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Galloway Questions BBC ‘Zinoviev Letter’ Programme: ‘Trump: The Kremlin Candidate?”

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Galloway with Photos of Close Friends.

Standing up for Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump is a  hard task these days.

But – hold the Front Page! –  without fear or favour George Galloway has leapt to their defence.

 

As his employer Russia Today notes.

The credibility of a BBC documentary about US President-elect Donald Trump called ‘Trump: The Kremlin Candidate?’ has been questioned by ex-MP George Galloway.

The former Labour and Respect politician likened the broadcast, and the whole furore over Russia’s alleged influence on the US election and Trump, to an “Austin Powers film.

Speaking to RT, Galloway also questioned why the BBC would commission such a prominent show when there was no concrete evidence to back up any of the assertions.

The Panorama documentary was broadcast on Monday and saw journalist John Sweeney travel to Russia, Ukraine, and the US to investigate whether Moscow’s cyber-warriors influenced the US election and whether it’s true the Federal Security Service (Russian FSB) is blackmailing Trump with compromising material.

The latter claim comes from a much-hyped dossier compiled by ex-MI6 spy Christopher Steele.

In the broadcast, Sweeney also speculates that the only thing worse than Trump getting along well with Putin is if they don’t.

As Shakespeare once put it, it was ‘much ado about nothing.’ The thesis of the problem was that it is really dangerous if Trump and Putin get along well and it’s really dangerous if they fall out,” Galloway said.

It shows just how surreal this whole affair has become. Not so much a James Bond film as an Austin Powers film. Frankly, much of the ruling elite in the US and in Britain, across the road from me, across the river, at MI6, they really are making themselves look ridiculous.

In this search for truth Galloway has also taken to re-tweeting  Jan 14

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 18, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Protests for Aleppo in Britain.

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 Protesters march through London’s busiest high street demanding aid drops, ceasefire in east Aleppo.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of London on Saturday to voice their anger at the ‘inaction’ of the international community after reports of the humanitarian situation worsening in eastern Aleppo.

Activists from the Syria Solidarity Campaign and various other groups carried Syrian flags and banners that read “save Aleppo”, “Hand in hand with Aleppo” and “Enough with Assad” as a means of prompting international action for the people currently stranded inside the city.

More than two dozen police accompanied the rally as protesters marched through London’s Oxford street while thousands of shoppers were visiting the busy high street a week before the Christmas holidays, chanting “You are shopping, bombs are dropping”.

“The inaction and utter failure of the international community has been demonstrated by the massacres that have unfolded in east Aleppo,” said protester Zaki al-Kaf.

Al-Kaf spoke at the demonstration and told Middle East Eye that MPs had failed to fill the vacuum left by the late Jo Cox, who had campaigned tirelessly for the Syrian cause.

“Many MPs like Alison Mcgovern, who is now the chair of the parliamentary group on Syria, have done fantastic work but more needs to be done” said Zaki.

Evets took place across the country.

Huffington Post:

March For Aleppo: Thousands Join London Rally To ‘Save Aleppo’.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of London on Saturday to share their “extreme rage about the complete inaction of the international community” in face of the bloodshed taking place in Aleppo.

Activists carried Syrian flags and banners which read “save Aleppo”, “hand in hand with Aleppo” and “enough with Assad” as a means of prompting international action for the people currently stranded in the Syrian city.

The march was organised by the Syria Solidarity Campaign.

The event’s Facebook page reads: “Besieged Eastern #Aleppo is on the verge of falling to the Assad regime.

“Reports estimate about 98% of Eastern Aleppo is now under the control of the Assad regime and its allies.”

The event’s Facebook page urged supporters: “Join us to protest against the large-scale bombardments and targeting of civilians in Aleppo.

“There is a Holocaust ongoing and we urgently need the international community to take action to save lives.”

As the march headed through Picadilly Circus, demonstrators could be heard chanting “drop aid not bombs”.

Other signs along the march read “protect civilians” and “Aleppo’s the new Holocaust”.

 Rolling road blocks were in place across the capital to accommodate the protest.
The Aleppo evacuation was suspended on Friday after a report of shooting at a crossing point into the enclave by both sides of the conflict. Thousands were evacuated before the process was suspended.

An agreement was reached on Saturday to allow “humanitarian cases” to leave two besieged government-held Shiite villages in northwestern Syria, a step that would allow the resumption of civilian and rebel evacuations from eastern Aleppo which were suspended a day earlier, the Associated Press reports.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the evacuation of some 4,000 people, including wounded, from the villages of Foua and Kfarya was expected to start Saturday.

It later reported that 29 buses were heading toward the two villages to start the evacuation process, adding that insurgents in the area rejected allowing 4,000 people to leave and saying they will only allow 400 people to be evacuated.

Exeter (HC)

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Nottingham (PR)

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In France, this image of Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim in the ruins of Aleppo, with a Je Suis Charlie placard, the Syrian rebels’ flag in the corner, has had, since it was distributed in the middle of the month, a big impact:

Written by Andrew Coates

December 19, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Left Solidarity with the Syrian People.

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Father Christmas, when you visit from the heavens, with your millions of toys, don’t forget my little stockings, filled with blood. (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste)

Not everybody follows the Morning Star:

Solidarité avec la lutte du peuple syrien.

Face à la guerre sans fin du régime Assad et de ses alliés contre le peuple syrien, face à la volonté croissante des puissants de liquider les aspirations démocratiques de la révolution syrienne, il faut réaffirmer notre soutien à la lutte du peuple syrien pour la démocratie, la justice sociale et l’égalité, contre toutes les formes de confessionnalisme et de racisme. Pour cela, il faut en premier lieu arrêter la guerre, qui ne cesse de créer des souffrances terribles, empêche le retour des réfugiéEs et déplacéEs internes, et ne profite qu’aux forces contre-­révolutionnaires issues des deux bords.

Facing the endless war of the Assad regime and its allies against the Syrian people, faced with the growing will of the world’s powers to liquidate the democratic impulses of the Syrian Revolution, we have to reaffirm our support for the Syrian people for democracy, social justice and equality, against all forms of confessionalism and racism. For that to be achieved a first step is ending the war, to bring to a halt the terrible suffering, the barrier to the return of refugees and those internally displaced, and which only fuels counter-revolutionary forces from both sides.

Socialist Worker (USA)

The counterrevolution crushes Aleppo

The Syrian regime and its Russian ally are in the last barbaric stages of an onslaught against Aleppo. Ashley Smith analyzes the consequences of the rebel stronghold’s fall.

Internationally, the left must reckon with its failure to unanimously support the Syrian Revolution, and it needs to re-learn how to combine opposition to all forms of imperialism with solidarity with revolution from below.

 The Stop the War Coalition has declined to follow calls for solidarity with the Syrian Revolution, or, express specific opposition to the taking of Aleppo.

This is their response:

Aleppo Debate: MPs In Denial Once Again  WRITTEN BY LINDSEY GERMAN ON 14 DECEMBER 2016.

“Lindsey German: ‘Every time they get the chance, MPs rush to promote further intervention and to justify past ones'”

We were right to oppose intervention then, and we are now. The people of Aleppo are suffering from a war which can have no winners. It has destroyed much of the country.

We should be calling for an end to the war, with a ceasefire and attempt at a political solution, an end to all outside intervention on whatever side, and for humanitarian aid to those who need it. We should also allow Syrian refugees into Britain, something these hypocritical MPs have no intention of doing.

It hardly needs adding that German talks of a “war” without naming who is waging it in Aleppo. 

************

This is a really good round up:

LEFTIST GROUPS ON THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR.

Also see:  Why I will no longer write for the Morning Star Rabbil Sikdar.

This is the humanitarian war crime of our time, a genocide that we watched live on television Facebook for years — and we did nothing. We have witnessed ethnic cleansing, repeated breaking of ceasefires and remorseless ruthlessness towards civilian population. The Syrian resistance against a fascist dictator desperately needed solidarity from the international community, and especially the left.

Some gave it; I’ve seen some fantastic leftist activists bravely holding everyone to account; Oz Katerji, Idrees Ahmad and James Bloodworth being some of them. The late Jo Cox was a strong supporter of the inspirational White Helmets.

But how did the Morning Star respond? They called the near fall of Aleppo a ‘liberation’. What was genocide was seen as liberation by this socialist newspaper. Rather than backing down, they doubled down instead. For the past year the Star have led a horribly pro-Assad line, painting the rebels as Jihadists, pouring suspicion over established facts regarding Assad’s war crimes. They continuously echoed propaganda emanating from Russia, unequivocally supporting the Moscow line. Even as Russia and Assad rained destruction, bombing civilians, destroying hospitals and every emergency shelter — the Star continuously chose to support them.

..

I loved writing for the Morning Star because there were some good things to it. It did give a voice to the disadvantaged and voiceless often. But not the Syrian ones. My three editors were two women and a black man, the first black sports editor in the UK and one of the main reasons I continued writing at the paper by the end (I had more or less switched to sports content). As a liberal left-wing working class British Muslim, the Star gave me a platform to describe the world as I saw it through my own eyes. To talk about the racism, inequality and other vital issues. But they have betrayed the children of Aleppo. The blood and tears of the people of Aleppo did not matter to them. I’m not going to be writing for the paper while they spout disgusting Kremlin propaganda.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 15, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Morning Star Hails Alepo ‘Liberation’.

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Galloway has added his own unique claim that ISIS was in Aleppo…..

This is  the latest, a careful and sober report of what’s happening.

Asma Ajroudi. Al Jazeera.

As the Syrian government forces, backed by allies, inch closer to a decisive victory in the ravaged rebel stronghold of east Aleppo, t he impending fall of the city to regime forces would be the biggest setback for rebels since the conflict broke out in 2011.

It could also mark the start of a wider military shift that sets the course of the war in the Syrian regime’s favour.

In less than a month, Syrian troops, with unfettered Russian air support, were able to recapture 90 percent of the eastern part of Aleppo. On Monday, the Syrian army claimed that 98 percent of east Aleppo was in the hands of regime forces.

Reports also indicate a massive exodus of people to either remaining rebel-held districts or government-controlled areas in the western part of Aleppo. The Russian Defence Ministry claimed that 13,346 civilians had left rebel-held areas in the past 24 hours, and 728 rebels laid down their arms and surrendered.

The United Nations human rights office had warned on Friday that hundreds of men have “gone missing” after crossing into regime-controlled areas of Aleppo as Russian and Syrian air strikes continue to pound the city.

The Independent reports,

UN chief warns of ‘atrocities against large number of civilians’ in Aleppo.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has raised alarm over “reports of atrocities against a large number of civilians, including women and children” in Aleppo, his spokesman said.

Syria’s army, loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, are reportedly close to capturing all of east Aleppo which has been a rebel stronghold in the country’s civil war.

Residents in the besieged areas of the city have described the situation as “doomsday”, with many unable to flee the fighting.

Le Monde carries this as its lead-story:

Syrie : l’ONU alerte sur des exécutions sommaires commises dans Alep par des forces pro-Assad

Le commissariat de l’ONU aux droits de l’homme s’appuie sur plusieurs témoignages en provenance de la partie est d’Alep, qui subit une terrible offensive depuis quatre semaines.

 

It is extremely unwise to talk of ‘liberation’ in these conditions – to say the least.

The French left group Ensemble says, Solidarité avec le peuple syrien, avec son combat pour la paix, la justice et la liberté !

  • L’arrêt immédiat de tous les bombardements et la levée des sièges des villes. ( An immediate stop to bombing, and raising the siege of cities and towns).
  • Une mobilisation internationale pour apporter une aide humanitaire massive aux populations. (World-wide efforts to bring humanitarian aid to the Syrian people).
  •  Le départ de Syrie de toutes les armées et milices étrangères.(All foreign armies and militias should leave Syria.)

Written by Andrew Coates

December 13, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Comrade Murray Leaves the Communist Party of Britain and Enters the Labour Party.

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Welcome Comrade Murray!

The chief of staff of Unite’s leader, Len McCluskey, has left the Communist party to become a Labour member.

Reports the Guardian. 

Andrew Murray, who last year said communism represented “a society worth working towards”, joined Labour’s ranks recently, a Unite spokesman said.

Murray, a former Morning Star journalist and longtime chair of Stop the War, said in a Guardian interview last year that his adherence to communism prevented him from joining Labour.

“All my children are in the Labour party,” he said. “One has been in the Labour party a long time; the other three are all there as a result of Jeremy’s surge. But no, I’m a member of the Communist party. That’s where I am. Communism still represents, in my view, a society worth working towards – albeit not by the methods of the 20th century, which failed.”

Last week Murray’s daughter, Laura, claimed that members of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and other Troyskyist groups were seeking to take control of Momentum, the grassroots organisation that supports the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, from its founder, Jon Lansman.

“Jeremy Corbyn will inevitably make one compromise or concession that isn’t ideologically pure enough for them, and they will abandon him and Labour altogether to turn Momentum into a rival leftwing party,” she wrote.

In her blog she further claimed that a row over the form of an internal voting structure at a meeting of Momentum’s national committee had ended in bullying and intimidation. She accused AWL members of bullying those whom they suspected of being “rightwing” or “alt-Stalinist” members.

Richard Angell, director of Progress, the centre-left pressure group, said that with or without the AWL, Momentum – due to its intention to move Labour from the mainstream and deselect current MPs – remained a threat to Labour’s election hopes.

“The argument that is being propagated by Lansman – and his media supporters Owen Jones and Paul Mason – is that Momentum minus the AWL would be totally fine. This is not true,” he wrote on his blog.

Angell added of Murray Sr’s conversion: “It’s more than regretful that Labour’s ability to attract previously staunch communists has not been able to counterbalance the loss of support in Sleaford, Richmond and national opinion polls.”

This is one of comrade Murray’s recent contribution to left debate.

Stalinism and Trotskyism appear to be back in vogue. Their shrouds are being waved — entryism here, a purge there — to terrify bystanders to the struggle over the future of the Labour Party, writes Andrew Murray.

“This illustrates the extent to which “dead Russians,” using the term slightly loosely, still hold the imagery and lexicon of the international left in thrall nearly a century after the October revolution.”

He continues on this site.

Far be it for me to suggest that Cde Murray has joined Labour to engage in the fray against the ‘Trotskyists’…..

Written by Andrew Coates

December 11, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Lansman to Stay and Fight in Momentum.

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Socialist Fight

Landsman Acts, but what is the Line of the LCFI? 

Jon Lansman vows stay in Momentum

Jeremy Corbyn ally’s move follows claims that grassroots group has been taken over by Trotskyists and could split. Guardian.

His first comments on the group’s internal crisis come as the activist accused of leading an alleged Trotskyist takeover said Lansman himself had first raised the prospect of a split last month.

Jill Mountford, who is on the organisation’s steering committee, said that far from being pushed out, Lansman appeared to be reacting to changes to the democratic structures which meant that he could no longer control it.

Lansman in turn indicated that he had not yet given up on the organisation he set up and whose database he controls. “Of course I’m not walking away from Momentum, but I do take the disenfranchisement of most of our 21,000 members very seriously,” he said.

“I don’t want to control Momentum. I want a pluralist organisation that supports Jeremy Corbyn, democratises the Labour party and helps us win the next general election.”

Tensions over control of the organisation emerged on Monday when Momentum’s women’s officer, Laura Murray, wrote a blog claiming that members of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and others were seeking to wrest control from its founder.

Murray claimed that Mountford had been at the forefront of a takeover, had bullied younger members, reducing one to tears, and ultimately wanted to form a new political party with the organisation.

Mountford, who has been a member of the AWL for 33 years, denies bullying, taking over the organisation or wanting to form a new party.

She claims to have been shocked when Lansman raised the prospect of a split in the organisation at a meeting on 27 November. He did so after it became apparent that he may not get his way over the organisation’s structures, she said.

“The only person who has said there is going to be a split was Jon Lansman. He said: ‘Well I warn you now. If this goes through there will be a split in Momentum.’ That was news to all of us. I have time and respect for Jon but he has not behaved well. I think he has been trying to carve Momentum up so he can control it,” she said.

AWL Statement: Momentum: for unity! Simon Nelson.

After the Momentum national committee on Saturday 3 December voted that Momentum should have a decision-making delegate conference – just that was the big controversial decision! – figures on the fringes of Momentum, and some within it, have launched a social-media and mass-media outcry against Workers’ Liberty and Solidarity.

This outcry should be resisted with an insistence on unity, a focus on positive campaigning, and a refusal to let the mass media or the Labour machine’s notorious Compliance Unit split us.

Although we were only a small part of the 3 December meeting, the whole majority is being denounced as manipulated, controlled, or even bullied by the few Workers’ Liberty people, and the decision to have a democratic conference as a “Trotskyist takeover”.

Some people are signalling that they want to split Momentum on this issue. Our reply is clear:
The majority is much broader than us. It is not controlled by us.

We, and as far as we know all the majority, are totally for unity and against a split. Momentum should unite to fight the Tories and the Labour right wing.

We are not even “hard-liners” on the organisational issues. We, and the majority, do want democracy in Momentum: we believe democracy is necessary for stable unity. But we always have been, and are, open to dialogue and compromise about modalities, details, forms.

We have kept our tone comradely. We have repeatedly sought off-the-record discussions with those who led the minority on 3 December to explore adjustments, common ground, maximisation of consensus.

The ones who are reluctant to compromise, and who run their debates in tones of violent denunciation of those disagree with them, are elements in the minority, and, even more, their media outriders, who are not even active in Momentum.

The writer Paul Mason told the BBC Daily Politics on 8 December that, although he had “never been to a Momentum meeting”, he demanded a purge. “If Jill Mountford [a National Committee member of Momentum]… remains basically an expelled member of the Party and remains in Momentum, I will not remain in Momentum”.

Labour “auto-excluded” 618 members during the Labour leadership contest this summer, and 1038 members are still suspended, according to figures at the last Labour NEC. Thousands more left-wingers (no-one knows exactly) were expelled or suspended during the 2015 leadership contest. Many of those expelled are long-standing Labour Party members, whom no-one talked of expelling during the Blair, Brown, or Miliband years.

Until now the left has agreed that we do not trust the Compliance Unit’s decisions on who should or shouldn’t be allowed in the Labour Party. Momentum has voted to oppose the purge. Other left groups like the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy have a long-standing policy of including unjustly expelled left-wingers.

The Compliance Unit wants to split the left. We should not allow them to do that.

Remember: the Compliance Unit could well expel Paul Mason – he is an ex-member of a Trotskyist group, and surely has said unkind things about Labour right-wingers on social media.

Owen Jones, another figure on the fringe of Momentum, another one who could well be expelled by the Compliance Unit if they choose, has used the Guardian to claim that the issue in Momentum is “a takeover bid by Trotskyist sectarians”.

Mason, Jones, and others should put aside their megaphones. They should come and discuss the best way to build unity and effective campaigning for Momentum.

Voting was quite closely divided on 3 December, but delegates agreed on a decision-making national conference, to be on 18 February, 25 February, or 4 March. Both local groups and individuals (via the online platform MxV) will be able to submit motions to the conference. The existing Steering Committee will remain in place until after the conference. The 3 December meeting elected a conference arrangements committee.

We were not in the majority on everything, but we are confident that the 3 December decisions will command a broad consensus in most of Momentum’s local groups.

As Michael Chessum, a Momentum Steering Committee member (and not one of us), has said: “[if the meeting was polarised] The Steering Committee has to accept the lion’s share of the responsibility …. By bypassing and undermining the national committee – a body to which it was technically subordinate – the Steering Committee substantially overreached its mandate and infuriated grassroots activists. As a result, attitudes hardened and the regional delegates, who make up a majority of the NC, almost all arrived mandated to vote for a purely delegate-based conference.”

More calm, more space for discussion and appreciation of the hard voluntary work of comrades in the national office and in local groups, fewer meeting-cancellations, fewer attempts to pre-empt decisions, would have helped improve the atmosphere on 3 December. Whether it would have stopped the recent Trotskyist-baiting, we don’t know.

In the media storm, our ideas on imperialism, on Israel-Palestine, on Europe have been misrepresented, and the great warehouse of Stalinist slurs against Trotskyists has been called into use.

Yes, we are Trotskyists. We say what we think, and we organise openly for our ideas. We believe Momentum is a tremendous opportunity for the left. We have played a constructive role in it since it started, in local groups, nationally, and in initiatives like Momentum NHS.

20,000 people have joined Momentum as members since it launched. There are 150 local groups.

Those groups must be allowed the means to develop a democracy – a continuously thinking, adjust, rethinking process of debate and decision-making which evolves a collective majority opinion – and that needs a conference, not just decision-making via online plebiscites run by the Momentum full-time staff.

At the 3 December meeting we supported a successful motion from Momentum Youth and Students for a campaign to make Labour stand firm on freedom of movement and to fight against the Tories’ post-Brexit plans. Momentum should be uniting to put such policies into action, not using the mass media to stir a storm against the 3 December majority.

Some in the 3 December minority oppose a decision-making conference because they think Momentum should not have policy beyond being generically left-wing and pro-Corbyn. There is a case, and we accept it, for moving quite slowly and gently on many policy issues in a new movement like Momentum. But without policies – on issues like freedom of movement, for example – Momentum cannot campaign coherently in local Labour Parties or on the streets (or, as we found this September, in the Labour Party conference).

Otherwise Momentum can only be a support organisation for the current Labour leadership, a database or phone bank for exercises like the leadership elections.

Let’s go forward to build Momentum, build the Labour Party, resist the Compliance Unit’s purges, fight the Tories, and argue for socialist policies. Those who disagree with the decisions at the National Committee should discuss within Momentum: on our side, they will find no closed doors, and a strong will for unity.

Jon Lansman has vowed to remain in a senior post at Momentum despite the series of rows over internal democracy..

More on Labour List.

And:  The nuclear option.  (Weekly Worker) While Jon Lansman considers ending it all, the left majority needs to press home its advantage, urges Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists

it is excellent that the left, pro-democratic wing of Momentum has managed to win a few votes on the NC – clearly, it is all still to play for. But, as long as comrade Lansman is in charge of the organisation, it cannot be anything more than a fan club for Jeremy Corbyn. And not a very dynamic or effective one at that.

We note that the Socialist Party (ex-Militant)  have become professional whingers about their exclusion from this tussle,

Momentum left meeting excludes socialists.

Nor does it bode well for the future of Momentum that I was excluded from this meeting for being a Socialist Party member. I am a member of Momentum and have been trying to bring people together in my area in a Momentum group, yet I was told by Nick Wrack – himself undemocratically excluded from the Labour Party – that I cannot be a member of Momentum and a member of the Socialist Party. When I argued against this I was told it would be put to a vote of the meeting. It was voted down without me even being able to put my case.

Wot the popular masses want to know about is not the whines of a sect that would love to join in a faction fight but can’t.

It’s the position of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI) and its esteemed leading cadre, Gerry Downing.

This group, Socialist Fight, is, it is said, active in Momentum.

From its branch in Brent (where is is claimed it acts as an ally of the mighty ‘Brent Soviet’), its Brazilian allies, and its affiliated section on Pluto, the LCFI is a force to be reckoned with.

Yesterday cde Downing was wibbly-wobbling in his support for the AWL.

They have only issued the briefest of statements,

…would oppose the AWL on Israel and imperialism in general but support then in the battle to democratise Momentum against Lansman. And that will win to a large degree, far more than Lansman wanted at any rate.

Meanwhile the LCFI is fully engaged in the international struggle:

Liberate Aleppo, Defeat Imperialism in Raqqa, Mosul and the Ukraine!

Quite a list!

Written by Andrew Coates

December 9, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Fidel Castro passes: his anti-colonialist legacy

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Muere Fidel Castro, el último revolucionario

Muere Fidel Castro, el último revolucionario.

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.

Fidel Castro’s anti-colonialist legacy.

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.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 26, 2016 at 12:18 pm