Archive for the ‘Imperialism’ Category
Cuba’s former president Fidel Castro, one of the world’s longest-serving and most iconic leaders, has died aged 90.
We make no apologies for reproducing in full this not uncritical tribute, by Dr Manuel Barcia, and published by Al-Jazeera, which stands out as one of the most balanced.
Soon after his capture in 1953, following an attack he led on the Moncada Army Barracks, a young Fidel Castro was put on trial.
While conducting his own defence, Castro accused then-President Fulgencio Batista’s regime of depriving Cuba of democratic rule and of establishing a dictatorship.
He finished his speech with a phrase that has become well-known in Cuba and abroad:”You can condemn me but it doesn’t matter: History will acquit me.”
Interesting enough, Castro’s subsequent actions placed him in one of those inconclusive historical wormholes where agreeing on anything about him, let alone an acquittal for his actions, is almost an impossibility.
To some, he was an irredeemable monster who submerged Cuba into a long, dark age of tyranny and human rights violations.
To others, he was a socialist superman who brought about social equality – at least partially for women and for Afro-Cubans – and who introduced free education and universal healthcare.
From an economic and political point of view, Castro’s rule was characterised by a catalogue of mistakes that over the years led to more than one “rectification of errors” campaign. Domestically, many of his policies seemed bound to failure from the start.
A heavy dependence on the Soviet Union as a result of an unremitting American embargo left the country exposed to the rough forces of the free market in the early 1990s, fostering an economic crisis known in Cuba as the “special period in time of peace” that arguably still continues.
Internationally, Castro’s involvement in world affairs, especially those concerning Latin America, was a thorn in the side of US policies.
His alliance with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, which brought the USSR and US to the brink of nuclear war in 1962, was an early red flag that Castro was not about to back off when it came to confronting US imperialism.
Castro lent his support to Latin American armed groups fighting US-backed dictatorships countless times in the following decades, and in some cases supported movements taking on democratically elected governments, such as that of Romulo Betancourt in Venezuela in the 1960s.
Cuban secret agents wandered across the continent, training guerrilla commandos from Guatemala to Argentina.
One of the icons of the Cuban Revolution, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, even lost his life while trying to set up a guerrilla movement in Bolivia to topple the government of President Rene Barrientos.
Beyond the confines of Latin America, Castro’s influence grew steadily throughout the Cold War years.
In 1979, Cuba was elected to take over the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), an organisation formed in 1960 to offer a peaceful alternative to the belligerent East-West blocs that characterised the Cold War.
Castro’s presidency of the NAM came as recognition of Cuba’s role in the international arena and was widely accepted and praised by all NAM members.
However, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan only three months into Castro’s presidency of the NAM caused havoc among the member states, and in particular affected Castro’s leadership since he was forced to side with the USSR.
In doing so, he failed on two fronts. He failed to stick to the actual principle of non-alignment enshrined in the NAM name and constitution, and he did so by turning his back on one of the NAM member states while supporting a Cold War power.
Even though Castro’s stock took a massive tumble afterwards, he continued to influence international politics, and nowhere more so than in Africa.
Cuba in Africa
Castro’s (and Guevara’s) role in assisting the decolonisation process in Africa was second to none. From the early 1960s, Castro threw all his support behind the Algerian liberation struggle against France.
Cuban doctors and soldiers were some of the first to arrive in Algeria to offer a hand to the independence forces fighting to push French colonialism out of their country.
In the following years, that support increased in size and scope across the continent. Castro offered Cuban support to the liberation struggles in Mozambique, Namibia, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Guinea-Bissau, and Angola, among many others.
In some cases, this support involved military interventions that did not always go according to plan.
For example, in the mid-1970s after Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed by the Derg regime, Castro was forced to change sides – as the Soviets, East Germans, Czechs, and Americans also did – during a realignment of forces in the region provoked by ongoing disputes between Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Cuban personnel were required to abandon their former ally Mohammed Siad Barre, the Somali president, who now sided with the Americans, and take sides with their new ally Mengistu Haile Mariam.
Cuban troops fought the Somali invasion of the Ogaden alongside Ethiopian forces, and by remaining in Ethiopia gave at least tacit support to Ethiopian campaigns against Eritrean armed groups fighting for independence.
This position almost certainly became a political dilemma for Castro, who until then had always supported anti-colonial movements of liberation across the world.
While Castro’s intervention in the Horn of Africa was characterised by dubious decisions and tainted by the purges that Mengistu’s regime would eventually carry out between 1977 and 1978, his involvement in the Angolan war is the outstanding episode in his career as a champion of decolonisation.
Not only did he demonstrate to the world that Cuba was far from being a pet project of the USSR – Cuba’s support for the socialist MPLA was done without the approval of the Kremlin and almost certainly against its wishes.
It also helped raise his profile, and that of Cuba, to new levels of recognition and influence throughout the developing world.
Securing Angola’s independence
Cuban backing for the MPLA helped Angola to secure independence from Portugal in 1975, and helped repel the joint attempts of the South African apartheid government and Zaire’s Mobutu regime to occupy Angola.
Growing up in Cuba at the time, I can certainly say that I don’t recall any other Castro enterprise that united Cubans behind the regime to such an extent – except perhaps Cuba’s resistance to the 1983 US invasion of Grenada.
Contrary to what has been argued for years, Cuba’s involvement in Angola was a response to previous US and South African interventionism and to the very tangible threat of a South African invasion.
After almost two decades of struggle, when Cuba’s troops left Angola, they had secured not only the independence of the country, but had also contributed significantly to the independence of Namibia and to the fall of the apartheid regime.
Little wonder, then, that Raul Castro, in place of his brother, was one of the few world dignitaries asked to speak at Nelson Mandela’s funeral a few months ago.
Ultimately, Castro’s legacy in Africa is more of a Cuban legacy. Everywhere I have visited in Africa, from Dakar to Addis Ababa, from Niamey to Luanda, I have been welcomed with open arms and big smiles as a Cuban.
Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, in response to a New York Times question about Cuba’s role in Africa, said: “I am not sure that there is a single Cuban in the African continent who has not been invited by some members of the continent. So long as this is the case, it is not easy to condemn their presence.”
I am far from certain that history will acquit Fidel Castro. More likely history will record his journey through the past six or seven decades as a controversial one.
Almost certainly, he will continue to be an irredeemable monster to some – and a socialist superman to others.
Dr Manuel Barcia is Professor of Latin American History at the University of Leeds.
Brexit: Poll provides evidence, says Counterfire, for how right Counterfire and the Brexit Left‘s strategy is.
Kevin Ovenden – now with Counterfire – on the Actuality of the Brexit Revolution.
Writes Kevin Ovenden for Counterfire.
(Note some of the wording has been, in the interests of clarity, abbreviated)
- Just 22 percent of people are in favour of ignoring the referendum outcome or holding a second one and blocking the Brexit process.
- Brexit is the top issue both for those who voted Leave and for Remain.
- While there is clearly an urgent need to develop campaigning and struggles against the government on a range of issues (the health service and housing stand out, alongside racism and xenophobia), strategically and politically for the left and labour movement the question of Brexit cannot be evaded. NOTE: Ovenden sees no link between these issues and the Brexit he backs.
- support for carrying through the referendum result is overwhelming.
- That is terrain upon which the labour movement can provide a credible and radical alternative to the Tory Brexit.
- When people are asked to choose between reducing immigration or doing what is best for the British economy (with the two counterposed) – 65 percent choose what’s best for the economy and 35 percent to reduce immigration. Among Leave voters, the figures are 44 percent and 56 percent.
That shows the greater salience of the anti-immigration argument among Leave voters. But still 44 percent of them would choose to prioritise the economy over reducing immigration.
So people prefer the economy, and will let immigration remain in second place.
They are merely second preference racists.
Ovenden dialectically deduces from these figures the following (and I have omitted no intermediate stage).
In a choice between Britain controlling its own laws and British companies having access to other markets, the figures are 62 percent for controlling laws and 38 percent prioritising companies’ market access.
Taken together these support a strategy for the left on these questions which is 1) for an economy which is geared to people, not to companies, 2) on that basis (as well as others) challenging the anti-immigration arguments, and 3) firmly rooted in an expanded notion of popular democracy.
I will, ignore the idea of an “economy geared to people”, since in the realm of cliches and meaningless assertions this has few rivals.
Instead we might ask: what exactly that expanded notion of “popular democracy” (no doubt opposed to unpopular demcoracy) is, we leave it to theorists to discover.
People believe there should be Brexit. They think it is the democratic thing to do. They have no confidence in the government’s handling of it. They are uncertain about the outcomes or what it should look like. When forced to choose, they will put economic well-being above anti-immigration propaganda and some notion of democracy and self-rule above the global fortunes of British companies.
Again ‘economic well-being’ is no doubt counterposed to economic ill-being.
As for the “democratic thing to do” and “self-rule”, does this mean, a decision-fired parliament, greater assertiveness fnational sovereignty, backing a populist party to carry out their wishes? Or – simply urging the Tories to get on with it.
He seems to think, nevertheless, that because many people want Brexit, that the Tories are finding it hard to get through the legislative process – he does not even bother mentioning negotiations with the European Union – they will turn to something different, something that the left might favour, an “expanded notion of popular democracy”.
Expanded into what?
New forms of law-making, Web democracy, consensus decision-making, voting by hand-signals, demonstrations, occupations, or perhaps…. soviets…..
Ovenden fails to elaborate.
On this he is sure.
In that context, there are good grounds for the left counterposing our Brexit to the Tories’.
Next stop… the People’s Brexit writes Lindsey German.
Speaking in North Carolina, Republican candidate Mr Trump – who called himself ‘Mr Brexit’ during the campaign – promised that today was ‘gonna be Brexit plus, plus, plus’. reports the Daily Mail.
The view of this Blog is that Trump is a disgusting pile of cack.
Beyond this we have not commented on his Presidential Bid.
But in evoking Brexit he has strayed into our Manor.
We wonder what those who relished Brexit, such as Susan Watkins, Editor of New Left Review, who said, “Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed”, Tariq Ali, who was “Pleased’ Brexit Has Given EU “Big Kick’ up ‘Backside‘”, those who believed it was a sign of the actuality of the revolution (Counterfire), a time to mobilise for a “People’s Brexit” (People’s Assembly), or a working-class ‘revolt’ against ‘elites’ (SWP and Socialist Party) think of Trump’s claims.
Actually we don’t give a toss.
For us the Republican Candidate is the Brexit Carnival of Reaction incarnate.
Tendance Coatesy will not go into details about the problems about his contender.
For the moment we sincerely wish Hillary Clinton success – come what may.
Tariq Ali meanwhile has other ideas, ” Tariq Ali: Is Trump Any Worse Than Clinton? I’d Vote For Jill Stein.
If Ali’s stentorian voice is not enough to convince people that Hillary is the only option we would wish for, Galloway broadcast this yesterday:
Slavoj Žižek: Trump Presidency could result in a “big awakening” and begin “new political processes.”
Slovenian Hipster Hegelian, Marxist Medialogue and Lacanian Lad Likes Trump.
In 1990, the well-known Slovenian sociologist, philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek was the Liberal Democracy of Slovinia candidate for the Presidency of Slovenia (an auxiliary body of the President of the Republic, abolished in 1992). The party is a member of the LIberal International and Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe Party.
Slavoj Žižek is in the Presidential news again, this time it’s the US race.
He has courted predictable outrage with remarks appearing (‘dialectically’) to favour Trump.
Earlier this year the Slovenian Hipster Hegelian, Marxist Medialogue and Lacanian Lad, was in trouble for calling for the ““militarisation” of European responses to the refugee crisis in Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours (2016) This, it should always be recalled was in the context of this ‘contradiction’, “my greatest problem with all this humanitarianism is that people are not aware of what is really happening in Europe – the massive anti-immigrant populist movement.”The following particularly aroused controversy.
The Slovenian savant considered that there is a need to
Formulate a minimum set of rules that are obligatory for everyone, without feat that will appear ‘Eurocentric’ religious freedoms, the protection of individual freedom against group pressure, rights of woman, and so on; and second, within these limits, unconditionally insist on the tolerance of different ways of life.
Such should be a “positive emancipatory leitkultur..”
Many might consider that those who attacked Žižek as a ‘racist’ were themselves trying to impose their own “leitkultur” which involves accepting absolute “difference” and a right to impose reactionary mores inside “their” community.
To make himself clear Žižek went on to say,
With regard to the refugees, our proper aim should be to try and reconstruct global society on such a basis that desperate refugees will no longer be forced to wander around. Utopian as it may appear, this large-scale solution is the only realist one, and the display of altruistic virtues ultimately prevents the carrying out of this aim. The more we treat refugees as objects of humanitarian help, and allow the situation which compelled them to leave their countries to prevail, the more they come to Europe, until tensions reach boiling point, not only in the refugees’ countries of origin but here as well. So, confronted with this double blackmail, we are back at the great Leninist question: what is to be done?
One would have to be soothsayer to imagine the details of what world order the author has in mind here – but the intentions are surely good…..
But let that pass.
As often is the case with Žižek, people pick and choose what they want to hear.
I like this (though it’s old hat chez Coatesy),
…yet another Leftist taboo that needs to be abandoned is that of prohibiting any critique of Islam as a case of ‘Islamophobia’. This taboo is a true mirror-image of the anti-immigrant populist demonisation of Islam, so we should get rid of the pathological fear of many Western liberal Leftists that they might be guilty of Islamophobia.
Yet, I didn’t like this, on Donald Trump,
“Read Trump closely – it is difficult to do, I know – and if you extract his total racist and sexist stupidities, you will see that here and there, where he makes a complete proposal, they’re usually not so bad,” “He said he will not totally dismantle universal healthcare, raise the minimum wage, and so on.”
“Trump is a paradox: he is really a centrist liberal, and maybe even in his economic policies closer to the Democrats, and he desperately tries to mask this. So the function of all of these dirty jokes and stupidities is to cover up that he is really a pretty ordinary, centrist politician.”
Less noticed is that at the conclusion of Against the Double Blackmail Žižek called for a kind of left-wing leap in the dark, an act of profound ontological will, against the course of history.
As he put it, in strangulated sub-Walter Benjamin sentences,
In contrast to classical Marxism, in which ‘history is on our side’ (the proletariat fulfills a predestined task of universal emancipation), in today’s constellation, the big Other is against us; left to itself, the inner thrust of our historical development leads to catastrophe. To apocalypse. Here, the only thing that can prevent catastrophe is pure voluntarism, i.e. our free decision to act against historical necessity.
The latest Žižek news is now of just such a jump into catastrophe…..
The ‘alt-right’ site Breitbart reports,
Slovenian-born philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek said a Hillary Clinton presidency is a greater danger to the nation than a President Donald Trump.
Žižek explained that while he is “horrified” by Trump, he believes a Trump presidency could result in a “big awakening” that could set into motion the formation of “new political processes.”
By contrast, Žižek said he sees Clinton as “the true danger”–pointing specifically to her insincerity, her ties to the Wall Street banks, and her dedication to the “absolute inertia” of our established political system.
Zižek explained that Trump has been able to “disturb” the entrenched political system and argued that a Trump win could set into motion “new political processes”:
“In every society, there is a whole network of unwritten rules, how politics works, and how you build consensus. And Trump disturbed this. If Trump wins, both major parties–Republicans and Democrats–would have to return to basics, rethink themselves, and maybe some things can happen there. … It will be a kind of big awakening. New political processes will be set in motion, will be triggered.”
Žižek, who has been described as “the Elvis of cultural theory,” rejected the narrative that a Trump presidency would introduce fascism in America. “Look, America is still not a dictatorial state. He will not introduce fascism,” Žižek said.
While the rockstar Lacanian Marxist professor, who has been described as a “leftist rabble-rouser,” said he was concerned by Trump’s pledge to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, Žižek explained that, in his view, the threat of a conservative court pales in comparison to the danger posed by a Hillary Clinton presidency:
“Listen, Trump has openly said … he will nominate right-wingers [to the Supreme Court], so there are dangers [to a Trump presidency]. I’m just afraid that Hillary stands for this absolute inertia, the most dangerous one, because she’s a cold warrior, and so on, connected with banks pretending to be socially progressive.”
How far should we take any of this seriously?
In Slavoj Žižek: A Radical Critique we noted (Weekly Worker No 855 Thursday March 03 2011)
Will Žižek go further in this mystical, millennialist direction? Critics have accused him of randomly lumping together ideas, of repetition, of contradiction and of opaque thoughts. It would be better to say that his ideas are often hidden behind great verbal radicalism and convoluted digressions, as shown by his current religious themes. Very few people who take the time to decipher his writings will find substantial tools to use for mundane politics. The pictures of class divisions (included/excluded), immaterial production (exploitation reduced to rent), privatisation of the ‘commons’, and the dictatorship of the proletariat – not to mention the residue of Badiou’s timeless metaphysics – are, we have argued, botched. Nobody is going to storm heaven – or the state – with copies of these writings in their haversack.
Nobody with this rag-bag of ideas is going to begin the revival of mass emancipatory politics. It is even less likely that Trump, if he is elected (which we sincerely hope not) will lead to a “new political processes.” of benefit to any form of left.
We suspect this has the ring of truth about it,
The last time we checked in on collection of bodily fluids Slavoj Zizek, he was saying on-brand things about the election. Specifically, he had a “provocative thesis” that Trump was a liberal centrist. (In a Trump-ian twist, Zizek also described Trump in a way that is loosely descriptive of himself—as “personally disgusting, bad racist jokes, vulgarities, and so on.”) With five days to go until the election, Zizek is back and he’s trying on a new stained black t-shirt—the stained black t-shirt of punditry.
No sleepless nights worrying about the future of Žižek, though a few at the possibility that Trump might win.
See also: From Farce to Tragedy: Žižek Endorses Trump. Ian Steinman.
Farage Celebrates ‘Blow’ to Neoliberalism, Capitalism and Political Elite.
Socialists should seek to direct the rebellion of 23 June further in a positive direction and squash any reactionary elements. Those on the left who see only a further spiral downwards are turning their back on an opportunity to connect with and broaden working class revolt.
Says Charlie Kimber of the Socialist Workers Party and Editor of Socialist Worker. (Why did Britain vote Leave? International Socialism October)
I shall not bother with the ‘learned’ examination of statistics Nor with vapid claims that a small fraction of the European left backed Brexit (strangely Kimber does not mention the ultra-nationalist ‘Trotskyists’ of the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID), with whom the British ‘Lexit’ campaign formed close ties during the campaign see here). Nor with the rhetoric about a revolt against the ‘elites’.
Instead let’s go to the core of the Kimber ‘argument’: the revolutionary prospects a Leave vote has created.
That is the idea that this was a “working class revolt” that needs to be ‘broadened’.
The reasons for that rebellion are contradictory, and the fallout from the vote is uncertain. But that does not change the essential character of what has taken place. We should welcome this development. Liberals fear turmoil, revolutionaries should not. We are not going to get to the British revolution without some complicated and many-sided developments that require the left to grasp the moment—and if they don’t then the right can grab that feeling of anger instead. The year of the referendum also saw meetings in many places to remember 100 years since the Easter Rising in Dublin. Many in the audience would have nodded sagely at Lenin’s understanding of what happened..,
It would be interesting to learn more about how the British Revolution is helped by the victory of Farage and the hard-right Tories. The right has already “grabbed” this moment.
Is Kimber suggesting that this ‘anger’ is something you can go about snaffling for your side if you’re cunning enough?
In the meantime….
Of course the Leave vote was not the Easter Rising. But Lenin’s method is important.
Indeed, the Referendum has so many points in common with the Easter Rising that Marxists will have spotted them immediately.
Apart from welcoming chaos the SWP declares,
The Socialist Workers Party called for a Leave vote. We did so for three main reasons. Firstly, the EU is an openly pro-capitalist institution… Secondly, the EU, through its Fortress Europe structures, acts to repel migrants and refugees from outside Europe…… Thirdly, the EU is part of the imperialist world order that, along with NATO, delivers important support for the United States and provides reliable partners in its murderous actions. That is why since the late 1940s the US has promoted European integration to secure a stable junior partner for managing global capitalism.
So the SWP voted to leave capitalism by supporting capitalist plans to quit the EU, to back further restrictions on freedom of movement to get rid of racism, and to undermine and get rid of the imperialist world order. No doubt as soon as possible.
The SWP believes the Leave vote will benefit the working class across the world and the struggle against racism. It is a further blow to the coercive neoliberal power of the EU and its racist laws. The dismantling of the pro-capitalist EU must begin with revolts at a national level.
The SWP “believes” that the Leave vote helped the working class across the world, and anti-racism, on the same secure basis that they believe that Lenin would have “nodded sagely” at their ‘line’.
As for the “blow” to EU neoliberalism – that’s a lot of huff and puff.
Kimber instructs us, “However we voted on 23 June, we have to unite against racism, austerity, the Tories and the anti-Corbyn Labour MPs. “
That is, to unite with those who backed the “rebellion”, ” backed up by a wider programme raising issues that can engage with workers angry at the political elite and austerity.”
Interesting ‘Marxist’ concept that, the “political elite”. (1)
“We must be participants in the outcomes, and that means intervention, innovative thinking, and organising. After the Leave vote the battle is on. Socialists should gladly embrace and shape it.”
After the Referendum the leader of the Fire Brigades Union Matt Wrack said,
The Brexit vote was a defeat for the working class in Britain as well as internationally. It was a defeat for internationalism and collectivism. Brexit was a victory for populist demagogy, xenophobes and racists. Brexit has already had detrimental economic effects and worse is likely to come.
Brexit has resulted in a more right-wing government. It means an already difficult period ahead will be even harder for the trade union movement and the working-class communities we represent.
The Tendance says: we will not unite with those who actively encouraged the defeat of the working class, internationalism and collectivism.
Whatever Lenin said about the Easter Rising.
(1) This is the SWP trying to get on down with Podemos and attempting to find a way to say, La Casta.
Syrian solidarity activists should therefore go and make the case in defense of the original uprising against the Syrian regime and Russia at, for example, forums put on by the U.S. Peace Council, which is currently touring apologists for Assad. We can organize debates about Syria and Palestine at political conferences, and challenge the views put forward by Blumenthal and Khalek in left publications and websites.
This attitude of fighting to win the debate is important. We have to win the left to a genuine anti-imperialism that opposes not just the U.S. empire, but its rivals (and sometime collaborators) as well. As revolutionary socialist Eamonn McCann put it so well in a speech in the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland, we must protest American imperialism’s crimes in Iraq, Yemen and beyond, while also challenging Russian imperialism in Syria.
Finally, and most importantly, we must stand in solidarity with genuine liberation struggles from below, regardless of which imperial camp they are challenging. Our slogan is neither Washington, nor Moscow, nor Beijing, nor Damascus, nor Tehran, nor Riyadh, but self-determination for oppressed nations and international socialism.
From Socialist Worker.
No, not the UK Socialist Worker of the SWP, but the US Socialist Worker of the International Socialist Organization.
This is only one contribution to a very serious debate taking place on the entire US Left about these issues.
One could begin with one important and latest contribution: The numbers game in East Aleppo by Louis Proyect.
In the UK Socialist Resistance have published this: Syria – calling for an end to intervention is not nearly enough
The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty republishes this: What’s wrong with “Stop the War”?