“Confused and capricious”: U$ imperialists re-calibrate destabilization of Syria?

As I said on Twitter, this map shows the Syrian government (“Assad regime”) holding “onto much of Syria except for the Kurds in the east, Syrian rebels (“opposition”) in the North along with “Turkish and revel [sic] forces” (referring to the “Free” Syrian Army) and scattered Daesh (“Islamic State”) remnants.” There are other maps, I’ve seen, like one shown by BBC News, but they show the same thing. This map probably simplifies events in Syria a bit too much, tying into existing imperial propaganda it does give one a general idea of what is happening.
This article was reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Some changes have been made, but they are only in light of recent events. In light of some comments on Twitter, some (like @commieposting) have criticized how I describe the Kurds in this post, saying I should name the specific Kurdish groups which the U$ backed, previously. That is a valid point, and as such, I have updated the post to specifically name those groups.

For days now, the bourgeois media has been buzzing about possible withdrawal of all U$ troops from Syria, which are said to number 2,000 people, due to the official dictate from the orange menace on December 19th, as noted by Amber B. on this very blog in a recent post. The orange menace’s dictate came in his free-wielding Twitter declarations that Daesh was “defeated” in Syria (with the U$ “victorious”), that he made a concession to stay in Syria while claiming that the U$ is doing the work of Russia, Iran, Syria & others” who are the “local enemy” of Daesh (who are “not happy about the U.S. leaving”), while stating the U$ should not be the “the Policeman of the Middle East,” all of which appeals to his dedicated base of rabid nationalists even if much of this is filled with lies by omission and mis-truths. This was clear from White nationalist Stephen Miller (one of the advisors to the orange menace), declaring to CNN hosts, “are we supposed to stay in Syria for generation after generation, spilling American blood to fight the enemies of all those countries? ISIS has been defeated…if ISIS wants to retrench and regrow and reorganize, it’s going to be up to those countries to defeat their enemy” while others said U$ national interest is served by redeployment of troops from Syria elsewhere. [1] More worrisome were the tweets from the Chief Spokesperson of the Pentagon, Dana W. White, who declared that the U$ military campaign, officially said to be against Daesh but really meant to destabilize Syria, “is not over” and that “we have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from #Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign…We will continue working with our partners and allies to defeat ISIS wherever it operates,” leaving the door open to further imperialist meddling. With this, the question remains: are U$ imperialists re-calibrating their methods for destabilizing Syria? Regardless of the answer to that question, what do these new developments mean for the world at-large, especially the people of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the panoply of other Middle Eastern countries, many of which have a U$ presence?

As Amber B. put it in the aforementioned post, the dictate by the orange menace “caused an uproar among legislators and the brass,” who were apparently caught off-guard by this announcement. Not only were neo-cons in Washington, like Eli Lake, Lindsay Graham (who wants to somehow change the mind of the orange menace), Max Boot, and Marco Rubio, pushing for further U$ involvement, but so were so-called “experts,” ravenous liberals like Killary, Medhi Hasan, Victoria Nuland (of Ukraine overthrow fame), Chris Coons, and Bob Menendez, libertarians like “ironic” Justin Raimondo or Maj. Danny Sjursen, who declared that “Assad is undoubtedly a monster,” and varied other politicians, all of whom are utter imperialists. Apart from the editors of the National Review declaring that U$ intervention in Syria should continue because the U$ has gained “valuable territorial leverage” and there is “work left to be done” in order to continue destabilization of Syria, even as they admit that Russia’s intervention in Syria has “been an unmitigated success,” Brian Kilmeade of Fox News angrily attacked the action by the orange menace. [2] At the same time, warmongers like Carl Bildt complained about their voices being overruled/ignored, Ian Bremmer cried like a wolf struck with an arrow, howling in pain, saying that “Assad has won…Obama’s gone, Assad is still there. It is embarrassing to admit that Assad has won,” then continuing with his typical imperialist rhetoric. Even NGOs like Refugees International and Mercy Corps seemed to support continued U$ imperial presence in Syria.

Not surprisingly, there has been a number of ill-informed takes by “good, decent liberals“: that the withdrawal is a “corrupt Russian plot” (despite the fact that another meeting between the orange menace and Putin likely will not happen), that “mass murderers” are emboldened, that the withdrawal is a “give-away to Russia in Syria” or part of an “alliance with Putin,” somehow shows that Trump is a “puppet” of Russia, that there is no clear plan or that the orange menace cares about his supposed investments in Russia and Turkey. While the last one could have some credence, the orange menace is not only out for himself, but represents the face of U$ imperialism, so, these reasons are reductive and are Russophobic approaches to what is happening in the world, tying into media narratives that promote this perspective. [3] You will never see liberals making the valid point Marx made to the International Workingman’s Association in London, that “…no new colonies, no emigration, no opening of markets, no free trade,” or any “improvement of machinery…appliance of science to production…[or] contrivances of communication,” will do away with the miseries of the working class (which he called the “industrious masses”). The point about imperialism, which is implied in this statement is what I refer to here, is that it will not do away with the working class’s troubles. The reason liberals or progressives will not make this point is that they float underdeveloped theories like “intersectionality” which does not pose class as a central component of oppression, leading to a distorted view of the world. In the process of criticizing such theories, one can avoid the petty-bourgeois sloppiness Lenin criticized in 1918, when criticizing left-communists, adding that is important for Marxists to “give a coherent and complete exposition of the principles underlying one’s views and tactics,” a process which is championed and done on a regular basis on sites such as this one.

This undoubtedly raises the question of whether this dictate “will survive the row it has unleashed.” The question of whether this dictate will survive is also questioned by the fact that varied administration officials have declared in the past year that U$ troops will remain in Syria (specifically to counter Iran), even as Rand Paul and Mike Lee support the decision by the orange menace, as does Ron Paul, who praised the decision, telling the orange menace not to “buckle” under pressure. [4] As Amber B. put it, this decision serves “as further evidence for a profoundly confused and capricious imperialist mandate.” But that does not mean we should buy into the idea that the U$ imperialists are bumbling fools like Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes, as left-journalist of Pierre Omidyar’s plaything (The Intercept) Jeremy Scahill declared at one time. It is worth noting that even oft-writing revisionist Stephen Gowans, the person who thinks that Syria is a “non-Marxist” socialist state, declared that the “announced withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the drawdown of US occupation forces in Afghanistan…more likely reflect the adoption of new means of achieving longstanding US foreign policy goals” with a policy “based on shifting the burden of maintaining the US empire increasingly to allies and private soldiers bankrolled by oil monarchies,” a clearly valid point.

As such, to recall what Amber B. said, we should remember Lenin, recognizing that “in the absence of an anti-war movement, we must build the conditions for turning imperialist war into revolutionary civil war.” This refers directly, to what Lenin wrote in 1915: that a “revolutionary struggle against the war” is empty and meaningless unless it means “revolutionary action against one’s own government even in wartime.” What does this mean? Lenin explains this means not only desiring the defeat of one’s government, but “facilitating such a defeat,” with the conversion of an imperialist war into a civil war developing out of “a number of diverse phenomena, aspects, features, characteristics and consequences of the imperialist war.” Ultimately that would allow the “proletariat to take advantage of the difficulties experienced by its government and its bourgeoisie in order to overthrow them,” but that cannot happen “without desiring the defeat of one’s own government and without contributing to that defeat.” Currently, it would be absurd to say the U$ or any Western country is on the verge of revolution, as many seem to be caught in the thick imperialist and capitalist fog of deception.

Having said all of this, it is worth noting some positive developments: that the major U$ operation in Syria (officially against Daesh) planned before the announced withdrawal will be canceled, that the U$ is planning to close the “Al-Tanf base near the Syrian border with Jordan,” and that John Bolton’s decision to expand the U$ goals in Syria to force Iranian forces to “eventually withdraw” was a failure, another defeat for the hardened imperialist. [5] Even so, the Pentagon is reportedly negotiating to “keep U.S. air power in the fight over Syria.” This means, as should be evident, imperialism, like capitalism, is very adaptable, with increasing “coordination between the monopoly capital and the state within core nations,” with monopoly capitalism involving exporting capital in order to “seek additional surplus value,” and the key feature of such imperialism involving “exporting class struggle and civil war to the peripheral regions.” The latter is the case not only in Syria, but manifests itself in the ongoing deadly armed conflicts in Mexico (drug war since 2006), Iraq (since at least 2003), Afghanistan (since 1978), and Yemen (since 2011). It also includes the smaller ongoing armed conflicts across much of eastern, central, and northern Africa, the Mideast, central Asia, East Asia, along with others scattered in parts of Europe and Latin America.

More possible than not, this call for a withdrawal is part of a re-orientation of U$ policy with Turkey tasked with balkanization of Syria, even as the Chinese revisionists don’t see this as a big deal. This handing of the baton to Turkey is evidenced by the fact that on Tuesday, the U$ State Department approved a sale of a $3.5 billion Patriot missile system, including 140 missiles and related equipment, to Turkey which recently decided not to pursue buying S-400 missiles  from Russia. [6] Additionally, on December 4th, two top State Department officials met with the Turks, where they discussed “promotion of stability and security in Syria.” Some, like cordeliers on Twitter, have further argued that that this withdrawal will “provide useful cover for a NATO proxy war managed by Turkey,” while headchoppers of Daesh are rolled into “rebel” militias, and a transition to a new phase of U$ proxy wars in the Mideast. It is even possible that the Zionists will have a role in this new strategy as Netanyahu pledged, in response to the decision of the orange menace, that “we will safeguard the security of Israel and protect ourselves from this arena” and that AIPAC declared that Iran and Hezbollah be “prevented from exploiting this development to further destabilize the region and threaten our allies,” with steps by the U$ to “counter the mounting aggression of Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah.”

There is also an open question of whether Russia will be part of the partition of Syria considering they are one of the three “self-appointed guarantors of the Syrian peace process,” apart from Turkey and Iran, with Russia recently further downscaling its military presence by cutting military flights within Syria from more than hundred per day to fewer than four every week! [7] All three are part of a committee “due to write a new constitution for the country,” which could pave the “pave the way for UN-supervised elections and a possible peace process that would encourage millions of refugees to return to their homeland.” While this could have some positive results, it doesn’t seem right for these countries to re-write a constitution which should be solely written and drafted by the Syrian people! Even so, the Syrian government seems willing to accept the process, which agreed with the Syrian opposition on members which represent “civil society.” Considering the principle established by Marx that “existence and thereby the collisions…between these classes are in turn conditioned by the degree of development of their economic position, by the mode of their production and of their exchange determined by it,” it raises the question: who will these civil society members represent?

There was also a theory posed by a recent AP article: that the orange menace decided to withdrawal from Syria based on a telephone call with Erdogan on December 14th. [8] This supposes that everyone of the orange menace’s advisers agreed with Erdogan’s assessment of Daesh, then the orange menace magically agreed to pull out troops. Taking this at face value, Moon of Alabama says that the orange menace did not not “capitulate” to Erdogan but “was finally given a chance” to withdrawal and “grabbed the opportunity”which Erdogan was not ready for, with other articles acting like the orange menace achieved his objective of withdrawal he has wanted since he was inaugurated. [9] They say that Erdogan was caught off guard because while Turkey has planned to “occupy a 10 mile deep strip along the Syrian-Turkish border,” 50,000 to 100,000 troops would be needed to occupy “all of east Syria northward of the Euphrates” which would be opposed by armed Kurds (those within “Rojava”) and a hostile Arab population. While this is convincing, considering Turkey recently said they would delay their military offensive into Syria’s territory, I have a sense something more is going on. This is because it is clear now that the proposed U$ withdrawal from Syria is a cover for further Turkish involvement in Syria, with the Turks now becoming the mercenaries of empire, which some are annoyed with. On November 22, Middle East Monitor reported that the Emirati and Saudi military forces arrived in Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria (“Rojava”), were stationed with U$ forces, supporting their “tasks with huge military enforcements as well as heavy and light weapons,”while also meeting with Kurdish officials. This brings us, logically, to the Kurdish question in Syria.

We know that generally, these Kurds (part of “Rojava”) thought that the U$ would champion their cause, failing to understand that the U$ establishment acts “purely in its own interests.” Amber B., in the aforementioned article linked at the beginning of this piece put it well: that while there is some truth in the fact that U$ withdrawal is “an effective abandonment of the progressive Kurdish forces,” the Kurdish people can only resolve their problems on their own, and as such,  we should condemn those, like Debbie Bookchin (daughter of noted anarchist Murray Bookchin), a branch of the Democratic “Socialists”of America (actually social democrats), self-declared anarchist Noam Chomsky who advocates for U$ presence to “deter an attack on the Kurdish areas,” and the NYC Socialist Rifle Association, to name a few, who have “substituted genuine internationalism for mindless propaganda work for competing imperialist powers.” As such, those who criticize these Kurds in “Rojava,” like the YPG,  SDF, and PYD, for their alliance with U$ imperialists are not stooges of Erdogan as some have dumbly claimed. This is due to the fact there are questions about how “revolutionary” or “progressive” these vaulted Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are since the SDF said they wanted “to be part of America,” possibly clearing the way for Turkey’s occupation. The Emergency Committee for “Rojava” goes even further in their pro-imperialist orientation, calling the withdrawal of U$ troops a  “betrayal” and calling for military, economic, and political assistance, thinking that the U$ imperialists are somehow humanitarian saviors! Of course, those in “Rojava” are no Marxists, as they do not hold, as Eleanor Marx (Karl and Jenny Marx’s daughter) and Edward Aveling that the world is restless and that the “death of the capitalistic method of production” means, simply, “resolution of society into simpler forms…a new and better order of things,” since the current society is “morally bankrupt.”

Maybe they even hold the latter about society, with social contract seeming democratic with federalist system including legislative, executive, and judicial branches, professed equality in “persons and communities,” a right to live in a healthy environment and express certain rights (“ethnic, cultural, linguistic and gender”), freedom of speech except that which can be restricted, with a policy of interference and admitting their integral nature to Syria, which met some  “fundamental requirements of Western international backers opposing the Syrian regime,” as Chatham House declared in 2016. While there are some other rights given, like equality in gender, worship, assembly,  political participation, seek political asylum, it also endorses private property: “everyone has the right to the use and enjoyment of his private property” because there is “no one shall be deprived of his property except upon payment of just compensation, for reasons of public utility or social interest, and in the cases and according to the forms established by law.” While the economy of “Rojava” seems social democratic in “directed at providing general welfare and in particular granting funding to science and technology,” aimed at “guaranteeing the daily needs of people and to ensure a dignified life,” with monopoly prohibited, along with “labor rights and sustainable development…guaranteed,” but does not including a proposal for a planned economy. This is coupled with no prohibition of “extractive processes, management, licensing and other contractual agreements related to such [natural] resources” by corporate entities. As such, it raises the question how progressive “Rojava” (composed of three regions: Jazira, Euphrates, and Afrin) is, after all, since the levers of power seems to be in control by the PYD (also noted by a Reuters article in 2017 which noted that there was no voting in Arab-majority areas in the region) even though the New York Times declared, in 2015, there was apparently no hierarchy.

Articles in bourgeois media have added that France, Germany, and the UK still are openly siding with these Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD), recently engaged in bloody (and horrible) battles, who control “roughly one quarter of Syria,” an area which is “rich in farmland, oil and water” (which BBC News admitted allowed the U$ to “indirectly” control “half of Syria’s strategic resources – including many oil fields and dams, and much of its most fertile agricultural land”), a possibly strong “bargaining chip” in negotiations with  the Syrian government. [10] They also note that some Kurdish leaders are admitting that “relying on the Americans is always a failed experience, at the very least for Kurds,” and others saying, without recognizing the fact the West has allowed “Rojava” (which has only existed since January 2014) to exist, “the whole world is taking the view that the Kurdish cause can be bought and sold.” This all feeds into sob stories, like those fed to people like Richard Engels of NBC News, that U$ troops in Syria (officially special forces) are “distraught, upset, morally disturbed by having to tell their kurdish allies in Syria that…their promises of defense won’t be kept,” acting like we should feel sorry for imperialists.

When it comes to the Kurds, especially YPG/SDF/PYD, it is worthwhile to recall a number of posts I made on the subject. Most of the posts I have written on the Kurds in the past year have focused on the Kurds in Northern Iraq and the defeat of their ill-thought referendum, while also highlighting how the creation of an ethno-state called “Kurdistan,” spanning northern Iraq and eastern Syria, along with parts of Turkey and Iran, would “assist Zionist expansionism, Saudi expansionism, and Western imperialism in dividing up the region,” while also not beneficial for anyone in the Mideast. In the last article linked when I said that the Kurds were an ethnicity, not a nation, I was countering the notions that such an ethno-state was workable, even as I am not sure I agree with my conclusions at the time that Kurds should just work within existing political systems in Syria and Iraq. So, in some ways, my views are changing, but I still remain a critic of the current trend toward Kurdish nationalism, while recognizing what others say about self-determination. At the present, the question of creating a state named “Kurdistan” is mute as the Kurds are effectively divided into two parts: those in “Rojava” (eastern Syria) like YPG/SDF/PYD, and those in Northern Iraq under the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) which exists as a semi-autonomous area within Iraq. It also worth noting that the Syrian Communist Party recently denounced the “occupation of the US and Turkey,” along with an “emphasis on solidarity with the resistance of Afrin to the Turkish occupation. They also, last month, at a meeting of communist and workers parties in Greece, that

…fundamental contradictions of global imperialism, identified by Leninism, increasingly rage [including]…contradiction between work and capital, whose catastrophic effects are evident not only in the capitalist states of the parties…The situation of a large number of hard-working people in capitalist centers and in many ways falls short of what they had been in the first half of the twentieth century…The contradiction between imperialist capitalist centers and capitalist states [is clear]…The most blatant examples of such a policy of…imperialist aggression are found in the case of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria, all of which have been subjected to direct military or imperialist aggression or through the agents of imperialism with the open support of the imperialist countries…The contradiction between the imperialist centers, that is, the contradiction between the financial monopolies and the governments they represent in order to distribute the riches of the total imperialist plunder of the world…All the progressives in the world are aware of the disastrous consequences of a comprehensive and destructive war as they work against the threat of multiple forms of war…To remove the danger of war, imperialism must be dropped…The changes in the international arena also indicate an increase in the role of national liberation movements as a component of the global revolutionary process. National resistances, which are objectively part of the national liberation movements, regardless of the ideology prevailing in this or that faction, have dealt a serious blow to the expansionist tendency of imperialism and its agents…This is what Syria is doing in its courageous response to the ferocious attack by the Atlantic imperialism and its agents and the continuing aggression of Zionist Israel…Syrian communists engaged in the major battle to defend their homeland, along with other national forces…At present, our party believes that the most important goal facing our people is to liberate its territory under the yoke of imperialist occupation, as well as to strenuously oppose the projects that are embroiled in imperialist circles and aimed at dividing Syria…The Syrian Communist Party is characterized by linking the economic and social struggle with the general political struggle. Our Syrian Communist Party is fighting for a complete break with liberal economic trends in defense of national production and the interests of the struggling masses…The circumstances of the imperialist onslaught and the intensification of the contradictions of imperialism require the intensification of the global communist and labor movement and the strengthening of coordination between their factions in order to effectively confront imperialism and then overthrow it. These circumstances also indicate the need to form a united global front between the revolutionary labor movement and national liberation movements.

There is also a revisionist counterpart as well, but recent statements of it are hard to find.

For the purposes of this post, I refer back to the articles I wrote last year on the topic, apart from one where I countered deluded reddit critics or other scattered mentions in varied other articles I wrote in 2016 and 2017. While opposing Turkish invasion of Syria, I argued that Turks and certain Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are assisting U$ imperialist objectives, adding that “Rojava” itself is an illegal entity, questioned when self-determination can be used (an argument I am not sure I completely agree with now), and that there are by Western standards, two types of Kurds: the “good” ones that ally with the West (YPG/SDF/PYD) and the “bad” ones that ally with the Syrian government. I also added that “the Syrian government (and people) will continue to be in a precarious situation until the end of the conflict and withdrawal of Western imperialism from the region. The best we can do is pledge solidarity with those fighting the mercenaries of imperial conquest, not only Daesh but the “rebel” forces and “good” Kurds [YPG/SDF/PYD], and all of those standing against global capitalism, even with our respective critiques,” which is still a valid position. Once again, while dated, I would say my two-part series on “Rojava” for Dissident Voice, while without its problems, still is relatively sound in pointing out that such a nation is an illegal entity and how Western imperialism has made its existence possible, making both articles still relevant.

There is no doubt that the Turkish government is strongly anti-Kurd to the point of being genocidal, despite the fact that those who run “Rojava” declared that “we have always wanted to develop a relationship of friendship and neighborliness with Turkey,” but that does not mean U$ presence will save them. Besides, the Syrian government still welcomes the Kurds despite their (specifically the YPG/SDF/PYD) past alliance with the U$ and other Western countries, so I could easily envision a Syrian-Kurdish alliance against the encroaching Turks. One recent article poignantly added that “up to now the Kurds had been prepared to rely on any foreign country, including Israel, to provide them with independence, rather than remaining loyal to Syria,” but saying at at the same time that “the Syrian Army will definitely collaborate with the Kurds to quash ISIS…between two fires on each side of the Euphrates,” adding that “the Kurds are weaker than ever and may well have lost the privileged position they had under US protection,”confirming that when faced with U$ interests, “all partnerships and alliances are dispensable.” Some imperialists, and deluded leftists, will easily, as the Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are killed by Turkish bombs (which are supplied by the U$), declare “remember the Kurds!” just like imperialists cried about “remember the Maine!” after the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine before the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Texans after the surrender of the Alamo (“remember the Alamo!”) or U$ soldiers, recalling how British cavalry at the 1778 battle in Camden had attacked surrendering U$ soldiers during the Revolutionary War, cried  “remember Buford!” as they shot down surrendering Redcoats in later battles.

To take from the same Moon of Alabama article I mentioned earlier, while the Turkish army could engage in a large occupation of northeast Syria, it would “cost a lot of casualties and financial resources,” with those writers arguing they would only invade if Russia and Syria “fail to get the Kurds under control.” The same article, which makes the mistake of calling the Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) “anarcho-Marxist,” does note that Kurdish leaders of “Rojava” are currently making the same demands Damascus previously rejected before Turkey destroyed Afrin, while also saying that the paltry sum of British and French forces numbering in the thousands, along with those contributed by other members of the coalition of African, European, Middle Eastern, and American countries reportedly “fighting Daesh,” will likely not stay in Syria without U$ support. However, other articles posited that “a continued presence of allied troops working with local Syrians might compel the U.S. to contribute air” which is a distinct possibility. [11]

On a related note, there has been another development: the departure of Jim Mattis (effective February 28, January 1, 2019), the head of the Pentagon, who advocated for a more “muscular U.S. role in the Mideast,” who wanted continued U$ presence in Syria and Afghanistan, to be replaced by Patrick Shaheen, who favored the space force proposed by the orange menace and has ties to the arms trade between Turkey and the U$, rather than other candidates for the job. [12] For similar reasons, Brett McGerk, the special presidential envoy on the anti-Daesh coalition, recently quit (resignation effective at the end of the year), reportedly writing in an email to his staff that the orange menace’s decision was a “shock” which left “our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered…I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity.” One imperial correspondent, Jonathan Marcus of BBC News, who called Mattis “much respected,” feared an “unplanned” withdrawal from Syria, and talked about a changing world with rising China (fitting with the new “Africa strategy” unveiled by John Bolton) and “resurgent” Russia, growled that “President Trump seems to be charting his own erratic course through an ocean of reefs, rocks and monsters without any strategic map to guide him.” Interestingly, the same article had a map that showed strong Syrian government control up to the Euphrates, coupled with strong Kurdish control (YPG/SDF/PYD) in eastern part (east of the Euphrates), Syrian rebels and “Jihadist forces” near border with Turkey, as is Turkish military and Turkish-backed rebels, Syrian rebels in the South, and some scattered Daesh pockets, which made his argument a joke. It also should be no surprise that liberal imperialists literally defended Mattis, an “ingrained imperialist” who changed the Pentagon’s mission, was fired by Obama for being too hawkish toward Iran, and opposes the withdrawal of half of the U$ troop presence from Afghanistan (a moderate measure), just as they held worthless rallies to “defend” Robert Mueller earlier this year.

Of course, liberals were baffled by Mattis’s resignation, calling him either a coward, feeling sad about a “loss” of imperial prestige, or pathetically claiming that Putin “applauded” when U$ said they were leaving Syria (despite the fact that he cast doubt on the planned withdrawal). If what is said by the bourgeois media is true, it almost seems that Mattis, a high-ranking officer, used his resignation (which he wrote in September, as the story goes) almost as a form of blackmail to prevent the orange menace from calling for a withdrawal from Syria. If so, that is a frightening use of military power over civilian power, which should be undoubtedly criticized.

Even saying all this, it will be a quandary that Mattis is the one whom will approve the plan for the withdrawal of U$ troops, and once that happens “U.S. troops will begin leaving Syria with the expectation that they will all be out 30 days later.” [13] As such, the U$ troops would be no longer assisting a “Kurdish-led force that now numbers more than 50,000 and is about 40 percent Arab,” with reportedly only 20% through the U$-led “training process.” The Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD), in this case, are those directly at the front-lines as only four U$ soldiers have been killed, by official counts, since the beginning of the U$ deployment in Syria itself!

This connects to the fear, held by the varied sectors of the bourgeoisie, represented in varied pundits, politicians, and analysts, at minimum, that “Syrian territory occupied by US forces will be returned to the control of Syrian government forces,” even though they claim that areas occupied by the U$ will fall into the hands of terrorists. The withdrawal, the same article posited, saying it will take place in 60-100 days, would more than anything “benefit Syria and Syrians most of all,” allowing Iran to get a benefit, and Russia since it reduces the possibility of conflict with the U$. Iraq will benefit from not having “to commit so many forces to watching the US,” and the “likelihood of an extended Turkish occupation of Afrin and Idlib” may be reduced too, while the Zionists will lose out (after protests over worsening conditions in the proper part of the Zionist state), regretting “loss of access to US airports to use over Syrian occupied territory.” However, the Russian government is skeptical of U$ withdrawal from Syria, which is justified considering that the U$ will “conduct air strikes” in Syria “until the full pullout of troops from its territory,” since the U$ will “conduct air and artillery strikes” in support of their forces! This is a justified skepticism because the U$ could easily get pulled right back into Syria itself, meaning that all options are open. After all, there was talk early this year about Daesh thriving in U$-occupied areas of Syria and the Pentagon planting high numbers of supposed fighters of Daesh.

This brings us to U$ presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Amber B. noted in the aforementioned article at the beginning of this post, nothing is being “done about the u.$. occupation of Iraq,” meaning that this withdrawal could “become just a redeployment, whether by special forces or mercenaries,” even as a “withdrawal from Syrian territory would represent a contraction of the amerikan frontlines, and most definitely serve to weaken their interests overall, but we should not mistake it for “peace” in any sense.” It was further noted that peace “is only something that can truly be won through the elimination of imperialism overall.” What is said is an accurate determination. This is because earlier this month Pompeo spoke with Adil Abd al-Madhi, Iraq’s Prime Minister, about “recent territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria,” claimed that the U$ will respect Iraq’s sovereignty, that that “the Coalition will continue to work closely with Iraqi Security Forces to defeat ISIS remnants.” As for Afghanistan, as mentioned earlier in this article, there is talk of a withdrawal of half of the U$ troops from that country. While this is a positive development, the U$ imperialists want to “conclude the war in Afghanistan on terms favorable to Afghanistan and the United States,” meaning their respective bourgeoisie, specifically the U$ bourgeoisie. It is a laughable argument to say that the moderate withdrawal is somehow connected to Putin, as those like Rachel Maddow, a prominent liberal imperialist, have posited, as the U$ imperialists are extremely hostile to the Russians currently, as evidenced by continued sanctions and sending of arms to Ukraine, and there is no way that Putin or any other high-ranking Russian official would have any ounce of influence over the murderous U$ empire. But, there is another element. While it would be a great victory, you could say, if all the U$ troops are withdrawn, over 49,000 wicked mercenaries remain in U$ “areas of responsibility” within the Mideast, more than half of which are currently in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

With that there are some concluding thoughts. To again mention Amber B.’s post, it was argued that the withdrawal from Syria “represents another great slippage in imperialist footing, and we should exploit this to the best of our ability,” adding that “withdrawal from Syria should become a domino effect in our propaganda, and we should demand the further withdrawal of amerikan forces from surrounding countries, and ultimately every outpost of u.$. imperialism.” It was further noted that a struggle lies ahead within the U$ imperialist state, “as its decrepit factions squabble with one another, and we should use this moment of confusion to our advantage,” adding that “our propaganda should not endorse any imperialist faction over another, but underscore the necessity in struggling against them all.” As such, the article concludes, “we should not resign ourselves only to calls for peace, but augment them with the call to fight imperialism.” This is a justified approach, as siding with one imperialist faction would lead to ruin. With that, a piece of Lenin, in 1902, is relevant at this point, saying that liberalism must be analyzed with the “class point of view,” with interests of the autocracy only coinciding with some of the bourgeoisie, leading to some liberal opposition to autocracy, which protects the bourgeoisie from socialism, adding that while “Communists support every revolutionary movement against the existing system,” this does not “imply support for the liberal opposition.” He further added that it was the duty of revolutionaries to “explain to the proletariat every liberal and democratic protest, to widen and support it, with the active participation of the workers,” not acquiescing leadership of such social improvement efforts to liberals. This can be applied to different efforts by the masses to fight imperialism in all its manifestations, regardless of social movements.

In the process of fighting the imperialist beast, one must recall what Engels and Marx rejected in 1879: “people who openly claim that the workers are too ignorant to emancipate themselves but must first be emancipated from the top down, by the philanthropic big and petty bourgeois.” What this means, in practice, is that the working class in the U$, let’s say, is not ignorant and needs our enlightened assistance like we are coming from the upper spirals of an ivory tower. Rather, to recall from that same article, “educated elements” from the bourgeoisie can join the proletariat, but in doing so, they cannot push out or dominate the proletariat in the process of working with them, rather having to “assimilate [to] the proletariat viewpoint,” which is worth remembering. While obviously it is incorrect to say that the working class will not understand political struggle, we can recall, easily, what Lenin wrote in 1899: that certain workers are “backward” in their thinking, even as they will still understand the struggle, and that it is important to recognize the educated or “developed” workers in the class struggle as a whole. In the case of fighting imperialism, this means countering those among the proletariat who hold viewpoints that are pro-imperialist, bringing them into position standing against the U$ war machine in all its imperial manifestations.

The path forward to fight imperialism is up to the masses, supported by those which work  to increase their consciousness, bringing them to a revolutionary posture. Smash the capitalist system! A socialist world is possible! Down with the bourgeoisie!

Notes

[1] Caroline Kelly, “Stephen Miller defends Trump’s Syria withdrawal: ‘Are we supposed to stay in Syria for generation after generation spilling American blood?’,” CNN, Dec 21, 2018

[2] National Review Editors, “Stay in Syria,” Dec. 19, 2018; “‘Fox & Friends’ co-host calls out Trump on Syria: ‘Nobody thinks ISIS is defeated’,” The Hill, Dec. 20, 2018; Deirdre Shesgreen, “Trump’s troop withdrawal caps failed US policy in Syria, experts say,” USA Today, Dec. 20, 2018; “Coons: U.S. should not abandon Kurds, leave Syria,” Dover Post, Dec 20, 2018; Eli Lake, “Trump Courts Catastrophe in Syria,” Bloomberg, Dec. 19, 2018; “”Assad has won,” Ian Bremmer says, as Trump recalls troops from Syria,” CBS News, Dec 20, 2018; Gregory Hellman and Connor O’Brien,  “Pulling out of Syria: A primer,” Politico, Dec 20, 2018; Victoria Nuland, “Syria will come back to haunt us,” Washington Post, Dec 20, 2018; David Brown, Gregory Hellman, and Burgess Everett, “Republicans rip Trump’s surprise Syria withdrawal in meeting with Pence,” Politico, Dec. 19, 2018; “Graham plans resolution urging Trump to change mind on Syria,” The Hill, Dec 20, 2018.

[3] Joel Gehrke, “Russia blesses US troop withdrawal from Syria,” Washington Examiner, Dec. 19, 2018; “Trump Defends Syria Troop Pullout,” Newsmax, Dec. 20, 2018; John Hudson, Paul Sonme, and Anton Troianovski, “Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria marks a win for Putin,” Washington Post,  Dec 20, 2018.

[4] “Shocking Syria withdrawal plan is pure Trump,” CNN Wire, Dec 19, 2018; Matthew Lee and Robert Burns, “US to withdraw all American troops in Syria, official says,” AP,  Dec 19, 2018; Democrat-Gazette staff, “U.S. to withdraw troops from Syria, Trump announces,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Dec. 20, 2018.

[5] Andrew Desiderio, “Trump’s Abrupt Syria Withdrawal Thwarted ‘Major’ Operation Targeting ISIS, Sen. Bob Corker Says,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 21, 2018; Spencer Ackerman and Kimberly Dozier, “Bolton’s Hawkish Syria Plan Backfired, Pushing Trump to Get Out,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 21, 2018; “US will close base in Syria that Russia complained about,” The Hill, Dec 20, 2018. While there is no organized anti-war movement in the U$, there are peace organizations growing in strength. One of those in the Black Alliance for Peace which takes a strong anti-imperialist position, mentioning genocide of indigenous people, “brutal super-exploitation of enslaved African labor” which was used “to amass imperialist wealth,” allowing the U$ to elevate itself “to a world power after the second imperialist war in 1945,” adding that with the recent moves by the orange menace “the ruling-class propagandists” at the major media outlets “have sounded the alarm of pending doom for the empire,” saying that their group doesn’t “praise a U.S. president for ending the illegal subversion, invasion and occupation of a sovereign state that should have never been allowed in the first place by the theoretical representatives of the people who now sit in the U.S. Congress,” leaving the question open if full and rapid withdrawal of U$  forces from Syria will happen. Rather, they demand “demand a full withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Syria, including the mercenary components referred to as “contractors,” want an end to the “war in Afghanistan with a complete and total withdrawal of U.S. forces,” denounce those who think that “permanent war is both rational and inevitable,” while concluding that “the final resolution of the U.S.-led war in Syria must be determined by Syrians themselves. All foreign forces must recognize and respect the sovereignty of the Syrian people and their legal representatives,” calling for “U.S. out of Syria! U.S. out of Africa! Shut down AFRICOM and all NATO bases! Reallocate the people’s resources from funding war to realizing the human rights of all people, not just the 1 percent!” Veterans for Peace, an older peace organization, takes a straight anti-interventionist position, saying they are pleased by the announcement of withdrawal from Syria, adding that the U$ “armed and trained Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda aligned forces, who are seeking to destroy the secular, multi-religious Syrian state and establish a harsh fundamentalist order of their own,” bombed the “city of Raqqa, Syria, similar to its bombardment of Mosul, Iraq,” adding that a “continued U.S. presence in Syria would only prolong a policy that has been disastrous for all the peoples of the region.” They also hoped for a total withdrawal of U$ troops from Syria, a withdrawal from Afghanistan, and said that “it is time to turn a page in history and to build a new world based on human rights, equality and mutual respect for all. We must build momentum toward real and lasting peace. Nothing less than the survival of human civilization is at stake.” Similarly is the position by the World Peace Council.

[6] Nick Wadhams, Tony Capaccio and Margaret Talev, “Trump’s Syria Pullout Fuels Confusion With Kurds Left in Lurch,” Bloomberg, Dec 19, 2018; Matthew Lee and Robert Burns, “US to withdraw all American troops in Syria, official says,” AP, Dec 19, 2018.

[7] Patrick Wintour, “Russia, Turkey and Iran reach agreement on Syria committee,” The Guardian, Dec 18, 2018; “Russia slashes Syria military flights,” AFP, Dec 11, 2018; Edith M.  Lederer, “UN envoy: More work needed on Syria constitutional committee,” AP, Dec. 20, 2018. This connects to article I read boldly declaring that the proposed U$ withdrawal is occurring because “the Syrian Arab Army, which now has Russian anti-aircraft equipment, the best in the world,” meaning “they have no choice but to leave before humiliation.” However, I think this could be too simplistic as it casts the Russians as the saviors.

[8] Matthew Lee and Susannah George, “Trump call with Turkish leader led to US pullout from Syria,” AP, Dec. 21, 2018.

[9] Steve Holland and Jonathan Landay, “In Syria retreat, Trump rebuffs top advisers and blindsides U.S. commanders,” Reuters, Dec. 19, 2018.

[10] Guney Yildiz,”US withdrawal from Syria leaves Kurds backed into a corner,” BBC News, Dec 20, 2018; Gregory Hellman and Connor O’Brien, “Pulling out of Syria: A primer,” Politico, Dec 20, 2018; Layal Abou Rahal, “US pullout leaves Syria Kurds exposed,” AFP, Dec. 20, 2018; Tom Perry and Ellen Francis, “Syria’s Kurds reel from U.S. move, Assad seen planning next step,”Reuters, Dec. 20, 2018; “Syria: World reacts to Trump’s decision to pull US troops out,” Al Jazeera, Dec 20, 2018; Sune Engel Rasmussen and David Gauthier-Villars, “Key U.S. Partner in Syria Thrown Into Disarray,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 20, 2018; “Syria Kurds say to keep up anti-IS fight unless Turkey attacks,” AFP, Dec. 20, 2018; “Key U.S. ally in Syria rejects Trump claim that ISIS has been defeated,” AP, Dec 20, 2018; Ali Younes, Trevor Aaronson, and Murtaza Hussein, “Syria battle against ISIL far from over, despite US pull-out plan,”Al Jazeera, Dec 20, 2018; Hollie. McKay, “Syrian Kurds allied with US shocked, scared by news of troop withdrawal,” Fox News, Dec 20, 2018.

[11] Robert Burns and Loita Baldor, “Pentagon scrambles on Syria exit amid withdrawal outrage,” AP, Dec 20, 2018.

[12] Paul D. Shinkman, “The Mattis-Trump Partnership Collapses Under Its Own Weight,” U.S. News & World Report, Dec 20, 2018; Shaun Tandon and Thomas Watkins, “US defense chief quits as Trump pulls from Syria, Afghanistan,” AFP, Dec 21, 2018; Nick Wadhams, Tony Capaccio and Margaret Talev, “Trump’s Syria Pullout Fuels Confusion With Kurds Left in Lurch,” Bloomberg, Dec 19, 2018; Victoria Bekiempis, “Brett McGurk, the Man Who Built Coalition to Fight ISIS, Quits Over Presidents ISIS Strategy,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 22, 2018; Jonathan Marcus, “After Mattis, Trump’s foreign policy worries allies,” BBC News, Dec. 21, 2018. On a related note, one Twitter user, @RedKahina, reminded users of how Matt Blumenthal, Ben Norton, and Rania Khalek once propaganda for a partition of Syria by Turkey, a NATO ally.

[13] Luis Martinez and Elizabeth McLaughlin, “What you need to know about US military involvement in Syria as Trump orders withdrawal,” ABC News, Dec 20, 2018.

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The Significance of Julia Salazar running as a “Socialist” Democrat

The following was reprinted from Dissident Voice. It is the first of the two-part article on the so-called “socialist” Julia Carmel Salazar. A version of this article before its editing by Dissident Voice has been published on the Internet Archive.

On September 13, Julia Carmel Salazar won the Democratic primary against Martin Dilan, becoming the State Senate candidate for North Brooklyn’s District 18 (shaped like a praying mantis). Apart from the many dark times in her life, especially her right-wing period between 2008 and 2014, covered in Part 2 of this article, there are many other factors revolving around her role as a “socialist” of the NYC-DSA running in a Democratic primary. This article aims to talk about those factors and the significance of her candidacy, with her almost-assured victory in November, beyond Ben Beckett’s hot takes in Jacobin that her victory on September 13 “felt good” and that she was “attacked” in her supposed effort to build a “policy base that a new voter self-identity can be anchored in.”

With some media outlets calling her a “Latina democratic socialist” (Gothamist), “young and Latina, poised and progressive, and a democratic socialist” (New York Times), or a “Jewish Latina democratic socialist candidate” heading a “burgeoning progressive Jewish revolution” (Jewish Telegraph Agency) who sits among the “young progressive women” Michelle Goldberg recently wrote about in the New York Times, there are undoubtedly many articles about her positions. These media outlets see her as more than a “jumped-up nobody running for a state senate seat in Brooklyn,” allowing her campaign to become a runaway national story. She is described as a “socialist” (or as some call it “suddenly socialist”) and a DSA member, calling herself “an advocate, a tenant, a feminist, a democratic socialist, a union member.” [1]

She stands for universal rent control, tech-utopism, ending vacancy decontrol, abolishing ICE, single-payer healthcare usually described as Medicare For All, ending cash bail, fixing the subway system (and mass transit), ending “policies aimed at eliminating mass incarceration,” money for affordable housing, free tuition at CUNY and SUNY schools, and immigrant rights, while favoring reproductive rights and unions. These are socially democratic positions which aren’t necessarily “socialist.” She also endorsed the call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), which held by NYC-DSA, while criticizing the two-state solution. [2]

This position on Palestine is part of the reason for the negative articles in the Daily Mail, Forward, and the Tablet, most prominently, and was likely pushed by Zionist agents and perhaps the real estate industry, connected with her gender, as I have pointed on Twitter as a person who is critical of Salazar. Some, like Ryan Grim of the Intercept, Pierre Omidyar’s plaything, have said that after Salazar’s victory, “Big winners tonight appear to be: Tablet, Page Six and the Daily Mail, who get to keep writing about @SalazarSenate18 for the foreseeable future.” That has validity except it misses the significance of her candidacy.

As Salazar said at one point:

My vision is for a more caring society in which nobody is denied what they need to thrive based on income, on property, on capital. This is not what is going to happen the day I’m elected to the state Senate — that would be cool though. I’m realistic, but without that vision, this is pretty much a futile exercise.

This “cool” factor, where she says she would be “fine” if her victory led to “the end of capitalism” (which it obviously won’t), plays into the fact that her campaign headquarters in Bushwick sits near a “hipster” shop, with scores of volunteers (many of whom are DSA members) canvassing in “friendly political territory,” and receiving a huge amount of campaign donations after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another “socialist” running in the Democratic Party, endorsed her, while Radix Media printed her posters. As The Intercept even admitted: “Salazar’s road to Albany might be made easier by the same counterintuitive factor that helped propel Ocasio-Cortez to victory: gentrification,” with this being the case because “white transplants…tend to support Bernie Sanders-type universal programs.”

This reality was evident from The New Yorker’s photos of a victory party for Salazar on September 13 in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which included a smattering of people of color, but more white men and women than anything else. The New Yorker addressed this directly in their article, writing that “the crowd [there] whose arrival often heralds gentrification—the young bearded types at the party—had worked on the campaign…The hipsters who come to the neighborhood for the “right reasons,” as [Tasha] Van Auken [Salazar’s campaign manager] put it, are actually working to keep older residents safely in their homes.” At the same time a BuzzFeed article noted that the supporters of Salazar, “certainly the young, mostly white, recent college graduates who flooded her victory party…didn’t recognize, at least subconsciously, that this kind of thing is just way more common than we’d like to admit,” meaning they were more like Salazar than they would admit off the bat.

This connects to what her former opponent, Dilan, called her: a gentrifier who recently moved into the area even though she opposes gentrification and she has lived in the same apartment in Bushwick for years. As one strident critic of Salazar put it recently, the campaign’s winning strategy was to target a gentrifying district, then use the “DSA as footsoldiers to turn out the white voters.” This effort, which reportedly included knocking on 100,000 doors, was a success in getting her elected, allowing her to integrate even more people into the faltering Democratic Party, which would make the head of the party smile even as they grumble about her viewpoints.

It is evident that Salazar is trying to portray herself as “hip,” with some saying that she “transformed, seemingly overnight, from an extreme right-wing Republican Right-To-Life Zionist zealot to a trendy BernieCrat. She needs to offer a plausible account of how this happened.” This is evident from the fact that she may be vegan (or perhaps vegetarian), tweeted a quote from Howard Zinn, is blocked on Twitter by Rosanne Barr, she has been called a “tattoo-wearing socialist” for her tattoo of a “large black and white rose” near her left shoulder and another of plane on her right arm which The Nation calls “a memento of her father, whose death when she was 18 “shaped [her] life,”” the look of her campaign headquarters, being interviewed by those of Chapo Trap House (a “leftist” podcast which almost verges on being anti-communist), and her long hair. It is also expressed through her “hot takes” on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, legalizing marijuana, misogyny, libertarians, Tucker Carlson of Fox News, and protest chants. With this, it is no surprise that the UAW has called her a “UAW sibling.” Also her reported “faith in humanity based on…the observation and the belief that as humans we don’t just operate selfishly, you know, that we can actually be in solidarity with one another, and not just with our people,” as she noted in a DSA podcast, it is part of this portrayal as well.

She also has garnered an unusual constituency for a politician which is “emerging as a force in electoral politics…because of the growing political threat against their industry”: prostitutes, whom many outlets like to call “sex workers” claiming that they are just like other workers, by supporting the decriminalization of prostitution and attending “sex worker advocacy meetings.” The Intercept even did a whole article on the subject, declaring that she is “shaping her policy by consulting the sex work community, is one of the first candidates to definitively support those workers, including by proposing concrete steps toward decriminalization. In that article, she told the reporter that “sex workers are workers and they deserve to be treated with dignity, including protections and decent working conditions, rather than the abuse and criminalization that they currently face. I’m dedicated to defending workers’ rights, reforming our criminal justice system and ending exploitation, and we know that criminalization puts everyone in sex work at risk rather than protecting them.” As a result, she stands against those feminists who are rightly critical of prostitution and rather with the so-called “sex worker lobby” which is probably the lobby for the sex industry.

This would be the case because those glad with Salazar’s position include Melissa Gira Grant (who doesn’t “acknowledge the issue of masculine social dominance” on her book on “sex work”) and the Red Umbrella Project (part of a group that is a front for pimps). Grant was so glad with Salazar’s position that she wrote an article in The Appeal, a project of Tides Advocacy (formerly the Advocacy Fund), which is an affiliate of the Tides Foundation, a major funder of bourgeois environmental groups, like 350.org, with Warren Buffet’s NoVo Foundation as one of the biggest funders of Tides. In her article, Grant declared, not surprisingly, that Salazar’s campaign has “provided a platform for sex workers to do some of that educational work [on prostitution], while offering a template for how the decriminalization fight could play out in other cities and states,” adding, in a joyful manner, that “her support for sex workers’ rights is unusual for a person running for office.”

As Matthew Maavak has written, “a civilization where women and children are sexually commoditized is one in terminal decline,” a thought which is connected to what Tanner Stenning has written: “if we’re to proceed in defending sex workers, let’s start by acknowledging at least this much: likeliest the vast majority would not choose sex work were the circumstances different.” This is further informed by what has been written in Feminist Current: that “prostitution endlessly erects the very patriarchal divisions between women that it allegedly destroys…As long as prostitution exists women and men will never be free from patriarchy,” that “under the narrative of “sex work” there can be no vulnerable person,” and that “pro-sex trade voices are…ubiquitous” to such an extent that the New York Times has done articles on the subject. The same publication also talked about the gentrification of prostitution, murders of prostitutes in New Zealand where prostitution has been decriminalized, certain people discounting rape of prostitutes, and trying to de-platform Chris Hedges for taking a strong anti-prostitution stand in his Truthdig columns.

While prostitutes have flocked to Salazar’s campaign, Trotskyists have endorsed her, with Socialist Alternative declaring that her campaign’s door knocking “is seen by many workers and youth as an important vehicle to fight back,” but adding that “many DSA members want to build mass movements outside the electoral arena…a broader struggle to transform the party,” while adding that “it’s essentially impossible to rip the Democratic Party as a whole from its corporate leadership. To win far-reaching change a new mass workers party will be needed.” Still, they support Salazar, saying her efforts are positive and are “generating support for many important issues that won’t be won without struggle…A Salazar victory will be a…clear indication of the growing momentum for socialist ideas.” Not so sure about that.

Additionally, the Brooklyn branch of the ISO (International Socialist Organization), a Trotskyist organization, also issued their support for Salazar, declaring their full support of her from “a nightmarish series of attacks…[a] steady and vicious smear campaign drummed up by both liberal and right-wing media outlets” and urging those “progressive allies who continue to dissect Salazar’s background…to [not] equivocate, but to stand firmly on the side of solidarity, so that one of our own does not pay such a high price for standing up for all of us.” Apparently standing on the side of solidarity means to mimic her followers by not questioning her. Even Niles Niemuth of the Trotskyist Socialist Equality Party, a candidate in Michigan, was quoted in the party’s website, the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) as saying that:

The DSA, which is a faction of the Democratic Party, not an independent party, promotes the fiction that the interests of workers can be secured without a frontal attack on the domination and wealth of the corporate and financial elite. It advances the lie that workers can win their rights through the instrument of the Democratic Party—a right wing, pro-capitalist party.

On that point he may be right although Trotskyists have a distorted worldview which benefits the global bourgeoisie. Salazar may  use words like capitalism and capital, while calling herself a socialist and declaring that her campaign was something “revolutionary,” but she also has a progressive feel, with her website saying: “Julia is the leader we need to make New York City a safer, more just, more welcoming place for everyone” and saying that the “abolition of private property” is not “realistic.” While she seemed to differentiate “democratic socialism” and “progressivism,” in an interview for Jacobin, saying the former means “to have a vision of a world where everyone is taken care of….a society in which people are valued over profit, in which everyone has access to the things they need not just for basic survival but to thrive” and that the latter might “advocate for forcing landlords to do necessary repairs on buildings,” her talk on the campaign trail, saying she speaks for the Latinx community, drawing strength from “the long history of Jewish social justice and Latinx social justice organizing” wants to make New York a “progressive beacon” or that she wants a “true blue New York,” that she is part of a “movement” winning over the “machine,” tells a different story.

It is doubtful that her ideas will “bring us closer to a truly socialist economic system,” as she claimed her campaign was part of, since, as In These Times writes, “democratic socialism itself has always been a heterodox term, encompassing everyone from ideological Trotskyists to New Deal Democrats.” They also note that “DSA isn’t keen to enforce a strict definition of “democratic socialism,”” possibly meaning everything from “taking public goods like healthcare off the private market…to worker-ownership of the means of production.” The DSA, with a chapter in NYC, also doesn’t want to play as a “spoiler in general elections” but would rather endorse “the most progressive candidates from other parties in primaries, while also running their own, further-to-the-left candidates in local Democratic races that are safely progressive.” Salazar can warn of ideas “becoming diluted when they leave the Left and enter the mainstream, province of politicians and political expediency,”  and even admit that “the two-party system de facto disenfranchises people, and I can’t see the Democratic Party ultimately being a vessel for the democratic socialist revolution, so it would be silly and shortsighted for democratic socialists to put a lot of effort and resources into that project.”

Still, she says that “it would be great if we could all avoid the Democratic Party line…but if I were to try to do that in this district, I highly doubt people would notice much less vote for a third-party candidate in the general election.” Yet wanting to be part of a “progressive wave,” being a person supposedly with “class politics and a materialist analysis,” will not get her the “socialist movement” that she claims she is part of. This is because she cannot be for a Bernie-style “political revolution” while being a “fiery progressive” who is still socialist and is building a “movement.” Talking in Bernie-like language will just end up with her followers, after her victory, being swallowed into the Democratic Party. This is evident by the fact that there is a fundraiser for her on Act Blue, which calls Salazar “a dedicated community leader running in the Democratic primary for New York State Senate…committed to running a campaign by and for the people, sustained by grassroots donations from supporters like you,” a Democratic PAC which is independent of the Democratic Party and is part of “blue” Democratic brand. This is even the case if the words were written by her campaign, as they also publicized their efforts as “all grassroots.” It is also doubtful that while her victory will make her supporters gleeful, it will not be a “victory for workers” as she declared in her victory speech on the night of September 13.

The numerous individuals and groups who have endorsed her seem to question how grassroots her campaign was, especially considering the number of out-of-state donors (35% of her donor base). Her website lists Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Councilman Jumaane Williams, Councilman Antonio Reynoso, Working Families, New York Communities for Change, DSA, CWA, CODEPINK, Make the Road Action, Citizen Acton of New York, New York State Immigrant Action Fund, Carlina Rivera campaign, OUR Revolution, NYC DSA, NYC Kids PAC, New King Democrats, Brooklyn Progressive Action Network, New York Progressive Action Network, New York Professional Nurses Union, The Jewish Vote, Amplify Her, Streets PAC, Grassroots Action New York, Women of Color for Progress, UAW, and The People for Bernie as endorsing her campaign. Even, the Zionist Tablet has written that “Salazar’s election [victory] would be a breakthrough for the city’s Jewish left: proof that their institutions can become a pathway to formal political power, that anti-Zionist Jews can win high-profile elections, and that big things are possible when communities grow ravenous for some kind of change.”

She has also been supported by those from the ACLU, progressive “socialist” Lee J. Carter, Insurrection magazine (which she once published for in an article about virtual reality), NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor of socially-democratic Jacobin, progressive” Democrats like Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout, along with the typical support from Berniecrats and DSA people, Democratic honchos, uptight White liberals in suits and “socialists” like Benjamin Norton. Most worrisome is that Linda Sarsour is an active supporter of her (and Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign as well) campaign. Sarsour is a Berniecrat once recognized as a “champion of change” by Obama’s admin, along with also smearing Syria’s government, calling for that government’s overthrow and saying it is oppressing Syrians. Sarsour also defended head-chopping Saudis (even if she doesn’t “support” them), acts like she critical of the Zionist state but made sure there were no BDS or anti-Zionist signs at the Women’s March in DC, and supports the Zionist state’s existence, making it clear she is not really what she claims to be. [3]

With all the distortions of Salazar’s personal message caused by her inconsistency, some progressives who would be prone to support her ideas have decided to not do so, like Dave Weigel. The Salazar campaign’s “voter protection teams” won’t protect them from this form of defection, with the same applying to their get-out-the-vote efforts, with the former organized perhaps because of expected voter suppression in the district which happened on September 13.

Before her victory, one article in Vox stated that “if she wins, it’ll be more evidence that socialists in general and the DSA in particular are forces to be reckoned within the Democratic Party. If she loses — well, then the DSA will be the socialists who couldn’t even win an election in Bushwick.” Her campaign positions were clear in a smoothly-made campaign ad (the production and creation which may have violated FEC regulations) by Means Production, an entertainment company, which is less than three minutes long. It includes a Reaganesque refrain that it is “morning again in Brooklyn” (repeated three times in the video) while the video itself, worryingly, declares her campaign will deliver “moral clarity” (or “common sense” as it is put elsewhere) but not “radical ideas.” Salazar herself also only gives unnamed “corporations” & the “real estate body” as the problem without even uttering the word capitalism in the video itself!

Wanting a “more caring society” does not make you socialist either, not because of some non-existent “purity test” but rather that any progressive could say the same exact thing. As one person in Left Voice asked:

Why couldn’t someone like Julia Salazar run as a socialist, putting the hundreds of DSA members who are canvassing into dialogue with those who are disillusioned with the two-party system? Why can’t the anti-establishment feeling be put in the service of joining a movement against the parties that have sold out the working class and oppressed them again and again? She may not win the election, but the DSA will have spread socialist ideas and about working class independence from capitalists. And besides, it’s not unheard of for an independent socialist to win an election.

Not sure why she didn’t go that route. Doesn’t seem right, as it would be better to build structures independent of the Democratic Party instead. Some may have a point that the DSA is currently being opportunist by allowing her in their ranks or claiming she is spouting a form of Zionism like Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, but there is more happening than that.

On a connected note, it is worth discussing the NYC-DSA. It is a chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a group declaring on its homepage that “working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few” but then just fights for “reforms that empower working people,” including decreasing the “influence of money in politics…empower[ing] ordinary people in workplaces and the economy [and] restructur[ing]…gender and cultural relationships to be more equitable,” followed by a broad “commitment to democracy.”  This may sound nice, but their “free, democratic and humane society” includes a humane international social order based both on democratic planning and market mechanisms” which sounds horrifying because the latter element means such a society would have capitalist elements!

On another page they declare that “the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few which changes in government and economic structures,” adding that they do not want “all-powerful government bureaucracy” and claiming that “worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives” would allow social ownership, while also favoring “as much decentralization as possible.” So, they aren’t bringing on the Soviet Union, even though they favor central-planning, which they also just call “democratic planning” which would include, you guessed it, “market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.”

The group then goes into the land of anti-communism, declaring that “socialists have been among the harshest critics of authoritarian Communist states,” even saying that they “applaud the democratic revolutions that have transformed the former Communist bloc,” despite the fact the countries are now worse off, and claiming they are also against “ethnic rivalries and/or new forms of authoritarianism.” Even worse, they favor government regulation, tax incentives, and unions to “control” corporations, while favoring a “combination of social, economic, and moral incentives will motivate people to work,” and using social democratic efforts in Sweden, Canada, France, the U$,and Nicaragua, as “examples” going forward! After they say that the DSA “must work towards reforms that can withstand the power of multinationals and global banks, and we must fight for a world order that is not controlled by bankers and bosses,” they support fighting within the Democratic Party, writing: “…many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing…The process and structure of American elections seriously hurts third party efforts…We hope that at some point in the future, in coalition with our allies, an alternative national party will be viable. For now, we will continue to support progressives who have a real chance at winning elections, which usually means left-wing Democrats.” What a disgusting set of words!

Finally, there is the page about their history, written by Joseph M. Schwartz (active in the DSA since the beginning), proclaiming that they “made an ethical contribution to the broader American Left by being one of the few radical organizations born out of a merger rather than a split.” It also says that they “helped popularize the vision of an ecumenical, multi-tendency socialist organization, an ethos that enabled it to recently incorporate many thousands of new members, mostly out of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign,” even welcoming those who “believe in the possibility of independent electoral work inside or outside the Democratic Party ballot line.” This history shows that in 1972 their predecessor, with Michael Harrington (who believed that the Left could take over the Democratic Party) as a major figure, supported those in the ““new politics” left-liberals in the McGovern wing of the Democrats,” while in the later 1970s they supported a progressive “Democratic Agenda,” building progressive Democratic coalitions in the 1980s, founding the DSA in 1982.

The history then complained that “the collapse of communism in 1989 proved less of an immediate boon to democratic socialists than many of us had hoped. Those who had suffered in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union did not embrace socialism with a human face, but rushed headlong into the embrace of a mythic, free market capitalism.” They thought they would benefit from that? Jeez, they do not understand capitalism or the problem with the Soviet Union’s dissolution, which can be grasped even by those critical of the country, especially after 1956 when it entered its revisionist period.

The history continues on, saying that the group then called for a single-payer healthcare system in the early 1990s to counter the Clinton health plan, opposed Clinton’s welfare reform, opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars early on, called for a “truly progressive tax system” in the early 2000s, joining the Occupy movement from day one, supporting Black Lives Matter, “and fighting against mass incarceration and for equitable urban public education” in more recent years. As an obvious tie into the Democratic Party, the history recalled “DSA’s decision in late 2014 to make its number one priority the movement to support Bernie Sanders running for president. DSA took the position that for maximum exposure and effectiveness, Sanders should not only run, but should run in the Democratic primaries,” even as they admitted that “Bernie’s New Deal or social democratic program did not fulfill the socialist aim of establishing worker and social ownership of the economy” but it apparently seemed “sufficiently radical and inspiring.”

And now they boast that they are “the largest socialist organization in the United States since the Communist Party before its implosion in 1956 after the [false and traitorous] Khrushchev revelations about Stalin” and then declare that “we also are committed to working in coalition with forces that oppose both right-wing rule and the dominant national corporate wing of the Democrats. We want to continue Sanders’ “political revolution” by broadening out that political trend to include a stronger base within the labor movement and, most importantly, among progressive organizations rooted in communities of color. If we take up those challenges, DSA may be able to sustain the most important socialist presence in U.S. politics since the Debsian Socialist era of 1900 to 1920.”

Once again, this positioning makes them the perfect sheepdogs for the Democratic Party, clearly as social democrats not as socialists which they call themselves, while they could very easily be using that same energy on building independent structures! Then, again, this is unlikely to happen as no Marxist theory is even mentioned on any of these pages at all, showing superficiality of their ideas. [4]

With this, we get back to NYC-DSA. It is currently an entirely member funded group that is run by more than 3,500 members, saying on its homepage that they are “socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships,” adding that they want to “work together to develop a concrete strategy for achieving that vision, for achieving a transition to democratic socialism in America,” calling for people to help them build a better world. Another page on their website declares their further aims:

a society free of all oppression with a democratically-run, ecologically-sustainable economy…Our goal is a socialist world….A transformation on this scale will require socialist parties and powerful social movements. The goal of NYC-DSA is to move us closer to achieving this transformation…Campaigns for reforms that would improve working-class and oppressed people’s lives are key to our ability to organize this base…ultimately it will take a political revolution and massive social transformations to make the lasting changes we are fighting for…Socialists have learned through decades of fighting for reforms that the capitalist system serves the interests of the ruling class. It is designed to meet their needs and insulate their power from threats from below. Our strategy therefore is different from the liberal one. We work to organize millions of people into democratically-led movements that take militant action against bosses and politicians…We believe that the fundamental transformations we are seeking are in the broad interests of all working-class and oppressed people, and our work is focused on organizing among this base…We must pressure Democrats to obstruct Trump’s agenda. Mass demonstrations against Trump’s actions will also be a regular feature of the next few years…The prospects for winning reforms in the interest of working-class and oppressed people at the city-level would seem to be more promising…the city Democratic Party is divided into three factions, undermining its ability to pass progressive reforms…Because the mayoral and other citywide elections this year appear to be uncompetitive and none of the candidates present a strong progressive vision for the city, we should not take a position on these races. This frees us up to focus our electoral work on a few key City Council races. In general, after full discussion, we will support the most viable progressive candidate who will use their office as a ‘bully pulpit’ to help build social movements in NYC. We will especially look to find candidates willing to run as democratic socialists…It is critical that all of this work is done with an eye towards building an electoral apparatus — which includes fundraising, canvassing, research, and volunteers — independent of the Democratic Party and corporate money….As NYC-DSA we also call on the National Convention of DSA to vote to disaffiliate from the Socialist International (SI). The SI is not helping to build an international socialist movement — its member parties work around the world to roll back welfare states and impose austerity.

While this is a bit better than the DSA, it still falls into using the “Democratic Party line,” as Salazar called it. To recall what Salazar herself said, quoted earlier in this article: “the two-party system de facto disenfranchises people, and I can’t see the Democratic Party ultimately being a vessel for the democratic socialist revolution, so it would be silly and shortsighted for democratic socialists to put a lot of effort and resources into that project.” We then can recall what Jimmy Dore, a progressive comedian who recently declared that “if they play the national anthem at work & make you stand and salute, that’s not patriotism, that’s fascism. That’s what they do in North Korea” (which you could call liberal fascism) and who doesn’t like corporatists but voted for Obama twice (which is a conundrum), said about the Democrats (as he does often). He argued that they caused the repeal of Glass-Steagall, crash of the economy, banks to get bigger, cops to crack heads at Occupy protests, not stop unions from being taken away from teachers in Wisconsin, joined with the current U$ president and McConnell to fast-track lifetime appointments of judges, worked with GOP to deregulate Wall Street again and have the biggest Pentagon budget in U$ history (717 billion dollars), take fossil fuel money, and have a new DNC rule that to run as a candidate in the Democratic Party, head of DNC gets to decide whether the candidate is sufficiently loyal to the party.

He also said that Democrats have been in decline for decades, that superdelegates are still there but just don’t vote for the President in the first-round, that many people associate with Democrats because they are an “inferior good” and that there is “no way they will allow progressives to take over the party.” But ultimately Jimmy Dore and his guests stuck with the Democrats, while one admitted that progressive victories could be sapping energy that could be used to create a new political party, but another said” right now that is not an option,” echoing what Salazar said. It is this defeatist attitude which is part of the problem.

Ultimately there is one major problem with Salazar’s candidacy, as is the case with Ocasio-Cortez.  It sucks grassroots energy into electoral politics like a vacuum cleaner bringing in loads of dust. [5] The same could even be said of Kshama Sawant in Seattle, running as part of the Trotskyist Socialist Alternative grouping.

Specifically in the case of Salazar, Ocasio-Cortez, and many others, their energy would be sucked into the Democratic Party. Even Socialist Alternative, which endorsed Salazar, admitted this, declaring that “it’s essentially impossible to rip the Democratic Party as a whole from its corporate leadership. To win far-reaching change a new mass workers party will be needed.” This seems to be embodied within the Party of Communists – USA (PCUSA), which declares that “the Republican and Democratic Parties represent and work for the basic interests of capital, the large stock-holders of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler…The PCUSA proposes a realistic policy that is neither sectarian nor set in stone nor just latches on to the Democratic Machine.”

As such, it is clear that DSA does not fulfill this goal. Rather, they are sending more people to their spiritual deaths, not through spending “more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift” as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it in 1967, as they will be swallowed into the Democratic machine just like that Futurama episode where a beast takes in people’s life essence, expanding its ego to absurdist proportions. Some can try to be “super” progressive within the Democratic Party, but eventually those people will crack sooner or later like Ocasio-Cortez did when she could not explain what the “occupation of Palestine” meant, later declaring that “I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I’m a proponent of the two state solution. For me, this is not a referendum on the state of Israel.”

No matter what happens to Salazar ultimately, whether she wins in November or not, her candidacy serves an ultimate purpose to the corporatist leadership of the Democratic Party: it keeps the party alive and breathing, allowing it to support rampant imperialism, the actions of the current U$ administration, and continue to shaft the proletariat, among reinforcing efforts to enact their capitalist ideology. As such, while one could, without much thought, praise Salazar for her reformist ideas, there should be a more determined effort to create structures and institutions which exist outside the two-party system, allowing for a focus on more productive endeavors than just participating in elections.


Notes

[1] Salazar defines socialism as about “fighting to build a society in which everybody can live in dignity and have the resources to live as equitably as possible [and to have] the resources that we need not only to survive but to thrive in our society. It’s about empowering workers as far as my own theory of change…empowering the most marginalized and vulnerable members of our society.” She then told Teen Vogue that “being a democratic socialist means fighting to build a society in which everyone is cared for and has the resources that we need to not only to survive but to thrive in our society. It means that everybody will truly have autonomy and control over their own destinies. I think that part of the vision of fighting for a society in which everyone is able to thrive and has control of their own destiny means acknowledging gender inequality and patriarchy in our society. It requires working to dismantle patriarchy and to counteract gender inequality and fight for a society in which women and gender nonconforming people are no longer oppressed systemically.”

While that is nice, it doesn’t really sound “socialist” to me. The fourth edition of Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it on page 1360 as “any of the various theories or systems of ownership and operation of the means of production by society or the community sharing the work and products” and as “the stage in society, in Marxist doctrine, coming between the capitalist stage and the communist age, in which private ownership of the means of production and distribution have been eliminated.” The first definition is the one I’d like to focus on, rather than the second one as the U$ is still strongly in a capitalist society despite the goofs that say it is “post-capitalist.” Nothing about building a fairer society, which Salazar says she is for, is about moving toward society or the community owning the means of production. Cuba and the DPRK, arguably, rather than the revisionist triad (Laos, Vietnam, and China), fall within the second stage, but how much they do this is obviously up for debate.

[2] When interviewed on a DSA podcast, Salazar seemed to differentiate the societies of the U$ and the Zionist state, saying that “I think that both American and Israeli society are in crisis as a result of hyper-militarization of our societies, and our law enforcement, our government institutions that are ostensibly supposed to protect us. The effects are obviously felt vastly disproportionately by one part of population. And obviously in the US, it’s disproportionately affecting Black Americans and people of color, but most obviously Black Americans, and we know it’s rooted in a hideous legacy of slavery. Whereas in Israel and Palestine, it’s rooted in a history of inequality that’s been there since the establishment of the state. I see it as a product of having a hyper-militarized police force in a society that has been and often still is taught a pretty racist narrative.” While that has validity, the history of inequality has been there since the founding of the U$. This is a statement which is ignorant without question, not realizing the parallels between the two countries and the racist, sexist, and classist [I probably shouldn’t have used that word] history of the U$ since its founding, as a state, in 1783 and as an independent entity in 1776.

[3] See more of Sarsour’s tweets on “Syria,” “Israel,” “Zionist,” “Palestine,” “apartheid,” “Saudi Arabia,” with tweets on the Saudis acting like she is critical when she has defended them in the past.

[4] Some have argued that the DSA wants socialism but that “trying to transform the imperialist core through electoral means reflects a lack of theoretical understanding of what building socialism necessarily entails,” adding that the “lack of emphasis on decolonizing (which necessitates the complete destruction of the settler colonial state) shows little practical understanding of what socialism would look like once that building process kicks off.” That opinion has validity, although it still doesn’t seem that they want socialism, but rather want a form of social democracy instead!

[5] One Princeton historian, Matt Karp, who is friends with Salazar, wrote that “if there was anything individually notable about Julia’s run for office, it was the idea that an ordinary person could pick up the mantle to run for state senate, not based on a claim of spectacular virtue, but a commitment to represent the needs and values of the people in her district. Now we see what happens when an ordinary person — bound to the ordinary extraordinary complexities of a life lived outside the confines of a resume — challenges the power of a political elite.” While that has its validity, it also poses her as some progressive shining star on a hill, something she is definitely not, and ignores the real problem with her candidacy is not her personal story or her ideas, but what it means for the political landscape and the faltering Democratic Party, with the same applying to other progressives who run on the Democratic Party line to try and push the party “to the Left,” a task which is an utter waste of time.

The Kim-Moon summit in Pyongyang: was there “modest progress” or “great strides”?

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org, with changes of some links to this blog and text itself for reasons of smoothness.

Bourgeois media have been full of venom about the recent meeting between the leaders of both Koreas, Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-In, in Pyongyang.[1] At the same time, the orange menace declared on his free-wheeling twitter that the results of the meeting, which include Kim agreeing to allow nuclear inspections, permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad “in the presence of international experts” coupled with no new “Rocket or Nuclear testing,” remains of U$ imperialist foot soldiers returning back to the U$, and both Koreas filing “a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympics,” he found “very exciting.” In contrast, neocon Lindsey Graham declared that while the DPRK has “stopped testing missiles and nuclear devices, they have NOT moved toward denuclearisation” and Marco Rubio, a pawn of reactionary Cuban expats, claimed that Kim is working on a “propaganda coup” while criticizing inter-Korean cooperation showed their imperialist tendencies. Rubio, Graham, and many others (who lead the capitalist “two-party” beast) don’t even want  a possibility of detente between the U$ and the DPRK, which the orange menace still seems to believe is possible, calling Kim “calm,” leaving open the possibility of another meeting with Kim. This brings us to the real question at hand: what did the agreement between Kim and Moon say and what does it mean for peace on the Korean Peninsula?

In order to promote further understanding and knowledge of inter-Korean negotiations, I have uploaded an unofficial translation of their agreement, by Korea Times, to my personal WordPress. [2] With that, I reprint the agreement in its entirety within this article, analyzing specific sections with informed analysis. The first two paragraphs introduce the document, talks about what has been accomplished since the Panmunjeom Declaration in April 27th of this year:

Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea and Kim Jong-un, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea held the Inter-Korean Summit Meeting in Pyongyang on September 18-20, 2018.

The two leaders assessed the excellent progress made since the adoption of the historic Panmunjeom Declaration, such as the close dialogue and communication between the authorities of the two sides, civilian exchanges and cooperation in many areas, and epochal measures to defuse military tension.

Such a statement is undoubtedly positive, as it shows that Moon and Kim are on the same page, working to unite the Korean nation together. It connects to the fact that both Moon and Kim spoke before 150,000 Koreans at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, at a ceremony celebrating the 70th anniversary of the DPRK’s founding, saying their meetings will usher in a new era of peace. If what BBC says it to believed, the DPRK even revised the event to accommodate their visitors from the ROK (Republic of Korea). Moon’s speech before the crowd is a big deal because he is the first ROK leader to speak before an audience in the North. In his speech, “interrupted by thundering applause” as the New York Times described it, he praised the Korean people’s courage for overcoming the famine in the 1990s, Kim’s effort to rebuild the economy, and told the crowd that “we Koreans are exceptional, we are tenacious, we are peace-loving, And we must live together.”

The two leaders reaffirmed the principle of independence and self-determination of the Korean nation, and agreed to consistently and continuously develop inter-Korean relations for national reconciliation and cooperation, and firm peace and co-prosperity, and to make efforts to realize through policy measures the aspiration and hope of all Koreans that the current developments in inter-Korean relations will lead to reunification.

The two leaders held frank and in-depth discussions on various issues and practical steps to advance inter-Korean relations to a new and higher dimension by thoroughly implementing the Panmunjeom Declaration, shared the view that the Pyongyang Summit will be an important historic milestone, and declared as follows.

These words show that both leaders agree with the need to unify the Korean nation and increase relations between north and south. Perhaps not only can that the Panmunjeom Declaration be historic, but this statement can be a historic milestone too! Perhaps one could say it is a “landmark” in inter-Korean ties.

1. The two sides agreed to expand the cessation of military hostility in regions of confrontation such as the DMZ into the substantial removal of the danger of war across the entire Korean Peninsula and a fundamental resolution of the hostile relations.

This is also a major step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, refuting the objectives of U$ imperialists to continue to treat the DMZ as a war zone and engender tension across the peninsula itself. Following this are two objectives for how to accomplish this goal:

① The two sides agreed to adopt the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjeom Declaration in the Military Domain” as an annex to the Pyongyang Declaration, and to thoroughly abide by and faithfully implement it, and to actively take practical measures to transform the Korean Peninsula into a land of permanent peace.

② The two sides agreed to engage in constant communication and close consultations to review the implementation of the Agreement and prevent accidental military clashes by promptly activating the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee.

The text of the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjeom Declaration in the Military Domain” has not been broadly released, with media reports calling it a 55-page military agreement aiming to ease border tensions. As the LA Times described it, the agreement would create “a border buffer zone,” remove “landmines from the demilitarized zone,” create a “no-fly zone along the DMZ” and shut down the “11 guard posts” along the DMZ itself. The actual agreement, as posted by the soft anti-DPRK organization, which calls itself humanitarian, the “National Committee on North Korea” (NCNK) shows the agreement as only 17 pages long, but still important nonetheless.

2. The two sides agreed to pursue substantial measures to further advance exchanges and cooperation based on the spirit of mutual benefit and shared prosperity, and to develop the nation’s economy in a balanced manner.

① The two sides agreed to hold a ground-breaking ceremony within this year for the east-coast and west-coast rail and road connections.

② The two sides agreed, as conditions ripe, to first normalize the Gaeseong industrial complex and the Mt. Geumgang Tourism Project, and to discuss the issue of forming a west coast joint special economic zone and an east coast joint special tourism zone.

③ The two sides agreed to actively promote south-north environment cooperation so as to protect and restore the natural ecology, and as a first step to endeavor to achieve substantial results in the currently on-going forestry cooperation.

④ The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in the areas of prevention of epidemics, public health and medical care, including emergency measures to prevent the entry and spread of contagious diseases.

For the DPRK, especially, this is important, as these principles, if implemented, could tie the Korean people even closer together and tie the the North and South together not only economically but medically and environmentally on a mutual basis. The only problem that could develop with is the entrance of ROK capitalists into the North, leading to further exploitation of the proletariat. As the Associated Press put it in their article, Moon brought some of “South Korea’s most powerful business tycoons to Pyongyang” which some observers claimed was boosting Kim as he works to show “his citizens that he’s pivoting to economic improvement and… raising his impoverished nation up to South Korea’s level.” An article in Korea Herald specifically says who these capitalists are: “the chiefs of the country’s three-biggest family-run conglomerates — Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and 14 others.” The same article says that the prospects of “possible projects in the North appear to have grown slightly more positive in the [ROK] business community.” While a special economic zone or tourist project would theoretically limit these capitalists, their power and influence would not only affect the country as a whole, but they would likely not just be restricted to those specific areas. At the same time, other capitalists are cautious, as the Global Times, a Chinese tabloid aligning with the revisionist CPC, blared, quoting Kim Dong-man of the ROK-based Bogo International as saying “North Korea expects economic support from South Korea and the US in return for its denuclearization activities. However, we need to see more action, not promises or goodwill, to spend our money on a land that still faces international sanctions,” a real estate agent in Dandong (a city which borders the DPRK) named Zhang Xu who claims to speak for the “people” there: “people in Dandong have heard too much ‘good news’ and ‘good signals’ too many times, but business with North Korea remains stalled as the international sanctions are still in place. Though the declaration is a good signal, it is still far from real action, and the investment and trade environment in North Korea will not change until the US lifts its sanctions.” Finally, they quote a customs official in Hunchun: “what we care about most is when will the sanctions be removed, especially those relevant to aquatic products and restricting labor from North Korea” and Li Shenglin, head of the Linfeng Trade Company, based in Dandong, as saying “US President Donald Trump needs peace on the Korean Peninsula as a political asset for his mid-term election and he needs support from Kim,” adding that China needs the DPRK to have a more “favorable environment” for “investors,” another name for capitalists. Despite the article saying that “ordinary” people or residents will be quoted, they are only mentioned briefly, only quoting capitalists instead!

3. The two sides agreed to strengthen humanitarian cooperation to fundamentally resolve the issue of separated families.

① The two sides agreed to open a permanent facility for family reunion meetings in the Mt. Geumgang area at an early date, and to promptly restore the facility toward this end.

② The two sides agreed to resolve the issue of video meetings and exchange of video messages among the separated families as a matter of priority through the inter-Korean Red Cross talks.

This is another positive step, making it clear that the union of the two Koreas is even more permanent than it is currently. Some media were allowed in the DPRK apparently on restricted terms, like the the team from National Pentagon Radio (NPR), including Mary Louise Kelly, the college-educated host of All Things Considered who has been in the bourgeois media since the 1990s, and Becky Sullivan, the producer of the same show. Kelly, who wrote the NPR article, complains about renting an armband to show herself as a foreign journalist and seems to be unaware of her Orientalist views.[3] Even Michael Palin, formerly of the UK- based Monty Python comedy group, went to the DPRK with The Guardian lamenting that he only saw the country as “strange” but not “sinister,”  as they treat it as some repressive, horrible place. They note that while Palin grumbled about “the lack of internet [and] absence of phone signal,” the obvious results of UN (and U$) sanctions, “marvelled at the extravagant underground train stations and the extraordinarily robotic, choreographed movements of the traffic police…got a head massage at a state-run health complex…and was shown the centre where table tennis players practise.” In the meantime, the DOJ in the U$ has accused someone supposedly from the DPRK, named “Park Jin-hyok,” of hacking Sony Pictures in 2014, with BBC only supporting his existence because the FBI said so, which is a low source of “evidence,” making it a joke. [4] As William Blum said in his recent anti-empire report, “a statement from the FBI that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.” The same applies to this supposed person.

4. The two sides agreed to actively promote exchanges and cooperation in various fields so as to enhance the atmosphere of reconciliation and unity and to demonstrate the spirit of the Korean nation both internally and externally.

① The two sides agreed to further promote cultural and artistic exchanges, and to first conduct a performance of the Pyongyang Art Troupe in Seoul in October this year.

② The two sides agreed to actively participate together in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games and other international games, and to cooperate in bidding for the joint hosting of the 2032 Summer Olympic Games.

③ The two sides agreed to hold meaningful events to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the October 4 Declaration, to jointly commemorate the 100th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement Day, and to hold working-level consultations toward this end.

Such cultural and artistic exchanges are another attempt to tie the two Koreas together. This is manifested perhaps even by Kim himself trying to do the “baby hearts” gesture which is popular on Instagram with those in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. [5] The DPRK is not isolated, as we should remember. Recent KCNA articles noted that Kim, received supportive letters from the leaders of Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, on the country’s 70th anniversary, to give a few examples.

5. The two sides shared the view that the Korean Peninsula must be turned into a land of peace free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threats, and that substantial progress toward this end must be made in a prompt manner.

① First, the North will permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform under the observation of experts from relevant countries.

② The North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures, such as the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon, as the United States takes corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement.

③ The two sides agreed to cooperate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Turning the Korean Peninsula into an “island of peace” which is free from nuclear weapons is a laudable goal. The dismantling of a missile site is one thing, but the fact that thee DPRK is willing to permanently destroy its nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon is a powerful concession. It is in the court of the U$ to see if they will take “corresponding measures” or maintain their current adamant position of imperialist arrogance. With the U$ (from the mouth of Pompeo) saying that it wants to complete denuclearization by January 2021, this leaves open the possibility of detente at a time, possibly with a second meeting with the orange menace. However, this is complicated by the fact that the orange menace may tell the UN Security Council next week that countries should crackdown on Iran (where there are ruminations of new negotiated nuclear and missile treaty, even in The Daily Beast), among other countries which reportedly violate UN “decrees against nuclear proliferation” as USA Today recently stated. And no, Pompeo, the U$ is not “most generous nation in the world” as you so recently declared, but is rather a bringer of global death, destruction, and unmitigated chaos as bloody imperialists!

This also connects to another article in the Global Times, focusing on Pyongyang specifically, noting that the DPRK “draws Chinese people’s curiosity by reminding them of the old days” but that is apparently changing, as part of an eight-day trip there. Specifically, they describe a Ragwon Department Store selling Panasonic 60-inch LCD TVs and “Merries baby diapers,” which they say was not crowded, adding that the country’s  exchange rate is not the same for those living in the DPRK and foreigners. They also say that “food consumption prices in Pyongyang are almost the same as that in Beijing, even a little higher,” noting that electric appliances have similar price, and that since 2004 it has been decreed that “foreign cash” cannot be circulated in the DPRK but must be exchanged for won “at appointed locations.” The article goes onto say that “on the streets of Pyongyang, you can see 1960s trucks along with the latest Land Rover. Citizens talk on mobile phones under the slogans and posters…even though the country might be known for conservative people, poverty and low levels of education, there are expensive restaurants and the city is extremely clean.” Clearly, they have some perceptions of the country before even going in. After a 54-year-old worker at the Kim Jong-suk Silk Mill told Global Times that those in the DPRK “are not like those capitalist countries, in which people cannot live without money,” the article goes onto describe a “vegetable farm in the Sadong district of Pyongyang…feeding the capital city with vegetables,” with 70% of their production purchased by the government and 30% distributed to farmers. The head of the farm was quoted as saying that “in 2017 the average income was 800,000 to 900,000 won. We don’t have many places to spend money, because the medical care is free, school is free and even the housing is free. So we only use the money to buy some necessities.” The article goes onto talk about the “country’s strong urge to modernize” and notes that DPRK officials never mention “reform and opening-up,” but says that “North Korea has become more relaxed and friendly than before…Anti-US books and posters are disappearing,” and  that “a wealth imbalance still exists in the country.” Whether the latter is true or not, it is clear that the DPRK is likely to move in the direction of China with its “opening up” but it is doing it slowly at its own pace.

6. Chairman Kim Jong-un agreed to visit Seoul at an early date at the invitation of President Moon Jae-in.

Like other parts of the agreement, this promise to visit Seoul shortly, which no leader of the DPRK has ever engaged in, is something Fred Kaplan of Slate called “not unlike Nixon’s sit-down with Mao.” With this, it is no surprise that Kim is becoming more and more popular in the South as a result of rapprochement, showing that Koreans are more ready for peace than ever before. Additionally, it is not a stretch of the imagination that Kim would say that “it’s not too much to say that it’s Moon’s efforts that arranged a historic North Korea-U.S. summit. Because of that, the regional political situation has been stabilized and more progress on North Korea-U.S. ties is expected.” While detente between the U$ and DPRK would be the start of ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula, loosening the claws of U$ imperialism around the DPRK, it brings with it dangers.

Recently, Pompeo, in an interview with Laura Ingraham, said that he was “we’re making the progress that we need” on the DPRK nuclear negotiations but also said something far more revealing: he said that Russia has been “aggressive” toward the U$ and that it needs to be pushed back and restrained, but in the long term: “if you’re looking at the things that threaten American livelihoods, that put America truly at risk of its continued economic growth, China…presents the far greater threat to the United States.” This is the grand strategy of the current U$ imperial administration, which some have talked about before in alternative media: focus efforts against China, perhaps trying to pull China and Russia apart, turning them against each other. So far, this has not been successful, but since Russia is not some valiant anti-imperialist state, but rather a nationalist one with a capitalist economy and a vibrant bourgeoisie (which some call “oligarchs” without applying the same label to the U$), it is possible to see it pulling back from commitments in Syria, and possibly other states as well as evident from its weak response to the recent Zionist aggression in Syria. Let us not forget that China and Russia have voted for 20 U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions focused on the DPRK since they began in July 2006. They have made no effort to even vote against these measures, despite the fact they have permanent veto powers. This shows that neither the Chinese or Russian states are friends of the Korean people since the UN sanctions (coupled with the unilateral ones of the U$) have caused untold hardship for the people of the DPRK and held back the country’s development, which could have allowed it to have more expanded cell phone and internet service by this point. The same is the case with Cuba, where the financial blockade as imports of technology are restricted, also stunting its development.

In the end, while we should remain critical, especially of the prominent entrance of capitalists from the ROK, and possibly those from other elements of the imperial core, along with increased numbers from China, this is a process which is up to Koreans themselves, who have a right to determine their own destiny.

In the end, while we should remain critical, especially of the prominent entrance of capitalists from the ROK, and possibly those from other elements of the imperial core, along with increased numbers from China, this is a process which is up to Koreans themselves, who have a right to determine their own destiny.


Notes

[1] Take long-time Slate columnist Fred Kaplan who grumbled that there weren’t enough concessions from Kim, with the declaration between Kim and Moon demands “a certain amount of denuclearization on the part of the United States.” After asking a former Bush National Security Adviser for his thoughts, he paints the orange menace as dumb and uninformed, declaring that the declaration between the Moon and Kim sets the terms for the “surrender” of the U$, showing his imperialist mindset. Alex Ward of Vox, a liberal cesspool, declare that the agreement was “extremely vague,” will be “bad” for the U$, call Kim a “dictator” (normal-speak in such media), review the agreement made between Moon and Kim, and declaring that the summit could “potentially weaken US-South Korea ties in the future,” acting like this somehow bad even though it isn’t. The same is the case in a video by The Guardian, which prominently features right-wing, anti-DPRK forces in the Republic of Korea, calls Kim a “dictator,” while declaring that the country is poverty-striken and people “repressed.” The Associated Press fell in line, claiming that the Kim-Moon “joint statement appeared to fall short of the major steps many in Washington have been looking for,” and a “propaganda set piece” in a second story which quotes many anti-DPRK experts, verging on calling the DPRK racist! At the same time, the LA Times, said in what an uninformed reader would think is “fact”: that the DPRK “has been brought to the negotiating table by crippling U.N. sanctions” which clearly denies that these sanctions are murderous against the Korean people and the New York Times seemed concerned that Kim’s “commitments fell far short of what American officials have demanded,” seeming concerned it “unclear what else he [Kim] may demand” of the U$, seeming to miss that the imperialists are demanding the surrender of the DPRK to the U$ imperialists without offering much in return. However, Kevin Drum of Mother Jones even said that “modest progress” was made, while CBC said that the meeting between Kim and Moon has “accompanied by real progress at the negotiating table” and Qatar-based Al Jazeera, which often blasts terroristic messages to the world, was also optimistic. It is funny that the New York Times would say this because Fred Kaplan of Slate seemed to have a clear idea of Kim’s goals: “a relaxation of tensions, investment in his impoverished country (including the suspension of sanctions), a withdrawal of U.S. military forces from the peninsula (which is what he ultimately means by an end to America’s “hostile policy”), and the splintering of the U.S.-South Korean alliance—all, preferably, at no cost to his regime.” While this is phrased in a way that is Orientalist and imperialist, this is a better recognition of the goals of Kim than the New York Times! This paragraph derives from the following sources: Fred Kaplan, “Close, but No Denuclearization,” Slate, Sept 19, 2018; Alex Ward, “North and South Korea just signed a major agreement. It may be bad news for Trump,” Vox, Sept 19, 2018; GuardianNews, “Why are Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in’s hugs controversial?,” YouTube, Sept 19, 2018; Associated Press, “Kim agrees to dismantle main nuke site if U.S. takes steps too,” Politico, Sept 19, 2018; Jonathan Gatehouse, “Progress at Korea peace talks overshadowed by gloom facing both leaders back home,”CBC, Sept 19, 2018; Robyn Dixon, “U.S. praises North Korea’s offer to shutter missile site and extends invitation for more high-level diplomatic talks,” LA Times, Sept 19, 2018; Foster Klug, “Summit may be the grand theater Kim needs to show his people,” Associated Press, Sept 19, 2018; Kevin Drum, “North and South Korea Make Modest Progress in Latest Talks,” Mother Jones, Sept 19, 2018; Chae Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger, “North Korea’s New Nuclear Promises Fall Short of U.S. Demands,” New York Times, Sept 19, 2018; “North Korea’s Kim agrees to ‘dismantle’ key missile test sites,” Al Jazeera, Sept 19, 2018.

[2] There is even a website for the summit hosted by the ROK, schedule of Moon‘s day 1 and day 2 in Pyongyang, motorcade through Pyongyang, Moon departing for Pyongyang, results of inter-Korean talks, instructions for envoys going to Pyongyang, and other briefings, along with other information, here, here, and here. The agreement does not seem to be posted on any English sites of official DPRK media, like KCNA or Rodong Sinmun. Perhaps it is posted in Korean.

[3] Mary Louise Kelly,  “What It Looks Like Inside A Classroom In North Korea,” NPR, Sept 20, 2018; Mary Louise Kelly, “101 Ways To Thwart A Reporter In Pyongyang,” NPR, Sept 21, 2018; Lucy Managan, “Michael Palin in North Korea review – a soothing look at a despotic regime,” The Guardian, Sept 21, 2018. Links for the NPR articles are retained here only because it is an example of their orientalist mindsets, and because the second NPR article has photographs.

[4] Alistair Coleman, “North Korea claims NHS and Sony hack suspect ‘doesn’t exist’,” BBC News, Sept. 14, 2018.

[5] Elle Hunt, “Kim Jong-un all fingers and thumbs in bid for Instagram diplomacy,” The Guardian, Sept 21, 2018.

Mnangagwa’s “victory” benefits Zimbabwe bourgeoisie, spells doom for proletariat

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Some things have changed since this was published and I am currently keeping a close eye on developments in Zimbabwe.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe deemed Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zanu-PF the official winner of the county’s July 30th elections, by a small margin, garnering 50.8% to 44.3% gained by Nelson Chamisa of the MDC, a party long backed by Western capitalists since its formation in 1999. As one would expect, Chamisa declared that the election itself was illegitimate. Chamisa, after this decision was made, was told to accept defeat. Some, like Jonathan Moyo, who could be said to be a stalwart Robert Mugabe supporter, have followed suit, declaring on his freewheeling Twitter account the election to be stolen, and supporting the position of Chamisa, going so far as to say that there is an “imperial executive presidency” in place. Apart from Moyo’s antics, this “victory” for Mnangagwa is not good for the Zimbabwean proletariat. As I noted in my last article on the subject [also reposted on this blog], the Zanu-PF and MDC had political platforms that were relatively similar, with the victory of either party benefiting “the hungry Western bourgeoisie while hurting the Zimbabwean proletariat,” adding that not only did Chamisa prematurely declare victory but the Zimbabwean police engaged in an effort of control against MDC protesters. Furthermore, the mismanagement of the economy by the bourgeoisie of Zimbabwe combined with the overwhelming effect of Western sanctions, with the U$ sanctions still remaining in place currently, will lead to political change that benefits Western capitalists, with undoubted neoliberal destruction. The county is caught in the “conflict between Chinese and U$ capitalists” as I wrote before, arguing that Mnangagwa “would try to balance the capitalists from each country” with the Chinese wanting “more integration of the global capitalist system.”

A few days ago, Gregory Elich, an anti-imperialist writer, wrote an article titled “Zimbabwe on the Path to Neoliberal Ruin” which talks about the recent developments in Zimbabwe. In the article he noted that with the defeat of the MDC’s court challenge, the results of last years coup have been cemented, noting that apart from the question of electoral fraud, “the very basis for the election was illegitimate, as Mnangagwa would never have been a candidate in the first place had it not been for the military coup.” Even one director of HRW in Southern Africa, Dewa Mavhinga, admitted that the chief justice of Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court, Luke Malaba, “ruled that Robert Mugabe voluntarily resigned & @edmnangagwa lawfully took over. He did not seek primary evidence to ask Mugabe to say whether he voluntarily step down or was forced out.” As such, Mugabe, who recently congratulated Mnangagwa but declared he would not support him in the election rather throwing his support to the MDC, recognized this when he called it an unquestioned coup. As for Elich, he also noted that after the outbreak of violence aimed at the MDC, the U$ State Department basically called “upon the MDC to accept defeat with graciousness” which they never would have done if Mugabe was President, adding the similarity between the party platforms of the MDC and Zanu-PF, further saying that “there were certain advantages to be gained from a victory by the ruling ZANU-PF” since Mnangagwa is “better situated to garner sufficient legislative backing to enact neoliberal measures, whereas ZANU-PF parliamentarians might prove more resistant to Chamisa’s efforts to pass the same type of proposals.” He concluded by talking about U$ and European worries about there not being “peaceful stability” in the county before investing, but that “if tensions settle, the future looks bright for Western corporations wishing to invest in Zimbabwe…Mnangagwa sees the way out as surrendering much of his nation’s sovereignty and redirecting the economy to serve the interests of Western capital.” The latter would happen, he writes, by engaging in privatization, opening the economy more to the West which began with limiting the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act. This law is an “official affirmative action programme,” begun in 2008, that is conducted by the Zimbabwean government “in order to right historical inequalities between the races in Zimbabwe,” and it stipulates “that foreign investors could own no more than 49 percent of businesses in various sectors.” The current Zimbabwean government limited it to only diamond and platinum mining! They also have restructured the economy with the help of Western capitalists, perhaps chipping away at the vaunted land reform program as well. Elrich ends by noting that the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is worried by recent developments, the current junta ruling the country will “resort to violence to ensure that they continue to rule” and that there is currently “no significant political force on the scene that is philosophically inclined to steer the nation away from the shoals of neoliberal demolition.” This seems evident despite claims of legitimate resistance. It is worth noting that the ZCTU seems to have allied itself with the opposition, with the late Morgan Tsvangirai a former secretary and the fact that they were a major force against the ESAP (Economic Structural Adjustment Programme) adopted by the Zanu-PF government and implemented from 1991 to 1995, leading to the formation of the MDC in 1999. Their moderate efforts are only aimed at certain individuals in the government, which is coupled with social-democratic, if you can call it that, objectives of a “powerful, effective, democratic independent and united trade union movement in Zimbabwe,” gaining “trade union rights and privileges,” protecting and defending workers, advancing “educational, political and economic knowledge,” opposing “splinter trade unions,” act as a channel of communication for laborers, cooperating “wherever possible with Government, cooperatives, progressive organizations and any employers’ organization” and claiming they represent the Zimbabwean proletariat. Is it any surprise then that the U$ government, under the auspices of NED’s “Solidarity Center,” pumped over $2 million into the Zimbabwean labor movement from 2014 to 2017, more than half of which went to support the ZCTU?

Elich is on the right track but does not fully get the picture. There have been efforts seemingly to break up state companies, court White farmers who were evicted and replaced with Black farmers as part of the land redistribution program begun in the 1990s, going after Mugabe’s properties, and threats by the Zanu-PF to raise presidential term limits to reduce any future Nelson Chamisas. [1] Western capitalists are glad to see this new opportunity. Already, before the election, Mnangagwa met with the U$ ambassador and later with a top German economic adviser after the election. Apart from calls to remove bond notes to “kickstart” the economy, Zimbabwe may begin to resemble Kenya, where the President there, Uhuru Kenyatta, “called for the establishment of a new framework of cooperation with Britain as it exits from the European Union early next year,” saying that Kenya and UK imperialists need an even stronger relationship! With this incoming neocolonialism, which some strangely qualify as “commercial colonialism,” the British are right out in front. Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the UK, recently hailed Mnangagwa and his “commission of inquiry into the violence that rocked Harare on August 1,” declaring that what is happening now is “an opportunity for Zimbabwe…I look forward to Zimbabwe being able to grasp this opportunity for the future,” adding that the commission “is a very important signal from him about the Zimbabwe he wants to see for the future, and the Zimbabwe that is taking opportunities for the future of its people.” This is a major indicator that the British capitalists are ready to expand their roots into Zimbabwe once more. Around the same time, the Germans pledged to “open lines of credit for Zimbabwe and deepen bilateral relations,” discussing issues of farmers compensation with them as well. With these German and UK capitalists salivating and wanting to return to the “untapped” market of Zimbabwe, let us not forget about the land program that is being chipped away more and more. The bigoted tabloid, The Daily Mail, of all places, admitted back in 2011 that prior to the introduction of the Zimbabwean policy where white-owned farms were seized and handed over to black workers, “whites controlled about 70 per cent of Zimbabwe’s arable land despite making up less than 1 per cent of the country’s population.” That is a situation these capitalists want to return to, to dominate the political scene once again.

With the governments of Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, and DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) all praising Mnangagwa, a number of whom were outspoken against Mugabe, it is clear that the neoliberalism that the current Zimbabwe government embodies is not unique to itself. Lest we forget that Mnangagwa is a person who “humbly request[s]” bankers to help make the country’s economy grow,  is about as weak as it can get. Even with this pandering to the West, there may still be some Western hostility, possibly embodied by the U$ since it has not made such offers to Zimbabwe that mirror those of the UK and Germany, yet. One Reuters article acnowledged this, noting remarks by Mnangagwa spokesperson George Charamba, and adding that “as Zimbabwe became increasing isolated under Mugabe, it turned to China to help prop up its economy,” and noting that “Zimbabwe had good relations with southern African governments and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) states.” [2] Additionally, the Washington Post editorial board blared on August 31, in a hideous rant titled “How Zimbabwe missed its chance for change” that: “Mr. Mnangagwa has lost an important opportunity to pull Zimbabwe back from economic and political destitution, where it was left at the conclusion of Robert Mugabe’s long misrule. The country deserves better, much better. Mr. Mnangagwa raised hopes when he took power last November after Mr. Mugabe…was removed from power…The election to succeed Mr. Mugabe was also different…These are the real stakes: whether Zimbabwe can cast off the burdensome legacy of Mr. Mugabe’s 37 years at the helm. Systemic change is extremely difficult. But without it, the country will remain mired in economic and political misery.” This is utter absurdity, showing not only the utter racism of the Washington Post but their imperialist outlook which paints Mnangagwa, despite his dedication to neoliberalism, as “not good enough”! All of this is connected to a recent story about reported deployment of a “new generation of surface-to-air missiles (SAM)” by the Chinese in the country. Whether true or not, the fact is that the Chinese are fully willing to have economic relations with Zimbabwe despite the fact that the country is ruled by a government led by those installed in a military coup, reinforced by the recent election, whether it was legal or not.

With this, I am reminded of a recent article by Amber B. about rising imperialists and the ongoing power of U$ imperialism. She wrote that there is “a high-tide of inter-imperialist tension and rivalry over control in strategic political and economic areas throughout the Third World,” and noted, specifically about China, that like Russia to which the U$ sees as a “threat to its survival,” it is a “power capable of dislodging amerikan imperialist hegemony from strategic markets.” In the case of Zimbabwe this may be the case, with China, which promotes Western companies building products in their country, Africans working for Chinese companies, new Chinese-built projects in Africa, and strengthened ties with varied African leaders, to give a few recent examples. There is also the annual (and upcoming) Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit which will be held in Beijing from September 3 to 4. There is a direct connection to this gathering, in the case of Zimbabwe. Around the same time, the Zimbabwean party paper, The Herald, quoted Mnangagwa as declaring that “policies in the past were constraining economic development” and that there need to be efforts to “improve the environment in the economic sphere” including limiting the indigenisation law, which he grumbled was “constraining the flow of capital in the economy,” adding that “we have done a lot in removing the archaic legislation that was constraining economic growth in our country…everyday we are improving our competitiveness in the region and internationally in terms of attracting investment into the country.” The same article noted that he was expected to hold bilateral discussions with President Xi Jinping, and said that China has committed itself “to ushering in a new blueprint to explore opportunities for future mutual development, and to contribute to promoting world peace, stability and the development of Africa and China” as they described it, of course. This was echoed in the South China Morning Post which added that, at this summit, “China has doubled its financial aid and investment pledges to Africa…Xi said the financing would be in the form of government help as well as investment and funding by institutions and companies…Xi also announced that China would waive the debt of the poorest African countries that have diplomatic ties with Beijing.” The article also noted that while many have been concerned that China’s growing presence in Africa may lead countries to “struggle to repay the Chinese debt used to build expensive infrastructure projects,” Xi defended the belt and road plan, declaring that “China was not pursuing “political self-interest” in its investments in Africa.” It was also noted that “Chinese companies were also encouraged to make at least US$10 billion in investment in Africa in the next three years, Xi said…Africa is growing in strategic importance for China, with the People’s Liberation Army opening its first overseas naval base in Djibouti last year. Xi said China would set up a China-Africa peace and security fund and continue providing free military aid to the African Union…Cheng Cheng, a researcher at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University, said Africa’s growing population and expanding middle class made it a huge market for Chinese exports.” Basically, this means that China is aiming for a market across the continent for its products and more places that Chinese capitalists can “safely” put their capital. At the same time, the Chinese are strongly opposing trade protectionism and “anti-globalization” so you will not see them waving the red flag, standing in solidarity with the global proletariat. Rather, you will see profit-driven SOEs (State-Owned Enterprises) expanding abroad, giving more of a foothold to China’s version of capitalism than previously.

China’s form of social-imperialism, involving good relations with Japanese capitalists, as Amber B. describes it in her article, needs further study. It involves countering Chinese media narratives that “debunk” Western media narratives while posing China as knights in shining armor with a peace offering. I wrote about revisionist China in a two-part series for my subreddit, rwcc (Revisionism with Chinese Characteristics), trying to counter revisionist narratives and show the reality of the country. While saying this, I agree with Amber B. that we must take provocations between China, Russia, and the U$ seriously, as this is “the reality of inter-imperialist conflict in the era of moribund capitalism-imperialism,” with our tasks to oppose escalation, “carry out Lenin’s program of revolutionary defeatism” and to count on comrades across the world, as U$ imperialism fades, to “thwart the rise of their “own” expansionist and imperialist states” whether they are Russia, China, or another emerging power, with the main responsibility to “turn struggle inward, and to confront the threat of imperialist world war with revolutionary war.” As I said in my previous article, it is clear that not only are hard times ahead for the Zimbabwean proletariat. The turning point for Zimbabwe is over and it has not turned out well for the Zimbabwean proletariat. As Ahmed Sékou Touré, the long-time president of Guinea who seemed to soften up on the West starting in the 1970s, said in 1962, “the relation between the degree of destitution of peoples of Africa and the length and nature of the exploitation they had to endure is evident. Africa remains marked by the crimes of the slave-traders: up to now, her potentialities are restricted by under-population.” [3] The latter is the case for Zimbabwe. As such, it, along with a correct analysis of the current geopolitical atmosphere rooted in revolutionary theory should be the basis of our understanding of the world, allowing us to stand with the proletariat oppressed across the world and against the concentrations of imperialist power.


Notes

[1]  Siobhan Heanue, “New Zimbabwe Government courts white farmers ejected by Mugabe,” ABC (AU), Aug 30, 2018.

[2] Joe Brock, “Zimbabwe says ‘hostility of the West’ putting off renewed investment,” Reuters, Aug 21, 2018.

[3] Quoted by Walter Rodney on page 95 of his book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, which derives from a 1958 book of his speeches published by S.O.P. Press and his Toure’s 1963 book, The Doctrine and Methods of the Democratic Party of Guinea.

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” in the U$

Note: The following article is reprinted from Dissident Voice. This is part 2 of an article series on there called “a “sudden bout of atypical decency”?” I have engaged in some editing of my own here in this version. I made one change, apart from slimming down footnote 2, which I feel ashamed to admit and sick to my stomach: I accepted a form of censorship just so Part 2 could be published. It is in paragraph 9. I removed a whole section because they have a different conception of speech. The exchange I had is noted below this article.* I have added in another two lines in this version of the article about speech as well, which is similar to those I proposed as a compromise with their view, but this was rejected, since I apparently wrongly perceived  their position, leading to more email negotiating as you could call it. After I made this change, the editor told me: “Thank you, LC.  DV has published your submission…It would be a good idea for you to go over it and make sure I didn’t miss anything and that everything is in its proper place. The title of Part 1 had to be cut because of its length (if you were wondering) and I’d suggest it looks better with the subtitle. For Part 2 the title you submitted was used but the subtitle is the main title in Part 1. DV does that so that there is no confusion if Parts 1 and 2 show up in a search with the same title. (Just explaining in case you were curious about the titles.) All the best and here’s hoping DV will hear from you again sooner rather than later. In the meantime have a great school year.” Yes, I am going to school again, that is true. But, apart from that, I will submit to Dissident Voice again, but won’t let myself get in a situation like this again, knowing Dissident Voice’s bounds. As always, I look forward to your comments on this article, as I may be faulty in my views when it comes to these matters.

In part 1, I talked about the power of social media giants and claims of “free speech” on their platforms. Again, I am referring just to the U$, as I am most familiar with the debate on “free speech” there. In the future I may expand this analysis to other capitalist countries.

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is so ingrained that Nadine Strossen, a former president of the ACLU, can spout on The Real News about a “we the people” government in the U$, while declaring that government regulation through net neutrality and antitrust laws, along with consumer pressure, and “free speech” (or counter speech) can stop the bigots in their tracks. This is a laughable notion from a person who says porn should be tolerated (not restricted or banned), is currently a contributor for the Federalist Society, criticized campus speech restrictions, and was a friend and fan of Antonin Scalia! She also, infamously, defended the actions of former ACLU president Anthony Romero, who had agreed to “screen the organization’s employees against terrorist “watch lists”…in order to qualify as an officially approved charity for federal employees,” advising the “Ford Foundation to “parrot” the Patriot Act in formulating controversial new restrictions on the speech of its grantees,” and trying to impose “very broad confidentiality agreement and technology rules on ACLU employees,” as argued by former ACLU board member Wendy Kaminer, who also harshly criticized the organization for its policies on civil liberty. As The Onion joked in one article, when Strossen was president, the ACLU declared that it would “”vigorously and passionately defend” the Georgia chapter of the American Nazi Party’s First Amendment right to freely express its hatred of the ACLU by setting its New York office ablaze on Nov. 25.” That’s how ridiculous the ACLU is, without a doubt.

Last year, the Supreme Court held, in Packingham v. North Carolina, that a North Carolinian law that restricted access of sex offenders to social media violated the First Amendment. More than that, this case, which was the first major case on the topic since the Reno v. ACLU case in 1997, opens the floodgates for “free speech” to apply to the internet as the latter is considered analogous to a public forum, perhaps leading to further jurisprudence.  But more than being a supposed victory for “free expression,” which was likely cheered on by the ACLU, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion raises the question of what parts of the internet would fall under First Amendment protection.  In this opinion, followed by a blistering dissent from Samuel Alito, Kennedy, clearly a tech optimist, wrote that the First Amendment is a “fundamental principle” meaning that “all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more,” adding that this now applies to cyberspace, including social media, with users engaging in a “wide array” of “First Amendment activity” that is “legitimate” and “protected.”

He added that the digital age has a “vast potential to alter how we think, express ourselves, and define who we want to be” which can quickly change, while implying that the First Amendment may offer some protection for access to social media and the internet. As for social media, he argued that it not only allows “users to gain access to information and communicate with one another about it on any subject that might come to mind” but that it is the “modern public square” that, in his view, allows for people to explore “the vast realms of human thought and knowledge…mak[ing] his or her voice heard.” This is clearly an optimistic view of social media which often is filled with utter and mundane garbage. I think social media includes many more pictures of people showing off their dogs, newborn babies, and silly cat videos, than those who engage in discussion that opens “human thought and knowledge.” What is Kennedy smoking here?

With this decision, the arguments of those like the ACLU that want “an uncensored Internet, a vast free-speech zone,” the EFF that wants “sufficient legal protections for users and innovators,” and Strossen, are clearly boosted. Still, this does not mean there will be “free speech” on the internet anytime soon. While the general conception is that “anyone can say anything online,” this is not only changing but it is inaccurate because intimidation is not protected speech on the internet, along with inciting violence, making threats of violence, privacy invasion, defamation, copyright infringement, inciting a riot or inducing lawbreaking, “fighting words,” false advertising, and disrupting school activities, to name a few. While some say that the First Amendment asserts that that one can express themselves “without interference or constraint by the government,” the fact is that a government can “place reasonable restrictions on free speech, such as those that restrict the time, place, and manner of the speech.”

Some have tried to use the Packingham decision to declare that there should be “free speech” on the internet. Others, like White nationalists and Neo-Nazis, have gone even further to draw a parallel between private shopping centers and social media platforms! If this connection was to be made, which is a remote and absurd possibility, those on social media would not be able to “unreasonably intrude” on the private property rights of these platforms, having to “reasonably exercise” their rights while their ideas would not be allowed to have “free rein.” Additionally, their words and actions would have to be deemed peaceful, orderly, and not disturbing the functioning of these platforms, with the latter allowed to restrain the “time, place, and manner” of user’s speech. They could be prohibited from imposing “blanket and total prohibition on the exercise of First Amendment activities” of users but they would also be allowed to restrict those engaging such speech so they did not obstruct or unduly interfere with “normal business operations” or does not impede, distract, or interfere with the business itself.

Furthermore, anyone who engaged in substantial damage or physical obstruction of social media could be restricted or banned, along with being prohibited from annoying and harassing individuals. At the same time, while users could have the right to “freedoms of speech and religion” they could also be restricted if there was a public space where they could use their rights apart from social media, and by the fact that the U$ Constitution provides no protection or redress from a private person or corporation, with the 1st and 14th Amendment not applying to action “by the owner of private property used only for private purposes.” This is not what the bigots would want! Even with these interpretations, Twitter could still say it is a private sector company, which requires users to abide by their rules. Additionally, it is worth noting that these social media platforms are not public since the “supposed public square is actually a small group of digital platforms owned by an even smaller group of giant transnational corporations,” a fact that should be obvious. [1] Even Mozilla, which says that “the principle of free speech is a foundation of Western democracy” admits that “free speech gets more complicated in private spaces – that is, spaces not owned by the government…private businesses have every right, legally, to refuse service to individuals who don’t adhere to their stated policies.”

Jimmy Dore and others have said the First Amendment should be applied to Facebook (and other social media) because they see it as a public space and have also said that such outlets should be public utilities. Now, in order to be a public utility, these social media companies would have to be classified the same as other companies providing “a service to the public such as transport, energy, telecommunications, waste disposal, or water and any other public goods and services.”  The question arises: are companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to give a few examples, public service corporations that engage in operations that “serve the needs of the general public or conduce to the comfort and convenience of an entire community,” which currently includes “railroads, gas, water, and electric light companies”? Well, we know they are clearly private companies with operations which are “executed by private individuals,” comprising some of those in the corporate (or private) sector which is “responsible for the allocation of the majority of resources” within a capitalist economy.

Now, to be a public service company, they would have to “provide a service to the public” which includes “transport, communications and the like.” These social media platforms likely would fall into the category of public service company rather than a public service corporation because they do not necessarily serve the needs of the general public or conduce convenience or comfort of an entire community. Instead they gather private information and make it public, selling it for profit, having great power over people’s lives. Likely such efforts to make social media a public utility will fall flat because the U$ government is legally obligated to “preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation” even with other provisions on civil liability.

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is taken by some to an extreme, like Noam Chomsky, who defends the speech of holocaust deniers for “civil libertarian” reasons, opposing existing (and justified) laws that criminalize Holocaust denial across Europe, including Germany, saying that it is a violation of their inherent “liberties” even though it actually an effort to prevent those from spreading lies about the Holocaust, a terrible period in Germany’s past. The Holocaust during World War II was not unique to human history: the unconscionable atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, genocide of indigenous peoples of the Americas, the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, and the genocide in Rwanda, count among the worst horrors of humanity. As it is not illegal to discuss the deaths of these horrors, apart from Rwanda, it is also not illegal to discuss the deaths during the Holocaust, which number in the tens of millions, as high as 17 million if all victims of persecution are counted as argued by Donald Niewyk, including Jewish, Soviet POWs, Polish, Romani, disabled, Jehovah’s witnesses, and gay peoples, to just name a few of those deemed undesirable by the Nazis. Perhaps denial or support of these horrors of human history, apart from the Holocaust, should be criminalized, but this likely will not occur because a good number of individuals still support the aforementioned horrors, sometimes gleefully. As a result, such denial of horrors is a way to support existing capitalist narratives. The situation will only be changed if there is a new, alternative narrative, perhaps only possible under a new system. Even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that recognizes the “right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” (Article 18) and “right to freedom of opinion and expression” (Article 19) is limited by the fact that everyone can be subject to legal limitations to secure respect and recognition for freedom and rights of others, along with meeting “the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society” (Article 29). [2]

There are many laws across the world when it comes to speech, with some countries trying to experiment different levels of censorship online, irking those who defend the bourgeois conception of “freedom of speech,” with some even bringing in anti-communist rhetoric to complain about “the lack of transparency found in Soviet-style governance structures” disappearing in Eastern Europe. Some, like the horrid organization, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) have declared that “the best antidote to tyranny is free and spirited debate, not suppression of speech,” which Jimmy Dore basically expressed on his show, while others like HRW or The Guardian complain about the “Great Chinese Firewall” and challenges “journalists, bloggers and dissidents” have to undertake. This has led to a list of “enemies” of the internet and efforts to break through claimed “closed societies” (one organization gives the examples of Iran and China), believing that making these societies “open” will bring goodness to the world. This id despite the fact that the internet has “been a revolution for censorship as much as for free speech” as The Guardian admitted back in 2008, which anyone with sense would recognize.

The majority of those in the Western Left are indoctrinated to think they are free, leading them attack other leftists across the world who holding power as noted by Andre Vltchek. However, his analysis is faulty since he incorrectly describes China, part of the revisionist triad (the other two countries in this triad are Laos and Vietnam), as communist when it has actually been on the capitalist road since 1976, with a form of state-supported form of capitalism which is different from that of the West, and saying that Russia’s policy is “clearly anti-imperialist” when it is actually just nationalistic.

Clearly, some individuals have more of an ability for speech than others. As the subreddit of /r/communism puts it rightly, which I still agree with even though I was ousted as a mod after I began criticizing China as capitalist rather than saying it is socialist (consensus of the subreddit’s mods), “speech, like everything else, has a class character, and that some speech can be oppressive.” This is something those who believe in the bourgeois conception of “free speech” cannot and will not acknowledge. In the capitalist society of the U$ this manifests itself by capitalists like Robert Mercer, the Koch Brothers, George Soros, Pierre Omidyar, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and many others, having the ability to publish and project their speech more than those on meager budgets. Basically, this means that ordinary people, the proletariat, have no influence (or power in) on the decision-making and politics of the U$ despite all rhetoric claiming they have such influence. How this manifests itself in the world of “free speech” is it means that those capitalists who are hatemongers can spread their horrid message far and wide while those who try to counter them get less exposure. [2]

We do not have to give such speech “respect” as some have declared we should, since there is the idea of the heckler’s veto, where a public event is canceled or suppressed due to “interruptions, protests, or violence” or the threat of such actions, one of the many tools, apart from de-platforming (not by social media outlets, but literally in person or by organizing against them online) which can be used to fight against bigoted or otherwise detestable individuals. In the end, there should be criticism (and efforts to counter) corporate control over information but this does not mean we have to defend hateful speech. Instead, those who speak truth to power, especially on the political Left, should be vigorously defended. As Michael Parenti once put it, “democratic victories, however small and partial they be, must be embraced…We need to strive in every way possible for the revolutionary unraveling, a revolution of organized consciousness striking at the empire’s heart with the full force of democracy, the kind of irresistible upsurge that seems to come from nowhere while carrying everything before it.” Victory to the proletariat! A socialist world is possible!


Notes

*First message from DV editor at 3:23 AM on Sept 1  which confused me:

Hi, LC,

I’ve gone over Part 2 and it’s ready for publication apart from this sentence:

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is taken by some to an extreme, like Noam Chomsky, who defends the speech of holocaust deniers for “civil libertarian” reasons, opposing existing (and justified) laws that criminalize Holocaust denial across Europe, including Germany, saying that it is a violation of their inherent “liberties” even though it is actually an effort to prevent those from spreading lies about the Holocaust, a terrible period in Germany’s past.

Holocaust is defined as the destruction or slaughter on a mass scale (especially by fire or nuclear war) which means what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki were holocausts; they, too, were targeted deliberately for annihilation.  Synonyms include ethnic cleansing (which the Palestinian people are well familiar with) and, of course, there’s genocide, etc.

We can start with the Original Peoples of North America and move on to the present day.  If these horrors are all out there for discussion, then so too should the events that occurred during WW 2 in Germany and Poland.  We don’t hear of people being charged because they denied the Roma holocaust, do we?  According to Romani scholar, Ian Hancock, over 1.5 million Roma were killed in Germany and Poland during this time; unfortunately, the total will never be known because (a) most were illiterate and signed their names with an “x” and (b) countless were shot on sight in Europe without ever reaching Germany.  Is it illegal to discuss their deaths?  And what about Rwanda?  I could go on.

When I hear from you with respect to this sentence, I will publish it.

My reply at 9:35 AM on Sept 1:

I agree with you that the Holocaust is only one of many horrible crimes in human history, one of the many genocides. I would like the sentence to stay if possible. I don’t know what you are asking me here. Is it that you think I should clarify this sentence, remove it, or what exactly? If it is something to add, I would be willing to say in a new sentence after this one:

“The Holocaust during World War II was not unique to human history: the unconcisble atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, genocide of indigenous peoples of the Americas, the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, and the genocide in Rwanda, count among the worst horrors of humanity. As it is not illegal to discuss the deaths of these horrors, it is also not illegal to discuss the deaths during the Holocaust, which number in the tens of millions, as high as 17 million if all victims of persecution are counted as argued by Donald Niewyk, of Jewish, Soviet POWs, Polish, Romani, disabled, Jehovah’s witnesses, and gay people, to just name a few of those deemed undesirable by the Nazis. Perhaps denial or support of these horrors of human history, apart from the Holocaust, should be criminalized, but it not usually the case, with a good number of individuals still support the aforementioned horrors, sometimes gleefully. This is often to support existing capitalist narratives and the situation will only be changed if there is a new, alternative narrative, perhaps only possible under a new system.”

A message from DV’s editor on Sept 2nd at 6:33 PM, implying that all events (including the Holocaust) should be “open to debate” and that laws prohibiting Holocaust denial are apparently bad, while also bringing up the fake idea of the fire in the theater excuse about free speech, an analogy which is TOTALLY false, as I remember reading in A People’s History of the Supreme Court:

I am not asking you to do anything.  I’m saying that DV prefers not to publish it.  And the sentence that you propose doesn’t speak to DV’s concerns.  What happened in Germany and Poland is the only event in history that cannot be discussed without fear of legal repercussions.  How and why did this happen?  Yet the deaths of the Roma, which occurred at the same time frame, are out there for discussion and anything else. You don’t see a problem with this?  You go on to list several other events that could be criminalized.  This is very problematic.  Free speech is not meant to be a slippery slope.  Once some speech is criminalized, where does that criminalization end?  DV supports free speech within bounds of common sense, not by disingenuously starting a dangerous riot by screaming “bomb” in a packed theater, for instance. Historical events should be open for discussion, debate, all of them. If they are not, why not? I would suggest you take a look at that initial sentence again.  DV will not be publishing it nor the addition as they are now. Other than that, it is ready to go.

The editor sent another at 6:34 PM about the “topic of that sentence,” which I will not quote entirely as it gives out personal information. I will quote the parts that do not involve such information where the editor said “I think you’ll find that it would be ready for publication once the topic of that sentence had been dealt with.  I have just sent you an email re same.” I replied to this saying at 10:06 PM that same day “Yes, I saw that email and am responding to it shortly.”

My final message at 11:04 PM, after composing the email and trying to watch Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita, in which I accept getting rid of the “offending” line, begrudingly. Note that I am NOT disagreeing with my previous position here, just agreeing with her general point even though I still hold fast by my original views:

I agree with you that historical events should be open for discussion and debate. I also understand DV’s position on speech and as such, I am willing to strike the initial sentence (and the one I proposed) from the article so that it can be published since the rest of the article is acceptable. I would rather replace it with the following: “The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is broadly held across the Western World.” Then the rest of the paragraph follows that.

– LC

[1] Paul Blumenthal, “The Problem Isn’t Alex Jones’ Free Speech, It’s Digital Platform Monopolies,” HuffPost, Aug 11, 2018

[2] I would say that the U$ is standing against the principle outlined in the UN’s Millennium Declaration that “men and women have the right to live their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and from the fear of violence, oppression or injustice. Democratic and participatory governance based on the will of the people best assures these rights,” the Vienna Declaration saying hat “the speedy and comprehensive elimination of all forms of racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is a priority task for the international community” and violating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) which says that states “condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races…condemn all propaganda and all organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin, or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form, and undertake to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, such discrimination…[and] shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination, and shall recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offence punishable by law.” The U$ is also clearly violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) which says that “freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others” and especially the provisions that prohibit “any propaganda for war” or any “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

“Human rights” and the narrative of imperialism

With the orange menace saying he wants to make “America great  again” (as opposed to Andrew Cuomo of New York accurately saying that “we’re not going to make America great again, America was never great”) while acknowledging that the U$ is not “making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” due to the trade war with China, and the Zionists hail the U$ for ending funding of the UN Human Rights Council, it is worth looking at how the U$ measures up compared to a number of countries, revisionist or not, some of which are in the crosshairs of U$ imperialism.

The UN’s Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has a page showing compliance of countries with their treaties.It includes a number of UN organs underneath it like the Human Rights Council (HRC), Universal Periodic Review (undertaken by the HRC, which has its own special procedures), human rights treaty bodies, and other organs. The HRC is the same council that the Bush Administration quit in June 2008, while the Obama Administration reversed this, but then the current imperial administration reinstated the Bush era policy because of the criticism of Zionists.

Going back to the OHCHR’s page, I went through the 18 treaties listed on the page and put them into a spreadsheet in order to compare these countries. Not surprisingly, this shows that the U$ is lacking. Of the 18 treaties, the U$ has only ratified or acceded to five! [1] Even if you count the treaties that the U$ has only signed but not acceded to or ratified, that would only bring the total to nine. By this measure, that the U$ has only agreed to 50% of the treaties. This drops to about 30% when it is lowered to the more accurate number of five, covering only treaties ratified or acceded to. What about other countries? The DPRK is not much better when it comes to approval of human rights treaties, unfortunately. They have only ratified or acceded to six treaties:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Of these treaties, the U$ has still not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (only signed it), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (only signed it), Convention on the Rights of the Child (only signed it), or the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (only signed it). So, in this way, you could say that the DPRK has an upper hand when it comes to human rights. However, other countries do even better than the U$ by far. This is partially due to the fact that while the DPRK can be said to be anti-imperialist, the concept of Juche, as it is implemented currently, is clearly revisionist. This leads to clear distortions. Still, the fact that even the apartheid Zionist state has ratified more human rights treaties than the U$ (nine compared to to the U$’s five), is actually pretty pathetic.

Cuba is one of those countries. It has ratified or acceded to eight human rights treaties and signed three of them. [2] While it also revisionist to an extent like the DPRK, it has retained more socialist elements than the DPRK one could say, with a society which is even more open and participatory. That means that Cuba has agreed, whether by ratifying (or acceding) or signing, to about 60% of the human rights treaties (specifically 11) noted by the OHCHR. That is relatively impressive.

Some may ask about the revisionist triad, consisting of China, Vietnam, and Laos, which largely operate on a similar model with a market economy, state ownership, and are clearly on the capitalist road. They are not engaging in any sort of New Economic Policy reminiscent of the Soviets as they do not see their path as a “strategic retreat” as Lenin clearly saw it [3], rather claiming it will bring them toward socialism, even though they are actually very much on the capitalist road, not getting off it anytime soon! As I noted on Reddit, NEP clearly had its downsides, admitted by bourgeois analysts, leading to its end in 1928 due to Josef Stalin’s action to stop it. As such, it seems strange to act like China since 1978 has engaged in its own form of NEP, an idea advocated by Deng, because the conditions were different, as China by 1978 was in a much better position than Soviet Russia in 1921. The same applies to Laos after the New Economic Mechanism began in 1986,or Vietnam after Đổi Mới (Renovation) began the same year. [4] For China, the main player in this revisionist triad, it has ratified or acceded to seven treaties, and signed two treaties, overlapping a bit with Cuba in these realms. However, China never ratified or acceded to the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance or Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the first of which Cuba had signed and ratified, and the second of which Cuba has only currently signed. This means that Cuba has a better record than China in this realm, with China only ratifying or signing half of  the human rights treaties noted by the OHCHR. Most  worrisome is the fact that China has not ratified or acceded  to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families considering that that “almost 269 million internal migrant workers are moving from rural areas to the country’s growing cities”! This is a convention that states that

…States Parties undertake, in accordance with the international instruments concerning human rights, to respect and to ensure to all migrant workers and members of their families within their territory or subject to their jurisdiction the rights provided for in the present Convention without distinction of any kind such as to sex, race, colour, language, religion or conviction, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, nationality, age, economic position, property, marital status, birth or other statusMigrant workers and members of their families shall be free to leave any State, including their State of origin. This right shall not be subject to any restrictions…No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to hold opinions without interference...No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be arbitrarily deprived of property, whether owned individually or in association with others… Migrant workers shall enjoy treatment not less favourable than that which applies to nationals of the State of employment in respect of remuneration.

Such migrants are needed to keep the state-sponsored capitalist mode of production in China humming along as Minqi Li recently told The Real News,  so that is likely why this convention was not even signed by China. Clearly, there is class conflict in China. This was recently noted by RedSpark which wrote about how a solidarity group in Shenzhen was attacked by Chinese police, a group standing in solidarity with a “worker’s struggle in Shenzhen demanding real representation and right to organize,” rallying “under the banner of Marx, Lenin, and Chairman Mao.”

What about Vietnam and Laos? Well, Laos ratified or acceded to eight treaties, and signed two treaties. That would actually give it an even better track record than China, but not as good as Cuba. As for Vietnam, it ratified or acceded to nine treaties, giving it the same track record as China.

Then there are three countries which really stand out in this realm: Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, all of which are social democracies, like Syria. Venezuela has ratified or acceded to 14 treaties and signed three. Of these, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, were ratified or acceded to during the time Hugo Chavez served as the president of Venezuela (from 1999 to 2013). Additionally, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed in 2013, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was signed in 2011, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was signed in 2011, and the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance was signed in 2008.

Bolivia, signed just as many treaties! In fact, Bolivia ratified or acceded to all 18 treaties. Of these treaties, six of which of them have been ratified since 2006 when Evo Morales became President and his Movement of Socialism came into power, still holding majorities in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Those six treaties are:

  1. Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2006
  2. International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2008
  3. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009
  4. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009
  5. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2012
  6. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure in 2013
  7. Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty in 2013

Even The Guardian, which grumbled about the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Bolivia ruling (in December 2017) that all public offices, including the presidency have no term limits, meaning that Morales can run for a fourth term in 2019 and all the actions thereafter, noted the accomplishments of Bolivia (and then proceeded to trash the country in typical imperialist fashion) [5]:

Morales, 58 – an Aymara former coca grower – was elected in 2006. The country’s first indigenous president, his 2009 constitution refounded Bolivia as a “plurinational state”. A partial nationalisation of Bolivia’s oil and gas helped create a middle class from scratch. Bolivia is Latin America’s fastest-growing economy; 53% of its legislators are women and a fifth are under 30. “From being a republic of classes, castes, skin colours, Bolivia today has become a country that by law has to be inclusive,” said Valeria Silva Guzmán, 27, a Mas congresswoman. Through slashing school truancy, infant and maternal mortality, and old-age poverty, she argued, Morales has “definitively changed the everyday reality of Bolivians”.

Of course, there is more to discuss about Bolivia, but this is a good start.

Finally, there is Nicaragua. It has ratified or acceded to 14 treaties, eight (more than half) of which were signed while the Sandinistas were in power from 1979 to 1990 and again from 2006 to the present. These include:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1980
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1980
  • Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1980
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1981
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007
  • Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty in 2009
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2009
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010

And that concludes this post, which provides a starting point for writing about all of these countries in the future.

Notes

[1] Specifically the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. As for those that were only signed, this applies to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

[2] Specifically it has ratified or acceded to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Convention on the Rights of the Child; International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. It has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

[3] In October 1921, Lenin told the Second All-Russia Congress Of Political Education Departments that “our New Economic Policy signifies that, having sustained severe defeat on this point, we have started a strategical retreat…in attempting to go over straight to communism we, in the spring of 1921, sustained a more serious defeat on the economic front than any defeat inflicted upon us by Kolchak, Denikin or Pilsudski. This defeat was much more serious, significant and dangerous…Concessions to foreign capitalists…and leasing enterprises to private capitalists definitely mean restoring capitalism, and this is part and parcel of the New Economic Policy…We must not count on going straight to communism. We must build on the basis of peasants’ personal incentive…we must undergo this training, this severe, stern and sometimes even cruel training, because we have no other way out.” Later on, in February 1922 he noted that “we are still alone and in a backward country, a country that was ruined more than others, but we have accomplished a great deal,” adding the next month the Soviets are, too, “acting as merchants” and later that “economically and politically NEP makes it fully possible for us to lay the foundations of socialist economy.” Apart from this, he easily explained it through 1921 and 1922  as a clear transitionary period, but a strategic retreat,even admitting in November 1921 that “we have retreated to state capitalism, but we did not retreat too far” and at other times it led to capitalist relations. This is NOTHING like what happened in China after 1978 or even Laos and Vietnam, as the conditions could not totally account for such action, especially since the Laotian civil war had ended in 1975, with the same being the case for Vietnam, meaning they had 13 years to develop an economic plan.

[4] As the UN Described it, in a positive tone, “in 1986, the Fourth Party Congress launched the New Economic Mechanism (NEM) to boost all economic sectors through indicative planning and economic liberalization, including a shift toward market determination of prices and resource allocations, decentralization of control over industries, progressive privatization and deregulation to promote trade and investment. Following the adoption of the New Economic Mechanism, the macro-economic situation in the country improved considerably. The macro-economic policy changes have had a strong impact on the development of the urban areas.” The same positive tone was expressed by AESAN. As Social  Watch noted, “in December 1986, the [Vietnamese] government mandated the Doi Moi (open door) policy, shifting from a centrally planned economy to a market oriented one. The current trend shows growing inequality between the rural and urban population, and between the rich and the poor. Privatisation and liberalisation increased the social gap in the access to basic social services in general and to education and health in particular, and increased the vulnerability of the rural poor. In December 1986, the government mandated the DoiMoi (open door) policy, shifting from a centrally planned economy to a market oriented one, inside the framework of state regulations. The main thrust of the Doi Moi is to promote a multi-sector economic system, emphasising the state sector while encouraging the private sector. To achieve economic integration, the open door would be implemented gradually in order to stabilise the political and social situation…Poverty is still mainly a rural problem in a country where some 80% of the population live in rural areas, and two-thirds of them remain largely dependent on agriculture for a living.”

[5] Lawrence Blair, “Evo for ever? Bolivia scraps term limits as critics blast ‘coup’ to keep Morales in power,” The Guardian, Dec 3, 2017.

“Take your Thorazine”: Determining the political nature of Syria

This text comes from Venessa Beeley’s website “The Wall Will Fall.” The image comes from Diana Dayoub’s Instagram page, seemingly a photograph of Syria. I say seemingly because on Instagram it does not say where the photo was taken.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made since I wrote this when I was much more influenced by revisionism than I am now.

In response to my recent post about the Democratic Party within the murderous empire, the so-called Marxist, Louis Proyect, declared in a comment: “Syria as a social democracy? You need to take your Thorazine.” Basically he was acting like I am out of my mind, in that he is implying I have schizophrenia or some other psychotic disorder which is an discriminatory and ableist (and is also untrue) sentiment. This is not surprising because he has a deep-seated hatred for the duly-elected Syrian government, liking the “left” opposition to it, engaging in Orientalist propaganda. I included part of his comment in the title of this article to further poke at this fake Marxist who stands against everything that Marxism stands for. He’s basically a butt-hurt progressive who hates anti-imperialist governments, although he acts like he is radical (which is a lie). Anyway, Proyect was responding to my above linked post which I wrote that while Gowans thinks that Syria is socialist, but I think that, Syria is not that at all. In August of last year I expanded on this topic, citing Gowans as a starting point for analysis:

…As noted earlier, the U$ wants to overthrow Syria’s duly-elected government…While you could argue, like Gowans that this is correct, more realistically, the state is socially democratic and secular. Hence, they have a national bourgeoisie…the Syrian leadership courts the Russian capitalists…If we can take that to heart, standing in international solidarity with Iran, Syria, and Russia, even though each of these countries has a national bourgeoisie, against the murderous empire, that is a step in the right direction.

I further added to this in other posts last year, writing that Bashar Al-Assad, and previous leaders since Syrian independence, were duly elected “by the people of Syria” with the empire scowling “at Syria since the 1960s. Furthermore, I added, in another post, that over 17.1 million are “living in the Syrian Arab Republic” with the government led by the “duly elected National Progressive Front (NPF) with its majority in the Syrian’s People’s Council” reaffirmed in elections in April 2016. This post aims to answer a simple question: Is Syria socialist, socially democratic, or just progressive?

Table of contents for this article

  1. Defining terms
  2. Gowans argues that Syria is socialist: Is he right?
  3. Further analysis: examining Syria’s economy and its supposed “socialist” nature
  4. Syria, the “good” Kurds, Syrian Communists, and elections
  5. Resistance to imperialism and concluding words
  6. Notes

 

Defining terms

Mao Zedong studying the writings of comrade Josef Stalin in the Yenan base area during the Chinese Revolution as noted on a webpage titled “Marxism-Leninism Study Guide

In order to answer the question of whether Syria is socially democratic or progressive,. I first turned to the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA). The term “social-democracy” was originally used as an “extension of political democracy to the economic level, the elimination of capitalism and the institution of a broad based workers democracy.” However, with the failure of the  Second International “to rally the international working class” against World War I, “social-democracy split,” and by 1919 most supporters of the Communist International “called themselves “Communists”” with social-democracy becoming “largely synonymous with the pale reformism of these now established socialist parties, such as the German Social-Democrats and the British Labour Party.” As for the term democratic, MIA defines this as “a political system of rule by the majority” but adding that communism works to move beyond the “limited democracy found under capitalism” and the “repressive nature of bourgeois democracy” itself. As such, the idea of “proletarian democracy” was not only representative, but participatory by avoiding the form of democracy where “one class of people decide what should be done, while another class of people do it” with the working class deciding “amongst themselves, by consensus what and how it should be done” with all positions “of authority in Socialist society must be elected solely by workers and subject to recall at any time.” Ultimately this would be the realization of a “proletarian democracy,” a significant step toward the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship which would “yield to the majority of the working people” and be a stead defense against world capitalism. As Lenin described it, in 1919, a

Proletarian dictatorship [or dictatorship of the proletariat] is similar to dictatorship of other classes in that it arises out of the need, as every other dictatorship does, to forcibly suppresses the resistance of the class that is losing its political sway. The fundamental distinction between the dictatorship of the proletariat and a dictatorship of the other classes…consists in the fact that the dictatorship of landowners and bourgeoisie was a forcible suppression of the resistance offered by the vast majority of the population, namely, the working people. In contrast, proletarian dictatorship is a forcible suppression of the resistance of the exploiters, i.e., of an insignificant minority the population, the landlords and capitalists. It follows that proletarian dictatorship must inevitably entail not only a change in the democratic forms and institutions, generally speaking, but precisely such change as provides an unparalleled extension of the actual enjoyment of democracy by those oppressed by capitalism—the toiling classes…[giving] the vast majority of the population, greater practical opportunities for enjoying democratic rights and liberties than ever existed before, even approximately, in the best and the most democratic bourgeois republics…it is the people [who]…are now drawn into constant and unfailing, moreover, decisive, participation in the democratic administration of the state…[with] a government of the workers [who are disinterested]…in the means of production being privately owned…the dictatorship of the proletariat [like the Soviet system]…is so organized as to bring the working people close to the machinery of government…[with the] combining the legislative and executive authority under the Soviet organization of the state and…replacing territorial constituencies by production units—the factory…only the proletariat is in a position to unite and lead the scattered and backward sections of the working and exploited population…only the Soviet government of the state can really affect the immediate breakup and total destruction of the old, i.e., bourgeois, bureaucratic and judicial machinery, which has been…retained under capitalism even in the most democratic republics…proletarian, democracy [enlists]…the mass organizations of the working people in constant and unfailing participation in the administration of the state, it immediately begins to prepare the complete withering away of any state…[we need to]…extend the organization of Soviets among the workers in all branches of industry, among the soldiers in the Army and the sailors in the Navy and also among farm laborers and poor peasants

Such a dictatorship of the proletariat, or what you could call proletarian democracy, would be part of an overall socialist system. Of course for the term “socialism” itself MIA has varying definitions, reflecting the debate on this term. There are words of August Bebel quoted in MIA’s definition, but it is better to use to definitions of Lenin and Marx & Engels as they are the principal Marxist theorists. Marx and Engels did not specifically define socialism in the Communist Manifesto but they talk about the “expanding union of the workers” with the need to “centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes” while he also wrote, powerfully, that “what the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” They called for the abolition “of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom” with the end of “bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom,” further noting that such freedom is “free trade, free selling and buying.” Furthermore, it was argued that private property for one-tenth of the population would be abolished, while allowing any person to “appropriate the products of society” but not having the power to “subjugate the labour of others.” This would further mean, they write, that the bourgeois family, where wives are “mere instrument[s] of production,” should be abolished (along with public and private prostitution), and rescue education “from the influence of the ruling class” while abolishing “countries and nationality” and saying that the “first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy” with the proletariat using its “political supremacy to wrest…all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State,” increasing total production as soon as possible. From there, while saying that measures will “be different in different countries,” Marx and Engels proposed “generally applicable” proposals:

  1. abolition of all land rents
  2. abolition of land as property
  3. a “heavy progressive or graduated income tax,”
  4. ending all “rights of inheritance”
  5. confiscating the property of “all emigrants and rebels”
  6. centralizing credit in the “hands of the state” with the creation of a national bank
  7. centralizing communication and transport in the state’s hands
  8. having “instruments of production” and factories owned by the state
  9. while cultivating wastelands and improving the soil
  10. having “equal liability of all to work”
  11. establishment of “industrial armies, especially for agriculture”
  12. combining “agriculture with manufacturing industries”
  13. gradually abolishing the “distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace”
  14. free education of all in public schools
  15. abolishing “children’s factory labour in its present form”
  16. Combining “education with industrial production”

After that, Marx and Engels note that once “class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation” then public power will lose its political character, and that if the proletariat is compelled to make “itself the ruling class” it would sweep away “the old conditions of production…[and] the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally,” abolishing its supremacy as a class. This means, in their words, that in the place of “old bourgeois society” there would be “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

Beyond this, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, in 1875, Marx wrote that “between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other” meaning that there is a “political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” with which he talked about. Lenin was a bit more specific. He wrote in 1917, in chapter 2 of The State and Revolution, that during the period where a society is moving from capitalism to communism, there is unprecedentedly “violent class struggle” with which the state must “democratic in a new way” for those who are propertyless and the proletarian but “dictatorial in a new way” aimed against the bourgeoisie. He further added that such a “dictatorship of a single class is necessary…for the entire historical period which separates capitalism from…communism” and while this transition is bound to lead to “tremendous abundance and variety of political forms” the essence will be the dictatorship of the proletariat. In chapter 5, of the same book, he wrote more about this, saying that

The first phase of communism…cannot yet provide justice and equality [with] differences, and unjust differences…still persist[ing], but the exploitation of man by man will have become impossible because it will be impossible to seize the means of production…and make them private property….the scientific distinction between socialism and communism is clear. What is usually called socialism was termed by Marx the “first”, or lower, phase of communist society. Insofar as the means of production becomes common property, the word “communism” is also applicable here, providing we do not forget that this is not complete communism…[Marx] regards communism as something which develops out of capitalism…In its first phase, or first stage, communism cannot as yet be fully mature economically and entirely free from traditions or vestiges of capitalism…It follows that under communism there remains for a time not only bourgeois law, but even the bourgeois state, without the bourgeoisie!…as soon as equality is achieved for all members of society in relation to ownership of the means of production, that is, equality of labor and wages, humanity will inevitably be confronted with the question of advancing further from formal equality to actual equality…By what stages, by means of what practical measures humanity will proceed to this supreme aim we do not and cannot know…only socialism will be the beginning of a rapid, genuine, truly mass forward movement, embracing first the majority and then the whole of the population, in all spheres of public and private life….Democracy…signifies the formal recognition of equality of citizens, the equal right of all to determine the structure of, and to administer, the state…a degree of democracy implies overstepping the boundaries of bourgeois society and beginning its socialist reorganization. If really all take part in the administration of the state, capitalism cannot retain its hold….it is quite possible, after the overthrow of the capitalists and the bureaucrats, to proceed immediately, overnight, to replace them in the control over production and distribution, in the work of keeping account of labor and products, by the armed workers, by the whole of the armed population…Accounting and control…is needed for the “smooth working”, for the proper functioning, of the first phase of communist society. All citizens are transformed into hired employees of the state, which consists of the armed workers. All citizens becomes employees and workers of a single countrywide state “syndicate”…When the majority of the people begin independently and everywhere to keep such accounts and exercise such control over the capitalists…this control will really become universal, general, and popular…The whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory, with equality of labor and pay…this “factory” discipline…will extend to the whole of society…[a] necessary step for thoroughly cleansing society of all the infamies and abominations of capitalist exploitation…the more complete the democracy, the nearer the moment when it becomes unnecessary…[finally] the door will be thrown wide open for the transition from the first phase of communist society to its higher phase, and with it to the complete withering away of the state.

One could say that some countries in the world (like Cuba and the DPRK), are in the first stage of communism, working to move forward to improve their existing socialism, limited through the continuance of international capitalism, meaning that they cannot be “mature economically and entirely free from traditions or vestiges of capitalism.” However, this would be an utterly revisionist position meaning it is better to call those countries, like others as plain progressive. This generates the question: what should a socialist state be like within today’s world of global capitalism? Taking what Lenin said, above, to heart, he is arguing that a state would have some “unjust differences” but exploitation of one person by the other would be impossible with the means of production becoming “common property” while equality of “labor and wages” had be striven for, along with the “socialist reorganization” with workers controlling “production and distribution.” Additionally all citizens would become “hired employees of the state” with their control over society being “universal, general, and popular” with society itself becoming a “single office and a single factory” wherein all the “infamies and abominations of capitalist exploitation” will be cleansed away. This is manifested in a dictatorship of the proletariat, as Lenin described it, or proletarian democracy as it is also called, would be suppress “the resistance of the exploiters” with such a state changing democratic institutions and forms but also extending “actual enjoyment of democracy by those oppressed by capitalism” to new heights, giving them new “democratic rights and liberties” and decisive participation in the state’s administration itself while the old machinery of bourgeois, bureaucratic, and judicial character will be broken to pieces. Marx and Engels were arguing something similar, but partially different. He said that communism’s end goal is the abolition of bourgeois independence, bourgeois individuality, bourgeois freedom (free trade, free buying and selling), private property for the one-tenth of the population, the bourgeois family, countries, and nationalities. Such socialist states, as you could call them, were envisioned by Marx and Engels, would abolish land as property, all land rents, the “distinction between town and country” over time, child factory labor, and all inheritance rights. More positively, such a state would have a heavy progressive income tax, confiscate property of rebels and emigrants, have free education for all children in public schools, centralize credit in the state with a national bank, centralize communication, transport, factories, and other “instruments of production” while establishing “industrial armies” especially in agriculture, combine manufacturing and agriculture along with industrial production and education. They also called for “equal liability of all to work,” improving the soil, and cultivating wastelands.

What about the word progressive? The Fourth Edition of the Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as “moving forward or upward…favoring, working for, or characterized by progressive or improvement, as through political or social reform…of or having to do with a person, movement, etc. thought of being modern or advanced, in ideas, methods, etc,” or in a bourgeois sense as used by liberals and “progressives” in the U$ which cluster around the Democratic Party, “of an educational system stressing individuality, self-expression, etc” or a person who favors “progress or reform.”

This is a lot to take in, but is worth discussing if this applies to Syria (and ultimately other countries) or not.

Gowan argues that Syria is socialist: Is he right?

This map comes from page 148 of a Library of Congress report on Syria which is discussed later in this article.

Time and time again, revisionist Stephen Gowans has said that the Syrian Arab Republic is socialist. In April of last year he wrote that the country had followed, since the 1960s, “an Arab socialist development path which is at odds with the global free enterprise project advanced by Washington on behalf of its Wall Street patron,” saying that the latter wants to “sweep away the Arab socialist impediments to the free enterprise, free trade, and free market capitalist nirvana.” Elsewhere he called Syria “pro-independence, secular, non-sectarian, [and] socialist-oriented,” citing a study by the Library of Congress along with statements by the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation to support his intention that the country is socialist, in a long line of other countries. In other articles, Gowans writes that Syria has “a parliament” and is “anti-colonial and anti-imperialist” with parts of the state “remain committed to socialist goals.” Other than this, he argues that since Syria is governed by those who call themselves socialist, saying that the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party advocates for socialism, presiding over “the drafting of Syria’s constitutions, which mandate government ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and a significant role for government in the guidance of the economy” which he says is “socialism.” He adds that those in the West have “long complained about Damascus’s refusal to fully integrate into a US-led global neo-liberal economic order.” In an older post he admits, however that Afiz Assad, when he came to power in 1970, “tried to overcome the Sunni opposition by encouraging private enterprise and weakening the party’s commitment to socialism, and by opening space for Islam.” In the same post he writes that “Syria remains too much like the socialist state the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party founders envisaged for it, and too little like a platform for increasing the profits of overseas banks, investors and corporations” even as he says that “Ba’athists continue to obstinately hold on to elements of the party’s socialist program.” He also says that the Arab nationalists, “in power since 1963” represent “socialism, Arab nationalism, anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism.” Back in 2014, Gowans wrote that Syria is a state founded “on anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, Arab nationalism, and non-Marxist socialism” the latter being worrisome to say the least. However, in 2012, he wrote that Hafez Assad “minimized class warfare in favor of broadening his government’s base, trying to win over merchants, artisans, business people, and other opponents of the regime’s nationalizations and socialist measures,” calling the government a “secular Arab nationalist regime” instead of a socialist one. Gowans said that his personal “politics incline more to the left than the Ba’th could comfortably accommodate,” adding that the “Syrian state has been far more progressive than regressive.” As such, it seems that he only began to call Syria “socialist” in more recent years.  In October 2016 he made his most cogent argument that Syria was a “socialist” state, specifically an “Arab socialist” state, a definition which problematically divorces socialism and Marxism!:

Socialism can be defined in many ways, but if it is defined as public-ownership of the commanding heights of the economy accompanied by economic planning, then Syria under its 1973 and 2012 constitutions clearly meets the definition of socialism. However, the Syrian Arab Republic had never been a working-class socialist state, of the category Marxists would recognize. It was, instead, an Arab socialist state inspired by the goal of achieving Arab political independence and overcoming the legacy of the Arab nation’s underdevelopment…Marxist socialism concerned itself with the struggle between an exploiting owning class and exploited working class, while Arab socialism addressed the struggle between exploiting and exploited nations….Socialism was against the profit-making interests of US industrial and financial capital…The Ba’athist state had exercised considerable influence over the Syrian economy…The Ba’athists regarded these measures as necessary economic tools of a post-colonial state trying to wrest its economic life from the grips of former colonial powers…Washington…[wanted Syria to] serve the interests of the bankers and major investors who truly mattered in the United States, by opening Syrian labor to exploitation and Syria’s land and natural resources to foreign ownership…the Syrian government would not make Syrians work for the interests of Western banks, corporations, and investors…Assad underscored his allegiance to socialist values…[while] the constitution committed the state to progressive taxation…If Assad was a neo-liberal, he certainly was one of the world’s oddest devotees of the ideology.

His idea of “Arab Socialism” differs, in his mind, from what he has previously described as “social democracy.” He says that while “social democratic parties may self-consciously aim to represent the bottom 99 percent of society, they serve…the top one percent” and adds that the “party’s candidates and elected officials…are often willing to sacrifice principle for immediate electoral gain,” adding that “social democratic parties are dominated by a stratum whose direct personal interests are defined by the electoral successes of the party.” He further writes that “social democrats believe that it is possible to reform society in egalitarian directions within the context of capitalism…[and] working within the political institutions of capitalist society.” He ended by saying that while “social democratic parties espoused socialism as an objective, even if a very distant one, the socialism they espoused was to be achieved with the permission of capital on capital’s terms,” different from what he described as “socialism” in the Soviet Union, Cuba, the DPRK, East Germany, or the ideas espoused by figures like Kim Il Sung, Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin, and Vladimir Lenin, which he has written about in the past.

To take his own words, he admits that Syria has never “been a working-class socialist state” but says it embodies “Arab socialism.” The question remains from this: is “Arab socialism” really a socialist program, if we define socialism as Marx & Engels and Lenin viewed it, as noted earlier in this article? Those on /r/communism, for example, argue that Arab socialism is inherently a bourgeois ideology, more of social democracy than real socialism, even as they played a somewhat progressive role in the Arab World. More specifically, “Arab socialism” is about nationalization (as Nasser did), and engaging in “state-sponsored economic development” which occurred in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria, with a consensus, as noted by Oxford Reference, that the “most urgent national needs were independence and economic development,” adding that there were “land reforms” while the “banking, insurance, foreign trade, large industries, and large private and foreign-owned companies were all nationalized.” Additionally, such economic programs was “accompanied by expansion in social, welfare, health, and educational services.”

From this, we come back to social democracy once again. If we accept, as I believe we should and will argue further in the next section, that Syria is not a socialist state on Marxist terms, it is worth returning to what social democracy is after all. One writer, Bela Kun wrote in 1932 that social democracy says that “peaceful reformist work…would assure evolution into socialism” with the latter becoming “the cause of one class, of the working class” but collaboration of many classes, with Marxism serving as a source for slogans but no longer guide the ruling party’s policy. This writer further adds that there is a “defence of capitalist rationalisation” and the opposite of  “Marxian trade-union theory and practice” for example, supporting a “bourgeois dictatorship.” This is not the same as “revolutionary Social Democracy” embodied by the Bolsheviks which includes reforms, but also the policy of parties who work to engage in revolution to bring about proletarian democracy. Rather social democrats are “conductors of bourgeois influence” as Lenin described it, allying with bourgeois forces, focusing on nationalization, definitely not advocating for the “confiscation of all landed estates” which Lenin wrote about in 1911. These social democrats stand for democracy in the “name of capitalism,” the opposite of what the Bolsheviks did. Stalin further added that social democracy is characterized by “reformism and [an] anti-revolutionary character” with those of that ideology arguing that “the proletariat had to strive for was a peaceful path of transition from capitalism to socialism” with the time between capitalism and socialism when “capitalism will flourish and the proletariat languish in misery.”

Still, this does not fully define social democracy as a concept. Of course there are cookie-cutter definitions, as you could call them, from bourgeois dictionaries like Merriam-Webster calling it a movement which advocates for a gradual and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism by democratic means” or a democratic “welfare state that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices,” and Encyclopaedia Britannica declaring that it is a “political ideology that originally advocated a peaceful evolutionary transition of society from capitalism to socialism using established political processes” becoming more moderate throughout the 20th century. The same can be said of dictionary.com which declared that social democracy is a “political ideology advocating a gradual transition to socialism or a modified form of socialism by and under democratic political processes” and Wikiquote saying it is a “political ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote socialism within a democratic framework and a policy regime involving welfare state provisions,” among much more. The London-based social democrat publisher, Social Europe, attempted to define it as well, writing that “social-democracy is well known as a pragmatic political tendency…[with a] reputation…as a force for progressive change” even as they note that many social democrats talk about good capitalism and accept capitalist dogma. They add poignantly that “social-democrats have always been reformists. Social-democracy is not about overthrowing existing structures in some kind of violent act of revolution,” further saying that “markets…need to be kept in their place,” meaning that capitalism should be regulated, and not removed.

From this, and what has been said previously, one can surmise that social democracy aims to reform society within capitalism with “peaceful reformist work,” is a bourgeois ideology connected to nationalization and social welfare programs, opposes Marxian theory at its core, stands for democracy in the “name of capitalism,” and is anti-revolutionary, advocating for a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism, with markets still firmly in place. However, there is more to it than this. Any reforms based on social democracy itself is “bound to fail” since it does not address “capital and its accumulation to the few at the expense of the many.” Additionally, as Minqi Li writes in the Monthly Review, “social democratic capitalism” from the 1950s to 1973 “helped to alleviate the class conflicts and maintain a relatively high level of aggregate demand” bu that “inherent contradictions of capitalism” continued to develop, as institutions within such capitalism created new “conditions that increasingly undermined worldwide accumulation” while the balance of power “between capital and labor, and between the core and the periphery” led to a “worldwide decline of profitability.” Li adds that establishment of  “social democratic capitalism could not take place without at least a partial political victory of the working classes” while noting that “in a capitalist world economy with nation states, the competition between different capitalist states will prevent them from taking full account of environmental costs” meaning that social democratic capitalism will become “an “alternative” way towards global ecological catastrophe.” That isn’t good for anyone! Add to this that the so-called “Nordic system” which is lauded by supporters for “free and effective healthcare, education, transportation, and cleanliness” they are actually “rife with problems, and do not feature an ideal socio-economic system.” They additionally cannot “completely rid itself of socially conservative beliefs” until there is a ” full socio-economic transformation that involves the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, the central characteristic of capitalism.” That has not happened in Scandinavia and likely will not in the years to go. Even a Stalin-hating individual said that social democracy has “no ability to move in any direction” and wrote that “so-called state capitalism, all terminological quibbles aside, presented mankind with a glimpse of its potential, but could not escape the logic inherent in the accumulation of value.” Beyond this, super-profits taken from “the export of capital” allows for a “greater measure of social democracy at the centres of global capitalism”while capitalists “do not care as a class for social democratic reforms because these reforms get in the way of profit” with such reforms existing “because of working-class struggle and not because capitalists wanted to play nice.” Furthermore, social democracy is permitted because it was “forced into existence by concrete struggle and thus needed to be recognized” and the loss of “surplus [which] could be circumvented through the export of capital and super-exploitation elsewhere.

While the summation of social democracy and other aspects help define it in rough terms, what Stalin wrote in 1926 is helpful in defining it more fully. He wrote that (bolding is my emphasis), talking about ideological principles within the communist party and social-democratic parties:

Some might think that the Russians are excessively pugnacious, that they love debating and multiply differences, and that it is because of this that the development of their Party proceeds through the overcoming of inner Party contradictions. That is not true, comrades. It is not a matter of pugnacity, but of the existence of disagreements based on principle, which arise in the course of the Party’s development, in the course of the class struggle of the proletariat. The fact of the matter is that contradictions can be overcome only by means of a struggle for definite principles, for definite aims of the struggle, for definite methods of waging the struggle leading to the desired aim. One can, and should, agree to any compromise with dissenters in the Party on questions of current policy, on questions of a purely practical nature. But if these questions are connected with disagreements based on principle, no compromise, no “middle” line can save the situation. There can be no “middle” line in questions of principle. Either one set of principles or another must be made the basis of the Party’s work. A “middle” line in matters of principle is the “line” of stuffing people’s heads with rubbish, of glossing over disagreements, a “line” leading to the ideological degeneration of the Party, to the ideological death of the Party. How do the Social-Democratic parties of the West exist and develop nowadays? Have they inner-party contradictions, disagreements based on principle? Of course, they have. Do they disclose these contradictions and try to over come them honestly and openly in sight of the mass of the party membership? No, of course not. It is the practice of the Social-Democrats to cover up and conceal these contradictions and disagreements. It is the practice of the Social-Democrats to turn their conferences and congresses into an empty parade of ostensible well-being, assiduously covering up and slurring over internal disagreements. But nothing can come of this except stuffing people’s heads with rubbish and the ideological impoverishment of the party. This is one of the reasons for the decline of West-European Social-Democracy, which was once revolutionary, and is now reformist. We, however, cannot live and develop in that way, comrades. The policy of a “middle” line in matters of principle is not our policy. The policy of a “middle” line in matters of principle is the policy of decaying and degenerating parties. Such a policy cannot but lead to the conversion of the party into an empty bureaucratic apparatus, running idle and divorced from the masses of the workers. That path is not our path.

With all of this, one can define social democracy as a phenomenon primarily concentrated in the West which aims to reform capitalist society peacefully, using nationalization and social welfare programs as part of a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism with markets firmly in place, and being thoroughly anti-revolutionary by not engaging in a  necessary socio-economic transformation in society, with any reforms at all only possible through struggles of the proletariat. Furthermore, using the words of Stalin quoted above, one could add that social democracy does not have unification on matters of principle which leads to party to become an “empty bureaucratic apparatus” which is “divorced from the masses of workers.” Additionally, you could add, social democracy isn’t one bit about class struggle against the bourgeoisie!

With this, we can proceed to the next section of this article.

Further analysis: examining Syria’s economy and its supposed “socialist” nature

A map on page 134 of a Library of Congress report on Syria, discussed later in this section, showing that much of the country is arid.

Before moving onto the two sources which underpinned Gowans analysis that Syria is “socialist,” I looked at some other sources. Everyone seems to acknowledge the government has a strong hand in the economy which some call “state-capitalist” and others call “socialist,” possibly in their intentions, with some saying that the government engaged in neoliberal reforms in the 1990s and suppressed ” independent working-class organisation” while those more supportive say that the government of Syria is actively anti-imperialist, pro-Palestinian, and should not be demonized. [1] Other sources seem to also agree that the state has a strong role in the economy. Some said that “Syria’s economy is essentially state-run, although it has remained partly private, as for example the retail trade businesses” with certain privatizations starting in 2000,private banking legalized in 2001, and “centralised and restrictive government control” leading to low “productivity” in the minds of capitalists, with others saying that the economy was diverse before the imperialist assault on Syria began, with the country, in 2013, “home to 11 private banks, three Islamic banks, and seven foreign banks.” [2] With such an assault, the country has become “lower middle income” and devastated by the state of war as forces tried to tear the country apart, as millions are displaced. A war economy was put in place after 2012, using the “hard currency reserves” of the Central Bank of Syria and allowing traders to run their own affairs and protect their own facilities, along with other arrangements, the government revived “state supermarkets” (started in the 1960s) and rolled back the “modest economic liberalization [which] began in 2005,” in attempt to “ease economic hardship for the poor and contain social unrest” along with not removing government petroleum and electricity subsidies, which Reuters called “socialist economic policies.” Such moves by the government echoed the  “nationalization measures of the 1960s” [3] under the Amin al-Hafiz (Syria’s first Ba’ath Party ruler) in Syria, which were followed by “a major industrial development program stressing heavy industry” in the 1970s. There is no doubt that before the assault, starting in 2011, “Syria’s economy was based on oil production, agriculture, industry and tourism,” where “many industries” were subsidized (even as of 2006), the former which was seemingly strengthened as the government attempts to restore order in the country. As Al Bawaba remarked in 2000, the Syrian “government still keeps intact many policies that protect home-grown industries at the expense of attracting foreign investment” such as “high tariffs and numerous import restrictions and limited access to capital for those in the private sector.”

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), part of the UN, wrote, within a 2003 publication titled “Syrian agriculture at the crossroads,” that the Syrian government in the 1970s re-defined “socialism” to mean increased industrial employment, role of the public sector, and “activation of the private sector, ” which was changed by the 1980s and 1990s to “state-led export promotion,” even putting forward some “structural adjustment” attempts at the time, aligning with those who said that the economy is “predominantly state-controlled” at the present. They added that

The economy of the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) is currently under transition from one that has been largely centrally planned to one that is more liberal. The general objectives of policy have been and will remain the achievement of a sustainable level of economic abundance, social welfare, and equity…The economy is still characterized by a large but stagnant public sector, and a resilient but constrained private sector, a cumbersome regulatory regime, continuation of many state controls, and a complicated trade and exchange rate system…The financial system is dominated by public enterprises and serves primarily the public sector. Hence, one of the key requirements for private sector growth, namely the existence of financial services for the private sector, is largely missing in Syria. The current government strategy is favourable to the private sector, and to export promotion, but with the continued presence of a strong public sector.

Beyond this, the Heritage Foundation said in their page on Syria that “civil war has left Syria’s economy in ruins” with economic policy used to maintain the capacity of the Syrian military, adding with anger that Bashar Al-Assad “failed to deliver on promises to open the socialist economy,” that “functioning labor markets are…subject to heavy state interference and control” and that “despite the war, a number of foreign banks are in operation” with the Islamic banking group called Al Baraka becoming “the largest privately owned bank in the country” in 2016. [4] Similar comments to FAO’s assessment were made on the current page for Syria on the CIA World Factbook, declaring that before the current conflict, “Damascus had begun liberalizing economic policies” but that “the economy remains highly regulated” with “foreign trade barriers” for example. Anger at sch regulation has manifested in Syria being “on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since the list’s inception in 1979” while the murderous empire has called for the removal of Assad despite the fact that Syria is a member of the IMF and World Bank along with being an observer to the World Trade Organization (WTO)!

Unlike Zimbabwe (which the IMF is giddy over as the counter-revolution continues), the last IMF “Article IV Executive Board Consultation” for Syria was back in January 2009, but it is worth excerpting from their reports in previous years:

“The Syrian authorities have been implementing gradual, but wide-ranging reforms. These reforms are motivated by the challenges posed by the decline in oil production and the strategy initiated in the early 2000s to transition toward a social market economy. The exchange rate has been effectively unified and restrictions on access to foreign exchange for current transactions appear to have been mostly eliminated. Private banks are now leading financial sector growth, and the Damascus stock exchange recently re-opened after being closed for 40 years…Some progress has been made in advancing structural reforms, including simplifying investment procedures, modernizing accounting standards, and streamlining the tax system…the authorities fully liberalized bank lending rates and rates on foreign currency deposits and loans. The share of private banks has grown considerably since they were first established in 2004…Directors recommended that the authorities reverse the recent introduction of customs duties that vary by country of origin, and address suspected unfair trade practices by other measures such as enhancing customs’ capacity to examine invoices through computerization and cross border cooperation.”- March 2010

“Relations with the EU have improved recently following the establishment of diplomatic relations with Lebanon. Subsequently, France, which currently chairs the EU, issued positive signals regarding the ratification of the association agreement with Syria…Private banks are well capitalized…The financial system is still dominated by state banks, which hold 80 percent of bank assets…advances have been made in trade liberalization by substantially reducing the tariff schedule. The export of strategic agricultural products, however, remains subject to government approval…The Syrian economy has enjoyed buoyant growth since it embarked on a liberalization program aimed at unleashing the economy’s growth potential and integrating into the world economy.”- February 2009

“Private investment has strengthened, reflecting an improved business climate, and exports have made strong gains, particularly in some Arab markets, reflecting higher demand and improved access under the Great[er] Arab Free Trade Area…Following the opening of the first three private banks in 2004, four more banks entered the market in the last two years, and several more banks are expected to start operations in 2007, including some Islamic financial institutions…Progress toward exchange rate unification and current account convertibility, investment facilitation under a more liberal investment regime, tax reform, trade and financial liberalization, and the on-going development of appropriate regulatory frameworks in key sectors have all contributed to improving the investment climate…The authorities did not exclude the possibility of raising civil servants wages, particularly in light of the start of the PPS reform…The development of a competitive banking sector is constrained by the slow progress in state banks’ restructuring…Further efforts on trade liberalization and improving the business climate are key elements of the authorities’ reform agenda…further financial liberalization are necessary to close the reform-gap with other countries in the region and position Syria to take advantage of regional and global integration…Directors commended the authorities for the sustained, timely and significant fiscal adjustment and welcomed the lowering of corporate income taxes.”- August 2007

“The authorities were encouraged to see that the implementation of their broad-based reforms elicited a positive supply response. In their view, Syrian and other Arab investors felt that a point of no return in reform has been reached. Furthermore, they welcomed strong interest from domestic and foreign investors toward the newly opened banking and insurance sectors…The authorities’ strategy to develop the financial sector by opening it to private initiative was successful in attracting and expanding private banking activities…Trade liberalization, market deregulation, and improving the business climate are key elements of the authorities’ reform agenda…The exchange system in Syria is characterized by multiple exchange rates and a foreign exchange market segmented into public and private sector pools. The private sector has almost no access to the official pool…[the directors say that] A bulge in labor market entrants will strain an already precarious unemployment situation and increase pressure to protect redundant labor in an overstaffed public sector…More broadly, Directors encouraged the authorities to press ahead with reforms aimed at scaling down the state’s involvement in the economy, improving governance, and fostering private-sector growth.”- August 2006

“The growth acceleration in the early 1990s had reflected rising oil production and an upsurge in private sector investment prompted by fiscal incentives and reforms to start the transition to a market economy…Fund policy recommendations were supportive of the authorities’ reform agenda aimed at furthering the transition to a market economy…prices have been largely liberalized, the trade and foreign exchange regimes have been simplified and liberalized, the tax system has been streamlined, and the private sector’s field of activity has been broadened…In particular, opening the insurance sector for private initiative is an important sign of the
commitment of the authorities to promoting the role of the private sector in the economy…Directors encouraged the authorities to envisage the privatization of selected enterprises.”- October 2005

This seems to say, obviously, that Syria has engaged in socially democratic measures as it earnestly went forward with “liberalization” of their economy while government control and nationalist measures were maintained to the annoyance of the IMF. The Syrian  government was moving toward a “market economy” until the direct imperial assault began in 2011, the so-called “civil war,” with some government control returning. Still, some measures of “liberalization” remained such as private banks some of which are concentrated on the Damascus Securities Exchange (DSE) along with other capitalist ventures. The companies on this exchange include:

There are many others whose sites were only in Arabic, and not English. Basically, these companies on the stock exchange are capitalists, and hence part of what you could call, accurately, an Arab bourgeoisie, some consisting bourgeoisie specific to the Arab Republic of Syria itself. If “nothing symbolizes capitalism like the New York Stock Exchange,” as one Forbes writer noted, then why can’t the same be said about the Damascus Securities Exchange? As Frederich Engels wrote in 1895, reviewing Marx’s work in Capital, “the position of the stock exchange in capitalist production” since the stock exchange “as it develops, tends to concentrate all production, industrial as well as agricultural, and all commerce…so that the stock exchange becomes the most prominent representative of capitalist production itself.” Of course, the DSE can’t completely represent this as it was launched in 2009, nine years ago, and only 23 companies are currently on the exchange which is minuscule compared to “more than 12,000 traded products” of the Intercontinental Exchange, commonly called the New York Stock Exchange, or the 1,124 companies listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Then there’s the Library of Congress country study which Gowans uses to say that Syria is socialist which was published in 1988. This goes beyond the claim that the economy of Syria is socialist, but it is worth summarizing within this section of the article. The study explains the history of Syria from its earliest days to 1987, when most of the research was done. In September 1961, there was a coup where Syria seceded from the United Arab Republic (UAR) which was meant to unite Egypt (then under Nasser) and Syria, with nationalization which had been implemented under the previous government removed, with another military coup by September of 1962, and by September 1963, Amid al Hafiz, a Ba’athist, became the leader, with power contested between the “centrist and leftist” elements within the Ba’athist Party, as factionalism continued. Under Hafiz, there was a move to restore nationalization and land reform measures removed after the September 1961 coup, radicalization of rhetoric along with support for Palestinian liberation, and continuing power struggles until 1970, as Hafiz Al-Assad became a more important figure. Then in November 1970, the latter Assad came to power in a coup which has often been called the “corrective movement,” while he was elected for a seven-year term in March 1971 by the populace. In the presidency of Hafiz, relations with the Soviet improved, a Progressive National Front was formed, and the government held off those who wanted to make Islam the state religion. An independent foreign policy course was plotted, there was a controversial Syrian intervention in Lebanon, the Ba’ath Party seemed to partially mass-based, and the “merits of socialism” were explored for Syria’s economy. With public unhappiness with the government at the time, an anti-corruption campaign was begun, and in February 1978, Hafiz was re-elected, facing opposition from Muslim groups (like the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Liberation Party), specifically those who detested the secular and nationalist nature of the state itself. The latter groups demanded bourgeois “freedoms” while engaging in violent, terrorist attacks against the government, with the government, by the early 1980s, basically declaring war on the Muslim Brotherhood, looking to uproot it from the country all together. As time went on, the Syrians relied heavily on the Soviets for re-supply of weapons, based in 1980 treaty, even as the latter refused to support the rightful Syrian effort to regain the Golan Heights from Zionists, and aligned itself with Iran as the Iran-Iraq War raged through the 1980s. By the later 1980s, there was “uncertainty” about the future of Syria.

It seems a bit problematic that Gowans cites this source to buttress his claim that Syria is socialist because this study was written in 1987! There is no doubt that Syria’s study is still diverse, as it was in 1987, but the so-called “Baathist policies of secularism and socialism” are not evident. Sure, the country is secular, but the policies were never really socialist despite what the study claims, even through it was anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist. There is also certainly still a youthful population. After all, as the study itself points out, in 1970, Hafiz “reversed or relaxed the more strident socialist economic measures” which had been instituted in 1963, leading to a new class of “entrepreneurs and businessmen who made their fortunes in real estate, importing, and construction” (a bourgeoisie). That doesn’t sound very socialist, but rather constitutes the re-creation/reinforcement of the Syrian bourgeoisie, since the country, by the time the study was written, lacked a “true proletariat of wage-earning workers”! Still, education was, by the later 1980s, under close government supervision, starting from 1967 onward and free medical care even as private hospitals outnumbered state-run hospitals in the country.

We then get to the economy. In the mid-1960s, the “new socialist direction,” as the report called it, of the economic policy of Syria was clear considering nationalization of major industries and government-led land reform (land expropriated from large landowners) along with state-led large-scale projects. However, by the 1970s, the economy became more dependent on foreign aid from Arab countries and military aid from the Soviet social-imperialists, with the climate switching from “prosperity to austerity” in the 1980s, with slashing of public investments. This seems to question if the economy was even socialist at all as the study claims there was “socialist transformation” of the economy in the 1960s, with more state commitment to the economy in the 1970s and 1980s, before austerity kicked in. However, this isn’t the whole reality. Not even half of the workforce was employed by the state by 1983, with all college graduates not guaranteed a job, with many taking second jobs in the “private sector” and possible high unemployment as the 1980s went on. Even with a so-called “socialist economy” erected in the 1960s, this was liberalized by Hafiz in 1986, with the state moving away from the agricultural, retail trade, and light industry, leading to be controlled by capitalists, with income gaps beginning to widen. In order to defend the country, huge sums were spent on the military, with administration as a the second biggest area of government expenditures, with the rest relating to the economy (with varying “five-year-plans” over the years), with a very small amount for “social welfare” and “education and culture.” Add to this that by 1984, private farmers cultivated 74% of the country’s lands, and state farms, essentially, only cultivated 1%, again asking extensive the state’s involvement was in the economy, with farmer cooperatives existing, but not broadly successful with a faltering agricultural policy, while the West cried about “inefficiency” of public enterprises and there was effectively a central bank in Syria. Additionally, liberalization of the economy started in 1970 and again in 1986. At the same time, the Soviet social-imperialist and Romanians were active in developing the infrastructure of Syria in the 1970s and 1980s. There are other aspects noted in the study, of course, but there are not worth discussing here.

The study seems to imply that Syria is not only not “socialist” but has a working bourgeoisie, although they don’t call it this since the study is one assembled by bourgeois analysts, as one would expect. From this, it is worth turning to two documents: the 1973 constitution of Syria (with concessions made to placate the Islamic oppositional forces at the time), and the 2012 revision in order to placate the Syrian opposition. The first constitution, in 1973, declared that

The comprehensive Arab revolution is an existing and continuing necessity to achieve the Arab nation’s aspirations for unity, freedom, and socialism.  The revolution in the Syrian Arab region is part of the comprehensive Arab revolution…any danger to which any Arab country may be exposed on the part of imperialism and Zionism is at the same time a danger threatening the whole Arab nation…The Syrian Arab Republic is a democratic, popular, socialist, and sovereign state.  No part of its territory can be ceded.  Syria is a member of the Union of the Arab Republics…Sovereignty is vested in the people, who exercise it in accordance with this Constitution…The religion of the President of the Republic has to be Islam…The leading party in the society and the state is the Socialist Arab Baath Party…People’s councils are establishments elected in a democratic way at which the citizens exercise their rights in administering the state and leading the society…The state is at the people’s service…The state economy is a planned socialist economy which seeks to end all forms of exploitation…Public ownership includes natural resources, public utilities, and nationalized installations and establishments, as well as installations and establishments set up by the state… Collective ownership includes the property belonging to popular and professional organizations and to production units, cooperatives, and other social establishments…individual ownership includes property belonging to individuals…The right of inheritance is guaranteed in accordance with the law…The educational and cultural system aims at creating a socialist nationalist Arab generation which is scientifically minded and attached to its history…Work is a right and duty of every citizen.  The state undertakes to provide work for all citizens…All citizens have the sacred duty to defend the homeland’s security, to respect its Constitution and socialist unionist system.

While some may be cheering, this does not put workers at the central mission of the state like Cuba. A translation from a Cuban government webpage (also here) gives a better translation than other versions. In the first article it calls Cuba is a “socialist State of workers, independent and sovereign, organized with all and for the good of all, as a unitary and democratic republic” even though I would more accurately call it a progressive state due to revisionism and capitalist concessions. This is exactly the same as a translation made by the United Nations or summary of gender rights in Cuba by UN Women. In case the UN translation is moved to another link, the UN translation has been uploaded to this blog in order to promote more learning about Cuba. As one can clearly see, Syria was not, even in 1973, a truly and accurately socialist state. Rather it was a nationalist and socially democratic one (or you could say a progressive one) which had a developed bourgeoisie which guarantees a right to inheritance, something which Marx and Engels were strongly opposed to, with Marx saying, in August 1869, that “the laws of inheritance are not the cause, but the effect, the juridical consequence of the existing economical organization of society, based upon private property in the means of production.”

We then get to the 2012 revision. All mentions of socialism have been completely omitted, as the state instead is portraying itself as progressive and secular (although the word secular is never mentioned in the whole constitution):

The Syrian Arab Republic is a democratic state with full sovereignty, indivisible, and may not waive any part of its territory, and is part of the Arab homeland…The religion of the President of the Republic is Islam; Islamic jurisprudence shall be a major source of legislation…The political system of the state shall be based on the principle of political pluralism, and exercising power democratically through the ballot box…Democratically elected councils at the national or local level shall be institutions through which citizens exercise their role in sovereignty, state-building and leading society…The national economy shall be based on the principle of developing public and private economic activity through economic and social plans aiming at increasing the national income, developing production, raising the individual’s living standards and creating jobs… Natural resources, facilities, institutions and public utilities shall be publicly owned, and the state shall invest and oversee their management for the benefit of all people…The law shall determine the maximum level of agricultural ownership and agricultural investment to ensure the protection of the farmer and the agricultural laborer from exploitation and to ensure increased production…Society in the Syrian Arab Republic shall be based on the basis of solidarity, symbiosis and respect for the principles of social justice, freedom, equality and maintenance of human dignity of every individual…The state shall guarantee every citizen and his family in cases of emergency, sickness, disability, orphan-hood and old age… The rule of law shall be the basis of governance in the state.

Perhaps some of the text from the 1973 version was kept, but only some aspects of nationalization  were kept in place as the state having a broad role in society, but not necessarily to benefit the proletariat but rather every class in society, which goes against established Marxist ideals. Instead, this constitution easily allows for capitalism to creep more into Syria through its tentacles of destruction and deception, showing it is perhaps socially democratic or as you could put it, progressive. [5]

The final indication is using reports in state media outlet, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) itself. Just like using the Zimbabwean party newspaper, The Herald, to recognize the counter-revolution going on there, one can use SANA in the same way to determine how “socialist” Syria is, if at all. One recent article talks about how the government will continue “providing the basic needs for citizens and improving their living conditions according to the available resources” with pushes by certain MPs to deal with “the issue of high prices,” reduce rationing of electricity, and reform the tax system, along with controlling expenditures of the government, along with other aspects like rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. With some of the latter measures clearly benefiting the bourgeoisie, the same can be said in a push to support “small, medium, and micro enterprises” which describe, without doubt, institutions of the bourgeoisie, specifically the petty bourgeoisie. In another recent article, it was noted that a social welfare center was opened in the countryside but it ended up being something done with the cooperation of the Greek Orthodox Church there, and mainly aimed at serving “displaced people and families affected by the crisis” of war in the country.

There were other indications of the true nature of the economy. In the realm of tourism, the Higher Council for Tourism said that it would provide “special advantages and incentives to the investors willing to set up tourist projects,” with the Prime Minister of the country adding that investors should “establish tourist projects for low-income people to boost popular tourism and give an image to the world about stability returned to the Syrian provinces due to the victories achieved by the Syrian Arab army.” The tone was expressed when the government participated in the 38th FITUR International Tourism Fair 2018 in Madrid, Spain, calling for “Spanish tourism companies to visit Syria, take a closer look at the situation in it,” worked to build a railway that would serve “passengers and businessmen” and looking to make the country attractive by encouraging “Arab and foreign businessmen to make more investments in Syria to contribute to the reconstruction stage.” You could say this is justified, considering that the government brought in “45 local, Arab and foreign companies” to talk about energy, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning of the  reconstruction of Syria. After all, the country wants to rebuild after years of war with an economy which is reportedly in good condition, and has put forward a “national development program” for Syria, during the reconstruction period, which builds institutions, fights against corruption, modernizes infrastructure, engages n “sustainable growth and development, social, educational and cultural development and the national dialogue.” Basically, the Syrian government is trying to draw in international capital to lead to its reconstruction. [6] However, this process shows that it is not “socialist” as Gowans claims. Rather it is socially democratic (or progressive), as previously explained, secular, and it is nationalist. Even though the government seems to loosely base itself on Islam and the constitution doesn’t mention the word “secular,” it is worth calling Syria secular because for one, the country has no state religion. With secularism limited as Marx noted in “On the Jewish Question,” seeming to mean “non-religious,” the fourth edition of the Webster’s New World College Dictionary (a bourgeois dictionary) concurs with this, defining the word “secular” as “not sacred or religious,” temporal or worldly, distinguished from “church and religion.”

With all this, we can say with certainty that Syria has a developed bourgeoisie. That doesn’t mean that the state cannot do good for the people of Syria, or even the proletariat, but rather that it is not socialist or on the road to socialism in any way, shape or form. With this, we can still defend the country from imperial lies and slander from the bourgeois media and comprador progressive media, like Omidyar’s plaything, The Intercept. The official publication of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma, said the same in an article, reprinted from the official Cuban outlet, Prensa Latina, in March of last year:

…Just six years after the beginning of a war that was imposed from abroad, and which has exacerbated the differences between those espousing diverse religious beliefs to an inhumane level, this nation presents a scene of enormous destruction amidst the quest to survive…Never before in the Arab and Muslim world had the destruction of a country been promoted in such a combined way, organized from the centers of the former colonial powers and the United States…The reality is neither civil war nor faith-based conflict, because the “card” at play in Syria is actually a dirty game which originated from a basic element: in 2009 when the government of Bashar al Assad vetoed a vast project promoted by Qatar…From that moment on, and planned in advance, petrodollars from the capitals of the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and Israel, played their part…Syria questioned the economic motives of Western powers, which was enough to serve as one of the objective bases for launching the overwhelming media attacks and war against this nation…In an explosion of generalized war, thousands of terrorists arrived in Syria, who, allied with national extremists, established points of attack that in the first years covered more than a dozen combat fronts throughout the Syrian territory…More than half a million dead and maimed, economic losses of $200 billion dollars and the obvious destruction of Syria’s entire infrastructure, make up a bleak but not insurmountable panorama. The media siege on this nation, a fierce commercial blockade and widespread terror over six years of an overwhelming imposed war, have not yet been able to annihilate the Syrian people.

There are further aspects. For one, the Syrian bourgeoisie, represented by the state, are willing to engage in ICT cooperation with Russian bourgeoisie, and have other agreements with the Russians (as noted here and here). One such agreement is about “cooperation in domain of public constructions and the implementation of housing projects.” I mention this because, as I’ve written on this blog before, you can say that Russia’s foreign policy is, to an extent, progressive and anti-imperialist, but Russia is without a doubt a capitalist state, with a bourgeoisie which has festered since 1991, at least, if not earlier when it developed more and more through the revisionist years of the Soviet Union (1954-1991), when it was a social-imperialist state. Syria’s government is smart enough to have strong relations with Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq, even working on creating an electricity network which connects Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Undoubtedly this will lead to further regional unity, which is good in an effort to resist imperialism. However, it also strengthens the bourgeoisie in Iran (which I recently wrote about) and Iraq. The same can be said about bringing in investors from Brazil, having economic cooperation with South Africa and revisionist China, oil production by Oman (noted here, here, and here), cooperation with Cuba, Belarus, India (see here and here), Sudan, People’s Korea, along with cooperation with other “friendly countries.” This goes back to my earlier point, that Syria is trying to bring in international capital as it looks to rebuild its country from the scourge of war which has ravaged the country since 2011. This is a noble goal, but some of those countries, like India (led by a fascist) and South Africa, at least, have established bourgeoisie, meaning that no holds are barred in dealing with other countries. This is further the case considering Syria’s dealings with Armenian businesspeople as noted in varying articles. Finally, there is the epitome of nationalism, which Frantz Fanon wrote about in The Wretched of the Earth: domestic production pushed by the bourgeoisie. In the case of Syria, this takes the form of “made in Syria” fairs/exhibitions, noted again, again, again, and again in SANA. It reminds me of the whole push for “made in the USA” products while corporations were actually moving their factories to places with cheap labor, although this is a bit different.

Syria, the “good” Kurds, Syrian Communists, and elections

Originally posted on https://anti-imperialism.org/. This calls out the hypocrisy of the murderous empire calling for “human rights” in Syria.

Syria’s location and its ties with Iran, and other countries which could be said to be part of an anti-imperialist front, are well-established. Of course, some on the Left have considered Assad, along with Gaddafi, horrid “dictators” with endorsements of the bourgeois Arab “revolution,” and saying that there is a “dictatorship” in Syria. If this wasn’t enough in that it easily meshes with propaganda emanating from the center of world imperialism, consider the PLP (Progressive Labor Party), the same organization calling the DPRK a “fascist”/”puppet” monarchy of China which “easily meshes its Orientalist propaganda of the bourgeois media.” For Syria, they describe it as a “Russian-backed government” with benefits to Russian bosses who want to divide up Syria, accepting that Assad used chemical weapons (he didn’t), and elsewhere calling the government an “Iran-backed regime.” Apart from not being able to decide if the government is “backed” by Iran or Russia (which they think is “imperialist“), they claim that the Syrian Communist Party (SCP) (they do not specify what sect of the party) are “phony communists” and that the state doesn’t really care about the working class. They can’t seem to comprehend a Syria which is socially democratic (or progressive) while it has a developed bourgeoisie. There have been elections in Syria, which all show the National Progressive Front (NPF) winning by a huge margin:

In 2016, the “National Unity alliance, supporting President al-Assad and his Baath Party, won 200 seats in the 250-member People’s Assembly. Many candidates reportedly focused on security issues. On 2 May, the President issued a decree naming winners of parliamentary elections. Elections did not take place in Raqa and Idlib provinces, which are controlled by the so-called Islamic State and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front. Amid the violence, fewer Syrians registered to vote in 2016…[but] according to the Higher Judicial Committee for Elections, turnout in 2016 was 57.56%, up from 51.26 % in 2012.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 2012, “parliamentary elections took place in the context of open rebellion against President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. Major opposition parties boycotted the elections. The National Unity alliance, supporting the President and his Baath Party, took 183 of the 250 seats at stake. Most of the remaining seats went to independent pro-government candidates. The May 2012 elections followed a revision to the Constitution, adopted by referendum in February…Only 5.2 million of the 10.1 million eligible citizens registered to vote. 51.26 per cent of the registered voters actually took part, meaning that in total around a quarter of eligible citizens voted in the elections…Official results gave a large majority to the National Unity alliance.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“The 22 April 2007 elections were the second to be held since President Bashar Assad assumed power in July 2000 following his father’s death a month earlier. President Assad pledged to modernize the country’s economy. ..Of the 250 seats just over two-thirds (170 seats) are reserved for the ruling National Progressive Front (NPF) coalition. Voters select one list from among a series of lists of parliamentary candidates. Two-thirds of the candidates on each list are from the NPF. The coalition comprising ten political parties was led by the Baath Party which itself is guaranteed 131 seats. The other 80 seats are allocated to independent candidates…Many candidates pledged to provide economic prosperity…Several anti-fraud measures were implemented for the first time. They included transparent ballot boxes and indelible ink to prevent multiple voting…approximately 56 per cent of the 7.8 million registered voters turned out at the polls. A total of 11 967 611 citizens were eligible to vote…The final results gave Syria’s ruling NPF 172 seats. The remainder went to independent candidates…On 11 May the People’s Assembly unanimously nominated Mr. Bashar Assad as the president of the country for a new seven-year term starting on 17 July 2007. The public referendum of 27 May approved this nomination by over 97 per cent of the votes.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“On 2 and 3 March 2003 Syrians voted to elect the first People’s Assembly since President Bashar al-Assad succeeded his late father President Hafez al-Assad in 2000. According to official records, some 5,000 candidates competed for the 250 seats in Parliament…Announcing the results, Interior Minister Ali Hamoud declared that candidates of the National Progressive Front had won 167 seats (the Front consists of the ruling Baath party and six smaller allies). The remaining 83 seats went to independents. Out of the 250 members, 178 were newcomers and 30 women.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“In the 1998 elections, 7364 candidates initially contested the 250 parliamentary seats. A total of 167 of these belonged to the National Progressive Front (NPF) – the seven-party governing coalition led by the Baath Party of President of the Republic Hafez al-Assad, which itself nominated 135 candidates; the NPF has been in power since being formed in 1972…On polling day, the electorate overwhelmingly backed the NPF candidates with over 66% of the popular vote, the remaining 83 seats (one-third of the overall membership) being won by independents, as before.”-  INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“The election date was set by presidential decree on 24 July 1994, with candidatures to be submitted until 2 August. A total of 7,818 candidates contested the 250 People’s Council seats. A maximum of one-third of the Council seats were set aside for independent candidates as distinct from those of the ruling National Progressive Front (NFP). The NFP, headed by President of the Republic Hafiz Al-Assad, was formed in 1972…On polling day, the ruling Baath…once again emerged as the largest single party, with 135 seats, while independents captured 83. Of the total Council membership, 93 were incumbent Deputies. On 10 September 1994, President Al-Assad opened the newly elected Parliament’s first session. Mr. Abdel Qader Qaddoura was then re-elected as Council President.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“In the 1990 general elections, a record 2,657 candidates (including 116 women) vied for the 250 seats of the enlarged People’s Council. A maximum of one-third of the Council seats were set aside for independent candidates as distinct from those of the National Progressive Front (NPF)…On polling day, the ruling Baath…once again emerged as the largest single party, with 134 seats, while the independents’ total rose from 35 to 84. Of the total Council membership, 77 were incumbent Deputies. On 11 June, President Al-Assad opened the newly elected Parliament’s first session. Mr. Abdel Qader Qaddoura was then re-elected as Council President.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

“The Syrian Communist Party made a comeback and women more than doubled their number of seats as a result of the 1986 elections to the People’s Council. The ruling Baath party was the biggest winner, with a total of 129 seats in the 195-member Parliament. The Communists, who had no members in the previous legislature, won nine seats. There were a total of 88 newcomers to the Council.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 1981, “the elections resulted in a victory for the National Progressive Front, which captured all 195 People’s Council seats. The Baath Arab Socialist Party of President of the Republic Hafez al-Assad won 60% of all seats. As opposed to the previous legislature, no independent candidates were successful”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 1977, “party lists were presented by ruling Arab Socialist Renaissance (Booth) Party and those of four other leftist groups that together formed the National Progressive Front governing coalition of President Hafez al-Assad, in power since 1971…The voting results, as announced, showed that the Baath— which supports militant Arab unity — once again emerged as the single largest party and that the Front altogether won all but 36 seats, these being captured by Independents. The new Parliament held its first session on August 18.”- INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

In 1973, “the elections, in which 1656 candidates — 659 representing workers and farmers and 997 other social groups — contested the seats of the People’s Council, were the first since the Baath Party seized power in 1963…The Baath Party, which fielded roughly half of the candidates, and its allies — the Communist Party, the pro-Cairo Arab Socialist Union (ASU), the Arab Socialists and the Socialist Unionists — who ran on a unified ” national progressive ” ticket, succeeded in winning 10 of the country’s 15 governorates and about two-thirds of the parliamentary seats.”-INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION database

The SCP seems to recognize what the PLP cannot. The Syrian Communist Party (Unified), is one of the two communist parties in the country, and is also a member of the NPF, a coalition of “political parties in Syria that support the [so-called] socialist and Arab nationalist orientation of the current government and accept the leading role of the Arab Socialist Baath Party.” These 11 parties (Wikipedia claims there are 10 but is actually 11) are as follows: the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party, Arab Socialist Union Party, Communist Party of Syria (Bakdash), National Vow Movement/National Covenant Party, Communist Party (Unified), Arab Democratic Union Party, Unionist Social Democratic Party, Socialist Unionist Party,Syrian National Social Party – Center, General Union of Trade Unions, and General Union of Peasants. As such, the Syrian Communist Party (Unified), which favored the perestroika in the Soviet Union, a horrid act by the revisionist Soviet leadership, sees itself as part of a progressive front.

In 1986, when the Syrian Communist Party split, there was another faction: Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) which opposed perestroika, different from other supposed communist groupings, like the National Committee for the Unity of Syrian Communists (NCUSC) which is also known as the Party of the Popular Will, and the Communist Labor Party. To give some background, some members of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party met with members of the original Syrian Communist Party, founded in 1924, from 1966 to 1970, wanting to form a “vanguard party” with some taken in with “socialist ideas” they wanted to emulate Soviet and Chinese “policies in agriculture and defense.” However, also during this period, there was a “revisionist current within the Syrian Communist Party led by Riad al-Turk” which called for the “end to Soviet influence on party policy and a shift towards objectives and programmes better suited to the Syrian and Arab context,” and with this group holding a huge sway, Secretary-General of the party, Khalid Bakdash, became a “minority in the leadership ranks.” Bakdash had shown his dedication to fighting French imperialism with unity of the masses, telling the Comintern in 1935 that

the situation in Syria imposes heavy tasks and a great responsibility on our party. Syria, because of its location between Europe and Asia and on the Mediterranean, is a strategic center of fundamental importance for the entire system of French imperialism…French imperialism, understanding the importance of Syria, has unleashed a savage terror to destroy the revolutionary movement in the country and has directed its most cruel blows against the working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party, which was reduced to a deep state of illegality. After the armed insurrection of 1925 to 1927 in which for two years the Arab peasants, workers, and labourers showed how they are capable of fighting French imperialism…we are ready to unite our efforts with all those who want a free and independent Syria.

This leads to 1986, when over perestroika, these two trends in the Communist Party broke apart, forming Syrian Communist Party (Unified) and Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash), the latter opposing perestroika, if Wikipedia has merit and the former approving of it.

On the website of the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties there are forty statements of this Communist Party, from November of last year to November 2008, only some of which were translated into English. The most recent of those is from July of last year at the meeting of the central committee of the party in Damascus, saying that the situation internationally is becoming more dangerous with “contradictions between imperialist powers,” adding that as U$ imperialism is “considered the most aggressive power” with dangerous escalation toward the DPRK, and strong “Zionist influence” within the current U$ administration, that Russia is being targeted by Western imperialism, rejecting Turkish aggression towards Syria, with “international colonialist and Zionist powers…conspiring to divide Syria.” They closed by saying that the situation in the country requires “a radical transformation in the socio-economic policy that strengthens the country’s immunity and meets the basic interests of the Syrian people,” saying this requires “a complete break with socio-economic trends of a liberal nature” such as laws undermining “public sector status…encouraging foreign investment in all areas” which will “weaken the working class,” and by, ultimately, “encouraging production and creating important resources in the hands of the state” along with a “favorable pricing policy in the purchase of crops should be adopted” as part of a “policy of state capitalism of a social nature.” This would mean, in their view, “support for industrial and crafts production,” supporting agricultural production, increasing the role of the state in ” internal trade,” reviving state establishments in “the field of foreign trade,” raising “salaries and wages to be compatible with rising prices,” and expanding “social support for the population systematically.” Beyond this, take an interview with Adel Omar, of the party’s foreign bureau. He told Socialist Unity that the party believes that

…the course of events in Syria is neither a revolution nor a civil war. It is very clear that what has been taking place in Syria has been in accordance with the imperialist plans…our people are resisting the imperialist forces together. It is true that the people of Syria have demands and needs that need to be met, but the way to achieve this is not through destroying everything that belongs to the state of Syria. At the moment, our country is under attack, and achieving unity among the people to defend our homeland is what needs to be done first. At this point, we think it is especially crucial for the government to respond to the demands and the needs of the people…When we evaluate the 10-year period before the aggression toward Syria, we see that the Syrian government made grave mistakes in the economic area. By choosing neoliberal economic policies, it opened the Syrian market to foreign imports, especially Turkish and Qatari products. As a result, hundreds of factories and workshops shut down and millions of workers lost their jobs. In fact, there was not a substantial change in these neoliberal policies when the imperialist intervention started. As the Syrian CP, we think that the adoption of these neoliberal economic policies was a fatal mistake. We believe that the solution needs to start by putting an end to these policies…It is important to realize that it is not only the Syrian army that is resisting against the imperialist-backed foreign forces. Ordinary Syrians are also fighting…it is critical that the government support the people through economic policies in order for the popular resistance to be able to survive. But, unfortunately, it is difficult to say that the government realizes this fact even now. They more or less continue with the neoliberal policies. As the Syrian CP, we believe the biggest risk factor for the Syrian resistance is the economy…We are going through a war that though difficult and serious at times cannot be taken lightly. But we are determined to continue with our struggle…As Syrian communists, the duty to struggle for our homeland lies first and foremost on our shoulders…When our situation in Syria is taken into account, I can say that we need an attitude of solidarity that is more than a “message of goodwill” by this or that party…in the struggle we are waging in Syria, we have been left alone. There are 22 Arab countries, and no events in solidarity with the Syrian people have been organized in the capitals of these countries…History shows us that struggles against imperialism and fascism increase the value and respectability of the communist parties in the eyes of the people. This was the case for the Soviets in their defense of the motherland, and the same in Greece or France. Communists were at the forefront, organizing the resistance of the people for the defense of their motherland. This is the case for us as well…the Syrian Communist Party is a strong organization with more than a quarter of a million members.

This shows that this party, which defines itself as the “conscious organized vanguard of the working class in Syria,” adopting the “teachings of Marxism-Leninism,” looking to unite and mobilize “all progressive forces for the final salvation of poverty and retardation and exploitation” is much more radical than Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash). Consistently this party has stood “with the Syrian people…against the Imperialist and Zionist plans and conspiracies that the Arabic reactionary regimes and imperialist allied countries in our region is participating in,” stood in solidarity with the South African Communist Party (SACP), and had a well-thought-out statement in 2011 on “unrest in some cities in Syria,” saying that there were reactionary forces at work but understanding the tensions. They added that the party’s central committee said that the “the trend toward economic liberalization, which has negatively impacted national production and the state of the toiling masses” should be reversed, restoring and strengthening “our food security, and industry under all forms of national ownership, with emphasis on maintaining and developing the public sector.” By 2014, the party called “on all patriots in Syria to defend the homeland, to protect national sovereignty, and to be on their guard against imperialist conspiracies and tricks” and closing by saying that “our defence of our homeland is first and above any consideration.”

Some, like Caleb T. Maupin in Mint Press News, argued that it is a positive that “Syria openly tolerates the existence of two strong Marxist-Leninist parties,” saying that  Syrian Communist Party (Unified) and the Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) openly “operate as part of the anti-imperialist coalition supporting the Baath Arab Socialist Party.” while communists “lead trade unions and community organizations in Damascus and other parts of the country.” That is a positive for sure, but it doesn’t make Syria socialist and it doesn’t invalidate the existence of a bourgeoisie as Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) clearly acknowledges. If there was a communist party in Syria comrades should ally with, I’d say Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) has a much more coherent analysis without a doubt and should be supported with solidarity, as should the Syrian proletariat.  Furthermore, I agree with Joma Sison of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines that in the context of fighting against the murderous empire and Zionism, “the Assad government and the Syrian Arab Army have a sovereign, progressive and revolutionary cause against the US as No. 1 imperialist aggressor and its criminal accomplice Zionist Israel.” I also agree with his statement that whatever “is the social character of Russia now (even if monopoly capitalist), it is good strategy and tactics for Syria to use its alliance with Russia to counter and defeat the more aggressive imperialist power, US imperialism and its terrible sidekick Israel.” [7]

Resistance to imperialism and concluding words

Resistance to imperialism by Syria has roots in its history. By 1516, Syrian had been taken over by the Turks with a feudal system kept in place, and claims to region by England and France in 18th century, while the Turks fought off Mamuluks in 1770s to preserve their colony. Before the Turks, Syria was considered part of the Persian empire! In the 1790s, Syria was one of the countries drawn into European conflicts with French bourgeoisie wanting control, leading to anger from the populace, constant Wahhabi raids in first decade of 19th century which ceased in 1811, anger at reforms by Turks in 1820s, and major disturbances until 1831, when Egyptian troops invaded. The following year the invading Egyptians took control, and even defeated the Turkish army at Tartus in 1833. By the 1870s, with Syria as a deeply important province of Ottoman Empire (root of the justified anger toward Erdogan), Arab nationalism began to develop there and in Lebanon. By World War I, Syria was taken over again, this time by the French, who used imperialism to push the Turks out of country. In the 1920s there was a war for liberation against French imperialism, which based “all its calculations on the suppression of proletarian revolutionary struggle in France and Europe by using its colonial workers as a reserve army of counter-revolution,” as the Fourth Congress of the Communist International said in 1922 and the Communists had a role in such liberation. In December 1925, when addressing the Fourteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U. (B), comrade Josef Stalin remarked that there was a “growth of the national-revolutionary movement in the colonies and the crisis in the world domination of imperialism in general” specifically mentioning the “war for liberation waged by Syria and Morocco against French imperialism” along with the “struggle for liberation waged by India and Egypt against British imperialism” and China’s “struggle for liberation against Anglo-Japanese-American imperialism,” along with the “growth of the working-class movement in India and China.” He concluded that this means that “the Great Powers are faced with the danger of losing their…colonies” with capitalism destabilized, with a “form of open war against imperialism” in places like “Morocco, Syria, [and] China.” This was further proven by a revolt in Syria, in 1926, some saying that “the revolt in Syria has reached alarming proportions” while the Comintern that year considered the revolt as one of the “series of revolutions and revolutionary actions on the Continent of Europe as well as in the colonial and semi-colonial countries.” The following year, comrade Stalin told the Fourteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B) that the intention of the British bourgeoisie, represented by Neville Chamberlain, was to “oust the French bourgeoisie from Syria” because from Syria it is “possible to do harm to Britain both in the area of the Suez Canal and in the area of Mesopotamia.”

Fast forward to World War II. In 1942, Churchill wrote to Stalin, saying he hoped to “assemble a considerable army in Syria drawn from our Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Armies, so as to go to help Turkey if either she were threatened or were willing to join us.” With the country controlled by nationalist but easily pliant governments of the Western bourgeoisie, for most of the time from 1945 to 1958, it is no surprise that the country signed The General Agreement On Tariffs And Trade or GATT in 1948, becoming a foundation of the postwar world capitalism. However, the country became more independent during its years as the Syrian Republic, with the U$ engaging in provocations in Syria in 1957 and Mao Zedong saying the same year that there should be solidarity with Syrian nation. In 1960, 8o Communist and Workers Parties made a statement in Moscow praising the “resolute stand of the Soviet Union, of the other socialist states and of all the peaceful forces put an end to the Anglo -Franco-Israeli intervention in Egypt, and averted a military invasion of Syria, Iraq and some other countries by the imperialists.” Six years later, there was a military coup in Syria, as previously mentioned in this article, which hurt Ba’ath Party in Iraq but conditions changed in 1968 with another military coup, which was not U$ backed like the one in 1963. By the 1970s, a full tank brigade from Cuba stood “guard between 1973 and 1975 alongside the Golan Heights, when this territory was unjustly seized from that country.” Cuba has, in the past two years, stood by Syria, shipping vaccines, is willing to have “bilateral relations based on mutual respect, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, economic exchange and the defense of the sovereign principles of each nation,” said at the UN that “peace in Syria can only be achieved if the people’s right to self-determination is respected” while Fidel himself “strategically directed hundreds of thousands of Cuban combatants on international missions” in countries such as Syria, (also in Algeria, Angola, and Ethiopia to name a few). Additionally, Syria has stood with Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela in June of 2016 expressing “their support for the independence and sovereignty of Puerto Rico,” undoubtedly angering the murderous empire while Syrian students have said that they respect the Cuban revolution, while it has pushed for the end of the blockade against Cuba, while medical students from Syria have come to Cuba. Additionally, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said that Venezuela stood in solidarity with “the Syrian people in the struggle against terrorism and against the most vile and cruel forms of warfare are admirable before the eyes of the world,” and solidarity again after a deadly strike by the murderous empire. Maduro himself warned against intervention by the murderous empire in Syria in 2013, with the government supplying Syria with oil in 2012, calls for the end to a “media war”on Syria in 2011, strengthening of agreements with Syrian businesses in 2010, and Hugo Chavez making a speech in 2009 in the Syrian province of Swaida, calling the Syrian people “architects of resistance” to imperialism, and saying that “we should fight to create consciousness that is free from imperialist doctrine…fight to defeat backwardness, poverty, misery…to convert our countries into true powers through the consciousness of the people.” Other than this, Assad and Chavez “created a $100 million bilateral development fund and discussed how to build more unity between Arab and Latin American peoples” in 2010, humanitarian aid sent to Syrian refugees in 2013, Venezuela taking in 20,000 Syrian refugees in 2015, Chavez laughing at the idea that Venezuelan  aircraft are shipping missile parts to Syria in 2008,and Assad and Chavez criticizing U$ involvement in the Middle East in 2006, to name a few instances.

Such solidarity of Venezuela with Libya, Iran, and Syria had Trotskyist Lance Selfa grumbling about Chavez supporting “dictators” or “despots,” and claiming there were “Arab revolutionaries.” Like always, the Trotskyists failed in their analysis. As Stalin noted in December 1927 when he called out the “Trotskyist opposition,” showing how they favored the bourgeoisie:

…I think the opposition does me honour by venting all its hatred against Stalin. That is as it should be. I think it would be strange and offensive if the opposition, which is trying to wreck the Party, were to praise Stalin, who is defending the fundamentals of the Leninist Party principle…The communist workers gave our oppositionists a good drubbing, such a drubbing indeed that the leaders of the opposition were compelled to flee from the battlefield…the opposition, in pursuing a splitting policy, organised an anti-Party, illegal printing press…the opposition, for the purpose of organising this printing press, entered into a bloc with bourgeois intellectuals, part of whom turned out to be in direct contact with counter-revolutionary conspirators…The opposition’s splitting activities lead it to linking up with bourgeois intellectuals, and the link with bourgeois intellectuals makes it easy for all sorts of counter-revolutionary elements to envelop it—that is the bitter truth…Its main sin is that it tried, is trying, and will go on trying to embellish Leninism with Trotskyism and to replace Leninism by Trotskyism…What is the chief aim of the present united bloc headed by Trotsky? It is little by little to switch the Party from the Leninist course to that of Trotskyism. That is the opposition’s main sin. But the Party wants to remain a Leninist party.

Add to this what the French Communist Party said in 1932, that workers are fooled by the Trotskyists who want to splinter the Communist movement, with even Josip Tito of Yugoslavia seeing Trotskyists as those clearing “the road for the fascist-imperialist bandits”! That shows this sentiment against Trotskyists was widespread. Others have said that the Trotskyists served Franco, which the Marxist Internet Archive (MIA) claimed was disproved by its author George Soria but actually is talking about “the story surrounding the disappearance of Andrés Nin, the founder of the P.O.U.M., where he was freed from prison by fascist agents” with his words cited by MIA after Soria “became sympathetic to the Eurocommunism of the PCF.” Furthermore, as Harriet Parsons wrote in the Worker’s Herald in September 1980, “Trotskyists and Trotskyist organizations have a special place in the government’s arsenal for their role in stirring up counter-revolution and their activities as police agents.” As Moissaye J. Olgin wrote in 1935, basing his analysis on what Stalin had written about Trotskyism and in solidarity with the Soviet Union, “Trotskyism no more confines itself to “informing” the bourgeoisie” but has become “center and the rallying point for the enemies of the Soviet Union, of the proletarian revolution in capitalist countries, of the Communist International.”

Hostility by the murderous empire, which has “left a balance sheet of hundreds of thousands of deaths and enormous destruction” in Syria was expressed was as strong in 2003 as it was in 2014 and last year with the cruise missile attack by the orange menace. As Mexican-Argentine philosopher Enrique Dussel (who is not a Marxist but has put forward a philosophy of liberation along with other individuals) put it in October 2016 at the Eco-socialist School of Critical Decolonial Thought of Our America, “they [the murderous empire] go to Syria and they destroy it without even knowing where Syria is. They destroyed Aleppo without knowing anything about that place.”

Taking this all into account, one can, and should agree with Ramzi (Khaled Bakdash), who argued that “we must use the Leninist-Stalinist tactic of mobilising all possible forces…and using all our allies, however temporary and uncertain they may be,” arguing at the time against French imperialism and Zionist oppression but also saying that there will be “accommodation of the national reformist bourgeoisie with imperialism” and calling for Arabic unity with an “anti-imperialist popular front on the pan-Arab scale.”This is especially important considering the economic sanctions foisted on Syria with those fighting “against the Syrian government and army are a mixture of Syrian and foreign mercenaries from dozens of countries” with supplies, training, and weapons from “Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies, Israel, Turkey, NATO, and of course the United States,” with the latter winding down it seems, as Syria tries to rebuild from the destruction.

With Turkish aggression against Syria, bombing the YPG and the so-called “revolutionary” Kurds, whom are collaborating with U$ imperialists for what some naively call “liberation,” the country is under assault with destruction of houses and historic sites. Some have said that Russia, Syria, and Turkey are all on the same page, with the Turks trying to change the empire’s “end game” in Syria. Perhaps the Turks and Russians are on the same page, but there is no doubt that the Syrians are furious with the violation of their sovereignty while these certaom Kurds are angry their imperial patrons aren’t protecting them (perhaps because the empire sees more value in an alliance with Turkey?). They detest these certain Kurds becoming a base for the murderous empire within their country. However, they do not want military invasion or covert action brought into their country by outside powers, especially by the Turks, which are strongly against the current Syrian government. Some, like celebrity left David Graeber, are ringing their hands about Turkey’s attack, calling it “pure imperialism” and claiming that the Kurds are still “revolutionary,” a laughable concept. Graeber may have a point about Turkey’s attack, as Erdogan is no friend to the proletariat of Turkey or of the world as a whole, but is a monster without question. Sure, he has ties to Russia, but this is because Turkish and Russian interests are interconnected, as the Turkish bourgeoisie and Russian bourgeoisie don’t mind being friends. Graeber’s hand-wringing is as bad as Marcel Cartier, writing in evidently anti-anti-imperialist site, The Region, reprinted in the so-called progressive “ZNet,” declaring that Rojava is a “beacon of stability in Syria” and is supposedly “progressive.” He goes further to claim laughably that the Kurds are not puppets but are engaged in a “real revolutionary process” and that the Syrians had “exhibited a considerable degree of colonialism as far as the Kurds are concerned”! Not only does he clearly understand what colonialism is, but his answer as a whole is absurd and laughable as these Kurds are helping the imperialists divide up Syria. Without a doubt, Cartier, like Graeber believes the lies that these Kurds are revolutionary, which anyone with sense has recognized by now. Even one subreddit I follow, leftvexillology, has a tag of “Fuck YPG!” due to such propaganda in absurd, laughable writings. Of course, there are some corners of the Left that still think this, like the goofs at Links International Journal of Socialism, Trotskyists, and deluded socialists in the Middle East. However, as I recently pointed out on Reddit,

….the Rojava/YPG/Kurdish Workers Party are pawns of U$ imperialists [as they see it], as evidenced more and more under Trump than ever before, who has given all sorts of aid to them….we know the U$ imperialists want a “safe district” in the region as a base for their imperialism, so they can easily attack Syria (and by that thinking, undermine Iran). Not only does such a state clearly violate the sovereignty of Syria with their so-called “decentralized” government, creating an entity which will lead to regional chaos…The narrative spread by those who advocate for Rojava is utterly false, without question. Not only is the propaganda outlets of the murderous empire willing to listen and talk to them, but it easily fits with “Orientalist bourgeois propaganda” against Syria…Beyond this, is the reality that while “Western and even international “left”…declare that the Rojava Kurds are “revolutionary” or somehow “liberated” such perspectives are “an unfounded and dangerous form of international solidarity”…Rojava is an illegal entity without question…Hence we should pay less attention to Rojava except to counter imperial lies and fight the blood-sucking imperialists who want to divide and conquer Syria without a doubt.

As the murderous empire seems has “drawn Turkey deeper into the Syrian conflict by announcing a policy that threatens Turkey’s national security” by announcing the creation of “a 30,000-man Border Security Force (BSF) to occupy East Syria” on January 18 and  the start of so-called “Operation Olive Branch” two days later. In the article, Mike Whitney calls this a “gaffe” and a “provocation” which was uttered by oil man Tillerson who was “blinded by hubris.” He also said that time will tell if “Washington is following Erdogan’s orders or not” and claimed that “Putin gave Erdogan the green light to conduct “Operation Olive Branch” in order to pave the way for an eventual Syrian takeover of the Northwestern portion of the country up to the Turkish border” even though he admits that Erdogan has neo-Ottoman ambitions. Whitney closes by saying that the policy will remain the same as “Washington will persist in its effort to divide the country and remove Assad until an opposing force prevents it from doing so.” This seems to be faulty reasoning as the Turks do not seem to favor the current Syrian government so they wouldn’t just give the land over to the Syrians. Instead, it seems that Putin is serving nationalist interests of the Russian bourgeoisie rather than helping protect Syrian sovereignty which Turkey is clearly violating. Some may say that Syria is acquiescing to this by not “fighting back” against Turkey but it is likely that the current government does not want to be at war with Turkey or devote resources to defending such an area, looking to liberate other parts of the country from terrorist control instead, which is a wise use of resources.

In closing, there is no doubt that Syria is a nationalist, secular and socially democratic (or progressive) state. But, it is not socialist, as Gowans, most prominently of all, has argued. As I’ve noted in this article, Syria clearly has a bourgeoisie. This is the case in Iran and Zimbabwe as well, along with likely the case in Belarus and some other progressive countries, along with perhaps Cuba and the DPRK. Knowing the real nature of these countries by using Marxist analysis is important in order for the populace to have an accurate analysis of the world at the present. As always, I look forward to your comments and further discussion on this subject.


Notes

[1] Ashley Smith, “Explaining the Syrian civil war,” International Socialist Review; Chris Lee, “Is Syria socialist?,” Green Left Weekly, Oct 22, 2003; Serge Jordan, “Syria: Is an end to the war in sight?,” Socialist World (Trotskyist), Feb 3, 2017; Freedom Road Socialist Organization, “The ISO and the war on Syria: Silly and shameful,” FightBack! News, Sept 11, 2013; Budour Hassan, “Telling the stories of Syria’s masses,” Socialist Worker, Oct 3, 2013; Joseph Green, “Solidarity with the Syrian uprising and the Arab Spring!,” Communist Voice, Sept 2012; Alasdair Drysdale, “The Asad Regime and Its Troubles,” Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), November/December 1982.

[2] Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Syria reverts to socialist economic policies to ease tension,” Reuters, Jul 4, 2012; Jamal Mahamid, “Syria’s frail economy, before and after the revolution,” Al Arabiya, Apr 1, 2013; Aron Lund, “The State of the Syrian Economy: An Expert Survey,” Carnegie Middle East Center, Dec 23, 2013; Hamoud Al-Mahmoud, “The War Economy in the Syrian Conflict: The Government’s Hands-Off Tactics,” Carnegie Middle East Center, Dec 15, 2015; Caroline Alexander and Donna Abu-Nasr, “How War Has Destroyed Syria’s Economy in Four Charts,” Bloomberg News, Jul 29, 2015; Elias al-Araj, “How the war on Syria left its mark on Lebanon’s economy,” Al Monitor, May 13, 2016;  Jihad Yazigi, “Syria’s war economy,” European Council on Foreign Relations, Apr 7, 2014;  Rim Turkmani, Ali A. K. Ali, Mary Kaldor, and Vesna Bojicic-Dzelilovic, “Countering the logic of the war economy in Syria,” OpenDemocracy, Nov 19, 2015; Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Syria’s economy heads into ruin: U.N. sponsored report,” Reuters, May 18, 2014; AFP, “Economic effect of Syrian war at $35bn: World Bank,” Middle East Eye, Feb 5, 2016; David Butler, “Syria’s Economy: Picking up the Pieces,” Chatham House, June 23, 2015.

[3] On April 18, 1964, the New York Times, in an article titled “Socialist Goals Pressed by Syria,” declared that “the Syrian Government na­tionalized three textile factories in the northern industrial town of Aleppo today and ordered worker management of all na­tionalized and state‐run eco­nomic establishments” with the latter “viewed as heralds of a Social­ist era in Syria under the Baath Socialist party” and seeking to “apply a brand of Socialism different from that of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of the United Arab Republic.” It also noted that “President Nasser’s So­cialism” was denounced by the Baath Socialist party, wanting to have “self­-management” by workers, expanding on nationalization of “all local and foreign banks.” Later on, there was a book by Ayman Al-Yassini titled “The socialist transformation of an underdeveloped country: Syria under the Arab Baath Socialist Party, 1963-1970,” Time magazine calling Syria “socialist” in 1967, as did Edward F. Sheehan in a January 1975 New York Times article titled “He Fears Russians More Than Israelis, Works With Kissinger.”

[4] “Syria,” 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation, accessed January 21, 2018; “Syria” (economy section), CIA’s The World Factbook, accessed January 21, 2018. There have been those like Martin Peretz of The New Republic declaring that “very few people…think of Russia and China as progressive countries,” that many “still think of Cuba as a progressive country,” with Venezuela, “Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua…express[ing] their solidarity for socialist Syria” which he considered a joke. People like this should be ridiculed and laughed at.

[5] One Trotskyist suggested that since “nationalisations received the overwhelming support of the working class in Syria” it is such nationalization and “division of the land,” which gained the government “support of the workers and peasants,” that the Ba’ath-led government was able to “maintain itself.” This argument may have some merit to it, although Trotskyists are often wrongheaded in their analysis without question.

[6] This is indicated further by other articles talking about industrial facilities, tire manufacturing, decreasing prices, a gas project, the industrial sector, importing of buses,
MPs and general budget (here and here), a fertilizer plant, monetary policy (here and here), exports (here, here, here, and here), an offshore limited liability corporation (LLC), a supposedly cooperative housing sector, agricultural production and investment, rural women’s products, investment in higher education, a shopping festival, reviving old markets, social affairs, economic diplomacy, investment budgets, budgets, nursery plantstons of wheat, a trade fair, raw materials, new gas wells, a state budget billpharmaceuticals, a goods exhibit, labor syndicates, a truck assembly plant, ports being re-opened, new projects, upgrade services, and cabinet work for 2018.

[7] Mike Whitney wrote in January 2016 that “Putin has no intention of getting “bogged down” in Syria for a decade or two. What he plans to do is to defeat the enemy and move on,” adding that “Russia plans to use its Kurdish allies in the YPG to seize a stretch of land along the Syrian side of the Turkish border to reestablish Syria’s territorial sovereignty” while noting that “Turkish President Erdogan has promised that if the YPG pursues that course, Turkey will invade, in which case, Putin will come to the defense of the Kurds.” The latter seems to have come true in the case of Operation Olive Branch as the Turks call it, despite its destruction. The former has also become true as the Russians are pulling back their involvement. Still there is, as another writer also noted in CounterPunch, an “ongoing campaign of demonization against the Russian leader” or Putin, with Avaaz portraying the Syrian government efforts to fight terrorists as “nothing but a joint Russian-Syrian effort to murder civilians, especially children” even though this is an utter lie since, as Whitney noted, in another article, “Russian air-strikes are going to be accompanied by a formidable mop-up operation that will overpower the jihadi groups on the ground” which isn’t recognized by the antiwar movement.

“With confidence in sure victory”: Kim Jong-Un and the DPRK in 2018

Photograph of Kim Jong Un Making His New Year Address​​, via dprktoday.com.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.  I wrote this when I was much more influenced by revisionism than I am now. If I wrote this article today I would probably try to be more critical. Still, I think at the minimum this post was a wholesome assessment.

As you may know, Kim Jong-Un (called Kim in the rest of this article), the duly-elected chief of state of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) gave a New Year’s address for Juche 107 (2018), on January 1, as he does every year. The bourgeois media, at least in the murderous empire, extracted only a certain elements from the speech, even though a rough translated version of the whole speech was available as of January 1st, only relying on a partial translation by the Associated Press. While PressTV, an Iranian state media outlet, and the RT, the Russian state outlet that liberals scream about, seemed to just take from Western media accounts, the bourgeois media was inherently imperialist in their “analysis” of the speech, as even the headlines show:

Dear America: Don’t fall for Pyongyang’s predictable, poisonous ploy (The Hill)

Kim Jong-un Goes Dapper, Updating His Style Along With His Arsenal (New York Times)

Kim Jong-un warns US in New Year’s Day speech, says he has ‘nuclear button’ on his desk (International Business Times UK)

North Korea’s Overture Raises Hopes, but Huge Obstacles Loom (New York Times)

Will nuclear North Korea survive 2018? (Chicago Tribune)

The first analysis I could find, of the Kim’s speech, came from NK News. Not surprisingly, like many of the “watchers” of the DPRK, it was inherently imperialist. While noting that “Kim Jong Un’s New Year speech was broadcast on Korea Central television” and that the “New Year’s speech is an important ideological event in North Korea,” noting that it was “uncharacteristically focused on foreign policy” and that Kim Jong Un revived the tradition of a New  Years speech in 2013, it made silly comments:

…Kim Jong Un wore a different colored suit and tie compared to previous years, though there is nothing to suggest this was for any reason beyond stylistic preference.Secondly, his remarks were interrupted several times by nine second periods of applause [which they claimed was “generated”]…Kim Jong Un’s voice was noticeably raspier than unusual.

Who cares about this? This does not bode well for their supposed “analysis” as it shows they are anti-communist jerks. Furthermore, they claimed that “Kim Jong Un offered zero consequential policy suggestions towards outside leaders” and that Pyongyang can “in some ways afford to simply ignore the U.S. and get on with other matters,” acting like this speech stood on its own and wasn’t in a broader context. Again, this is pathetic reasoning. They further claimed that there is “always room” for a war with the DPRK (no there isn’t!), that “Kim Jong Un continues to make due lip service to the state ideology” (not that he is a dedicated leader), that  “the New Year speech has an atmosphere of confidence surrounding it” and claiming that “the speech was actually recorded before the conference” (which is again acting like the people are brainwashed which is ridiculous). Hence, NK News should be ridiculed and generally not trusted for news or “analysis” on the DPRK.

With all of this, I decided to write my own analysis of the speech using media of the DPRK, working to put Kim’s speech, summarized by KCNA on January 1 for the Korean masses, into context. KCNA and Rodong Sinmun printed official English translations of the speech. In this article, the transcript of the speech, which was printed in Rodong Sinmun one day after KCNA published it is used in this article since KCNA is not always easy to link to online for ways they set up the website. [1] If Rodong Sinumn doesn’t work, here is a PDF of the speech uploaded to this blog and on exploredprk.com.

 

Table of contents for this article

 

The “difficulties and trials” of 2017

Right from the beginning of the speech, he addresses the difficult year of Juche 106 or 2017 for the DPRK. He says that the country is “the road of achieving national prosperity, gaining great strength and wisdom” (despite continued capitalist concessions and embrace of revisionism time and again) among a “great people” whom he calls “dauntless” even in the face of “manifold difficulties and trials” (murderous imperial sanctions) and that his heart swells “with the pride in waging the revolution shoulder to shoulder with a great people.” He adds that he extends “sincere thanks and New Year greetings to all the people and service personnel who won miraculous victories to be noteworthy in the national history of 5 000 years” while supporting the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK) with “mind and purpose,” which buttressed its “determination on the road of arduous yet glorious struggle.”

What happened in 2017 is worth noting in the history books. Kim argues that 2017, was for DPRK, “a year of heroic struggle and great victory,” which served as a “milestone in the history of building a powerful [so-called] socialist country with the spirit of self-reliance and self-development as the dynamic force.” What is specifically being referring to is the fact that the murderous empire “and its vassal forces” tried to stifle and isolate the DPRK, with the revolution facing “the harshest-ever challenges” with the WPK trusting the people of the country who defended the Party, “turning adversity and misfortune to good account and achieving brilliant successes on all the fronts where a powerful [so-called] socialist country is being built.” Basically, the DPRK persevered despite the attempts by imperialists to strangle it. More importantly, the country showed its “immutable faith and will to follow to the end the road of Juche-oriented [so-called] socialism” with people firmly united behind the party and the DPRK for one reason:

…the accomplishment of the great, historic cause of perfecting the national nuclear forces…in the past one year we conducted several rounds of its [the nuclear weapon’s] test launch, aimed at implementing the programme, safely and transparently, thus proving before the eyes of the world its definite success. By also conducting tests of various means of nuclear delivery and super-intense thermonuclear weapon, we attained our general orientation and strategic goal with success, and our Republic has at last come to possess a powerful and reliable war deterrent, which no force and nothing can reverse. Our country’s nuclear forces are capable of thwarting and countering any nuclear threats from the United States, and they constitute a powerful deterrent that prevents it from starting an adventurous war. In no way would the United States dare to ignite a war against me and our country. The whole of its mainland is within the range of our nuclear strike and the nuclear button is on my office desk all the time; the United States needs to be clearly aware that this is not merely a threat but a reality.

Basically, the DPRK has a nuclear deterrent. This is meant to prevent the country from invasion by the murderous empire and its demented leader, the orange menace. There is a reason this is fundamentally important. As Deirdre Griswold writes in Worker’s World, a neo-Trotskyist publication, asks a rhetorical question, after saying that if China and Russia vetoed the resolution for sanctions on the DPRK they would have “risked incurring the wrath of the imperialists”: “But doesn’t going along with such a resolution incur even greater risk of emboldening the most aggressive forces among the imperialist policy makers, who want unchallenged domination over the world and see both China and to a lesser degree Russia as rivals?”

After all, not only is the policy of the murderous empire to destroy the government of the DPRK, turning it into a neo-colony of the U$, but no administration of the empire has been willing to sit down with representatives of the DPRK and negotiate an end to the state of war that has existed since 1950,” meaning that an  “official state of war already exists.” I’ve already criticized the stance of revisionist China and capitalist Russia, both of which are social-imperialists in the past, saying that

…since neither of these countries are socialist, they easily cut deals with Western capitalists to help their respective bourgeoisie. This is part of the reason why Russia and China have not stood behind the DPRK’s acts of self-defense against aggression by the murderous empire and its allies. Instead, if to “buy time” from the orange menace and/or to prevent nuclear contamination of their citizenry (in the case of China), they have held a moderating tone, supporting peaceful negotiation, condemning the DPRK’s actions, and supporting murderous sanctions, like the others on the UN Security Council. Where has the solidarity gone?…With the “zigzag approach” to the DPRK by the orange menace, Russia and China would benefit the world by defending the DPRK…but they have not done so, instead proposing the idea of a “freeze for freeze” which the US has rejected…As Gregory Elich recently put it, “unless China and Russia can find a way to oppose U.S. designs without becoming targets themselves, the North Korean people will stand alone and bear the burden of Trump’s malice”…Luckily, some have taken stands in favor of the DPRK that Russia and China have not.

The fact remains that Russia and China have voted with the murderous empire on sanctions against the DPRK, in keeping with their social-imperialist policy.

Photo of Kim Jong Un with Participants in 8th Conference of Munitions Industry, via Rodong Sinmun on Dec 13, 2017.

Kim continued his speech by saying that the nuclear deterrent is the wish of “great leaders who devoted their lives to building the strongest national defence capability for reliably safeguarding our country’s sovereignty” referring to his father Kim Jong-Il, and his grandfather, the first leader of the DPRK, Kim Il-Sung. The result of this deterrent is that the DPRK, in his words, has created “a mighty sword for defending peace,” important since the Korean people have had to “tighten their belts for long years.” Additionally, he argues that such a deterrent proves the accuracy, from his viewpoint, of the “Party’s line of simultaneously conducting economic construction and building up our nuclear forces and its idea of prioritizing science,” also called the byungjin parallel development strategy. [2] He adds that the achievements in 2017 open up “bright prospects for the building of a prosperous country and inspired our service personnel and people with confidence in sure victory.” He praises, as anyone should, the “heroic Korean people who, despite the difficult living conditions caused by life-threatening sanctions and blockade, have firmly trusted” the Party’s byungjin policy, and the “defence scientists and workers in the munitions industry ” who engaged in devoted efforts to create such a deterrent. Still, the further capitalist concessions do not help the masses.

He notes the economic progress of the DPRK. He argues that there has been “notable headway in carrying out the five-year strategy for national economic development” specifically in establishing the “Juche orientation in the metallurgical industry, an oxygen-blast furnace of our own style was built at the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex,” a place that will maintain “regular production of pig iron by relying on anthracite.” He adds that “prospects were opened up for consolidating the independent foundations of the chemical industry and attaining the five-year strategy’s goal for the output of chemical products.” This is perhaps why the working class or proletariat of the DPRK, seemed to be encouraged by Kim’s speech. Jon Kwang Jun, the department director of the Ministry of Electric Power Industry,was quoted as saying that the address served as a “militant banner that all the servicepersons and civilians should hold aloft this year marking the 70th anniversary of the DPRK,” adding that the country will “strive to increase the power production, further consolidating the achievements made in the field of electric power last year” and will work on “developing new power sources, put power generation at the existing medium and small-sized power stations on a normal footing” while waging a “vigorous struggle against the practices of wasting electric power.” Kim Hwang Ho, the department director of the Ministry of Metallurgical Industry was quoted as saying that “workers in the field of metallurgical industry are in high spirits” he said this is the case because “many metallurgical industrial establishments have made great achievements in putting their production processes on a Juche and modern basis with the spirit of self-reliance and self-development” and that in the coming year this will continue with a boost in the “production of iron and steel.”

Apart from those reactions, consider that in October of last year, a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK visited the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex, learning about the “construction of oxygen heat blast furnace” and walking around the construction side, even having a “consultative meeting” to underline the need for the finishing of the construction of “an oxygen heat blast furnace and installing a large oxygen separator in its final stage” and setting other issues in iron production in the country. So this was project was seen as important to the leadership of the DPRK. The same can be said about the “scientists, technicians, teachers, graduate students and the three-revolution team” at varying universities and complexes, with the latter attending national and scientific presentations held in August, with lectures on the “the theoretical basis of technological process of oxygen heat blast furnace and the trend of development of the carbon one chemistry and gasification industry.” Adding to this, there was another consultative meeting between Premier Pak Pong Ju, “workers, technicians and officials in the building of oxygen heat blast furnace” in June, and the Supreme People’s Assembly, the unicameral legislative body of the DPRK, argued that “the completion of projects for the production of Juche iron should be pushed forward as a key task at the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex” along with metal factories taking “measures for the supply of raw materials, fuel and power and introduce advanced technology,” cutting the cost of production as much as possible to “attain the goal of iron and steel production.” Below is a photograph of workers at the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex in an article in Rodong Sinmun titled “DPRK Premier Inspects Steel Plants“:

Before going forward, it is worth noting that the creation of this blast heat oxygen furnace is a great accomplishment. Such furnaces, also called basic oxygen furnaces, are the “dominant steelmaking technology” in the world, with the method of steelmaking a way by which “both molten pig iron and steel scrap are converted into steel with the oxidizing action of oxygen blown into the melt under a basic slag.” Basically the furnace has a high output for pig iron, so it is relatively efficient. This is evident by the fact that so-called “Heats” of steel,” which range from “30 to 360 tons, can be produced in 30 to 45 minutes.” Now, I’m not sure about the emissions caused by this, but just looking at it on an economic standpoint, this is something to celebrate even while taking into account the capitalist concessions that have been made by the government, which leans toward revisionism without question.

Kim goes on in his speech to talk about how “light-industry factories” in the “textile, footwear, knitwear and foodstuff” sectors have made efforts to modernize their technology and equipment, raising the question if a consumer class is building in the country. In the process, they have, in his words, “provided a guarantee for making the range of consumer goods varied and improving their quality.” This was acknowledged by Rodong Sinmun back in November, when the publication argues that workers and officials in the “light industrial sector should bring about radical upswing in production under the banner of self-reliance” and that such an upswing, possible through “increased production and innovations,” it not only “directly linked to the improvement of people’s standard of living” but is vital in “revitalizing the country’s overall economy.”  Additionally, the editorial at the time added  that when light industrial factories are in full operation, “people’s needs for material and cultural life with enough consumer goods and living necessities” can be successfully met.

The speech also says the same about the “machine-building industry,” arguing that it “creditably attained the Party’s goal for the production of new-type tractors and trucks.” As a result, it sped up “the Juche orientation and modernization of the national economy and the comprehensive mechanization of the rural economy.” If the presentations in the “field of machine-building industry” which was held on August 24 of last year “at the Taean Heavy Machine Complex,” bringing together “scientists, technicians, teachers, researchers” evidences anything, it is that there has been “scientific and technological achievements made in developing machine industry at a rapid pace and stepping up the modernization of machine factories.” At that conference, there has been talk about “solving scientific and technological problems arising in ensuring the production of quality machines and equipment of new types and improving their performance.”

Then there’s the agricultural sector. Kim argues that this sector actively introduced “scientific farming methods,” increased the ranks of “high-yield farms and workteams,” along with reaping “an unusually rich fruit harvest in spite of unfavourable climatic conditions.” As they say, you reap what you sow. The DPRK has only recently, last month, had a ceremony which displayed the “new-type tractors and trucks” such as Chollima-804 tractors, Sungri trucks and Chungsong-122 tractors, in  Kim Il Sung Square, showing the “precious fruition of the spirit of self-reliance and self-development” with these vehicles welcomed along the streets by the citizenry. If you don’t believe me, just see the most striking picture, almost beautiful, from the article itself:

Could you ever imagine something like that in the murderous empire? Or even awards given to “officials, innovators, scientists and researchers who have worked feats in fruit growing” last year? Agriculture is important to the DPRK, as it should be to any country working to be independent from imperialist domination, a demonstration of the “might of great army-people unity and the potential of the [so-called] socialist independent economy” as Kim put it elsewhere in the speech.

Kim went on to talk about the building of the “magnificent Ryomyong Street and the large-scale livestock farming base” in Sepho, the “first stage of the forest restoration campaign.” He also said that “new model units emerged one after another” with a large number of “factories and enterprises fulfilled their quotas of the yearly national economic plan ahead of schedule.” Lest us forget that Ryomyong Street, honored in their ice sculpture festival, is the place that was built in the “standard of modern architectural street” and only in a “matter of nine months” with honorary titles given to 28 people and medals to 43,119 people who worked on the project! One article, back in April of last year, includes varied photos of the project  when “educators and researchers of Kim Il Sung University” and others who had been “evacuated began moving into new flats in Ryomyong Street” on April 17:

Kim also talked about scientific and cultural successes. He noted how scientists and technicians in the country solved problems that arose in “the building of a powerful [so-called] socialist country” while they also “completed research projects in the cutting-edge field, thereby giving stimulus to economic development and the improvement of the people’s living standards.” At the 33rd Sci-Tech Festival of Kim Il Sung University,  which opened on December 19 of last year, there were ten panels on varying topics such as “basic science, elements and devices, electronics and automation, agriculture and bio-engineering and medicine.” Specifically there was “presentation and exhibition of sci-tech successes” along with a “exhibition contest among different units and exchange of new technologies,” with 310 “scientific research achievements” presented at the festival.

The same month, there were consultative meetings between DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju, the “workers, technicians and officials” at the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex, the February 8 Vinalon Complex, and the Ryongsong Machine Complex, which focused on bringing forward the “production of Juche fertilizer, vinalon and custom-built equipment,” along with more “scrupulously organizing business and enterprise management and pushing forward the work for putting production processes on a Juche and modern basis.” Additionally, emphasized was the “need to deepen scientific researches for establishing C1 chemical industry.” As a reminder, the C1 Chemical industry is an industry centered around C1 chemistry (starting back in May of last year at least), which is “based on synthesis gas, methane and carbon dioxide” and offers many “many routes to industrial chemicals.” It is also worth putting here another photograph, this one of the Amnokgang Tire Factory, helping to fulfill the WPK goal for 2017 for producing more tires, with Kim himself visiting the factory last month:

There were, as Kim noted, cultural influences well. These included the further improvement of the “[so-called] socialist education system” in the DPRK, upgrading of the “educational environment” and bettering of “medical service conditions.” In terms of the educational system, apart from the remodeling of “Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism Study Hall in Samjiyon County…as…the base for education in the Party’s monolithic ideology,” there was “an exhibition of educational scientific achievements” on Nov. 25-26 of last year with many textbooks and references featured, and the Third National Conference of Social Scientists at the “April 25 House of Culture”  in mid-November, discussing the ways to “make a fresh turn in the development of the social sciences” in the building of the progressive nation. Additionally, in 2017, a museum was built at the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School measuring 3,500 square meters in floor space, displaying historic “relics and data on the activities of the peerlessly great persons who made an immortal history of education for the children of revolutionary martyrs with noble revolutionary sense of obligation and outlook on posterity.” It includes, specifically, the photos of “the great persons and art works on their images, the historic relics and data at the museum [that] are the most valuable treasure of the nation and precious revolutionary asset of Juche Korea.” I could go on with educational achievements, with programs such as agro-meterology popular, but I think what has been mentioned so far is sufficient.

Connected with educational achievement were the “artistic performance activities” created specifically to “infuse the whole country with revolutionary optimism and the militant spirit.” Just this year there has already been performances in celebration of the new year, with songs about “Korean-style socialism” (even though it is not, when analyzed rightly, socialist) and others which told about 2017, described as the “year of great victory and miracles that jolted the world with mightiness of Korea and its irresistible strength.” There has been been a celebration of schoolchildren  who extended greetings to Kim “in reflection of the best wishes of all the people and schoolchildren in the country.” Before that, in 2017 there has been:

  • “A congratulatory performance of the State Merited Chorus and the Moranbong Band…[with] epic and impressive depiction of the glorious path covered by the WPK”- Dec 29
  • “…colorful art performances at theatres in Pyongyang and provinces on Dec. 24 to mark the 26th anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il’s assumption of the supreme commandership of the Korean People’s Army…Circus and magic performances were given at the Pyongyang Circus Theater and the jugglery theatre of the National Acrobatic Troupe.”- Dec 24
  • “…an art performance in Hoeryong City of North Hamgyong Province…to celebrate the centenary of birth of the anti-Japanese war heroine Kim Jong Suk”- Dec 22 
  • “…a performance at the Thaesong Co-op Farm in Kangso District, Nampho City on Dec. 21 to celebrate the 26th anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il’s assumption of supreme commandership of the Korean People’s Army (KPA)…The performers sang high praises of the exploits of leader Kim Jong Il who defended Korean-style [so-called] socialism under the banner of Songun and laid an eternal foundation for the final victory of the Juche revolution.”- Dec 21
  • “The State Merited Chorus, the Moranbong Band and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe gave a joint music and dance performance in Sariwon City, North Hwanghae Province from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6…At the turn of each number, audience mounted the stage to present bouquets to the performers while giving loud applauses to them”- report on Dec. 8
  • “The State Merited Chorus, the Moranbong Band and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe gave their premiere at the North Hwanghae Provincial Art Theatre on Nov. 30…The performance evoked lively response among the audience.”- Nov 30
  • “A revolutionary drama “A Letter from a Daughter” was staged in Sinuiju City, North Phyongan Province from Nov. 24 to 27. The drama deals with the matters of enlightening the popular masses and awakening them to consciousness and proves the truth of life that knowledge is power through jokes and laughs.”- Nov 29 report
  • “The State Merited Chorus, the Moranbong Band and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe gave their premiere in Nampho City. The performance was given to full house at the Nampho City Art Theater on Nov. 16…The performers made an artistic depiction of the exploits of the WPK which has successfully steered the revolution and construction, regarding it as its very principle to definitely prioritize the people and depend on their strength.”- Nov 16
  • “The State Merited Chorus, the Moranbong Band and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe gave their music and dance performance in Anju Theatre of South Phyongan Province on Nov. 2…The performers well represented the greatness of the WPK with profound artistic depiction…At the end of the performance the audience presented bouquets to the performers and congratulated them with warm applauses.”- Nov 4  
  • “The State Merited Chorus, the Moranbong Band and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe of the DPRK gave their music and dance performances in Kanggye City, Jagang Province from October 18 to 29…The performers sang loudly of the faith and will of the people in Jagang Province to remain faithful to respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and go along the road of the revolution to the last under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea…The audience expressed their excitement after enjoying the performances.”- Oct 31 report

And much more in the realm of performances.

“An art performance in Hoeryong City of North Hamgyong Province…to celebrate the centenary of birth of the anti-Japanese war heroine Kim Jong Suk.” Kim Jong Suk was the mother of Kim Il-Sung, the first leader of the DPRK

In his final summation of 2017, Kim noted that “our sportspeople won victories in different international competitions.” He is referring to, as a recent article in Rodong Sinmun pointed out, “produced champions in various events, including weightlifting, Taekwon-Do, marathon and diving” along with female footballers taking “the first place at the 2017 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship for the third time and had three consecutive wins at the EAFF E-1 Football Championship.” As such, the article said it was “the determination and will of all sports officials, players and coaches to produce more excellent results in international games in 2018.” When the footballers came back to the DPRK in late December, “after winning the title of the 2017 EAFF E-1 Football Championship” in which they defeated “the teams of China, south Korea and Japan” they were greeted at “Pyongyang International Airport” with such sportspeople and their families warmly congratulating “the players and coaches with garlands and flowers.”

Kim said that all of these successes in 2017 are possible because of the “triumph of the Juche-oriented revolutionary line” of the WPK, and a “precious fruition of the heroic struggle” by the populace, even in the face of “the sanctions-and-blockade moves the United States and its vassal forces perpetrated more viciously.” Hence he said that within this, relies the source of the Korean peoples’ “dignity and their great pride and self-confidence.” He then, again, extended “warm thanks” to the service personnel and populace who “victoriously advanced the cause of building a powerful [so-called] socialist country, always sharing the destiny with the Party and braving all difficulties and trials on the eventful days of last year.” If service people means those in the KPA (Korean People’s Army), then this is a large number. In August, over 3.4 million people, many of whom were “party members, working youths, university students and senior middle schoolers” eagerly volunteered to “join or rejoin” the KPA, to turn out in “the sacred struggle of justice with their surging hatred against the U.S. imperialists” along with female employees at the Pyongyang Kim Jong Suk Textile Mill, students at universities, youth and students, even those at orphans’ secondary schools, vowing to “go to the military posts for defending the country.” The defense of the country and of this form of progressivism is strong in the DPRK without a doubt. There should be no question of that.

“Hopes and expectations” for 2018

Fireworks over Pyongyang on January 1st.

In the opening lines of his speech, Kim addresses “fellow countrymen and brave service personnel of the People’s Army” (showing the growing power of the military in existing society) and “compatriots.” He goes on to recall “the proud achievements” the DPRK performed in 2017 “through our diligent and worthwhile labour and sincere efforts and by the sweat of our brow,” and that, in speaking on behalf of the populace, “we are all seeing in the new year 2018 with fresh hopes and expectations.” He goes on to continue with pleasantries, wishing families across the DPRK “good health, happiness, success and prosperity” and wishing that the “beautiful dreams of all our people, including the hopes of our children in the new year, would come true.” He also, greets the “compatriots in the south and abroad who are fighting for the reunification of the country” and to the “progressive peoples and other friends across the world who opposed war of aggression and gave firm solidarity to our cause of justice.” Such “progressive peoples” include those groups and comrades from one side of the world to the other standing by the DPRK in 2017 (and 2018).

What are the hopes and expectations Kim sees for 2018? The rest of the speech sheds a light on what Kim sees for the new year.

After noting that 2018 will mark the “70th anniversary” of the founding of the DPRK, he said that the coming year will be marked by further establishing “a strategic state recognized by the world” as the Korean people who see the “status of their [so-called] socialist country” with dignity, following the “greatest patriotic legacy of the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” as he put it. In order for this to happen, he argued that the DPRK needs to continue to “make constant innovations and continued progress” through the “tradition of heroic struggle and collective innovation.” This would build off the “historic victory in the building of the DPRK’s nuclear forces as a springboard for fresh progress” with a ” revolutionary general offensive.” For Kim, this means an “all-people general offensive” by working people, officials, and Party members, to “frustrate the challenges of the hostile forces who are making last-ditch efforts and raise the overall strength of our Republic to a new stage of development” with newfound “[so-called] socialist construction” in the year to come.

More specifically this includes “reenergizing the overall economic front” by continuing the “five-year strategy for national economic development” which started in 2015, and enhancing the “the independence and Juche character of the national economy” which does not bode well only in the sense that this will mean further revisionism and capitalist concessions. This would be done by improving the standard of living of the populace, which was “required by the revolutionary counterstrategy put forward by the Second Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the Party.” Various article say the the strategy was to push for a “bold and strenuous offensive and advance the [so-called] socialist cause of Juche without an inch of deflection” and bring “about a new upsurge in the building of a powerful [so-called] socialist nation.” It also seems to call for further developing “friendly and cooperative relations with foreign parties in the common struggle for opposing imperialism and defending [so-called] socialism,” continuing the “strict monolithic leadership system of the Party” in order to “consolidate the single-minded unity of the revolutionary ranks.”

However, the African Committee for Friendship and Solidarity with the Korean People (ACFSKP) noted the specific strategy put forward. [3] As such, it is worth taking a look at a summary of this strategy in a document issued by the ACFSKP on October 9, 2017, as asserted by Kim himself. He said that there needs to be a “perfect independent economic structure of the country” with solid foundations, a strengthened country in order to “decisively frustrate the reckless nuclear war provocation and sinister sanctions” and have “single-minded unity” of the Party and state in order to make “the revolutionary climate of devotedly serving the people prevail throughout the Party.” He also called for “thoroughly implementing the Party’s line of simultaneously developing the two fronts” or the byungjin policy, as was mentioned earlier in this article, having a “fresh upswing in the building of a [so-called] socialist economic power” with new science and technology, enhance the “militant function” of the Party, and moving forward with the revolutionary cause of Juche, as he put it. In the past year this has already been fulfilled in part with the test-fire of an ICBM called Hwasong-14 in July, with another later that month, guidance that Kim gave to “nuclear weaponization,” for one, launching of another missile in February. Secondly, the People’s Army was bolstered, while he called for further ideological work when speaking to the WPK’s 8th Conference of Ideological Workers, and working to make sure the population in versed science and technology through

First, a universal 12-year compulsory education is now in force in the country…Second, a well-regulated study-while-you-work system is established. The system consists of distance education given by regular institutions of tertiary education and factory, farm and fishermen’s colleges in various parts of the country…Third, social educational establishments are well furnished. All organs including factories and farms have sci-tech
learning spaces, and Mirae digital libraries are set up in every province, city and county, so that everyone can learn the latest knowledge of science and technology to their heart’s content…The greatest guarantee for ensuring that all the people are well-versed in science and technology in the DPRK is the policy of prioritizing science and technology enforced by the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and the national leader.

Back to Kim’s speech.  He embodies the strategy he laid out last year by saying that efforts on consolidating the “independence and Juche character of the national economy” and improve “the people’s standard of living” through the following:

  1. maintenance and reinforcement of electric power industry with new “self-supporting power generation bases…new power sources,” increased thermal power generation, make electric power more efficient and self-sufficient
  2. improve the metallurgical industry through iron- and steel-making technologies, increase capacity of iron production, raise the quality of metallic materials, ensure the “preferential, planned and timely supply of electricity,” and other needs for the metallurgical industry
  3. step up the “establishment of the C1 chemical industry” for the chemical industry while pushing forward projects “for catalyst production base and phosphatic fertilizer factory” while perfecting the “sodium carbonate production line”
  4. Modernizing the Kumsong Tractor Factory, Sungni Motor Complex and other factories to allow the machine-building industry to “develop and produce world-level machinery” for the DPRK
  5. improving the effectiveness of rail transportation, and coal and mineral production
  6. the rail transport sector making the best use of “existing transport capacity” by making existing (and new) “transport organization and control” more rational, scientific, and maintain discipline and order on railways in order to “ensure an accident-free, on-schedule rail traffic”
  7. light-industry factories transforming their “equipment and production lines into labour- and electricity-saving ones” while supplying and producing “more diversified and quality consumer goods” with raw materials and other goods from inside the country, with sub-divisions in the country developing “the local economy in a characteristic way by relying on their own raw material resources”
  8. Have an upswing in the agricultural and fishing industry by introducing “seeds of superior strains, high-yield farming methods” and have “high-performance farm machines” in order to have scientific and technological farming to fulfill existing production, boost production of “livestock products, fruits, greenhouse vegetables and mushrooms” and enhance “ship building and repair capacities” along with other scientific endeavors
  9. service personnel and people joining in efforts to “complete the construction of the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area in the shortest period of time” while pushing ahead with construction projects such as the “renovation of Samjiyon County…construction of the Tanchon Power Station and the second-stage waterway project of South Hwanghae Province”
  10. managing and properly protecting forests created in the restoration campaign, coupled with improved “technical conditions” on roads, “river improvement on a regular basis,” and work to protect the environment of the DPRK “in a scientific and responsible manner.”
  11. the scientific research sector  solving the “scientific and technological problems” arising in establishing “Juche-oriented production lines,” production of materials domestically, and “perfecting the structure of the self-supporting economy”
  12. enduring that every economic sector and unit makes a “contribution to achieving production growth” with the “dissemination of science and technology and waging a brisk technological innovation drive.

The country is proud already of its achievements in the areas of electric power, “metallurgical and chemical industries” with the releasing of stamps last year calling on the acceleration of “the victorious advance of [so-called] socialism with the great spirit of self-reliance and self-development as the dynamic force.” What Kim is calling for has been emphasized by Rodong Sinmun in the past, calling, in January 2016, for the “electric-power, coal-mining and metallurgical industries…rail transport sector…crop farming, animal husbandry and fishing sectors and light industry and construction sectors” to dramatically advance. What he is saying also seems to say that the DPRK  is working to becoming more and more self-sufficient so sanctions, approved by the Chinese and Russians along with Western imperialists despite the occasional objections by the Russians, are not as effective. This also makes a joke of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) declaring that socialism “failed” in the DPRK (which may have some validity in the sense that there are capitalist concessions and revisionism, but is also a bit disingenuous), which the PLP considers a “fascist” state propped up by revisionist (and social-imperialist) China, a “puppet” monarchy as they call it elsewhere. There is no doubt that such a viewpoint is divorced from the reality of the country. It is not, as they claim, a “state capitalist regime” and Kim is not an “unpredictable” politician, and neither is Vladimir Putin. Kim is a statesman who cares about the workers of Korea, along with a new consumer class, and was democratically put into his current position which has been noted on this blog in the past.

Furthermore, the economy of the DPRK is progressive, even if it doesn’t line up with the high standards of the PLP, which easily meshes its Orientalist propaganda of the bourgeois media, or as they call it the “bosses’ media.” Not only has the country worked to make its chemical industry more independent, but there have been varying “scientific and technological achievements made in developing and using natural energy” which are being developed by the scientific community in the country. Through all of this, the orange menace and Western imperialism has been thoroughly resisted. What else can you ask for? On a critical note, the DPRK has made capitalist “concessions” to revisionist China with certain special development zones, all of which hurt the proletariat even more.

Photograph of a rally on September 23 of last year, where varying national institutions met at the People’s Palace of Culture, calling for “final victory through all-out charge in showdown with the U.S.”

Beyond this, in the past year, there have been directed efforts by scientists and technicians into the latest scientific field, “including information technology and nano technology” with great success. This has been coupled with success in “breeding high-yield varieties of crops,” developing new “botanical agrochemicals,” developing new methods for treating cancer and other “nervous diseases.”

After outlining areas of improvement for the DPRK in the new year, Kim argued that every sector and unit of the economy should use ” their own technical forces and economic potential to the maximum” in order to increase production. This would be connected with giving science and technology precedence in order to “make innovations in economic planning and guidance,” helping make the economy more self-sufficient. This goal could be achieved, he argued, by having a “realistic operational plan to carry out the national economic plan for this year” to be implemented “responsibly and persistently.” Such measures would be taken “by the state to ensure that the [so-called] socialist system” which has “responsible business operation” is proven in enterprises, cooperatives, and factories.

Following this is, as he argued, a need for a comprehensive development of the country’s culture. This includes strengthening ranks of teachers, improving methods and content of education, apply “the people-oriented character in public health service” and boost the production “of medical equipment and appliances and different kinds of medicines.” Kim is already realizing this for this year by visiting a newly-remodeled teachers college, founded in 1968, arguing that “education is a patriotic work of lasting significance” and adding that teachers “should dedicate their ardent patriotism and pure conscience to the educational work” without a doubt.

He also argued that the culture of the DPRK could be improved through brisk “mass-based sporting activities,” creating new sporting tactics and techniques, producing “artistic and literary masterpieces” showing the struggle of the populace, and “beautiful and sublime features proper to human beings” in order to effectively “crush the bourgeois reactionary culture by dint of our revolutionary [so-called] socialist art and literature.” Already dotting the country are “monumental structures associated with the exploits of young people” such as the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station, Youth Hero Motorway, and Northern Railways. With the new year starting, sportspersons in the DPRK said they were determined to win, expanding on victories in the area of sports last year, with hopes for “more excellent results in international games in 2018.”

Finally, in terms of culture, Kim said that “moral discipline throughout society” should be strengthened, as to ensure that “[so-called] socialist way of life” is established with the elimination of “all kinds of non-socialist practices.” This would, as he argued, ensure that the people  “lead a revolutionary and cultured life.” This seems to imply that imperialists are trying to poison the minds of the Korean people with capitalistic propaganda. This would not be a surprise in the slightest. Consider a recent article in Explore DPRK telling the difference between the social system of the murderous empire and the DPRK:

Good rearing of a child is very important for a family because it is related with the future of the family, and equally important is for a nation to bring up youths because it affects its destiny…while the young people in capitalist countries are pushed to the extremities of the society to become victims of the social evils, those in [so-called] socialist Korea are held as treasures and pride of the nation enjoying a superb prestige. The typical example is the case of builders of the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station. The young people there waged an indomitable struggle determined to fulfill the order of the respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in the severe cold of -30℃…a change is to be made to the concept, knowing and witnessing the wonderful realities of Korea where the youth problem was successfully solved and the country is pushed forward by the vigor of the youth. Korea renowned as a youth power, it shows a clear-cut difference between [so-called] socialism and capitalism the international community is realizing acutely through the solution of the youth problem.

In order to ensure this is all possible, of course, there would need to be, as Kim argued, further consolidation of the “self-reliant defence capability” of the DPRK by perfecting the “regular revolutionary armed force” with intensive combat training, and other methods. As for the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces, he said that such forces should “detect and frustrate the schemes by undesirable and hostile elements in time” while the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and Young Red Guards should enhance their “combat capability” through intensive political and combat training.

Furthermore, he added, the country will continue to push forward the byungjin policy, following the policy set forward last year that the country’s military industries will work to “develop and manufacture powerful strategic weapons and military hardware of our style,” perfect their style of construction, and defend what he describes as the Korean revolution. While this is happening, he said that nuclear weapons research sector and rocket industry in the DPRK should “mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles” since the country should be “ready for immediate nuclear counterattack to cope with the enemy’s manoeuvres for a nuclear war” in any instance. Some commentaries took pause at this aspect of the speech, but those individuals do not recognize the power of the nuclear deterrent in defending the DPRK.

While military defenses against imperialists must be strengthened, Kim said that “political and ideological might” is even more important, as it helps maintain the progressive country, connected with the rallying the party more stringently on an “organizational and ideological basis” with the establishment of “a thoroughgoing revolutionary climate within the Party” in order to enhance the “fighting efficiency” of the Party and its “leadership role in the overall revolution and construction.” From here, he laid out considerations for ideology in the new year:

All Party organizations should never tolerate all shades of heterogeneous ideas and double standards of discipline that run counter to the Party’s ideology…The whole Party should launch an intense struggle to establish a revolutionary climate within the Party with the main emphasis put on rooting out the abuse of Party authority, bureaucratism and other outdated methods and style of work…Party organizations should intensify Party guidance to ensure that the work of their respective sectors and units is always conducted in conformity with the ideas and intentions of the Party and the requirements of its policies…We should rally all the service personnel and people firmly behind the Party ideologically and volitionally so that they…fight with devotion for the victory of the [so-called] socialist cause. Party and working people’s organizations and government organs should orient and subordinate all their undertakings to strengthening the single-hearted unity….Party and working people’s organizations should ensure that all the working people cherish patriotism in their hearts and bring about collective innovations one after another in the great campaign to create the Mallima speed with the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance and science and technology as the dynamic force.

With such imperialist assault on the DPRK, it seems wise to increase and strengthen party discipline. That will allow the country to function even through the dark days of the orange menace, even worse than the days of the Black face of the murderous empire, Obama himself. After all, the Human Rights Foundation just last year, smuggled USB-sticks “through towns on China’s border with North Korea and sold in the flourishing black market for goods and information,” continuing their balloon “drops of pamphlets, TV shows, books and movies over a course of several years” with such “soft power illusions of American normality, freedom and prosperity are confidence tricks” but also a threat to the progressive state. Such improvement of ideology was stressed late last year when Kim gave a speech to the 5th Conference of WPK Cell Chairpersons, summarized by Rodong Sinmun, noting that he called for the WPK to “strengthen the Party cells is a main link in the chain efforts for consolidating the mass foundation of the Party” with an emphasis on the work make “all party members of the cells to be steadfast revolutionaries,” along with strengthen “self-criticism and criticism among the party members” in order to counter “unsound practices.” He also said that when culture and art in the DPRK “prevails over the corrupt bourgeois reactionary culture” the populace should not “harbor illusions about the enemies’ culture” instead working to “prevent ideological and cultural poisoning by the imperialists.”

Photo of “Inter-Korean high-level talks..at the “house of peace” in the south side portion of Panmunjom” on January 9th, as noted in a Rodong Sinmun article.

It is then, in the speech, that Kim talked about re-starting re-unification talks with the DPRK. He noted that Korean people worked to “hasten national reunification in keeping with the aspirations and demands of the nation” and added that even with the “fascist rule and confrontation with fellow countrymen” nothing changed in relations with “south Korea” (Republic of Korea or ROK) which such authorities siding the the murderous empire, bringing “bilateral relations to a fix that can be hardly resolved.” As such, he called for improving relations with ROK in order to “improve the frozen inter-Korean relations and glorify this meaningful year as an eventful one noteworthy in the history of the nation” not only by easing the military tension on the Korean peninsula, desisting in anything that “might aggravate the situation” with both North and South engaging in efforts to reduce tensions. Kim further added that “south Korean authorities” should discontinue “all the nuclear war drills they stage with outside forces” and should refrain “from any acts of bringing in nuclear armaments and aggressive forces from the United States.” Adding to this, he said that a climate which is favorable “for national reconciliation and reunification should be established.” As such, such relations is important for all Koreans, with necessary “bilateral contact, travel, cooperation and exchange on a broad scale to remove mutual misunderstanding and distrust” between North and South, with Kim saying that they “open our doors to anyone from south Korea, including the ruling party and opposition parties, organizations and individual personages of all backgrounds, for dialogue, contact and travel” (a  wide-opening which is a bit worrisome as capitalists are included), adding that “the authorities of the north and the south should raise the banner of national independence” with such inter-Korean relations not disturbed by imperialist, adding that the DPRK is “willing to dispatch our delegation and adopt other necessary measures” and saying that he extends “warm New Year greetings once again to all Korean compatriots at home and abroad.”

It is this, which drew the most praise from foreign leaders for his speech. [4] There have been, as all those who have been following news know, talks between the DPRK and the ROK, high-level talks which change the dynamics of the situation on the Korean Peninsula for the better. With such talks at the Peace House in the truce village of Panmunjom, those in the DPRK have been wary of the efforts by the “south Korean authorities” to curry favor with the murderous empire, calling for the latter authorities stopping joint military drills with the murderous empire, and saying that inter-Korean talks are an internal matter with which should not be interfered by the murderous empire. More recent articles also said that the orange menace’s bluff of having a “bigger” nuclear button is seen “by the DPRK as just a spasm of a lunatic frightened by the might of Juche Korea and a bark of a rabid dog” with the menace showing the “desperate mental state of a loser who failed to check the vigorous advance of the army and people of the DPRK.” Furthermore, such threats by the orange menace “are designed to send a warning to any country that poses a challenge to American global hegemony” with the social-imperialist Chinese leadership, for example “clearly concerned at the danger of war…but also reluctant to provoke a crisis in North Korea that could be used to install a pro-US regime in Pyongyang.”

Kim ended his speech by saying that the “international situation” in the DPRK was proof that the WPK and state were correct in “confronting the imperialist forces of aggression who are attempting to wreck global peace and security.” I wrote about that exactly on this blog last year in noting about the murderous sanctions hoisted on the country, for example. He also noted how the DPRK is a “responsible, peace-loving nuclear power” which will not use nuclear weapons if “hostile forces of aggression violate its sovereignty and interests” and neither will it “threaten any other country or region by means of nuclear weapons” but will rather “resolutely respond to acts of wrecking peace and security on the Korean peninsula” as part of efforts to “just and peaceful new world.” As he wrapped up, Kim said that “2018 will be recorded as another year of victory for our people” a year that the cause of the DPRK “is ever-victorious,” that the government of the country and WPK will not cease to “struggle and advance until achieving the final victory of the revolutionary cause of Juche.” In his last words, of the speech that day, he said that “let us all march forward dynamically towards fresh victory of the revolution by displaying the unyielding mettle of heroic Korea under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea.”

Beyond Kim’s New Year’s speech: challenges and struggles for the year ahead

Comes from KCNA article on January 1 titled “New Year Address Encouraging Working People.” This shows Korean people watching Kim Jong Un’s speech if I’m not mistaken.

From here, it is worth going beyond the speech and talking about what is in store for the DPRK in the year to come. Already this year there are plans afoot for the DPRK to overcome “new international sanctions…by developing its agricultural sector in 2018” along with sectors of the economy launching an “increased production drive at the beginning of the New Year” such as the Pyongyang Thermal Power Complex, Pukchang Thermal Power Complex, Chollima Steel Complex, Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex, Tokchon Area Coal-mining Complex, and Sangwon Cement Complex, among others, all increasing production and becoming more efficient as the year goes on, as noted jubilantly by Pyongyang Times on January 3rd of this year. Undoubtedly the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Site Souvenir Factory in the DPRK, a light industrial factory which “produces different shapes and colors of zippers and melamine resin goods and souvenirs,” will continue to produce quality consumer goods (again indicating a consumer class) and increase its efficiency in this year. The same can be said about the “material and technical foundation of the railways this year” which improved last year with “3 times more concrete sleepers” and a yearly plan for changing rails, which is connected with introducing “the computer-controlled interlocking system into railway stations along the Hyesan-Samjiyon broad-gauge railway,” and having an “ultrasonic detector…to ensure the promptness and safety of railway transportation.”

In terms of negotiations between the DPRK and the ROK, supported by countries such as Russia, there has been a plan to jointly train athletes for the upcoming Olympic games in Seoul, and a push by the ROK to have regular talks with the DPRK. Since the latter has been dedicated to re-unification of the Korean Peninsula, “a consistent policy of the DPRK since 1972, based on the two Koreas achieving reunification without outside interference and a bicameral system,” they would eagerly support such an initiative. Such a dedication to re-unification was also expressed on January 1st when the Central Committee of the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front (AINDF) wrote Kim, talking about the achievements in the past year saying they “strikingly manifested the validity of the DPRK’s idea and line on independent reunification and their justice and vitality.”

The dedication of the DPRK to re-unification is clear.  The Panmunjom communication channel between the north and south” was re-opened on January 3rd of this year “to ensure smooth discussion with the south side of the issues related to the delegation dispatch and holding of talks.” Of course, conservatives in ROK are angry about athletes of both Koreas marching together at the Olympics under a united flag, with negotiations about the DPRK’s participation going on at the present. [5] This is absurd since “the people of the DPRK want nothing more than peace” as one analyst recently put it. Recently, the ROK met with the murderous empire to counter the “threat” of the DPRK. Such meetings are followed by bourgeois media declaring that the DPRK will have a military parade on the eve of the Olympics, trying to break apart the current talks, with the “scream of terror of a loser” (the murderous empire) whose policies have strengthened the alliance between revisionist China and capitalist Russia, both of which are social-imperialist without question, with some bourgeois analysts advocating for a change in policy to exploit the DPRK so that it moves away from revisionist China, turning it into an advantage for empire, reshaping “Northeast Asia to preserve American hegemony there.” [6] Of course, this is something that no one in their right mind would want. As resident revisionist Roland Boer of Stalin’s Moustache wrote recently, not only do the recent negotiations “signal that President Moon Jae-in actually has some spine” while Kim Jong-un had a “carefully worded and sober new year’s proposal for talks,” adding that “USA is abandoning Asia, so they [Asian countries] will forge on ahead without it.”

Even Tulsi Gabbard, a war veteran and “progressive” who wants an improved U$-relationship with Indian fascist President Narenda Modi, criticized the view broadly held in bourgeois politics about the DPRK, saying that the murderous empire should have talked with the former without preconditions, instead of pushing for regime change. She met with Bashar Al-Assad and his wife Asma last year (a total of 2 and half hours), along with other elements of Syrian society, when she traveled with a board member of AACCESS-Ohio, a community-based non-profit “working torwards meeting the [Arab Americans’] community’s economic, social, and cultural needs.” Such support for talks is also help by a Reuters columnist, John Glaser, who pointed out “diplomatic options are readily available” since Americans involved in “low-level discussions with North Korea have repeatedly said Pyongyang is willing to negotiate” and the South China Morning Post, which endorsed the chance for “dialogue between the two Koreas” even as they continued to ring their hands about the DPRK’s “threats.” [7] Interestingly, even the orange menace agreed to “suspend joint military drills with South Korea during next month’s Winter Olympics” which was, of course, interpreted by bourgeois media, which treats the DPRK as an “exotic place” like Reuters’ recent portal of “news” about the country, as “going soft” on the DPRK, an anti-communist trope used to advocate for more military spending.

In the coming year, the question remains if social-imperialist China and Russia will “prevent this catastrophe” by voting against sanctions. If they continue their appeasement of the murderous empire there is no doubt there will be continued improvements for disabled people in the country, for which last year “3 600 historical terms, sign words and descriptive vocabularies” were reviewed, boosted production at the Pyongyang Children’s Foodstuff Factory, increased quality of foodstuff produced by the Unha Taesong Foodstuff Factory, efforts to improve the life of women in the country, and efforts to speed up scientific and technological development, which progressed with leaps and bounds last year. Perhaps the intranet of the DPRK will also be improved, as it seems relatively advanced as even the bourgeois analysts of 38 North seem to accept. Even the Orientalist “NK News” noted that the country is domestically producing curved-screen LCD TVs” in Pyongyang’s  Potonggang factory, along with “TVs, laptops, and desktop computers,” although they cited “experts” like Choi Kyung-cheol (previously employed by the fascist ROK government), and Martyn Williams (who obviously holds typical Western bias against the DPRK even endorsing the humanitarian imperialists of HRW), to act like the Koreans are lying, with the associations of the authors seeming to making their analysis obviously something that shouldn’t be trusted. The same can be said about Reuters’ site about Wonson (a tourist area in the DPRK) or their “report” on the  “adoration” of Kim by the Korean people. Again, this, along with stories about “a barter economy” and “informal markets” in the country, or that Kim loosened “the rules on private trade,” by relying on defectors (and anti-DPRK websites like “Daily NK”) for information about the country, which are notoriously wrong time and time again, putting claims in the article into question. [8] What is the reality is that the DPRK is rightly rejecting the meeting (as did the Chinese) led by the murderous empire in Vancouver of 20 countries (ROK, Canada, U$, Australia, Belgium, Columbia, Denmark, France, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, and the UK)  while both Koreas will have a united hockey team in the upcoming Olympics. The latter is positive news, as are the economic achievements of the DPRK last year, even as it if filled with capitalist lingo (which is disturbing):

…the Korean people have made proud achievements in the building of an economic giant…Despite vicious sanctions of the US imperialists and their followers the officials and workers in different units of the national economy fully displayed the might of self-development and made a great success in putting the production processes on a Juche-oriented and modern basis…The officials and workers of the Samchon Catfish Farm [photograph in article] have completed a huge modernization project of its compound covering tens of thousand square metres in a short span of time…Cutting-edge technology has been introduced and the intelligent, IT-based and digitized computer integrated manufacturing system [has been] established in conformity with the demand of the era of knowledge-based economy…various efficacious feed additives have been developed and a swelling feed production process built…The Ryuwon Footwear Factory [photograph in article] has been wonderfully rebuilt into a model unit and standard factory in the field of footwear industry, making a great contribution to the development of light industry of the country…The factory has manufactured and installed modern equipment including shoemaking line by itself…The Sungni Motor Complex [photograph in article] has carried out with success the new-type lorry production task given by the WPK…The Amnokgang Tyre Factory has also played a big role in putting the large vehicle production…The officials and workers of the factory have built a new large tyre [British variation of tire] production process depending on domestic equipment, not on imported one, in a short period and successfully made new-type large tyres

What if there is a war? This would be an utter calamity, going beyond the U$’S mission to the UN calling the DPRK “North Korea” in their Orientalist fashion and demonization of the DPRK, which rarely recognizes that “the US had nuclear weapons in South Korea from the late 1950’s until 1991″! One article in Global Research Centre said that the only consequence of a war by the murderous empire would be the death of “South Korean-based compatriots as “collateral damage”,” saying that if one accepted that the “the US would quickly emerge as militarily victorious in this conflict…almost all of North Korea’s territory could be rendered inhospitable” with “Seoul and even Tokyo..wiped out if Pyongyang is successful in nuking them in its final moments,” with all of this restoring “the US to its immediate post-World War II “glorious” position in recapturing the majority of the global economy.” However, this is faulty reasoning. Bourgeois media has predicted that one million would die if the war doesn’t become nuclear, with a 4-6 month conflict estimated by the Pentagon itself, and over $1 trillion in “property damage,” a huge economic cost, along with “weeks, if not months, to sort out the logistics” for supposed battlefield success in the DPRK. [9] This is heightened by, as a recent article pointed out, that fact that those in the murderous empire have “nuclear-phobia” as they thought a “meteor…from the sky between Ohio and Michigan with a great bang, brightening the sky” on January 16 was “a nuclear bomb flown from north Korea” with the same being the case for the false “ballistic missile threat” in Hawaii on January 13.

Such a war would also be physically devastating to those living across the Korean Peninsula. There is no guarantee that the murderous empire would be successful, in fact they could lose militarily, just like they did in Vietnam (although Chomsky has a valid point about victory of the empire there), with the ” worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes” as “Mad Dog” Mattis admitted last year. Even with all of this, the late Fidel Castro put it best in April 2013:

…the gravity of…the situation created in the Korean Peninsula, within a geographic area containing close to five billion of the seven billion persons currently inhabiting the planet. This is about one of the most serious dangers of nuclear war…In 1950, a war was unleashed there [the Korean Peninsula] which cost millions of lives. It came barely five years after two atomic bombs were exploded over the defenseless cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki…General Douglas MacArthur wanted to utilize atomic weapons against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Not even Harry Truman allowed that. It has been affirmed that the People’s Republic of China lost one million valiant soldiers in order to prevent the installation of an enemy army on that country’s border with its homeland. For its part, the Soviet army provided weapons, air support, technological and economic aid…If war breaks out there, the peoples of both parts of the Peninsula will be terribly sacrificed, without benefit to all or either of them…Now that the country has demonstrated its technical and scientific achievements, we remind her of her duties to the countries which have been her great friends, and it would be unjust to forget that such a war would particularly affect more than 70% of the population of the planet…The duty of avoiding war is also his [Obama’s but now the orange menace’s] and that of the people of the United States.

There is no doubt, as a recent article pointed out, “the world will not be saved by bourgeois creativity” but will rather be “saved by communism and socialism, which can effectively organize even the most meager of material conditions into something that can provide for whole countries and the whole world” since “bourgeois creativity cannot solve the problems of bourgeois distribution.” The DPRK, in some ways, is a manifestation of this. One can see this perhaps in state-owned media outlets of Rodong Sinmun, KCNA, DPRK Today, and the related Explore DPRK, although there are continual capitalist concessions and revisionism. As the “youth vanguard and women’s union officials and members” met recently to “vow to carry through the tasks set forth by respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in his New Year Address,” showing that the population of the DPRK is one that understands the necessity of maintaining the progressive state. I end with the best photograph I could find, in the New Year, which humanizes the Korean people apart from rallies for unity or meetings in Pyongyang and elsewhere, showing the hard-working dedication of the Korean people to building their progressive state:

Workers at the Chollima Steel Complex​ on January 3rd.

Notes

[1] For the KNCA version, see “Kim Jong Un Makes New Year Address” published on Jan 1, 2018, with the transcript of his speech.

[2] Globalsecurity.org, which takes an undeniably anti-communist tone, notes that this strategy was adopted in March 2013, “during a plenary session of the Party Central Committee (PCC)” meaning that there would be: a deepened development of the policy of “economic and national defense capability” worked on by his predecessors; a guideline for the construction of the nation where the populace can “enjoy the wealth and splendor of [so-called] socialism” through a stronger “defensive capacity and focusing on economic construction”; advancing the construction of “a [so-called] socialist strong and prosperous nation and Korean unification”; recognizing the belief and will of the WPK to accomplish the “revolutionary cause of Juche through a path of self-reliance, military-first, and [so-called] socialism”; a guideline to “maximize the efficiency of economic development and strengthen national defense” depending on the state of affairs; a way to promote “economic construction and raise living standards of the people while strengthening national defense capabilities” without increasing the military budget, and a guideline to “solving energy problems” based on an “independent nuclear energy industry” while nuclear weapons capabilities are strengthened. In sum, it is the “simultaneous development of its economy and nuclear weapons program” which is connected with its “military-first approach to domestic and foreign affairs” called songun.

[3] In November, this organization re-posted the summary of the Second Plenum of Seventh WPK Central Committee by KCNA with this strategy. The earlier version is used in this article.

[4] In contrast to this, the bourgeois analysts of 38 North sneered, saying that the speech is mainly aimed at the people of the country, with their “doubts are in place regarding the sincerity of these offers” saying it would “naive not to expect side conditions that are potentially unacceptable to South Korea and/or the United States during negotiations over North Korea’s participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics.” However, they admitted that “South Korea has already agreed to meet the North Korean side in Panmunjom next week; the progress of this dialogue will be crucial.” The same tone was taken in another 38 North commentary which asserted that the opening of the “inter-Korean communication channel…is very serious” making it clear that “Kim Jong Un is all in, fully and personally committed to following through on the proposal to the South in his New Year’s address.” Yet another article from the same outlet claimed that “Kim went surprisingly easy on the United States” and adding that “there also seems to be an effort to continue economic policy innovations Kim has implemented since coming to power.”

[5] Stephanie Nebehay, “North Korea Olympic officials in Switzerland ahead of IOC talks,” Reuters, Jan 18, 2018.

[6] Josh Smith, “North Korea may hold military parade on eve of Olympics, analysts say,” Reuters, Jan 19, 2018.

[7] John Glaser, “Commentary: There’s still time for diplomacy in Korea,” Reuters, Jan 4, 2018; , “Trump agrees to halt U.S.-South Korea drills during Pyeongchang Winter Olympics,” NBC News, Jan 4, 2018; By John Haltiwanger, “Is Trump Going Soft on North Korea? President Says No Military Drills With South Korea During Winter Olympics,” Newsweek, Jan 4, 2018.

[8] James Pearson and Seung-Woo Yeom, “Fake meat and free markets ease North Koreans’ hunger,” Reuters, Nov 3, 2017; Stephanie Nebehay, “North Korea rejects sanctions talk, ready for ‘successful’ Olympics: diplomat,” Reuters, Jan 17, 2018; Hyonhee Shin, and Christine Kim, “Koreas to form unified ice hockey team, march together in Olympics,” Reuters, Jan 17, 2018; Reuters Staff, “China says Canada meeting on North Korea showed ‘Cold War’ mentality,” Reuters, Jan 17, 2018; Reuters Staff, “North Korea says IOC is considering South Korea’s proposal for united women’s hockey team: Yonhap,” Reuters, Jan 12, 2018.

[9] Bill Bowell, “What War With North Korea Looks Like,” Newsweek, Apr 25, 2017; Brad Lennon, “Why it could take months for the US to get ready for war with North Korea,” CNN, Aug 10, 2017; Sofia Lotto Persio, “Will the U.S. Go to War With North Korea? Expert Estimates 50/50 Chance of Conflict in 2018,” Newsweek, Nov 9, 2017; Robin Wright, “What Would War with North Korea Look Like?,” The New Yorker, Sept 6, 2017; Barry R. Posen, “The Price of War With North Korea,” New York Times (opinion), Dec 6, 2017; Kathryn Watson, “War with North Korea would be “catastrophic,” Defense Secretary Mattis says,” CBS News, May 28, 2017; Julian Ryall, “How war with North Korea could start and what it would look like,” The Telegraph, Nov 29, 2017.

“Something which most other developing countries would envy”: The DPRK’s healthcare system

Medical workers brainstorm at the South Hamgyong Provincial People’s Hospital. Courtesy of The Pyongyang Times.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

Since June 19, the bourgeois media has been brimming with reports of the death of 22-year-old White college student from Cincinnati, Ohio, Otto Frederick Warmbier. While the family was happy to hear that their son was released from the DPRK, they were the ones that fueled the media firestorm. Warmbier’s father claimed that the DPRK had “murdered” their son, who had died in a coma possibly from an infection or blood clot, leading to anger in subsequent days from unhinged orange menace and “reserved” Tillerson, leading to a new “wedge” between the U$ and the DPRK. [1] As some media reported, the DPRK may have released him in hopes of making a deal with the orange menace. Of course, the orange menace, the fascist in a suit, didn’t want to make a deal, only knowing his supposed (and hyped) “negotiation” tactics from his days as a ruthless real estate magnate and his overrated “Celebrity Apprentice” show on NBC. As the days went on, bourgeois media, in another rash of imperial propaganda, cited varied “experts” who said they were “baffled” with the DPRK’s behavior, with John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Mike Turner following suit, and anti-DPRK columnists coming out of the ground like moles, claiming that the DPRK “murdered” Warmbier, even though he seems to have sought regime change in the country. [2] Even the Republic of Korea (ROK), often called “South Korea,” joined in the criticism. Furthermore, any future tours to the DPRK by Young Pioneer Tours have ended, with a possible ban of U$ tourism to the country floated. The former should be no big loss because the company seems very Orientalist while the latter is just meant to reinforce the empire’s perceptions on the U$ populace. [3]

On Otto Warmbier

The murderous empire won’t rest, from its proposed hideous sanctions to condemning the DPRK’s government as brutal and “oppressive.” Tillerson said that much in his remarks on June 19 on Warmbier: “we hold North Korea accountable for Otto Warmbier’s unjust imprisonment, and demand the release of three other Americans who have been illegally detained.” Later in this article, I’ll get the subject of whether his imprisonment is “unjust” which I do not think it is. There are three U$ citizens imprisoned in the DPRK. One of them, a businessperson named Kim Dong Chul admitted to CNN that he spied on behalf of “South Korean conservative elements” in 2015, saying that they “asked me to help destroy the (North Korean) system and spread propaganda against the government,” starting his spy work in April 2013, including bribing residents who would gather “important materials,” which he smuggled south or into revisionist China. [4] The other two were an academic named Kim Sang-duk or Tony Kim who committed “hostile criminal acts with an aim to subvert the country” which was not related to his teaching, and Kim Hak-song, “a man who was doing business in relation to the operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.” As for Warmbier, a student of Virginia University, he was encouraged to rip down a patriotic banner in a restricted area of the hotel by a member of Friendship United Methodist Church, a secretive university organization, and even the CIA, which some scowled at as only an “accusation.” Truthfully, on January 26, DPRK’s government arrested him for perpetrating a hostile act against the country “after entering it under the guise of tourist for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its manipulation.” [5] He further admitted this about less than months later. He told, to the Supreme Court of the DPRK, the nature of his crime and asked for forgiveness (across the bourgeois media are video clips of him crying):

On December 29, 2015, I entered the DPRK as a tourist. On January 1, 2016, I committed severe crimes against the DPRK. The task was given to me by the Friendship United Methodist Church. At the encouragement of the Z Society and the connivance of the United States Administration, I came to commit this task. The aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people.This was a very foolish aim…Sharon Webb…deaconess in the Friendship United Methodist Church…said that communist nations rally around political slogans. She asked me to take an important political slogan from North Korea to be hung in her church as a “trophy”. She continued to say that by taking this slogan, we would harm the unity and motivation of the North Korean people and show this country an insult from the West…She offered me a used car worth $10,000 if I was successful. And she said if I was detained and not returned, her church would pay $200,000 to my mother in a way of charitable donations. Since my family is suffering from very severe financial difficulties, I started to consider this as my only golden opportunity to earn money…He said my plan of action would certainly help the Z Society’s goal of spreading “freedom” and eliminating “tyranny”. He said if I was successful, he promised me that he would help me become a member in the Z Society. [6]

The same day, the state media of the DPRK reported that those attending the trial were citizens from “different walks of life” and after his “written indictment confirming his crimes was submitted” the “court sentenced him to fifteen years of hard labor” for violating article 60 of the DPRK’s criminal code. After looking at varied sources (here, here, and here) one English translation of the criminal code, [7] stated the following about article 60, which concerns terrorism:

A person who kills, abducts or injures cadres or people with anti-state purposes shall be punished by reform through labour for more than five years. In cases where the person commits a grave offence, he or she shall be punished by life-term reform through labour or the death penalty, and confiscation of property.

In this case, it was a “grave offence.”

Fast forward to the aftermath of Warmbier’s death. The U$ doctors have belayed propaganda claims, saying that Warmbier was NOT tortured or abused (as his family falsely claims), but that “beyond minor skin blemishes consistent with medical care they found no evidence of fractures or trauma to his body” with the DPRK sending medical records back with him! [8] If they really had tortured him, which they didn’t, they wouldn’t even send any records. Another article says that there is no evidence Warmbier was injured with the MRI scan showing brain damage and that “the medical team at Cincinnati got some medical records from the North Koreans and they said the records show Warmbier has been in this condition since April of last year” but that there is no evidence “of broken bones or other physical abuse, and scans of his head and neck looked normal, except for the damage to his brain.” [9]

Of course, the DPRK released him “according to a humanitarian judgment of the DPRK’s Central Court” on June 13, 2017. [10] In days that followed, with the propaganda about his condition, the DPRK showed they were in the right. The Foreign Ministry said that the U$ administration is engaging in an ” anti-DPRK smear campaign by abusing the humanitarian measure taken by the DPRK” and said that “Warmbier is clearly a criminal sentenced to reform through labor in accordance with the DPRK law” and that he confessed on February 29, 2016 “in tears that he had committed hostile act against the DPRK,” with the US making “every frantic effort to disparage the prestige of the dignified DPRK and stifle it while imposing heinous sanctions.” [11] They also noted that U$ doctors argued that Warmbier was provided with medical treatment in the DPRK, with his death a mystery, questioning why the Obama administration never “made an official request for the release of Warmbier on humanitarian basis.” This is worth noting since they “had no reason at all to show mercy to such a criminal of the enemy state” but provided him necessary medical care anyway. [12]

With Warmbier’s family interestingly declining an autopsy of their son, which will allow rumors to continue, those at least partially (or more fully) sympathetic to the DPRK have not been united. One site, called “Young DRPK watchers” has two opinions on this subject. [13] One says that “Otto Warmbier’s situation arose from neglect and medical incompetence, [rather] than abuse” with American prisoners not “physically harmed at all and are also fed well” and that the DPRK’s medical system is divided into levels for the privileged and everyone else (internalizing imperial propaganda by saying this), concluding that Warmbier “may have fell into the coma as a consequence of an unknown medical condition” with neglect by the DPRK. The other, by the same author, admitting that Warmbier is a victim but is also “an inflated symbol of American privilege.” Both of these opinions are better than that in the bourgeois, they fall into the category of concessions which Vngiapaganda warned about in a post almost a year ago. The same is the case in an article on Stop Imperialism on Warmbier’s death. It accepts the possibility that the DPRK murdered him, which is giving in too much to the bourgeois media narrative. All in all, these opinions are better than the seething Chinese netizens which seem be in up in arms about the DPRK, showing the effects of Chinese social-imperialism with the country’s capitalist system.

DRPK’s healthcare and medical system

Korean doctor in Pyongyang talking about new medical system in 2013.

With the death of Warmbier, the bourgeois media, capitalists, and their lackeys, along with those not adequately informed by the subject (the U$ public in general) is acting like the DPRK has a medical system that resembles people conducting voodoo (or their perception of people doing this) to “cure people” or wish them “ill.” I’m specifically thinking of those curses conducted by voodoo practitioner, Minerva, in the Hollyweird box office “bomb” titled Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, based on the book of the same name. It seemed to be the best example of this mentality which could come to mind, with people acting like the DPRK are in the “dark ages” of medicine and have some archaic medical system.

The propaganda about the DPRK’s health system is nothing new. The Daily NK (an anti-DPRK outlet), the Los Angeles Times, BBC News, The Week, The Telegraph, NY Daily News have declared that the DPRK doesn’t care about healthcare and has a shotty (or “horrifying”) system, which some even thought was on the “brink of collapse.” [14] Much of this imperial propaganda, only some of the publications named above, with some within medical journals as well, was fed by an Amnesty report in 2010 titled “North Korea: The crumbling state of health care in North Korea.” As the report admitted, they conducted interviews “with North Koreans who have settled abroad” since the DPRK (rightly) has not let these humanitarian imperialists into their country, making the report pure propaganda. [15] Luckily, some on the international level know the report is BS. As the bourgeois media reported, the World Health Organization said that Amnesty’s report was based on a small sample of people of those who left the country, with WHO spokesperson Paul Garwood saying “all the facts are from people who aren’t in the country. There’s no science in the research,” not mentioning recent improvements to healthcare in the country, even as he made the concession that Amnesty’s accounts could be “credible” (they aren’t by definition) while saying that Amnesty is not “taking into account some of the things that are happening today” in the DPRK. [16]

Numerous anti-DPRK accounts even admit the advantages of the DPRK’s system. In words criticizing the medical system in the country, one student doctor, had to “grudgingly” admit that the country has well-trained dentists and has a stress on exercise, among other aspects. [17] Even the Library of Congress in their broadly “anti-communist” report on the DPRK, written in 2008, had to admit this. It said that medical care is provided free of charge, that physical exercise is a major focus, and that there are nationwide medical check ups, especially at routine places like schools, factories, offices, and farms. Furthermore, they added that people receive a lifetime health card, the government has been aggressive attacking of diseases that cause epidemics (they say with spraying of DDT and other chemicals), and a high number of physicians and hospitals per capita, one of the highest in the world. [18] They add that more than 75% in the medical profession are women, with most hospitals as general hospitals, many clustered around Pyongyang, and no smoking in hospitals. Even with the supposed drawbacks, like shortages in medicines (because of sanctions), claims of variation in medical care, and economic problems weakened medical system [19], among others, the pages note that there has been a dramatic improvement in life longevity in the country ravaged by famine caused by Western imperial sanctions. Perhaps such “criticisms” shouldn’t be a surprise since most of chapter, which this information is within in, based on declassified CIA report. Even so, it is impressive that the CIA is even admitting the success of the DPRK. These are perhaps positives of progressive nature of the DPRK although the country has accepted too much revisionism for anyone’s liking.

Commie Dad’s writing on this topic, within an article in which he claims that DPRK has a  centrally-planned economy (partially questionable due to acceptance of revisionism), is worth noting. He notes how UN sanctions prevented a pharmaceutical company “from importing the chemicals it needed for a healthcare project in the DPRK countryside” and that the DPRK “still guarantees universal healthcare to its people,” which the U$ hasn’t done, a fact even acknowledged by anti-DPRK author Barbara Demick and a CIA report which acknowledges DPRK’s achievements in “free health care, and preventive medicine; and infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine.” [20] He adds that the remarkable public healthcare system of the DPRK, providing ” unconditional universal coverage for citizens”continues to perform well, citing the words of Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO’s Director-General, calling the country’s healthcare system “something which most other developing countries would envy,” pointing out that the “DPRK has no lack of doctors and nurses,” further praising their system for its “very elaborate health infrastructure, starting from the central to the provincial to the district level.” This quote about envy is used in the title of this article, which also notes the country’s comprehensive healthcare, saying that authorities recognize malnutrition is a problem but it is less of an issue than in the past, and the quality of their healthcare system. [21] Of course, the reactionaries are seething at this pronouncement. A Heritage Foundation fellow claimed WHO was “defend[ing] the North Korean government,” citing the horrid Amnesty report and U$ State Department, along with varied bourgeois media, while American Thinker was shocked at her “praise” of what they called a “totalitarian and rogue nuclear-armed police state.” [22] The only country that falls into that category is the U$ (and its client states in the Mideast, along with Western European capitalist states), not the DPRK. These reactionaries would find friends in the U$ State Department, which warns U$ citizens to not go into DPRK hospitals…because then they will learn that the system is excellent? [23]

While, in the murderous empire, the GOP fights to pass a healthcare bill that would “increase the number of people who are uninsured by 22 million” by 2026 and the Dems fight to keep their insurance-friendly “Obamacare,” the DPRK already has universal healthcare. As I noted in my previous post about the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) and democracy within the DPRK, this unicameral legislative body has enacted laws putting in place “perfect and universal free medical care.” [24] The DPRK not only provides rights and duties of citizens, but they have the right to “right to education and free medical care and freedom of scientific, literary and artistic pursuits” along with equal rights for men and women. Furthermore, in January 1947, the DPRK enforced “free medical care for workers, office workers and their dependents” with universal free medical care enforced since January 1953, and complete  “universal free medical care” since February 1960, meaning that the state totally bears “the expenses of medical checkups and treatment, bed and board in hospitals, medicines, and even travel costs to and from sanatoria.” This commitment is manifested not only by the type of care the citizens receive but through the establishment of Pyongyang Medical University, the top medical school in the country which was founded in 1948 “when the Department of Medical Science at Kim Il Sung University became an independent university.” [26]

The achievements of this Korean healthcare system are widely acknowledged. While one Cornell medical student (who talked with “the chair of Pyongyang Medical College’s Department of Neurosurgery for 90 minutes”) grumbled that the free medical system comes with “many costs of personal freedom” (his Western bourgeois concept of freedom) with government permission required, and physicians not more highly paid than others, if we are to believe him on that aspect, did admit the following:

“[The medical students] smiled and very proudly told me that the government sends students to college for free – and that is consistent with the medical system, that it’s also free. Even intensive surgeries do not cost a penny…Everything I saw was very unique. Exploring the city [Pyongyang] was unreal. All buildings were beautiful and big – often with posters of the two great leaders in front, which gave off a little eerie feeling. American media give the idea that North Korea is constantly brewing with missiles, focusing on the unreasonable rulers…but the everyday life of North Koreans, at least in the capital, nearly mirrors ours. It was an incredible privilege to meet North Koreans and hear their sentiments, to physically see the land – and in that I realized that they were my fellow people, that we speak the same language, love our families and are all humans. Understanding is the first key to any peace and compromise.”

The WHO notes that the country has a life expectancy of 67 years, or over 70 years if you are relying on the CIA World Factbook, which is impressive. Other data shows that while 3.7% of population drinks, mostly among men over 15 and not women, 78.9% abstain from drinking, with recorded alcohol consumption is steady over time, not increasing since the 1960s significantly. [27] Furthermore, while tobacco usage is strong among males, with almost half of males, smoking, smoke-free legislation affecting hospitals, non-university educational facilities, and public transit. There is also strong tobacco cessation support, partial funding of tobacco cessation, warning on tobacco packages, no tobacco vending machines.

An event takes place at the People’s Palace of Culture on World No Tobacco Day. Photograph is courtesy of the Pyongyang Times.

This is manifested by the fact that late last month, at the People’s Palace of Culture, the country honored World No Tobacco Day. During that day, as the Pyongyang Times reported, officials of the country’s Public Health Ministry, resident diplomatic missions, and international health organizations, talked about how tobacco is a threat to development. The Vice-Director of the Public Health Ministry, Choe Suk Hyon, was quoted as saying that they made achievements in tobacco control the previous year, saying the following:

“What is important in tobacco control is to conduct large scale educational campaigns to publicize the negative impact of smoking on the health and socio-economic life. And we should strengthen scientific research on smoking cessation products which help quit smoking.”

Others, like the representative of the WHO to the DPRK, praised the Korean females in the country for being at the “vanguard of no-smoking campaign” but still wanted them to help their “fathers, husbands, boyfriends and sons to quit smoking if they are smokers” and noted that there is a “newly-revised tobacco control law of the DPRK” with no-smoking “information activities were conducted at the central and provincial hygienic information halls and medical institutions across the country.” While the U$ has developed strong anti-smoking measures as well, there is still a formidable tobacco industry in the U$, something the DPRK doesn’t have.

Apart from strong tobacco control, low alcohol consumption, and general healthcare in the country, there are a number of other accomplishments. For one, infant mortality declined from 1990s to present (same with people with tuberculosis), there has been a relatively steady amount in people with HIV/ AIDS (the country is likely an “AIDS free zone” by now), and immunization for DTP3 among children under 1 almost 100%. Furthermore, maternal death rate has also dramatically declined, less stunting of children than on the past, strong antenatal care, 100% of births attended by skilled health personnel, and broad measles immunization. If that isn’t enough, there almost complete treatment for tuberculosis, obesity is not a major cause for death (like in the U$) but rather it is raised blood pressure among those in their twenties, and much of the population is using improved water and sanitation, to name a few. [28] Other WHO reports show that the population receives Vitamin A supplements to counter some deficiencies, and that the under five mortality rate has been dropping rapidly.

In one medical article apart from the others, there is some praise of the DPRK. In an article that is broadly against the country, the medical researchers must admit that “the burden of mortality due to communicable diseases and malnutrition in North Korea is relatively low in terms of both quantity, expressed in the death rate, and quality,” that tuberculosis’s “mortality rates have declined continuously in the past 15 years.” In one article of a “country study” of the DPRK, it is noted that back in 1938-40 life expectancy was only 38 years old, while it was “70.9 years for males and 77.3 years for females” by 1986, with infant mortality declining, a ” substantial increase in the number of hospitals and clinics, hospital beds, physicians, and other health-care personnel since the 1950s,” growing from 285 in 1955 to 2,401 in 1986, with specialized hospitals, “including those devoted to treating tuberculosis, hepatitis, and mental illness, are generally found in large cities,” and preventive medicine a major focus. Adding to this, a public health law was passed in April 1980 saying that the “state regards it as a main duty in its activity to take measures to prevent the people from being afflicted by disease and directs efforts first and foremost to prophylaxis in public health work” while medical examinations are “required twice a year, and complete records are kept at local hospitals” with a high value afforded on “traditional herbal medicine” and physical education an important part of public health with people “encouraged to take part in recreational sports activities such as running, gymnastics, volleyball, ice skating, and traditional Korean games” along with “group gymnastic exercises.”

There are further aspects worth noting. For one, even with the “development of informal health-care practices” in the country since the 1990s, this sector has actually contributed to the formal healthcare system. In 2007, the DPRK spent 3.02% of its GDP on health expenditures. In 2013, the DPRK spent 38.8% of their budget that year on “health, education, sport, music, art and culture” with an increase of 2.2% for healthcare spending.It is also worth noting that even the World Food Programme must admit that most households aren’t food insecure (see page 33 of this PDF), belaying claims of “famine” in the country.

Recent developments

Kim Jong Un inspects dental care supplies factory. Photograph is courtesy of the Pyongyang Times.

There have been numerous developments of the DPRK’s healthcare system in recent years. In 2010, with the help of WHO, the country launched a “medical video conference network Tuesday aimed at giving smaller, rural hospitals access to specialists in the capital Pyongyang.” [29] Three years later, the DPRK developed a “clinical medicine information service system” which contained “details on 12,000 pharmaceuticals and 154,000 kinds of medicines from more than 50 countries” as Voice of Korea, a state media outlet, noted.

There are other aspects worth noting. While the DPRK has requested medical aid from the UN (since they are under harsh sanctions), they have still made strides. [30] Last year, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology noted that it was testing a 3D printer for use in medical settings, with likely some progress made. This month The Pyongyang Times reported that a two-storey new people’s hospital opened in Tongsinhung-ri with “over  10 rooms for special treatment and sophisticated homemade medical and experimental apparatuses” and is part of “the telemedicine system whereby it is connected to such central hospitals…[and] linked online to provincial, city and county hospitals.” [31] It was also noted that using this system, the “latest medical science and technology are disseminated and training courses are given by medical workers at central hospitals,” with increased abilities, with telemedicine,”in raising their abilities as well as in treating patients.” Less than a week ago, Kim Jung Un, the chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the DPRK State Affairs Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, inspected the newly built Dental Care Supplies Factory, which has a floor space of 12,720 square metres, with the factory able to “turn out annually tens of millions of tubes of toothpaste, mouthwash and a variety of dental care supplies.” [32] In that visit he noted that “the Party [WPK] and government are taking full responsibility for the people’s lives and health and that such socialist healthcare is one and only in the world,” adding that factories like this are “needed to ensure the people lead a worthwhile life enjoying themselves the benefits of socialist healthcare,” even though such healthcare is progressive but not socialist.

Like Cuba, which sends doctors abroad, the DPRK also sends doctors abroad for humanitarian reasons. Even those with anti-DPRK beliefs have to admit this. In July of last year, the DPRK’s ambassador, Jang Myong Ho, visited the al-Assad University Hospital in Damascus, affirming the country’s readiness to support and aid Syria’s health sector, hailing the medical services provided by the hospital, saying that Syrian government had a “just health policy and commitment to provide free treatment to all citizens despite the difficult economic conditions under the current crisis.” He also added that this anniversary of 50 years diplomatic and friendly bilateral relations between the DPRK and Syria is “historical and exemplary,” noting that these relations have been “developed and enhanced” over the years.

With all of this, it is no surprise that proposed sanctions would target the healthcare system of the DPRK and their economy. As I noted in my post on these sanctions,

[while] these sanctions show that the imperial monitoring of “the territory, waters, or airspace of North Korea” shall not apply to those vessels or planes which “import food, medicine, or supplies into North Korea,” the fact that there would be monitoring by the US Navy (and Air Force?) is undoubtedly an act of war…Section 104(a), part of an anti-DPRK sanctions law which went into effect last year, mentioned in the above quote as part of the imperial monitoring, shows these efforts are aimed at the DPRK’s economy

Concluding words

At the Korean Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disability. Courtesy of Imgur, assembled in an album and posted on /r/communism by yours truly.

The healthcare system of the DPRK should be celebrated, not something to ridicule. While the bourgeois media focus on the country’s “problems” there is no doubt that they don’t want people to know of these successes. With the ROK having one of the “world’s highest suicide rates, having overtaken that of Japan” and the leading “cause of death is cancer, followed by cerebrovascular and heart disease” even with their “universal health insurance system that is compulsory and covers employees and their relatives (National Health Insurance, NHI),” there are high doctor consulting fees, and “long waiting lines for treatment and high costs.” The DPRK doesn’t have those issues and doesn’t work with the U$ to streamline their system. There are many other resources I could have consulted to finish up this article. [33] As good comrades, we should stand in solidarity with the DPRK against the clear imperialist aggressors. Anyone who doesn’t do so is not only not a real comrade, but they also are not a communist in name or action.

The life within the DPRK and the country’s policies are not what the West says it is. The country has stood by those fighting for national liberation, has a developed democracy of sorts, and has celebrated the International Day of Persons With Disabilities in 2015, and in years afterward (and before). The country has worked with the UNDP to increase its food security and food production.

Some say that the country became “revisionist” after 1972, which is a valid viewpoint, which will be addressed in another post. Reading a number of books, or looking at other resources can help. [34] If a war with the DPRK occurs, started by the unhinged fascist, the orange menace, who can be easily swayed, we should be prepared to support it even if all many of those in our host country (especially if you live in the West) support the war with a fervor. Not standing by the DPRK and against war would show the weakness of “the Left” and prove the capitalists had “won,” something that none of us want.


Notes

[1] Samuel Smith, “22-Y-O American Otto Warmbier Dies After Spending 17 Months in North Korean Prison,” Christian Post, June 19, 2017; Stacey Leasca, “Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the American student’s capture and release in North Korea,” Mic.com, June 19, 2017; Shreesha Gosh, “Donald Trump Says Otto Warmbier Death Caused By North Korea’s ‘Brutal Regime’,” International Business Times, June 20, 2017; Josh Lederman and Matthew Pennington, “Efforts of one U.S. official bring Otto Warmbier home,” AP, June 18, 2017; David Choi, “‘No words were spoken’ — Otto Warmbier’s roommate in North Korea describes the day Warmbier was arrested,” Business Insider, June 19, 2017; Andy Sharp, “Student’s Death Puts Trump Back to Square One on North Korea,” Bloomberg News, June 20, 2017; Maggie Fox, “What Killed Otto Warmbier? Maybe an Infection or Blood Clot,” NBC News, June 20, 2017; Patrick Grafton Green, “Who is Otto Warmbier? Why did North Korea imprison him? How did he die? All we know on late American student,” Evening Standard, June 20, 2017; Otto Warmbier dies days after release from North Korean detention,” Washington Post, June 19, 2017; Choe Sang-Hun, “Otto Warmbier’s Death a New Wedge Between U.S. and North Korea,” New York Times, June 20, 2017. Months of diplomacy for this release seemed to fade into the background.

[2] Fuster Kung, “Death of American detained in North Korea baffles experts,” AP, June 20, 2017, reprinted in the Washington Post; CNN Wire, “John McCain: North Korea ‘murdered’ former detainee Otto Warmbier,” NBC 4, June 20, 2017; Fred Haitt, “Remind me again why we ignore the thousands languishing in North Korea’s concentration camps?,” National Post, June 19, 2017, reprinted from the Washington Post; Christian Caryl, “The North Koreans treated Otto Warmbier like one of their own,” Washington Post, June 19, 2017; Gordon D. Chang, “State-Sanctioned Murder: North Korea Killed Otto Warmbier,” The Daily Beast, June 19, 2017; Danika Fears, “North Korea kills American student,” New York Post, June 19, 2017; Cortney O’Brien, “Rubio Minces No Words: Warmbier Was ‘Murdered’,” TownHall, June 19, 2017; Patrick Maguire, “Otto Warmbier’s death reminds us of North Korea’s brutality,” New Statesman,  June 2017; Jonathan Cheng, “North Korea Claims Otto Warmbier Sought Regime Change,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2017; Jack Torry and Jessica Wehrman, “Otto Warmbier’s death after release from North Korean detention brings sympathy, anger,” Dayton Daily News, June 19, 2017; CBS News, “S. Korean leader says N. Korea bears “heavy responsibility” for Otto Warmbier’s death,” June 23, 2017.

[3] Bill Chappell, “Tour Company Used By Otto Warmbier Will Stop Taking Americans To North Korea,” NPR News, June 20, 2017; Andreas Litmer, “Warmbier death: Will people still travel to North Korea?,” BBC News, June 20, 2017; Charlie Chappell, “Otto Warmbier’s Death May Spell the End of American Tourism to North Korea. Sadly, That’s About It,” Time.com, June 22, 2017; Neil Connor, “Otto Warmbier’s travel agency stops taking American tourists to North Korea after ‘risk became too high’,” The Telegraph, June 20, 2017; Adly Choi, “Inside the Sketchy Travel Company That Took Otto Warmbier to North Korea,” Nextshark, June 23, 2017. The father of Warmbier did make an honest perception of the horridness of this company even though it has anti-DPRK diatribes within it: “This Chinese company has slick ads on the internet, claiming no American ever gets detained…They lure Americans. And that’s what happened to my son. He was trying to leave the country and he was taken hostage. They advertise it as the safest tour ever. But they provide fodder for the North Koreans. They took him hostage. And the outcome is self-evident.”

[4] Tim Schwarz, Will Ripley, and James Griffiths, “Exclusive: North Korea reveals alleged U.S. prisoner to CNN in Pyongyang,” CNN, Jan. 11, 2016; Taehoon Lee, “North Korea detains fourth US citizen,” CNN, May 8, 2017; BBC News, “North Korean university names detained US citizen,” Apr. 24, 2017; Tom Cleary, “Tony Kim aka Kim Sang-Duk: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy.com, May 1, 2017; Anna Fifield, “North Korea detains American at airport,” Washington Post, Apr. 23, 2017; KCNA, “Relevant Institution of DPRK Detains American Citizen Jin Xue Song,” May 7, 2017; James Pearson, “North Korea detains third U.S. citizen,” Reuters, Apr. 23, 2017. On May 7th, KCNA said “a relevant institution of the DPRK detained American citizen Jin Xue Song [Kim Hak-song] on May 6 under a law of the DPRK on suspicion of his hostile acts against it. He had worked for operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. A relevant institution is now conducting detailed investigation into his crime.” Currently there are FOUR detained foreign nationals in DPRK, if Wikipedia is right.

[5] Kathy L. Gilbert, “North Korea releases comatose Otto Warmbier,” United Methodist News Service, June 15, 2017; Pyongyang Times, “American Arrested for His Hostile Act against DPRK,” Jan. 23, 2016.

[6] Pyongyang Times, “American Arrestee Interviewed,” Pyongyang Times, March 1, 2016; Pyongyang Times, “American Student Sentenced to 15 Years of Hard Labor in DPRK,” Pyongyang Times, Mar. 16, 2016.

[7] This English translation is very close to another I found from WIPO records.

[8] Jason Hanna, Joshua Berlinger, and Emanuella Grinberg, “Doctors: Ex-North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier has severe brain injury,” CNN, June 16, 2017.

[9] Maggie Fox, “Otto Warmbier Has Extensive Brain Damage, Doctors Say,” NBC News, June 16, 2017.

[10] “American citizen released,” Pyongyang Times, June 16, 2017.

[11] KCNA, “DPRK FM Spokesman Accuses U.S. of Slandering Humanitarian Measure,” June 23, 2017.

[12] KCNA, “DPRK bashing by the US and s. Korea prompts firestorm of protest,” Pyongyang Times, June 25, 2017.

[13] Jonathan Allen, “Otto Warmbier’s family declines autopsy for US student released by North Korea,” The Sydney Morning Herald, June 21, 2017; Young DPRK Watchers, “An objective assessment of Warmbier’s fate: Challenging U.S mythologies,” June 20, 2017; Young DPRK Watchers, “Otto Warmbier as a symbol of American Privilege,” June 18, 2017.

[14] Daily NK, “The dire reality of “universal health care” in North Korea,” June 2, 2015; Barbara Demick, “North Korea’s healthcare is a horror, report says,” Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2010; Caroline Gluck, “N Korea healthcare ‘near collapse’,” BBC News, Nov. 20, 2001; The Week Staff, “North Korea’s ‘horrifying’ health care system,” The Week, July 19, 2010; The Telegraph, “North Korea’s health system ‘on its knees’,” July 15, 2010; Laura Oneale, “North Korea’s Health Dilemma,” June 22, 2013; Freekorea.us, “A guerrilla health care system for North Korea’s poor,” Sept. 28, 2015; Radio Free Asia, “North Korean Health Care ‘Fails’,” July 20, 2010; Sean Alfano, “North Korea’s health care horror, doctors sometimes perform amputations without anesthesia: report,” NY Daily News, July 15, 2010.

[15] I’m not even going to link this horrible report, just the title page if those who are skeptical want to “prove” that I’m right, which would be utterly obnoxious. If you want to read hideous, disgusting, orientalist propaganda and fill your mind with lies, go right ahead, but you’ll be no comrade of him.

[16] BBC News, “Aid agencies row over North Korea health care system,” July 16, 2010.

[17] Josiah Cha, “‘Every patient had malnutrition’ – on a medical mission in North Korea,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2015. I think this is the same medical mission.

[18] See pages 126, 127, 128, 129, 130.

[19] As CNN (“Red Cross: North Korea medical system near collapse,” Nov. 6, 1997) and hateful “North Korea watchers” (Liberty in North Korea, “SONGBUN | Social Class in a Socialist Paradise,” June 25, 2012) admit, if you read between the lines, capitalism almost caused the DPRK’s healthcare system to collapse in the 1990s. Even so, the country has been suffering from a bout of revisionism without a doubt since thee 1970s at least.

[20] The report also acknowledges the achievement in “compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular; ‘radical change’ in the position of women; [and] genuinely free housing.”

[21] Jonathan Lynn, “North Korea has plenty of doctors: WHO,” Reuters, Apr. 30, 2010.

[22] Brett Schaefer, “United Nations Defends North Korean Health Care System,” The Daily Signal, July 22, 2010; Sierra Rayne, “WHO’s Delusions on North Korea’s Health Care System,” American Thinker, July 24, 2013.

[23] In their travel guidelines for the DPRK, it almost sounds Orientalist, implying that US hospitals are wonderful, shining, and happy compared to those in the DPRK: “Medical facilities in the DPRK lack resources and electricity. Medical personnel have inadequate or outdated skills. Hospitals in Pyongyang can perform basic examinations and lifesaving measures, but functioning x-ray facilities are not generally available. Avoid surgery. If you have an accident outside Pyongyang, transport back to the capital can be lengthy and without medical assistance.”

[25] They have also “adopted the Constitution’s principles by passing Socialist Labour Law, Land Law, Law on Public Health, Law on the Nursing and Upbringing of Children, Law on Environmental Protection, the Criminal Law, the Civil Law, the Family Law, laws for the “total elimination of tax in kind and taxation which is the remnant of the outdated society” with no tax system no longer in the DPRK, and a law enacting “universal free education and the 11-year compulsory education.””

[26] The ROK claims that chemical weapons were developed here, but it undoubtedly a total lie.

[27] 95% of those who drink, drink spirits. There is also strong alcohol consumption by males, more than among females.

[28] This information also says that strokes are the leading cause of death, with probability of dying highest among men over 70, low in all other categories. It also says that people under age 5 mostly die of prematurity and other causes, that over 60% of population in urban areas, and that life expectancy varies depending on age. It is also worth noting that 16.3% of parliament is composed of women.

[29] Sangwoon Won, “North Korea launches medical videoconference network with help of WHO,” Associated Press, 2010. Reprinted on http://www.wellness.com/.

[30] Elizabeth Shim, “North Korea requests medical aid from U.N. agencies,” UPI, July 6, 2015. There are also claims they were trying to learn from China about AIDs.

[31] Han Ryo Gyong, “Rural hospital benefits from telemedicine,” Pyongyang Times, June 24, 2017.

[32] Pyongyang Times, “Kim Jong Un inspects dental care supplies factory,” June 20, 2017; Rodong Sinmun, “Kim Jong Un Inspects New Dental Sanitary Goods Factory,” June 20, 2017.

[33] See data here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here (likely on archive.org), and this book.

[34] See here for the following books: “Revolution and Socialist Construction in Korea: Selected Writings of Kim Il Sung“; “Modern Korea: The Socialist North, Revolutionary Perspectives in the South, and Unification“; “The Historical Experience of the Agrarian Reform in Our Country“; “North Korean Journey: The Revolution Against Colonialism“; “Modern History of Korea.” Bruce Cummings is no help here. Neither is this article. As for “Jaka Parker” I haven’t watched any videos to have a viewpoint one way or the other.

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 post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Since I am anti-revisionist now and was not when this article was written, there was a necessity to revise it. This topic will hopefully be revisited again and soon.

This article is the second in this series, following the first one about an imagined scenario in Cuba, which focuses on the nation of Cuba and the accomplishments of its government. This writer could easily fall in line, praising the “normalization” between U$ and Cuba, as proliferated in liberal discourse, and accept the supposedly “authoritarian” nature of the Cuban 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.”

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. 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.” 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. [2] As the 1890s wore on, public support for Cuba Libre, or free Cuba was growing in the U$. The two major capitalist political parties (Democrats and Republicans) declared their support but the U$ President, Grover Cleveland, refused to aid Cuban rebels, at a time when the U$ bourgeoisie, which had $50 billion in agricultural investments in Cuba, “feared a truly independent Cuba,” since Cuban revolutionaries at the time “were calling for social reforms and land redistribution.” [5] As such, Cleveland was no anti-imperialist but  was only acting on behalf of a sector of the U$ bourgeoisie.

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. [3] 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.” 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. [4]

The U$ had defeated the dilapidated Spanish empire in a war billed as “anti-imperialist” to “free” Cuba. By the end of the war, the U$ 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. The U$ 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 U$ 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 U$. Coming back to Cuba, the U$ 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.” [5] 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 U$ land for a base at Guantanamo Bay and “allowed the U.S. to intervene at any time.” 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.”

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.” [5] This meant that Cuba was not a “fully sovereign space” due to imperial meddling by the U$, which led to a conception of Cuba, in the U$ perspective, of being passive in the face of their actions and “protected by its protector.” Cuba was under U$ 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.” 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. [6] He also argued that peasants were exploited by latifundists, who didn’t work, who had others cultivate the land for them.

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.” [8] 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.” 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. [9] 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. 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. This overthrow not only “accentuated the tendency towards radicalization” and freed the country from foreign imperial occupation by the U$. [10] 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.” 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. [11]

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 [refers to the Soviets and Czechs, but not the Chinese]…are our friends.” For the imperial U$, 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.” [12] 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,” bringing it closer to the revisionist Soviets who were later described as social imperialists.

While the murderous U$ 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. One of these was the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the “foreign policy blunder” that led to U$ credibility and hegemony actively doubted in the aftermath of this imperialist effort by an army of Cuban exiles. While Adlai Stevenson, U$ ambassador to the UN, laughably denied U$ involvement in this armed invasion of Cuba, it was clear that this CIA operation was a U$ effort to overthrow the Cuban government. 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. 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.

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.” [13] 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. [13] While some could claim this is rational, it is not. 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, which the Cuban government was angry about, including Fidel. This irrationality is obvious in the fact that Amerikan leaders, namely Kennedy and his advisers, “were prepared to place millions of American lives at risk” so they could maneuver against the Soviet Union. [14] 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.” Even a CIA document admitted in 1962 that not only would Cuban armed forces be capable of resisting and repelling any invasion either by U$-trained guerrillas or by U$ military forces, but the “provision of military equipment and instructions,” implying nuclear weapons, was “essentially defensive.” [15] 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.”

The Bay of Pigs was only one of the many imperial destabilization efforts aimed at Cuba. CIA was already visibly annoyed that Cuba’s press, which it described as “Castro-controlled,” argued that U$ policies toward Cuba were aggressive and used the U-2 incident to bolster these arguments, along with “Khrushchev’s diatribes.” [16] Before getting to more U$ 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.” [17] 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. 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 U$-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. [18] 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 U$ imperial efforts went beyond the efforts of OAS exclusion and sanctions. Most famously, there was the imposition of a blockade. Even the U$ 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. 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. 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. Furthermore there was 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 U$, creating a fake “Communist Cuban terror campaign” in certain parts of the U$, 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$ 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.

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 (it started in 1961 despite a typo in the Church Committee report saying 1962) 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. [19] 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. 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. 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. [20] 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. 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. 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. [21] 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.

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 U$, which is why they requested Soviet missiles in Cuba, leading to the Cuban missile crisis. [22] While Lyndon B. Johnson only sought to “inflict pain” on Cuba, while other high-ranking officials wanted invasion, it was reasonable for Cuba to fear the worst. The Cubans were haunted by the “threat of a U.S. military attack on Cuba…throughout the 1960s” and the Soviets were not always receptive to help, even opposing Cuba’s “support for guerrilla movements in Latin America.” Even the departure of Nikita Khrushchev because of his agreement to take missiles out of Cuba, which he placed there because he believed that US invasion was imminent, this did not assuage the doubts of Cuban leaders about “Soviet steadfastness in the defense of Cuba,” leading to a strained relationship with the Soviet revisionists. While the Cubans were on military alert often, including thinking they could be struck by military strikes like those in North Vietnam in early 1965, or on alert when U$ troops invaded the Dominican Republic in April 1965. At the same time, the Cubans, for example gave radical black groups moral support but didn’t give them weaponry, trying to not engage in actions which would bring them into conflict with the U$ on U$ soil, instead preparing their defenses and “countering the U.S. challenge in the Third World.” [23] 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.” [24] This betrayal of Cuba by the social imperialist Soviets should be remembered when one recounts Soviet history.

Before I get to Cuban support for the liberation struggle abroad, I think it is important to note some of the events inside Cuba. What I am 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. [25] 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.” 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. [26] 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. 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.” Due to the Sino-Soviet split, with China and Cuba “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 (this may have also influenced them).

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.” [27] 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. 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. 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.

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. [28] Kabila was the rebel who overthrew the U$-backed Mobutu government in 1997 and renamed Zaire the Democratic Republic of Congo, although by that time a Congolese bourgeoisie had development, so he was not as radical as in the past. 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. 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.” 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. 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. 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.

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 justified 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. [29] 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. 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. 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.” [30] 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.

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. [31] 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.” 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.” 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.” [32] 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 the aid given to Algeria or Guinea.

Before moving onto Cuban aid to liberation struggles in the “Third World” it is important to highlight once again, imperial destabilization efforts by the U$, 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.” [33] 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.” 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.” [34] 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.”

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. [35] 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.” 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.

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. [36] This new constitution tried to not only rationalize the existing government but to set ideals more in stone. It recognized the role of mass organizations in Cuban society, a society which had effective mass participation. [37] In later years, it would be amended to create a less restrictive foreign investment structure (in 1992), a time which could be said to mark the beginning of Cuban revisionism, 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). [38] 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.

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.” [39] 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. 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. 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.” [40] 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.” [41] 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 U$) and who were their allies (ex: pro-FRELIMO forces in the U$).  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. [42] 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.” 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. 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 market policies in recent years.

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.” [43] 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. 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. [44] Mozambicans were able to “readily dissent and are encouraged to voice criticism in the single party,” even if not fully in the public sphere. 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 (DPRK, China, and Bulgaria). [45] Despite this, even in 1981, Mozambique was “not a Soviet satellite” but did receive more Soviet assistance than Chinese assistance.

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. [46] 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. 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. 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. [47] 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.” 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.” 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.

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.” [48] 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. 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). This battle over Ethiopia was part of a broader fight for Eritrean independence. Post-1974, when the Eritreans had been fighting the US and Israeli-basked Ethiopian empire before then, there were three groups: (1) the  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. [49] 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). 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 U$, 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. [50]

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.” [51] 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 U$ covertly supporting FNLA. [52] 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. 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. 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.”

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. [53] 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. 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, raising the question: how radical was the MPLA anyhow? While one can say that Soviet logistical support helped, it was ultimately the Cuban forces that changed the tide. [54] Some people took the side of the Chinese rather than the Soviets, like the Black Panther Party, presumably (at least before 1972), which is justified. We do know that the Chinese, as revisionism got to a fever pitch, with the foreign policy department led by Deng after 1974, they backed UNITA, led by the horrid Savimbi, thankfully killed by Angolan government forces in 2002.

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…was over” and not long after, the Portuguese government symbolically “established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of Angola.” [55] 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.”

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 U$ 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 U$ and China, meaning they were doing this for social imperialist, not anti-imperialist reasons; and (5) the amount of Africa countries Cuba had diplomatic relations with grew from eight in 1972 to 31 in 1976. [56] 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 government of Angola. 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.”

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 government, had to rearm itself by spending oil royalties, money that could have reconstructed its economy. [57] For Ethiopia, the volume of trade between itself and socialist countries grew significantly in the 1980s. Additionally, Cuba and Nicaragua avoided debt restructuring deals pushed by Washington since the U$ was “imposing an effective financial boycott on both left-leaning governments,” which had struggles for independence that produced outcomes the U$ did not like.

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.” [58] 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. 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 revisionist Soviet Union in the 1960s, which improved in the 1970s and 1980s but ruptured with Mikhail Gorbachev, who accelerated the Soviet collapse with his ideas of “glasnost” and “perestroika” which still have wide acclaim in the West as “democratic.” [59] 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.” [60] 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.

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.” [61] 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.” 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 U$ moves including “willingness to use military force to protect its interests abroad.” 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.” [62] 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.”

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.” [63] 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.” [64] Then there was a number of documents on “debt rescheduling talks” with Cuba, with the government in 1986 having to institute “economic austerity,” which could, be considered a revisionist move, 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.” [65] 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. [66] 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.” [67] 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 bourgeois media of the U$ beams out propaganda to serve the Pentagon often, that capitalist dogma is integrated within many elements of U$ 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 the DPRK’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. [68] 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 the late 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.” [69] 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. The U$ 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. [70] This is a rise from when in the past it was only given funding in the tens of millions.  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. [71]

Back to the history. In the 1990s, Cuba was still under imperial assault, being declared a “rogue state” by the U$, as it typical of countries deemed as “enemies,” beginning to follow, sadly, more of a revisionist path. At the same time, Cuban exiles continued to flourish in the U$, 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. [72] 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.” While the U$ 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.

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.” [73] 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. 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.” [74]

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 government since 1959, which is why the Cuban government sees the CIA behind many problems. [75] The U$ 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. 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.” 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.”


Notes

[1] Oliver, Ronald and Atmore, Anthony. Africa Since 1800 (Fifth Edition). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 72, 91; Green, Duncan. Faces of Latin America (Third Edition). London: Latin America Bureau, 2006. 11; 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.

[2] Ibid, 32, 37, 39

[3] Ibid, 43, 44.

[4] 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.” 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.

[5] Zinn, Konopacki and Buhle, A People’s History of American Empire, 51, 52.

[6] Seymour, The Liberal Defense of Murder, 94, 125; Weber, Cynthia. Faking It: U.S. Hegemony in a “Post-Phallic” Era. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999. 20, 25; 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)  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$ imperialist actions in the Caribbean over the years.

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

[8] Green, Faces of Latin America, 194;  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.

[9] Green, Faces of Latin America, 58, 78.

[10] 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.

[11] Fitzgerald, Romane. “Prospects for Revolutionary Intercommunal Warfare.” The Black Panther, May 8, 1971. Page 16; Green, Faces of Latin America, 78, 86, 101; Weber, Faking It, 13, 14, 22, 28, 31.

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

[13] Weber, Faking It, 14.

[14] 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; Seymour, Liberal Defense of Murder, 127.

[15] 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.

[16] 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.

[17] 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.”

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

[19] 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. 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. 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 U$ 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.

[20] 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. Also see Blum, William. Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000. 39, 108-9.

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

[22] Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 94-7. 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”; 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.”

[23] Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 98.

[24] Ibid, 95.

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

[26] 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. Also see 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, 14, 25, 30.

[27] Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 85-87. Later, as noted on page 87, 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.”

[28] Ibid, 87-8, 90-2, 98, 99, 100; Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 242. Gleijeses argues that Raul Castro was focused more on creating a powerful military than “Cuba’s wars of national liberation” on page 91. 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. 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.

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

[30] Ibid, 105, 106, 119.

[31] 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, 96.

[32] Mittelman, James H. Underdevelopment and the Transition to Socialism: Mozambique and Tanzania. New York: Academic Press, 1981. 38, 40; Valdes, “Revolutionary Solidarity in Angola,” 95. 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.

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

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

[35] Blum, Rogue State, 109, 111.

[36] 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.

[37] 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.

[38] 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.

[39] Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions, 227; “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.”

[40] “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.”

[41] 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. 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.”

[42] “Where Bombs are Common: Afro-American Brother Endures Portuguese Attack with FRELIMO Guerrillas.” The Black Panther, April 15, 1972. Page 9, 15, 16-17. Reprinted from The American World Newspaper which was published by the Student Organization for Black Unity; Sadukai, Owusu. ““Tradition” Used to Oppress Africans.” The Black Panther, April 8, 1972. Page 8, 9, 11. 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.”

[43] 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.

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

[45] Ibid, 118.

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

[47] Weldemichael, Awet T. Third World Colonialism and Strategies of Liberation: Eritrea and East Timor Compared. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 161.; Keller, Edmond J. Revolutionary Ethiopia: From Empire to People’s Republic (First Midland Books Edition). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991. 201, 223, 231, 268. Clearly an anti-communist, but something can be gleaned from the book, something

[48] Weldemichael, Awet T. Third World Colonialism and Strategies of Liberation: Eritrea and East Timor Compared. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, 155, 162-3; 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.

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

[50] 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.”

[51] “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.”

[52] Valdes, “Revolutionary Solidarity in Angola,” 97-101. The text says Nixon but it is wrong as he was NOT in office at the time, having resigned in 1974.

[53] Ibid, 101-3; Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 277; Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 277, 278.

[54] Valdes, “Revolutionary Solidarity in Angola,” 105-6. 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.” However, he may be over-stating Soviet support.

[55] Ibid, 107, 108.

[56] Ibid, 109-12; Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 279, 299; Valdes “Revolutionary Solidarity in Angola,” 113.

[57] Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 302, 339; Keller, Revolutionary Ethiopia, 268; Green, Faces of Latin America, 33; Johnson, Chalmers. Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010. 57.

[58] 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.”

[59] Weber, Faking It, 33.

[60] Oliver and Atmore, Africa Since 1800, 317, 340.

[61] 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.”

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

[63] 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.

[64] 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.”

[65] 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.”

[66] 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.

[67] 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.”

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

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

[70] See documents here, here, here, here, and here. Also see documents here, here, here, and here. There’s also 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.

[71] 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.

[72] Johnson, Blowblack, 87; Blum, Rogue State, 80, 110-1, 197;  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.

[73] Goodman, National Insecurity, 264, 377.

[74] 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!”

[75] Johnson, Dismantling the Empire, 14; Blum, Rogue State, 140-1, 169; Weber, Faking It, 1, 4, 7, 35; Green, Faces of Latin America, 135, 145-6, 148.