.” [104] As years passed, gun control was cited as part of a “fascist offensive” to win allies of the proletariat to the “side of capitalism” while Robert, in 1977, declared that Mao Zedong was a “invigorator of rebellion and revolutionary thought,” saluting the victories of China, not surprisingly. [105] The same year, one group argued that they actively supported the right of White and Black working-class peoples, specifically those who were Black, to “defend themselves with arms against attack and lynching” with organization of armed self-defense in Black communities as “an important aspect of our leadership in the oppressed Nation.” [106]

During the later 1970s, one slogan began to be used more than ever: “Death to the Klan” as the KKK expanded throughout the US in groups like the “Invisible Empire.” In 1979, the left-wing Communist Workers’ Party (CWP), an offshoot of the PLP, a communist group, pushed forward “militant, anti-racist opposition to the Klan” by organizing within existing textile unions and against racism in the community as a whole, with positive results. [107] Of course, the Klan would not stand for this, doing what they could to stop the activism. As the CWP became more militant and organized a march on November 3, 1979, to counter the racist KKK, the Klan responded in force, with local Neo-Nazis, accompanied by FBI and police informants, arriving at the protest, taking “sidearms and rifles out of the trunk,” opening fire on participants, killing five in all, and likely wounding of many others, in what some called the “Greensboro Massacre.” [108] In the aftermath of this, the community was confused but also horrified, with the police nowhere to be on the scene and the leadership of the CWP being heavily criticized by established politicians and other radicals even as the lesson from the experience led to “better methods of anti-Klan organizing.”

The CWP was not the only group organizing against the Klan. In Northern Mississippi, the United League organized the masses, engaging in armed self-defense and taking precautions against Klan threats, along with similar anti-Klan and anti-Neo Nazi protests across the country. [109] As for the CWP, the more restrictions were put on them but this didn’t stop them. In January 1980, charges against nine people who transported weapons to the funeral march for the five killed during the Greensboro Massacre was dismissed, which some called a “victory for the Communist Workers Party and the masses in the struggle for right to armed self-defense” even as all confiscated weapons were ordered destroyed. [110] This victory allowed the CWP to continue to rally the people for nonviolent demonstrations even as they fought for the right of the masses to engage in armed self-defense, going against politicians like Ted Kennedy who supported gun control laws. [111] In 1981, one publication noted that the Klan was dedicated to engaging in “armed suppression of the workers’ movement and all progressive political movements” meaning that such reactionary terror cannot be stopped by being unarmed, but that “common sense tells us that armed self-defense is the only protection that the masses have against the reactionaries’ terror,” which liberals reject, claiming that “the masses are not prepared to accept the necessity of armed self-defense.” [112] In the same year, other measures were afoot. After the attempted assassination on Ronald Reagan in March, the news media pushed for gun control, as part of “”anti-crime” hysteria” which some say was a way to justify more authoritarianism, a bigger police apparatus, and turning the U.S. “into one big convict camp for forced labor, a chain gang working for the profits of the monopolies.” [113]

Handbill for Nov. 3 march by the CWP in Greensboro, NC
Handbill for Nov. 3 march by the CWP in Greensboro, NC

Despite criticisms of groups like the CWP, the chant of “Death to the Klan” became a national rallying cry. This was especially the case when the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (JBAKC), originally emerging out of struggle by Puerto Rican and Black prisoners in New York, published a newsletter titled called Death to the Klan. [114] The organization was deeply rooted in the Black liberation struggle and Arab liberation struggles in Asia. [114] One lesson that was clear, it seemed, from the rhetoric of the CWP and its predecessors, along with grassroots organizing in Dallas, Texas, was a clear need for “synthesis between community defense and mass organizing” with self-defense as an imperative for people of color. By the mid-1980s, JBAKC had trouble articulating a “mass self-defense strategy” as they tried to get rid of racist graffiti, but were beat back by a racist skinhead gang in 1985 who were armed with shields and weapons. [115] As a result, some anti-racist skinheads organized armed self-defense and openly organized against those spreading hate and violence, including creation of a self-defense strategy with confrontations with racist often ending peacefully, without bullets being fired except in a few occasions. [116]

Undoubtedly armed self-defense continued as a practice by some individuals. One example of this was during the “Rodney King riots” in Los Angeles, in 1992, Korean shopkeepers had armed themselves, with Black “rioters” and Koreans portrayed negatively by the media, which diverted attention away from “a long tradition of racial violence,” with tensions among people of color “woven into U.S. history for the past 500 years.” [117] There is more on the history of armed self-defense, gun control, and armed resistance after 1992 but this was often engaged in by White individuals with not as much emphasis on actions by people of color.

Conclusion

In the original version of this article I was aiming to write about the history of armed resistance and gun control as the first section, followed by my views on the subject as the second section, reinforced by what I had said above. However, with over 117 footnotes and thousands upon thousands of words (over 8,600 not including footnotes), and with such a rich history, it seemed best to split this article into a two-part series. Even with this, there is no doubt that I did not cover all the history on this subject, so no one needs to get on my case about that in any way whatsoever. It is worth saying that anyone, on either side of the debate over guns in US society should recognize the clear history in this article to inform their viewpoint so they don’t laugh off the other side as ignorant fools while ignoring the reality which is right in front of their noses. As always, I look forward to your comments on this important subject.

Notes

[1] Other tweets of mine on the subject include: criticizing CodePink for implicitly rejecting armed self-defense, saying that calling for nonviolence at the upcoming women’s march doesn’t make sense, that liberals don’t care about safety of people of color because if they did they would call for armed self-defense, that armed self-defense shouldn’t be led by men, that these anti-fascists have the right idea, Korryn Gaines in Baltimore County has a right to armed self-defense, talking about armed self-defense in the Black community, challenging Hands Up United to endorse armed self-defense, asking if Muslims should arm themselves for self-defense, and so on.

[2] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[3] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[4] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[5] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[6] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[7] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” Soviet History, Vol. 1, no. 1, p. 11, 13.

[8] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[11] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” p. 17.

[12] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[13] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[14] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[15] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[16] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[17] Ibid; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[18] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017, Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[19] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 21; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[20] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[21] Candice Lanier, “MLK’s Arsenal & The Racist Roots of Gun Control in the U.S.,” RedState, January 17, 2013; January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[22] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[23] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017; LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 22-24. The rhetoric in favor of such armed self-defense was often masculinist in nature.

[24] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). He goes on to talk about Nat Turner’s rebellion, the Colfax Massacre, and numerous other instances to disprove the gun control is racist idea.

[25] Ehab Zahriyeh, “For some blacks, gun control raises echoes of segregated past,” Al Jazeera America, September 1, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[26] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[27] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[28] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[29] Nicholas Johnson, “Negroes and the Gun: The early NAACP championed armed self-defense,” Washington Post, January 30, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017. This whole paragraph comes from a summary of this source.

[30] Noted in old issues of the NAACP’s The Crisis.

[31] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017.

[32] Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[33] Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017.

[34] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[35] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[36] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Also see the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 which was also reportedly drafted by the NRA.

[37] Paul Elitzik, “The CPUSA and Black Workers in the 1950s,” Class Struggle, No. 9, Spring 1978, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[38] Carl Davidson, Chapter 7: Revolutionary Upsurge, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[39] Ibid.

[40] “Glossary of People: Ro,” see the entry for “Robeson, Paul Leroy (1898-1976),” Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[41] Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017. There are a number of articles also worth reading on the subject: “Nonviolent Philosophy and Self Defense” (Library of Congress), “The Important Role of Armed Resistance in the Black Civil Rights Movement” (AlterNet), and “Gun Control and the Disarming of the Black Community,” (The Root).

[42] Carl Davidson, Chapter 10: The Civil Rights Movement, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[43] Noted by examining the members and history of the Black Armed Guard in Monroe, North Carolina.

[44] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Sylvia Shin Huey Chong, The Oriental Obscene: Violence and Racial Fantasies in the Vietnam Era (London: Duke University Press, 2012), 315].

[45] PBS, “Independent Lens: Negroes with guns: Rob Williams and Black Power,” accessed January 17, 2017.

[46] This reality should surprise no one and it shows that both Mable and Robert were involved in the struggle for black freedom.

[47] Seems evident from the fact that attacks in the region were reduced.

[48] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[49] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[50] Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[51] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[52] “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[53] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control. The conclusion that women were arming themselves is not in and of itself out of the question.

[54] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Jim Dann and Hari Dillion, CHAPTER 3: RETREAT FROM THE BLACK LIBERATION MOVEMENT, part of “The Five Retreats: A History of the Failure of the Progressive Labor Party,” 1977, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; “Bob Moses also said that“I don’t know if anyone in Mississippi preached to local Negroes that they shouldn’t defend themselves.””

[58] Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[61] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[62] “Hail the Formation of the Black Revolutionary Party,” The Black Revolutionary, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 1971, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[63]  Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016. Also noted in a publication of the Freedom Archives, Robert and Mabel Williams Resource Guide which is cited in another article of this series.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[66] Jake Rosen, “War on SNCC: Turning Point for Freedom Fighters,” Progressive Labor, Vol. III. No. 2 February 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[67] Progressive Labor Movement, “Statement of Principles and Strategic Concepts,” Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 2, no date [1964], Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[68] Pili Michael L. Humphrey, Chairman of the Afro-American Commission Central Committee of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L), “Commentary: Revolution and Black Liberation in the 1980’s,” Unity, Vol. 3, No. 9, April 25-May 8, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Progressive Labor Editorial Comment: Malcolm X and Black Nationalism,” Progressive Labor Vol. III, No. 5, May 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[69] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[70] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017. This masculinist appeal is also noted in Umoja’s We Will Shoot Back and Estes’s I Am A Man.

[71] Noted most prominently by Lance Hill in his 2006 book about the Deacons for Defense but is also noted elsewhere.

[72] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[73] “A statement from the National Committee of the Progressive Labor Party: Army Occupies Strategic Hamlet of Watts,” Challenge, Vol. II, No. 6 August 24, 1965, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[74] Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[75] Venceremos, “Against Revisionism: In Defense of the Black Panther Party, 1966-1970,” September 1971, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[76] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[79] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Revolutionary Communist League (Marxist-Leninist-Mao Tse Tung Thought), “History of the Congress of Afrikan People,” Unity and Struggle, Vol. V, No. 6, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[80] “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[81] Huey Newton, “In Defense of Self-Defense: Executive Mandate Number One,” The Black Panther, 2 June 1967.

[82] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[83] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[84] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[85] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[86] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[87] There have been numerous articles about Emory Douglas in publications across the web, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

[88] Cleveland Draft Resistance Union, “Johnson Quits,” 1968, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; “National Elections and the Revolutionary Movement: George McGovern – Friend or Foe?,” Pamoja Venceremos, Volume 2, Issue 14, July 21-August 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017. McGovern is also criticized for his continued support of Israeli Zionism and US imperialism.

[89] National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, “Introduction to the Final Report of the Commission,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 2. Other documents submitted to the commission of note “crimes of violence” and “mass media and violence.”

[90] Ibid, 3.

[91] Ibid, 4-5, 8.

[92] Ibid, 11-12.

[93] Ramsey Clark, “Selections from Crime In America,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 13-14, 18.

[94] Clark, 21; Edward C. Banfield, “How Many, and Who Should Be At Liberty?,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 31. Clark also said that “mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, widespread property crime…police brutality and criminal syndicates” are also factors. He also argued that there is “a political element in every large scale riot.”

[95] Jerome H. Skolnick, “Selections from the Politics of Protest,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 47-48, 63-64.

[96] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[97] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[98] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[99] Carl Davidson, “Whither the Weatherman,” Guardian, December 26, 1970, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[100] “The Franklin group: The Military Strategy for the United States: Protracted Urban War (A Draft),” Red Papers 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[101] Max Elbaum, “Maoism in the United States,” Encyclopedia of the American Left, Second Edition, 1998, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[102] The League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist), “Chapter 3: The struggle of the Chicano people,” part of “The Struggle for Chicano Liberation,” Forward, No, 2, August 1979, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Chicano Liberation and Proletarian Revolution,” Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 2, January 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017. The Brown Berets were also joined by the Black Berets.

[103] Ernest Van Den Haag, “Political Violence,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 72, 74.

[104] “Commentary on the Greensboro shooting: The Klan: henchmen of imperialism,” Unity, Vol. 2, No. 23, November 16-29, 1979, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[105] “Robert Williams Speaks in Chicago: ‘Chairman Mao Was Our Brother’ Says Black Liberation Fighter,” The Call, Vol. 6, No. 36, September 19, 1977, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Committee for Scientific Socialism (M-L), “Two Lines on Revolutionary Practice: Science Versus Spontaneity,” Forward! no. 1, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[106] Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee, “RESOLUTION ON THE BLACK NATIONAL QUESTION,” part of “Documents of the First Congress of the MLOC – Resolutions,” Class Against Class, No. 10, January 1978, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[107] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[108] Ibid.

[109] “500 attend busing forum in N.Y.,” The Guardian, December 25, 1974, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[110] “Turn the Country Upside Down to Avenge the CWP 5!: Victory for Right to Armed Self-Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 2, January 21, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Chattanooga! 9 Pigs Fall to People’s Armed Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 28, August 4-10, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[111] Cynthia Lai, “The Role of Practice in the Marxist Theory of Knowledge,” The 80’s, Vol. II, No 1, January-February 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; ““C”PML Works with Cops in Feb 2nd Demo: Calling for “Peaceful Transition to Socialism,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 6, February 23, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Miami Conference: U.S. People Demand New Leadership For The 80’s,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 21, June 16, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[112] Mark Evans, “For a Revolutionary Struggle Against Fascism,” Workers Herald, Vol. 1, No. 3, January 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[113] “On the Attempted Assassination of Reagan by a Nazi: The Chickens Come Home to Roost,” The Workers’ Advocate, Vol. 11, No. 5, April 20, 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[114] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[115] Ibid.

[116] Ibid. Organized anti-racist gangs included the Red and Anarchist SkinHeads (RASH) and the SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARPs), along with the non-skinhead CHD (Coalition for Human Dignity) group.

[117] Newsweek Staff, “They Armed in Self-Defense,” May 17, 1992; accessed January 16, 2017.

The Great October Socialist Revolution and early history of the Soviet Union

"Woman-worker, the cooperative frees you from the reign of the kitchen and the cooking pot." 1923, as noted by Soviet Visuals.
“Woman-worker, the cooperative frees you from the reign of the kitchen and the cooking pot.” A 1923 poster in the Soviet Union as noted in a post by Soviet Visuals.

The absurd, unsubstantiated conspiracy that Russia (or more specifically Vladimir Putin) rigged the U.S. election so Donald Trump could win is currently dominating the bourgeois media. Recently, Western-friendly reformer Mikhail Gorbachev, who presided over the end of the Soviet Union and past Estonian president Toomas Hendrick Ilves declared that a new Russian nationalist union could be formed within the borders of the former Soviet Union. [1]

Regardless of whether such a union is a possibility, with the strong degree of nationalism and justified anger at the United States within the Russian Federation, the history of the Soviet Union is more important than ever. Due to the bourgeois and Trotskyist distortions of Soviet history and the nature of the socialist state, writing such a history is a challenge but is possible in a way that depicts the nation accurately, rather than within malice. This article is the beginning of a series on Soviet history, this article covering the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917, the early years of the revolutionary Bolshevik government which fought against imperialist invaders (1917-1922), and the first decade of Soviet existence (1923-1933).

The Czarist monarchy and the lead up to the Great October Socialist Revolution

The peasants and the population as a whole suffered under the iron fist of the Tsar/Czar. Meanwhile, the Russian middle class, which can be viewed as synonymous with the bourgeoisie, enjoyed leisure tine, the “western import” of national theater, in which actors were commodities, and were supported by heavy state subsidies in certain industries, a feature of Russian capitalism.” [2] These privileged Russians included Sergey Produkin-Garsky who traveled around the empire with funding from Tsar Nicholas II to take “more than 10,000 full cover photographs” which captured “the diverse people who…made up the Russian Empire, before the revolution.”

In 1905, the equation changed. Only two years earlier the Bolshevik sect was formed, with the overarching party, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP), agreeing on the need for a coming revolution with the ultimate end of establishing socialism. In this party there were also the Mensheviks who believed in the broad base of membership but the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, believed that there should be only militant revolutionaries in the party. Both of ideas were formed as the proletariat rose up. This was described by Lenin, in late January 1905: “…the proletariat has risen against Tsarism…the general strike in Petersburg is spreading…The revolution is spreading to waiver.” [3]

Lenin further called for the “arming of the people,” saying that “only an armed people can be a real stronghold on national freedom,” and that all revolutionaries must unite for the immediate overthrow of the bourgeois Tsarist government. [4] Years later he was much more critical. While he talked about the massacre of workers (“Bloody Sunday”) who petitioned the Tsar on January 22, 1905, the mutinies in the army, and the proletariat were at the head of the revolution and struggle forming Soviets (worker’s councils) but that its social content was “bourgeois-democratic.” [5] Still, the revolution had a broad significance. Even as bourgeois scholars like Max Weber downplayed it, the revolution was “the prologue of the coming…proletarian socialist revolution” which occurred twelve years later. [6] This was even confirmed by communistphobic scholars like Louise McReynolds. She wrote that the revolution in 1905 not only led to fears about the “violent potential of the lower classes” but it led to easing of restrictions on political expression, which, when combined with an expanding economy, led to growing commercial leisure for the bourgeoisie. [7]

After the revolution, elements of the RSDRP went head-to-head once again. The Mensheviks were dedicated to the idea of the proletariat being a revolutionary force on their own while the Bolsheviks argued that the proletariat, along with the peasants, would lead the revolution. Furthermore, the Bolsheviks said that the 1905 revolution was bourgeois, showing that there was a strong capitalist Russia, while the Mensheviks believed that an autocracy still existed meaning the that Tsar should be overthrown and replaced with a bourgeois government! Ultimately, as the 1910s passed, the Bolsheviks would take a hard line against the First Wold War, calling it, rightly, an imperialist war which would slaughter and divide the working classes of Europe, leading to vicious police persecution of the party itself.

At the same time, the laborers in North and Central Russia were suffering. A British correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, Morgan Phillips Price wrote that the peasants, skilled artisans, and others all suffered “in different ways under the same yoke of Tsarism” while the Russian capitalist class shared spoiled with French, Belgian, German, and British capitalists, who owned much of the economy. [8] This was all part of, as Price put it, the “maintenance of Tsarism and the system of exploitation of the Russian workers and peasants.”

1917 was an eventful year for the Russian people. In the first two months of the year, thousands of soldiers deserted, the Bolsheviks organized demonstrations to commemorate Bloody Sunday (mentioned two paragraphs earlier), crowds of women in Petrograd (later called Leningrad and currently Saint Petersburg) sporadically broke into stores, and thousands upon thousands of workers from 58 workers went on strike. On February 23, the “February Revolution” began.

The Tsarist government was in total turmoil. While the non-cohesive Russian army was breaking down, so was the economy, coupled with industrial mobilization during wartime which hurt the proletariat and led to violent demonstrations in Petrograd in late February. [9] As the established Duma, dominated by bourgeois members, discussed its mandate, the worker’s councils (Soviets), that represented the common people, wanted to replace and supplant Tsarist authority. [10] On March 2, the Tsar abdicated (some question the legality of this action), leading to the creation of a provisional government the next day which was supported by the Ispolkom/Petrograd Soviet, not yet with Bolsheviks in the majority. [11] Of course, the Bolsheviks wanted immediate peace and to end the imperialist war in Europe even when the majority of the members in the Soviets, like the one in Petrograd, did not necessarily agree with them.

In March 1917, Lenin wrote about the situation in Russia, just like he had written about the revolution in 1905:

“The first revolution engendered by the imperialist world war has broken out…the first stage of our revolution will certainly not be the last…the February-March revolution of 1917…has been marked…by a joint blow at Tsarism…the workers of the whole of Russia…fought for freedom, land for the peasants, and for peace, against the imperialist slaughter…[but] this new government…[is made up of a] class…of capitalist landlords and bourgeoisie which has long been ruling our country economically…the Tsarist monarchy has been smashed, but not fully destroyed.”

The provisional government was by no means a revolutionary one. Years later, the Great Soviet Encyclopedia described as a “bourgeois-democratic revolution” which made US elites uneasy so they recognized the provisional government with millions of dollars. [11*] This provisional government, soon led by Alexander Kerensky, was timid. While the peasants, urban workers, and other members of the proletariat wanted peace to prevent a “terrible catastrophe” in Russia caused by German invasion, but the Kerensky government did not try and control the war profiteers or industrial syndicates created by the Tsar. [12] Of course, the Mensheviks supported this governments, with hopes of influencing it, which led to “industrial anarchy” as pro-landlord policies came down the pipe, with, as Price puts it, “complete anarchy…reigning in the central provinces of Russia on the eve of the Bolshevik revolution” as the outlook of the masses seemed hopeless. [13]

Lenin acknowledged these issues in his articles through March. He wrote that the proletariat cannot support a “war government” and that a workers militia should be formed, along with mass organization of all able-bodied people of “both sexes.” Later in the month, he added that the new government could only be overthrown if bourgeois intelligentsia and the Russian bourgeoisie’s organization is countered, with the need of revolutionary government which is not bourgeois. The same month, Lenin wrote about the imperialist nature of World War I, saying that there can only be peace when power is in the “hands of the workers and poorest peasants” rather than the Russian bourgeoisie, and that victory is possible even as the “transition to socialism” cannot be established in one stroke.

As the months neared toward the socialist revolution, the Bolsheviks were under attack. While socialist intellectuals and populists had excluded the Bolsheviks from power in Kerensky’s provisional government, Lenin was rallying the Bolsheviks, telling them that property, land, and banks needed to be nationalized, a people’s militia created, end to the imperialist war, and all power given to the Soviets. [14] As the months passed, the “masses of people” opposed the Kerensky government, supported by the Menskeviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, with some Soviets remaining conservative, meaning that, as socialist writer John Reed put it, Russia before the “November insurrection seems…almost incredibly conservative.” More specifically, during this time period, Prvada, the Bolshevik publication begun publishing again, Poland’s independence was refused by the provisional government, there were massive May Day celebrations, the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets met, and the Mensheviks not surprisingly became very anti-Bolshevik. Beyond this, the Russian font against the Germans began folding away as soldiers deserted and millions went on strike in early July. As time went on, it was on the side of the Bolsheviks, who, after a failed attempt to seize power in Petrograd in July, were itching for a “second revolution,” this one of socialist and proletarian character and content. [15]

As revolution came to its final conclusion, the Bolsheviks were gaining ground. In September, General Lavr Kornilov tried to make himself a “military dictator” in Russia, with the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks not helping protect the city of Petrograd from imminent attack. [16] Ultimately, the government could do nothing to maintain order, but the Petrograd garrison, mainly composed of the pro-Bolshevik and working class elements, defended the city and its inhabitants. Even as the Petrograd soviet voted to not strike and voted against the death penalty, the Bolsheviks held off Kornilov’s invading forces and resolved to create a socialist (and Soviet) government. In September, the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) tried to reassert their influence in the Petrograd Soviet, but failed, and in October, there was mass mutiny in the front lines. The Bolsheviks took an understandable hard line, saying that they would not participate in the conferences put on the Kerensky government, and instead were fully dedicated to overthrowing it instead.

Recounting the Great October Socialist Revolution

In Late October, the revolution sprung to life. On October 24 and 25th, the Red Guards, under the command of Lenin, seized important institutions in Petrograd, allowing the Bolsheviks to be in control. [17] The following day, October 26, Lenin announced the formation of a new government. By November 5, the Mensheviks and SRs had walked out of the Second All-Russian Congress of the Soviets, Kerensky fled and started a counter-revolutionary rebellion, and the Bolshevik government [18] said it will censor hostile bourgeois newspapers, a declaration of rights for the Soviet people was announced and Moscow was secured by the Bolsheviks. [19]

John Reed meticulously accounts the days of the Great October Socialist Revolution (October Revolution for short). On November 4, he writes that immense meetings were planned across Petrograd as the provisional government seemed hopeless. Three days later, on November 7, the Bolsheviks declared they had overthrown the provisional government as Red Guards fought “Junkers,” former imperial Russian officers, and there was an “atmosphere of recklessness,” with all “great Russia to win–and then the world,” begging the question if others would follow. [20] The following days led to more excitement. On November 8, the whole nation was up in “long hissing swells of storm” with rumors of Kerensky spreading throughout Petrograd, with vitriol from anti-Bolshevik newspapers, some of which was consolidated into the Committee for Salvation in the planned offensive against the Bolsheviks. [21] Still, they held on, as did the left SRs (right SRs were anti-Bolshevik), with Lenin and Leon Trotsky/Trotzky leaving themselves dedicated to the new Bolshevik government while others, like followers of anarchist Peter Kropotkin, refused to support this new government because the revolution had “failed” to arouse the “patriotism of the masses” in their view. [22]

The following days only increased the pressure on the young Bolshevik government. On November 9, the Soviets in Petrograd defended the city, with the Red Guard and sailors fighting to defend the revolution, a government of “united democracy” which did not ally with the bourgeoisie, with the Bolsheviks thinking that the fate of the revolution rested on their shoulders. [23] The following day, the Committee of Salvation, right SRs, and Mensheviks all worked against the Bolsheviks, with the arsenal in Petrograd remaining in the hands of counter revolutionaries, and, as the invasion of Petrograd seemed imminent, the “revolutionary proletariat [was] defending…the capital of the workers’ and peasants’ republic!” [24] The following day, Kerensky entered the city of Tsarskoye Selo, trying to command soldiers to disarm, but they refused to do so and were subsequently killed. [25] Also on that day, the city of Petrograd was clearly under Bolshevik military control with desperate fighting by the Junkers/Yunkers, and the Bolsheviks seized the switchboard room in the city. As John Reed tells it, when the hardened fighters entered the room, “many pretty girls” who had been switchboard operators left and hurled insulted at them even though these fighters did not insult anyone, with the result of their departure meaning that there few volunteers to operate the telephone line switchboard. [26] Still, with the force and dedication to revolution, enough people were found to make sure the telephone lines were operational. Later in the day, the Committee of Salvation was outlawed, and the “telephone girls” who had insulted the Bolsheviks told the committee that they “suffered” at the hands of the proletariat, as they kissed up to established power structures.

Two days later, the revolution was advancing with speed. Petrograd was clearly under Bolshevik control but there was the “question of finances” since banks didn’t want to cooperate with the new Bolshevik government. [27] In the days that followed, it was clear that the Bolsheviks, on whom the landless peasants, “undemoralised soldiers,” sailors, and rank-and-file workers supported, were up against investors, landowners, army officers, students, shopkeepers, and many more, were a powerful force. [28] In Moscow, on November 16, Bolsheviks hung banners declaring the beginning of the revolution, with poor and toiling marching across Red Square. [29] Additionally, the Bolshevik government published a declaration of rights (mentioned earlier), which said that all peoples shall have sovereignty, equality, ability to develop minority and ethnic groups freely, right to self-determination, and abolition of privileges and disabilities for nationalities and religious persuasions. [30] The provisional government was gone but the Bolsheviks were in for a big fight, with restrictions on newspapers that were anti-Bolshevik, fighting to “erect the framework of the new” and against those who tried to win in the coming civil war. [31]

Imperialists try to destabilize a new nation: 1917-1922

The Bolshevik government had acted quickly. Not long after its creation, the Second Congress of Soviets had declared that land would be given back to the peasantry and peace formed on all fronts. Some, such as feminist and political scientist Valerie Bryson, have declared that feminist concerns of Russian women were pushed aside by the revolution (and Bolshevik government), seen as not a “political priority” by Lenin, and praised Trotsky for a “progressive” view on the subject. Beyond this, Bryson also cites Left Oppositionist Alexandra Kollantai’s “failed efforts” and “sexual morality” of communism preventing needed changes in society, including in child rearing, before Kollantai apparently lose “real influence” in Soviet society in 1923, painting Stalin as “bad.” [32] Apart from the obvious bourgeois analysis here, Bryson is clearly wrong on the implication that the October Socialist Revolution was not “feminist.” Sir Arthur Newholme and John Adams Kinsbury wrote in the early 1930s the following about women in Soviet Russia:

“Sex differences were swept away by an early act of the Soviet government; and equality was carried into the marriage relation. Either partner is free to dissolve it [marriage] at his or her own free will or caprice.”

Another place to look for evidence of Bolshevik accomplishment is the constitution of 1918, of the RSFSR, a precursor to the USSR in 1922. This constitution declared that:

  1. “all private property in land is abolished, and the entire land is declared to be national property and is to be apportioned among agriculturists without compensation of the former owners, to the measure of each one’s ability to till it” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  2. “All forests, treasures of the earth, and waters of general public utility, all equipment whether animate or inanimate, model farms and agricultural enterprises, are declared to be national property” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  3. “complete transfer of ownership to the Soviet Republic of all factories, mills, mines, railways, and other means of production and transportation” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  4. “annulment of loans made by the Government of the Czar, by landowners and the bourgeoisie” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  5. “…transfer of all banks to the ownership of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  6. “Universal obligation to work” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  7. “decreed that all workers be armed, and that s Socialist Red Army be organized and the propertied class disarmed” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  8. “abrogating secret treaties, of organizing on a wide scale the fraternization of the workers and peasants of the belligerent armies, and of making all efforts to conclude a general democratic peace” in the first imperialist war (WWI) (Article One, Chapter 3)
  9. Insistence on ending “the barbarous policy of the bourgeois civilization which enables the exploiters of a few chosen nations to enslave hundreds of millions of the working population of Asia, of the colonies, and of small countries generally” (Article One, Chapter 3)
  10. Supports “the full independence of Finland, in withdrawing troops from Persia, and in proclaiming the right of Armenia to self-determination” (Article One, Chapter 3)
  11. “the exploiters should not hold a position in any branch of the Soviet Government” (Article One, Chapter 4)
  12. “…leaving to the workers and peasants of every people to decide the following question at their plenary sessions of their soviets, namely, whether or not they desire to participate, and on what basis, in the Federal government and other Federal soviet institutions” (Article One, Chapter 4)

Article 2 continued in the same vein. This article declared that working people and peasants shall have the power in the country, especially in their Soviets, along with the declarations that:

  1. “For the purpose of securing to the workers real freedom of conscience, the church is to be separated from the state and the school from the church, and the right of religious and anti-religous propaganda is accorded to every citizen.”
  2. “…abolishes all dependence of the Press upon capital, and turns over to the working people and the poorest peasantry all technical and material means for the publication of newspapers, pamphlets, books, etc., and guarantees their free circulation throughout the country.”
  3. “offers to the working class and to the poorest peasantry furnished halls, and [the government] takes care of their heating and lighting appliances.”
  4. “the task of furnishing full and general free education to the workers and the poorest peasantry” is offered by the government
  5. The government “considers work the duty of every citizen of the Republic, and proclaims as its motto: ‘He shall not eat who does not work.'”
  6. The government “recognizes the duty of all citizens of the Republic to come to the defense of their socialist fatherland, and it therefore introduces universal military training. The honor of defending the revolution with arms is accorded only to the workers”
  7. Granting “all political rights of Russian citizens to foreigners who live in the territory of the Russian Republic and are engaged in work and who belong to the working class.”
  8. Offering “shelter to all foreigners who seek refuge from political or religious persecution.”
  9. Recognizing “equal rights of all citizens, irrespective of their racial or national connections, proclaims all privileges on this ground, as well as oppression of national minorities, to be contrary to the fundamental laws of the Republic.”
  10. The government “deprives all individuals and groups of rights which could be utilized by them to the detriment of the socialist revolution.”

I could go on, as the Constitution has Articles 3, 4, 5, and 6, but I think you get the point.

As the revolution’s conclusion was evident, the bourgeois press in England and France bellowed about “cruelties” of the Bolsheviks. [33] So, the propaganda spewed against revolutionary governments of Iran, Syria, and Cuba (to give a few examples) in the present-day, is nothing new. What the propagandists in 1917 and 1918 didn’t realize was that, as deaf-blind socialist and writer Helen Keller wrote

“…the Russian revolution did not originate with Lenin…I see the furrow Lenin left sown with the unshatterable seed of new life for mankind, and cast deep below the rolling tides of storm and lightning, mighty crops for the ages to reap.”

The seizure of power by the proletariat, which had been carefully thought out and planned, was what, Anne Louise Strong, a long supporter of communist movements in Russia and China, called this “common consciousness in action.” Mao Zedong, who later was one of the leaders of China’s communist revolution, recognized the same in 1927, when he wrote that “the October Socialist Revolution ushered in a new epoch in world history…it exerted influence in the other countries of the world.” The Great Soviet Encyclopedia also echoed this, writing that the impact of the “Great October Socialist Revolution,” as they called it, had profound significance, especially by “strengthening the revolutionary movement in the USA.” [34]

While there were many forces aligned against the Bolshevik government, the Russians still defended the social revolution, fighting for the working class, with Russians seeing the revolution as meaning “peace, land to the peasants, and workers’ control of industry.” The Bolshevik government was trying to keep in place its proletarian state as the capitalist apparatus of power instilled by the provisional government, was swept away, following the ideas of Lenin. [35] By this time, the revolution had matured, clearly, from its earlier days. [36] But it was not wholly secure. For one, the socialist revolution in October had pushed to lead the country out of “imperialist war and economic ruin” as Josef Stalin put it. [37] While the path to socialism was cleared for the “middle non-proletarian peasant strata of all nationalities and tribes,” getting Russia out of the imperialist war was harder. [38]

The necessity of ending Russia’s participation in the imperialist war was evident, as it was necessary to preserve “the social revolution in Russia.” [39] The Bolshevik government tried to push for peace. However, after the Germans lost patience with the new government, they advanced at an alarming pace into the country in “Operation Thunderbolt” as they called it. [40] With the signing of the Treaty of Breast-Livotsk, on terms that, arguably, benefited Germany and their empire but removed Russia from the war. Lenin’s words about soldiers deserting from the front, as “voting with their feet” with peace could also be applied to the signing of this treaty. After this peace was evident, the Bolshevik government did not have many traditionally disciplined soldiers, leading to the creation of a Red Army, and recognizing Finland’s independence. [41] What followed was civil war.

The Bolsheviks were under attack from all sides. While they were under siege, they tried to take control of strategic natural resources in central Asia but were originally unsuccessful. [42] Famed British military (and bourgeois) historian, John Keegan, who supported wars in Vietnam, Kosovo (1998), and Iraq (2003), had an interesting and bizarre perspective on the Western intervention in Russia. He first claimed that Trotsky invited British marines to help the Red Army gain armaments and fight anti-Bolshevik forces, that the Bolsheviks held a “common interest” with the Western allies until at least April 1918, that the allied intervention was apparently not originally anti-Bolshevik but became so with Western allies supporting the White Russians, Czech forces, and other anti-Bolsheviks, while the Germans were “neutral” in the civil war. [43]

Like with all propaganda, there is a kernel of truth. In 1918, after the end of the imperialist world war, the British, French, Japanese, and US intervened in Russia. However, to act like they are “innocent” in this intervention is silly. The US State Department admitted this much, saying that “all these operations were to offset effects of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia,” showing that the idea the Allies entered to stop Germany from seizing Russian supplies and assisting Czech troops, who had been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire’s forces, was a convenient excuse to deny imperialist aims. [44] As Stalin put it in a speech commemorating the 24th celebration of the Great October Socialist Revolution, which was on the eve of the Great Patriotic War, often called World War II in the West:

“Recall the year 1918, when we celebrated the first anniversary of the October Revolution. At that time three-quarters of our country was in the hands of foreign interventionists. We had temporarily lost the Ukraine, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Urals, Siberia and the Far East. We had no allies, we had no Red Army–we had only just begun to create it–and we experienced a shortage of bread, a shortage of arms, a shortage of equipment. At that time 14 states [Czechoslovakia, the UK, Canada, Australia, India, Japan, Greece, Poland, the United States, France, Romania, Serbia, Italy, and China] were arrayed against our country but we did not become despondent or downhearted. In the midst of the conflagration of war we organized the Red Army and converted our country into a military camp. The spirit of Lenin inspired us at that time for war against the interventionists, regained all our lost territories and achieved victory.”

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia added to this. They noted that the US and other countries tried to engage in broader intervention and a blockade of Russia even as the Soviets proposed normalization of relations with the US as an option, but this was rejected. [45] While the imperialists may have schemed to use the Kellogg-Briand Pact to isolate the Soviet Union in later years (originally they excluded them but included them after international pressure) and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919-1920 in the same way, the masses of the world didn’t necessarily agree. [46] There was a campaign against US intervention in Russia from those such as John Reed (quoted extensively earlier in this article), socialist leader Eugene Debs, and ordinary folks in Seattle and San Francisco. [47] Ultimately, the Great October Socialist Revolution not only led to the formation of a pro-Bolshevik Communist Party, in the US, in 1919, but it resulted in the end of US involvement in Russia in 1920 due to popular pressure, deportation of radicals to Russia, and the partially failed Palmer raids in 1920. [48] Sadly, in Germany, in 1919, a communist revolution, led by Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebkrecht, among others, was brutally crushed, with both of them killed by state police. [49]

The situation back in Russia is worth noting. During the five year brutal civil war, mainly fought from November 1917 to October 1922, with some resistance hanging on until June 1923, the government adopted an economic program of “War Communism” as it was later called, in order to survive, which was later replaced during the rebuilding period with the New Economic Policy and other policies. At the same time, the officers of the Red Army were in hundreds of schools, with the most important part a political-cultural department which tried to spread communist propaganda among the ranks of the army, which was made up of “ignorant peasants” as John Reed described it. There were also “labor armies” which were helping repair destroyed bridges, once the war was over, with a more established Bolshevik (and later Soviet) order than ever. Such labor armies harkened back to the idea of “industrial armies” in agriculture proposed by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist Manifesto. [50] As for the education in the Red Army, an organization that was like the “special corps” of armed workers envisioned by Marx in his 1850 address to the Communist League, it was similar to the ideas of political education proposed by Lenin on multiple occasions. [51]

Of course, bourgeois scholars like Louise McReynolds have declared that the Bolsheviks saw themselves as intelligentsia (wrong), created a new Soviet culture that nationalized the commercial market (likely true), and co-opted leisure which had been for the bourgeoisie to promote socialist ideals (also likely true). [52] By 1921, the 21 people who were on the Bolshevik’s Central Committee in 1917 has partially gone their separate ways, with some going into the Political Bureau, and others (Lenin, Trotsky (until later), and Stalin) were in a more of a leading role, and some joining the anti-Bolshevik forces. Still, as Helen Keller argued, the Russians were a people who “were trying to work out their form of government.” She also said, in words that some favorable to the Russian government could repeat today, that she loved “Russia and all who stand loyally by her in her mighty wrestlings with…imperialist greed,” while condemning workers in the US for not standing with the new country, and saying that famine in Russia was a result of war and imperialist blockade.

The first Soviet decade: 1923-1933

On December 29, 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was formed. The measures of War Communism were abandoned in place of the New Economic Policy (NEP) which introduced market measures in order to, in theory, rebuild the country from war, an ideas which was proposed (and advocated by) Lenin. This led to a struggle within the Russian Communist Party, which had evolved from the RSDRP’s Bolshevik section established in 1912, or Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) formed in 1918. Ultimately, in order to preserve the USSR as a socialist state, the “Left Opposition” was purged in 1927, as was Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin. While some may say this is anti-democratic, they must consider that Stalin was following, for one, what he said years earlier: that the Communist Party needs to have “iron discipline,” unity of will, and purge “opportunist elements” so it can effectively serve the proletariat. [53] Other than this, Stalin was also preserving the party as an “organized detachment” of the proletariat, a vanguard of the working class, allowing the party to reorganize along “new, revolutionary lines.” [54] Additionally, there needed to be unity in order to counter the “need of a constantly expanding market” for the bourgeoisie and to make sure the Soviets are the “grave-diggers” of capitalism in Russia and elsewhere, not supporting it with certain measures, like NEP, even if it was partially good. [55] Ultimately, there cannot be a “revolution in permanence,” a precursor to Trotsky’s idea of “permanent revolution” which is discussed later, without a unified party. [56]

Before getting to the other aspects of the first years of the USSR, it is best to acknowledge a number of aspects, including of the NEP period (discussed more in detail later). Anna Louise Strong said that in 1925, at least, every factory, mine, and economic entity was hungry for credit, and industries were supposed to be “self-supporting” after the beginning of NEP. While some may cringe at this, justifiably, there were a number of good strides, even in hard times. For one, there were strong restrictions on alcohol in society, a war against bootleggers, with the focus on drinking not as an individual problem but as a “social injury.” At the same time, there was a major focus on teaching in Russia, just like the political education of Red Army members mentioned in the previous section of this article. As Strong noted, from April to August 1923, the Moscow Government Publishing House printed 160 million copies of textbooks for the new system of education modeled on the “Dewey ideas of education.” This form of education was advanced and a “gorgeous plan,” with education projects assisted by the government even as some teachers were antagonistic to the changes in education due to their ignorance.

While this was going on, there was political strife, which was referenced earlier. Strong, in 1925, in an opinion that seemed to lean toward Trotsky, after Lenin’s death, claimed that Lenin was the “father of the revolution,” Trotsky as “popular” leader, and Stalin as a tactful politician. She continued by claiming that the old Bolsheviks were behind Stalin, who didn’t know many Western languages as Trotskyists, and differ on the debate over socialism in Russia, with Trotsky “broken” by Stalin. She even claimed that “no one would die for Stalin” which is totally absurd. Putting aside the pro-Trotsky viewpoint of Strong, it is important to talk about the debate between Trotsky and Stalin over socialism in Russia. In the Foundations of Leninism, a quote of which is reproduced here, Stalin wrote that socialist revolution which is successful in one country must not be self-sufficient but should aid the the “victory of the proletariat in other countries” so that the victory of socialism is clear. The main debate is this, as highlighted by one WordPress blogger: the idea of “permanent revolution” posed by Trotsky expands on the idea that revolution can occur in a “backward” country rather than an “advanced country” and that revolution cannot succeed if cannot be successful in the rest of the world. As for Stalin’s idea of “socialism in one country,” this recognizes the successful socialist revolution in Russia, but says that socialist construction under NEP, for example, can happen in one country, with socialism ultimately successful worldwide. [57]

Stalin himself, explained what “socialism in one country” meant in December 1925:

“… the possibility of the victory of Socialism in one country…mean[s] the possibility of solving the contradictions between the proletariat and the peasantry with the aid of the internal forces of our country, the possibility of the proletariat assuming power and using that power to build a complete Socialist society in, our country, with the sympathy and the support of the proletarians of other countries, but without the preliminary victory of the proletarian revolution in other countries. Without such a possibility, the building of Socialism is building without prospects, building without being sure that Socialism will be built. It is no use building Socialism without being sure that we can build it, without being sure that the technical backwardness of our country is not an insuperable obstacle to the building of complete Socialist society. To deny such possibility is to display lack of faith in the cause of building Socialism, to abandon Leninism…the impossibility of the complete, final victory of Socialism in one country without the victory of the revolution in other countries…mean[s] the impossibility of having full guarantees against intervention and consequently against the restoration of the bourgeois order, without the victory of the [proletarian] revolution in at least a number of countries. To deny this indisputable thesis is to abandon internationalism, to abandon Leninism…And if our country is discredited the world revolutionary movement will be weakened.”

Christina Kaier, a professor at Northwestern University who specializes in “Russian and Soviet Art,” among other aspects gives the next part of the story. She describes the NEP, a period she says lasted from 1921 to circa 1928, was a “relatively peaceful and semicapitalist period in Soviet history,” which retreated from the War Communism during the Russian Civil War, with “free exchange” legalized and pushed by Lenin, which was seen as the next step to a socialist future, with Soviet state-owned enterprises competing in the NEP market. [58] A major downside of NEP was the creation of the “Nepmen” or NEP bourgeoisie which supported avant-garde artists but also were very greedy, with a noticeable disparity between workers and management, class distinctions reappearing in society, and firms dominated by the profit motive. [59] Despite all these downsides, in a country with a mainly agricultural economy at the time, there were positive elements. The creation of a “communist culture” in the new nation was realized by making constructivist art a political project of the state to counter bourgeois art with useful, utilitarian objects for the “new socialist collective” but also the ideas of an “object as comrade” or “socialist object” to replace commodity pleasures. [60] To promote such utilitarian objects, and tap into “commodity aesthetics and consumer desires” during the NEP, with advertising to promote products, which were seen as “transitional objects” as well, they were displayed at an avant-garde exhibition in Paris in 1924, at a time that Soviet industry was still recovering from wartime. [61] The philosophy of those creating the objects was put forward by Aleksander M. Rodchenko in the spring of 1925:

“The light from the East [the Soviet Union] is not only the liberation of workers, the light from the East is in the new relation to the person, to women, to things, our things in our hands must be equals.”

Examples of this are abound, some of whom were in the October Group of Soviet constructivist artists. Vladimir Tatlin, who shifted to creating utilitarian objects, creating a stove, pot, and other items to help in the home. [62] As for Lubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova (married to Rodchenko), they proposed designs for “everyday, utilitarian things,” specifically a simple “flapper dress” which was “mass-produced and distributed in Soviet economy.” [63] These dresses were austere but unisex and androgynous. [64]

By 1926, the gradual dismantling of NEP was beginning, scrapped by the 1928/1929, when Stalin was in a more powerful position than before. [65] Kaier, apart from her bizarre Freudian claims about Soviet objects, seemed to be writing a fair history (not communist or radical however) except when it came to what happened next and aspects of the Soviet government. In an almost negative tone, she mentioned the “mechanisms of party control over people’s lives,” the “Stalinist socialist realism in the 1930s,” and seemed to be snarky about the hardline approach by the Soviets toward prostitution and “nonparty women.” [66] Hence, while Kaier makes valuable contributions to history of the USSR, she falters by acting like Stalin is “bad” as he came to the scene. Trotskyist Chris Harman, in a similar vein, claims that Stalin gained “real” power in 1923-1924 and “absolute” power in 1928-1929. Without citing the specific page in his book, A People’s History of the World, praised by “popular historian” Howard Zinn, Harman is deluded. Even a quick glance at Stalin’s wikipedia page shows that he was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU from April 3, 1922 to October 18, 1952, over thirty years, but Harman may be referring to his “consolidation” of power in 1928-1929 possibly, who knows.

Kaier and Harman are not the only ones that sneer at Stalin. Louise McReynolds, who was criticized earlier in this article, follows suit, treating the trumpeting of socialist values in mass culture of the USSR by the CPSU as “bad.” [67] These claims are further preposterous when one considers that Stalin pushed for rapid industrialization and and end to the NEP, coupled with collectivization of agriculture when there was a shortfall in grain stores. Of course, a few, such as Nikolai Bukharin and Alexey Rytov opposed these policies but the Politburo rightly sided with Stalin, meaning that Rytov and Bukharin were pushed out for good reason. Lest us forget that under Stalin’s direction (and not only him), the first five-year plan was proposed in the USSR as a centrally-planned economy began to be constructed. Stephen Gowans noted, in his article about publicly-owned and planned economies, that they work despite the bourgeois propaganda that asserts otherwise.

“The Soviet Union was a concrete example of what a publicly owned, planned economy could produce: full employment, guaranteed pensions, paid maternity leave, limits on working hours, free healthcare and education (including higher education), subsidized vacations, inexpensive housing, low-cost childcare, subsidized public transportation, and rough income equality. Most of us want these benefits…when the Soviet economy was publicly owned and planned, from 1928 to 1989, it reliably expanded from year to year, except during the war years. To be clear, while capitalist economies plunged into a major depression and reliably lapsed into recessions every few years, the Soviet economy just as unfailingly did not, expanding unremittingly and always providing jobs for all. Far from being unworkable, the Soviet Union’s publicly owned and planned economy succeeded remarkably well. What was unworkable was capitalism, with its occasional depressions, regular recessions, mass unemployment, and extremes of wealth and poverty…What eventually led to the Soviet Union’s demise was the accumulated toll on the Soviet economy of the West’s efforts to bring it down, the Reagan administration’s intensification of the Cold War, and the Soviet leadership’s inability to find a way out of the predicament these developments occasioned…the Soviet economic system had…worked better than capitalism…Encouraged to believe that the Soviet economic system had failed, many people, including both communist supporters and detractors of the Soviet Union, concluded that a system of public ownership and planning is inherently flawed…the Soviet model of public ownership and planning…never once, except during the extraordinary years of World War II, stumbled into recession, nor failed to provide full employment…The benefits of the Soviet economic system were found in the elimination of the ills of capitalism…Among the most important accomplishments of the Soviet economy was the abolition of unemployment…From the moment in 1928 that the Soviet economy became publicly owned and planned, to the point in 1989 that the economy was pushed in a free market direction, Soviet GDP per capita growth exceeded that of all other countries but Japan, South Korea and Taiwan…the Soviet economy grew rapidly from 1928 to 1989 [but] it never surpassed the economies of North America, Western Europe and Japan…Soviet leaders recognized that a planned, publicly owned economy was an anathema to the captains of industry and titans of finance who use their wealth and connections to dominate policy in capitalist countries…Every year, from 1928 to 1989, except during the war years, the Soviet economy reliably expanded, providing jobs, shelter, and a wide array of low- and no-cost public services to all, while capitalist economies regularly sank into recession and had to continually struggle out of them on the wreckage of human lives.”

Stalin did make mistakes including thinking that the KMT, led by Chiang Kai-Shek was an effective force to defeat the imperialists, an idea discarded after the Shanghai Massacre in 1927 when the KMT murdered 300-400 Chinese Communists. At the same time, Trotsky turning into a virulent critic and Lenin saying Stalin should go hurt the unity of the CPSU, which made Stalin’s job in a governing position of the USSR even harder. Still, the continuation of the anti-religious campaign, which began in 1921, was wholly justified in an attempt to counter the nasty aspects of religious distortions in society which would ruin the attainment of human betterment.

The Soviet Union was at a good place, especially after Stalin took power. By 1932 and 1933, the medical field in the country was well organized and well established. Doctors were state officials who worked 6-6 1/2 hours every day and there were a total of 76,000 physicians, an increase of 50,000 since the Great October Socialist Revolution. There was also free social and medical help, open attendance at child birth regardless of class, free dental work, public medical centers for workers, the idea of unified medical work in the factory and hospital, and vacations ranging from 12 days to one month depending on the age and type of work. Doctors were also in touch with other elements of the medical practice, there was a specific focus on venereal disease, along with integration of medicine within and outside institutions, coupled with more hospital beds and progress in medical provisions. Other than this, the USSR made progress in fighting tuberculosis, venereal disease, especially syphilis, doctors outside the “field of monetary compensation” and near fulfillment of a “good medical service” with improvements needed to make it better since no medical service is perfect. The 1930s report on Soviet medicine concluded by saying that the Soviet government was “the most gigantic experiment in the deliberate public organization of social and political life in the world” with abolition of the “motive of private profit,” and engaged in “socialization of medicine” which in some respects goes beyond Western countries, presenting a challenge to other countries. [68] In times that we despair about the horrid condition of abortion rights in America, we should remember that abortion in the USSR was legally allowed under a number of parameters, which are reprinted below, showing that there were feminist policies in place:

“In most countries the purposeful production of abortion except for medical reasons is regarded as murder. The Soviet Government in 1920 repealed the existing laws against abortion and legalized it under certain specific conditions. This law contained the provisions summarized below, which are more fully stated in Mrs. Field’s Protection of Women and Children in Soviet Russia.

1. Abortion must be undertaken only by a licensed surgeon. Midwives are prohibited from performing abortions.

2. It must, as a rule, be the result of a surgical operation, and not of drugs.

3. The patient must afterwards remain in bed in the hospital or place of operation for three full days.

4. She must not be allowed to go to work for two weeks after the operation.

5. For a first pregnancy an abortion must not be performed unless childbirth would seriously endanger the mother’s life.’

6. Abortion is forbidden if the pregnancy has lasted for more than two and a half months.

7. A doctor cannot refuse an application for abortion, except as stated under 5 and 6. He may, however, discourage it in any way he thinks fit.

8. It is recommended that all abortions be performed in those State hospitals which have a division for this purpose. An insured woman or the wife of an insured man can claim abortion free of charge in a State hospital. For others a small charge may be made.

9. A private doctor or anyone else producing an abortion which results in death can be tried for manslaughter. Women cannot be punished for performing on themselves.

10. The doctor is recommended to discourage a woman from abortion if there are no social, economic, or medical reasons for it, and particularly if she has fewer than three children, or has adequate means for supporting another child.

It is stated that few abortions are asked for by women desiring to conceal illicit relations…No difficulty has arisen because of the unwillingness of women to come to hospitals for this purpose. No distinction is drawn between married and unmarried women.”

With the available resources, there isn’t much else I can say about this time period. I can say that on November 16, 1933, the US finally established diplomatic relations with the USSR as noted in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. [69]

Conclusion

Looking through the sources I gathered for this article, I realize now that I missed a number of aspects: I could have looked more at Stalin’s writings, spanning 1901-1952, a book about the early times of a Bolshevik (1894-1914), and histories of of the USSR, among many other aspects. [70] There are a number of bourgeois and academic sources I found, but alas, I did not go through those either. [71] This article could undoubtedly be better, but I am only a learner on this subject. I found some sources on r/communism in some quick searching today, but I likely missed something. So, comrades who are reading this, if you can help by providing any sources about Soviet history from 1933 onward, that would be great since there will be future articles in this series.

Notes

[1] Adam Taylor, “Soviet leader, Gorbachev says a new union could rise again,” Washington Post, December 13, 2016; Damien Sharkov, “Mikhail Gorbachev on the Soviet Union collapse, Democracy in Russia and Putin’s popularity,” Newsweek, December 13, 2016; Paul Goble, “If the Russians Come Back Again, They Won’t Be Constrained By Communism,” Estonian World Review, December 14, 2016.

[2] Louise McReynolds, Russia at Play: Leisure Activities at the End of the Tsarist Era (London: Cornell University Press, 2003), 4-6, 14, 29, 54.

[3] V.I. Lenin, “The revolution in 1905: The beginning of the revolution in 1905” (January 25, 1905), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 500-507,

[4] Ibid, 508-509; V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (1918), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 588-591.

[5] V.I. Lenin, “Lecture on the 1905 revolution” (1917),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 510-513, 518-519, 524.

[6] Ibid, 529.

[7] McReynolds, 9, 136.

[8] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[9] John Keegan, An Illustrated History of the First World War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), 300-301.

[10] Ibid, 301, 306.

[11] Ibid, 306-308.

[11*] “A Soviet View of the American Past: An Annotated Translation of The Section on American History in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” The Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 43, No. 1, Autumn 1959, p. 33

[12] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Keegan, 308.

[15] Ibid, 309, 311, 316.

[16] See Chapter 2  (“The Coming Storm“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World.

[17] Keegan, 316.

[18] The term “Bolshevik government” is used here to refer to the rule from 1917-1922. The government that was created after 1922, is called the “Soviet government.” Some say that the “Soviet government” began in 1917, but to say this is confusing since the Soviet Union was not officially created until 1922.

[19] By the end of the year, the Bolshevik government said that citizens could recall politicians from office, salaries of high-paid officials were limited, peace talks with the Axis powers began, leaders of the Cadet Party (anti-Bolshevik) are ordered arrested, an eight-hour day is introduced for railway workers, and public education is no longer monopolized by the Russian Orthodox Church. Beyond this, the Council of People’s Commissars says that Ukraine has a right to succeed, the nationalization of banks is announced, and the independence of Finland is accepted.

[20] See chapter IV (“The Fall of the Provisional Government“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[21] See Chapter V (“Plunging Ahead“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[22] See Chapter VI (“The Committee of Salvation“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[23] See Chapter VII (“The Revolutionary Front“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[24] Ibid.

[25] See Chapter VIII (“Counter-Revolution“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[26] Ibid.

[27] See Chapter IX (“Victory“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[28] See Chapter X (“Moscow“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[29] Ibid.

[30] See Chapter XI (“The Conquest of Power“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[31] Ibid; see Chapter XII (“The Peasants’ Congress“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[32] Valerie Bryson, Feminist Political Theory: An Introduction (New York: Palgrave MacMillian, 2003, Second Edition), 114-125.

[33] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[34] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 34

[35] V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (1918), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 569-570, 572, 582-583.

[36] V.I. Lenin, “Marxism and Uprising” (Sept. 1917), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 606-607; V.I. Lenin, “The crisis has matured” (October 12, 1917), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), p. 612-613.

[37] Josef Stalin, “The October Revolution and the National Question” (1918),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 620-621.

[38] Josef Stalin, “The October Revolution and the Question of the Middle Strata,” The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 632.

[39] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[40] Keegan, 317, 354, 356, 359.

[41] Ibid, 318, 355.

[42] Ibid, 356, 359-360

[43] Ibid, 360-361, 363-364.

[44] Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (New York: HarperPerennial, Fifth Edition, 2003), 409; Chronicle of America, “U.S. severs ties with Bolsheviks” (Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 605.

[45] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” 34, 36

[46] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” 34, 37

[47] Zinn, 373, 380, 400, 409; Chronicle of America, “Pacifist Debs gets 10 years in prison,” p. 606.

[48] Chronicle of America, “Left-wing socialists establish own party,” p. 611; Chronicle of America, “US withdraws troops from Soviet Russia,” p. 610; Chronicle of America, US in crusading mood, deports 249 radicals to Soviet Russia,” p. 611; Chronicle of America, “Palmer raids net thousands of leftists,” p. 612; “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 35

[49] Keegan, 392, 403.

[50] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Communist Manifesto,” The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 46

[51] Marx and Engels, 67; V.I. Lenin, “What Is to Be Done?,”  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 483; V.I. Lenin, “Lecture on the 1905 Revolution” (1917),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 516.

[52] McReynolds, 12-13, 33, 292.

[53] Josef Stalin, “Foundations of Leninism” (1924),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 647-651.

[54] Ibid, 637-638, 640-641.

[55] Marx and Engels, 26, 36

[56] Marx, “Address to the Communist League” (1850),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 71

[57] This blogger claims that speeding up “socialist construction” in the USSR ultimately led to the USSR’s demise, which is silly since the USSR was in existence from 1922 until 1911, so this person doesn’t know what they are talking about. At the same time, they claim that “the possibility of eventual failure of socialism was built into Stalin’s theory” which just isn’t true. Still, they make a possibly valid point that Stalin’s theory’s includes ideas from Trotsky.

[58] Christina Kaier, Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), 2, 18-19, 38, 165.

[59] Ibid, 19-20, 23, 25, 29, 81, 173, 264-265.

[60] Ibid, 1, 4-5, 8, 10, 27, 140.

[61] Ibid, 17, 47, 49, 183, 200-201, 206, 212.

[62] Ibid, 43, 52, 71-73, 82-83.

[63] Ibid, 89, 92, 100-101.

[64] Ibid, 113-114, 117, 124.

[65] Ibid, 244.

[66] Ibid, 27, 58-59, 61, 259.

[67] McReynolds, 293.

[68] It turns out that these authors are at least partially Trotskyists. Still, they offer good analysis when it comes to medicine. Other chapters I didn’t include talk about the USSR’s government, industrial and agricultural conditions, religious and civil liberty, women in Soviet Russia (cited earlier in this article), care of children, maternity,

[69] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 46

[70] Other aspects worth mentioning are Alexandra Kollontai talking about the years of revolution, a first-hand account of the October Socialist Revolution by Louise Bryant, a book with biographies of certain personalities in the revolution, Anne Louise Strong’s book about John Reed’s colony on the Volga, a page about party Congresses, a page about Soviet foreign policy, a page about Kronstadt, a page chronicling Lenin’s writings, a page chronicling Luxembourg’s writings, a page about the Soviet government, a page chronicling John Reed’s writings, and a page chronicling Soviet history.

[71] See “The History of Both the February and October Russian Revolutions” on About.com, “War and Revolution in Russia 1914-1921” by Dr. Jonathan Snee on BBCNews, “Causes of the Russian Revolution” on About.com, “Russian Revolution, October, 1917” on Spartacus International, Owen Hatherley, “The constructivists and the Russian revolution in art and architecture” on The Guardian, and Leon Aron, “Even Vladimir Putin Cannot Kill the Russian Revolution” in Foreign Policy. Academic sources include “The Deepening of the Russian Revolution: 1917” on a MIT website, the Internet Sourcebook documents on the Russian Revolution, and a book about the Russian revolution hosted in part by the Library of Congress.

“If he can put a few dents…I’ll fucking take it”: Trump and imperial diplomacy

Trump attacks a union leader, foreshadowing his anti-union moves in the future
Trump attacks a union leader, who called out Trump on his lies about the Carrier deal, foreshadowing his anti-union moves in the future

Recently I read a post by Sassy Sourstein (@rancidsassy) about Trump’s diplomatic maneuvers as you could call them. To his credit, he writes that “I’m not ready to stop gloating about the loss of Hillary Clinton yet. When Trump is inaugurated I’ll turn the knives on his administration — for now, it’s still the Obama-Clinton administration and I’m still focusing on these cretins.” This article will go through his post and address it, arguing that it is best to not be as optimistic about “changes” under Trump but to rather recognize the general continuance and continue fighting.

Trump, Taiwan and China

There isn’t a lie but it is the broader implications that matter.

Liberals don’t even know there’s a forest, forget seeing it for the trees. This week in Facebook includes people horrified that Trump would even acknowledge the government of Taiwan, let alone congratulate its new president! This will enrage China, our largest trading partner! They even brought out the specter of WWIII, which they laughed at when it was said it would be Clinton who would start it. Thing is Clinton was going to start it by following through on a promise to bomb Russian troops in Syria.

There is no doubt that liberals have engaged in what can be accurately called fake outrage, which is when someone is “outraged” at something but doesn’t see the whole picture simply put. Sassy has a point that Clinton would likely have started WWIII with bombing Russian troops in Syria and that liberals exhibited this fake outrage on this issue.

However, Trump’s position is not something out of the blue. Apart from whether his criticism of China is correct, which it seems to is clearly not, he is tapping into the sentiment of angry American multinationals who don’t like “new rules,” “rattled” as state-owned enterprises take more of a role in the economy, and are reportedly leaving China for Mexico, as the country loses its “allure” supposedly. Even Ho-Fung Hung, Johns Hopkins University Sociology professor who seems to be in the liberal camp of critics of China’s government by supporting the Western-backed “democracy” movement in Hong Kong, described Trump’s call with Taiwan’s new President, Tsai Ing-wen, who is part of a Taiwanese nationalist bourgeois liberal party, as “signaling a deeper shift in Washington’s Asia policy rather than just an impulsive act.”

As it turns out, that sentiment is well-placed. The call was reportedly “an intentionally provocative move that establishes the incoming president as a break with the past” which was the product of preparations stretching before he even “became the Republican presidential nominee.” [1] Talking with Tsai Ing-wen reflects, according to the article, views of Trumps’ advisers “to take a tough opening line with China,” even as it is publicly portrayed as just a “routine congratulatory call” (and non-political) which removes the fact that “it appeared calculated to signal a new, robust approach to relations with China,” to make Taiwan a “more strategic ally in East Asia.”

All Trump did was talk to the leader of a country that the United States arms and is sworn to protect — from China. And hey, China knows this. If these morons think China is just concerned with being “dishonored” *gong sound, deep bow* they’re not just racist, they’re also so stupid as to be dangerous. Give felons back their vote and disenfranchise these criminals of common sense.

Once again, Sassy makes a good point that Trump did talk to the president of Taiwan, a country whom the US has generously armed over the years with thousands upon thousands of weapons, including almost $2 billion in armaments sold to them almost a year ago in December 2015, trying to prevent them from “burning.” [2] There is no doubt that China is not just concerned with being “dishonored” with the call, but that they recognize US relations with Taiwan, and that liberals should be mocked for their response. However, as always, there is something deeper here.

Apart from what was said before, Bob Dole was behind the scenes in setting up the call with Tsai Ing-wen. Dole works currently as “a foreign agent for the government of Taiwan,” working for six months secretly (praised $140,000) to establish “high-level contact between Taiwanese officials and President-elect Donald J. Trump’s staff,” is a lobbyist for the multi-million dollar law firm Alston & Bird, and was part of a “well-orchestrated plan by Taiwan to use the election of a new president to deepen its relationship with the United States” which was assisted by Dole. [3] It might be worth remembering that Dole voted against even moderate social safety net proposals that were part of the revolution-calming “Great Society” while in the US Senate, was much in favor of the Vietnam War, and became a spokesperson for many corporate interests after his political career ended with Bill Clinton’s victory in 1996.

Apart from the misplaced optimism of the Chinese government about Trump (like many governments across the world), liberals and the corporate media have, as Sassy was criticizing, went all up and arms about this phone call:

Some actually praised the action by Trump, a view promoted by William Arkin who helped found a branch of Human Rights Watch in the 1990s! In related news, the Taiwanese alleged that the Chinese circled the island a week before Trump’s call, but this is likely a lie. What isn’t a lie, however, is a statement by former Trump adviser, Stephen Moore, likely in line with the position of Trump and his advisers: “Taiwan is our ally. That is a country that we have backed because they believe in freedom. We oughta back our ally, and if China doesn’t like it, screw ’em.” [4]

Beyond this is the actual response of the Chinese government. There is no doubt that he call made the Chinese angry, but officials blamed Taiwan for setting it up rather than Trump and hardly criticized the call. [5] The Chinese know that the Taiwan Relations Act not only “ended US recognition of Taiwan but also made the US responsible for military intervention in the case of an attack or invasion from China.” However, the anger goes deeper than that and goes beyond asking the US to bar Taiwan’s president from traveling through the US.

The People’s Daily Overseas Edition, a paper of the Chinese Communist Party, took an interesting tone. [6] This article by a researcher from the China Institute of International Studies, Wang Hai Lou, notes that Trump has consistently criticized China and could become “the weathervane for US future policy toward China” especially based on the fact he is “surrounded by a group of neo-conservative thinking” which is not good. Hai Lou goes on to say that Trump has a “lack of diplomatic experience” and is “ignorant of China-US relations” especially when it comes to “the exchange rate, trade and the South China Sea,” that provoking “friction between China and the United States…will only be counterproductive.” He ended by saying that

“China is well aware of the dual nature of US policy toward China…China’s foreign policy in line with international trends, the United States no matter…the…foreign strategy, it is difficult to exclude cooperation with China…China should develop itself according to established goals, build up a circle of friends, build a favorable international environment by cooperation and win-win, and limit US hostile choice and willful choice…the transition of Sino-US relations requires a long-term and long-term strategic plan.”

Very strategic thinking, no doubt. More directly, the Chinese government lodged “solemn representations with the relevant party on the US side both in Beijing and Washington” and got its “message across to the world as a whole with regard to Taiwan-related issues,” with the Foreign Minstry’s spokesperson, Lu Kang, saying, not surprisingly, “we will not speculate on what motivates President-elect Trump and his team into taking certain moves. But we will surly make ourselves clear if what they say concerns China.” The comment of the other foreign ministry spokesperson on the issue was not much different. Differently, some of the readers on People’s Daily criticized Trump for his anti-China rhetoric. The strongest opinion was an op-ed by Curtis Stone in the same publication, with him arguing the following:

“The U.S. cannot (and should not) try to dictate the policy of another sovereign state. Sovereignty means that China…is not always going to do what the U.S. wants. Furthermore, China will never bow to U.S. pressure…China is an independent, sovereign state with its own national interests. As a sovereign state, China sets its own policy and can retaliate if necessary. Trump does not seem to understand what China is doing with its currency, because he has repeatedly accused China of devaluing its currency. Many U.S. economists and currency experts agree that China is not a currency manipulator, and Chinese leaders have long insisted that market forces determine the price of the yuan…China wants peace and stability in the South China Sea, not tension and conflict. No doubt, China is determined and willing to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, but the claim that China is militarizing the South China Sea is completely false…An irrational and hasty “get tough with China” policy would be detrimental to U.S. long-term interests…world peace and prosperity depend on the healthy develop of China-U.S. relations. Trump needs to get the China-U.S. relationship right.”

Other writers took a similar stand. In the Chinese state media publication, Global Times, editorials said that:

  • peace through strength will be an important diplomatic principle of Trump” with a likely increase in East Asia of the military presence
  • Trump “has zero diplomatic experience and is unaware of the repercussions of shaking up Sino-US relations…China should understand Trump has two faces…we need to be clear-minded”
  • the One-China policy is a widely acknowledged principle in international relations..there is no motive in the US or the world that can break the principle…If Trump wants to overstep the One-China principle, he will destroy Sino-US ties…The Chinese mainland is capable of punishing Tsai’s administration for any moves that crosses the red line…It is hoped that Trump will gradually understand the reality and shape his China policy based on it”
  • “…he stirred up troubles against China before he is sworn in, which contradicts his isolationism…it remains uncertain if someone egged him on to challenge China…Sino-US ties will witness more troubles in his early time in the White House than any other predecessor…We should stand firm and remain composed…Trump’s reckless remarks against a major power show his lack of experience in diplomacy…Trump’s China-bashing tweet is just a cover for his real intent, which is to treat China as a fat lamb and cut a piece of meat off it…We must confront Trump’s provocations head-on, and make sure he won’t take advantage of China at the beginning of his tenure.”
  • But does China need to make deals with Trump that only benefit the US for making peace with him? Apparently not. The negotiations between China and the US must be carried out on an equal footing with mutual benefits, and won’t come to any agreement under Trump’s coercion. What if someone tries to leverage China in negotiations in an unacceptable way and tries to create an arrogant atmosphere?
    In this case, the best China can do is to return an eye for an eye. China won’t pay into Trump’s protection racket. It should use the money to build more strategic nuclear arms and accelerate the deployment of the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile…We need to get better prepared militarily regarding the Taiwan question to ensure that those who advocate Taiwan’s independence will be punished, and take precautions in case of US provocations in the South China Sea.”

On a related note, in the English-language China Daily, they wrote that the leader of Taiwan “is desperate for support from the United States in her cross-Straits standoff with the Chinese mainland” and that Trump “values the island as a business partner,” and that the response from Beijing “indicates a strong desire for healthy China-US relations in the coming Trump era.” Just like other writers have noted, “Trump broke a decades-old bilateral diplomatic consensus and touched an ultra-sensitive diplomatic nerve” and that he should “stop acting like the diplomatic rookie he is…otherwise, he will make costly troubles for his country, and find himself trying to bluster his way through constant diplomatic conflagrations.” That actually is a good point that even Sassy didn’t bring up.

In comparison, other publications were more strident. In the Russian publication, pravada.ru, Lyuba Lulko (Stepushova) argued that “China resorted to tough rhetoric,” noting that the US welcomed Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui in 1995 which made Beijing mad, while noting that Trump’s position “could provoke not only a military, but also an economic confrontation with China that will not be easy to win” with China vetoing “other US initiatives in the UN Security Council, for example, a resolution against the proliferation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons or the sanctions policy against Iran” which could lead to a better position for Russia. In CounterPunch, writers noted that “today, more than 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and, above all, nuclear weapons” with a coming war with China a possibility, with targeting of China’s core interests, and that there could be a war over Taiwan, with increased tensions as a likely possibility. This aligns with a recent poll where more Chinese than before are wary of the United States, which is nothing new.

Liberals and Fidel Castro

These same “pragmatic” types will nonetheless spend their time shitting on the legacy of Fidel Castro who despite lifting millions out of extreme poverty, did terrible things to innocent people that objectively pale in comparison to anything the US has done to its own minorities, but forget that. It’s about the morality — but just in that case.

Terrible things to innocent people? Who? Which innocent people? I do think Sassy makes a good point about liberal analysis of Fidel here. All I have to say is that Fidel was a great revolutionary (Evo Morales of Bolivia agrees not surprisingly) and those in Cuba have memorialized him rightly so:

Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Theresa May

That’s not all Trump “fucked up” on the foreign policy front. In less than a week he praised the “dictator” of Kazakhstan, said he’d — horrors!! — like to visit Pakistan, “a terrific country,” and treated the British Prime Minister as if she were the leader of any other of the world’s countries. That last “disaster” involved him calling Theresa May only after calling NINE probably non-white leaders.

At this point Sassy bunched together a number of different issues: meeting the leader of Kazakhstan, visiting Pakistan, and talking to Prime Minister Theresa May. Once again, the anger over this translates to fake outrage. However, it is still worth addressing each topic on its own merit.

Trump praised that Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s leader, and said that the country,  since its independence “achieved fantastic success that can be called a ‘miracle.’” [7] Now, that’s much more than just an ordinary phone call. It was enough for the Washington Post to write a thinkpiece about it and some scholars to say that Kazakhstan will fair well under Trump, possibly finding the supposed “key” to fighting the Islamic State. We must recognize that Kazakhstan is a country that is utterly open for business and relations with many countries, such as Russia, China (also see here), Qatar, other Gulf states, and South Korea, along with the United States of course. [8] This state, apart from being part of OPEC, is its strategic importance to the US, likely in part because of its “wonderful” economic transformation. [9]

Sassy put “dictator” in quotations like it was something not true, something trotted out by the Western media. I think there should be no doubt that the leader of the country is a bit self-absorbed to say the least. Apart from the arrests of Islamic State-supported citizens (which isn’t necessarily bad), the country had jailed activists for dissenting (also see here) and might have a “great firewall” like China. Considering that that could be twisted into propaganda, it is best to consult other articles. These articles show that the government seems repressive, supports an higher education system pushed by the World Bank (part 1, part 2, part 3), was praised by the Bushes as freedom-loving, is part of “Eurasian integration,” poured money into a Clinton Initiative project (also see here), and provides the US with logistical support in the Afghanistan imperial war. If that’s not enough, consider that apart from Kazakhstan as part of China’s New Silk Road (also see here) partially driven by oil resources in the country and part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (it also works with Russia), benefits Western oil companies, along with other companies, and such. Now, you can say that the Western media isn’t portraying the country fairly, with some thinking of Borat as the image of the country, but even the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which is disappointed with the country’s “progress,” says that there have been “large-scale privatizations” and that the economy is not in a great state. So, its not a country anyone should consider part of an anti-imperialist front, even as it has good relations with China and Russia, with thirteen US soldiers in the country according to the most recent data.

Now we get to Pakistan. Some media say that Trump called Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, a “terrific guy,” others noted that Trump’s advisers claim he will will “solve” the problems in the Kashmir region, while others said that Pakistan was trying to “woo” Donald Trump. [10] There is no doubt that Pakistan is key to “fighting terrorism” in the region with their strong-armed approach, however, it is worth remembering that Pakistan helped in the past in funding the anti-Soviet Islamic reactionaries from 1979 to 1989 at least, but also has been angered by recent US efforts. The drone bombing, which is basically Obama’s project (Bush started it, but he didn’t engage in as many bombings), is part of war which spans seven countries: Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, along with the interventions in multiple African countries. So, Pakistan’s government, on the face, not very happy with US bombing, including outing at least three CIA station chiefs. In fact, the citizens of Pakistan have said they do not approve of the US’s mass surveillance, and a wide swath of the population since 2002 (ranging from 73-90% over the years) they declared that they have an unfavorable view of the United States and the US President (since 2005) while they have a much more positive view of China, reaching into the supermajority. In fact, the government is playing a double game. The Pakistanis have long ties to the imperial client state, Saudi Arabia, which is in an imperial interrelationship with the United States, and have a powerful military which, of course, served US interests for the most part and dominates the country’s politics.

Prime Minister Sharif, who Trump talked to, is not only one Pakistan’s most wealthy people, but he is very conservative, supported the 1991 invasion of Iraq, and pushed a direct privatization program, in his first term (1990-1993). In his second term of office (1997-1999), he expanded Pakistan’s nuclear program, had better relations with the Muslim world, and had good relations with the Pakistani military. In his third, and more recent term of office, he took a centrist stand on social policy, worked with the IMF to restructure Pakistan’s economy, engaged in privatization, strengthened Pakistan’s security establishment, seemed to have better relations with China than before along with good relations with Afghanistan and Russia, and the US claimed it was assisting Pakistan in fighting terrorism…by bombing the country! Not surprisingly, there was criticism of Sharif from the left and right, definitely more principled on the left of course.

Now we get to Theresa May, the UK’s new Prime Minister, and Trump. The media says that Trump told May that he values the “special relationship” (while recognizing NATO’s importance) while May said that talking to Trump was “easy.” [11] Other media said that Trump also said that Nigel Farage should serve as the UK’s Ambassador to the US, who has been a long-time friend of Trump (and tied to the GOP) for some time now. [12] May is the second female Prime Minister of the UK, after arch-conservative (and war criminal) Margaret Thatcher, supported mass surveillance in the UK, gave police more powers to crack down on the citizenry, and said that immigration to the island should be reduced as Home Secretary. In her recent days as prime minister she has supported the horrendous Saudi bombing in Yemen backed by the US and seems favorable to Brexit. As for Farage, who is part of a basically fascist UK Independence Party (UKIP), he has spread Islamophobic opinions on Muslim immigrants, hates wind power and takes a conservative opinion on the economy even if he has “good” positions on the EU, funding “rebels” in Syria, Putin’s role in Europe, UK-Saudi relations, and so on.

Trump putting in a “few dents” in the imperial diplomatic system?

Anything that makes US diplomats “aghast” is fabulous by me. These slimebags deserve much worse for what they’ve done to the world’s people. They’re the ones who keep every country softened up for the plunder and just in case any objections arise, war…I’m not interested in whether or not Trump knows that what he’s doing is destructive to the diplomatic system. It’s irrelevant. I know that the outcome must be good if these enemies of all good people are upset by it. That tells me all I need to know. Diplomacy as a tool of empire predates the birth of Donald Trump and unfortunately will outlive him. If he can put a few dents, intentionally or not, in these fuckers’ Mercedes well I’ll fucking take it.

Now, we get to one of the “kickers” of Sassy’s piece: the argument that Trump shocking US diplomats is good, since diplomacy is “a tool of empire” and that “if he can put a few dents…in these fuckers’ Mercedes well I’ll fucking take it.” This viewpoint is the fundamental belief in his post and what is mentioned in the title of this post. That viewpoint makes sense in that Sassy is clearly optimistic. However, as I’ve laid out in this article, Trump’s diplomatic maneuvers are not this simple. Already, Trump will align with those who feel “anti-terror policies” are not adequate enough, stay the course with US participation in NATO (despite his comments during the election), say that “the large number of refugees leaving Iraq and Syria is especially worrisome,” and deal with domestic problems before addressing international issues as a poll in May of this year noted. There’s not really anything else I can say here other than that diplomats, like liberals are engaging in “fake outrage” of course but that Trump’s maneuvers are still important.

Trump, Boeing, and Air Force One

Trump tweeted that the new Air Force One planes being built by Boeing were too expensive and should be canceled. When the markets opened this morning the Boeing stock took a dive! Can you think of a more deserving corporation to take such a hit?

I completely understand Sassy’s optimism here. I also think that Boeing is a horrible company since they are a huge military contractor, making bombers, fighters, satellites, and numerous other military equipment. Sassy is not alone in this commentary, with some describing it as a “brilliant move.”

As always, there is a deeper explanation needed. One article in the Chicago Tribune said that Boeing likely cringes every time Trump “riffs on foreign policy, especially when it comes to dealing with China” with the possibility that Trump’s administration will “test the Boeing CEO’s statesmanship, especially when it comes to dealing with China.” It also says that since it seems “Trump is eager for a China confrontation,” this goes against the interest of Boeing, which doesn’t want “an international trade war that could raise tariffs or greatly disrupt long-standing, albeit imperfect, global agreements.” The article goes on to quote Boeing’s CEO who said that “one of the overarching themes [of the recent election] was apprehension about free and fair trade,” says that an influx of jet orders from China “means more work for Boeing’s thousands of U.S. workers” and that Trump should heed his (Boeing CEO’s) advice (which is very economically nationalist ironically enough: “If we do not lead when it comes to writing these rules, our competitors will write them for us.” The article then asks how nationalist trump’s will be, with a “lot of unanswered questions and concerns.”

Of course the Chicago Tribune piece is pro-business and takes the side of Boeing, there is still important insights there on the further implications of Trump’s remarks, which are worth recognizing, which Sassy doesn’t even address.

Concluding words

In the last sentence of Sassy’s piece, he declares facetiously “I’m loving the Trump presidency and it hasn’t even started.” I’m not sure that such optimism is warranted, even if a majority of Americans say Trump can keep his businesses, which isn’t arguably an “empire.” Already, Trump is trying to court the capitalist class, many of whom supported Killary for her more overtly pro-corporate policies, including those in the technology sector mainly based around Silicon/Sexist/Surveillance Valley. [14] At the same time, he may moderate his opinions on issues like the Affordable Care Corporatist Act (“Obamacare”) if he follows the lead of Republican leaders in the houses of Congress, follows a similar “political blueprint” to Obama,” and his expected energy policy which includes: (1) more oil & gas drilling, (2) approval of LNG terminals quicker, (3) reducing energy subsidies, and other destructive policies to the environment, going even farther than Obama’s destructive (and deceptive) nature on the environment. [15] Beyond this, with the “new” rules of the “Trump game,” the militarization of space will be quickly expedited, brinkmanship will be even more prominent with with Michael T. Flynn as National Security Adviser, the continuing privatization of public education, and billionaires will benefit, with a cabinet that reeks of cronyism, and lies about “great deals” for new jobs (see here, here, here, and here for example).

It is best to move beyond the “tweet shaming” that people claim Trump has done, the fake outrage (also see here), fake news, or that one guy who is a faithless elector. The same goes for Al Gore meeting with Trump, Obama handing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) off to Trump, and numerous other issues. [16] Not only has Trump said he will approve the pipeline, but his advisers have declared that “We should take tribal land away from public treatment [privatize it]…As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country,” a move which is broadly opposed by indigenous peoples, represented by groups such as the Indigenous Environmental Network and Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, among others. [17] I think is valid to say that Trump will unleash neofascism (assisted by Obama continuing his harsh immigration measures), and that Trump is a showman, with governing style that makes Corporate America nervous. [18]

The most uneasy of all about Trump are the Iranians. The Western-backed moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently said, in a speech at Tehran University, after expressing anger that the U.S. would tear up the nuclear agreement (with cheers of “Death to America), “America cannot influence our determination, this nation’s resistance and its struggle. America is our enemy; we have no doubt about this. The Americans want to put as much pressure on us as they can.” [19] Beyond this, with this tone because of more pressure from “hard-liners,” some analysts in Iran said that Rouhani has proved that “trusting America is useless and a waste of time, energy and money” and should not be re-elected, but there is continued dedication to the nuclear agreement as some Iranian lawmakers “have proposed a boycott of American products…[and 88 others] have even suggested restarting nuclear activities and the enrichment of uranium.” The renewal of US sanctions on Iran for the next ten years has vindicated the “hardliners,” as some still try to bring in foreign companies to invest as the country’s leaders want the sanctions to expire. As I noted on this blog before, Iran is currently beset by the forces of Western imperialism, but this might be an opening to prevent more damage.

There really isn’t any more to say here, even about the optimistic comments of Putin about Trump (which despite his previous comments should be more wary), the Pentagon burying evidence of $125 billion in waste, the “Chinese dream,” and the widening income gap between the wealthy and the mass of the population. [21] Perhaps we should, other than recognizing the successes of socialism in the USSR, go farther than Sassy, who said, as I noted in the beginning of this post, “when Trump is inaugurated I’ll turn the knives on his administration,” and turn the knives on Trump NOW, instead of buying into delusions of optimism when it comes to Trump, his cabinet, and his policies which will most definitely benefit the bourgeoisie, even more than Obama, who the capitalist class liked very much.

Notes

[1] Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker, and Simon Denyer, “Trump’s Taiwan phone call was long planned, say people who were involved,” Washington Post, December 4, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016. Reportedly this was only one of many calls with foreign leaders that were planned after Trump’s election on November 8th. There was also a “tougher language about China” in the GOP platform this year than before, and a number of pieces in Foreign Policy (Trump transition advisers) and the Council of National Interest (Trump transition adviser) may give clues to his future moves forward.

[2] Obama administration authorizes $1.83 billion arms sale to Taiwan,” Reuters, December 16, 2015. Accessed December 7, 2016. This article says that “the Obama administration formally notified Congress on Wednesday of a $1.83 billion arms sale package for Taiwan, including two frigates, anti-tank missiles, amphibious assault vehicles and other equipment, drawing an angry response from China…Although Washington does not recognize Taiwan as a separate state from China, it is committed under the Taiwan Relations Act to ensuring Taipei can maintain a credible defense…”Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. China strongly opposes the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan,” Xinhua quoted Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang, who summoned Lee, as saying. Zheng said the sales went against international law and basic norms of international relations and “severely” harmed China’s sovereignty and security…the arms package included two Perry-class guided-missile frigates; $57 million of Javelin anti-tank missiles made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin; $268 million of TOW 2B anti-tank missiles and $217 million of Stinger surface-to-air missiles made by Raytheon, and $375 million of AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles.”

[3] Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Eric Lipton, “Bob Dole Worked Behind the Scenes on Trump-Taiwan Call,” New York Times, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016. Dole also pushed for the plank in the GOP Party Platform which took a harder line on China than previously.

[4] Other articles I don’t feel like relating here are: (1) an apparent US-China-Japan space race, with Japan wanting to send explorers to Mercury and Venus instead of Mars like the US and China, connected with growth of the “space industry,” along with related tweets and (2) rejection of a China-linked semiconductor, displaying the fanatical economic nationalism at play.

[5] Associated Press, “Trump speaks directly with Taiwan’s leader, irking China,” Mercury News, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016; Damian Paletta, Carol E. Lee and Jeremy Page, “Donald Trump’s Message Sparks Anger in China,” Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[6] Ting Shi and Taylor Hall, “China Seeks ‘Strategic Composure’ in Trump Era of Diplomacy,” Bloomberg News, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[7] Louis Nelson, “Trump praises Kazakhstan ‘miracle’ in call with president,” Politico, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016; Reena Flores, “Kazakhstan: Trump praised “miracle” achieved under our president,” CBS News, December 2, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[8] Theodore Karasik, “Kazakhstan: At the Crossroads of Security,” U.S. News and World Report, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[9] “Kazakhstan to join talks with OPEC, undecided on output cut,” Reuters, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[10] Seema Guha, “Donald Trump may play hardball on Kashmir, but India is no pushover,” First Post, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rama Lakshmi, “Trump can resolve Kashmir impasse with ‘dealmaking skills,’ his running mate claims. It won’t be easy,” Washington Post, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Carlos Munoz, “Pakistani aide sees opening for better ties with Trump administration,” Washington Times, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Denis Slatery and Cameron Joseph, “Donald Trump speaks to Taiwan, Philippines and Pakistan leaders over the phone — signaling a major U.S. foreign policy shift,” New York Daily News, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Joshua Berlinger and Sophia Saifi, “Donald Trump reportedly praises Pakistan’s ‘terrific’ PM,” CNN, December 2, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Damien Paletta and Saeed Shah, “Pakistan Says Donald Trump Called Its Leader ‘Terrific Guy’,” Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Shashank Bengali and Aoun Sahi, “In phone call with leader, Trump lavishes praise on Pakistan, ‘fantastic place of fantastic people,”” Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Jackie Northam, “Trump Gushes About Pakistan In Call With Its Prime Minister,” NPR, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Jeff Nesbit, “Donald Trump’s Call With Pakistan Was a Hypocritical Mess,” Time, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Matt Bearak, “Pakistan’s surprisingly candid readout of Trump’s phone call with prime minister,” Washington Post, November 30, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Steve Benen, “Trump has ‘bizarre’ conversation with Pakistani leader,” MSNBC, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Charles Tiefer, “Trump’s Ignorant Call To Pakistan’s Sharif May Send India An Unwelcome Message,” Forbes, November 30, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[11] Joe Watts, “Theresa May praises ‘easy to talk to’ Donald Trump despite previous criticism,” The Independent, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; “Donald Trump values special relationship with UK and is ‘easy to talk to’, says Theresa May,” The Telegraph, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Robert Nisbet, “Theresa May: Talking to Donald Trump is ‘very easy’,” Sky News, December 7, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; “Theresa May calls Donald Trump to discuss ties, transition and NATO,” Sky News, November 29, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Ian Silvera,”Donald Trump and Theresa May agree on Nato importance in second phone call,” International Business Times, November 29, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Peter Walker, “Concerns over ‘special relationship’ allayed as Trump calls May,” The Guardian, November 10, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[12] Martin Pengelly, “Nigel Farage is willing to serve Donald Trump ‘formally or informally’,” The Guardian, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; “Nigel Farage meets with top Republicans raising fresh questions for Theresa May,” The Telegraph, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Feliz Solomon, “Donald Trump Says ‘Many People’ Want Nigel Farage to Become Britain’s Ambassador to the U.S.,” Time, November 21, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rowena Mason, “Nigel Farage: I share concerns with Donald Trump,” The Guardian, July 15, 2015. Accessed December 8, 2016; Karla Adam, “Nigel Farage: Trump is ‘a very loyal man’,” Washington Post, November 22, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[13] Robert Reed, “Boeing CEO waits for Trump’s trade play,” Chicago Tribune, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[14] David Streitfield, “Donald Trump Summons Tech Leaders to a Round-Table Meeting,” New York Times, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[15] Burgess Everett and Jennifer Haberkorn, “GOP still splintered over Obamacare after Pence meeting,” Politco, December 7, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rachel Bade and Burgess Everett, “GOP may delay Obamacare replacement for years,” Politico, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rich Lowry, Trump Follows Obama’s Blueprint, Politico, December 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[16] See Michael Rosenburg’s article in the New York Times titled “Trump Adviser Has Pushed Clinton Conspiracy Theories,” December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016. Other articles of note from Russia Today (about US role in the arms trade), Mint Press News (US tolerance of war crimes), Military Times (returning Okinawa to Japan), New York Times (“House G.O.P. Signals Break With Trump Over Tariff Threat,” by Jennifer Steinhauer), Slate (Trump congratulated Duerte on his anti-drug crackdown), Raw Story (KKK membership increasing after Trump’s election), PressTV (huge military budget passed by the US house), LeftVoice (inadequate criticism of Sanders’s opinion on the Carrier deal), Reuters (Dustin Voltz, “FBI to gain expanded hacking powers as Senate effort to block fails,” December 1, 2015, accessed December 8, 2016), Twitter (Cordelier’s thread), Guardian (what Trump means for Africa), CNN (Trump’s conflicts of interest), Forbes (Trump may not propose a budget in 2017), The Hill (Union leader at Carrier plant mad at Trump, saying he lied), and Pakistan Observer (Trump claiming he will mediate the conflict in Kashmir).

[17] , “Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations,” Reuters, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[18] Drew Harwell and Rosalind D. Harman, “Trump’s unpredictable style unnerves corporate America,” Washington Post, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[19] Thomas Erdbrink, “Iran’s President Says Donald Trump Can’t Tear Up Nuclear Pact,” December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[20] Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward, “Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste,” Washington Post, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[21] Patricia Cohen, “A Bigger Economic Pie, but a Smaller Slice for Half of the U.S.,” New York Times, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

Where does Cuba stand now?

A quote from Fidel at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party in April 2016.
A quote from Fidel’s speech at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party in April 2016.

This post is more in-depth analysis about Cuba’s predicament than my previous post which focused on Fidel’s recent death. I could note the health programs in Cuba, the visit of the Vietnamese president to Cuba even as that country has thoroughly surrendered itself to “the market,” education programs on the island, or other aspects. But, I’d like to instead focus on the recent “normalization” in Cuba since 2014.

Recent articles have noted the possible (and likely) change of tone when it comes to Cuba. Bloomberg declared that Trump will need to “balance his pro-growth economic plans and allegiance to business with the hard-line campaign pledges” which connect with his promise to “reverse the improved U.S. relations with Cuba forged by President Barack Obama,” unless the nation accepts bourgeois freedoms, the former which is at odds with those corporations who are “hoping for a foothold there” such as those in the “wheat, corn…soymeal…raw sugar and energy product” industries, assumedly. [1] Some say that by taking a hardline position he will be at odds with the “U.S. business community” (and Jeff Flake), such as the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, but supported by Republicans Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Other articles note that if Trump reverses the “normalization” it will hurt companies like Best Buy, WalMart, JetBlue, Starwood, Carnival, American Airlines, and Airbnb, who want to expand their markets in Cuba, costing them, apparently, “hundreds of millions of dollars” as possible tourism (mainly from the US) would dissipate. [2] Some writers even thought that Trump would embolden the “hardliners” in Cuba (presumably more critical of involvement with the US), according to supposed “Cuba experts,” apart from Raul Castro who has instituted some market-related measures on the island.

In order to go forward, it is important to consider three viewpoints on the situation. One of these is by RancidSassy (also called “ that, while ignoring criticisms of the Cuban revolution (since they are an anarchist), Obama’s “mild normalization of relations with the Cuban state” is not that existing. They worry about the “vicious plan to complete the domination of Cuba, probably ending in its total recolonization by financial capital” which was “more like a declaration of war,” writing that this “imperial scheming” (or diplomacy as it is often called) needs to be interrupted like Chelsea Manning did. Sassy goes further to talk about the failed assassination plots, the USAID program (and fake Twitter), and that US embassies are “basically just CIA offices.” He worried about Raul Castro praise Obama and the Pope, noting how “liberals dressed as radicals,” like CodePink’s Medea Benjamin, Mother Jones’s David Corn, self-indulgent journalist Jeremy Scahill, writer Max Blumenthal, and advocate Yosef Munayyer, praised this rhetoric. He went on to talk about Cuban exiles in Miami, propaganda aimed at Cuba coupled with the blockade which was “loose” enough to allow US agribusiness to trade stable foods to the Cuban government, how Israel is “useful to the empire as a giant spaceship of white capitalism in a typically resistant Middle East,” and said liberals (and others on the left) aren’t worrying about “an empire that has spent the last century or more systematically binding the peoples of the world to its political and financial will.”

Before moving onto the next piece, I think Sassy has a good point. Already the naval base in Guantanamo, the US embassy in Havana, and US overt (ex: USAID) and covert (ex: CIA) are projecting imperialism onto Cuba. If this one agrees with this argument, then well-meaning radicals should resist the “normalization” of relations, since a “fair” compromise with the empire is likely impossible. If there are “hardliners” in Cuba, like in Iran, as one could call them, then these forces should be encouraged under an approach to a Trump presidency. This presidency, managing the murderous empire, which seems poised to reverse the “vicious plan to complete the domination of Cuba” as Sassy put it, and would allow for these “hardliners” to have more room to breathe and grow, leading a possibly stronger counter against US imperialism. This could be especially the case after 2018 when Raul Castro will step down as President.

remedy the embarrassing situation that their country had wound up isolating itself during its attempts to isolate Cuba,” noting that groups like the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) popped up, that were opposed to the US, and that the Cubans for many years did not “undo their own revolution and surrender to the US under the worst possible terms, as was expected,” leading the country to become “a major powerhouse in healthcare and biotechnology” and building of the country’s “middle class.” The article goes on to say that the decision to reestablish relations with the island dates back to 2007 when a major law firm, Alston & Bird, which represents “financial service, healthcare, energy, and telecommunication companies,” had such a strong interest that they worked with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to challenge “the Florida ban on travel to Cuba,” with Obama, by engaging in the action benefiting his financial backers. Still, the article notes that reestablishing diplomatic relations was done simultaneously with the release of the Cuban Five, and later with removal of Cuba from “the list of countries that sponsor terrorism,” with the Cuban government having a “tough negotiating stance with US business.” Like Saddy, this writer notes that “the rollback of the US sanctions has been quite limited in terms of the restrictions on trade and investment” and that Cuba “remains dissatisfied and wary of the US,” with a continued push to close the illegal base at Guantanamo Bay, as negotiations continue, and that in exchange for opening its market to the US, “Cuba wants equal access to the US market,” selling those in the US biotech and computer software products, while expanding their tourism industry. The writer concludes that

“Cuba has had enough experience with the Monroe Doctrine to know that the US goal will always be to turn it into a colony…the new wave of colonists…think that their work to undermine the Cuban Revolution will become easier after Cuba’s great hero Fidel Castro dies. This is partly the result of a US belief in its own propaganda…the US intention is clearly a Bay of Pigs invasion with a smile. The Cuban Revolution has enormous symbolic importance for people throughout the world who are fighting US domination, and the undoing of this revolution would be major psychological blow. The US is already hinting that it wants popular elections that it can manipulate…As ever, the Cuban revolution thrives while under attack; one can only hope that it will never imagine it is not.”

Chery, like Sassy, makes good points. I personally think that “popular elections” are what corrupted leftist parties in Angola and Mozambique, in part, to adopt more market-based approaches and slowly accept the capitalist model. One-party elections are vital if the Cuban Revolution is to be preserved. I will say that I do not think the normalization is “a Bay of Pigs invasion with a smile” as that would mean that it is covert and secret, along with including Cuban exiles. That isn’t true in this case, as the initiative is being led by the hunger of US business to obtain new markets and push down “unfair” barriers, along with being assisted by Obama.

The last viewpoint examined here is that of James Early, who sits on the board of The Real News, an independent news organization which is better than Democracy Now! by far but is still within the “progressive” camp broadly. Early notes the history of Cuba, specifically describing it as having, before 1959, an economy owned 75% by the US, a “narco state…with Meyer Lansky and the US mafia dominating that as a playground with rampant prostitution, deep racism, and exploitation” and saying that while they “did repress” it was to uphold “certain virtues and to repress those things that go against the common good” and that we should recognize the “sometimes egregious failures” of the Cuban Revolution, none of which he names. He goes on to say that many left “because they feared communism…[or] wanted to take an opportunity to get out of the country and to increase their economic circumstances,” with many of these people as “Euro Cubans. Not people of color Cubans.” Early then talked about Cuban exiles, the “propaganda machine of the United States” distorting the reality in Cuba, the US State Department’s imperial role, and the horrible “wet foot, dry foot policy” which gives preferential treatment to Cuban exiles coming to the US. He adds that by criticizing those who have “dogmatic ideological perspectives [which] are ultra leftist” which reject any criticism (which he never expands on) of the Cuban Revolution, noting that “Cuba has made its own self critiques” while acknowledging the accomplishments, with great debate going on within the Communist Party, including “debating freedom of press and within Granma, the official news organ” and allowing criticism of the Communist Party in Cuba, with owning “up to errors” and that a personality like Fidel will not emerge in the future but that “we will see the same kind of humanistic policies…sharp debate on how to calibrate that…[and] draw[ing] a very hard straight line against monopoly, against excessive wealth…[and] maintain[ing] a socialist orientation.” He closes with words that are worth keeping in mind:

“…big capital in the United States…already made its peace with the failed policy overthrow the Cuban socialist revolution in a way that it has gone on for the last half century. They now feel that the flooding of the country with money and goods and consumer attitudes, they will be able to undermine and overturn that revolution. But in the process they want to make money. The Cubans have always preferred to fight and this new context within the protocols of nations, not having the United States outside as a rogue nation…I think we’ll see a mediation of that. I can envision that that US capital will be pressing the Donald Trump regime to not overturn the fundamental issues that Barack Obama stepped forward…it’s going to be tough…I think we see the change in policies brought forth under the administration of Raul Castro.”

Early, like Sassy and Chery, makes a valid point. However, I think he is hard on solidarity efforts with Cuba and a bit too optimistic in many respects. But, perhaps that is not wrong to be optimistic about a socialist Cuba, but at minimum he is almost downplaying the threat going forward.

My final thoughts

A poster designed by Mahmud Dawirji for the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) in circa 1980.
A poster designed by Mahmud Dawirji for the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) in circa 1980.

I think Cuba, like Iran, is at a crossroads. If Trump reverses the “normalization” the Obama administration has put in place in regards to Iran and Cuba, there will be undoubtedly new political developments, with the reported “hardliners” or more accurately those more wary and critical of imperial influence economically and otherwise, not in favor of such “normalization,” gaining more power. This could be good as it would be a needed setback from the Western-backed moderate reformists in Iran who are basically just footsoldiers for the murderous empire.

As for Cuba, there is a real danger that it would be pulled into the neocolonial ring. Under no circumstances can those on the left, who are anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist, accept (or allow to best circumstances possible), a Cuba which is wholly occupied by a foreign power, embodied by the deceitful Teller Amendment, Platt Amendment, and deceptive “support” of the cause of “Cuba Libre” pushed by the anti-Spanish and anti-imperialist rebels. [3] Cuba has had a hold on the American imagination for many years, with brutal slaveowner Thomas Jefferson even declaring that Cuba should be part of the United States in 1809! Like in the past, there are some policymakers who believe that we have to stop “oppression at our very doors,” as President McKinley declared in justifying the Spanish-American War (and invasion of Spanish-controlled Cuba), and that we need to defend “Cuban rights” which translates to rights for multinational corporations to exploit and re-establish themselves, as Fidel put it in his speech on January 2, 1959, “masters of the country.” [4] Like in the past, the empire will not accept Cuba (and its democratic nationalism) due to its challenge to US influence including support of governments like those in Grenada. [5]

In order to recognize the challenges ahead, it is worth reflecting on the slave society in Cuba in the past. From the 1760s to the late 1830s, Cuba became a “community of large sugar and coffee plantations,” from an agrarian lifestyle with less population, and became valuable to the Spanish empire as the Cuban economy grew. [6] With new strife caused by the presence of thousands of enslaved blacks, with more than 400,000 imported into the island by one estimate, and dominance (and superiority) of the white (and somewhat restless Creole) plantation class, the US became a new market for Cuban sugar. [7] The number of enslaved blacks would increase from 38,900 in 1775 to 436,495 persons, in the “faithful colony,” a term which refers to planter dependence on Spain. [8] By the 1860s, Cuban sugar dominated the world market, with the island as the largest producer of sugar, buttressed by an illegal slave trade. [9] Slavery was abolished on the island in 1886 not because of an “internal collapse” of the system but acceleration of emancipation on the island, the Ten Year War in Cuba (1868-1878) led by small planters and insurgents who declared freedom of enslaved blacks under their control, and pressure from Cuban (and Spanish) abolitionists as plantation slavery became more “multicultural” (enslaved blacks, indentured Asians, black, white, and mixed race wage workers were part of the plantation work force). [10] Of course, the exploitation would continue under the form of wage labor and under the imperialist control of Cuba up until the Cuban Revolution’s success in gaining power in 1959.

If multinational corporations again gain a strong foothold in Cuba and exert their dominance, this would not only be part of the imperialist octopus, which would be bringing its tentacles to its “former mistress,” but it would increase the exploitation of the population. There is no doubt that the Mafia and prostitution would come in full force to the island, but there would be the full force of racism and sexism making its imprint on society, along with more full-fledged sexual violence. Having US tourists on the island would also not lead to something positive, as it would be followed by the popular culture, Hollywood, and elements of US culture.

While one should remain critical, there is one element that those who see themselves (correctly) as anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist in mind: solidarity. Building off what I said on Twitter, it is worth quoting the eighth term of admission into the Communist International in 1920:

“Parties in countries whose bourgeoisie possess colonies and oppress other nations must pursue a most well-defined and clear-cut policy in respect of colonies and oppressed nations. Any party wishing to join the Third International must ruthlessly expose the colonial machinations of the imperialists of its “own” country, must support—in deed, not merely in word—every colonial liberation movement, demand the expulsion of its compatriot imperialists from the colonies, inculcate in the hearts of the workers of its own country an attitude of true brotherhood with the working population of the colonies and the oppressed nations, and conduct systematic agitation among the armed forces against all oppression of the colonial peoples.”

While it has been 96 years since this was declared, the principles still apply. As I said on twitter, this could, most expansively be applied to Iran, Syria, DPRK, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Belarus, Philippines (maybe), Bulgaria (I suppose), and Moldova (maybe), while recognizing the roles of China and Russia. In this current time, one would have to commit themselves, if they lived in North America, to opposing US imperialism in its form of colonialism in Puerto Rico and other “territories” (U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, United States Minor Outlying Islands, and Northern Marina Islands), neocolonialism in associated states (Micronesia, Palau, and Marshall Islands), and neocolonialism manifested in the 500+ bases the US has across the world. [11] If they lived in Europe, for example, they would have to, under this logic, commit themselves to opposing imperialism of France and Britain, along with the United States, in the African continent, just to give an example. Obviously putting into action “systematic agitation among the armed forces against all oppression of the colonial peoples” and supporting colonial (and anti-imperialist) liberation movements would require organization. This means that the aims would go beyond just opposing the imperialism to actively working to stop it. But at minimum, this would comprise of solidarity with oppressed nations, which are listed above, and likely others, and opposing future US interventions, the “notion of American empire.” Other than this, the rest is up to all of you. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Notes

[1] Benjamin Bain and Christine Jenkins, “Trump Walks Business-Politics Tightrope on Cuba After Castro,” Bloomberg Politics, November 28, 2016. Accessed November 30, 2016.

[2] Damien Cave, Azam Ahmed, and Julie Hirschfield Davis, “Donald Trump’s Threat to Close Door Reopens Old Wounds in Cuba,” New York Times, November 28, 2016. Accessed November 30, 2016; “U.S. Companies Hope Trump Won’t Block Their Million-Dollar Cuba Deals,” Reuters, November 29, 2016. Republished by NBCNews. Accessed November 30, 2016; David Jackson, “Trump ponders Cabinet appointments, threatens Cuba deal,” USA Today, November 28, 2016. Accessed November 30, 2016.

[3] Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Time Books, 2006), 31-32, 37-44, 46, 48, 63.

[4] Kinzer, 83, 87-91

[5] Kinzer, 90-91, 135, 139, 154, 174, 205, 220, 226-227, 236.

[6] Franklin Knight, “The Transformation of Cuban Agriculture 1763-1838,” Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Dr. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 69, 73.

[7] Knight, 70-72, 74-77

[8] Knight, 77-78.

[9] Rebecca Scott, “Explaining Abolition: Contradiction, Adaptation and Challenge in Cuban Slave Slave Society 1860-1886,” Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Dr. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 454-455.

[10] Scott, 456-458, 460, 463. Scott says that about 114,000 enslaved blacks were emancipated from slavery from 1881-1886, a major factor in abolition.

[11] The “BASE STRUCTURE REPORT- FISCAL YEAR 2015 BASELINE” notes that the US military is “one of the Federal government’s larger holders of real estate managing a global real property portfolio that consists of nearly 562,000 facilities (buildings, structures, and linear structures), located on over 4,800 sites worldwide and covering over 24.9 million acres” (p. DOD 2). It also notes that there are 513 “active installations” of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and WHS (Washington Headquarters Services) (p. DOD 4). However, the total number of military sites, minus the over 4,100 in the United States, numbers 701 if one considers those in “territories” (really colonies) and overseas (not in the US or its colonies) (p. DOD 6, p. DOD 18). It also worth noting that the military “uses over 178,000 structures throughout the world, valued at over $131 billion,” along with “107,000 linear structures throughout the world, valued at over $163 billion,” and managing “24.9 million acres of land worldwide,” which one could consider as aspects of the empire itself (p. DOD 10, DOD 12, DOD 14). If that isn’t enough, there are also 42 Army National Guard Sites in US colonies, which when combined with the 701 military sites noted earlier, comes up to 743 military sites (p. DOD 16).

A history of revolutionary Cuba

cuba's daily propaganda effort
A 1984 map, included at the end of a document on Castro’s “propaganda apparatus” as the CIA called it.This map not only made me laugh at its absurdity, but, even though the copy of the map isn’t that great, it shows the “danger” the CIA saw with communist Cuba.

This article is the second in this series, following the first one about an imagined scenario in Cuba, which focuses on the socialist nation of Cuba and the accomplishments of its government. This writer could easily fall in line, praising the “normalization” between the United States and Cuba, as proliferated in liberal discourse, and accept the supposedly “authoritarian” nature of the Cuban socialist government, which has been paraded around in the bourgeois media since 1959. Instead, this article will refute this characterization of the Cuban government and focus on Cuba’s role in liberation struggle, along with its general history in fighting off imperial destabilization efforts.

It is important to understand the history of Cuba in order to assert its place in the overall revolutionary struggle, historically and currently. This is also vital not only as a way to challenge established bourgeois conceptions of Cuba and the Cold War, while pushing back against those who claim Cuba is authoritarian instead of being what they define as a “democracy.” Some of the sources used for this article come from documents I gathered when I visited the National Archives building in College Park this past summer, specifically the CIA CREST Database located there.

I could start with the victorious Cuban Revolution but it is important to first set the stage. The trade of enslaved Africans continued until the late 19th century, shipped by the colonial Portuguese and the Spanish, the latter who controlled the island until 1898. [1] This has meant that as a result, many people in Cuba are descendants of enslaved Africans. [2] Despite the fact that revolts had sprung up in the past, including during the Ten Years War, a struggle led by wealthy Cuban planters, in the late 1890s, Cuba became a “hotbed of rebellion” with poor Black peasants joining wealthy native Whites “to liberate the Caribbean island from the grip of four centuries of Spanish occupation.”[3] While the white planters feared a takeover from Blacks, who saw a free Cuba as a path to equality, they still kept in place an alliance, allowing for revolutionary delegates to met in September 1895 to create a new Cuban Republic, with a White aristocrat as President and a Black Cubans as General-in-Chief and Second in Command of the Army. [4] As the 1890s wore on, public support for Cuba Libre, or free Cuba was growing in the United States, with the two major capitalist political parties (Democrats and Republicans) declaring their support but the U.S. President, Grover Cleveland, refused to aid Cuban rebels, at a time when U.S. business interests, which had $50 billion in agricultural investments in Cuba, “feared a truly independent Cuba,” since Cuban revolutionaries at the time “were calling for social reforms and land redistribution.” [5]

Certain newspapers stirred up support for the war, while others disagreed. The explosion of the USS Maine in Havana harbor was the spark for more advocacy in favor of a war against Spain. [6] Still, the Monthly Journal of the International Association of Machinists supported Cuban rebels and agreed that the Maine explosion was a terrible disaster but argued, rightly so, that “worker deaths in industrial accidents were met with national indifference.” [7] Additionally, cartoonists for a comic magazine, Puck, written for a “sophisticated” middle-class audience, supported the goals of US freeing Cuba from Spanish control and were somewhat wary of the “colonial overlord” role of the United States after the war in 1898. At the same time, papers like the New York World, published by Joseph Pulitzer also had a role in pro-war sentiments. Such a tabloid paper would have sold for a penny, possibly bought by an immigrant, with the yellow journalism within the paper “designed to shock and titillate readers.” Yellow papers, like the Pulitzer’s World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal were engaged in a fierce contest to “cover” the Cuban government but were fed information by the Cuban Junta, which was “composed of sympathizers and exiles of the Cuban rebellion,” a bit like the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Both papers were trying to appeal to a mass audience, mainly by immigrants who were learning English like Italians, Germans, and Russians, and gaining a profit of course, with circulation sometimes topping a million copies a day. [8]

The United States had defeated the dilapidated Spanish empire in a war billed as “anti-imperialist” to “free” Cuba. By the end of the war, the US had conquered Cuba and the Philippines, and gained the island of Guam, as a result of the Treaty of Paris and the negotiations with Spain. [9] The United States arguably had an overland empire, built on the genocidal conquest of the indigenous peoples and slavery of course, along the work of other oppressed workers of color, within what would become “America.” This changed after 1898 when the United States truly had an overseas empire, which also expanded by annexing Hawaii with a joint resolution of Congress, which some have argued is a form of prolonged occupation by the United States. Coming back to Cuba, the US became the new occupiers, refusing to let the Cubans “participate in the terms of Spain’s surrender” and they kept the structure in place with Spanish civil authorities still left in “charge of municipal offices.” [10] Ultimately, a new constitution was implemented in Cuba, likely coerced through illegal force, which made the island a protectorate and the Platt Amendment in 1901 which forced Cuba to provide the United States land for a base at Guantanamo Bay and “allowed the U.S. to intervene at any time.” [11] This development was described by the writing of one imperialist, Leonard Wood, then-Military Governor of Cuba to another, Theodore Roosevelt, with Wood declaring that “there is, of course, little or no independence left in Cuba under the Platt Amendment.” [11]

In following years, a client government was implemented in Cuba in 1901, racial segregation was imposed, and the county was eventually burdened with the Batista dictatorship and its “mafia-capitalist class.” [12] This meant that Cuba was not a “fully sovereign space” due to imperial meddling by the United States, which led to a conception of Cuba, in the U.S. perspective, of being passive in the face of their actions and “protected by its protector.” [13] Cuba was under US subservience with the client and puppet dictatorship of Batista leading to “misery in the countryside and urban slums” combined with what one scholar calls “a millionaire’s playground of casinos and brothels for US tourists and organized crime.” [14] In part of an interview in The Black Panther, the newspaper of the Black Panther Party, an unnamed revolutionary says that before the Cuban Revolution, “Cuba was very corrupt” with a lot of robbery, gambling, and “ownership of large estates of land by a small absentee oligarchy or foreign corporations” or latifundism as he called it. [15] He also argued that peasants were exploited by latifundists, who didn’t work, who had others cultivate the land for them. [15]

In the 1950s, a groundshaking change would send shockwaves of revolution across the Caribbean and make the murderous imperialists shake in their boots in fear. In 1957, Herbert Matthews of the New York Times interviewed Fidel Castro, making the revolutionary movement in Cuba known “to the rest of the world.” [16] The CIA, in a sneering fashion, claimed that Fidel had an “instinct for the value of international propaganda,” claiming that Matthews, in three articles, “gave an almost heroic impression of the Cuban revolutionary,” along with agreements with CBS, and noted that nightly shortwave radio broadcasts opened what they called “the second phase of Castro’s propaganda war against Batista.” [17] An upheaval caused by Batista’s dictatorial rule led to a guerrilla war begun in 1956 by a group of small group of men, including Fidel and Che Guevara. When this group of men, numbering over 80, tried to invade Cuba from Mexico, they were reduced by brutal assaults by Batista’s soldiers to fewer than 20, with the survivors fleeing into the Sierra Maesta mountains. [18] Only two years later, in part because of the ferocity and intransigence of Batista, which “fueled peasant support for the guerrillas” and a number of other factors, numerous “political parties, landowners, and businesses” had joined in the struggle, with the guerrilla force growing into a rebel army. [14] Not long after, Fidel launched a nationwide offensive with Che’s forces splitting the country in two and Batista fleeing to the Dominican Republic, in early 1959, allowing the revolutionary forces to sweep into Havana. [14] This overthrow not only “accentuated the tendency towards radicalization” and freed the country from foreign imperial occupation by the United States, but it disrupted the reading of Cuba by United States as an object it could exploit. [19] At the same time, this revolution, had a huge impact on thinking in the Latin American Left with many convinced that the revolutions in underdeveloped countries could be triggered by a small nuclei of guerrillas, leading to a “wave of unsuccessful attempts to repeat the Cuban experience across Latin America.” [14] As a Black Panther in prison, Romane Fitzgerald, put it, the “theory and practice of protracted warfare based upon guerrilla attacks” was not only a way to defeat capitalism and imperialism but a way of seizing political power, a method, in his view, which was carried through in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Algeria. [20]

In the 1960s, in its wean years of existence, the Cuban government came under intensified imperialist assault by the United States. As Fidel Castro said in a 1961 interview, the revolution was a socialist one, and that imperialism can “choose between suicide and natural death. If it attacks, it means suicide, a fast and certain death. If it does not attack, it can hope to last a little longer.” In the interview, Fidel also said that they destroyed “a tyrannical system…the philoimperialist bourgeois state apparatus…there is no longer anything good we can expect from the national bourgeoisie as a class…the socialist camp [he talks about Soviet Union and Czech Republic]…are our friends.” For the imperial United States, it placed an importance first on stopping “another Cuba” in the hemisphere, and on “another Nicaragua” in later years, by trying to pre-empt further revolutions with the launch of the anti-communist Alliance for Progress under which the US “gave money and advice for agrarian reform programmes in countries such as Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela.” [21] Not only did the future seem to have a revolutionary tone after the Cuban revolution, but the Soviet Union championed itself as “Cuba’s protector.” [22] While the murderous US empire tried to determine the nature of Castro’s disruption and what it meant, the Kennedy administration intensified its measures to squeeze Cuba to death. [23] One of these was the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the “foreign policy blunder” that led to US credibility and hegemony actively doubted in the aftermath of this imperialist effort by an army of Cuban exiles. [24] While Adlai Stevenson, US ambassador to the UN, laughably denied U.S. involvement in this armed invasion of Cuba, it was clear that this this CIA operation was a U.S. effort to overthrow the Cuban government. [25] This backfire was even predicted by senior Pentagon officers in 1961, who had planned to use air power to “win the day,” but that didn’t happen and the whole operation ended up being a fiasco. [26] This is invasion is relevant considering that Cuba recently celebrated 55 years since its historic victory at the Bay of Pigs, by forces led personally by Fidel Castro, within 72 hours, against what the Cuban government rightly described as “the infamous U.S. organized and financed mercenary invasion” and as “the first major defeat of U.S. imperialism in the Americans.” This anniversary happens to coincide with the session of the 7th Cuban Communist Party Congress, which recently finished its session, with details explained in the future article in this series.

Despite the Cuban victory in the Bay of Pigs, the imperial monster charged forward. In 1962 there was the Cuban missile crisis, which some, even those sympathetic to covering imperialism honestly, call Kennedy’s “greatest foreign-policy success.” [27] The problem with this viewpoint is it implies that Kennedy was completely rational. Additionally, it falls in line with Kennedy’s lies in his speech about the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, in which he declared laughably that the United States was patient, restrained a “peaceful and powerful nation” that acted in self-defense and “of the entire Western Hemisphere” that implemented a “strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment” shipped to Cuba, “close surveillance of Cuba and its military buildup” and reinforced the illegal Guantanamo military base. [28] While some could claim this is rational, it is not. As Lance Selfa puts it, Kennedy brought the world the closest it has been to “global holocaust,” and holding the world hostage for over two weeks after which Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union agreed to remove nuclear missiles from Cuba. [29] This irrationality is obvious in the fact that American leaders, namely Kennedy and his advisers, “were prepared to place millions of American lives at risk” so they could maneuver against the Soviet Union. [30] At the same time, in a 1962 presentation almost echoing Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council before the Iraq war in 2003, with pictures of the missiles held by a US delegation, Adlai Stevenson declared that there were Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba, that the Soviets were at fault and  covered stuff up, but that the United States isn’t, but he clearly left out that “the United States had placed nuclear missiles in Turkey that were pointed at the Soviet Union.” [31] Even a CIA document admitted in 1962 that not only would Cuban armed forces be capable of resisting and repelling any invasion either by US-trained guerrillas or by US military forces, but the “provision of military equipment and instructions,” implying nuclear weapons, was “essentially defensive.” [32] At a meeting of the U.S. Intelligence Board (USIB) in September 19, 1962 they also declared that the main purpose of the military build-up in Cuba was to “strengthen the Communist regime…against…a danger that the U.S. may attempt by one means or another to overthrow it.” [32]

The Bay of Pigs was only one of the many imperial destabilization efforts aimed at revolutionary Cuba. CIA was already visibly annoyed that Cuba’s press, which it described as “Castro-controlled,” argued that US policies toward Cuba were aggressive and used the U-2 incident to bolster these arguments, along with “Khrushchev’s diatribes.” [33] Before getting to more US destabilization efforts it is important to recognize the role of the Organization of American States (OAS) as an imperialist weapon. A 1985 CIA document declares the following: “since 1959, the OAS has sanctioned Castro Cuba a number of times for its export of subversion, which the OAS has considered a form of armed aggression.” [34] The document then goes on to list a number of anti-Cuba actions by the OAS such as forcing “invading” Cubans in Panama to surrender in 1959; condemning supposed “Cuban subversion” in 1961; excluding the Cuban government from OAS participation in 1962; authorizing measures, including use of force, aimed at Cuba in 1962; voting for sanctions against Cuba 1963-4; and condemning Cuba and extending sanctions in 1967. [34] For the 1964 sanctions, the OAS imposed “mandatory sanctions,” with them only expelled from the OAS two years earlier and Joao Goulart overthrown by a US-backed coup in Brazil earlier that year; at the same time, Cuba’s “sense of isolation and vulnerability” deepened in the years of 1963 and 1964 with defeats of guerrilla movements in Venezuela, Peru and Argentina along with Salvador Allende losing the 1964 presidential elections. [35] Rightly so, the Cuban government doesn’t wish to be a member of the OAS, with Fidel Castro calling it the “Ministry of Colonies” in 1972. Not only did the OAS participate in antidemocratic actions since Cuba was excluded from participation but its decisions were imposed unilaterally, showing that it really was an extension of the murderous empire.

The US imperial efforts went beyond the efforts of OAS exclusion and sanctions. Most famously, there was the imposition of a blockade. Even the U.S. intelligence community admitted that a blockade itself would not “bring down the Castro regime” and discussed how the Soviets, would in their conception, “exert strong pressures elsewhere to end the blockade,” and that an invasion by the U.S. would lead to “retaliatory actions outside Cuba” by the Soviets, but that they would not provoke conflict. [32] As a Cuban site about the blockade notes, the measures adopted by the new post-1959 Cuban government to recover Cuban wealth “constituted a mortal blow to the biggest North American monopolies which has plundered Cuban resources” for more than fifty years and dominated the country. The site also said that the response of the United States was “fast and abrasive” with sanctions piled on top of sanctions, resulting in an economic war imposed in Cuba for more than four decades. The same site also said that the blockade, under international law, is an “act of war,” imposed under section 620A of the Foreign Act of 1961 by Kennedy, constituting a “group of coercive measures and economic aggression” and is more adequately defined as a blockade than an embargo since it hinders “Cuba’s development of economic, commercial and financial relations with third countries.”

The Kennedy administration led the destabilization efforts against Cuba. As an article on Kennedy’s presidency in Dissident Voice notes, Kennedy implemented the “infamous quarantine” against Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, opposed President Joao Goulart of Brazil because of his “independent stand in foreign policy,” and feared that Trujillo in Dominican Republic, “a dictator and authoritarian who instituted a reign of terror,” would follow the model of Cuba. The article also describes Operation Mongoose, which included operations such as the CIA blowing up a factory in Cuba which killed about 400 people, or the Cuban Project which was one of the biggest terrorist operations as some describe it, with a goal to help Cubans “overthrow the Communist regime from within Cuba and institute a new government.” In a manner that almost seems like a conspiracy theory some detractors would say would be peddled on some right-wing blog, was part of Cuban Project called Operation Northwoods, which included staging assassinations of Cubans within the United States, creating a fake “Communist Cuban terror campaign” in certain parts of the US, have a real or simulated sinking of a “boatload of Cuban refugees,” faking a Cuban attack on a civilian jetliner, and blowing up a U.S. ship within Cuban waters. Then these would be blamed on the Cubans, like how the explosion of the USS Maine was blamed on the Spanish and then used to start the war in 1898, and start a war with Cuba. As the article noted, Operation Mongoose means that “those in the highest levels of government were basically formulating terrorist attacks, and this time it’s no conspiracy theory.”

What has been explained about the criminal actions of Operation Mongoose is only part of the story. This Kennedy-authorized operation, began in November 1961 [36] and supposedly ended in October 1962, but seems to have gone on beyond this point, with some arguing it went into the 1980s. It is important to note that not only did Bobby Kennedy play a major role in the six-phase operation, but advocated for the Cuban blockade. So, don’t try to peddle some Kennedy myths here. As the Church Committee documents, the US government thought they could actually overthrow Castro, which was a “top priority,” through the methods of coordinating with angry Cuban exiles and engaging in acts of sabotage. [37] The operation, as other documents show, not only was trying to cause an “internal revolt” against Castro and cause chaos in Cuba, with “sabotage operations” supposedly ended in 1962. [38] This end seems too tidy considering anti-Castro terrorist activity in 1963, Cuban dissident groups encouraged covertly by the CIA, and escalating covert operations that same year, along with much more. [39] After all, the Joint Chiefs of Staff planned destabilization in Cuba until 1963 (at least), there were at least eight plots, in the years between 1960 and 1965, to assassinate Fidel Castro. [40] If this isn’t enough, not only was there arguably a covert war between 1959 and 1965 against Cuba as Don Bohning argues in his book, The Castro Obsession, but there was many attempts on the lives of Raul and Fidel Castro in the 1960s. [41] There were also contaminants put in Cuban sugar and even a Canadian technician paid to infect turkeys with a disease that would kill them, which ultimately killed 8,000 turkeys in Cuba. [42] Later, the US Information Agency (USIA), which became the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), implemented a plan of transmitting television to Cuba in 1990 in an action which came from, Operation Mongoose. [43] Eventually, in 2002, former US government officials, Arthur Schlesinger and Robert McNamara, admitted in a Havana conference that Operation Mongoose was the precursor to the Cuban missile crisis. [44]

As a result of this illegal meddling of a terroristic nature, it is not surprising that the Cubans thought that Operation Mongoose was a forerunner to invasion by the United States, which is why they requested Soviet missiles in Cuba, leading to the Cuban missile crisis. [45] While Lyndon B. Johnson only sought to “inflict pain” on Cuba, while other high-ranking officials wanted invasion, it was reasonable for Cuba to fear the worst. [46] The Cubans were haunted by the “threat of a U.S. military attack on Cuba…throughout the 1960s” and the Soviets were not always receptive to help, even opposing Cuba’s “support for guerrilla movements in Latin America.” [47] Even the departure of Nikita Khrushchev because of his agreement to take missiles out of Cuba, which he placed there because he believed that US invasion was imminent, this did not assuage the doubts of leaders about “Soviet steadfastness in the defense of Cuba.” [48] While the Cubans were on military alert often, including thinking they could be struck by military strikes like those in North Vietnam in early 1965, or on alert when US troops invaded the Dominican Republic in April 1965. [49] At the same time, the Cubans, for example gave radical black groups moral support but didn’t give them weaponry, tried to not engage in actions which would bring them into conflict with the United States on U.S. soil, instead preparing their defenses and “countering the U.S. challenge in the Third World.” [50] In 1968, when talking with officials of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), often called East Germany in the West, Fidel Castro told them that while they had a “guarantee against imperialist aggression” with Soviet military divisions to defend them, that Cuba has “no guarantee against imperialist aggression” and that while the Soviets have given them weapons, which they were thankful for, “if the imperialists attack Cuba, we can count only on ourselves.” [51] Now, if you still don’t understand the pressure they were under, even with this, you are missing something.

Before I get to Cuban support for the liberation struggle abroad, I think it is important to note some of the events inside Cuba. This doesn’t include what anti-communist socialist Herbert Marcuse claims about Cuba, along with Vietnam and Cuba, that they were struggling to “eschew the bureaucratic administration of socialism.” [52] Instead what this is talking about is first and foremost is how the Cuban Revolution “marked a watershed for the continent’s film makers,” with Havana becoming the center of a new line of cinema which was “dedicated to portraying Latin America’s conflicts, especially with the US,” with a brand “of social-realist cinema and documentary,” which peaked in the 1960s to the 1980s. [53] While Havana soon became the “host of an annual Latin American Film Festival” and then invited “film-makers from every corner of the Third World to come and study at its international film school,” by the 1980s and years following, Cuba faced an economic slump, possibly because of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and now “remains cash-strapped and now produces few films.” [53] Before Assata Shakur would make her home in Cuba as a revolutionary and political refugee, there was black nationalist Robert F. Williams and his family. In order to flee the fabricated charges of kidnapping put on Robert, the Williams family fled one person at a time to the island of Cuba and Fidel Castro let the Williams family to have their own radio show which was called Radio Free Dixie, broadcasting three times a week. This show argued that it was the “voice of armed self-defense,” featured Robert doing his own editorials while Mabel Williams, his wife, read news items and helped select the music. [54] This choice of Cuba was not a surprise since Robert was “one of the founders of the national Fair Play for Cuba Committee” and the Cuban people, in his view, “were very sympathetic to the oppressed Afro-American people of the United States” and had “divorced themselves from the fellowship of capitalist oppression, from the fellowship of racist nations” so he decided to go to Cuba. [54] Mabel, his wife, noted that originally Cuba, before it declared itself a communist nation, invited Black scholars “to come because they had made a lot of changes with the race issue” and that Robert began to travel for the Fair Play for Cuban Committee “all over the country,” trying to get the US government “to recognize the Cuban government’s legitimacy to exist and to have friendly relations with Cuba.” [55] Sadly, because an early manifestation of the Sino-Soviet split, with both countries “vying to support the Cuban revolution” and some Communist Party USA members not liking Williams because he was talking about race, instead of class, the Williams family left Cuba and went to China instead, partially because of this as well. [56]

During the 1960s, the Cuban revolutionary government not only defended itself from imperial assault and drastically changed the nature of the island, but they supported anti-imperialist liberation struggles, especially in Africa. The well-regarded foreign policy scholar, Piero Gleijeses, writes about this in his book, titled Conflicting Missions. He notes that in September 1964, FRELIMO (Mozambique Liberation Front), the movement that aimed to free Mozambique from Portuguese colonial domination, launched its guerrilla war from bases in Southern Tanzania, with the country of Tanzania becoming the rear guard for this anti-colonial force and “the major conduit of Soviet and Chinese weapons for them.” [57] Around this time, Cuban interest in the region and in African liberation was growing, with Che Guevara urging that guerrillas in Africa should fight, be assisted by Cuban instructors who would fight alongside them, and have a centralized teaching center in Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo with a goal to free that country from foreign domination. [58] The Cubans saw the Simbas in Zaire and FRELIMO in Mozambique as the “most important liberation movements,” but Che’s plan of freeing Zaire was rejected by FRELIMO which wanted to continue its armed struggle in Mozambique. [59] Still, Cuba agreed to train FRELIMO guerrillas on their island and even sent a ship called the Uvero from Cuba in April 1965 carrying weapons, food, and uniforms for the movement. [60]

Despite the strained relations between Che and FRELIMO, in 1965, he met with Zairean rebels in Tanzania’s Dar-es-Salaam, was impressed by Laurent Kabila, and later led the training of Zairean rebels in person, along with Cuban instructors. [61] Interestingly enough, Kabila was the rebel who overthrew the US-backed Mobutu authoritarian government in 1997 and renamed Zaire the Democratic Republic of Congo. While there were issues with the timing of the decision to send a column of Cuban instructors to Zaire to train the Simbas, and later MPLA leaders as Che urged them to go to Zaire to be trained by Cuban instructors, a decision likely made by three people: Che, Fidel Castro, and Raul Castro. [62] This effort was not only actively assisted by the presidents of Tanzania (Julius Nyerere) and Egypt (Gamal Abdel Nasser), with agreements with both countries by Cuba, but the Cubans made the decision to train African liberation independently of the Chinese or the Soviets, only asking for “Nyerere’s approval before going to Zaire.” [63] This effort was chosen not only to because of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in 1961, with chaos that followed, but that there was “revolutionary fervent in Zaire” with that country becoming the “center from which revolution would spread to the neighboring countries,” especially Portuguese colonies, which is why the Cubans eagerly supported the MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) and FRELIMO. [64] One example of this eagerness was the supplies sent on the ship Uvero for rebels in Guinea-Bissau, FRELIMO, and Venezuelan guerrillas, with a group of nine Cuban military instructors led by Ulises Estrada, emptying 315 crates of supplies and arms for rebels in present-day Guinea-Bisseau to fight its liberation struggle. [65] Later on, this Cuban ship stopped at an Algerian port but the leader and President of independent Algeria (1963-5), Muhammad/Ahmed Ben Bella who had “aligned himself closely with Russia and with its communist allies, especially Cuba,” had been overthrown, so the supplies were kept on board, and the ship proceeded to Tanzania. [66]

I could go on and explain the spats between Che, other Cuban leaders and the Cubans. All I will say is that Gleijeses argues that the Soviets branded Che as pro-Chinese for his wariness of Moscow’s foreign policy and criticism of the Soviet Union that he saw; Raul had a pro-Soviet view while Fidel was less of a harsh critic of the Soviets than Che, but distanced himself from the Chinese and declared at one point that Cuba should not be a Soviet (or Chinese) satellite and should be an independent socialist nation. [67] He also notes that while some Cuban leaders disagreed with Che, including his emphasis on armed struggle, some, such as Fidel, agreed in principle, but engaged in criticisms of the Soviets, in his speeches, that were indirect. [68] Gleijeses notes how others weren’t fond of Che either, with the Venezuelan Communist Party rejecting his effort to join the Venezuelan guerrillas, saying it was a Venezuelan issue. [69] Still, there were positives. For one, Che was not only one of Cuba’s “foremost leaders” but he served as Castro’s personal emissary, who had “wide powers to offer aid to the liberation movements and make agreements with African governments.” [70] This didn’t stop Che from resigning, in a letter that showed his affection for Fidel, which freed Cuba formally from responsibility for his actions in Zaire” and the Cuban column of trainings growing to 120, even as FRELIMO didn’t accept them as trainers in 1967. [71]

These efforts of training liberation fighters was only part of a broader strategy. Cubans not only trained those from the anti-colonial forces of the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde), FRELIMO, and MPLA, establishing ties as early as 1961, but these organizations had sent men to Cuba and at least fifteen Cuban doctors were working in the territory the MPLA had liberated. [72] In the 1960s, the Cubans paid much attention to the PAIGC, an organization which controlled 40% of Portuguese Guinea by 1965, and at the same time, the Cubans considered the MPLA “the sole leader of the struggle in Angola.” [72] Aid to these liberation forces was simply extralegal assistance such as aid, financial assistance, and political assistance in international bodies, but it did not “entail committing any Cuban institution to the liberation struggle in Africa.” [73] As noted earlier, FRELIMO turned down an offer of Cuban aid, but this was because they had confidence in their own ability and relied on their own resources, but still, by independence, “Mozambique and Cuba revived their relationship.” [74] As the war with FRELIMO heated up, Portugal deployed 142,000 troops to “quell” the anti-colonial liberation fight in Mozambique, the Cubans became more involved in Angola, which changed their strategy from supporting a guerrilla movement to supporting a government “confronting a foreign invasion,” which did not export revolution but was “massive assistance to a constituted government” similar to but far greater than aid given to Algeria or Guinea. [75]

Before moving onto Cuban aid to liberation struggles in the “Third World” it is important to highlight once again, imperial destabilization efforts by the US, directed at Cuba, in the 1970s. In June 1972 The Black Panther reported that two Cuban films, titled “For the First Times” and “Memories of Underdevelopment” which were part of a group of 25 Cuban films, features, and short subjects, which were to be shown at a Cuban film festival earlier that year was interrupted when the Treasury Department confiscated the films, threatened to prosecuted and engaged in “financial harassment to close the festival down.” [76] The article continued by noting that American Documentary Films, the sponsors of the festival, sued the Treasury and the State Departments, saying that their action was arbitrary and unconstitutional, the latter by violating the 1st and 14th amendments. The article then went into the history of laws such as the Trading with the Enemy Act, “designed as an economic boycott” against the Cuban government, how the closing of the festival resulted in a loss of $28 million dollars by American Documentary Films, which distributed “films on social and political problems,” and that the screening of the films in the first place was meant to protest the “merits of the blockade against Cuba.” [77] Around the same time, Huey Newton sent a message to Fidel Castro, congratulating him for his heroism at the disastrous battle of Cuartel Moncada which brought out the “revolutionary fervor of the Cuban people to struggle and win,” and connected it to the struggle of the “oppressed black masses, the Chicano, Latino, Indian, and poor oppressed people in North America, in the United States.” [78] Newton continued by noting that the Black Panther Party’s “strength is of course within the people,” that “U.S. Reactionary Imperialism can be defeated” with a “World Humane Peace” and at that some point there will be a “people’s victory of world wide Revolutionary Intercommunalism.” [78] In the 1970s, there were also numerous efforts to engage in biological warfare aimed at Cuba. This included weather modification used against Cuban crops from 1969 to 1970, the CIA, in 1971, giving Cuban exiles a virus that “causes African swine fever,” which led to the slaughter of 500,000 pigs in order to prevent a nationwide animal epidemic. [79] While the full extent of the “chemical and biological warfare against Cuba” by the murderous empire may never be known, the Cuban government has rightly blamed “the United States for a number of other plagues which affected various animals and crops.” [80] I say this because, for example, in 1977, CIA documents showed that the agency “maintained a clandestine anti-crop warfare research program targeted during the 1960s at a number of countries throughout the world” which would undoubtedly include Cuba. [80]

In 1976 there was a democratic development in Cuba. This was the adoption of the Cuban Constitution, approved in a popular referendum in which 97.7% of those who voted, which was almost 96% of all registered voters, favored the Constitution in a secret-ballot vote. [81] This new constitution tried to not only rationalize the existing communist government but to set ideals more in stone, and recognize the role of mass organizations in Cuban society, a society which had effective mass participation unlike capitalist countries in the region. [82] In later years, it would be amended to create a less restrictive foreign investment structure (in 1992), amended to declare Cuba as a secular rather than an atheist state (in 1992) which opened the door to more religious observance, and reaffirming, after sustained challenges to state policies, that socialism in Cuba was “irrevocable” (in 2002). [83] In total, it has been amended three times (1978, 1992, and 2002) since its adoption in 1976. The most recent version the Cuban Constitution, which can be read here and here, outlines the revolutionary history of Cuba briefly in the preamble, recognizes the socialist foundations of the country. The Constitution declares that: Cuba as “a socialist State of workers, independent and sovereign” (Article 1); popular sovereignty relies with the people (Article 3); that citizenry have the right to use all means, including armed struggle, against “anyone attempting to overthrow the political, social, and economic order established by this Constitution” (Article 3); the Communist Party of Cuba is “the superior leading force of the society and the State” (Article 5); “the State recognizes, respects, and guarantees religious freedom” (Article 8); Cuba “repudiates and considers illegal and void any treaties, pacts or concessions” entered under illegal conditions (Article 11); and Cuba adopting “anti-imperialist and internationalist principles” (Article 12). The Constitution also declares the following: the economy will be based on “socialist ownership of the means of production by all the people” (Article 14); people are allowed to own “income and savings derived from the person’s own work, of the housing that is possessed with a fair ownership title, and of other assets and objects that serve to satisfy the material and cultural needs of the person” (Article 21); “the State protects the environment and natural resources of the country” (Article 27), and so on. Obviously this constitution is much more progressive and oriented to justice than the US Constitution which only has bourgeois liberties outlined in the Bill of Rights, abolishment of slavery but not as a form of punishment (13th amendment), guarantees the right to vote for people regardless of age, race, or color (15th, 19th, and 26th amendments), allows for an income tax (16th amendment), bars poll taxes (24th amendment), and much more, with other amendments which are broadly not progressive.

With all of this established, it is important to go back to Cuban support for “struggles for national liberation” as their Constitution states, during the 1970s. While Cuba’s role in the late 1960s and early 1970s was arguably honest, with some Africans, “notably Mozambicans, Zimbabweans, Eritreans, and a handful of South Africans and Namibians,” receiving military training in Cuba, but the only country that had a “significant Cuban military presence…was…Guinea-Bissau.” [84] While the Cuban government wanted to do more to help FRELIMO, which has been fighting in an armed struggle against the brutal Portuguese colonizers since 1964, there were bad feelings between FRELIMO and the Cuban government after 1965 and when Cuba offered to send instructors to FRELIMO camps in Tanzania or to Mozambique in 1967, FRELIMO declined the offer. [85] Likely, the Cubans believed, and most likely still believe, as the Black Panther Party once stated, that “the United States Empire is the chief perpetrator of exploitation, brutality, and genocide against the people of the world” and that “a blow to the Empire in any part of the world is a victory for the people in any part of the world” but they were unable to fully do this to tensions with FRELIMO. [86] Despite this, it is worthy to note the efforts of FRELIMO in their liberation struggle as noted in numerous articles of The Black Panther. These articles note that FRELIMO implemented survival programs for areas it liberated such as food for people in those areas, “hospitals and clinics…set up to maintain sanitation and health services for the people,” with “over 100,000 people were vaccinated against smallpox,” and “people’s shops and stores have been set up” along with free schooling, and “countless community meetings throughout the liberated countrysides” coupled with “open discussions and political education classes.” [87] Other articles gave more specifics. One of these articles notes that FRELIMO soldiers were armed with all sorts of weaponry, but had to carry all the “necessary materials, along with extra ammunition and the like” with them and that there is no place for male chauvinism, with “the FRELIMO sisters…given no special privileges, and they meet the challenge well.” [88] Additionally, the bases of FRELIMO were simple and temporary, concealed and able to be evacuated in five minutes, with these liberation fighters recognizing who were their enemies (ex: Portugal and the United States) and who were their allies (ex: pro-FRELIMO forces in the US). [89] These serious and committed fighters who were “determined to get freedom by any means necessary…in spite of daily bombings and torture by the Portuguese” and a worldwide propaganda machine, in favor of the Portuguese, and locals were drawn in to support FRELIMO because they felt they finally had a chance to participate in a building a better future. [90] Despite facing roadblocks, with some Mozambicans sticking to their traditionalism, these freedom fighters still sought a society which eliminated “man’s oppression of man (and woman),” ultimately “total equality of women” and conducting an “all encompassing struggle.” [91] This struggle was against immense odds as the Portuguese used “helicopters, bombers and troops” to pin down freedom fighters and ultimately kill them, but the FRELIMO bases were hard to spot from the air, which disrupted this destructive cycle. [92] Even though the Portuguese tried to make it “appear as if the guerrillas are scoring no successes” and many troops “received training in anti-guerrilla warfare from U.S. Army personnel,” the Portuguese empire was, as the writer described it, “a shredded paper kitten on its last legs,” with decolonization pushed after the “Carnation Revolution,” with one of the members who participated in this revolution lamenting what Portugal has now become due to neoliberal policies in recent years. [93]

After Mozambique received independence, it was immediately under attack. FRELIMO, which had received aid from the Soviets, Cubans, and East Germans was attacked by a military group, backed by South Africa’s apartheid government, called RENAMO (Mozambican National Resistance), “which feared a socialist blockade of its borders.” [94] As a result, FRELIMO sent students and teachers to Cuba in 1977 due to the lack of schools in Mozambique at the time, so they could come back and lead the country in the future. [94] Despite this, the new government of Mozambique still introduced free medical treatment in 1979, including a massive vaccination program, where in the past no such treatment or program existed, closed prisons instead of opening them, and created reeducation centers across the country, at least by 1981. [95] Mozambicans were able to “readily dissent and are encouraged to voice criticism in the single party,” even if not fully in the public sphere. [96]. Also by 1981, the government developed ties with: the Cubans who are active in education, transport, telecommunications, and sugar; the Soviets who are active in meteorology, mining, and fisheries; East Germany who is active in industry and planning; and numerous countries active in agriculture and health (North Korea, China, and Bulgaria). [97] Despite this, even in 1981, Mozambique was “not a Soviet satellite” but did receive more Soviet assistance than Chinese assistance. [97]

Then there was Ethiopia. Until 1974, the government of Haile Selassie, which the Black Panther Party declared was a “pseudo-fascist, imperialist puppet” with a “fuedo-bourgeois ruling clique” while declaring their support for Eritrean independence led by the Eritrean Liberation Front, had power. [98] This relates to Cuba because in December 1976, the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army (Derg) government which embraced communism as an ideology, signed an aid agreement with the Soviets and Cuba sent a military mission, which at minimum seems to have betrayed the working class of Ethiopia or at least had problems fulfilling its goals.[99] And weeks after the reduction the Derg and Fidel Castro issued a joint communique calling for unity among the region’s progressive forces, and as time went on, this government continued sparing with the US, signed another aid agreement with the Soviets and more Cuban technicians came. [99] As years went on, the Derg didn’t tolerate Soviet or even Cuban interference “in domestic matters” balking at diplomacy by both countries to solve “the Eritrean and Ogaden conflicts” or to make “amends with its civilian leftist opposition” which resulted in the Cuban ambassador being asked to leave the country. [100] While the Derg did eventually send a commission to start making plans to create a vanguard party, when it was created it wasn’t as civilian-based as but it was apparently “top-heavy with military personnel and had relatively few workers and peasants in the general membership.” [100] Some claim that Derg turned to the Soviets and the Cubans because it was convenient and that Derg sent people to East Germany, Cuba, and Soviet Union to learn Marxist theory, which one writer wackily calls “political indoctrination” and “ideological indoctrination.” [101] Other writers say that the USSR happily gave Derg weapons and that numerous Soviet and Cuban advisers were deployed in 1977, leading to 12,000 Cubans tasked with defending Ethiopia, and which some claim were deployed to Eritrea. [102]

At the same time there was coordination between the ELF (Eritrean Liberation Front) and the EPLF (Eritrean People’s Liberation Front) in fighting the Ethiopians, in fighting the Ethiopians, and calling on countries to counter Soviet and Cuban intervention and defeat “Soviet-based Ethiopia.” [103] Interestingly enough, the top architect for the ELPF went “to Cuba for military and political training in revolutionary warfare,” definitely before 1974 because that was when the Cubans were backing the ELF. [104] Ultimately, the Derg was driven from power, with some specifics noted in later paragraphs by those using the same “vanguard political ideology…methods of mass organization, and…basic military technology—the AK-47,” with those groups being the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front and the Tegray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). [105] This battle over Ethiopia was part of a broader fight for Eritrean independence. As this well-cited Wikipedia article notes, post-1974, when the Eritreans had been fighting the US and Israeli-basked Ethiopian empire before then, there were three groups: (1) the communist/socialist government of Ethiopia (Derg from 1974-1987, PDRE from 1987 to 1991) backed by the Cubans, the Soviets, and South Yemen; (2) the ELPF and TPLF backed by the Chinese, Sudanese, Libyans, United States, Somalia, and Syria; (3) the ELF backed by Libya (until 1977), Syria, Iraq, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Sudan. Ultimately, the Eritreans were victorious and Ethiopia became a land-locked country.

Before getting to Angola, there is one more group that should be mentioned: FRELITIN. US planners were afraid that the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, of which the pro-independence group FRELITIN declared independence for the island, would become “Cuba in the Indian Ocean” so they supported and backed an invasion and occupation by the brutal anti-communist authoritarian government of Indonesia. FRELITIN, as the main guerrilla group fighting this brutal occupation, was supported by Cuba and Vietnam but one writer claims that the Soviets were not in support. [106] An article in Worker’s World noted that while this 24-year-long occupation led to the deaths of 200,000 East Timorese, the U.S. government remained a staunch ally of Indonesia, and by 1998, Timorese organized a referendum in which they voted overwhelmingly for independence instead of being part of Indonesia (the referendum may be confusing to understand at first). This article also notes how in 2002 a new Timorese nation was founded, with Australia hostile of the current leader of East Timor who has been declared as a “communist” because he wants to make life better for those in Timor, and he has a good amount of grassroots support. Before going forward I think it is important to back up a second. The Wikipedia page on this topic says that the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada, prior to 1991, backed Indonesia’s occupation, while at the same time, Portugal, the Soviet Union (1975-1991), Libya, the Free Aceh Movement, post-communist Russia (1991-1999), and China backed the Timorese struggle. The page also shows that almost snidely the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, and Canada switched sides in 1999 to the Timorese.

Moving on, there is no need to cite anti-communist articles about FRELITIN such as one in 2006 that declares that “Fretilin may need the votes of the Cuban doctors as much as their electioneering” but it is perhaps more fruitful to share articles from the Community Party of Australia which recognizes that FRELITIN is here to stay despite he fact that “Australian media and spooks promoted stories to destabilise the FRETILIN government” or an article saying that the people of East Timor “suffered the greatest genocide registered in the 20th century” with not even the Holocaust by the Nazis managing “to reach such a high percentage of people.” Other articles of note is the always strange but sometimes useful Trotskyists at WSWS who claimed that neither FRELTIN nor its counterpart in the Timorese struggle was based on “anti-capitalist or egalitarian principles,” based in the middle-class, and that the US, along with other Western powers, was urging the Indonesian government to move into East Timor in late 1974, and that just before the intervention, “FRELITIN’s leaders declared independence.” It is worthy to note that this article, like the 90 articles (at least) on their website that slam “Stalinist bureaucracies,” has an anti-Soviet perspective along with saying that Moscow and Beijing bestowed” revolutionary credentials on Yasir Arafat, Nelson Mandela, and Fidel Castro, implying that they aren’t true liberation leaders! To be honest, this is a bunch of rubbish. Moving on, there is an article in small-circulation publication, The New Internationalist, it is noted that Cuba’s influence in East Timor goes back to 1975 when, despite what those goofs at WSWS claimed, the resistance movement “based much of its socialist ideology and guerrilla tactics on Fidel Castro’s revolutionary struggle.” The article went on to say that there is a huge amount of “murals and T-shirts depicting Che” and that Cuba’s physical involvement in the new country “began in 2003, when President Xanana Gusmao met Fidel Castro in Kuala Lumpur at a conference of non-aligned countries” and shortly thereafter, teams of Cuban doctors were sent to the country. [107]

Finally we get to Angola. What the Black Panther Party said here is relevant, as they argued that “the same small ruling circle that is exploiting and oppressing Black people in Angola is the same one that is exploiting and oppressing Black people here.” [108] While this great documentary explains a good amount of what I’m not going to go into detail here, it is still important to refresh people’s minds. For one, in there were three movements that fought in the anti-colonial struggle against Portugal in the 1960s: UNITA, FNLA, and MPLA, with China backing UNITA, the Soviets supporting the MPLA and the US covertly supporting FNLA. [109] In mid-1975 fighting broke out with the transitional government of these different forces, with each faction declaring their independence, and the Ford administration approved millions of dollars in covert aid to FNLA and UNITA, while the Cubans sent hundreds of military advisers [110] Around this time, SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organization) gave a material commitment to the MPLA, with SWAPO’s Secretary General arriving in Havana, and there were some suspicions that the Portuguese and Cubans were working together to send Cuban aid to Angola. [111] It is also important to note that much of the Portuguese government thought that the MPLA “deserved to have power” and that while the UNITA was right about some details, they exaggerated “the number of Cubans in Angola and the nature of their role.” [112]

While the FNLA, which was “trained by Portuguese colonialists and South Africans,” the Cubans had sent instructors to MPLA forces and by November 1975, by which time the MPLA government was fully established, “massive amounts of Russian and Cuban equipment had arrived at Luanda,” which included not only 15,000 Cuban troops but heavy tanks and artillery. [113] UNITA was quickly pushed by a Cuban advance and “most of Angola was for a time controlled by Neto and the MPLA” at the time. [114] Despite this, Angola still retained its “commercial agreement with the American Gulf Oil Company to exploit the oil of Cabinda” in the 1970s which is a company that the Black Panthers had criticized in their paper back in a 1972 article about Angola and Gulf Oil. [115] The Cuban assistance to the Angolans would have been almost impossible if the Soviets had not given much of the logistical support despite the fact that it was ultimately the Cuban forces that changed the tide. [116] There is a revealing quote by Cuban Communist politician Carlos Rafael Rodriguez who said the following, with my italics at the end: “Cuba and Angola did not have all the technical means for their men to fight the racist South African army [basically UNITA]. Without the USSR, imperialism would have defeated the Angolan people.” [117] I don’t want to take sides or wish to cause derision in terms of the Sino-Soviet split, with some people likely taking the side of the Chinese rather than the Soviets, like the Black Panther Party, presumably (at least before 1972). Still the assistance in Angola shows that the Soviets were clearly on the side of African liberation while the Chinese were clearly not, as they backed UNITA, led by the horrid Savimbi, thankfully killed by government forces in 2002. I can go into the reasons for why the Chinese backed UNITA, but that is for another day. Back to the Angolan proxy war, the swift success of the MPLA-Cuban allied forces “took everyone by surprise” and by February 1976, “the military confrontation, for all practical purposes, was over” and not long after, the Portuguese government symbolically “established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of Angola.” [118] Not long after that, Angola and South Africa signed a diplomatic agreement with South Africa agreeing to remove its forces while Angola promised “to guarantee the security of Calueque” meaning that “the Cubans’ intervention had proven to be a complete success.” [119]

There are a number of other points to note here: (1) Cuba intervened in Angola not for material gains like the imperialists but because they are internationalists and wanted to assist in the “total liberation of Africa”; (2) it does not seem likely that the Cubans “accepted a submissive, client-state relationship in which the USSR plays the dominant and deciding role”; (3) in the Cuban perspective, the United States was becoming “progressively more isolated and isolationist” in the 1970s; (4) the USSR, seeing a “growing radicalization in Africa as Portugal’s African colonies” became independent, seized an opportunity in 1975 to gain more supporters in its struggle against the United States and China; and (5) the amount of Africa countries Cuba had diplomatic relations with grew from eight in 1972 to 31 in 1976. [120] I could expand on the fact that South Africa, covertly backed by the United States, would only give South-West Africa, which became Namibia, its independence on the conditionality of Cuban withdrawal from Angola, along with an end to Soviet and Cuban aid to the Marxist government of Angola. [121] Instead, it is a better to end on the fact that Cuban involvement in Angola was not only “responsive to long established revolutionary principles” but was a “milestone in the long history of assistance to extrahemispheric independence struggles.” [122]

By the 1980s, the situation was changing in Africa, in regards to liberation. For Angola, Cuban troops, which some claim were “mercenaries” with withdrawn in 1989, and the new Marxist government, had to rearm itself by spending oil royalties, money that could have reconstructed its economy. [123] For Ethiopia, the volume of trade between itself and socialist countries grew significantly in the 1980s. [124] Additionally, Cuba and Nicaragua avoided debt restructuring deals pushed by Washington since the US was “imposing an effective financial boycott on both left-leaning governments,” which had struggles for independence that produced outcomes the United States did not like. [125] The CIA documents in the 1980s obviously have a sneering attitude, but are still important to note here. One 1982 document claimed the Fidel Castro’s decision to militarily intervene in Ethiopia was “largely at Moscow’s behest and reflected a convergence of Cuban and Soviet interests,” with 11,000 to 13,000 Cuban military personnel in Ethiopia, “organized into four brigades” and an advantage “over any conventional opposition in the region such as the Somali Army.” [126] This same document also claimed that at one time, the USSR and Cuba was “committed to Somalia” but that in the late 1970s, the Cubans and the Soviets began to “rethink Ethiopia’s military needs,” providing combat support for the government, under Somali attack, and that since 1978 the amount of Cuban military personnel in Ethiopia had decreased. [126] Also, this document said that while Castro said in 1981 that he would “like to withdraw his troops from Ethiopia,” he supposedly, in the CIA’s view, needed Soviet approval to do so. This idea of getting needing Soviet approval is silly because Cuba had a turbulent relationship with the Soviet Union in the 1960s, which improved in the 1970s and 1980s but ruptured with Mikhail Gorbachev, who arguably accelerated the Soviet collapse with his ideas of “glasnost” and “perestroika” which still have wide acclaim in the West as “democratic.” [127] Other scholars, including the bourgeois and likely anti-communists Ronald Oliver and Anthony Atmore, write about how the Soviets sent $12 billion in military aid and arms to Mengistu in Ethiopia between 1977-1990, paid the expenses of the Cuban military personnel, and the Ethiopian army, claimed that the Derg had became “increasingly unpopular.” [128] These bourgeois scholars inadvertently admit that Soviet and Cuban intervention was necessary, saying that the removal of the Cuban military forces and end of massive Soviet arms shipments “released pent-up tensions both within that country [Ethiopia] and around its borders” and ultimately leading to northern Tigrean separatists moving into the Amhara heartland and occupying the capital in 1991 while Mengistu fled into exile in Zimbabwe. [129]

Not surprisingly, the CIA was angry about Cuba’s support for radical leftists. One 1986 document declared that Cuba had been training and supporting “Third World guerrillas” for the past 27 years, claiming it had become “institutionalized within its political and governmental system” with Cuba’s mass organizations and other entities contributing to “training, equipping, funding, and transporting of leftist groups around the globe” and allowing Cuba to “export revolution to the Third World.” [130] This document even admitted that the economic crunch wouldn’t stop this aid, noting that organizations within the Cuban Communist Party “are given wide latitude by Castro in coordinating Havana’s provision of training, supplies, and funds to radical leftist groups.” [130] Later, the document also said that by 1978 the strategy of the Cuban government changed as it backed groups advocating for “armed struggle to seize power” and the Sandinista overthrow of the Nicaraguan Somoza government in July 1979 resulted in “a more active policy of supporting guerrilla movements in the region” but that this was stunted by active US moves including “willingness to use military force to protect its interests abroad.” [130] The extent of this training was admitted in the CIA document: “Cuba has trained members of some two dozen African and Latin American insurgent groups in urban and rural guerrilla warfare.” These viewpoints are not a surprise considering that, as the late bourgeois anti-imperialist and former CIA consultant, Chalmers Johnson, noted, in the 1980s, “American demonization of Castro’s Cuba ratcheted upward and the government argued vociferously that Cuban-inspired insurgencies were the hemisphere’s greatest threat.” [131] This is also evidenced by Ronald Reagan’s April 4, 1985 speech which declared that “my administration [wants to remove]…the thousands of Soviet bloc, Cuban, PLO…Libyan, and other military and security personnel” from Nicaragua.” [132]

There are a set of other documents on Cuba. These include ones claiming that the island was in dire economic straits and under pressure. One document from 1966 declared that “the island is dependent on the outside world for industrial equipment, fuels, raw materials, critical consumer goods, and even for food.” [133] Years later, a CIA document noted that the Cuban government will try to “minimize the impact of any cuts on its priority military objectives—defense of the nation against the United States, maintenance of domestic security, and continuation of Cuba’s foreign policy.” [134] Then there was a number of documents on “debt rescheduling talks” with Cuba, with the government in 1986 having to institute “economic austerity” which played right into the CIA’s hands, and that it was facing horrible “financial difficulties,” more than when it began “rescheduling its hard currency debt in 1982,” which Cuban leaders said was due to a number of varied problems, causing less hard currency the previous year, including the “continued impact of the US trade embargo.” [135] Other documents that year noted that the economic crisis would play into the hands of the CIA as Cuban workers “are likely to become increasingly outspoken” in their words as the Cuban government engaged in action “against inept management and corruption,” and that Havana has “also tightened banking regulations for foreign exchange transfers” as the Soviets give the Cubans more hard currency, as they asked for. [136] Eventually, by 1988, the CIA declared that Castro found himself under pressure from the Soviets to “adopt Soviet-style planning…and to integrate Cuba more fully into CEMA” moves which they said “seriously jeopardize Castro’s longtime goal of industrializing the island and diversifying the economy.” [137] These documents are almost like the Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns laughably tries to “buy” Cuba for a trillion dollars, goes before Fidel Castro (along with Homer), who takes the trillion dollar bill from this dirty capitalist, using it to improve socialist Cuba, while a more recent episode seemed to be more positive toward Cuba, with even a mural of Mr. Burns being driven out of Cuba along with other capitalist vipers in 1959.

Beyond all of this was a November 1984 document declaring to reveal “Castro’s propaganda apparatus” as the CIA put it. This document is not only laughable (and seething) in that it claims that the Cuban government as a “propaganda empire” which they want to expand, but that this “apparatus” has a “pro-Marxist bias of Castro’s propaganda apparatus” and it remains a “negative factor working against democratic interests, worldwide.” More hilariously, the document claims that this “international media empire” was organized starting in 1959, has become an “effective propaganda weapon,” which includes the performing arts in Cuba and the cinema industry “directly propagandist.” The document goes to say that “international gatherings of various kinds” in Cuba are propaganda, that there is “person-to-person propaganda,” that there is a magical “Che Guevara guerrilla cult”; that Castro has an “empire of…publicity.” Finally the document declares that “the Cuban propaganda machine” which is closely associated with its will not only “remain an important negative factor working for Cuban and Soviet interests throughout the world” but aligns with “Cuba’s self-assigned mission of promoting Marxist revolution.” The funny thing about this document is it negates completely the fact that the corporate media of the United States beams out propaganda to serve the Pentagon often, that capitalist dogma is integrated within many elements of US society, and that Hollywood serves as a propaganda apparatus by working with the CIA (as noted here and here) and the Pentagon.

There are a number of other events in the 1980s that are worth noting, but one important institution came into existence that would make imperial destabilization across the world more “public” rather than covert. I’m not talking about Cuba respecting North Korea’s boycott of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea or when the epidemic of dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) spread across Cuba in 1981 effort which was meant to be used against Soviet forces but was actually used against the Cuban people which even Cuban exiles executing the mission didn’t like. [138] I’m talking about the establishment of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 1982. In a 1982 speech to the British Parliament, Reagan explained why NED should exist, coaching his the effort by saying it would supposedly “foster the infrastructure of democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities, which allows a people to choose their own way to develop their own culture,” declaring it would “contribute…to the global campaign for democracy” in an anti-communist light, and that “the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history as it has left other tyrannies.” NED was simply, as Robert Perry of Consortium News put it, “a central part of Ronald Reagan’s propaganda war against the Soviet Union three decades ago” and has become a “slush fund that generally supports a neocon agenda.” More particularly, it has been used to, as Right Web notes, support “efforts to overthrow foreign governments,” gave neocons a “government-funded institute over which they exercised effective control,” has served as an “instrument of U.S. policy to support Cuban-American efforts to oust Cuba’s longtime leader Fidel Castro” and emphasizes “one particular form of democracy, pro-market democracy.” This site also notes that NED’s president is Carl Gershman, a “figure in U.S. sectarian politics dating back to the 1970s” and that it works through four core institutes: NDI (the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs), IRI (International Republican Institute), Solidarity Center, and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).

NED has a more sinister but obvious purpose. As the CIA’s lackey, David Ignatius, wrote in the Washington Post in 1991, when he was then the foreign editor, NED operatives have been going “in public what the CIA used to do in private,” and quotes Alex Weinstein as saying: “a lot of what we [NED] do[es] today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” with Ignatius adding that the biggest difference is that NED does its activities overtly which he claims is its “own protection” which has allowed them to be “successful.” [139] Years later, “soft power” advocate Joesph Nye declared in a letter that NED had “become known as an advocacy organization for the promotion of democracy,” and had in mind a “civil society fund” to promote “exchanges and interactions without a particular agenda,” which would work alongside NED. [140] The US State Department claims that NED is a “private nonprofit organization” (claim also repeated here) established during the Reagan years which has programs in “more than 90 countries around the world.” As it turns out, the US State Department, the mainstay of the foreign policy establishment, gave NED hundreds of millions of dollars to fund its operations from 2009 as numerous documents show. [141] This is a rise from when in the past it was only given funding in the tens of millions. [142] This basically means that NED is not only part of the foreign policy establishment but is part of the murderous empire. Obviously, the former is admitted earlier than the latter with the State Department openly honoring NED recipients in 2011, admitted that NED has an “annual congressional appropriation” which basically makes it part of the US government, and is mad when the Russian government, rightly so, declared NED as an “undesirable” organization last year. Most damning of all is the State Department Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Michael Posner, declaring in 2012 that he “admires” NED greatly, and thanks the NED team for promoting market/bourgeois democracy “and civil society” in Burma for the last 20+ years. [143]

Back to the history. In the 1990s, Cuba was still under imperial assault, being declared a “rogue state” by the United States, as it typical of countries deemed as “enemies.” [144] At the same time, Cuban exiles continued to flourish in the United States, who had engaged in bombings, hijackings, kidnappings, and much more, with these terroristic Cubans enjoying “safe haven in the United States” even to this day. [145] Beyond this, not only did the US vote against UN General Assembly resolutions which condemned the US embargo against Cuba and called for its end from 1992-1999 but a crop duster of the US State Department “emitted a mist in October 1996” which released, apparently, “a plant-eating insect called Thrips palmi.” [146] While the US government would deny this, this emission of dust was arguably an act of biological terrorism. At the same time, NED continued to nurture domestic opposition in Cuba to oppose Castro. [147]

By the 2000s the situation didn’t improve. In 2002, as the US was gearing up to militarily invade Iraq, for the second time in the last ten years (first in 1991), John Bolton, who was then ambassador of the United States to the UN “presented misinformation to Congress on a Cuban biological weapons program.” [148] This incident also harkens back to Stevenson’s presentation in 1962 to the UN Security Council about what became the Cuban missile crisis in which he didn’t tell full truth, and was basically lying by omission. The former CIA and State Department analyst, Melvin Goodman, who moderately criticizes US imperial power, barked that “there have been signs of change in Cuba without any meaningful U.S. response” in an almost angry tone in his 2004 book. [149] Also in the 2000s, it was evident, in likely continuing phenomena, that “Cuba has one of the lowest maternal death rates in the region,” that women’s participation in the paid workforce “has grown rapidly over the past 20 years,” and that “heterosexual men break no taboos by having sex with other men.” [150]

At the current time, Cuba continues to fight off efforts of imperial meddling. The people of Cuba realize this very well, knowing that the US has been trying to overthrow and/or undermine Castro and the socialist government since 1959, which is why the Cuban government sees the CIA behind many problems. [151] The United States has failed in its effort to “rid the Caribbean of the critical difference that Castro’s Cuba brings to the region” and this not only disrupted “U.S. supreme dominance in the Caribbean” with “instability in the Caribbean basin” showing the reflection of a murderous empire. [152] Putting aside the fact that there are “significant populations of Africans in Cuba” and that countries such as Cuba and Brazil, have actively pursued the notion of harmony in a “racial democracy” meaning that many Cubans and Brazilians are “uncomfortable discussing race and…racism,” Cuba has done more than any other nation “to end social stratification based on skin colour.” [153] William Blum, the wonderful foreign policy analyst and anti-imperialist, argued in his book, Rogue State, that if you consider “education and healthcare…then it would appear that during the more-than-40 years of its revolution, Cuba has enjoyed one of the very best human-rights records in all of Latin America.” [154] Maybe the US Empire should look in the mirror next time before writing another one of its crackpot “Human Rights Reports” on Cuba. But we all know that isn’t going to happen and instead we’ll have China write its well-sourced and wonderful “Human Rights Record of the United States,” with the most recent one published earlier this month.

The next article in this series will pick up exactly where this article left off and examine where Cuba stands today as a revolutionary government and socialist nation. This article went a bit longer than I was expecting, but that is good, because it is comprehensive to a degree. As always, I look forward to your comments on this article.

Notes

[1] Oliver, Ronald and Atmore, Anthony. Africa Since 1800 (Fifth Edition). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 72, 91.

[2] Green, Duncan. Faces of Latin America (Third Edition). London: Latin America Bureau, 2006. 11.

[3] Zinn, Howard; Konopacki, Mike; and Buhle, Mike. A People’s History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008. 32. On this same page, they write that this war erupted in “1868 when Carlos Manuel de Cespesdes, backed by other white farmers in Oriente province, freed his slaves and announced Grito De Yara [Cry of Yara literally, a call to arms], declaring Cuba’s independence.” This is important to understand in understanding this revolutionary history.

[4] Ibid, 32, 37

[5] Ibid, 39.

[6] Ibid, 43.

[7] Ibid, 44.

[8] The promotion of war was within promotion by vaudeville entrepreneurs to fake movies of the war, making it America’s “first filmed war.” Yellow journalism established certain precedents for mass-marketing war and empire, adopted by “respectable” newspapers” in later years and that “the continued mass-marketing of wars and empire, through the media apparatus and official public relations channels, proves that yellow journalism is still with us.”

[9] Richard Seymour argues that a “number of Japanese soldiers in Hawaii worried the planters” when the US was conquering Cuba and the Philippines and that before 1898, the US “even tried to purchase Cuba several times,” but this did not succeed. For the full citation: Seymour, Richard. The Liberal Defense of Murder. New York: Verso, 2008. 86, 93.

[10] Zinn, Konopacki and Buhle, A People’s History of American Empire, 51.

[11] Ibid, 52.

[12] Seymour, The Liberal Defense of Murder, 94, 125.

[13] Weber, Cynthia. Faking It: U.S. Hegemony in a “Post-Phallic” Era. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999. 20, 25. Weber also argues on page 3 that “the Caribbean is the location to which the United States historically has turned to “find itself.”” This is is relevant considering U.S. imperialist actions in the Caribbean over the years.

[14] Green, Faces of Latin America, 73. Green expands on this by saying the following: “young radicals formed guerrilla groups in Brazil, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala and Nicaragua, all of which met with failure or were forced radically to rethink their tactics…with intensive counter-insurgency training from the US, the Bolivian army soon tracked down and defeated the isolated ‘freedom fighters’ [in Bolivia], and Guevara was shot” (page 75)

[15] “Interview With A New Man – A Cuban Revolutionary.” The Black Panther, April 17, 1971. Page 12.

[16] Green, Faces of Latin America, 194.

[17] CIA, January 3, 1984:“Cuba: Castro’s Propaganda Apparatus and Foreign Policy”; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. While the searches here give me different identifying numbers, the document is apparently the same.
[18] Green, Faces of Latin America, 58, 78.

[19] Seymour, The Liberal Defense of Murder, 126-7; Weber, Faking It, 2-3. I’m not sure about this whole “reading” thing, but it is clear that the United States saw Cuba differently before the revolution than after.

[20] Fitzgerald, Romane. “Prospects for Revolutionary Intercommunal Warfare.” The Black Panther, May 8, 1971. Page 16.

[21] Green, Faces of Latin America, 78, 101.

[22] Green, Faces of Latin America, 86; Weber, Faking It, 28.

[23] Weber, Faking It, 13, 22.

[24] Ibid, 14, 31.

[25] Selfa, Lance. The Democrats: A Critical History. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2008. 233.

[26] Goodman, Melvin A. National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. San Francisco: City Light Books, 2013. 24, 33, 50.

[27] Weber, Faking It, 14.

[28] Kennedy, John K. “The Cuban Missile Crisis: President Kennedy’s Address to the Nation (1962).” A History of Our Time: Readings on Postwar America (ed. William H. Chaffe, Harvard Sitkoff and Beth Bailey). New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. 27.

[29] Selfa, The Democrats, 126, 139.

[30] Seymour, Liberal Defense of Murder, 127.

[31] Selfa, The Democrats, 233.

[32] CIA, 1962: Title unknown; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. I do know the unique number of this document, which is CIA-RDP79M00098A000200070001-2. Based on the document, it was likely written in 1962. However the tone of the document makes it seem that it was written well after then. This report is assumed to be the U.S. Intelligence Board or the CIA in general. At the meeting of the USIB it was also declared that “the Soviets evidently hope to deter any such attempt by enhancing Castro’s defensive capabilities and by threatening Soviet military retaliation…they…recognize that the development of an offensive military base in Cuba might provoke U.S. military intervention and thus defeat their present purpose…the threat inherent in these developments is that, to the extent that that Castro regime thereby gains a sense of security at home, it will be emboldened to become more aggressive in fomenting revolutionary activity in Latin America.” The fact that even the USIB recognized this is significant.

[33] CIA, 1960: Title unknown; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. I do know the unique number of this document, which is CIA-RDP90T00782R000100120008-3. Based on this link, I can determine this is a document from 1960.

[34] CIA, 1985: Title unknown; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. While the title is unknown the sections cited are the following “Negotiations of President Reagan” and “Draft Proposed Language Rejecting a False Political Solution.”

[35] Gleijeses, Piero. Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. 93.

[36] It started in 1961 despite a typo in the Church Committee report saying 1962.

[37] For the words “actually overthrow” see this page. For the words “angry Cuban exiles” see these two pages here and and here. For the words “acts of sabotage” see this page.

[38] For the words “internal revolt” see this page. For the words “cause chaos in Cuba” see this page. For the words “sabotage operations” see this page. Richard Seymour describes Operation Mongoose on page 127 as a “policy of sabotage, attempted assassination and planned terrorist attacks” which were aimed against Castro, who wasn’t even Communist when he began his revolutionary path.

[39] For the words “anti-Castro terrorist activity” see pages here and here. For the words “Cuban dissident groups” see this page. For the words “escalating covert operations” see this page. In terms of other pages, they show that the US was worried about supposed Cuban “retaliation,” the CIA telling a Cuban contact that material would be provided to kill Castro and wanting a speech by Kennedy to serve as a signal to dissident elements in Cuba that the US government supported them.

[40] Durnham, Robert B. Operation Northwoods. False Flags, Covert Operations, and Propaganda. First Edition. Pages 143-5. This assassination attempts included trying to sabotage Castro’s speeches, poison Castro’s cigars (with the poison even tested on monkeys), using gambling contacts to try and assassinate Castro, and other wacky plans like a poison pen, by rifle and so on

[41] Blum, William. Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000. 39.

[42] Blum, Rogue State, 108-9.

[43] Ellston, Jon. Operation Mongoose. Psywar on Cuba: The Declassified History of U.S. Anti-Castro Propaganda (ed. Jon Ellston). New York: Ocean Press, 1999. 117. Commentary before a USIA and CIA document about this blimp on the following page.

[44] Hanley, Richard. The World Trembles. Celia Sanchez: The Legend of Cuba’s Revolutionary Heart. New York: Agora Publishing, 2005. 146.

[45] Robert McNamara admits this, writing on page 215 of the book, Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy that “covert operations almost always convey to those on the receiving end more hostile intent or capability than is meant or available. The 34-A operations against the North Vietnamese were just like Operation “MONGOOSE” against Cuba…We in Washington thought MONGOOSE was…merely “psychological salve for inaction.” The Cubans…believed it was a forerunner to invasion by the United States. This was a factor leading them to seek assistance from the Soviets, which in turn led to the Cuban missile crisis.”

[46] Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 94.

[47] Ibid, 94-5.

[48] Ibid, 95.

[49] Ibid, 96-7. As Gleijeses writes on page 97, at the same time, the “CIA mercenary army” which included Cuban exiles was “slaughtering Simbas,” with some saying it was “target practice for Fidel Castro.”

[50] Ibid, 98.

[51] Ibid, 95.

[52] Marcuse, Herbert. An Essay on Liberation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969. viii.

[53] Green, Faces of Latin America, 191.

[54] By 1969, the Williams family returned. Page 51 of the book by Freedom Archives (cited in next footnote) notes that Mabel said that Fidel Castro agreed that Rob could have his own program, called Radio Free Dixie, a weekly program which was rebroadcast, with Rob writing the script and editorials, Mabel collecting news items.

[54] Freedom Archives. “Transcription of Self-Respect, Self-Defense, and Self-Determination” (audio documentary). Robert and Mabel Williams Resource Guide. San Francisco, CA: Agape Foundation, 2005. 13, 30.

[55] Freedom Archives, Robert and Mabel Williams Resource Guide, 14.

[56] Ibid, 25.

[57] Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 85.

[58] Ibid, 85-6.

[59] Ibid, 87.

[60] Ibid. Later, as noted on that page, one of the FRELIMO leaders, Mondalone, admitted in July 1968 that Cuba helped them “materially and technically, sending us war material [sic] and training some of our [military] cadres.”

[61] Ibid, 87-8.

[62] Ibid, 90-1. Gleijeses argues that Raul Castro was focused more on creating a powerful military than “Cuba’s wars of national liberation” on page 91.

[63] Ibid, 91-2. Gleijeses argues that there is little evidence that the Chinese provided more assistance than the Soviets in these liberation struggles and that the Soviets did not know about this training until April 1965 when Che told the Soviet Ambassador at the time.

[64] Ibid, 98. Gleijeses also argues on pages 98 to 99 that the Cuban perception of what was happening in Africa was not completely accurate because of an “overstimulation of the revolutionary potential” in Africa in general, and Zaire in particular, and there were no Cuban intelligence service in Zaire until early 1965.

[65] Ibid, 99.

[66] Ibid, 100; Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 242.

[67] Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 102, 104.

[68] Ibid, 104.

[69] Ibid, 102.

[70] Ibid, 105.

[71] Ibid, 106, 119.

[72] Valdes, Nelson P. Revolutionary Solidarity in Angola. Cuba in the World (ed. Cole Blasier and Carmelo Mesa-Lago). Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1979. 95.

[73] Ibid, 96.

[74] Mittelman, James H. Underdevelopment and the Transition to Socialism: Mozambique and Tanzania. New York: Academic Press, 1981. 38. Around that time, a Cuban delegation headed by Armando Acosta went to Mozambique after its independence, but is unknown what was said as noted on page 98 of Cuba in the World by Valdes.

[75] Mittelman, Underdevelopment and the Transition to Socialism, 40 and Valdes, “Revolutionary Solidarity in Angola,” 95.

[76] “Hollywood, Si! Cuba, No!: U.S. Government Conspires to Keep Revolutionary Films from American People.” The Black Panther, June 10, 1972. Page 5.

[77] “Hollywood, Si! Cuba, No!: U.S. Government Conspires to Keep Revolutionary Films from American People.” The Black Panther, June 10, 1972. Page 5 and page 17.

[78] Newton, Huey. “Message of solidarity to our Cuban comrades.” The Black Panther, August 6, 1971. Pages 8-9. Letter sent on July 24, 1971.

[79] Blum, Rogue State, 109.

[80] Ibid, 111.

[81] For the 97.7% number: Suchlicki, Jaime. The Decade of Institutionalization. Cuba: From Columbus to Castro and Beyond (Fifth Edition). Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2002. 299; Cannon, Terence. Revolutionary Cuba. Crowell: 1981. 245; Hanke, Lewis and Rausch, Jane M. People and Issues in Latin American History: From Independence to the Present: Sources and Interpretations. Makus Wiener Publishers, 1999. 346; Deutsch, Karl W., Dominguez, Jorge I., and Heclo, Hugh. Comparative government: politics of industrialized and developing nations. Houghton Mifflin: 1981. 440; Suchlicki, Jaime. Historical Setting. Cuba: A Country Study (ed. Rex A. Hudson). Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 2001. 79; best information comes from this source: Dominguez, Jorge. Mass Political Participation. Cuba: Order and Revolution. London: Belknap Press, 1978. 301. More books can be found here, most of which I didn’t list because you can only read “snippets” of them.

[82] Mujal-Leon, Eusebio. Higher Education and the Institutionalized Regime. Cuban Communism 1959-1995 (Eighth Edition, ed. Irving Louis Horowitz). London: New Brunswick Publishers, 1995. 365; de la Barra, Ximena and Dello Buono, Richard A. “Challenging the Existing Legality.” Latin America after the Neoliberal Debacle: Another Region is Possible. Plymouth, UK: Roman & Littlefield, 2009. 128-9; Unknown author. Cuba Since 1959. Cuba: A Short History (ed. Leslie Bethell). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998 reprint. Originally published in 1993. 129; Diaz-Briquets, Sergio and Pérez-López, Jorge F. Law and Practice of Environmental Protection. Conquering Nature: The Environmental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000. 47-8; Gargarella, Roberto. Constitutionalism at the Mid-Twentieth Century and the Return of the “Social Question.” Latin American Constitutionalism, 1810-2010: The Engine Room of the Constitution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. 126.

[83] See Travieso-Diaz, Matias F. Foreign Investment Legislation. The Laws and Legal System of a Free-market Cuba: A Prospectus for Business. London: Quorum Books, 1997. 106; Venegas, Cristina. Introduction. Digital Dilemmas: The State, The Individual, and Digital Media in Cuba. Rutgers University Press: London, 2010. 27.

[84] Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 227.

[85] Ibid and “Mozambique is Our Home.” The Black Panther, October 13, 1971. Page 11. Printed in the section of The Black Panther called “Intercommunal News.” In The Black Panther it is noted that after Mozambicans tried to peacefully demonstrate and were massacred by Portuguese colonists on June 16, 1960, the Mozambican people “learned that revolutionary violence was the only avenue left. So, in 1962, FRELIMO was formed, and armed struggle began in 1964.”

[86] “Mozambique is Our Home.” The Black Panther, October 13, 1971. Page 11. Printed in the section of The Black Panther called “Intercommunal News.”

[87] “Mozambique is Our Home.” The Black Panther, October 13, 1971. Page 18. Printed in the section of The Black Panther called “Intercommunal News.” This article also notes that at the time, Portugal was “even attempting an appeasement program in the yet-to-be liberated portions of Mozambique…the Mozambican people are winning, just as the Vietnamese people are winning, just as all of the oppressed people of the world will someday win over the oppressive United States Empire.”

[88] Sadukai, Owusu. “People’s Survival Programs Thrive In Mozambique: Free Hospitals, Free Food, Free Schools for the Oppressed Black Community of Mozambique.” The Black Panther, April 7, 1972. Page 9-10 Reprinted from The American World Newspaper which was published by the Student Organization for Black Unity.

[89] Ibid, page 10. On page 11 it is noted that when a former Portuguese soldier was captured, instead of being tortured like the Portuguese do to FRELIMO fighters they capture, he was “given the standard FRELIMO treatment – intense political education. He was made aware of Portuguese exploits in Mozambique.”

[90] Ibid, page 11; Sadukai, Owusu. ““Tradition” Used to Oppress Africans.” The Black Panther, April 8, 1972. Page 8. Reprinted from The American World Newspaper which was published by the Student Organization for Black Unity. It is important to note, as pointed out in page 10 of Sadukai’s article, that “the first hospitals (and the only ones in those areas) came with the FRELIMO forces. In the area was visited, a few Italian doctors had come in and trained a corps of FRELIMO medical officers who in turn tutored local people in basic bio-medical practices such as administering shots and the like.”

[91] Sadukai, Owusu. ““Tradition” Used to Oppress Africans.” The Black Panther, April 8, 1972. Page 9, 11. Reprinted from The American World Newspaper which was published by the Student Organization for Black Unity.

[92] “Where Bombs are Common: Afro-American Brother Endures Portuguese Attack with FRELIMO Guerrillas.” The Black Panther, April 15, 1972. Page 9, 15. Reprinted from The American World Newspaper which was published by the Student Organization for Black Unity.

[93] Ibid, 16-7.

[94] Dorsch, Hauke. Trans-Atlantic Educational Crossroads: Experiences of Mozambican Students in Cuba. Transatlantic Caribbean: Dialogues of People, Practices, Ideas (ed. Ingrid Kummels, Claudia Rauhut, Stefan Rinke, and Birte Timm). Transcript Verlag (also by Columbia University Press), 2014. 85.

[95] Mittelman, Underdevelopment and the Transition to Socialism, 105, 117.

[96] Ibid, 117.

[97] Ibid, 118.

[98] “U.S. Empire’s Ethiopian Estate.” The Black Panther, Feb. 6, 1971, pages 12-3.

[99] Schoultz, Lars. Reconciliation and Estrangement: The Carter Years. That Infernal Little Cuban Republic: The United States and the Cuban Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. 313. Human Rights Watch balked, calling the government “dictatorial” in nature, of course.

[100] Keller, Edmond J. Revolutionary Ethiopia: From Empire to People’s Republic (First Midland Books Edition). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991. 268. Clearly an anti-communist, but something can be gleaned from the book, something.

[101] Keller, Revolutionary Ethiopia, 201, 223, 231.

[102] Weldemichael, Awet T. Third World Colonialism and Strategies of Liberation: Eritrea and East Timor Compared. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 161.

[103] Ibid, 162-3.

[104] Ibid, 155.

[105] Crummey, Donald. Transformations: State, Land, and Society in Twentieth-Century Ethiopia. Land and Kingdom in the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia: From the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Century. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000. 251.

[106] Weldemichael, Third World Colonialism and Strategies of Liberation, 196.

[107] This article also notes the following: “the history of Cuba’s large medical workforce begins in 1959. At the start of Fidel Castro’s revolution most of its doctors fled to the US. By necessity it had to train a large number of its own doctors. Since then the Government has focused on developing and maintaining a first-class universal healthcare system, actively encouraging its youth to pursue training in the health sciences and putting no restrictions on the number of doctors it trains. As a consequence, Cuba now has the highest number of doctors per capita in the world: in 2005 it had one doctor for every 159 people.”

[108] “Gulf Oil – From Atlanta to Angola.” Intercommunal News, June 5, 1971. page 13. The Intercommunal News was printed inside of The Black Panther. This article also says the following: “the same ruling circle that would stifle the revolutionary movements in Angola would do so here in its attempt to maintain and control of all the communities of the world. We must unite as oppressed people with the revolutionary forces in our world communities in order to transform this Empire into a new world, free of dominion and exploitation of man by man.” In a later article, “the Tanzaniation of Tanzania” in The Black Panther on June 26, 1971 (page 16), they imply that movements in Angola other than the MPLA are not revolutionary ones: “Tanzania has opened her doors in militant solidarity to revolutionary and progressive people throughout the world, and headquarters many African revolutionary organizations, such as MPLA…FRELIMO…[and] SWAPO…all located in Tanzania’s capital city of Dar Es Salaam…because of Nyerere’s strong and effective leadership…the U.S. Empire and its lackey, Great Britain, have been unable to establish any economic domination or control over Tanzania.”

[109] Valdes, “Revolutionary Solidarity in Angola,” 97.

[110] Ibid, 98. The text says Nixon but it is wrong as he was NOT in office at the time, having resigned in 1974.

[111] Ibid, 98-9.

[112] Ibid, 100-1.

[113] Ibid, 101-3; Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 277.

[114] Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 277.

[115] Ibid, 278.

[116] Valdes, “Revolutionary Solidarity in Angola,” 105-6.

[117] Ibid, 105.

[118] Ibid, 107.

[119] Ibid, 108.

[120] Ibid, 109-12.

[121] Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 279, 299.

[122] Valdes “Revolutionary Solidarity in Angola,” 113.

[123] Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 302, 339.

[124] Keller, Revolutionary Ethiopia, 268.

[125] Green, Faces of Latin America, 33; Johnson, Chalmers. Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010. 57.

[126] CIA, 1982: “Key Judgments“; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. I say 1982 because of the tone of the document overall implying it was written that year. The number of Cuban military personnel is strangely enough reported by Bob Woodward and numerous other sources. This document is important because it is Interagency Intelligence Memo requested by the Policy Planning Staff and Assistant Secretaries for Inter-American and African Affairs of the US State Department. This Memo was prepared under the “auspices of the National Intelligence Officer for Africa” with contributions from the CIA, DIA, and State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, along with coordination with the CIA, State Department, NSA, intelligence organizations of the military, DIA, and numerous other government bodies. This document also said the following: “most Cuban advisers and troops are rotated after a two-year tour…the Soviets supply virtually all the equipment, ammunition, and petroleum used by the Cubans.” It also says that Castro “probably agrees with Moscow that Cuban troops: [1] support pro-Soviet regimes in Ethiopia and South Yemen [2] Counter US influence in the region, particularly in Somalia [3] Provide a base for the potential development of Cuban forces to other areas in the region. Furthermore, the USSR does not appear to have any pressing financial or military reasons to favor the reduction of Cuban forces…Moscow may see the Cuban troops as a means of furthering its aims and exerting psychological leverage on the Mengistu regime.”

[127] Weber, Faking It, 33.

[128] Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 317.

[129] Ibid, 317, 340.

[130] CIA, December 1986: “Cuba: Training Third World Guerrillas;” Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. This document also declares that “Castro’s longtime strategy for promoting and supporting armed revolution in the Third World remains virtually undisturbed…this extensive infrastructure [of Cuba’s government and affiliated organizations] has as its principal long-term goal the systematic destabilization of governments targeted for overthrow by Havana” with the last part of destabilization of governments sounding more like what the CIA DOES than what Cuba ever did. The document also says that Cuba “funded and offered materiel assistance to regional leftist organizations in an effort to unify splintered radical groups” and that “the Cuban Communist Party’s 14-member Politburo theoretically functions as the chief decision-making and oversight body for Havana’s tightly controlled guerrilla support program” but that in practice “specific components of the larger Central Committee” are responsible for this effort, for “providing cohesion and direction to Cuba’s “liberation” programs in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

[131] Johnson, Chalmers. Blowblack: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004. 28.

[132] CIA, 1985: Title unknown; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. While the title is unknown the sections cited are the following “Negotiations of President Reagan” and “Draft Proposed Language Rejecting a False Political Solution.”

[133] CIA, 1966: “Cuba’s Sugar Crop Failure Poses Major Problems”; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. While I didn’t print out the page that had the data, using inference it seems this document was created in 1966. This document also said that “Cuba’s sugar is now harvested and the results pose a rather bleak outlook for the island…the fundamental reason for the poor harvest was bad weather…there are many other factors…related to the nature of the Castro regime…the poor sugar harvest will have serious repercussions on the entire Cuban economy…most of the [sugar] crop goes to the Soviet bloc, but Cuba also sells substantial amounts of sugar in the Free World.

[134] CIA, 1980s: Title unknown; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD.  I do know the unique number of this document, which is CIA-RDP88T00768R000300290001-2. I say 1980s because I do not know the specific year and the document has a tone that seems like it was written AFTER the 1970s had ended. This document also says that “since 1975, construction and upgrading of military facilities have been stressed.”

[135] First document: CIA, November 7, 1986: Title unknown; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. All that I have to reference this document is its unique number, which is CIA-RDP97-0077R00100640001-2. Second document: CIA, July 18, 1986: “Cuba: Growing Foreign Financing Problems.” Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. While this not the title of the document, it is the title of the section that I quote from. The first 1986 document said that “President Castro appears to have little choice but to eventually tighten economic austerity…Havana may try to negotiate its July rescheduling agreement with the Paris Club in hopes of reversing the commercial creditors’ decision not to commit any new funding…Cuban policymakers appear to be planning spending cuts, probably under the assumption of little immediate hard currency relief…increased austerity…is likely to raise the level of domestic dissatisfaction already exhibited in escalating antisocial activity.” The second 1986 document says that “Havana has…unilaterally suspended interest payments on both its official and commercial debt coming due in early July” and that “start-up delays, planning and distribution problems, agricultural disasters, and the continued impact of the US trade embargo also were cited by Cuban officials as major factors retarding the growth of hard currency exports last year.”

[136] CIA, August 22, 1986: Title unknown; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. All that I have to reference this document is its unique number, which is CIA-RDP88-00798R000400130005-1. CIA, August 29, 1986: Title unknown; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. All that I have to reference this document is its unique number, which is CIA-RDP88-00798R000400140005-0.

[137] CIA, 1988: Title unknown; Electronic Reading Room; CREST: 25-Year Program Archive; CREST; National Archives at College Park, MD. All that I have to reference this document is its unique number: CIA-RDP88T00768R000200170001-6. A caption of one picture mentions that the Soviet Embassy Complex was “inaugurated last year,” that year being 1987. That means the document had to be been created in 1988. This document also said that “Castro continued to try to justify his requests to Moscow for increased aid by reminding the Soviets of his usefulness to them in the Third World…Castro has had no new “victories” in the Third World to herald in recent years, however, and in our judgment, the Cuba leader’s ability to deflect Moscow’s pressures is at its lowest point since 1967.”

[138] Blum, Rogue State, 109-10; Johnson, Blowblack, 119.

[139] Ignatius, David. “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups.” The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext): c01. Sep 22 1991.ProQuest. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. Ignatius was then foreign editor of the Washington Post. One article, I found when researching, which focuses on the Solidarity Center, part of NED, claimed that this article was in the New York Times but it turns out that that wasn’t correct. Still, the article did seem to be otherwise comprehensive in its criticism. Even Melvin Goodman, the former CIA analyst calls Ignatius an apologist for the CIA, especially for its crimes in recent years (see here and here).

[140] Nye, Joseph. “Letters.” Foreign Policy. 161 (2007): 4, 10, 12-5. ProQuest. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

[141] See documents here, here, here, here, and here.

[142] See documents here, here, here, and here. Also see these documents on US State Department funding of NED here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

[143] Even the former UN Special Rapporteur on occupied Palestine (basically) Human Rights, Richard Falk, who has often written about Israel and Palestine, wrote in a 2012 opinion piece the following: “…Washington shrieks of wounded innocence, as if Cairo had no grounds whatsoever for concern, are either the memory lapses of a senile bureaucracy or totally disingenuous. In the past it has been well documented that IRI and DNI were active in promoting the destabilisation of foreign governments that were deemed to be hostile to the US foreign policy agenda. The Reagan presidency made no secret of its commitment to lend all means of support to political movements dedicated to the overthrow of left-leaning governments in Latin America and Asia.” This is important to note as the US thinks that other countries “forget” its past efforts of destabilization.

[144] Johnson, Blowblack, 87.

[145] Blum, Rogue State, 80.

[146] Ibid, 110-1, 197.

[147] de la Barra, Ximena and Dello Buono, Richard A. “Fragilities of Representative Democracy in the Washington Consensus Era.” Latin America after the Neoliberal Debacle: Another Region is Possible. Plymouth, UK: Roman & Littlefield, 2009. 21.

[148] Goodman, National Insecurity, 264.

[149] Ibid, 377.

[150] Green, Faces of Latin America, 153, 157, 165. On page 157, Green notes that “one writer noted that although male Communist Party militants may offer to do the washing, they insist that their wives hang it out to dry so that their neighbours won’t find out!”

[151] Johnson, Dismantling the Empire, 14; Blum, Rogue State, 140-1.

[152] Weber, Faking It, 1, 4, 7, 35.

[153] Green, Faces of Latin America, 135, 145-6, 148.

[154] Blum, Rogue State, 169.