Occupy Cleveland protestor, October, 2011, at the Tom Johnson Free Speech Quadrant of Public Square
In a Marxist analysis, September 17, 2011 marked the beginning of what became the most revolutionary mass movement of the 21st century so far, Occupy Wall Street. For two months, out of nowhere, Occupy nonviolently seized public property from private hands in every corner of America and across the globe, then held it, until being crushed by the state, suffering at least 7,000 arrests until the clearance of Zuccotti Park in New York City on November 15, 2011. Ever since, the cultural hegemony of capital has stopped at nothing to bury, minimize, dismiss, mock, co-opt, and absorb Occupy like a cancerous threat.
Today, Occupy’s most visible remaining impact is the hegemonic change in discourse of Occupy’s two sided slogan; “the 99%” and “the 1%”. Embodying all of capital’s grotesque inequality, these ideas would have never crossed anyone’s lips absent Occupy’s nonviolent civil disobedience cementing it into humanity’s collective “common sense”, as Gramsci would call it. Here, Gramsci’s “war of position” was won, by Occupy, against capital’s cultural hegemony. Ideational ground has been forever seized by the masses so completely even capital resorts to the 99%-1% terminology to defend itself with typically cynical co-optation, like a CIA rainbow flagged recruiting video.
But the highest priority of capital against any memory of Occupy for 10 years has been the complete erasure of nonviolent civil disobedience as the core, in fact genesis, of Occupy’s power. Redefining Occupy away from this power, from the first step onto public land without a permit, has become a perpetual panicked exercise in tail chasing dog wagging nonsense, all to avoid the slightest acknowledgment of the essential cosmic power inherent to refused acquiescence. For example, substantively, very little overlaps between Occupy and the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot, but tactically, protestors’ refusal to observe any rule against their presence inside the Capitol building is the sole source of any power that moment may possess at all, including the power Jan. 6th holds over those most terrified by its rather meaningless spectacle. One only needs to see how prosecutors treated the first person sentenced for that “crime” on July 19, 2021. Paul Hodgkins had the book thrown at him, was charged with “terrorism”, forced to plead to “obstruction,” and will now spend 8 months in prison for the “crime” of spending exactly 25 minutes inside the Capitol on January 6th without permission...taking selfies.
Just as no one would care about January 6th had the protest obeyed the rules, whatever smears one hears today about Occupy (which will never end), no notice would ever have been taken of Occupy had it begun as a protest with a permit. In fact, Occupy Cleveland’s eviction arrests on October 21, 2011, one of the first coordinated attacks worldwide, occurred the very hour the two-week old encampment crossed the street from permitted space to non-permitted. Noticing this crease in nonviolent power staring them in the face, days of tense debate in Occupy Cleveland ended with the decision to step off their permitted 24 hour presence on a sidewalk, onto the grass of what was then the Tom Johnson Free Speech quadrant of Public Square, where no permit was allowed beyond curfew. Instantly, scores of police swarmed Public Square before curfew, setting up flood lights, cutting off main roads, then once curfew hit, rounded up 12 protestors merely seated in the grass who would not leave. Documenting the arrests on video, it was as if lightning had struck the moment the clock ticked down to curfew, The Dark Side, capital, summoning itself to its hind legs to roar.x
Tim Russo at Occupy Cleveland, winter, 2011, at the permitted sidewalk tent
How did Occupy win this “war of position”, despite “losing”? Wasn’t Occupy a failure? A Gramscian “war of maneuver” was launched; the nonviolent act of seizing public property against the law and holding it until crushed by the state. Occupy did not succeed in keeping the public property (a “war of position” in only the physical sense, not the Gramscian hegemonic sense). But every single arrest, crackdown, any attack on Occupy’s seizures of public property necessarily (discussed below) backfired in favor of the seizures, giving jet fuel to Occupy’s central message, growing the movement so thoroughly Occupy’s messaging is today a permanent fixture in a growing new hegemony.
Here we see the mysterious magic of nonviolence; there is no obvious connection between breaking local curfew laws and a permanent change in hegemonic discourse worldwide. How could it possibly work? It seems completely ridiculous - at least as ridiculous as making salt on a beach.
Salt marching to occupation
“It is difficult not to laugh, and we imagine that will be the mood of most thinking Indians,” wrote British empire rag The Statesman in spring, 1930 in response to Gandhi’s plan to march across India to the beach to make salt in defiance of British law against it. Leftism today, radical or otherwise, has precisely the same deeply disdainful memory, if any, of both the Salt March and Occupy. Even veterans of Occupy today knee jerk into the same jokey derision of their experience (Caleb Maupin springs to mind), bemoaning how Occupy was co-opted, what chaos it all was, whining about who rose to stardom in media and who didn’t, or who got jobs in nonprofit rackets, what a waste etc., before then parroting right wing attacks on Occupy as dirty, filthy, incompetent losers who should get a job. Capital co-opts such movements so thoroughly the movement even begins to hate themselves, on demand.
Once begun, however, the Salt March’s enormous power was immediately apparent. Nehru himself observed, "it seemed as though a spring had been suddenly released," recalling many years later, “But the real importance, to my mind, lay in the effect they had on our own people, and especially the village masses ... Non-cooperation dragged them out of the mire and gave them self-respect and self-reliance ... They acted courageously and did not submit so easily to unjust oppression; their outlook widened...” A widened outlook, which acts courageously against unjust oppression, let alone in the village masses, is precisely the threat to capital of nonviolence. Occupy opened these channels permanently, where imagination soared, spinning from the mere ignoring of local curfew laws to the creation of another world. In two months, the world was transfixed, even McDonald’s ran ads for a 99 cent burger. Only nonviolence possesses such hegemonic power.
So great was Occupy’s threat to capital it has never for a moment stopped fighting that threat, for a decade. In Cleveland, once the arrests were made on Public Square, Occupy moved back to their permitted sidewalk, determined to last the entire coming winter. Capital noticed. During that winter, as Rolling Stone documented in 2012, the FBI concocted a “bomb plot”, which the FBI paid for itself, planned itself, then pushed onto unsuspecting (some mentally ill) protestors, landing five dummies in federal prison, one of countless “sting” operations created wholly by Joe Biden America’s ever burgeoning police state for the sole purpose of propaganda to fund itself. The roundup of the “plotters” on April 30, 2012, ended what was likely the longest lasting occupation of the entire movement. But, of course, capital had only begun to bury Occupy in Cleveland.
Less than a week after rounding up Occupy Cleveland on Public Square October 21, 2011, Mayor Frank Jackson announced a total renovation and rebuilding of Public Square funded by millions of corporate and federal money. There was no clamor for it. Public Square’s layout dated to the first settlers from Connecticut who replicated the New England town square model. Welp, that’s gotta go! Rushed to completion for the Republican National Convention of 2016, Public Square today is little more than a bizarrely bleak, weirdly warped architectural blob, the perfect canvas for a corporate branding opportunity auctioned to the highest bidders from Cleveland’s oligarchy.
Snaking through Public Square like an amoeba of capital is the Key Bank Promenade, coiling around the actual spot of the Occupy Cleveland arrests that night, as if to strangle it. Donald Trump’s favorite law firm bought itself a plaque on a bench called the Jones Day Perennial Garden, ironically next to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument to Union Civil War veterans, where Occupy Cleveland was denied permission to camp from the monument’s board on October 12, 2011. Billionaire Dan Gilbert bought himself the Cleveland Cavaliers & Quicken Loans Perennial Gardens, which surround local stinking oligarch Bobby George’s restaurant, branded with fists in the air co-optation as if to sneer at your silly thoughts of revolution, calling itself “Rebol” whose goal is “upgrading humanity”.
All so very feeble. For if one person decided to sit on the AT&T garden bench and not leave after curfew, the very same legions of capital would swarm yet again, instantly. Question being, would the very same immense power of nonviolence be then unleashed in support of the person not leaving the AT&T bench after curfew? Could it? How? Can these forces be wielded on demand? To put it another way, as we Marxists like to say about our socialism, is nonviolent force somehow “scientific”?
Praxis vs. a practice
The short answer is no, the greatest nonviolent power is not predictably “scientific” in the sense Marxists like to claim Marxism is. So many factors must be present, most unpredictable, largely products of sheer chance. For example, it is entirely forgotten that Occupy emerged in the wake of the Arab Spring, drawing on the same forces afoot worldwide. Gandhi himself could not have known the Salt March would be his towering masterpiece; prior to the spring of 1930, Gandhi had been in and out of His Majesty’s prisons so often the Salt March could easily have just been another fired blank. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a student of Gandhi and the Salt March in particular, never could plan precisely the forces that reactionary injustice would wield against his nonviolent disobedience of their unjust laws, much less the forces unleashed for justice in response. Dr. King couldn’t even have known if those forces for justice would, in fact, unleash to support him. If he were alive today, seeing police murder African Americans in broad daylight on a regular basis, Dr. King would even wonder if he’d been successful at all. So then, why bother?
The closest Gandhian nonviolence comes to a “science” is in the term Gandhi himself coined for his efforts, satyagraha, a combination of the Sanskrit words for “truth” (satya) and “insistence” or “force” (agraha). Gandhi himself explained, “Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence...” Beyond the tactic of satyagraha, which summons this Force of Truth and Love, Gandhi laid out over his life a wide array of demands, rules, and principles for any satyagrahi to live by every day. To continue the Force analogy, for Gandhi, a satyagrahi must commit to a kind of “Jedi” way of living, which Gandhi called “ahimsa”. Specific to Indian culture, some of the principles for ahimsa tend to grate at the Western mind, such as chastity, spinning your own clothing, and worse for Marxists, belief in God.
The tactic itself, however, if practiced carefully, can be detached from the monk-like devotion to the culturally specific ways of ahimsa. For example, celibacy in this sense is not a magic potion for satyagrahi, it is merely the application of a discipline to a human weakness, intended to instill the same discipline against the human weaknesses of fear, anger, violence and vengeance which can defeat nonviolence when they inevitably challenge a satyagrahi in the moment of confrontation. Thus nonviolence is a practice more than a tactic, like love, and in fact is love, a daily commitment to which one must dedicate time and effort constantly, in preparation for that day when the Force of Truth and Love does unleash itself to support your fight against injustice.
Here we find echoes of Marxian “permanent revolution” in pursuit of Gramscian cultural hegemony. For Gramsci, capital enforces itself through the near unanimous consent of the masses who voluntarily acquiesce to capital’s specific value system. Thus, a hegemony to replace capital’s must also be near unanimous, or capital’s hegemony will prevail over it. With satyagraha, the only way the immense Force of Truth and Love is unleashed is if it is near unanimous, or in fact, fully unanimous, because Truth and Love are eternal, thus must eventually be unanimous. It follows that if your nonviolent refusal to acquiesce unleashes the Force of Truth and Love, in all its immense power, not only have you summoned that Force, you have necessarily built a new near unanimity of hegemony to replace capital’s. This is how the terms “99%” and “1%” have entered our discourse permanently. Capital may have crushed the movement which Forced, via Truth and Love, that change in hegemony, but the change remains.
So when’s the next Occupy?
After the Salt March, it would be another 17 years before Britain left India for good, more blood would be shed, more time in prisons for nonviolent activists, more terrible suffering to endure for a continent. Ten years after Occupy Wall Street, it seems at least another ten years of capitalist imperialism sprawls hellishly ahead of us to suck us all dry, throw us in jail if we dare disobey, beat us into acquiescence with the daily grind of atomized alienated hopelessness. What to do? Should we all go to Cleveland’s Public Square and sit on the Jones Day Bench after curfew?
The next “Occupy” is definitely coming. Capital’s hegemonic collapse has only accelerated, and if Marxism is indeed “scientific”, well, nothing is more written in stone than yet another worldwide financial calamity leaving capitalism in a steaming heap. Symptoms are everywhere, from the mere existence of a President Donald Trump, to stock market bubbles so enormous now the dot com bubble seems quaint. Censorship is now a grassroots fascist phenomenon, enforced online then outward, so thoroughly embedded in society even your cute little Aunt Petunia, just like Joe Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki, likes nothing more than to get someone (everyone!) banned from Facebook. Mini Mussolinis dressed as cat lady MSNBC wine moms join with neo-Confederate skinhead chuds who are literal Nazis to “cancel” whatever it is that curls their knickers a twitch or two. These are all symptoms of capital’s panic in the hegemonic mind. Capital is collapsing, it is entirely apparent to all, and covid-19 has only made that clearer at the sharp end of a pharma syringe on the other end of which awaits some Pete Buttigieg clone’s PowerPoint presentation to the board which has a deadline for the closing bell segment on CNBC Earnings Report.
The price of labor declines ever closer to zero, often actually zero (college sports), and the last time that happened was slavery (unpaid involuntary labor, nothing more). To get rid of slavery took a bloody yet deeply heroic Civil War led by the likes of Union Brigadier General August Willich, the greatest American Communist who ever lived. It is no coincidence here at Midwestern Marx that we very much like August Willich, not least because he tried to steal Karl Marx’s wife. I digress. But even Willich would know, the next Occupy is coming, the question is when, and how.
Occupy was a creature of its precise moment in history. It was less planned movement, more explosion of it. Therein lay Occupy’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. The next Occupy won’t be planned either. Something may be planned to spark it, like the Salt March was. Marxists in particular are susceptible to this notion that one day a palace will be stormed, a date and time will begin the revolution, a specific action. For Gramsci the palace to be stormed is the mind of the masses who enforce capital by their own acquiescence. Thus, more likely, a spark will light a flame that will engulf the world again, and it too will be given a name. It too will force hegemonic change, and it too will likely be crushed, more viciously than ever. Because hilariously, Joe Biden was instrumental in the crackdown on Occupy in 2011, under Barack Obama, whose FBI, NSA, CIA, the whole federal enchilada coordinated with, quite literally, every single police department in America, most under Democratic Party mayors, to crush a bunch of kids violating curfew. Joe Biden, Crime Bill Boomer Asshole, will be more than ready if we all sat on the Jones Day Bench tomorrow night after curfew. You can bank on that. No, unless you have a big budget for lawyers, and thousands ready to fill the jails, it is not very useful to imagine planning the next Occupy.
There are far more fruitful endeavors for a revolutionary’s time in between revolutionary moments, not just to prepare for the next big moment, but live as if it has already come. As the saying goes, be the change you wish to see. For example, even though he could not know how far his idea to make salt on a beach would go, Gandhi had an inkling. So for the Salt March, Gandhi insisted on specifically trained people from his own ashram, grizzled veterans of studying and practicing satyagraha campaigns, steeped in the principles of ahimsa, who were highly disciplined and ready for anything; to be arrested, or killed, or just merely ignored. In a Maoist sense these are “cadres”, or the “vanguard”, people so skilled and trained and gifted and brave they are capable of leading the mass line where it wants to go, because they’ve already lived it.
The key is the mass line needs to want to go there. The mass line just doesn’t know how. Through Occupy Wall Street a decade ago, we were taught once again that way forward, where the mass line was ready to go, how high are its costs, and how permanent its changes to our world can be. At Occupy general assemblies, we liked to say “another world is possible.” We weren’t ready last time. Maybe now we are. On Occupy’s tenth anniversary this September 17th, the best way to commemorate is to live in that other world yourself, preparing to bring it to others when the eternally unanimous Force of Truth and Love once more, without warning, explodes in your very hands, like a light sabre.
Tim Russo is author of Ghosts of Plum Run, an ongoing historical fiction series about the charge of the First Minnesota at Gettysburg. Tim's career as an attorney and international relations professional took him to two years living in the former soviet republics, work in Eastern Europe, the West Bank & Gaza, and with the British Labour Party. Tim has had a role in nearly every election cycle in Ohio since 1988, including Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020. Tim ran for local office in Cleveland twice, earned his 1993 JD from Case Western Reserve University, and a 2017 masters in international relations from Cleveland State University where he earned his undergraduate degree in political science in 1989. Currently interested in the intersection between Gramscian cultural hegemony and Gandhian nonviolence, Tim is a lifelong Clevelander.
Frantz Fanon walking up a ship gangway. To Fanon’s right is Rheda Malek, a journalist from the Algerian National Liberation Front newspaper El Moudjahid. .
Frantz Fanon Archives / IMEC
French colonial map of Martinique from the Covens & Mortier’s Atlas Nouveau, 1942.
Wikimedia Commons / Geographicus Rare Antique Maps
On this earth there is that which deserves life.
Frantz Fanon was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique on 25 July 1925. He died in the United States, from leukaemia, on 6 December 1961. He was thirty-six years old. At thirty-six he had been a protagonist in two wars, a political militant in the Caribbean, Europe and North Africa, a playwright, a practicing psychiatrist, the author of numerous articles in scientific journals, a teacher, a diplomat, a journalist, the editor of an anti-colonial newspaper, the author of three books, and a major Pan-Africanist and internationalist.
Like Ernesto “Che” Guevara – another revolutionary who valued the poetic and was a committed internationalist, doctor, soldier, teacher, and theorist – Fanon’s life was marked by a permanent, courageous, and militant motion into the present, and into the specificity of the situations in which he found himself.
Fanon’s thought carries, in Ato Sekyi-Otu’s memorable phrase, an ‘irrepressible … openness to the universal’. In the realm of the political, as in the poetic, the truest route into the universal has always been through an intense engagement with the particular in its concrete manifestations in space and time: this piece of land occupied in the interstices of this city, these women rebuilding in the ruins of the last attack, the plastic burning in this brazier as the night wears on, these men stepping out of the shadows with these guns.
‘Courage’, Alain Badiou writes, ‘is a local virtue. It takes up a morality of the place’. This is the terrain on which the radical thinkers who produce work that sustains a capacity for illumination and inspiration across space and time ground their intellect. It can be dangerous terrain. For the militant the price for the possibility that, in Fanon’s words written in France in 1952, ‘two or three truths may cast their eternal brilliance over the world’ may be that ‘the possibility of annihilation’ is risked.
For the radical intellectual, the confrontation with the particular may sometimes require solitary labour, as in some forms of prison writing. But the primary ground of militant reason is, in Karl Marx’s words, ‘participation in politics, and therefore real struggles’. And emancipation – communism, in Marx’s words – is ‘the real movement which abolishes the present state of things’ and not ‘an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself’.
For Marx, the world will only be shaped by the most valuable insights of philosophical striving when philosophy itself becomes worldly via participation in struggle. Cedric Robinson speaks to this imperative when he writes that, in order to ‘cement pain to purpose, experience to expectation, consciousness to collective action’, it is necessary to ensure that ‘the practice of theory is informed by struggle’.
For Fanon, the development of radical reason – which is to say emancipatory reason – certainly includes conversation with philosophy as it is defined by Paulin Hountondji: ‘not a system but a history’. But, the plane of becoming on which this work constitutes itself is, not unlike Antonio Gramsci’s philosophy of praxis, that of struggle – the struggles of the damned of the earth. Fanon is, in Gramsci’s terms, a democratic philosopher. ‘This philosopher’, Peter Thomas writes, ‘is no longer defined in terms of separation from the “life of the people”, but as an expressive element of that life which it aims to cultivate, increasing its capacity for active relations of knowledge and practice’.
Since his death in late 1961, Fanon’s thought has had an extraordinary life, reaching from the maelstrom of the Algerian revolution to the American prison, the French banlieue, the Brazilian favela, and far beyond. Sometimes expressed via a potent poeticism and always rooted in a radical humanism – an immediate, universal and militant affirmation of the equality and value of human life – his political vision is resolutely opposed to the Manichean logic of colonialism.
Manichaeism is a central concept in Fanon’s thought. The term comes to us from a religion founded by Mani, known by his followers as the ‘Apostle of Light’, in Babylonia in the third century. Mani wove a set of diverse religions into a single new faith that proposed an absolute dualism between good and evil represented, in symbolic terms, by light and dark. Brought into contemporary discourse as metaphor, Manichaeism speaks to an absolute split between all things light and good (and true, beautiful, clean, healthy, prosperous, etc.) and all things dark and evil (and false, ugly, dirty, diseased, impoverished etc.). It is an inherently paranoid orientation to the world.
Fanon’s thought is marked by an axiomatic commitment to an immediate and radical egalitarianism – including the recognition of a universal capacity for reason. It is shaped, in its deep structure, by a profoundly dialectical sense of the capacity for the human to be in motion. His thought, taken as a whole, did not waver from what Aimé Césaire, the extraordinary surrealist poet, described as the obligation ‘to see clearly, to think clearly — that is, dangerously’.
Liberation must, Fanon insists, restore ‘dignity to all citizens, fill their minds and feast their eyes with human things and create a prospect that is human because conscious and sovereign persons dwell therein’. For Fanon, the restoration of dignity is not a matter of return. The journey towards what, in the last year of his life, in a letter written to the Iranian intellectual Ali Shariati, he called ‘that destination where humanity lives well’ is undertaken via a constant process of becoming and enlargement of the sphere of democratic reason. As Lewis Gordon notes, for Fanon, legitimacy is not a matter of offering proof of racial or cultural authenticity; rather, it emerges ‘from active engagement in struggles for social transformation and building institutions and ideas that nourish and liberate the formerly colonized’.
For the university-trained intellectual, Fanon poses a simple demand, but one that retains its radical charge almost sixty years later: to move beyond the ontological and spatial ordering of oppression and commit to a form of insurgent and democratic praxis in which ‘a mutual current of enlightenment and enrichment’ is developed between protagonists from different social locations.
Frantz Fanon at a press conference of writers in Tunis, 1959.
Frantz Fanon Archives / IMEC
Fanon’s last book, Les Damnés de la Terre, arrived in the world shortly after he left it. In 1963 it was mistranslated into English as The Wretched of the Earth. Some scholars prefer to refer to it as The Damned of the Earth, which is a better translation. From the outset, Jean-Paul Sartre, a committed anti-colonial intellectual, set many readers off course with an introduction that – although sympathetic – misinterpreted Fanon as a Manichean thinker. In 1970 Hannah Arendt, a thinker who acquired significant standing in the North American academy and beyond despite taking consistently anti-black positions, compounded the problem with an influential misreading that reduced Fanon’s complex thought to his support for armed struggle against colonialism.
However, there is a set of intellectuals who have read Fanon as a sophisticated thinker rather than a racial archetype. Paulo Freire was one of the first major intellectuals to understand Fanon’s theory of praxis. In 1968, Freire was finishing the manuscript of his second book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, in Santiago while living in exile from the military dictatorship in Brazil. In an interview in California in 1987, he recalled: ‘A young man who was in Santiago on a political task gave me the book The Wretched of the Earth. I was writing Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and the book was almost finished when I read Fanon. I had to rewrite the book’.
After reading Fanon, Freire developed a radical humanism committed to the immediate recognition of the full and equal personhood of the oppressed as a pre-condition for emancipatory action. Like Fanon, his form of praxis is predicated on an ethic of mutuality between the authorised intellectual and people who have not had access to much formal education.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed was published later that year and, in 1972, it was taken up by the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) which had been formed by Steve Biko, Barney Pityana, Rubin Phillip, and others, in 1968. Beginning in Durban, Freirean ideas became central to a form of radically democratic action that aimed to work towards critical consciousness as a shared project, rather than to announce new versions of what Marx had called ‘dogmatic abstraction’ to the people.
In the late 1970s, and through the 1980s, Freirean ideas about praxis – shaped to a significant extent by Fanon, and in many cases read together with Fanon – were central to the political work undertaken in workplace and community struggles across South Africa. Freire’s theory of praxis enabled the emergence of some of the most impressive and powerful social forces on the planet at the time, in which ordinary people became central protagonists in struggle, and in the making of meaning, counter-power, and history from below.
In terms of reading Fanon as a theorist of praxis, the quick but extraordinary and enduring response to the 1992 Los Angeles riots by Sylvia Wynter was exemplary. In her explicitly Fanonian conclusion to No Humans Involved: A Letter to My Colleagues, she reached beyond Los Angeles and towards ‘the throwaway lives . . . of the vast majority of peoples who inhabit the “favela/shanty town” of the globe and their jobless archipelagos’. Wynter argued that, for university-trained intellectuals – who she understands as trained ‘grammarians’ of the constituted order, an order that does not count everyone as equally human – it is imperative to ‘marry our thought’ to that of the oppressed.
In 1996, Sekyi-Otu produced a brilliant and deeply dialectical African-centred reading of Fanon that situated the question of praxis, and – crucially – what Sekyi-Otu calls ‘the reprieve of prodigal reason’ at the heart of what Fanon referred to as ‘the weary road to rational knowledge’. Scholars like Nigel Gibson, Lewis Gordon and Tracy Sharpley-Whiting have also significantly enriched the scholarship on Fanon.
Meeting of Abahlali baseMjondolo, South Africa’s shack dwellers’ movement, in February 2020. Rajesh Jantilal
In contemporary South Africa, Fanon is read and discussed from the political education workshop organised on a hard-won urban land occupation to the trade union political school to the academy, in both its dissident spaces and in its highest reaches. Fanon’s life and work offer inspiration as well as analytical acuity to all of these audiences. Achille Mbembe, writing from Johannesburg, explains that:
I myself have been attracted to Fanon’s name and voice because both have the brightness of metal. His is a metamorphic thought, animated by an indestructible will to live. What gives this metallic thinking its force and power is the air of indestructibility and, its corollary, the injunction to stand up. It is the inexhaustible silo of humanity that it houses and which, yesterday, gave the colonised strength and which, today, allows us to look forward to the future.
There are numerous lines of connection that open fruitful possibilities for dialogue between Fanon’s work and contemporary forms of struggle. These range from his account of the centrality of the racialisation of space and the spacialisation of race in the settler colonial project, to questions of language, policing, the racial unconscious, and – of course – the brutal realities of what has come to be termed the postcolony.
In the metropolitan academy, Fanon’s humanism is, with notable exceptions – such as the valuable work of Paul Gilroy – often ignored or treated as passé, or even pre-critical. Sneering condescension from people whose humanity has never been placed in question is not uncommon. But in contemporary South Africa, it is the question of the human – of how the count of the human is made, and how humanity is asserted – that ties Fanon’s theoretical work most closely to the intellectual work undertaken in the often-perilous struggles for land and dignity. Here, dignity is understood as the recognition of full and equal humanity, including the right to participate in deciding public affairs. These kinds of struggles – frequently undertaken against considerable violence from the state and the ruling party, and the contempt of civil society – are fundamentally rooted in an insurgent humanism which legitimates and sustains resistance. Nigel Gibson’s important work on Fanon and South Africa has a firm grasp of this.
The contemporary political potency of radical humanism is not unique to South Africa. From Caracas to La Paz to Port-au-Prince, accounts of popular and potentially emancipatory politics frequently stress the neighbourhood as an important site of struggle, the road blockade and the occupation as important tactics, and the affirmation of the humanity of the oppressed as the foundation of the strength to sustain resistance. This affirmation is often explained as being sustained by social practices in which women play a leading role, and frequently spoken of in terms of the recovery of dignity. It is not uncommon to hear people speak of indignity as consequent to the expropriation of the right to participate in making decisions about public affairs, as well as land, labour, and bodily autonomy.
The question of the human is, in part, a question of how oppression seeks to distribute the attribution of the capacity for reason, and to recognise some speech as speech while dismissing other speech as mere noise – noise consequent to unreason. It is a question of how we determine who is honoured and who is dishonoured, who can be slandered with impunity and who deserves public respect, whose life is valued and whose is not, whose lives should ordinarily be governed with law and whose should routinely be governed with violence, and who, in death, should be mourned and who should not. The denial of full and equal humanity allows oppression to draw the line between forms of organisation and contestation that it can see as politics, and those that it cannot, and between civil society and the sphere of engagement that it considers to be mindless, criminal, or a manifestation of conspiracy.
Fanon’s radical humanism, a humanism made – in Césaire’s famous phrase – ‘to the measure of the world’, sustains a capacity to speak with real power to many of the ways in which the question of the human is posed, and contested, from within contemporary forms of grassroots militancy undertaken from zones of social exclusion and domination.
The Open Door of Every Consciousness
Before coming to France in late 1946 to study medicine, and then to specialise in psychiatry, Fanon had been a soldier with the Forces françaises libres (‘the Free French Forces’), fighting against fascism in Europe while simultaneously confronting constant racism within the French army. In 1944 he was wounded in the battle for Colmar, a French town near the German border, and received the Croix de Guerre for bravery. In 1945 he returned home to Martinique, where he worked for the successful campaign by Césaire to be elected as the mayor of Fort de France on a Communist platform.
From the outset, Fanon’s writings in France were concerned with how racism produces what Michel-Rolph Trouillot would later term ‘an ontology, an implicit organization of the world and its inhabitants’. In The North African Syndrome, an essay published at the age of 26, Fanon examined how French medical science approached the North African migrant with ‘an a priori attitude’ that, crucially, is not derived ‘experimentally’ but, rather, ‘on the basis of an oral tradition’. He observed that that ‘The North African does not come with a substratum common to his race, but on a foundation built by the European. In other words, the North African, spontaneously, by the very fact of appearing on the scene, enters into a pre-existing framework’. In this framework, the North African appears to the French doctor as ‘a simulator, a liar, a malingerer, a sluggard, a thief’.
Stephen Biko (standing) at the 1971 conference of the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO). The Alan Taylor Residence hall, where the event was held, was the University of Natal’s black-only residence for medical students under apartheid.
Steve Biko Foundation
Fanon shows that in the consciousness of the racist, and in the general intellect of racist social formations, the imagined ontological split on which racist ideology depends is part of what Immanuel Kant called the a priori – the categories through which sense is made of experience. This deception of reason – what Gordon calls ‘racist rationality’ – results in racist societies producing forms of knowledge that, while authorised as the most fully formed instances of reason at work, are fundamentally irrational.
Fanon’s first book, Peau noire, masques blancs was published in the French summer of 1952, a few months after The North African Syndrome, and in the same year as Richard Wright’s Invisible Man, with which it has often been read. It was translated into English as Black Skin, White Masks in 1967. Superbly analysed by Gordon, it is both a statement of a radical and affirmative commitment to human freedom and a brilliant critique of racism in the Caribbean and in the metropole that engages questions ranging from language to popular culture, to romance and sex, to anthropology and psychology. It remains a foundational text for critical race studies.
Black Skin, White Masks was dictated to Josie Dublé, a comrade and lover who Fanon would later marry, as he paced up and down in his student room in Lyon. The prose carries a sense of the cadence of that motion and is sculpted by a compelling poeticism with discernible influences from his reading of poets like Aimé Césaire and Jacques Roumain. Parts of the book read, not unlike some passages from Walt Whitman, as if they were meant to be declaimed.
Every politics rests, consciously or not, on an ontology, on a theory of human being. For Fanon, there are two signal facts about human being, both mediated through an affirmative disposition. The first is that the human being ‘is motion toward the world’. In the tradition of French philosophy that runs from Sartre to Badiou, the prospect of what Fanon called the ‘mutation’ of consciousness – the capacity of the human being to change – would remain a central theme of his thought until the end. In his work produced during his immersion in the Algerian revolution, the mutation of consciousness would be explored in the context of collective struggle.
For Fanon, consciousness is not only dynamic. The second signal fact about human being is that consciousness is free in the way that it is in Sartre’s existentialism. For Fanon, ‘In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself. I am a part of Being to the degree that I go beyond it’. But Fanon does not share the pessimism of Sartre’s view that the human is ‘a useless passion’. Fanon’s humanism carries a fundamental optimism that can arguably be located in a tradition of Caribbean humanism with African antecedents and parallels that runs from Toussaint Louverture through to Aimé Césaire and on to Sylvia Wynter and Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He begins and ends his first book by insisting that ‘Man is a yes’.
His humanism also carries a universal dimension: ‘Anti-Semitism hits me head-on: I am enraged, I am bled white by an appalling battle, I am deprived of the possibility of being a man’. Fanon affirms that ‘Every time a man has contributed to the victory of the dignity of the spirit, every time a man has said no to an attempt to subjugate his fellows, I have felt solidarity with his act’. Of course, the use of gendered language that is sometimes (but not always) introduced in translation, is unfortunate for an intellectual who insisted that ‘[We] must guard against the danger of perpetuating the feudal tradition which holds sacred the superiority of the masculine element over the feminine’.
For Fanon, the imperative to recognise every consciousness as autonomous and possessed of the capacity to reason and to exercise freedom is ethical as well as empirical. He concludes his first book, Black Skin, White Masks, by insisting that ‘At the conclusion of this study, I want the world to recognize, with me, the open door of every consciousness’. Fanon’s commitment to the recognition of every consciousness as an open door is a universal principle, a militant axiom, entirely opposed to the aristocratic conception of philosophy that, running from Plato to Nietzsche, and on to their contemporary descendants, reserves reason for a privileged caste. Earlier in the book, he writes as a clinician and in intimation of the theory of praxis that would later be worked out in the vortex of the Algerian war:
Examining this 73-year-old farm woman, whose mind was never strong and who is now far gone in dementia, I am suddenly aware of the collapse of the antennae with which I touch and through which I am touched. The fact that I adopt a language suitable to dementia, to feeblemindedness; the fact that I ‘talk down’ to this poor woman of 73; the fact that I condescend to her in my quest for a diagnosis, are the stigmata of a dereliction in my relations with other people.
Meeting of the United Democratic Front (UDF), a leading anti-apartheid body that launched in 1983 and joined the struggles of many South African organisations.
Wits Historical Papers
Black Skin, White Masks is also a theory of how racism ‘encases’ human being. Fanon describes wanting ‘to come lithe and young into a world that was ours and to help to build it together’ but finds himself ‘sealed into a crushing objecthood’. He offers a theory of racist ideology as a form of ‘Manichean delirium’ in which, in the racist imagination that structures everything from advertising to entertainment, science, and the unconscious, whiteness is associated with beauty, reason, virtue, cleanliness, and so on, and blackness with the obverse. To the limited extent that progress is possible within the logic of this schema, ‘From black to white is the course of mutation. One is white as one is rich, as one is beautiful, as one is intelligent’.
Fanon describes the inevitable failure of attempts to find a way to win the recognition required to live freely against the crushing weight of racism: ‘Every hand was a losing hand for me’. One of those losing hands was reason. The fanaticism with which reason was coded as white in the racist imagination was such that it was impossible to be recognised as simultaneously reasonable and black: ‘[W]hen I was present, it was not; when it was there, I was no longer’. The end result is collapse: ‘Yesterday, awakening to the world, I saw the sky turn upon itself utterly and wholly. I wanted to rise, but the disembowelled silence fell back upon me, its wings paralyzed. Without responsibility, straddling Nothingness and infinity, I began to weep’.
Fanon concludes that there can be no personal solution to the problem of racism. What is required is ‘a restructuring of the world’. He ends Black Skin, White Masks by asserting that ‘To educate man to be actional, preserving in all his relations his respect for the basic values that constitute a human world, is the prime task of him who, having taken thought, prepares to act’. This is a commitment to praxis, a term that appears consistently in the original French publications of the work that he would go on to produce in Tunis, but which is largely elided in English translations.
After concluding his studies in France, Fanon took up a position as the head of the Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital in Algeria, a colonial institution in which he implemented radical reforms. Alice Cherki, an intern at the hospital, and later Fanon’s most sensitive biographer, recalls that his aim as a clinician was ‘not to muzzle madness but to listen to it’.
In 1956, describing colonial society as ‘a web of lies, of cowardice, of contempt for man’, he resigned from his position at the hospital to join the revolution against French colonialism from a base in Tunis. He would work for the revolution as a psychiatrist, journalist, editor, and diplomat, undertake reconnaissance work, and teach philosophy – including Jean-Paul Sartre’s Critique de la raison dialectique (Critique of Dialectical Reason) – to soldiers on the front. In his years as a revolutionary he would encounter people like Simone de Beauvoir, Cheikh Anta Diop, Patrice Lumumba, Es’kia Mphahlele, Kwame Nkrumah, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
In December 1957, Abane Ramdane, Fanon’s closest comrade in the Algerian national liberation movement, was assassinated by a right-wing faction within the movement that aimed to subordinate political work to military authority. Fanon’s name was placed on a list of people to be watched, and subject to a similar fate should there be open defiance within the movement in response to the assassination. From this point on, Fanon lived knowing that there was a potential of significant risk from the authoritarian nationalists in the movement, and a vital struggle within the struggle.
Fanon’s second book, L’An V de la Révolution Algérienne, was published in 1959 and translated into English in 1965. In English it has been known as A Dying Colonialism since 1967. The book is, Fanon explains, an account of how participation in the struggle ‘to impose reason on … [colonial] unreason’, to oppose ‘the indignity, kept alive and nourished every morning’, results in what he calls ‘essential mutations in the consciousness of the colonized’.
It is, as Cherki observes, very deliberately a book about ‘the common men and women’ – women and men in a society in motion, rather than the personalities and actions of revolutionary elites. In contrast to elitist forms of anti-colonialism that aim to direct ‘the masses’ from above, the imperative to recognise the ‘open door of every consciousness’ is extended to the common people.
Fanon makes his position clear at the outset: ‘The power of the Algerian Revolution . . . resides in the radical mutation that the Algerian has undergone’. In the context of revolutionary struggle, mutation has escaped the stranglehold of racist ideology – which can only understand progress as movement from black to white – and is now an autonomous and self-directed process.
The book offers five case studies of the kind of ‘radical mutation’ – or change in consciousness – that can take place in the vortex of struggle, of collective motion. In each case, Fanon offers an account of how the Manichaeism introduced by colonialism breaks down in struggle. The book examines how technologies introduced through colonialism and initially identified as inherently colonial – namely the radio and biomedical medicine – are taken up in struggle, how gender relations change in struggle, and, in the final chapter, how some of the European minority choose to offer support to the anti-colonial revolution.
Frantz Fanon and his medical team at the Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital in Algeria, where he worked from 1953 to 1956.
Frantz Fanon Archives / IMEC
Perhaps unsurprising given the all-or-nothing context of the Algerian war, Fanon’s case studies of the development of radical political solidarities across class, gender, and race all plot a unidirectional movement of progressive enlightenment. For instance, the doctor –formerly seen as an agent of colonialism, but now ‘Sleeping on the ground with the men and women of the mechtas, living the drama of the people’ – becomes ‘our Doctor’.
Gendered norms are also shown to change in struggle. Fanon describes the Algerian woman, ‘who assumed an increasingly important place in revolutionary action’, as ‘bursting the bounds of the narrow world in which she had lived … [and] at the same time participating in the destruction of colonialism and in the birth of a new woman’. This aspect of Fanon’s work, and his wider engagement with gender, is very well analysed by Sharpley-Whiting, who concludes, in a rigorous feminist analysis, that it is clear that ‘Fanon recognized the Algerian woman’s right to exist as an autonomous and complete social being’.
Anyone who has participated in a sustained popular struggle will immediately recognise the value and validity of Fanon’s account of the ‘radical mutations’ that can dramatically, and often rapidly, change people’s capacities and thinking. However, in A Dying Colonialism, there is no sense of a struggle within the struggle, nor any sense that dialectical progress can be reversed, and that it often is once struggles have subsided.
A Very Hard Red
In June 1959, Fanon suffered serious injuries when a jeep he was travelling on was blown up by a mine near the Tunisian and Algerian border. He was sent to Rome for medical treatment, where he narrowly escaped assassination, most likely at the hands of a violent settler organisation linked to the French state.
In March 1960, Fanon was sent to Accra to become a roving ambassador for the Provisional Government of the Algerian national liberation movement, the Front de libération nationale (‘National Liberation Front’). His encounters with newly independent states were frequently dispiriting. In November 1960, he was part of a team tasked with a reconnaissance mission aimed at opening a southern front on the border with Mali, with supply lines running from Bamako across the Sahara. At the last minute, suspecting a trap, they abandoned their plan to travel by air and drove the two thousand kilometres from Monrovia to Bamako. The plane on which they had been scheduled to travel was diverted to Abidjan, where it was searched by the French military.
In his logbook, Fanon recorded his concern with the limits of forms of politics that fail to reach beyond the Manichaeism introduced by colonialism and to develop emancipatory ideas and practices: ‘Colonialism and its derivatives do not, as a matter of fact, constitute the present enemies of Africa. In a short time this continent will be liberated. For my part, the deeper I enter into the cultures and the political circles the surer I am that the great danger that threatens Africa is the absence of ideology’.
Moved by the vast desert vistas, and returning to the poeticism of his early work, Fanon wrote that: ‘Some days ago we saw a sunset that turned the robe of heaven a bright violet. Today it is a very hard red that the eye encounters’. Though the trip across the desert had left him visibly exhausted, he immediately went to Accra to write a contribution to an English-language publication by the Provisional Government of Algeria. An examination by a doctor in Accra raised the possibility of leukaemia. He returned to Tunis, took a blood test, and diagnosed himself with leukaemia. That evening, he announced his resolve to write a new book. After receiving treatment in a clinic outside of Moscow, he had a brief window of opportunity to write as the cancer went into remission.
After Frantz Fanon died in 1961, his body was carried across the border from Tunisia to be buried in Algeria.
Frantz Fanon Archives / IMEC
The Weary Road to Rational Knowledge
Parts of Fanon’s last work, The Damned of the Earth, were dictated from a mattress on the floor of a flat in Tunis as he was dying. The book offers a searing indictment of settler colonialism, a critical account of the struggle against colonialism, an equally searing account of the postcolonial morass, and a radically democratic vision of emancipatory praxis. It ends with a harrowing account of the damage wrought by the violence of colonial war.
The critique of the colonial city in the book’s opening pages is particularly powerful and continues to resonate into the present. The Manichean ideology that Fanon critiqued in France took on a concrete material form in the settler colony, of which apartheid was a paradigmatic case. The colonial world is divided into different zones, intended for different kinds of people. It is a world ‘of barbed wire entanglements’, ‘a world divided into compartments’, ‘a world cut in two’, ‘a narrow world strewn with violence’. In Fanon’s view, authentic decolonization requires a decisive end to a situation in which ‘this world divided into compartments, this world cut in two is inhabited by different species’.
The description of the anti-colonial struggle continues the exploration of collective mutation developed in A Dying Colonialism. In Fanon’s narrative, the initial response to colonial oppression is fundamentally shaped by what it opposes: ‘[T]he Manichaeism of the coloniser produces a Manichaeism of the colonised’. Fanon is clear about the costs of this counter-Manicheanism: ‘To the lie of the colonial situation the colonized replies with an equal lie’. Within the struggle there is, he says, an initial ‘brutality of thought and mistrust of subtlety’.
But, as there is movement along what Fanon calls ‘the weary road to rational knowledge’, colonial paradigms are transcended rather than merely inverted. The people begin ‘to pass from total, indiscriminating nationalism to social and economic awareness’. Fanon is clear that this process requires that ‘the people must also give up their too-simple conception of their overlords’ as ‘the racial and racist standard of judgment is transcended’.
Sekyi-Otu, making a point that is crucial for enabling serious readings of the work, shows that a set of emphatic statements offered as definitive statements at the beginning of the book are later challenged as Fanon’s narrative unfolds. To take just one instance, in the beginning it is asserted that: ‘Truth is that which hurries on the break-up of the colonial regime; it is that which promotes the emergence of the nation; it is all that protects the indigenous people and ruins the foreigners’. Later on, Fanon explains that – as it becomes clear that ‘exploitation can wear a black face, or an Arab one’ – initial certainties run into obvious limits.
Fanon writes that, as the Manichean certainties that mark the first moment of struggle begin to break down, ‘The idyllic and unreal clarity of the beginning is followed by a semi-darkness that bewilders consciousness’. Over time, as the struggle develops, ‘Consciousness slowly dawns upon truths that are only partial, limited and unstable’. Things are rethought in the light of the experience of struggle, of collective motion, against colonialism. The fundamental purpose of Fanon’s account of this move out of the Manichean logic of colonialism is, Sekyi-Otu argues, ‘to stage the upsurge of richer modes of reasoning, judging and acting’ than those immediately accessible within the limits of colonial thought.
30 October 1974: The anniversary of the 1962 Algerian War for Independence.
Fanon had witnessed the first years of the African Thermidor, the moment when, as he explains, the ‘liberating lava’ of the great anti-colonial struggles was cooled as the people were expelled from history, ‘sent back to their caves’ by leaders who, ‘instead of welcoming the expression of popular discontentment’ and the ‘free flow of ideas’, took it on themselves to ‘proclaim that the vocation of their people is to obey and to go on obeying’. In his last book, he was clear that holding to principle meant undertaking a struggle within the struggle, as well as confronting the colonial enemy. He warns that ‘an unceasing battle must be waged, a battle to prevent the party from ever becoming a willing tool in the hands of a leader’. Fanon argues that, in order to set the rebellion on a rational foundation, it is necessary to resist ‘those inside the movement who tend to think that shades of meaning constitute dangers’ and leaders who insist that ‘the only worthwhile dogma . . . is the unity of the nation against colonialism’.
His critique of the national bourgeoisie, ‘the rapacious bourgeoisie’, their use of the state as an instrument to prey on society, and their misuse of the history of collective struggle to shore up their own authority is unsparing. Fanon is clear that there are forms of nationalist militancy that hold ‘the same unfavourable judgments’ about the most oppressed among the colonised that are held by the colonisers. He insists that national consciousness – ‘that magnificent song that made the people rise against their oppressors’ – must be supplemented with political and social consciousness.
Fanon issues a clear warning about parties aiming to ‘erect a framework around the people that follows an a priori schedule’ and intellectuals deciding to ‘come down into the common paths of real life’ with formulas that are ‘sterile in the extreme’. For Fanon, the vocation of the militant intellectual is to be in the ‘zone of occult instability where the people dwell’, in the ‘seething pot out of which the learning of the future will emerge’, and, there, to ‘collaborate on the physical plane’. He is clear that the university-trained intellectual must avoid both the inability to ‘carry on a two-sided discussion’, to engage in genuine dialogue, and its obverse, becoming ‘a sort of yes man who nods assent at every word coming from the people’. Against this, he recommends ‘the inclusion of the intellectual in the upward surge of the masses’ with a view toward achieving, as noted above, ‘a mutual current of enlightenment and enrichment’.
Fanon affirms the practice of mutuality rooted in an immediate commitment to radical equality, something like Marx’s youthful vision of ‘an association of free human beings who educate one another’. His consistent commitment to the recognition of ‘the open door of every consciousness’ brings him to a radically democratic understanding of struggle rooted in local practices in which dignity is affirmed, discussion carried out, and decisions taken. For Fanon, the primary task of political education is to show that ‘there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people’. He affirms the importance of ‘the free exchange of ideas which have been elaborated according to the real needs of the mass of the people’. There are clear resonances with C.L.R. James’ famous assertion that, in a phrase borrowed from Vladimir Lenin, ‘every cook can govern’. Fanon, committed until the end to the emancipation of reason, to its emancipation in and via struggle, ended his last book with the imperative to ‘work out new concepts’.
To be worthy of its name, communist thought must be an expression of intellect in motion, of intellect grounded in real movement, and, therefore, in permanent dialogue with others in struggle. It should carry the militant desire for – in Étienne Balibar’s pithy summation of a central thrust of Benedict Spinoza’s Ethics – ‘as many as possible, thinking as much as possible’. This is the form of militancy from which Fanon speaks to us today, with such compelling power, with the brightness of metal.
A strike organised by Dano textile workers in Hammarsdale, South Africa, 1982.
Wits Historical Papers
Cherki, Alice. Frantz Fanon: A portrait. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press,
Elhen, Patrick. Franz Fanon: A spiritual biography. New York: The Crossroad Publishing
Fanon, Frantz. A Dying Colonialism. New York: Grove Press, 1967.
Fanon, Frantz. Alienation and Freedom. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press, 1967.
Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. London: Penguin, 1976.
Fanon, Frantz. Toward the African Revolution. New York: Grove Press, 1967.
Gibson, Nigel. Fanon: The postcolonial imagination. Londo:. Polity, 2003.
Gibson, Nigel. Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali
baseMjondolo. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2011.
Gibson, Nigel & Beneduce, Roberto. Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics.
Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand Press, 2017.
Gordon, Lewis. Fanon and the Crisis of European Man: An essay on philosophy and the
human sciences. New York: Routledge, 1995.
Gordon, Lewis. What Fanon Said: A Philosophical Introduction to His Life and Thought.
Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand Press, 1996.
Lee, Christopher. Frantz Fanon: Toward a Revolutionary Humanism. Johannesburg: Jacana
Mbembe, Achille. Necropolitics. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand Press, 2016.
Neocosmos, Michael. Thinking Freedom in Africa: Towards a theory of emancipatory politics.
Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand Press, 2016.
Sekyi-Otu, Ato. Fanon’s Dialectic of Experience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
Sekyi-Otu, Ato. Left Universalism, Africacentric Essays. New York: Routledge, 2019.
Sharpley-Whiting, Tracey. Frantz Fanon: Conflicts and Feminisms. Lanham: Roman &
Wynter, Sylvia. “No Humans Involved: An Open Letter to My Colleagues.” Forum H.H.I.
Knowledge for the 21st Century 1.1 (Fall 1994): 42-73.
DOSSIER Conflicts, crises and struggles appear into the news media without much context. This is for two reasons. First, the compression of space – the brevity of a television news report or of the print media’s 300 word story – prevents any broad context from being offered to a readership which might not know how to assess a conflict, crisis or struggle. Second, the ideology of the governing class is one that proceeds with the premise that too much depth would give people too much understanding of how the world works. Far better to have a ‘free media’ that merely skims the surface, if it at all reports on a story. Shallow news reports saturated with corrosive ideological implications are what is on offer particularly when a crisis strikes. Events appear as a sudden crisis with no history.
This article was republished from Tricontinental.
July 21, 2021- Amílcar Cabral: Liberator, Theorist, and Educator. By: Curry Malott & "Liberation School"Read Now
Amílcar Cabral painting in Bafatá. Source: Wikicommons.
" This article was originally published on Liberation School on January 20, 2021."
Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral was born September 12, 1924 in Bafatá, Guinea-Bissau, one of Portugal’s African colonies. On January 20, 1973–48 years ago today–Cabral was murdered by fascist Portuguese assassins just months before the national liberation movement in which he played a central role won the independence of Guinea-Bissau.
This particular struggle was waged for the liberation of not just one country–Guinea-Bissau, where the fighting took place–but also for another geographically-separate region, the archipelago Cape Verde. Cabral and the other leaders of the movement understood that they were fighting in a larger anti-colonial struggle and global class war and, as such, that their immediate enemies were not only the colonial governments of particular countries, but Portuguese colonialism in general. For 500 years, Portuguese colonialism was built upon the slave trade and the systematic pillaging of its African colonies: Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome e Principe, Angola, and Cape Verde.
Despite the worldwide focus on the struggle in Vietnam at the time, the inspiring dynamism of the campaign waged in Guinea-Bissau–together with the figure of Cabral–captured international attention. In the introduction to an early collection of Cabral’s writings and speeches, Basil Davidson (1979) describes Cabral as someone who expressed a genuine “enduring interest in everyone and everything that came his way” (x).
Like so many revolutionary leaders Cabral was “loved as well as followed” because “he was big hearted” and “devoted to his peoples’ progress” (xi). Due to his leadership and brilliance, “governments asked his advice” and “the United Nations gave him its platform.” However deserved it was, Cabral never indulged in this praise, and instead focused solely on his commitment to the liberation and self-determination of the world’s working-class and oppressed.
The Portuguese colonization of Guinea-Bissau was backed by Spain, South Africa, the United States, and NATO. Summarizing the pooled imperialist power wielded by Portugal in a report on the status of their struggle Cabral (1968a) elaborates:
“In the basic fields of economics, finance and arms, which determine and condition the real political and moral behavior of states, the Portuguese government is able to count more than ever on the effective aid of the NATO allies and others. Anyone familiar with the relations between Portugal and its allies, namely the USA, Federal Germany and other Western powers, can see that this assistance (economic, financial and in war material) is constantly increasing, in the most diverse forms, overt and covert. By skillfully playing on the contingencies of the cold war, in particular on the strategic importance of its own geographical position and that of the Azores islands, by granting military bases to the USA and Federal Germany, by flying high the false banner of the defense of Western and Christian civilization in Africa, and by further subjecting the natural resources of the colonies and the Portuguese economy itself to the big financial monopolies, the Portuguese government has managed to guarantee for as long as necessary the assistance which it receives from the Western powers and from its racist allies in Southern Africa.”
Despite the immense power of their enemies, the struggle led by the relatively small population in Guinea-Bissau prevailed, remaining a beacon of inspiration to this day.
As a result of his role as a national liberation movement leader for roughly 15 years, Cabral had become a widely influential theorist of decolonization and non-deterministic, creatively applied re-Africanization. World-renowned critical educator Paulo Freire (2020), in a 1985 presentation about his experiences in liberated Guinea-Bissau as a sort of militant consultant, concludes that Cabral, along with Ché Guevara, represent “two of the greatest expressions of the twentieth century” (171). Freire describes Cabral as “a very good Marxist, who undertook an African reading of Marx” (178). Cabral, for Freire, “fully lived the subjectivity of the struggle. For that reason, he theorized” as he led (179).
Although not fully acknowledged in the field of education Cabral’s decolonial theory and practice also sharpened and influenced the trajectory of Freire’s (1921-1997) thought. Through the revolutionary process led by Cabral, Guinea-Bissau became a world-leader in decolonial forms of education, which moved Freire deeply.
That is, because of the villainous process of Portuguese colonialism, which included centuries of de-Africanization, re-Africanization, through decolonial forms of education, was a central feature of the anti-colonial struggle for self-determination.
Cabral’s dialectical unity, building the Party, and the “Weapon of Theory”
Cabral engaged the world dialectically. As a theory of change, dialectics has been at the center of revolutionary thought since Marx and Engels. Cabral wielded it with precision. Dialectically grasping how competing social forces driving historical development are often hidden or mystified, Cabral excelled at uncovering them, and in the process, successfully mobilized the masses serving as the lever of change.
Cabral knew that the people must not only abstractly understand the interaction of forces behind the development of society, but they must forge an anti-colonial practice that concretely, collectively, and creatively see themselves as one of those forces. To do so, however, the masses had to be organized into and represented by a Party.
In 1956, Cabral helped found the African Party for Independence (PAI), which later became The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). The PAIGC was the first ever communist party in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, and its founding was a monumental and inspiring feat.
In The Weapon of Theory, a 1966 address in Havana, Cabral articulated the inseparability of national liberation and socialism, telling the attendees that “in our present historical situation — elimination of imperialism which uses every means to perpetuate its domination over our peoples, and consolidation of socialism throughout a large part of the world — there are only two possible paths for an independent nation: to return to imperialist domination (neo-colonialism, capitalism, state capitalism), or to take the way of socialism.”
Cabral had to build the party and its indispensable culture of militant discipline from the ground up. Cabral’s ability to meet the new party members where they were at as co-learners speaks to his role as a pedagogue of the revolution. Delivered as a series of nine lectures to PAIGC members in 1969, Cabral (1979) covers the basics of the revolution, including its organization. He describes the PAIGC as a party in the Leninist tradition by referring to it as “an instrument of struggle” comprised of those who “share a given idea, a given aim, on a given path” (85).
Of course, revolutionary crises do not emerge from the correctness of ideas alone, but are driven by deteriorating economic conditions, and a crisis in the legitimacy of the state and its ability to meet the peoples’ needs. In the 1940s there were several droughts that left tens of thousands of Cape Verdeans dead. Portugal’s barbarism and indifferent response, situated in the context of the mounting poverty and suffering within its African colonies, began to alienate even the most privileged strata of the colonial state.
What made Cabral one of history’s great communist leaders, outside of the larger historical moment that provided an outlet for his talents, was his theoretically-informed tactical flexibility, which was essential for a constantly shifting balance of forces. In-the-midst-of-struggle decision-making, in other words, is enhanced by theory and organization, which enables the ability to quickly grasp the immediate and long-term implications of the shifting calculus of power.
For example, in 1957 in Paris, Cabral and two Angolans formed the Movimento Anti-Colonista of Africans from the Portuguese colonies during the Algerian War. The three, in Angola, would go on to form the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. What developed was one of the toughest anti-colonial fights in Africa.
It is only fitting that in his opening remarks in the first of the nine 1969 presentations to party members Cabral would choose as his place of departure an explanation of PAIGC’s “motto” or “theme,” the phrase “unity and struggle” (28). Defining the concept of unity dialectically, Cabral insists that “whatever might be the existing differences” within the people, “we must be one, an entirety, to achieve a given aim. This means that in our principle, unity is taken in a dynamic sense, in motion” (28-29).
The idea that unity is a movement and process of composition means that it is “a means, not an end. We might have struggled a little for unity, but if we achieve it, that does not mean the struggle is over” (31). The Party’s role here “is not necessary to unite the whole population to struggle in a country. Are we sure that all the population are united? No, a certain degree of unity is enough. Once we have reached it, then we can struggle” (31).
To explain struggle, Cabral likens it to the tension between centrifugal force and gravity. As a concrete example Cabral notes that for a spaceship to leave the Earth it must overcome the force of gravity. Cabral then characterizes Portuguese colonialism as an external force imposed upon the people and only through the combined force of the people united can the force of colonialism be overcome.
In the address, Cabral theorized the dialectical nature of movement and change focusing specifically on how the anti-imperialist struggle must emerge from the concrete conditions of each national liberation movement.
“We know that the development of a phenomenon in movement, whatever its external appearance, depends mainly on its internal characteristics. We also know that on the political level our own reality — however fine and attractive the reality of others may be — can only be transformed by detailed knowledge of it, by our own efforts, by our own sacrifices. It is useful to recall in this Tricontinental gathering, so rich in experience and example, that however great the similarity between our various cases and however identical our enemies, national liberation and social revolution are not exportable commodities; they are, and increasingly so every day, the outcome of local and national elaboration, more or less influenced by external factors (be they favorable or unfavorable) but essentially determined and formed by the historical reality of each people, and carried to success by the overcoming or correct solution of the internal contradictions between the various categories characterizing this reality.”
Cabral knew that to defeat Portuguese colonialism in Guinea-Bissau, the liberation struggle could not merely reproduce the tactics of struggles from other contexts, like Cuba. Rather, every particular struggle has to base its tactics on an analysis of the specifics of its own context. For example, while acknowledging the value of the general principles Guevara outlined in his Guerilla Warfare, Cabral (1968b) commented that “nobody commits the error, in general, of blindly applying the experience of others to his own country. To determine the tactics for the struggle in our country, we had to take into account the geographical, historical, economic, and social conditions of our own country, both in Guinea and in Cabo [Cape] Verde.”
Responding to Guevara’s argument, based on the experience of Cuba, that revolutionary struggles go through three predetermined phases or stages, Cabral stated:
“In general, we have certain reservations about the systematization of phenomena. In reality the phenomena don’t always develop in practice according to the established schemes. We greatly admire the scheme established by Che Guevara essentially on the basis of the struggle of the Cuban people and other experiences, and we are convinced that a profound analysis of that scheme can have a certain application to our struggle. However, we are not completely certain that, in fact, the scheme is absolutely adaptable to our conditions.”
Cabral’s assessment was also informed by the dialectical insight that the conditions in any one country do not develop in a vacuum unaffected by external forces. Not only were deteriorating conditions in Portugal, the imperial mother country, shifting the balance of forces in favor of national liberation movements in its African colonies, but the emergence of these struggles coincided with the successful revolution in China in 1949.
Conscious of this larger dialectical totality, which points to the interconnection between seemingly separate, unrelated parts, Cabral consciously fostered solidarity with Portugal’s working-class. Representing the colonized Indigenous peoples of Guinea-Bissau Cabral successfully reached out to the oppressed of Portugal in solidarity against their common class enemy, the fascistic Portuguese capitalist/colonialist class.
With dialectical theory and the spirit of anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist unity the revolutionary forces in Guinea-Bissau routinely freed Portuguese prisoners of war. Cabral (1968c) used such occasions to make public statements designed to educate and win over Portugal’s persecuted working-class to shift the balance of power away from Portugal’s fascist state.
Cabral spoke directly to the 20,000 Portuguese conscripts urging them to consider their class interests above and beyond the national chauvinism their ruling class fed them.
“In the framework of our struggle for national independence, peace and progress for our people in Guinea and the Cabo Verde Islands, the freeing of Portuguese soldiers captured by our armed forces was both necessary and predictable. This humanitarian gesture, whose political significance will escape nobody, is the corollary of a fundamental principle of our party and of our struggle. We are not fighting against the Portuguese people, against Portuguese individuals or families. Without ever confusing the Portuguese people with colonialism, we have had to take up arms to wipe out from our homeland the shameful domination of Portuguese colonialism.”
Central to this message Cabral (1968c) offered insights regarding the awful treatment of not only prisoners of war in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, but of the civilian population as well:
“Members of our armed forces captured by the colonial troops are generally given a summary execution. Others are tortured and forced to make declarations which the colonial authorities use in their propaganda. In their vain but nonetheless criminal attempt at genocide, the Portuguese colonialists carry out daily acts of terrorism against the peaceful inhabitants of our liberated areas, particularly against women, children and old people; they bomb and machine-gun our people, reducing our villages to ashes and destroying our crops, using bombs of every type, and in particular fragmentation bombs, napalm and white phosphor bombs.”
The liberation of the Portuguese was connected to the liberation of Portugal’s African colonies. If the Portuguese ruling class began losing control in Africa, it could also fall in Portugal, and if it fell in Portugal, it would fall in Africa.
Rather than a theoretical position worked out abstractly in isolation, it was formulated practically. It had serious and determinant results. Portuguese officers refused orders to fight in Africa, and some formed an Armed Forces Movement that supported the demands for independence.
The Portugeuese soldiers led a rebellion against fascism at home, which ended more than 40 years of fascist rule. It opened the door to a popular upsurge that nearly claimed power for the Portuguese workers. These social convulsions in the imperial center in turn facilitated the independence of Portugal’s African colonies.
De-Africanization and anti-colonial resistance
The small region in West Africa that the Portuguese would claim as Guinea-Bissau contained more than a dozen distinct ethnic groups. Slavers worked tirelessly to sew divisions between them. These divisions enabled slavers to enlist one group to facilitate in the enslavement of others. This anti-African divisiveness would lay the foundation for centuries of de-Africanization.
Describing the role of colonial education in this epistemic violence Walter Rodney (1972/2018), in his classic text, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, explains that, “the Portuguese…had always shown contempt for African language and religion” (304). Whereas secondary schools were established for colonists, education beyond two or three years of elementary school for Africans was rare. Consequently:
“Schools of kindergarten and primary level for Africans in Portuguese colonies were nothing but agencies for the spread of the Portuguese language…[T]he small amount of education given to Africans was based on eliminating the use of local languages.” (304)
The devastation of such practices reflects reports that European colonists with smaller African colonial holdings like Portugal were amongst the most desperate and thus cruelest in their efforts at maintaining their occupations. Consequently, Indigenous resistance to Portuguese colonialism was so widespread for so many centuries that colonial rule was always limited to specific regions. In other words, colonial forces were never completely able to conquer what amounts to the state power of indigeneity.
It is therefore not surprising that the Portuguese were not able to rely merely on state violence for social control, but required intensive ideological manipulation as well. The attempt to eradicate Indigenous languages and cultures was crucial. Toward these ends, the colonial authorities propagated a hypocritical discourse that claimed their colonies were integral to the metropolis or mainland while simultaneously brutally exploiting them.
Fascist Portugal and the struggle
The brutality in which the Portuguese ruling-class managed its African colonies would eventually be directed at its own working-class with a fascist turn in 1926. Rodney (1972/2018) explains that “when the fascist dictatorship was inaugurated in Portugal in 1926, it drew inspiration from Portugal’s colonial past” (244).
The decline of Portuguese capitalism that gave way to Portuguese fascism would only deteriorate with the global capitalist crisis of the 1930s. Consequently, the desperation of Portugal’s capitalist class intensified. For example, when Salazar became the dictator of Portugal in 1932, he declared that the “new” Portuguese state would be built off of the exploitation of “inferior peoples” (quoted in Rodney, 244).
Whereas the French ruling class had moved to neocolonialism by 1960, Portugal’s decline had rendered it still largely backward and feudalistic. Out of desperation, Portugal became even more dependent on ruthlessly exploiting peoples not just in its colonial holdings, but within its own national territory.
Fascist Portuguese leaders, therefore, employing increasingly violent forms of social control, rejected African demands for self-determination. In response to the growing wave of national liberation movements in their African colonies, the Portuguese establishment sent armed forces to repress the struggle. Rather than cower in the face of Portuguese fascism and overall deteriorating conditions, national liberation movements grew and spread.
Relations with China
Following the establishment of the PAIGC, Cabral settled in Guinea-Bissau’s capital, Conakry. Cabral immediately reached out to China’s Guinean embassy in 1960.
Since the emergence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, China had established a clear commitment to the anti-colonial movements in Africa. For example, in 1955 at the Bandung Conference, in which 29 African countries participated, China established foreign policy principles based upon supporting oppressed nations’ right to self-determination. In 1957, China organized the Afro-Asian Solidarity Conference and in 1960 founded the Chinese-African Peoples’ Friendship Association, in which Cabral enthusiastically participated.
Cabral and other leaders of PAIGC became regular guests at the Chinese embassy in Conakry. In 1960, the PAIGC received an invitation from the Chinese Committee for Afro-Asian Solidarity to visit China. A delegation from the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) was invited as well. During this visit, China agreed to use their military academies to train combatants from both the PAIGC and the MPLA.
Training included instruction in guerilla warfare, the history of the Chinese Revolution and agrarian revolution, and socialist theory. The first group trained in China would serve as the PAIGC’s embryonic core fighting cadre.
As a result of Cabral’s leadership and diplomacy, China would emerge as one of Guinea-Bissau’s first supporters in the early stage of its struggle for independence. China provided the PAIGC with a great diversity of support, from weaponry to assistance broadcasting radio messages denouncing the regular, horrific crimes of the Portuguese military in Guinea-Bissau. With support from China on one hand, and Portuguese brutality on the other, the anti-colonial struggle intensified between 1963 and 1974.
Anti-colonialism and decoloniality
An important part of carrying out the national liberation movement entailed knowing what issues to organize around.
Based on his intimate understanding of the uniqueness of the agricultural situation in his country, Cabral knew that the primary economic issue the majority peasant population faced was not access to land, as was the case in other colonies. Rather, the issue was unsustainable trade deals that were particularly devastating given the colonial insistence on not farming for sustenance but for export through single-crop production.
The demand for cultural and political rights in the face of fascistic Portuguese colonialism was another demand that resonated widely.
Cabral focused on the political developments required for building a united movement for national liberation. In his formulations, he argued that the armed struggle was intimately interconnected with the political struggle, which were both part of a larger cultural struggle.
Cabral’s Marxist formulations on culture were important for the larger struggle and for resisting colonial education. He acknowledged that fascists and imperialists were well aware “of the value of culture as a factor of resistance to foreign domination,” which provided a framework for understanding that subjugation can only be maintained “by the permanent and organized repression of the cultural life of the people” (1979, 139).
Resistance, for Cabral, is also a cultural expression. What this means is that “as long as part of that people can have a cultural life, foreign domination cannot be sure of its perpetuation.” In this situation then, “at a given moment, depending on internal and external factors…cultural resistance…may take on new (political, economic, and armed) forms, in order…to contest foreign domination” (140). In practice, the still living Indigenous cultures that led centuries of anti-colonial resistance would organically merge with, and emerge from within, the political and national liberation and socialist movements.
In practice, Cabral promoted the development of the cultural life of the people. Written as a directive to PAIGC cadre in 1965, Cabral encouraged not only a more intensified military effort against the Portuguese, but a more intensified educational effort in liberated areas of Guinea-Bissau. Again, while the national liberation/anti-colonial movement and the educational process of decolonizing knowledge are often falsely posed as distinct or even antagonistic, Cabral conceptualized them as dialectically interrelated:
“Create schools and spread education in all liberated areas. Select young people between 14 and 20, those who have at least completed their fourth year, for further training. Oppose without violence all prejudicial customs, the negative aspects of the beliefs and traditions of our people. Oblige every responsible and educated member of our Party to work daily for the improvement of their cultural formation.”
A central part of developing this revolutionary consciousness was the process of re-Africanization. This was not meant as a call to return to the past, but a way to reclaim self-determination and build a new future in the country.
“Oppose among the young, especially those over 20, the mania for leaving the country so as to study elsewhere, the blind ambition to acquire a degree, the complex of inferiority and the mistaken idea which leads to the belief that those who study or take courses will thereby become privileged in our country tomorrow.”
At the same time, Cabral opposed fostering ill will toward those who had studied or who desired to study abroad. Rather, Cabral encouraged a pedagogy of patience and understanding as the correct approach to winning people over and strengthening the movement.
This is one reason why Freire (1978) describes Cabral as one of those “leaders always with the people, teaching and learning mutually in the liberation struggle” (18). As a pedagogue of the revolution, for Freire, Cabral’s “constant concern” was the “patient impatience with which he invariably gave himself to the political and ideological formation of militants” (19).
This commitment to the people’s cultural development as part of the wider struggle for liberation informed his educational work in the liberated zones. Freire writes that it also informed “the tenderness he showed when, before going into battle, he visited the children in the little schools, sharing in their games and always having just the right word to say to them. He called them the ‘flowers of our revolution’” (19).
Victory before Victory
Even though Cabral was murdered before victory, the ultimate fate of Portuguese colonialism had already been sealed years before his death, and he knew it. For example, in a communique released on January 8, 1973, a mere 12 days before he was assassinated, Cabral (1979) concludes that the situation in Guinea-Bissau “since 1968… is comparable to that of an independent state” (277). Cabral reports that after dozens of international observers had visited Guinea-Bissau, including a United Nations Special Mission, the international legitimacy of their PAIGC-led struggle was mounting. It had become irrefutable that:
“Vast areas have been liberated from the colonial yoke and a new political, administrative, economic, social and cultural life is developing in these areas, while the patriotic forces, supported by the population, are fighting successfully against the colonialists to complete the liberation of the country.” (277)
With this knowledge Cabral, again, denounces the “the criminal obstinacy of the Lisbon Government, which intensifies its genocidal colonial war against the legitimate rights of our people to self-determination, independence and progress” (277). Making the case for the formation of a new internationally-recognized state, Cabral argues that the people of Guinea-Bissau, through the leadership of the PAIGC, were already functioning as such:
“While our people have for years now possessed political, administrative, judicial, military, social and cultural institutions—hence a state—and are free and sovereign over more than two-thirds of the national territory, they do not have a juridical personality at the international level. Moreover the functioning of such institutions in the framework of the new life developing in the liberated areas demands a broader participation by the people, through their representatives, not only in the study and solution of the problems of the country and the struggle, but also in the effective control of the activities of the Party which leads them” (278)
To begin resolving this contradiction, in 1971 the Party voted to hold general elections in the liberated areas “for the constitution of the first People’s National Assembly” in Guinea-Bissau. After eight months of debate, discussion and outreach, elections were successfully held in 1972 in all of the liberated zones.
Several months after the election, Cabral (1979) issued another statement referring to the creation of the People’s National Assembly as “an epoch-making victory for the difficult but glorious struggle of our people for independence” (288). Underscoring how this was a collective achievement of unity and struggle Cabral offered his “warmest congratulations to our people” (289).
He reminded the people that “a national assembly, like any organ in any living body, must be able to function in order to justify its existence. For this reason, we have a greater task to fulfill in the framework of our struggle” (289).
Cabral then announced that the PAIGC would be calling its first National Assembly to formalize their constitution thereby proclaiming to the world they exist and are “irrevocably determined to march forward to independence without waiting for the consent of the Portuguese colonists” (289).
Yes, Cabral was killed before the final expulsion of Portuguese colonialism, but, in a very real sense, he still ushered in a new, independent state.
Freire and Cabral’s decolonial education in a liberated Guinea-Bissau
As a pedagogue of the revolution Basil Davidson (1979) refers to Cabral as “a supreme educator in the widest sense of the word” (x).
The importance of education was elevated to new heights by Cabral and PAIGC leadership at every opportunity. It therefore made sense for the Commission on Education of the recently liberated Guinea-Bissau to invite the world’s leading expert on decolonial approaches to education, Paulo Freire, to participate in further developing their system of education.
Freire was part of a team from the Institute for Cultural Action of the Department of Education within the World Council of Churches. Their task was to help uproot the colonial residue that remained as a result of generations of colonial education designed to de-Africanize the people. Just as the capitalist model of education will have to be replaced or severely remade, the colonial model of education had to be dismantled and rebuilt anew.
“The inherited colonial education had as one if its principal objectives the de-Africanization of nationals. It was discriminatory, mediocre, and based on verbalism. It could not contribute anything to national reconstruction because it was not constituted for this purpose” (Freire 1978, 13).
The colonial model of education was designed to foster a sense of inferiority in the youth. Colonial education with predetermined outcomes seeks to dominate learners by treating them as if they were passive objects. Part of this process was negating the history, culture, and languages of the people. In the most cynical and wicked way then colonial schooling sent the message that the history of the colonized really only began “with the civilizing presence of the colonizers” (14).
In preparation for their visit Freire and his team studied Cabral’s works and learned as much as possible about the context. Reflecting on some of what he had learned from Cabral, despite never having met him, Freire (2020) offers the following:
“In Cabral, I learned a great many things…[B]ut I learned one thing that is a necessity for the progressive educator and for the revolutionary educator. I make a distinction between the two: For me, a progressive educator is one who works within the bourgeois classed society such as ours, and whose dream goes beyond just making schools better, which needs to be done. And goes beyond because what [they] dream of is the radical transformation of a bourgeois classed society into a socialist society. For me this is a progressive educator. Whereas a revolutionary educator, in my view, is one who already finds [themselves] situated at a much more advanced level both socially and historically within a society in process” (170).
For Freire, Cabral was certainly an advanced revolutionary educator. Rejecting predetermination and dogmatism, Freire’s team did not construct lesson plans or programs before coming to Guinea-Bissau to be imposed upon the people.
Upon arrival Freire and his colleagues continued to listen and discuss learning from the people. Only by learning about the revolutionary government’s educational work could they assess it and make recommendations. Decolonial guidance, that is, cannot be offered outside of the concrete reality of the people and their struggle. Such knowledge cannot be known or constructed without the active participation of the learners as a collective.
Freire (1978) was aware that the education that was being created could not be done “mechanically,” but must be informed by “the plan for the society to be created” (14). Although Cabral had been assassinated, his writings and leadership had helped in the creation of a force with the political clarity needed to counter the resistance emerging from those who still carried the old ideology.
Through their process revolutionary leaders would encounter teachers “captured” by the old ideology who consciously worked to undermine the new decolonial practice. Others, however, also conscious that they are captured by the old ideology, nevertheless strive to free themselves of it. Cabral’s work on the need for the middle-class, including teachers, to commit class suicide, was instructive. The middle-class had two choices: betray the revolution or commit class suicide. This choice remains true today, even in the US.
The work for a reconstituted system of education had already been underway during the war in liberated zones. The post-independence challenge was to improve upon all that had been accomplished in areas that had been liberated before the wars end. In these liberated areas, Freire (1978) concluded, workers, organized through the Party, “had taken the matter of education into their own hands” and created, “a work school, closely linked to production and dedicated to the political education of the learners” (17).
Describing the education in the liberated zones Freire says it “not only expressed the climate of solidarity induced by the struggle itself, but also deepened it. Incarnating the dramatic presence of the war, it both searched for the authentic past of the people and offered itself for their present” (17).
After the war the revolutionary government chose not to simply shut down the remaining colonial schools while a new system was being created. Rather, they “introduced…some fundamental reforms capable of accelerating…radical transformation” (20). For example, the curricula that was saturated in colonialist ideology was replaced. Students would therefore no longer learn history from the perspective of the colonizers. The history of the liberation struggle as told by the formerly colonized was a fundamental addition.
However, a revolutionary education is not content with simply replacing the content to be passively consumed. Rather, learners must have an opportunity to critically reflect on their own thought process in relation to the new ideas. For Freire, this is the path through which the passive objects of colonial indoctrination begin to become active subjects of decoloniality.
Assessment here could not have been more significant. What was potentially at stake was the success of the revolution and the lives of millions. This is a lesson relevant to all revolutionaries who must continually assess their work, always striving for improvement. In this way it was clear to Freire that they must not express “uncontained euphoria in the face of good work nor negativity regarding…mistakes” (27).
From their assessment then Freire and his team sought, “to see what was really happening under the limited material conditions we knew existed.” The clear objective was therefore “to discover what could be done better under these conditions and, if this were not possible, to consider ways to improve the conditions themselves” (27).
What Freire and his team concluded was that “the learners and workers were engaged in an effort that was preponderantly creative” (28) despite the many challenges and limited material resources. At the same time, they characterized “the most obvious errors” they observed as the result of “the impatience of some of the workers that led them to create the words instead of challenging the learners to do so for themselves” (28).
From the foundation Cabral played such a central role in building, and through this process of assessment, what was good in the schools was made better, and what was in error was corrected. As a pedagogue of the revolution Cabral “learned” with the people and “taught them in the revolutionary praxis” (33).
Freire’s work and practice have inspired what has become a worldwide critical pedagogy movement. Cabral is a centrally-important, yet mostly unacknowledged, influence of this movement. The attention to decoloniality occupies one of critical education’s most exciting and relatively recent cutting edges, which demands a more thorough return to Cabral.
Reflecting on Cabral’s contributions to decolonial theory and practice a decade after his time in Guinea-Bissau, Freire (1985), like Cabral before his death, continued to insist that, “we need to decolonize the mind because if we do not, our thinking will be in conflict with the new context evolving from the struggle for freedom” (187).
In the last prepared book before his death, subtitled Letters to Those who Dare Teach, Cabral’s influence on Freire (1997) seems to have remained central, as he insisted that “it is important to fight against the colonial traditions we bring with us” (64).
As the socialist and anti-racist movement in the US continues to grow in size and political sophistication, the educational lessons from the era of anti-colonial socialist struggles will also grow in relevance.
Cabral, A. (1965). Tell no lies, claim no easy victories.
Cabral, A. (1966). The Weapon of Theory.
Cabral, A. (1968a). The development of the struggle.
Cabral, A. (1968b). Practical Problems and tactics.
Cabral, A. (1968c). On freeing Portuguese soldiers.
Cabral, A. (1979). Unity and struggle: Speeches and writings of Amílcar Cabral. New York Monthly Review.
Davidson, B. Introduction. In Amílcar Cabral (Au). Unity and struggle: Speeches and writings of Amílcar Cabral, pp. ix-xvii. New York: Monthly Review.
Freire, P. (1978). Pedagogy in process: The letters to Guinea-Bissau. New York: Continuum.
Freire, P. (1985). The politics of education: Culture, power and liberation. London: Bergin & Garvey.
Freire, P. (1997). Teachers as cultural workers: Letters to those who dare teach. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Freire, P. (2020). South African freedom fighter Amílcar Cabral: Pedagogue of the revolution. In Sheila Macrine (Ed.), Critical Pedagogy in Uncertain Times: Hope and Possibility, pp. 159-181. New York: Palgrave.
Rodney, W. (1972/2018). How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. New York: Verso.
Today is the birthday of anti-colonial thinker Frantz Fanon. This intellectual giant taught us that colonization is fundamentally violent. It destroys one’s self-sufficiency, dignity and indigenous institutions, language and culture through murder and war leaving only wretchedness (dehumanized impoverishment, alienation and trauma) in its place. Fanon knew early on that you cannot protest occupations away because the relation between the colonizer and colonized was not dialectical. This means that no synthesis comes out of the opposing categories of the colonizer and colonized other than perpetual exploitation. This important radical black thinker and active revolutionary professed that the only way out of colonization is for the wretched of the earth to violently drive out their exploiters. Nothing less than complete elimination of the category of the colonizer in all its dimensions (social, economic, military, political and cultural) was the way out.
Violence was not only an instrument for liberation but also the birthgiver of a new revolutionary culture and identity. For Fanon the struggle against the colonizer can only succeed if it is based on indigenous native culture. Without a strong nativist basis to liberation the decolonized will remain vulnerable for recolonization through other means. Fanon posited that the estrangement from one’s own self, his/her own heritage was a weakness only to be exploited by Eurocentric political prescriptions and identities.
Frantz Fanon at a press conference of writers in Tunis, 1959.
In chapter 6 of wretched of the Earth Fanon writes:
“Let us decide not to imitate Europe; let us combine our muscles and our brains in a new direction. Let us try to create the whole man, whom Europe has been incapable of bringing to triumphant birth.
Two centuries ago, a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe. It succeeded so well that the United States of America became a monster, in which the taints, the sickness and the inhumanity of Europe have grown to appalling dimensions.
Comrades, have we not other work to do than to create a third Europe?”
As both Iraqis and Palestinians are now being faced with Europe’s monster and its secondary offspring, the United States of America and Israel, we should study Fanon’s ideas to understand the way out of the wretchedness that defines our modern political struggle.
Iraq Now was founded by a group of critical Iraqis who wanted to share content created for and by Iraqis about Iraqi history, art, culture and society. Guided by an anti-imperialist conviction we frame Iraq’s political, cultural and social problems through the struggle for independence as espoused by Iraq's diverse ethnic and religious groups and those in solidarity with our struggle.
This article was republished from Iraq Now.
July 6, 2021, was the 114th birth anniversary of Frida Kahlo – a revolutionary painter and socialist. Today, she has been fetishized, commodified and sanitized: her self-portraits and photographs stare out from T-shirts, calendars, fashion magazines and jewelry; her unique personality is used to sell everything – from Barbie dolls to cosmetics box sets. Kahlo’s present-day status as a global commodity masks the rich complexity of her thought.
Simplistic narratives ignore the host of contradictory qualities and behaviors she represents: strength and resilience in the face of continuous physical and psychic pain; a strong political consciousness active in her daily life and paintings; devotion to her country’s many pasts, which she brought into the present; her adamant atheism combined with a desacralized use of religious imagery.
Frida’s paintings are located at the constantly shifting intersections of the personal and the political, the historical and the cultural, the mythological and the ideological, the traditional and the avant-garde, the defiant and the resigned, pleasure and pain, life and death. She worked continually to create herself in her daily life and through her art, without reducing her identities to either romantic stereotypes or facile pleas for understanding.
Kahlo was born in Coyoacan, Mexico City, Mexico, three years before the Mexican Revolution broke out. In 1910, a political revolution against the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz was the spark that set in motion a deeper social revolution, in particular a peasant uprising under the leadership of Emiliano Zapata and a popular rebellion in the north led by Pancho Villa. In Baja California, the anarchist Flores Magon brothers attempted to drive forward a militant workers struggle.
From the revolution to the 1940s – under the presidency of Lazaro Cardenas of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PTI) – living standards notably improved, Mexico made great strides in economic terms and adopted an independent foreign policy. The aftermath of the Revolution also led to a period of nation-building, spearheaded by the minister of public education, José Vasconcelos – and joined by artists like Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera.
The movement celebrated Mexico’s multi-ethnic heritage, in particular, by appropriating indigenous culture from southern Mexico for an identity that could unite all Mexicans – white, brown and mestizo into a “cosmic race.” Kahlo’s mixed heritage – her mother was Matilde Calderon, of mixed Spanish and Indian heritage, and her father Guiliermo Kahlo, a German-Jewish expatriate of Hungarian descent – allowed her to intimately relate to the cultural symbolism of the Mexican Revolution.
Indigenismo became central to Kahlo’s process of self-identification, and – through her artworks and clothing – she became an iconic representative of the elements embodied in it. During her life, she dictated her birth date as July 10, 1910, the day the Mexican Revolution began. She wanted her birth and life to be indelibly bound to the revolution, which she referred to as “the one true thing to live for.” She attended rallies – though not as many as she wanted to, due to injuries from a bus crash aged 18 – to overthrow Diaz.
In 1922, Kahlo entered the National Preparatory School in Mexico City as one of 35 girls in a student body of 2,000 boys. She studied medicine and became fluent in Spanish, English and German. During her stay at the campus, she came became part of a small group called “Las Cachuchas” (The Caps) – a radical group named after the style of caps they wore in rebellion against the dress code of the period. The group read Lenin, Marx, Hegel, and Russian literature. They were known for playing pranks on conservative teachers.
As a teenager, Kahlo joined the Communist Party of Mexico and in her 20s, she led union rallies with her husband. It is said that she decorated her headboard with images of Marx, Engels and Lenin. “I’m more and more convinced it’s only through communism that we can become human,” she wrote in her diary during an extended stay in New York and Detroit in the 1930s.
Frida also played a role in fighting for the rights of Spanish Republican refugees seeking asylum in Mexico. In 1936, Frida, along with many other socialists, founded a committee that fundraised money for the Spanish Republicans fighting against fascism. She helped Spanish refugees in finding places to stay and ensured that they were able to secure employment. This stance is explained by her principled internationalism.
Kahlo had once written: “I’m convinced of my disagreement with the counterrevolution, imperialism, fascism, religions, stupidity, capitalism, and the whole gamut of bourgeois tricks. I wish to cooperate with the Revolution in transforming the world into a classless one so that we can attain a better rhythm for the oppressed classes.”
In 1954, 11 days before she died from an arterial blood clot at age 47, Kahlo marched – in a wheelchair and against her doctor’s orders – in a protest against US involvement in the coup that deposed leftist president Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán in Guatemala. At her funeral, a red flag bearing a sickle and hammer was draped over her casket. Despite her short life, Kahlo powerfully displayed the vitality of a radical commitment to humanization and egalitarianism.
Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.
This article was republished from Counter Currents.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) meets with Cape Verde’s Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 6, 2018. [Source: xinhuanet.com]
n February the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, made it a priority to phone Rui Figueiredo, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Minister of Cape Verde. They spoke about commerce and “security.” 
Antony Blinken and Rui Figueiredo. [Source: cv.usembassy.gov]
Why is the tiny African nation of Cape Verde (population 550,000) a U.S. priority? It is because the U.S. is behind China in the latest “scramble for Africa.”
To rectify its position, vis-à-vis China, in Africa, U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to put values at the heart of his administration’s China policy. Since entering office, he has called on the world’s democracies to “gird for a new era of strategic competition with China.”
To cut through U.S. rhetoric and reveal the covert value system of the U.S. in Africa, the word “security” is instructive.
Antony Blinken’s concern for the “security” of Cape Verde automatically activates a destructive infrastructure that’s summed up in the Americanisms: “war on drugs,” “war on terror” and the “United States African Command” (AFRICOM). War and its latest accoutrements actually define U.S. values in Africa.
A Pentagon map, for example, shows a network of 29 bases stretching from one side of Africa to the other.
Map of U.S. bases in Africa. [Source: bing.com]
The U.S. at the same time has provided billions of dollars in security assistance to local partners, conducted persistent counterterrorism operations that include commando raids, combat by U.S. Special Operations forces in at least 13 African countries between 2013 and 2017, and a record number of U.S. airstrikes in Somalia (just over one attack per week in 2019).
The Chinese by contrast have focused on the development of large infrastructural projects across the continent, which have been financed in part as a form of payback for Chinese exploitation of Africa’s mineral wealth.
Cape Verde has few mineral resources, and China’s investments there are mainly designed to spread goodwill and convey a positive image on the African continent.
The centerpiece of China’s efforts in Cape Verde is the opening of a university in Praia—the capital city of the archipelago.
Artist’s rendering of Chinese-funded university in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde. [Source: universityworldnews.com]
China’s government has just funded the building of a campus that includes 34 laboratories, five auditoriums, a convention center with capacity for 654 people, and dormitories with 382 beds, in addition to classrooms, computers and reading rooms, a library, cafeterias and sport facilities. It was built by China’s LongXin Construction Group.
In Cape Verde, China has also funded the expansion of the presidential and government palaces and a national stadium, which has been hailed by then-ambassador Su Jian as “the greatest construction after independence.”
Cape Verde soccer stadium. [Source: worldofstadiums.com]
The juxtaposition between China’s spectacular contributions to Cape Verdean society and U.S. militarism captures two contemporary approaches to Africa. In simple terms, one involves the barrel of a gun and the other involves a wheelbarrow.
One is marked by violence and racism and the other by a solidarity with roots in the Third World movement. One is imperialist and the other, to a certain degree, liberationist.
Kickstarting the Slave Trade
The tragic humiliation of Africa began in Cape Verde. In 1462, Portugal began the European colonization of tropical Africa on the island of Santiago—in a settlement then called Ribeira Grande.
In the process, the Portuguese kick-started the Atlantic slave trade that eventually spawned the USA. Or, as Walter Rodney put it in his seminal volume entitled How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Africa developed Europe at the same rate as Europe underdeveloped Africa.
Painting of the Portuguese slave trade in Cape Verde. [Source: cratediggs.blogspot.com]
Amilcar Cabral [Source: globalsocialtheory.org]
For example, China’s Belt and Road Initiative—of which Cape Verde is a strategic part—is boldly uniting the economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is the materialization of the South-South alternative which first emerged in the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia.
Map of China’s one-belt-one-road initiative. [Source: allafrica.com]
The 20th century struggle against Western imperialism was even more global than imperialism itself. To bring down the Portuguese empire, for instance, required not just pan-Africanism but universalism (the equality of all races and all nations). Amilcar Cabral identified this in his speeches and writing:
“One should not forget that the African revolution is in the service of the peace and progress of humanity as a whole. If the African peoples succeed in taking into their hands, exploit and develop rationally all the material and human resources of their countries, it will be a decisive contribution to world peace, to the total disappearance of imperialism …”
“One should not forget that whatever the particularities of the African case and the possible originality of African societies, the laws of their development are the same as those of all the other human societies.”
Cabral giving a speech to Cape Verdeans. [Source: peoplesforum.org]
Since its own birth in 1949, the People’s Republic of China has been supporting the construction of an Africa free from imperialism. This revolutionary narrative—in one way or the other—forms the backbone of China’s modern engagement with the continent.
Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China, was a key signatory to the ten Bandung principles in 1955—which outlined Afro-Asian solidarity. These guiding points were based on the Charter of the United Nations and its idea of peaceful cooperation. But explicit, in the principles, was the belief “in the equality of all races and … the equality of all nations large and small.”
Zhou Enlai signs autograph for an admirer at the 1955 Bandung Conference. [Source: chinadaily.com]
The U.S. response to this egalitarian initiative within the Third World was an act of covert war: The CIA planted a bomb on the airplane it believed was transporting Zhou Enlai to Bandung. On April 11, 1955, 16 people died in the mid-air explosion between Hong Kong and Indonesia. The Chinese Premier, however, was on a different aircraft.
Wreckage of the Kashmir Princess, an Air India plane thought to be carrying Zhou Enlai—an event in which CIA involvement is suspected. [Source: fly.historicwings.com]
In the decades following the Bandung Conference, China outlined its position regarding Africa more clearly. Speaking in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1964, Zhou Enlai said:
“Although the Chinese people and the African peoples speak different languages and are thousands of miles apart, we have similarly experienced aggression and oppression by imperialism and colonialism, and we face the common fighting tasks of opposing imperialism and building up our respective countries. We understand each other best and we share each other’s feelings.” 
And, significantly, this message of solidarity and common struggle against Western racism continued after the death of Mao in 1976.
In 1996 the Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin, speaking to the Organization of African Unity (OAU), stated that the Chinese and African people “never have … had any conflicts between them.” Instead, “both [have] suffered enormously under colonialists and foreign aggression.” And as a result, they are “joining hands in building the solid foundation of Sino-African friendship and cooperation …” The developmental goal was to eliminate “the unjust and inequitable economic order left over from the past.” 
Jiang Zemin with Nelson Mandela. [Source: mg.co.za]
This decades-long anti-imperialist approach to Africa was then institutionalized in 2000 in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). And it was clarified in the words of China’s leaders when they addressed the first Forum in Beijing. Premier Zhu Rongji spoke of the
“road towards friendship and cooperation [that] is covered with the footprints of Chinese and African leaders of several generations….”
He spoke of this “joint struggle waged by the Chinese and African peoples shoulder by shoulder … [to create] a fair and rational new international political and economic order.” 
Zhu Rongji [Source: britannica.com]
And President Jiang Zemin could not have been more explicit:
“[H]aving smashed the shackles of the colonial rule that lasted for several centuries, the African people won their national liberation and independence … and the Chinese people did away with imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism …
“We have come to the conclusion after a review of the history of the past one hundred years that the Chinese people and the African people both treasure independence … and … are both important forces for world peace and common development.”
This anti-colonial value system underlies China’s investment in Africa today. And it helps to explain not only the new Chinese-built university in Cape Verde but also the Chinese-built Poilão dam in Cape Verde—as well as the Chinese-built national stadium in Cape Verde. It explains why China is building a special economic zone in Cape Verde—on the island of São Vicente. And it explains why the U.S. government is today so anxious about Africa.
Poilão dam [Source: alluringworld.com]
However, the fact is that China’s deep anti-imperialist narrative regarding Africa is only credible if there is an opposing deep imperialist narrative. It is only believable if Chinese construction in Africa is countered by imperialist destruction. It only holds water if the imperialist leopard—in Africa—has not changed its spots.
The evidence suggests that it has not. Portugal may have pulled back from Cape Verde and its other colonies, but the U.S. has rushed in to fill its imperialist boots.
In 1949, the U.S. aligned itself with Europe’s empires—U.S. President Joe Biden now calls these “the world’s democracies”—the British, French, Dutch, Belgian and Portuguese. At the time, Africa was still in the grip of these European racists. And one of the objectives of this new alignment—NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)—was to tighten that grip on Africa.
Cape Verde’s hero—Amilcar Cabral—was completely aware of the post-World War II restructuring of imperialism. In 1968, he noted:
“[T]he Portuguese government is able to count more than ever on the effective aid of the NATO allies …
“ It is our duty to stress the international character of the Portuguese colonial war against Africa and the important and even decisive role played by the USA … If the Portuguese government is still holding out on the three fronts of the war which it is fighting in Africa, it is because it can count on the overt or covert support of the USA, freely use NATO weapons [and] buy B26 aircraft for the genocide of our people …” 
Since the assassination of Cabral in 1973, the U.S. and its NATO proxies may have lost their formal grip on Africa; but they continue to strangle Africa militarily. The most blatant example of this is NATO’s destruction of Libya in 2011.
Before the U.S. and its “democratic” partners bombed Libya, that country “had the highest Human Development Index, the lowest infant mortality and the highest life expectancy in all of Africa.” There was also—at the time of the bombardment—75 Chinese companies (36,000 employees) working inside Libya—constructing housing, railways, telecommunications and hydroelectric facilities. 
The end result of NATO’s unprovoked act of war against Libya (and Africa) was a catastrophic socio-economic reversal in the region, summarized in headlines such as “Slavery in Libya: Life inside a container” and “Slavery and Human Trafficking in Libya.”
When asked about the murder of the man (Muammar Gaddafi) who led Libya to the top of the African human development index, the then U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, succinctly expressed the barbaric values underpinning the U.S. approach to Africa: “We came, we saw, he died.” And then she laughed. 
War is the language of imperialism and, in Africa today, the U.S. speaks it fluently. Under the cover of “counterterrorism” and “counterinsurgency,” the U.S. and its NATO allies are inserting their forces throughout the continent.
On the one hand, there is the ongoing French Operation Barkhane (2014) that has spread thousands of NATO soldiers across West Africa.
And on the other hand, there is the United States African Command (AFRICOM—founded in 2007). The mission statement of AFRICOM is clear: It exists to “to advance U.S. national interests … and … support U.S. Government foreign policy … through military-to-military activities.” 
In 2019, just 12 years after its creation, AFRICOM had a “network” of 29 military bases spread across 15 African countries. 
Indeed, for U.S. leaders Africa is now “a petri dish and a proving ground for the development of a limited power-projection paradigm of drones, Special Operations forces, military advisers, local proxies, and clandestine intelligence missions.” 
This is alarming for Africa because it recalls the covert role of the U.S. military in post-World War Two Latin America. U.S. “military-to-military activities” in that part of the Third World resulted in neo-fascist dictatorships and “lost decades of development.”
Only a few decades after losing Africa, Western imperialism is back in Africa with a bang. And “Great Power Competition” is its excuse.
NATO’s purpose is to defend the economic order into which it was born. In 1949 the global economy revolved around the North Atlantic and its Bretton Woods system. To guarantee the flow of global wealth toward Western Europe and North America, NATO teamed up with institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
However, it is this precise order—an order which props up the West at the expense of the Third World—which was challenged by the 1949 Chinese revolution and the decolonization of Africa in the 1960s and 1970s.
The exponential growth of the People’s Republic of China and the current export of that growth to Africa amount now to being a supercharged extension of that challenge.
The struggles for political freedom in Africa, therefore, have transformed into struggles for economic freedom—indeed for economic survival.
After NATO’s wars against African liberation there followed “NATO’s neoliberal attack” on Africa. NATO’s neocolonial debt traps and structural adjustment policies have plagued Africa since the 1980s. In fact, U.S. free-market fundamentalism sabotaged the freedom which Africa fought for.
The values underpinning this U.S. faith in the market--a propos Africa—were revealed in the infamous Summers memo of 1991. At the time Lawrence Summers was Chief Economist and Vice President at the World Bank. In his opinion,
the “under-populated countries in Africa are vastly under-polluted; their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low [sic] compared to Los Angeles.” 
Lawrence Summers [Source: wikiwand.com]
In other words, this top U.S. economic strategist was advocating “the dumping of toxic waste in Africa.”
For many observers, though, it is even worse than that: The dictates of the U.S.-based World Bank and IMF created an “apocalyptic situation” in post-colonial Africa.
“The most basic index of well-being is life itself—how many years a human can expect to live. Yet while other regions’ life expectancy is steadily improving … Africa’s is now going backwards:
“Life expectancy declined in no fewer than 31 African countries between 1995 and 1998.”
The imperialist logic of neoliberalism in Africa is clear: “[It] is actually planned and reminiscent of the paleo-liberal strategy of the British state in the famines in Ireland and India and the Clearances of the Scottish Highlands in the 19th century.”
The objective conclusion can only be that U.S.-trained economists—the disciples of Milton Friedman inside the IMF and World Bank—since the liberation of Africa, “[have] knowingly … incorporated the death of millions as an element in their strategy … Theirs is clearly a strategy of ‘terror from above.’”’
As the 21st century began, China entered into this “apocalyptic” U.S.-made situation. And as it did in the 1960s, it changed the orientation of Africa for the better. In contrast to Western “terror from above” (dictates and drones), China has been building up from below.
Since 2011, China has been the biggest player in Africa’s infrastructure boom, claiming a 40% share that continues to rise. Meanwhile, the shares of other players are falling precipitously: Europe declined from 44% to 34%, while the presence of U.S. contractors fell from 24% to just 6.7%. 
Today’s partnership between Cape Verde and China is the cutting edge of this “construction boom.” In the 1960s these two nations combined to defeat the politics of imperialism. Now they are combining to battle the economics of imperialism: “the unjust and inequitable economic order left over from the past.”
If there is “great power competition” in Africa today, the U.S. has already lost the moral high ground since it remains committed to the infrastructure of imperialism—a system which creates nothing but destabilization. For the U.S., therefore, Africa is first and foremost a “security issue”—a “heart of darkness.”
Africa, however, is not an ahistorical enigma or a prize to be won in a competition. It is a proud continent which broke free from imperialism around the same time as China broke free from imperialism. And at the 1955 Bandung Conference both Africa and China invested in freedom from empire and peaceful cooperation. No evidence to date suggests that China has disavowed the spirit of Bandung.
In stark contrast, the U.S.—around 1950—chose to partner with Western Europe (NATO) rather than with the world. It chose empire. It chose to violently oppose “Bandung.” It chose war, racism and the neoliberal apocalypse. If Africa must now choose between China and the U.S., the choice is obvious.
This article was republished from CAM.
The Other 4th of July: Slavery’s Defeat was Second American Revolution. By: Denise Winebrenner EdwardsRead Now
A scene from the PBS Ken Burns documentary, "The Civil War," depicting the Battle of Gettysburg. | PBS
The Fourth of July really marks two celebrations of independence. Firecrackers, bottle rockets, sizzling grills, cold beer, and kids running around with sparklers all remind us of the day “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary…” But at the end of the day of that first revolution in 1776, four million African people—now African Americans—remained in chains. Independence from Britain meant nothing to their families except endless, unpaid toil for the benefit of dandies and the freedom to be sold like so much cotton.
The other celebration seldom gets attention, although it is more recent than the first. One hundred and fifty-five years ago, 51,000 Americans, those who fought to end slavery and those who fought on the side of human bondage, died or were wounded at Gettysburg, Pa., and 59,000 suffered the same fate in the siege of Vicksburg, Miss.
The stakes of the second American Revolution were as great as those of 1776. After slavery’s shock troops limped back from Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, the super-exploitative plantation owners suffered a mortal wound. When General Ulysses S. Grant’s Union troops marched into Vicksburg the next day, July 4, 1863, placing the Mississippi River firmly in anti-slavery hands, they definitively broke the back of slavery.
The achievement of the Union’s yeoman farmers, mechanics, bookkeepers, professors, and immigrants was truly a shot heard round the world for human freedom.
The cost was staggering. Lincoln eloquently acknowledged this bloody cost—“We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain”—as he expanded the meaning of the Civil War from a fight to save the Union to a battle to end slavery, “a new birth of freedom,” the second American Revolution. It was a death struggle of social systems: slavery vs. emergent capitalism.
Just as the plantation owners and dealers in human flesh did not go quietly into the night, today those few who squeeze profit from human labor in eastern Kentucky or Los Angeles or Miami or New York or Chicago or Dallas, or around the globe, are not retiring.
The battleground is not the high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River or the rolling hills of south central Pennsylvania. It is the factory and office tower gates, the picket lines, the town halls and statehouses across the country, and the halls of Congress. Here, freedom and dignity remain a question, a subject of debate and struggle. Our people have shed a lot of blood and want no more. Today, we wage a massive political war, armed with patience, political balance, and perseverance.
The clock is ticking on the Trump administration, reactionary successors to the 19th-century slave owners. This Fourth of July, we’ll have some burgers or ribs, dip into potato salad, kick back a cold one or try to hit our second cousin’s pitching, but we recharge batteries for the contest ahead—the “elephant,” as Black and white Civil War soldiers called it. We will be tested. We will get aggravated. United we can win.
Originally posted in People’s World on July 6, 2007, slightly edited.
Denise Edwards is a member of the Wilkinsburg, Pa., Borough Council.
Denise Winebrenner Edwards is a long-time trade union and community activist. She lives in western Pennsylvania.
This article was republished from People's World.
Marx strongly supported the Union from the outset, saw the slaveholders confederacy as the principal enemy, and attacked those British liberals and radicals who were condemning Lincoln for not immediately advocating the abolition of slavery. In this excerpt from an 1861 article in the New York Tribune, where he is writing positively about a response from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Britain in defense of the Lincoln government, Marx makes this important critique of both honest and hypocritical anti-slavery thinking. He also made the point that many who are critical of Lincoln denounced the John Brown raid and said that a revolution of the slaves was worse for civilization than slavery.
“This is, in fact, a masterly piece of logic. Anti-Slavery England cannot sympathize with the North breaking down the withering influence of slaveocracy, because she cannot forget that the North, while bound by that influence, supported the slave-trade, mobbed the Abolitionists, and had its Democratic institutions tainted by the slavedriver’s prejudices. She cannot sympathize with Mr. Lincoln’s Administration, because she had to find fault with Mr. Buchanan’s Administration. She must needs sullenly cavil at the present movement of the Northern resurrection, cheer up the Northern sympathizers with the slave-trade, branded in the Republican platform, and coquet with the Southern slaveocracy, setting up an empire of its own, because she cannot forget that the North of yesterday was not the North of to-day. The necessity of justifying its attitude by such pettifogging Old Bailey pleas proves more than anything else that the anti-Northern part of the English press is instigated by hidden motives, too mean and dastardly to be openly avowed. ”
But let’s continue: Marx’s 1864 letter of congratulation to Lincoln on the in the name of the Internationale is very well known and in its larger arguments on slavery and history the most important document. This except from a letter to Johnson after the assassination of Lincoln (Marx encouraged Johnson to carry forward the Reconstruction, which of course Johnson did not d) portrays Lincoln as both a son of the working class and a hero in advancing the struggles for democracy:
“It is not our part to call words of sorrow and horror, while the heart of two worlds heaves with emotions. Even the sycophants who, year after year and day by day, stuck to their Sisyphus work of morally assassinating Abraham Lincoln and the great republic he headed stand now aghast at this universal outburst of popular feeling, and rival with each other to strew rhetorical flowers on his open grave. They have now at last found out that he was a man neither to be browbeaten by adversity nor intoxicated by success; inflexibly pressing on to his great goal, never compromising it by blind haste; slowly maturing his steps, never retracing them; carried away by no surge of popular favor, disheartened by no slackening of the popular pulse; tempering stern acts by the gleams of a kind heart; illuminating scenes dark with passion by the smile of humor; doing his titanic work as humbly and homely as heaven-born rulers do little things with the grandiloquence of pomp and state; in one word, one of the rare men who succeed in becoming great, without ceasing to be good. Such, indeed, was the modesty of this great and good man, that the world only discovered him a hero after he had fallen a martyr.”
Marx also in private letters to Engels as early as June 1865 began to doubt that Lincoln would carry forward the necessary anti-slavery democratic policies, while capitalist opinion in Europe and Britain began to look at him positively. Here by the way is a general philosophical statement on the war and Lincoln in which the nature of the class struggle between slaveholders and the new forces of developing industrial capital for whom the slave system was a fetter is expressed by Marx:
“[T]he number of actual slaveholders in the South of the Union does not amount to more than 300,000, a narrow oligarchy that is confronted with many millions of so-called poor whites, whose numbers have been constantly growing through concentration of landed property and whose condition is only to be compared with that of the Roman plebeians in the period of Rome’s extreme decline. Only by acquisition and the prospect of acquisition of new Territories, as well as by filibustering expeditions [i.e. conquests of other lands, such as in Central America—ISR], is it possible to square the interests of these “poor whites” with those of the slaveholders, to give their restless thirst for action a harmless direction and to tame them with the prospect of one day becoming slaveholders themselves.”
In the aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation , Marx wrote this:
“So far, we have only witnessed the first act of the Civil War—the constitutional waging of war. The second act, the revolutionary waging of war, is at hand.”
Here, when the Confederates were winning in 1862, and division and corruption characterized the North, Marx wrote this–by the way–the term “white trash” goes back to pre civil war times and was known in Europe Marx uses it in quotes, but he is talking about the non slave holding whites who slaveholders could control for slave patrols, militias to seize the lands of native peoples, but kept at arms length. The comment about a revolution in the North was as always an example of Marx’s optimism:
“The manner in which the North wages war is only to be expected from a bourgeois republic, where fraud has so long reigned supreme. The South, an oligarchy, is better adapted thereto, particularly as it is an oligarchy where the whole of productive labor falls on the **** and the four millions of “white trash” are filibusterers by profession. All the same, I would wager my head that these boys come off second best, despite “Stonewall Jackson.” To be sure, it is possible that it will come to a sort of revolution in the North itself first”….
Finally, this analysis of why Lincoln, not an abolitionist not a revolutionary in terms of his consciousness, would be destined to become one:
“Lincoln is not the product of a popular revolution. This plebeian, who worked his way up from stone-breaker to Senator in Illinois, without intellectual brilliance, without a particularly outstanding character, without exceptional importance—an average person of good will, was placed at the top by the interplay of the forces of universal suffrage unaware of the great issues at stake. The new world has never achieved a greater triumph than by this demonstration that, given its political and social organization, ordinary people of good will can accomplish feats which only heroes could accomplish in the old world!”
Norman Markowitz teaches history at Rutgers University and was a contributing editor of Political Affairs Magazine.
This article was republished from CPUSA.
"Revolution is, unfortunately, not made with fastings. Revolutionaries from all parts of the world must choose between being the victims of violence or using it. If one does not wish to see one's spirit and one's intelligence serving brute force, one must forcibly resolve to put brute force under the subservience of intelligence and the spirit." The author of this passage, written more than forty years ago, was Jose Carlos Mariátegui, founder of the Peruvian Communist Party, a physically feeble man of unstable health who combined a powerful, cold and lucid intelligence with an exquisite artistic sensitiveness and an incorruptible revolutionary morale. His short life, ended before he was thirty-five, elapsed between long periods of hospitalization and poverty. Jail and the continuous humiliations he suffered, did not deter him from accomplishing his life's work, which, given the circumstances he had to cope with, does not cease to stimulate today more and more amazement, as well as the increased attention and admiration of revolutionaries the world over. Suffering from the time he was seven years old from an incipient physical disability which denied him a normal childhood, and when called upon, helping his mother out by working as proofreader in a publishing house, his career as a revolutionary writer began when an army man cowardly attacked him for the ideas he expressed in a newspaper article.
The sum total of Mariátegui's work constitutes an ideological struggle against reformism, first and foremost. His work Defense of Marxism is imbued with this spirit, and the very founding of the Peruvian Communist Party denounces "domesticated socialism": "The ideology we adopt," states Mariátegui in his thesis of affiliation with the Third Internationale, "is that of militant revolutionary Marxism-Leninism, a doctrine which we wholly and unreservedly adhere to in its philosophical, political and socio-economic aspects. The methods we uphold are those of orthodox revolutionary socialism. We not only rebuke in all their forms the methods and tendencies of the Second Internationale, but oppose them actively." In this document he did no more than ratify before the world what he had previously made known in a magazine: "The political sector with which I can never come to terms is the other one: that of mediocre reformism, of domesticated socialism, of Pharisaical democracy. Moreover, if the revolution demands violence, authority, discipline, I am all for violence, authority, discipline. I accept them in block form, with all their horrors, without any cowardly reserves."
Between 1919 and 1923 Mariátegui made a tour of Europe. It was in Italy where his thought ripened and became richer. In addition to his admiration for the theorist of violence, the revolutionary trade-unionist George Sorel, there was his passion for Gobetti, Labriola, and he found in Croce a friend with whom he could enter into controversy. Mariategui was an eyewitness to the great social upheavals which foreshadowed the triumph of Nazism and the reformist preachings of class collaborationism. On his return to Peru, in a work on the world crisis and on the role that the Peruvian proletariat ought to play in it, he wrote: "..The proletarian forces are divided in two great groupings: reformists and revolutionaries.
"There is the faction of those who want to bring about socialism by collaborating politically with the bourgeoisie; and the faction of those who want to bring about socialism by conquering for the proletariat in its entirety political power." To this global crisis, Mariátegui answered in a vein both aggressive and critical: "I am of the same opinion as those who believe that humanity is going through a revolutionary period. And I am convinced of the imminent decline of all the social-democratic theses, of all the reformist theses and of all the evolutionist theses." In another article, he denounced the impotence of reformism to avoid war: "The thought of Lasallean social-democracy guided the Second Internationale; that is why it proved itself impotent before war. Its leaders and sectional corps had become accustomed to a reformist and democratic attitude and resistance to war demanded a revolutionary attitude."
Defense of Marxism (a work from which we publish here one of its most interesting chapters) constitutes a rebuttal of Beyond Marxism by the Belgian revisionist Henri de Man, and of other social-democratic theorists, such as Vandervelde, a rebuttal which arises from revolutionary tenets and from practical positions. Mariátegui, who is brought to task in a controversy over principles, is equally removed from all sectarian and dogmatic standpoints, because he understood that Marxism was never "a set of principles embodying rigid consequences, similar in all historical climes and all social latitudes." "We must strip ourselves radically of all the old dogmatisms," he wrote, "of all the discredited prejudices and archaic superstitions." It is the correct interpretation of Marxist theory that makes him state directly: "Marx is not present in spirit in all his so-called disciples and heirs. Those who have carried on his ideas are not the pedantic German professors of the Marxist theory of value and surplus value, incapable themselves of making any contribution to the doctrine, devoted only to fixing limitations and labels to it; it has rather been the revolutionaries, slandered as heretics..." A deplorable article by Mirochevsky, published in Dialéctica, in which Mariátegui is grossly characterized as a petty bourgeois populist,was later impugned by the articles on Mariátegui of Semionov and Shulgovski, both of whom see the great Peruvian Marxist in a totally different light. But even today there are people interested in misrepresenting his political thoughts and actions to the point of belittling his significance from the Liberation Army spokesman he is to that of a sort of moralizing Salvation Army sermonizer. With each passing day, though, this task grows more difficult.
In this chapter, "Ethics and Socialism," transcribed from his work Defense of Marxism, Mariétegui comes to grips with revolutionary ethics, with the ethics of socialism. For the great Peruvian, Marxist revolutionary ethics "does not emerge mechanically from economic interests; it is formed in the class struggle, carried on in a heroic frame of mind, with passionate willpower." And further on, he adds: "The worker who is indifferent to the class struggle, who derives satisfaction from his material well-being and, generally speaking, from his lot in life, will be able to attain a mediocre bourgeois moral standard, but will never be able to raise himself to the level of socialist ethics."
The charges that have been brought to bear against Marxism for its attributed unethicality, for its materialistic motives, for the sarcasm with which Marx and Engels deal with bourgeois ethics in their pages, are not new. Neo-revisionist critique does not say, as regards this matter, one single thing which socialist Utopians and all the run of the mill Pharisaical socialists have not said beforehand. But Marx's reinstatement, from the standpoint of ethics, has also been effected by Benedetto Croce — being one of the most fully recognized representatives of idealist philosophy, his judgments will seem to all concerned to carry more weight than any Jesuitic regret over the petty bourgeois mentality. In one of his first essays on historical materialism, confusing the thesis of the lack of ethics inherent in Marxism, Croce wrote the following:
"This current has been principally determined by the necessity in which Marx and Engels found themselves, before the various strains of socialist Utopians, of stating that the so-called social question is not a moral question (i. e., according to how it should be interpreted, this question will not be solved by preachings or by moral means), as well as by their severe criticism of class hypocrisy and ideology. It has also been nurtured, as far as I can see, by the Hegelian origin of the thoughts of Marx and Engels for it is known that in Hegelian philosophy ethics loses the rigidity which Kant gave it and which Herbart was later to lend support to. And, finally, the term "materialism" does not surrender in this connection a shred of efficacy, seeing that the mere term brings immediately to mind the full implications of what is meant by "interest" and "pleasure." But it is evident that the ideality and absoluteness of ethics, in the philosophical sense of such words, are necessary assumptions of socialism. Isn't the interest that drives us to create the concept of surplus value a moral or social interest, or whatever term might be used for defining it? In the sphere of pure economic science can one speak of the theory of surplus value? Doesn't the proletariat sell its productive capacity for what it's worth, given its situation in present day society? And, without this moral assumption, how can the tone of violent indignation and bitter sarcasm, along with Marx's political actions, contained in every page of Das Kapital, be accounted for?" (Materialismo Storico ed Economia Marxistica).
I have previously had occasion to set forth this passage from Croce, which led me, in turn, to quote some phrases by Unamuno, in his work entitled The Agony of Christianity (La agonía del cristianismo) and which consequently made me the recipient of a letter by Unamuno himself, who wrote me therein that Marx was more truly a prophet than a professor.
On more than one occasion Croce has quoted verbatim the passage referred to above. One of his critical conclusions on this subject la precisely "the negation of the intrinsic amorality or of the anti-ethicality of Marxism." And, In this same text, he wonders why no one "has thought of calling Marx, in the way of extending him a further honor, the Machiavelli of the proletariat," a fact which can be thoroughly and amply explained in the light of the conceptions he formulates in his defense of the author of The Prince, who was no less persecuted by regrets of which posterity made him the victim. On the subject of Machiavelli, Croce has on that he "discloses the necessity and autonomy of politics, which is beyond moral good and and the laws which it would be of no consequence at all to rebel against, which are immune to sort of exorcism and which cannot be made to take leave of the world with the aid of holy water."
In Croce's opinion Machiavelli gives evidence of being of "a divided mind and spirit on politics, of the autonomy of which he has become aware, and he now thinks of it as a corrupting influence for compelling him to sully his hands in dealing with basely ignorant people, and now as a sublime art with which to found and uphold that great institution, the State" (Elementi di politica). The similarity between these two cases has been clearly pointed out by Croce in the following terms:
"A case, in some respects analogous to that around which the discussions on Marxian ethics have centered, is the one having to do with the traditional critique on the ethics of Machiavelli; a critique which was brought to fruition by De Sanctis (in the chapter concerning Machiavelli in his Storia della litteratura), but a critique which nevertheless recurs quite systematically, and in a work by Professor Villari, one reads that Machiavelli's great imperfection is to be found in the fact that he did not propound the moral question. And I have often asked myself if Machiavelli was bound by contract or in any way obliged to deal with every sort of question, including those in which he took no interest and on which he had nothing to say. It would be tantamount to reproof of those who study chemistry for not delving into the metaphysical principles of matter."
The ethical function of socialism —in regard to which the hurried and summary extravaganzas of Marxists such as Lafargue, no doubt make for error— should be sought out, not in highfalutin decalogues nor in philosophical speculations, which in no way constitute a necessity in the formulation of Marxian theory, but in creating a morale for the producers by the same process of the anti-capitalist struggle.
"Vainly," Kautsky has said "have the English workers been made the object of moral preachings, of a loftier conception of life, of feelings underlying nobler deeds. The ethics of the proletariat derives from its revolutionary aspirations; from them will it be endowed with more strength and elevation of purpose. That which has saved the proletariat from debasement is the idea of revolution."
Sorel adds that for Kautsky ethics is always subordinated to the idea of the sublime, and though he disagrees with many official Marxists, who carried to extremes their paradoxes and jokes on the moralists, he nonetheless, concurs in that "Marxists had particular reasons for showing lack of confidence on all that which touched upon ethics; the propagandists of social reforms, the Utopians and the democrats had so repeatedly and misleadingly recurred to the concept of Justice that no one could be denied the right of looking upon all dissertations to this effect as a rhetorical exercise or as a sophistry, destined to lead astray those who were involved in the labor movement."
One can ascribe to the influence of Sorel's thought Edward Berth's apologia on this ethical function of socialism.
"Daniel Halevy," states Bert "seems to believe that the exaltation of the producer is bound to harm the man; he attributes to me a completely American enthusiasm for an industrial civilization But it will not be thus; the life of the free spirit is as dear to me as it is to him, and I am far from believing that in the world there is nothing else save production. It is always, in the end, the old charge levelled against the Marxists, who are held responsible for being both morally and metaphysically, materialists. Nothing could be more false; historical materialism does not impede in any way whatsoever the highest development of what Hegel calls the free or absolute spirit; quite the contrary, it is its preliminary condition. And our hope is, precisely, that in a society which rests on an ample economic base, made up by a federation of shops where free workers would be inspired by a spirited enthusiasm for production, art, religion and philosophy would in turn be given a prodigious impulse and the frantic and ardent rhythm resulting from it would simply skyrocket."
Luc Dartin's sagacity, sharpened by a finely wrought characteristically French irony, throws light on this religious-like ascendancy pervading Marxism, a phenomenon which conforms to principles inherent in the constitution of the first socialist country in the world. Historically it had already been proven by the socialist struggles of the West, that the sublime, such as the proletariat conceives of it, is not an intellectual utopia nor a propagandistic hypothesis.
When Henri de Man, demanding from socialism an ethical content, tries to demonstrate that class interest can not of itself become a sufficiently potent motor of the new order, he does not in any way go "beyond Marxism," nor does he make amends for things which have not already been pointed out by revolutionary criticism. His revisionism attacks revisionistic trade-unionism, in the practice of which class interest is content with the satisfaction of limited material aspirations. An ethics of producers, as is conceived by Sorel and Kautsky, does not emerge mechanically from economic interest, it is formed in the class struggle, engaged in with heroic disposition, with passionate will power. It is absurd to look for the ethical sentiments of socialism in those trade-unions which have fallen under the influence of the bourgeoisie — in which a domesticated bureaucracy has become enervated in its class consciousness — or in the parliamentary groups, spiritually assimilated by the class enemy, regardless of the fact of their combative stand before it as witnessed by their speeches and motions. Henri de Man expresses something which is perfectly superfluous and beside the point when he states: "The class interest doesn't explain everything. It does not create ethical motives." These avowals may impress a certain breed of nineteenth century intellectuals, whom, glaringly ignoring Marxist thought, glaringly ignoring the history of the class struggle, facilely imagine, as does Henri de Man, that they can surmount the limits of the Marxian school of thought. The ethics of socialism is formed in the class struggle. If the proletariat is to comply in its moral progress with its historical mission it becomes necessary for it to acquire beforehand a conscienciousness of its class interests; but in itself, class interest does not suffice. Long before Henri de Man, the Marxists have understood and felt this perfectly. Therein, precisely, arise their stalwart criticisms against lubberly reformism. "Without revolutionary theory, there is no revolutionary action," Lenin used to repeat, referring to the yellow-streaked tendency to forget historical finality in order to pay attention only to hourly circumstances.
The struggle for socialism instills in workers which take part in it extreme energy and absolute conviction along with an asceticism that forcibly cancels and makes utterly ridiculous any charge levelled against them having to do with their materialistic creed, and formulated on behalf of a theorizing and philosophical ethics. Luc Durtain, after visiting a Soviet school, asked whether he couldn't find in Russia a lay school, to such an extent did he regard of a religious tenor Marxist education. The materialist, if it be one who practices and is religiously devoted to his convictions, can only be distinguished from the idealist by a convention of language (Unamuno, touching upon another aspect of the opposition between idealism and materialism, states that "since what is matter to us is no more than an idea, materialism is idealism").
The worker who is indifferent to the class struggle, who derives satisfaction from his material well-being and generally speaking, from his lot in life, will be able to attain a mediocre bourgeois moral standard, but will never be able to raise himself to the level of socialist ethics. And it is preposterous to think that Marx ever advocated, or ever wanted to separate the worker from his source of livelihood, or ever wanted to deprive him of all that which binds him to his work, so that the class struggle might take hold of him more firmly, more completely. This conjecture is only conceivable in those who abide by far-fetched Marxist speculations, as Lafargue, the apologist of the right, as the individual to idleness was wont to do.
The mill, the factory, act on the worker's mind and soul. The union, the class struggle, continue and complete the worker's educational process.
"The factory," Gobetti points out, "offers the precise vision of the coexistence of the social interests: the solidarity of labor. The individual grows accustomed to feeling himself part of the productive process, an indispensable as well as an insufficient part. Here we have the most perfect school of pride and humility. I will never forget the first impression the workers gave me, when I undertook a visit to the Fiat furnaces, one of the few English-like modern capitalistic enterprises in Italy. I felt in those workers a self-possessed attitude, an unassuming assertiveness, a contempt for every manner of dilettantism. Whomever lives in a factory possesses the dignity of work, the willingness for making sacrifices and the habit of resisting fatigue. A way of life severely founded on a sense of tolerance and interdependence which induces punctuality, strictness and perseverance in the worker. These virtues of capitalism are offset by an almost bleak asceticism; whereas, on the other hand, selfrestrained suffering nourishes, when exasperation sets in, the courage to fight and the instinct for taking a defensive stand politically. English adultness, the capacity for believing in precise ideologies, of undergoing perils in order to make them prevail, the unbending will power of carrying forward with dignity the political struggle, are born of this apprenticeship, the significant implications of which are ushering in the greatest revolution since the rise of Christianity."
In this severe environment of persistency, of effort, of tenacity, the energies of European socialism have been forged, which, even in those countries where parliamentary reformism holds a big sway over the masses, offer Latin Americans an admirable example of continuity and duration. In different Latin American countries the socialist parties and the trade-union members have suffered a hundred defeats. However, each new year the elections, protest movements, any rally whatever, either of an ordinary or extraordinary character, will always find these masses greater in number and more obstinate. Renan recognized that which was mystical and religious in such a social creed. Quite justifiably Labriola praised German socialism:
"This truly new and imposing case of social pedagogy, i.e., that in such great numbers of workers and middle class sectors a new conscience should take shape, in which equally coincide a guiding perception of the economic circumstance — a stimulant conducive to stepping up the struggle — and socialist propaganda, understood as the goal and arriving point."
If socialism should not be achieved as a social order, this formidable edifying and educational accomplishment would prove more than enough to justify it in history. The previously quoted passage from de Man admits this postulation when he states, though with a different intention, that "the essential thing in socialism is the struggle in its behalf," a phrase which is very much reminiscent of those in which Bernstein advised the socialists to busy themselves primarily with the movement and not with the movement's results, by which, according to Sorel, the revisionist leader expressed a much more philosophical meaning than what he himself might have suspected. De Man does not ignore the pedagogical and spiritual function of the trade-union, though his own experience was inherently and mediocrely social-democratic.
"The trade-union organizations," he observes, "contribute in a much greater measure than the majority of the workers suppose, and almost all of the employers, to binding together more vigorously the ties between the workers and their regular chores. They obtain this result almost without their knowing it, by trying to keep up qualification and efficiency and by developing industrial education, by organizing the right the workers have to union inspection and applying democratic norms to shop discipline by the system of delegates and sections, etc. In so doing, the union renders the worker a service a great deal less problematical, considering him a citizen of a future city, rather than seeking the remedy in the disappearance of all the psychological relations between the worker and the environment of the shop."
But the Belgian neo-revisionist, notwithstanding his idealistic protestations, discovers the advantage and merit of all this in the increasing attachment of the worker to his material well-being and in the measure in which the latter factor makes a Philistine of him. Paradoxes of petit-bourgeois idealism!
Juan Carlos Mariategui
This article was republished from Marxists.org.
Dear compañero ,
Though belatedly, I am completing these notes in the course of my trip through Africa, hoping in this way to keep my promise. I would like to do so by dealing with the theme set forth in the title above. I think it may be of interest to Uruguayan readers.
A common argument from the mouths of capitalist spokespeople, in the ideological struggle against socialism, is that socialism, or the period of building socialism into which we have entered, is characterized by the abolition of the individual for the sake of the state. I will not try to refute this argument solely on theoretical grounds but rather to establish the facts as they exist in Cuba and then add comments of a general nature. Let me begin by broadly sketching the history of our revolutionary struggle before and after the taking of power.
As is well known, the exact date of the beginning of the revolutionary struggle — which would culminate in January 1959 — was July 26, 1953. A group led by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada barracks in Oriente Province on the morning of that day. The attack was a failure; the failure became a disaster; and the survivors ended up in prison, beginning the revolutionary struggle again after they were freed by an amnesty. In this process, in which there was only the germ of socialism, the individual was a fundamental factor. We put our trust in him — individual, specific, with a first and last name — and the triumph or failure of the mission entrusted to him depended on that individual's capacity for action. Then came the stage of guerrilla struggle. It developed in two distinct environments: the people, the still sleeping mass that had to be mobilized; and its vanguard, the guerrillas, the motor force of the mobilization, the generator of revolutionary consciousness and militant enthusiasm. This vanguard was the catalyzing agent that created the subjective conditions necessary for victory.
Here again, in the framework of the proletarianization of our thinking, of this revolution that took place in our habits and our minds, the individual was the basic factor. Every one of the combatants of the Sierra Maestra who reached an upper rank in the revolutionary forces has a record of outstanding deeds to his or her credit. They attained their rank on this basis
First heroic stage
This was the first heroic period, and in which combatants competed for the heaviest responsibilities, for the greatest dangers, with no other satisfaction than fulfilling a duty. In our work of revolutionary education we frequently return to this instructive theme. In the attitude of our fighters could be glimpsed the man and woman of the future.
On other occasions in our history the act of total dedication to the revolutionary cause was repeated. During the October [1962 missile] crisis and in the days of Hurricane Flora [in October 1963] we saw exceptional deeds of valor and sacrifice performed by an entire people. Finding the method to perpetuate this heroic attitude in daily life is, from the ideological standpoint, one of our fundamental tasks.
In January 1959, the revolutionary government was established with the participation of various members of the treacherous bourgeoisie. The presence of the Rebel Army was the basic element constituting the guarantee of power. Serious contradictions developed right away. In the first instance, in February 1959, these were resolved when Fidel Castro assumed leadership of the government, taking the post of prime minister. This process culminated in July of the same year with the resignation under mass pressure of President Urrutia.
In the history of the Cuban Revolution there now appeared a character, well defined in its features, which would systematically reappear: the mass. This multifaceted being is not, as is claimed, the sum of elements of the same type (reduced, moreover, to that same type by the ruling system), which acts like a flock of sheep. It is true that it follows its leaders, basically Fidel Castro, without hesitation. But the degree to which he won this trust results precisely from having interpreted the full meaning of the people's desires and aspirations, and from the sincere struggle to fulfill the promises he made.
Participation of the masses
The mass participated in the agrarian reform and in the difficult task of administering state enterprises; it went through the heroic experience of the Bay of Pigs; it was hardened in the battles against various groups of bandits armed by the CIA; it lived through one of the most important decisions of modern times during the October [missile] crisis; and today it continues to work for the building of socialism.
Viewed superficially, it might appear that those who speak of the subordination of the individual to the state are right. The mass carries out with matchless enthusiasm and discipline the tasks set by the government, whether in the field of the economy, culture, defense, sports, etc. The initiative generally comes from Fidel, or from the revolutionary leadership, and is explained to the people, who make it their own. In some cases the party and government take a local experience and generalize it, following the same procedure.
Nevertheless, the state sometimes makes mistakes. When one of these mistakes occurs, one notes a decline in collective enthusiasm due to the effect of a quantitative diminution in each of the elements that make up the mass. Work is paralyzed until it is reduced to an insignificant level. It is time to make a correction. That is what happened in March 1962, as a result of the sectarian policy imposed on the party by Aníbal Escalante. Clearly this mechanism is not enough to ensure a succession of sensible measures. A more structured connection with the mass is needed, and we must improve it in the course of the coming years. But as far as initiatives originating in the upper strata of the government are concerned, we are currently utilizing the almost intuitive method of sounding out general reactions to the great problems we confront.
In this Fidel is a master. His own special way of fusing himself with the people can be appreciated only by seeing him in action. At the great public mass meetings one can observe something like the dialogue of two tuning forks whose vibrations interact, producing new sounds. Fidel and the mass begin to vibrate together in a dialogue of growing intensity until they reach the climax in an abrupt conclusion crowned by our cry of struggle and victory. The difficult thing to understand for someone not living through the experience of the revolution is this close dialectical unity between the individual and the mass, in which both are interrelated and, at the same time, in which the mass, as an aggregate of individuals, interacts with its leaders.
Some phenomena of this kind can be seen under capitalism, when politicians appear capable of mobilizing popular opinion. But when these are not genuine social movements — if they were, it would not be entirely correct to call them capitalist — they live only so long as the individual who inspires them, or until the harshness of capitalist society puts an end to the people's illusions.
Invisible laws of capitalism
In capitalist society individuals are controlled by a pitiless law usually beyond their comprehension. The alienated human specimen is tied to society as a whole by an invisible umbilical cord: the law of value. This law acts upon all aspects of one's life, shaping its course and destiny. The laws of capitalism, which are blind and are invisible to ordinary people, act upon the individual without he or she being aware of it. One sees only the vastness of a seemingly infinite horizon ahead. That is how it is painted by capitalist propagandists who purport to draw a lesson from the example of Rockefeller — whether or not it is true — about the possibilities of individual success. The amount of poverty and suffering required for a Rockefeller to emerge, and the amount of depravity entailed in the accumulation of a fortune of such magnitude, are left out of the picture, and it is not always possible for the popular forces to expose this clearly. (A discussion of how the workers in the imperialist countries gradually lose the spirit of working-class internationalism due to a certain degree of complicity in the exploitation of the dependent countries, and how this at the same time weakens the combativity of the masses in the imperialist countries, would be appropriate here, but that is a theme that goes beyond the scope of these notes.)
In any case, the road to success is portrayed as beset with perils — perils that, it would seem, an individual with the proper qualities can overcome to attain the goal. The reward is seen in the distance; the way is lonely. Furthermore, it is a contest among wolves. One can win only at the cost of the failure of others.
The individual and socialism
I would now like to try to define the individual, the actor in this strange and moving drama of the building of socialism, in a dual existence as a unique being and as a member of society.
I think the place to start is to recognize the individual's quality of incompleteness, of being an unfinished product. The vestiges of the past are brought into the present in one's consciousness, and a continual labor is necessary to eradicate them. The process is two-sided. On the one hand, society acts through direct and indirect education; on the other, the individual submits to a conscious process of self-education. The new society in formation has to compete fiercely with the past. This past makes itself felt not only in one's consciousness — in which the residue of an education systematically oriented toward isolating the individual still weighs heavily — but also through the very character of this transition period in which commodity relations still persist. The commodity is the economic cell of capitalist society. So long as it exists its effects will make themselves felt in the organization of production and, consequently, in consciousness.
Marx outlined the transition period as resulting from the explosive transformation of the capitalist system destroyed by its own contradictions. In historical reality, however, we have seen that some countries that were weak limbs on the tree of imperialism were torn off first — a phenomenon foreseen by Lenin.
In these countries, capitalism had developed sufficiently to make its effects felt by the people in one way or another. But it was not capitalism's internal contradictions that, having exhausted all possibilities, caused the system to explode. The struggle for liberation from a foreign oppressor; the misery caused by external events such as war, whose consequences privileged classes place on the backs of the exploited; liberation movements aimed at overthrowing neo-colonial regimes — these are the usual factors in unleashing this kind of explosion. Conscious action does the rest. A complete education for social labor has not yet taken place in these countries, and wealth is far from being within the reach of the masses through the simple process of appropriation. Underdevelopment, on the one hand, and the usual flight of capital, on the other, make a rapid transition without sacrifices impossible. There remains a long way to go in constructing the economic base, and the temptation is very great to follow the beaten track of material interest as the lever with which to accelerate development.
There is the danger that the forest will not be seen for the trees. The pipe dream that socialism can be achieved with the help of the dull instruments left to us by capitalism (the commodity as the economic cell, profitability, individual material interest as a lever, etc.) can lead into a blind alley. When you wind up there after having traveled a long distance with many crossroads, it is hard to figure out just where you took the wrong turn. Meanwhile, the economic foundation that has been laid has done its work of undermining the development of consciousness. To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man and woman.
That is why it is very important to choose the right instrument for mobilizing the masses. Basically, this instrument must be moral in character, without neglecting, however, a correct use of the material incentive — especially of a social character.
As I have already said, in moments of great peril it is easy to muster a powerful response with moral incentives. Retaining their effectiveness, however, requires the development of a consciousness in which there is a new scale of values. Society as a whole must be converted into a gigantic school.
In rough outline this phenomenon is similar to the process by which capitalist consciousness was formed in its initial period. Capitalism uses force, but it also educates people in the system. Direct propaganda is carried out by those entrusted with explaining the inevitability of class society, either through some theory of divine origin or a mechanical theory of natural law. This lulls the masses, since they see themselves as being oppressed by an evil against which it is impossible to struggle.
Next comes hope of improvement — and in this, capitalism differed from the earlier caste systems, which offered no way out. For some people, the principle of the caste system will remain in effect: The reward for the obedient is to be transported after death to some fabulous other world where, according to the old beliefs, good people are rewarded. For other people there is this innovation: class divisions are determined by fate, but individuals can rise out of their class through work, initiative, etc. This process, and the myth of the self-made man, has to be profoundly hypocritical: it is the self-serving demonstration that a lie is the truth.
In our case, direct education acquires a much greater importance. The explanation is convincing because it is true; no subterfuge is needed. It is carried on by the state's educational apparatus as a function of general, technical and ideological education through such agencies as the Ministry of Education and the party's informational apparatus. Education takes hold among the masses and the foreseen new attitude tends to become a habit. The masses continue to make it their own and to influence those who have not yet educated themselves. This is the indirect form of educating the masses, as powerful as the other, structured, one.
Conscious process of self-education
But the process is a conscious one. Individuals continually feel the impact of the new social power and perceive that they do not entirely measure up to its standards. Under the pressure of indirect education, they try to adjust themselves to a situation that they feel is right and that their own lack of development had prevented them from reaching previously. They educate themselves.
In this period of the building of socialism we can see the new man and woman being born. The image is not yet completely finished — it never will be, since the process goes forward hand in hand with the development of new economic forms.
Aside from those whose lack of education makes them take the solitary road toward satisfying their own personal ambitions, there are those — even within this new panorama of a unified march forward — who have a tendency to walk separately from the masses accompanying them. What is important, however, is that each day individuals are acquiring ever more consciousness of the need for their incorporation into society and, at the same time, of their importance as the motor of that society.
They no longer travel completely alone over lost roads toward distant aspirations. They follow their vanguard, consisting of the party, the advanced workers, the advanced individuals who walk in unity with the masses and in close communion with them. The vanguard has its eyes fixed on the future and its reward, but this is not a vision of reward for the individual. The prize is the new society in which individuals will have different characteristics: the society of communist human beings.
The road is long and full of difficulties. At times we lose our way and must turn back. At other times we go too fast and separate ourselves from the masses. Sometimes we go too slow and feel the hot breath of those treading at our heels. In our zeal as revolutionaries we try to move ahead as fast as possible, clearing the way. But we know we must draw our nourishment from the mass and that it can advance more rapidly only if we inspire it by our example.
Despite the importance given to moral incentives, the fact that there remains a division into two main groups (excluding, of course, the minority that for one reason or another does not participate in the building of socialism) indicates the relative lack of development of social consciousness. The vanguard group is ideologically more advanced than the mass; the latter understands the new values, but not sufficiently. While among the former there has been a qualitative change that enables them to make sacrifices in their capacity as an advance guard, the latter see only part of the picture and must be subject to incentives and pressures of a certain intensity. This is the dictatorship of the proletariat operating not only on the defeated class but also on individuals of the victorious class.
All of this means that for total success a series of mechanisms, of revolutionary institutions, is needed. Along with the image of the multitudes marching toward the future comes the concept of institutionalization as a harmonious set of channels, steps, restraints and well-oiled mechanisms which facilitate the advance, which facilitate the natural selection of those destined to march in the vanguard, and which bestow rewards on those who fulfill their duties and punishments on those who commit a crime against the society that is being built.
Institutionalization of the revolution
This institutionalization of the revolution has not yet been achieved. We are looking for something new that will permit a complete identification between the government and the community in its entirety, something appropriate to the special conditions of the building of socialism, while avoiding at all costs transplanting the commonplaces of bourgeois democracy — such as legislative chambers, for example — into the society in formation.
Some experiments aimed at the gradual institutionalization of the revolution have been made, but without undue haste. The greatest brake has been our fear lest any appearance of formality might separate us from the masses and from the individual, which might make us lose sight of the ultimate and most important revolutionary aspiration: to see human beings liberated from their alienation.
Despite the lack of institutions, which must be overcome gradually, the masses are now making history as a conscious collective of individuals fighting for the same cause. The individual under socialism, despite apparent standardization, is more complete. Despite the lack of a perfect mechanism for it, the opportunities for self expression and making oneself felt in the social organism are infinitely greater.
It is still necessary to deepen conscious participation, individual and collective, in all the structures of management and production, and to link this to the idea of the need for technical and ideological education, so that the individual will realize that these processes are closely interdependent and their advancement is parallel. In this way the individual will reach total consciousness as a social being, which is equivalent to the full realization as a human creature, once the chains of alienation are broken. This will be translated concretely into the reconquering of one's true nature through liberated labor, and the expression of one's own human condition through culture and art.
New status of work
In order to develop a new culture, work must acquire a new status. Human beings-as-commodities cease to exist, and a system is installed that establishes a quota for the fulfillment of one's social duty. The means of production belong to society, and the machine is merely the trench where duty is performed. A person begins to become free from thinking of the annoying fact that one needs to work to satisfy one's animal needs. Individuals start to see themselves reflected in their work and to understand their full stature as human beings through the object created, through the work accomplished. Work no longer entails surrendering a part of one's being in the form of labor power sold, which no longer belongs to the individual, but becomes an expression of oneself, a contribution to the common life in which one is reflected, the fulfillment of one's social duty.
We are doing everything possible to give work this new status as a social duty and to link it on the one hand with the development of technology, which will create the conditions for greater freedom, and on the other hand with voluntary work based on the Marxist appreciation that one truly reaches a full human condition when no longer compelled to produce by the physical necessity to sell oneself as a commodity. Of course, there are still coercive aspects to work, even when it is voluntary. We have not transformed all the coercion that surrounds us into conditioned reflexes of a social character and, in many cases, is still produced under the pressures of one's environment. (Fidel calls this moral compulsion.) There is still a need to undergo a complete spiritual rebirth in one's attitude toward one's own work, freed from the direct pressure of the social environment, though linked to it by new habits. That will be communism. The change in consciousness does not take place automatically, just as change in the economy does not take place automatically. The alterations are slow and not rhythmic; there are periods of acceleration, periods that are slower, and even retrogressions.
Furthermore, we must take into account, as I pointed out before, that we are not dealing with a period of pure transition, as Marx envisaged in his Critique of the Gotha Program, but rather with a new phase unforeseen by him: an initial period of the transition to communism, or of the construction of socialism. This transition is taking place in the midst of violent class struggles, and with elements of capitalism within it that obscure a complete understanding of its essence.
If we add to this the scholasticism that has held back the development of Marxist philosophy and impeded a systematic treatment of the transition period, whose political economy has not yet been developed, we must agree that we are still in diapers and that it is necessary to devote ourselves to investigating all the principal characteristics of this period before elaborating an economic and political theory of greater scope.
The resulting theory will, no doubt, put great stress on the two pillars of the construction of socialism: the education of the new man and woman and the development of technology. Much remains to be done in regard to both, but delay is least excusable in regard to the concept of technology as a basic foundation, since this is not a question of going forward blindly but of following a long stretch of road already opened up by the world's more advanced countries. This is why Fidel pounds away with such insistence on the need for the technological and scientific training of our people and especially of its vanguard.
In the field of ideas that do not lead to activities involving production, it is easier to see the division between material and spiritual necessity. For a long time individuals have been trying to free themselves from alienation through culture and art. While a person dies every day during the eight or more hours in which he or she functions as a commodity, individuals come to life afterward in their spiritual creations. But this remedy bears the germs of the same sickness: that of a solitary being seeking harmony with the world. One defends one's individuality, which is oppressed by the environment, and reacts to aesthetic ideas as a unique being whose aspiration is to remain immaculate. It is nothing more than an attempt to escape. The law of value is no longer simply a reflection of the relations of production; the monopoly capitalists — even while employing purely empirical methods — surround that law with a complicated scaffolding that turns it into a docile servant. The superstructure imposes a kind of art in which the artist must be educated. Rebels are subdued by the machine, and only exceptional talents may create their own work. The rest become shamefaced hirelings or are crushed.
A school of artistic experimentation is invented, which is said to be the definition of freedom; but this “experimentation” has its limits, imperceptible until there is a clash, that is, until the real problems of individual alienation arise. Meaningless anguish or vulgar amusement thus become convenient safety valves for human anxiety. The idea of using art as a weapon of protest is combated.
Those who play by the rules of the game are showered with honors — such honors as a monkey might get for performing pirouettes. The condition is that one does not try to escape from the invisible cage.
New impulse for artistic experimentation
When the revolution took power there was an exodus of those who had been completely housebroken. The rest — whether they were revolutionaries or not — saw a new road. Artistic inquiry experienced a new impulse. The paths, however, had already been more or less laid out, and the escapist concept hid itself behind the word “freedom.” This attitude was often found even among the revolutionaries themselves, a reflection in their consciousness of bourgeois idealism.
In countries that have gone through a similar process, attempts have been made to combat such tendencies with an exaggerated dogmatism. General culture became virtually taboo, and the acme of cultural aspiration was declared to be the formally exact representation of nature. This was later transformed into a mechanical representation of the social reality they wanted to show: the ideal society, almost without conflicts or contradictions, that they sought to create.
Socialism is young and has its mistakes. We revolutionaries often lack the knowledge and intellectual audacity needed to meet the task of developing the new man and woman with methods different from the conventional ones; conventional methods suffer from the influences of the society that created them. (Once again the theme of the relationship between form and content is posed.) Disorientation is widespread, and the problems of material construction absorb us. There are no artists of great authority who also have great revolutionary authority. The members of the party must take this task in hand and seek the achievement of the main goal: to educate the people.
What is sought then is simplification, something everyone can understand, something functionaries understand. True artistic experimentation ends, and the problem of general culture is reduced to assimilating the socialist present and the dead (therefore, not dangerous) past. Thus socialist realism arises upon the foundations of the art of the last century. The realistic art of the 19th century, however, also has a class character, more purely capitalist perhaps than the decadent art of the 20th century that reveals the anguish of the alienated individual. In the field of culture, capitalism has given all that it had to give, and nothing remains but the stench of a corpse, today's decadence in art.
But why try to find the only valid prescription in the frozen forms of socialist realism? We cannot counterpose “freedom” to socialist realism, because the former does not yet exist and will not exist until the complete development of the new society. We must not, from the pontifical throne of realism-at-all-costs, condemn all art forms since the first half of the 19th century, for we would then fall into the Proudhonian mistake of going back to the past, of putting a strait-jacket on the artistic expression of the people who are being born and are in the process of making themselves. What is needed is the development of an ideological-cultural mechanism that permits both free inquiry and the uprooting of the weeds that multiply so easily in the fertilized soil of state subsidies.
In our country the error of mechanical realism has not appeared, but rather its opposite. This is because the need for the creation of a new individual has not been understood, a new human being who would represent neither the ideas of the 19th century nor those of our own decadent and morbid century.
What we must create is the human being of the 21stcentury, although this is still a subjective aspiration, not yet systematized. This is precisely one of the fundamental objectives of our study and our work. To the extent that we achieve concrete success on a theoretical plane — or, vice versa, to the extent that we draw theoretical conclusions of a broad character on the basis of our concrete research — we will have made a valuable contribution to Marxism-Leninism, to the cause of humanity.
By reacting against the human being of the 19th century we have relapsed into the decadence of the 20th century. It is not a very grave error, but we must overcome it lest we leave open the door for revisionism. The great multitudes continue to develop. The new ideas are gaining a good momentum within society. The material possibilities for the integrated development of absolutely all members of society make the task much more fruitful. The present is a time of struggle; the future is ours.
New revolutionary generation
To sum up, the fault of many of our artists and intellectuals lies in their original sin: they are not true revolutionaries. We can try to graft the elm tree so that it will bear pears, but at the same time we must plant pear trees. New generations will come that will be free of original sin. The probability that great artists will appear will be greater to the degree that the field of culture and the possibilities for expression are broadened.
Our task is to prevent the current generation, torn asunder by its conflicts, from becoming perverted and from perverting new generations. We must not create either docile servants of official thought, or “scholarship students” who live at the expense of the state — practicing freedom in quotation marks. Revolutionaries will come who will sing the song of the new man and woman in the true voice of the people. This is a process that takes time. In our society the youth and the party play a big part. The former is especially important because it is the malleable clay from which the new person can be built with none of the old defects. The youth are treated in accordance with our aspirations. Their education is every day more complete, and we do not neglect their incorporation into work from the outset. Our scholarship students do physical work during their vacations or along with their studies. Work is a reward in some cases, a means of education in others, but it is never a punishment. A new generation is being born. The party is a vanguard organization. It is made up of the best workers, who are proposed for membership by their fellow workers. It is a minority, but it has great authority because of the quality of its cadres. Our aspiration is for the party to become a mass party, but only when the masses have reached the level of the vanguard, that is, when they are educated for communism. Our work constantly strives toward this education. The party is the living example; its cadres must teach hard work and sacrifice. By their action, they must lead the masses to the completion of the revolutionary task, which involves years of hard struggle against the difficulties of construction, class enemies, the maladies of the past, imperialism.
Role of the individual
Now, I would like to explain the role played by the personality, by men and women as individuals leading the masses that make history. This is our experience; it is not a prescription.
Fidel gave the revolution its impulse in the first years, and also its leadership. He always set its tone; but there is a good group of revolutionaries who are developing along the same road as the central leader. And there is a great mass that follows its leaders because it has faith in them. It has faith in those leaders because they have known how to interpret its aspirations.
It is not a matter of how many kilograms of meat one has to eat, or of how many times a year someone can go to the beach, or how many pretty things from abroad you might be able to buy with present-day wages. It is a matter of making the individual feel more complete, with much more inner wealth and much more responsibility.
People in our country know that the glorious period in which they happen to live is one of sacrifice; they are familiar with sacrifice. The first ones came to know it in the Sierra Maestra and wherever they fought; later, everyone in Cuba came to know it. Cuba is the vanguard of America and must make sacrifices because it occupies the post of advance guard, because it shows the masses of Latin America the road to full freedom. Within the country the leadership has to carry out its vanguard role. It must be said with all sincerity that in a real revolution, to which one gives his or her all and from which one expects no material reward, the task of the vanguard revolutionary is both magnificent and agonizing.
Love of living humanity
At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. Perhaps it is one of the great dramas of the leader that he or she must combine a passionate spirit with a cold intelligence and make painful decisions without flinching. Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize this love of the people, of the most sacred causes, and make it one and indivisible. They cannot descend, with small doses of daily affection, to the level where ordinary people put their love into practice.
The leaders of the revolution have children just beginning to talk, who are not learning to say “daddy”; their wives, too, must be part of the general sacrifice of their lives in order to take the revolution to its destiny. The circle of their friends is limited strictly to the circle of comrades in the revolution. There is no life outside of it.
In these circumstances one must have a large dose of humanity, a large dose of a sense of justice and truth in order to avoid dogmatic extremes, cold scholasticism, or an isolation from the masses. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity is transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
The revolutionary, the ideological motor force of the revolution within the party, is consumed by this uninterrupted activity that comes to an end only with death, unless the construction of socialism is accomplished on a world scale. If one's revolutionary zeal is blunted when the most urgent tasks have been accomplished on a local scale and one forgets about proletarian internationalism, the revolution one leads will cease to be a driving force and sink into a comfortable drowsiness that imperialism, our irreconcilable enemy, will utilize to gain ground. Proletarian internationalism is a duty, but it is also a revolutionary necessity. This is the way we educate our people.
Danger of dogmatism
Of course there are dangers in the present situation, and not only that of dogmatism, not only that of freezing the ties with the masses midway in the great task. There is also the danger of the weaknesses we can fall into. The way is open to infection by the germs of future corruption if a person thinks that dedicating his or her entire life to the revolution means that, in return, one should not be distracted by such worries as that one's child lacks certain things, that one's children's shoes are worn out, that one's family lacks some necessity.
In our case we have maintained that our children must have, or lack, those things that the children of the ordinary citizen have or lack; our families should understand this and struggle for it to be that way. The revolution is made through human beings, but individuals must forge their revolutionary spirit day by day.
Thus we march on. At the head of the immense column — we are neither ashamed nor afraid to say it — is Fidel. After him come the best cadres of the party, and immediately behind them, so close that we feel its tremendous force, comes the people in its entirety, a solid structure of individual beings moving toward a common goal, men and women who have attained consciousness of what must be done, people who fight to escape from the realm of necessity and to enter that of freedom.
This great throng organizes itself; its organization results from its consciousness of the necessity of this organization. It is no longer a dispersed force, divisible into thousands of fragments thrown into the air like splinters from a hand grenade, trying by any means to achieve some protection from an uncertain future, in desperate struggle with their fellows.
We know that sacrifices lie ahead and that we must pay a price for the heroic fact that we are, as a nation, a vanguard. We, as leaders, know that we must pay a price for the right to say that we are at the head of a people that is at the head of America. Each and every one of us readily pays his or her quota of sacrifice, conscious of being rewarded with the satisfaction of fulfilling a duty, conscious of advancing with everyone toward the new man and woman glimpsed on the horizon.
Allow me to draw some conclusions:
We socialists are freer because we are more fulfilled; we are more fulfilled because we are freer.
The basic clay of our work is the youth; we place our hope in it and prepare it to take the banner from our hands. If this inarticulate letter clarifies anything, it has accomplished the objective that motivated it. Accept our ritual greeting — which is like a handshake or an “Ave Maria Puríssima”:
Patria o muerte! [Homeland or death!]
. This letter was sent to Carlos Quijano, director of the Uruguayan weekly publication, Marcha . It was published on March 12, 1965, under the title, “From Algiers, for Marcha . The Cuban Revolution Today.” In the original edition the following editor's note was added: “Che Guevara sent this letter to Marcha from Algiers. This document is of the utmost importance, especially in order to understand the aims and goals of the Cuban Revolution as seen by one of the main actors in that process. The thesis presented is intended to provoke debate and, at the same time, give a new perspective on some of the foundations of current socialist thought.” On November 5, 1965, the letter was republished and presented as “Exclusive: A Special Note from Che Guevara.” A memo explained that Marcha 's readers in Argentina had not been able to read the original publication, because the week that it was first published the magazine was banned in Buenos Aires. Subheadings are based on those used in the original Cuban edition. They have been added by the publisher.
. When Che sent the letter to Quijano, he had been touring Africa since December 1964. During this African tour, Che held many meetings with African revolutionary leaders.
. Che's concept of the man or woman of the future, as first evident in the consciousness of the combatants in Cuba's revolutionary war, was explored by his article, “Social Ideals of the Rebel Army” (1959). These ideas were further developed in a speech, “The Revolutionary Doctor” (1960), where he described how Cuba was creating “a new type of individual” as a result of the revolution, because “there is nothing that can educate a person... like living through a revolution.” These first ideas were deepened as part of Che's concept of the individual as a direct and conscious actor in the process of constructing socialism. This article presents a synthesis of his ideas on this question.
. These two events in the early years of the revolution seriously tested the valor of the Cuban people in the face of disaster: first, the October [Missile] Crisis of 1962, during which the U.S. actions aimed at overthrowing the Cuban Revolution brought the world to the brink of crisis; and second, Hurricane Flora, which battered the eastern region of Cuba on October 4, 1963, resulting in over a thousand deaths. Nevertheless, Che believed that if, in fact, a new society was to be created, the masses needed to apply the same kind of consciousness in everyday activities as they had heroically displayed in such special circumstances.
. The revolutionary victory of January 1, 1959, meant that for the first time in their history, the Cuban people attained a genuine level of popular participation in power. At first, the government was made up of figures from traditional political parties that had in one way or another supported the revolution. As measures were adopted that affected the ruling classes, some dissent emerged that became the germ of the future counterrevolution, which was subsequently supported and funded by the U.S. Government. In this early confrontation, President Manuel Urrutia was forced to resign due to public pressure when it became clear that he was presenting obstacles to measures that would benefit the population as a whole. It was at this time, with the full backing of the Cuban people, that Fidel assumed government leadership and became Prime Minister.
. The Agrarian Reform Law of May 17, 1959, after only four months of taking power, was seen as the decisive step in fulfilling the revolutionary program proposed at Moncada in 1953. Che participated in the drafting of this new law along with other comrades proposed by the revolutionary leadership.
. On April 17, 1961, mercenary troops that were trained and financed by the U.S. Government, along with exile counterrevolutionary groups, invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. This was part of the U.S. plan to destabilize and ultimately overthrow the revolution. In these circumstances, the Cuban masses, who felt that they were the participants in a genuine process of social transformation, showed they were ready to defend the gains of the revolution and were able to defeat any attempt to destroy it.
. The manifestations of sectarianism, which emerged in Cuba in the 1960s, forced the revolutionary leadership to take measures that would impede any tendency toward separating the government from the masses. As part of that leadership, Che participated in this process and analyzed on many occasions the grave consequences of such a separation. He expressed these views, for example, in the prolog he wrote for the book, The Marxist-Leninist Party , published in 1963, where he explained: “Mistakes were made in the leadership; the party lost those essential qualities that linked them with the masses, the exercise of democratic centralism and the spirit of sacrifice... the function of the driving force of ideology is lost... [F]ortunately the old bases for this type of sectarianism have been destroyed.”
. The debate over the role of the law of value within the construction of socialism formed part of Che's outline of an economic framework and his initial ideas for the Budgetary Finance System. Due to his revolutionary humanist perspective, Che rejected any notion that included using capitalist tools or fetishes. These ideas were widely discussed in his article, “On the Concept of Value,” published in the magazine Our Industry in October 1963. Here we see the beginning of the economic debate that Che initiated in those years and which had international significance. This polemic was conducted in his typically rigorous style. Outlining the guidelines to be followed, Che wrote: “We want to make it clear that the debate we have initiated can be invaluable for our development only if we are capable of conducting it with a strictly scientific approach and with the greatest equanimity.”
. Nelson Rockefeller, who became one of the wealthiest people in the United States, acquired his capital by a “stroke of luck,” so the story goes, when his family discovered oil. Rockefeller's economic power brought him great political influence for many years — especially with regard to Latin America policy — irrespective of who was in the White House.
. For Che, socialism could not exist if economics was not combined with social and political consciousness. Without an awareness of rights and duties, it would be impossible to construct a new society. This attitude would be the mechanism of socialist transition and the essential form of expressing this would be through consciousness. In this work, Che analyzed the decisive role of consciousness as opposed to the distortions produced by “real existing socialism,” based on the separation of the material base of society from its superstructure. Unfortunately, historical events proved Che right, when a moral and political crisis brought about the collapse of the socialist system. Among Che's writings on this question are: “Collective Discussion: Decisions and Sole Responsibilities” (1961), “On the Construction of the Party” (1963), “Awarding Certificates for Communist Work” (1964) and “A New Attitude to Work” (1964).
. From early on Che studied the concept of underdevelopment as he tried to define the realities of the Third World. In his article, “Cuba: Historical Exception or Vanguard in the Anticolonial Struggle?” (1961), Che asked: “What is 'underdevelopment'? A dwarf with an enormous head and swollen chest is 'underdeveloped,' insofar as his fragile legs and short arms do not match the rest of his anatomy. He is the product of an abnormal and distorted development. That is what we are in reality — we, who are politely referred to as 'underdeveloped.' In truth, we are colonial, semicolonial or dependent countries, whose economies have been deformed by imperialism, which has peculiarly developed only those branches of industry or agriculture needed to complement its own complex economy.”
. Che argued that the full liberation of humankind is reached when work becomes a social duty carried out with complete satisfaction and sustained by a value system that contributes to the realization of conscious action in performing tasks. This could only be achieved by systematic education, acquired by passing through various stages in which collective action is increased. Che recognized that this would be difficult and would take time. In his desire to speed up this process, however, he developed methods of mobilizing people, bringing together their collective and individual interests. Among the most significant of these instruments were moral and material incentives, while deepening consciousness as a way of developing toward socialism. See Che's speeches: “Homage to Emulation Prize Winners” (1962) and “A New Attitude to Work” (1964).
. In the process of creating the new man and woman, Che considered that education should be directly related to production and that it should be conducted on a daily basis as the only way for individuals to better themselves. This should also be undertaken in a collective spirit, so that it contributes to the development of consciousness and has a greater impact. On a practical level he developed an education system within the Ministry of Industry that guaranteed a minimum level of training for workers, so that they could meet the new scientific and technolgical challenges Cuba faced.
. Che discussed the role of the vanguard at key points. First, he defined the vanguard as a necessary element in leading the struggle and within the first line of defense. After the revolution, Che saw the vanguard as providing the real impulse for the masses to participate actively in the construction of a new society; at the head of the vanguard being the party. For this reason, Che occasionally insisted that the revolution was an accelerated process wherein those who play an active role have the right to become tired but not to become tired of being the vanguard.
. In the period when Che was a leader, the Cuban Revolution had not yet reached a level of institutionalization so that old power structures had been completely eliminated. Nevertheless, Che argued that such institutionalization was important as a means of formalizing the integration of the masses and the vanguard. Years later in 1976, after the First Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, this task of institutionalization was codified, as an expression of the power structures created by the revolution.
. It was Che's view that work played a crucial role in the construction of a new society. He analyzed the differences between work undertaken within a capitalist society and that which was free of alienation in a socialist society. He was aware of what was required so that workers would give their utmost and put duty and sacrifice ahead of individual gain. In a speech in 1961, Che referred to daily work as, “the most difficult, constant task that demands neither an instant violent sacrifice nor a single minute in a comrade's life in order to defend the revolution, but demands long hours ever day...”
. In order to understand the construction of socialism as a process that would eliminate the persistent roots of the previous society, Che examined the inherited relations of production. He insisted that two fundamental changes must occur as the only way to put an end to the exploitation of one human being by another and to achieve a socialist society: an increase in production and a deepening of consciousness.
. An article such as Socialism and Man in Cuba could not avoid a discussion of culture, given the enormous changes that were taking place in Cuban society and power structures at the time. It was not an easy task to reflect on the concept of socialist culture in a country that was just emerging from underdevelopment and was still characterized by a neocolonial culture, imposed by a dominant class. There was a constant struggle between the values of the past and the attempt to construct an all-encompassing culture based on solidarity between people and real social justice. The struggle was made more difficult, not only by the persistence of the past culture but also by dogmatic and authoritarian tendencies of so-called “socialist realism” in socialist countries. The antidote was to defend the best and most unique aspects of Cuban culture, avoiding excesses, and by trying to construct a culture that would express the feelings of the majority without vulgarity and schemas. This is the perspective that has been maintained in the development of revolutionary culture in Cuba, and neither neoliberalism nor globalization has been able to impede the genuine process of popular culture. This is the expression of a truly socialist society.
. The role of the party and revolutionary youth in the construction of a new society was broadly analyzed by Che: “On the Construction of the Party,” “The Marxist-Leninist Party,” “To be a Young Communist” and “Youth and Revolution.”
. The harmony established between Fidel and Che from their first meeting in Mexico in 1955 represented a coming together of common ideals and a common approach to the liberation of Latin America and the building of a new society. Che referred to Fidel on many occasions in his writings and speeches, evaluating his qualities as a leader and statesman with sincere admiration and respect. Fidel reciprocated these feelings countless times. Their relationship should be investigated more deeply in order to gain a greater understanding of a transcendental historical era. For further reference see Che's Episodes of a Revolutionary War , Guerrilla Warfare , “Cuba: Historical Exception or Vanguard in the Anticolonial Struggle?”, “Political Sovereignty and Economic Independence” and “The Marxist-Leninist Party.”
. The study of the different stages of the Cuban Revolution — from guerrilla warfare to the achievement of revolutionary power — is systematically reflected in all Che's writings and speeches. He always highlighted the significance of Cuba's example for the rest of the Third World, as a symbol of freedom and showing the fruits of the initial stages of constructing socialism in an underdeveloped country. Aside from those already cited, see: “Farewell to the International Brigades for Voluntary Work” (1960) and “The Cuban Revolution's Influence in Latin America” (1962).
. Che's conclusions here summarized some of the most important concepts permeating his works, which are beautifully synthesized in this volume. These ideas provide a complete spectrum that encompasses philosophy, ethics and politics, spanning a range of complex questions.
Ernesto Che Guevara
This letter was republsihed from Marxists.org
The range of available commentaries on the 19th century American poet, Walt Whitman, should make anyone uneasy about placing him within a firm ideological tradition. On the one hand, his association with the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his elevation of the United States as “the greatest poem” are flattering to a ruling class who extol rugged individualism and evangelize about American exceptionalism (I remember when his poetry was used in a Levi’s Jeans commercial). Yet, the admiration he enjoyed during his lifetime from socialists outside of the US, such as William Morris and Oscar Wilde, shows how much Whitman’s poetry equally appealed to their revolutionary zeal. Broadly speaking, Whitman’s enthusiastic readers felt drawn not only to his poetic flair, but also to his glorification of liberty and freedom.
His right-leaning devotees can easily find a comfortable home in Whitman’s obvious nationalism and chauvinism, neither of which left readers should ignore. His early support for the Mexican-American war (support which he later retracted), his antagonism toward abolitionists (whom he decried as “fanatical”), and his apparent disregard for Native Americans weaken any effort to elevate Whitman as someone who speaks for the left, despite his apparent bent toward sexual and individual liberties.
It might be fascinating, however, to underscore Whitman’s affinity for democratic principles that informed his admiration for the 1871 Paris Commune, about which he wrote an updated section for the 1871 edition of Leaves of Grass with the title “Songs of Insurrection,” followed by an elegy after the Commune’s demise. Whitman’s poems about the Paris Commune can offer us lessons for international solidarity, especially as we commemorate the Commune’s 150th anniversary. But the internal tensions and contradictions within his political views also warn against the pitfalls of rendering democracy and liberty completely incoherent and susceptible to ruling class appropriation.
WHITMAN’S DEMOCRATIC MODEL
Whitman’s most famous statements about democracy come out of his essay, Democratic Vistas. Writing on the “purpose of democracy,” Whitman actually constructs a model of democracy that would not be out of place today in the public statements of any liberal or conservative US politician, framing it as “the only scheme worth working from.” His view of democracy is undergirded with a staunch belief in America’s superiority on matters of personal liberty — aspects which Whitman felt were being ignored by his fellow citizens:
The purpose of democracy […] is, through many transmigrations, and amid endless ridicules, arguments, and ostensible failures, to illustrate, at all hazards, this doctrine or theory that man, properly train’d in sanest, highest freedom, may and must become a law, and series of laws, unto himself, surrounding and providing for, not only his own personal control, but all his relations to other individuals, and to the State.
These words are jarring to read alongside Whitman’s patriotism; and they are aggrandizing in a manner that provides support to the self-image of the US as a beacon of freedom and democracy even today. That he celebrates democracy at all is, of course, laudable. Yet, for Whitman, it seems to dovetail with his belief in the US as a unique and superior place in history for offering personal liberty, while shirking any acknowledgment of genuine equality or popular sovereignty.
The beguiling understanding that “democracy” as practiced in the US could ever assure “that man” become “a law…unto himself” surely complies with the stated principles of the American constitution, placing a high moral premium on the interests of the individual as opposed to the collective. But, the past century and a half should indicate how damaging it can be to empower personal liberties at the expense of the collective good (especially, say, during a pandemic).
Later in the essay, Whitman recognizes the revolutionary power that existed during the US Civil War: “The People, of their own choice, fighting, dying for their own idea, insolently attack’d by the secession-slave-power, and its very existence imperil’d. Descending to detail, entering any of the armies, and mixing with the private soldiers, we see and have seen august spectacles.” It is here in acknowledging the wider, active struggles within the Civil War that ultimately confirmed the power of “The People” to govern of “their own choice” and challenge the ruling class.
Although Whitman far too readily praised the triumphs of US republicanism (which were, in the 19th century, doubtful), this last point — in which he understands the “unconquerable resolution” animating the “unnamed, unknown rank and file” — supplies an important refrain for his views on the Communards in 1871.
THE PARIS COMMUNE IN WHITMAN’S IMAGINATION
The 1871 uprisings that led to the Paris Commune, a brief but inspiring experiment in radical democracy that took over Paris for two months, captured the hearts of many international observers, even decades after its dissolution. Karl Marx, of course, famously described the Commune as the “direct antithesis to the empire”: “The cry of ‘social republic’, with which the revolution of February was ushered in by the Paris proletariat, did but express a vague aspiration after a Republic that was not only to supersede the monarchical form of class-rule, but class-rule itself. The Commune was the positive form of that republic.”
Vladimir Lenin, 40 years later, noted the unprecedented and spontaneous nature of the Paris Commune, which owed its astonishing achievement to the workers who “remained loyal to the movement.” Yet, Lenin diagnosed the failures of the Commune as being a lack of support from the bourgeois republicans and the petty bourgeoisie: “Deserted by their allies of yesterday and supported by no one, the Commune was doomed to inevitable defeat.” It was ultimately this lesson from which Lenin learned and sought to consolidate power for the Bolsheviks.
Whitman’s kinship with revolutionary struggles in France began long before the Commune. As ongoing class conflict continued to shape late 19th-century Europe, Whitman upheld admiration for the myriad insurrectionist movements that occurred from 1848 onward. Betsy Erkillä, professor of Literature at Northwestern University (and author of four books on Whitman), argues that “revolutionary events in France were so important to Whitman’s attempt to come to terms with the ailing body of democracy” that when he heard about Louis Napoléon’s imprisonment at Sedan “he added a note in support of the popular struggle in France to the last page of Democratic Vistas just before he sent the pamphlet to the printer.”
In a gesture of deep solidarity with French revolutionaries, Whitman writes: “O that I could express, in my printed lines, the passionate yearnings, the pulses of sympathy, forever throbbing in the heart of These States” for their revolutionary struggle. It is arguably in his salute to these putatively more radical and egalitarian insurrectionist movements where Whitman is at his most interesting.
“THE GREAT WORD SOLIDARITY HAS ARISEN”
The “Songs of Insurrection” testify to Whitman’s heartfelt commitment to and love for revolutionary power. The speaker in the poems reveals a deep camaraderie with the Communards:
For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel, the
Camaraderie, as Gilles Deleuze reminds us, is the term Whitman employs to “designate the highest human relation”: a “society of comrades” and a “march of souls in the open air.” He sees himself embodied in those who would risk “peace and routine,” carrying the weight of popular struggle and leading the way to liberation. For Whitman, the century of insurrectionist revolt in France is that from which “the great word solidarity has arisen,” as he says in Democratic Vistas. Like that essay, according to Erkillä, “Whitman’s ‘Songs of Insurrection’ were shaped by a similar urge to express American sympathy for the popular uprisings in Europe, and especially in France.”
In a voice that wavers between warning cry and rallying cry, the poems’ speaker offers words designed to rouse revolutionary spirit — a spirit that is unshakeable:
Then courage! European revolter! revoltress!
Worn-out and bruised from defeat, socialists everywhere can identify with the final lines. Learning soon that yet another popular movement is quashed by state forces and the might of the ruling class, Whitman nevertheless presents a model for what international solidarity should look like — at once admiring of their cause and sympathetic to the barriers against victory. The demise of the Paris Commune during “The Bloody Week” was one such moment that justifiably led to momentary a retreat from revolutionary struggle. However, instead of despairing failures, the commitment to democracy means that one anticipates defeat: “Liberty! let others despair of you! I never despair of you.”
WHITMAN’S LIBERAL TENDENCIES
Whitman knew then, as we know today, that the ongoing struggle for liberation can be dispiriting. Unfortunately, it is also in these moments of despair, heartbreak, and defeat where revolutionaries can lose focus.
Whitman, thus, offers at the end of the “Songs” a caution to the democratic poets and revolutionaries in the US:
To The States, or any one of them, or any city of The
It is here again where Whitman’s words can be easily construed and co-opted by a liberal elite, as the revolutionary spirit is emptied of any working-class or anti-capitalist content. It seems to be, instead, simply an attitude of opposition and contrarianism — sentiments which can easily appeal to anyone across the ideological spectrum.
We can locate here the tension in Whitman’s political ideals that make it difficult to fully embrace him from a socialist perspective. While his proclamations in support of the Commune are exemplars of international solidarity, they are also offered by someone who uncritically parroted American nationalism and hastily celebrated the American experiment, despite its ongoing patterns of destruction of which he was most certainly aware.
Whitman’s clarity about the events in France leaves much to be desired in the rest of his political observations. Had he not been so invested in declaring himself the “American bard” he likely would have taken a more critical perspective toward US democracy and engaged more actively in working class struggle.
The issue comes down, it seems, to Whitman’s impassioned defense of freedom and liberty, ideals from which he never wavered throughout his life. Yet, where Whitman misses the mark is when he seems to forget that freedom and liberty are neither disconnected from, nor incidental to, the cause of collective, international struggle and radical democracy. They are permanently tied together.
MAKING SOLIDARITY VISIBLE
The material systems of coercive power are conditions that cannot be excluded from an emancipatory vision, especially if its horizon is international in breadth. It is a fight that engages everyone, regardless of country and status.
Resisting Empire requires the level of sacrifice, camaraderie and commitment that Whitman seemed to admire in the Communards. If the main focus of liberty, though, is placed upon individual freedom, then that freedom will always flow toward those who maintain the most material power —which makes Whitman so appealing to conservatives. Those in power can simply invoke Whitman’s cries for liberty to justify the grotesque pursuit of wealth against any demands to provide a social good.
The bridge from individual liberty to collective liberation comes up against the challenge of making the stakes of collective liberation visible. This is where the poet comes in. Where Whitman succeeded, is in making solidarity knowable and visible; he made it an ideal that can be absorbed and productively engaged from the left.
We should not take Whitman as a sole, leading voice for socialists, but there is also nothing to say we have to. We can simply take up Henry Miller’s challenge to not only read Whitman, but to “include his thought and go beyond it.” And in our present moment of alienation and fragmentation, international solidarity and camaraderie are in short supply. But as long as we can see and know it, through the words and “songs” that Whitman provides, the joy of solidarity can be a weapon in the hands of a revolutionary, challenging and confronting those systems that wish to obscure its power.
This article was first published by Roar.
On February 9, 1953, the Soviet legation in Tel-Aviv was bombed wounding several members of its staff. This led to the breaking of Israeli-Soviet relations and ended the brief friendly relationship between the two countries which had begun with the Soviet Union’s support for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. While Israeli-Soviet relations were re-established by Khrushchev’s government following the death of Stalin, they would never again reach the closeness of this period. This was accompanied by the Israeli decision to align with the west in the intensifying Cold War, abandoning its policy of non-identification and ending the brief period when Israel was supported by both super-powers.
Friendly Soviet-Zionist relations began in 1948 when the Soviets provided weapons to Zionist forces in their war against the Arabs of Palestine and surrounding countries. The Soviet Union also became the first to grant Israel de jure recognition as a state, which went further than the Unite States’ de facto recognition. However, this alliance was not born out of a commitment by Soviet leadership to Zionism or Zionist commitment to communism. Rather, it came out of a temporary alignment of interest. The Soviets and Zionists had a common enemy: Great Britain. The Soviets wanted to remove British influence in the region, making room for their own, and they saw the Zionists as the best placed to do this. Whether they aligned with the eastern bloc after was irrelevant if Britain was removed. This also involved a temporary alliance with the United States in seeking the removal of the old colonial empires from the Middle East, which allowed Israel to straddle a line of non-alignment. Once the British were removed, so was the glue holding the alliance together.
While the Soviet reason for breaking ties with Israel was ostensibly the legation bombing, it was the culmination of Soviet policy which became steadily more anti-Zionist. This change in Soviet policy came from reaction of its own Jewish population to Zionism and Israel’s orientation towards the west. For many years, Zionism and Communism competed in the recruitment of Europe’s, particularly Russia’s, Jewish population. When Soviet officials decided to ally with Israel and allow limited emigration there, they found unsettling enthusiasm for Zionism in a Jewish population they believed to be thoroughly assimilated to Soviet society. Pretty soon after the Soviet recognition of Israel, Soviet messaging, at least to its internal Jewish population, became increasingly anti-Zionist and many eastern bloc nations replaced restrictions on Jewish immigration to Israel.
This tension was exacerbated by the Israeli government’s increasing orientation towards the west and the Soviet conclusion that the area’s Arab population was a more promising source of resistance to western influence. To the Soviets, there were several events between their support of Israel in 1948 and their breaking ties in 1953 which indicated Israel’s pivot towards the west. First, in January 1949 Israel accepted a loan from American Export-Import Bank, which drew Israel further into the United States’ economic sphere and opened the door for a future military agreement between the U.S. and Israel. Further, Soviet suspicions of Israel were inflamed when Israel accepted the Tripartite Declaration issued by the United States, Great Britain, and France which attempted to maintain the status quo in the Middle East and provide for the military protection of the region- a policy directed at the Soviet Union. The situation deteriorated further still when Israel sided with the U.S. on the United Nations intervention in the Korea War against the Soviet-backed north. On the other hand, many other countries in the Middle East chose to abstain in the matter. Here, the Soviets were practically aligned with the Arab countries in the Middle East leading them to see the potential for alliance with anti-colonial struggles there.
This brief period of Israeli-Soviet cooperation demonstrates the Zionist dependence on the great powers for its existence as well as its leadership’s ability to exploit temporary alignments of interest for its own advantage. Similar to how Zionist leaders managed to use the British mandatory period to their advantage, they were able to do the same with the Soviet desire to drive the British out. However, this also underscores the fact that Israel has always been to some extent dependent on great powers for the advancement of its interests. Additionally, it demonstrates the Zionist’s flexibility with who they were willing to work as long as the relationship was beneficial.
 Dana Adams Schmidt, “Soviet Break Shocks Israel; Fears Felt for Eastern Jews: Tel Avid Says It Is Only Culmination of a Policy- Bombings Seen as Excuse- Rift Fans Anti-Zionism in Russia,” New York Times, special, February 13, 1953.
“Moscow Note to New State Broad in Diplomatic Scope: De Jure Recognition, Wider Than That Given by United States, Indicated by Molotov- British Maintain Aloof Stand,” New York Times, special, May 18, 1948.
 “Israel Chides East for Anti-Zionism: Foreign Ministry Calls Curbs on Emigration Incompatible with Support of State,” New York Times, special, March 25, 1949.
 Avi Shlaim, “Israel Between East and West, 1948-56,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 36, no. 4 (Nov. 2004): 657-673, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3880010?seq=1
 Goo-hyoung Kahng, “Zionism, Israel, and the Soviet Union: A Study in the Rise and Fall of Brief Soviet-Israeli Friendship From 1945 to 1955.” Global Economic Review, 27, no. 4 (Winter 1998) : 95-107. www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/12265089808449748
 Yaacov Ro’i, “Soviet Policies and Attitudes Toward Israel, 1948-1978- An Overview,” Soviet Jewish Affairs 8, no. 1 (1978): 37, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13501677808577276?journalCode=feej19
 C.L Sulzberger, ”Policy on Israel Shifting in Russia: With Anglo-U.S. Agreement and End of War, Moscow Returns to Anti-Zionism,” New York Times, special, April 16, 1949.
 Goo-hyoung Kahng, “Zionism, Israel, and the Soviet Union: A Study in the Rise and Fall of Brief Soviet-Israeli Friendship From 1945 to 1955.” Global Economic Review, 27, no. 4 (Winter 1998) : 101-102. www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/12265089808449748
Alex Zambito was born and raised in Savannah, GA. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2017 with a degree in History and Sociology. He is currently seeking a Masters in History at Brooklyn College. His Interest include the history of Socialist experiments and proletarian struggles across the world.
A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England 1649
In 1630, a 21 year old textile trader moved to London. He did well at first, but as a result of the abuse of power by both the King and Parliament and then the outbreak of the English Civil War which started twelve years later, he saw his business ruined and in 1643 he became bankrupt.
His father-in-law helped him move to Cobham in Surrey, where he initially worked as a cowherd.
However, by the time of the defeat of the Royalist side and King Charles execution in early 1649, he and a group of others in a similar situation had got together to represent the voice of the common people, and especially that of the propertyless poor.
The man’s name was Gerrard Winstanley.
He soon became the key spokesperson of the group which the people living at the time referred to as ‘THE DIGGERS’, they were also known as the ‘True Levellers’ as distinct from another group led by John Lilburne, Richard Overton and William Walwyn known as ‘The Levellers’. A fundamental difference in the two came from The Levellers who while seeking equality before the law, and an extension of the right to vote for most men did not support the abolition of private property and common ownership of the land.
The Diggers also advocated absolute human equality including equality between men and women which in the 1600s was a very radical idea indeed.
The Diggers ‘nickname’ came from their belief that the land should be available to every person to dig and sow, so that everyone, rich or poor, could live, grow and eat by the sweat of their own brows, as according to them “The earth was made to be a common treasury for all.”
WHAT DID THE DIGGERS DO?
Instead of simply voicing their opinion through the books and other papers Gerrard Winstanley wrote, he and The Diggers, who consisted of mainly poor families that had no land of their own (as land was only owned by the rich) decided to take direct action by taking over common land that belonged to no one, and which was not in use, and started to farm it, so as to allow everyone who worked the land to eat.
At first this went well, but unsurprisingly the ideas of The Diggers were considered extremely dangerous by those with a vested interest in the preservation of privilege, property and power.
Gerrard Winstanley stands out from a century remarkable for its development in political thought as one of the most fecund and original of political writers. An acute and penetrating social critic with a passionate sense of justice, he worked out a collectivist theory which strikingly anticipates nineteenth- and twentieth-century socialism. He was the first modern European thinker to write in the vernacular advocating a communist society, and to call upon ordinary people to realize it. Winstanley published a number of pamphlets on the colony’s behalf, among them including a declaration from the poor oppressed people of England:
The Diggers were a small group who preached and attempted to practise a primitive communism, based on the claim that the land belonged to the whole people of England. This claim was supported by the interesting historical argument that William the Conqueror had “turned the English out of their birthrights; and compelled them for necessity to be servants to him and to his Norman soldiers”. The civil war was thus regarded as the reconquest of England by the English people. In the theological language of the time, Winstanley urged that this political reconquest needed a social revolution to complete it and that otherwise, the essential quality of monarchy remained. (Source ) Peter Ackroyd, The Civil War (2014)
In April 1649 some Diggers came to St George’s Hill, near Weybridge in Surrey, where they proceeded to dig and sow seed in the common land. One of them, William Everard, proclaimed that he had been commanded in a vision to dig and plough the land. They believed in a form of agrarian communism by which the English were exhorted finally to free themselves from “the Norman yoke” of landlords and owners of estates before “making the earth a common treasury for all”.
On the 1st of June 1649, Gerrard Winstanley published A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England, that was signed by 44 people. It stated that while waiting for their first crop yields, they proposed to sell wood from the commons in order to buy food, ploughs, carts, and corn. No threat would be made to private property, but “the promises of reformation and liberation made from the solemn league and covenant through to the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords must be honoured”.
Instructions were given for the Diggers to be beaten up and for their houses, crops and tools to be destroyed. These tactics were successful and within a year all the Digger communities in England had been wiped out. A number of Diggers were indicted at the Surrey quarter sessions and five were imprisoned for just over a month in the White Lion prison in Southwark.
Despite the hostility, Winstanley’s experiment continued and in January 1650 “having put my arm as far as my strength will go to advance righteousness: I have writ, I have acted, I have peace: and now I must wait to see the spirit do his own work in the hearts of others, and whether England shall be the first land, or some other, wherein truth shall sit down in triumph.”
On 19th April 1650, a group of local landowners, including John Platt, Thomas Sutton, William Starr and William Davy, with several hired men, destroyed the Digger community in Cobham: “They set fire to six houses, and burned them down, and burned likewise some of the household stuff… not pitying the cries of many little children, and their frightened mothers…. they kicked a poor man’s wife so that she miscarried her child.” Winstanley returned to farming his own land.
Winstanley’s best-known work, The Law of Freedom, was published in February 1652 after twenty months of silence following the collapse of the digging experiments.
Marxist writers in the 19th century such as Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky have claimed that in this pamphlet Winstanley had provided a complete framework for a socialist order. John F. Harrison, the author of The Common People (1984) has pointed out: “Winstanley has an honoured place in the pantheon of the Left as a pioneer communist. In the history of the common people, he is also representative of that other minority tradition of popular religious radicalism, which, although it reached a crescendo during the Interregnum, had existed since the Middle Ages and was to continue into modern times. Totally opposed to the established church and also separate from (yet at times overlapping) orthodox puritanism, was a third culture which was lower-class and heretical. At its centre was a belief in the direct relationship between God and man, without the need of any institution or formal rites. Emphasis was on an inner spiritual experience and obedience to the voice of God within each man and woman.”
In about 1555 Winstanley became active in the Society of Friends (Quakers), a religious group established by George Fox. It was later claimed by Thomas Tenison, that Winstanley was the true originator of the principles of Quakerism.
Historically GERRARD WINSTANLEY and THE DIGGERS movement was, and is, one of the most important parts of the English ‘Revolution’ of 1649.
This is recognised globally with GERRARD WINSTANLEY amongst those listed on a monument dedicated to ‘The great Socialist thinkers’ in Moscow, Russia.
Digger pamphlet by Gerrard Winstanley
We whose narnes are subscribed, do in the name of all the poor oppressed people in England, declare unto you, that call your selves lords of Manors, and Lords of the Land, That in regard the King of Righteousness, our Maker, hath inlightened our hearts so far, as to see, That the earth was not made purposely for you, to be Lords of it, and we to be your Slaves, Servants, and Beggers; but it was made to be a common Livelihood to all, without respect of persons: And that your buying and selling of Land, and the Fruits of it, one to another, is The cursed thing, and was brought in by War; which hath, and still does establish murder, and theft, In the hands of some branches of Mankinde over others, which is the greatest outward burden, and unrighteous power, that the Creation groans under: For the power of inclosing Land, and owning Propriety, was brought into the Creation by your Ancestors by the Sword; which first did murther their fellow Creatures, Men, and after plunder or steal away their Land, and left this Land successively to you, their Children. And therefore, though you did not kill or theeve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand, by the power of the Sword; and so you justifie the wicked deeds of your Fathers; and that sin of your Fathers, shall be visited upon the Head of you, and your Children, to the third and fourth Generation, and longer too, till your bloody and theeving power be rooted out of the Land.
And further, in regard the King of Righteousness hath made us sensible of our burthens, and the cryes and groanings of our hearts are come before him: We take it as a testimony of love from him, That our hearts begin to be freed from slavish fear of men, such as you are; and that we find Resolutions in us, grounded upon the inward law of Love, one towards another, To Dig and Plough up the Commons, and waste Lands through England; and that our conversation shall be so unblameable, That your Laws shall not reach to oppress us any longer, unless you by your Laws will shed the innocent blood that runs in our veins.
For though you and your Ancestors got your Propriety by murther and theft, and you keep it by the same power from us, that have an equal right to the Land with you, by the righteous Law of Creation, yet we shall have no occasion of quarrelling (as you do) about that disturbing devil, called Particular propriety: For the Earth, with all her Fruits of Corn, Cattle, and such like, was made to be a common Store-house of Livelihood to all Mankinde, friend, and foe, without exception.
And to prevent your scrupulous Objections, know this, That we Must neither buy nor sell; Money must not any longer (after our work of the Earths community is advanced) be the great god, that hedges in some, and hedges out others; for Money is but part of the Earth: And surely, the Righteous Creator, who is King, did never ordain, That unless some of Mankinde, do bring that Mineral (Silver and Gold) in their hands, to others of their own kinde, that they should neither be fed, nor be clothed; no surely, For this was the project of Tyrant-flesh (which Land-lords are branches of) to set his Image upon Money. And they make this unrighteous Law, That none should buy or sell, eat, or be clothed, or have any comfortable Livelihood among men, unless they did bring his Image stamped upon Gold or Silver in their hands.
And whereas the Scriptures speak, That the mark of the Beast is 666, the number of a man; and that those that do not bring that mark in their hands, or in their foreheads, they should neither buy nor sell, Revel. 13.16. And seeing the numbering Letters round about the English money make 666, which is the number of that Kingly Power and Glory, (called a Man) And seeing the age of the Creation is now come to the Image of the Beast, or Half day. And seeing 666 is his mark, we expect this to be the last Tyrannical power that shall raign; and that people shall live freely in the enioyment of the Earth, without bringing the mark of the Beast in their hands, or in their promise; and that they shall buy Wine and Milk, without Money, or without price, as Isiah speaks.
For after our work of the Earthly community is advanced, we must make use of Gold and Silver, as we do of other metals, but not to buy and sell withal; for buying and selling is the great cheat, that robs and steals the Earth one from another: It is that which makes some Lords, others Beggers, some Rulers, others to be ruled; and makes great Murderers and Theeves to be imprisoners, and hangers of little ones, or of sincere-hearted men.
And while we are made to labor the Earth together, with one consent and willing minde; and while we are made free, that every one, friend and foe, shall enjoy the benefit of their Creation, that is, To have food and rayment from the Earth, their Mother; and every one subiect to give accompt of his thoughts, words, and actions to none, but to the one onely righteous Judg, and Prince of Peace; the Spirit of Righteousness that dwells, and that is now rising up to rule in every Creature, and in the whole Globe. We say, while we are made to hinder no man of his Priviledges given him in his Creation, equal to one, as to another; what Law then can you make, to take hold upon us, but Laws of Oppression and Tyranny, that shall enslave or spill the blood of the Innocent? And so your Selves, your Judges, Lawyers, and Justices, shall be found to be the greatest Transgressors, in, and over Mankinde.
But to draw neerer to declare our meaning, what we would have, and what we shall endevor to the uttermost to obtain, as moderate and righteous Reason directs us; seeing we are made to see our Privileages, given us in our Creation, which have hitherto been denied to us, and our Fathers, since the power of the Sword began to rule, And the secrets of the Creation have been locked up under the traditional, Parrat-like speaking, from the Universities, and Colledges for Scolars, And since the power of the murdering, and theeving Sword, formerly, as well as now of late yeers, hath set up a Govenment, and maintains that Government; for what are prisons, and putting others to death, but the power of the Sword to enforce people to that Government which was got by Conquest and Sword, and cannot stand of it self, but by the same murdering power? That Government that is got over people by the Sword and kept by the Sword, is not set up by the King of Righteousness to be his Law, but by Covetousness, the great god of the world; who hath been permitted to raign for a time, times, and dividing of time and his government draws to the period of the last term of his allotted time; and then the Nations shall see the glory of that Government that shall rule in Righteousness, without either Sword or Spear,
And seeing further, the power of Righteousness in our hearts, seeking the livelihood of others as well as our selves, hath drawn forth our bodies to begin to dig, and plough, in the Commons and waste Land, for the reasons already declared,
And seeing and finding ourselves poor, wanting Food to feed upon, while we labor the Earth to cast in seed, and to wait till the first crop comes up; and wanting Ploughs, Carts, Corn, and such materials to plant the Commons withal, we are willing to declare our condition to you, and to all, that have the Treasury of the Earth, locked up in your Bags, Chests, and Barns, and will offer up nothing to this publike Treasury; but will rather see your fellow Creatures starve for want of Bread, that have an equal right to it with your selves, by the Law of Creation: But this by the way we onely declare to you, and to all that follow the subtle art of buying and selling the Earth with her Fruits, meerly to get the Treasury thereof into their hands, to lock it up from them, to whom it belongs; that so, such covetous, proud, unrighteous, selfish flesh, may be left without excuse in the day of Judgment.
And therefore, the main thing we aym at, and for which we declare our Resolutions to go forth, and act, is this, To lay hold upon, and as we stand in need, to cut and fell, and make the best advantage we can of the Woods and Trees, that grow upon the Commons, To be a stock for our selves, and our poor Brethren, through the land of England, to plant the Commons withal; and to provide us bread to eat, till the Fruit of our labors in the Earth bring forth increase; and we shall meddle with none of your Proprieties (but what is called Commonage) till the Spirit in you, make you cast up your Lands and Goods, which were got, and still is kept in your hands by murder, and theft; and then we shall take it from the Spirit, that hath conquered you, and not from our Swords, which is an abominable, and unrighteous power, and a destroyer of the Creation: But the Son of man comes not to destroy, but to save.
And we are moved to send forth this Declaration abroad, to give notice to every one whom it concerns, in regard we hear and see, that some of you, that have been Lords of Manors, do cause the Trees and Woods that grow upon the Commons, which you pretend a Royalty unto, to be cut down and sold, for your own private use, Thereby the Common Land, which your own mouths doe say belongs to the poor, is impoverished, and the poor oppressed people robbed of their Rights, while you give them cheating words, by telling some of our poor oppressed Brethren, That those of us that have begun to Dig and Plough up the Commons, will hinder the poor; and so blinde their eyes, that they see not their Priviledge, while you, and the rich Free-holders make the most profit of the Commons, by your over-stocking of them with Sheep and Cattle; and the poor that have the name to own the Commons, have the least share therein; nay, they are checked by you, if they cut Wood, Heath, Turf, or Furseys, in places about the Common, where you disallow.
Therefore we are resolved to be cheated no longer, nor be held under the slavish fear of you no longer, seing the Earth was made for us, as well as for you. And if the Common Land belongs to us who are the poor oppressed, surely the woods that grow upon the Commons belong to us likewise: therefore we are resolved to try the uttermost in the light of reason, to know whether we shall be free men, or slaves. If we lie still, and let you steale away our Birthrights, we perish; and if we Petition we perish also, though we have paid taxes, given free quarter, and ventured our lives to preserve the Nations freedom as much as you, and therefore by the law of contract with you, freedom in the land is our portion as well as yours, equal with you: And if we strive for freedom, and your murdering, governing Laws destroy us, we can but perish.
Therefore we require, and we resolve to take both Common Land, and Common woods to be a livelihood for us, and look upon you as equal with us, not above us, knowing very well, that England the land of our Nativity, is to be a common Treasury of livelihood to all, without respect of persons.
So then, we declare unto you, that do intend to cut our Common Woods and Trees, that you shall not do it; unlesse it be for a stock for us, as aforesaid, and we to know of it, by a publick declaration abroad, that the poor oppressed, that live thereabouts, may take it, and employ it, for their publike use, therefore take notice we have demanded it in the name of the Commons of England, and of all the Nations of the world, it being the righteous freedom of the Creation.
Likewise we declare to you that have begun to cut down our Common Woods and Trees, and to fell and carry away the same for your private use, that you shall forbear, and go no farther, hoping, that none that are friends to the Commonwealth of England, will endeavour to buy any of those Common Trees and Woods of any of those Lords of Mannors, so called, who have, by the murdering and cheating law of the sword, stoln the Land from younger brothers, who have by the law of Creation, a standing portion in the Land, as well, and equall with others. Therefore we hope all Wood-mongers will disown all such private merchandise, as being a robbing of the poor oppressed, and take notice, that they have been told our resolution: But if any of you that are Wood-mongers, will buy it of the poor, and for their use, to stock the Commons, from such as may be appointed by us to sell it, you shall have it quietly, without diminution; but if you will slight us in this thing, blame us not, if we make stop of the Carts you send and convert the Woods to our own use, as need requires, it being our own, equal with him that calls himself the Lord of the Mannor, and not his peculiar right, shutting us out, but he shall share with us as a fellow-creature.
For we say our purpose is, to take those Common Woods to sell them, now at first, to be a stock for our selves, and our children after us, to plant and manure the Common land withall; for we shall endeavour by our righteous acting not to leave the earth any longer intangled unto our children, by self-seeking proprietors; But to leave it a free store-house, and common treasury to all, without respect of persons; And this we count is our dutie, to endeavour to the uttermost, every man in his place (according to the nationall Covenant which the Parliament set forth) a Reformation to preserve the peoples liberties, one as well as another: As well those as have paid taxes, and given free quarter, as those that have either born the sword, or taken our moneys to dispose of them for publike use: for if the Reformation must be according to the word of God, then every one is to have the benefit and freedom of his creation, without respect of persons; we count this our duty, we say, to endeavour to the uttermost, and so shall leave those that rise up to oppose us without excuse, in their day of Judgment; and our precious blood, we hope, shall not be dear to us, to be willingly laid down at the door of a prison, or foot of a gallows, to justifie this righteous cause; if those that have taken our money from us, and promised to give us freedom for it, should turn Tyrants against us: for we must not fight, but suffer.
And further we intend, that not one, two, or a few men of us shall sell or exchange the said woods, but it shall be known publikly in Print or writing to all, how much every such, and such parcell of wood is sold for, and how it is laid out, either in victualls, corn, ploughs, or other materials necessary.
And we hope we may not doubt (at least we expect) that they that are called the great Councel and powers of England, who so often have declared themselves, by promises and Covenants, and confirmed them by multitude of fasting daies, and devout Protestations, to make England a free people, upon condition they would pay moneys, and adventure their lives against the successor of the Norman Conqueror; under whose oppressing power England was enslaved; And we look upon that freedom promised to be the inheritance of all, without respect of persons; And this cannot be, unless the Land of England be freely set at liberty from proprietors, and become a common Treasury to all her children, as every portion of the Land of Canaan was the Common livelihood of such and such a Tribe, and of every member in that Tribe, without exception, neither hedging in any, nor hedging out.
We say we hope we need not doubt of their sincerity to us herein, and that they will not gainsay our determinate course; howsoever, their actions will prove to the view of all, either their sinceritie, or hypocrisie: We know what we speak is our priviledge, and our cause is righteous, and if they doubt of it, let them but send a childe for us to come before them, and we shall make it manifest four wayes.
First, by the National Covenant, which yet stands in force to bind Parliament and people to be faithful and sincere, before the Lord God Almighty, wherein every one in his several place hath covenanted to preserve and seek the liberty each of other, without respect of persons.
Secondly, by the late Victory over King Charls, we do claime this our pnviledge, to be quietly given us, out of the hands of Tyrant-Government, as our bargain and contract with them; for the Parliament promised, if we would pay taxes, and give free quarter, and adventure our lives against Charls and his party, whom they called the Common enemy, they would make us a free people; These three being all done by us, as well as by themselves, we claim this our bargain, by the law of contract from them, to be a free people with them, and to have an equall priviledge of Common livelihood with them, they being chosen by us, but for a peculiar worke, and for an appointed time, from among us, not to be our oppressing Lords, but servants to succour us. But these two are our weakest proofs. And yet by them (in the light of reason and equity that dwells in mens hearts) we shall with ease cast down, all those former enslaving Norman reiterated laws, in every Kings raigne since the Conquest, which are as thornes in our eyes, and pricks in our sides, and which are called the Ancient Government of England.
Thirdly we shall prove that we have a free right to the land of England, being born therein as well as elder brothers, and that it is our equal right with them, and they with us, to have a comfortable livlihood in the earth, without owning any of our own kinde, to be either Lords, or Land-Lords over us: And this we shall prove by plain Text of Scripture, without exposition upon them, which the Scholars and great ones generally say, is their rule to walk by.
Fourthly, we shall prove it by the Righteous Law of our Creation, That mankinde in all his branches, is the Lord of the Earth and ought not to be in subjection to any of his own kinde without him, but to live in the light of the law of righteousness, and peace established in his heart.
And thus in love we have declared the purpose of our hearts plainly, without flatterie, expecting love, and the same sincerity from you, without grumbling or quarreling, being Creatures of your own Image and mould, intending no other matter herein, but to observe the Law of righteous action, endeavouring to shut out of the Creation, the cursed thing, called Particular Propriety, which is the cause of all wars, bloud-shed, theft, and enslaving Laws, that hold the people under miserie.
Signed for and in behalf of all the poor oppressed people of England, and the whole world.
Paul Knaggs is an Editor, founder, Labour Heartlands, Labour Party member and activist. Citizen journalist, Ex-British Army combat veteran. Drifting towards Revolutionary socialism. Fighting a constant struggle with dyslexia that's overcome with a burning desire to speak out against the corrupt political system and the social injustices it creates. Advocate for Free speech and open, accountable, democracy.
This article was first published by Labourheartlands.
United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, known colloquially as Shakers, arrived in North America in 1774. Their founder, Mother Ann Lee, began agitating for a renunciation of sin and celibacy in the 1760s, which landed her in prison. In 1770, while in prison, she had visions telling her to lead a spiritual movement renouncing lust and the sin that it influenced. Shaker leaders posthumously announced she was the female reincarnation of Jesus Christ. After the English Revolution, heretical doctrines like hers encouraged severe and violent persecution. After a series of incidents where Congregationalists attacked Shakers, who they called heretics, they fled England. The Shakers successfully built the first self-consciously communal villages in the New World. Shaker communes established a foundation for socialism in America. The Shakers practiced community of property, complete celibacy and separate but equal segregation of the genders. By the early 19th century, they chose New Lebanon in Upstate New York for their headquarters. By the mid-19th century, other religious groups, inspired by the Shakers’ success, including the Icarians, the Zoarites, the Amana Society Inspirationists and the Rappite Harmonists also fled Europe and started their own communes in the United States.
In a piece entitled “Description Of Recently Founded Communist Colonies Still in Existence,” first published in the German newspaper Deutsches Bürgerbuch für in 1845, Karl Marx’s comrade and writing partner Frederich Engels cheered these utopian experiments in America, writing, “For communism, social existence and activity based on community of goods, is not only possible but has actually already been realised in many communities in America and in one place in England, with the greatest success, as we shall see.”
Shaker Elders Daniel Offord and Brother Levi Shaw demonstrating advanced yard care technology: scythe and lawn mower, Mount Lebanon, NY, 1854 postcard
Engels went on to describe what he knew of the Shaker community at New Lebanon:
Another colony of Shakers, New Lebanon in the State of New York, was visited by a second English traveller, by the name of Pitkeithly, in the year 1842. Mr. Pitkeithly most thoroughly inspected the whole town, which numbers some eight hundred inhabitants and owns between seven and eight thousand acres of land, he examined its workshops and factories, its tanneries, sawmills and so on, and declares the whole arrangement to be perfect. He too is surprised at the wealth of these people who began with nothing and are now becoming richer with each passing year, and he says:
They are happy and gay among themselves; there is no quarrelling but on the contrary friendliness and love prevail throughout their habitation, in every part of which reigns an orderliness and regularity which have not their equal.
...As we said, they enjoy complete community of goods and have ten such communities in the United States of North America.
There is still an open-air Shaker museum at the Mount Lebanon site. My wife and I decided to make the trip up to New Lebanon on a pleasant late May day. It was about a four hour drive from our home in Rochester. We remarked at the beauty of the Hudson Valley as we glided along above it all. When we reached the Shaker Community at New Lebanon it was quiet, although there were several cars parked in various places. We explored the buildings in the self-guided tour. There are brochures available on one of the buildings that guide the visitor through the historic community. Admission to the village is free all year, although the buildings are not open.
It is now the grounds of the Darrow School, a private, college-prep, boarding school. The Darrow School campus and dormitories have been closed due to COVID-19, another example of how, like the outbreak of Typhus at the Sodus Bay Phalanx, pandemic and epidemic diseases can be extremely dangerous in congregate living settings. The idea of a private school is not entirely beyond the pale for Shaker theology. Shakers spurned the state. Engels wrote of their attitude toward the law:
In their ten towns there is not a single gendarme or police officer, no judge, lawyer or soldier, no prison or penitentiary; and yet there is proper order in all their affairs. The laws of the land are not for them and as far as they are concerned could just as well be abolished and nobody would notice any difference for they are the most peaceable citizens and have never yielded a single criminal for the prisons.
Shaker Schoolhouse, Shaker Road, New Lebanon, Historic American Buildings Survey, William F. Winter, Jr., Photographer August 1931
John 15:19 says, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” The Shakers’ experiences in Europe made this bible verse really resonate with them. They distrusted state institutions, which led them to create their own alternative institutions. The Shakers set up their own school system in New Lebanon in 1815. They based their system on the cutting-edge Lancasterian system. British educator Joseph Lancaster recommended the classroom be a…
parallelogram, the length about twice the width. The windows were to be six feet from the floor. The floor should be inclined, rising one foot in twenty from the master's desk to the upper end of the room, where the highest class is situated. The master's desk is on the middle of a platform two to three feet high, erected at the lower end of the room. Forms and desks, fixed firmly to the ground, occupy the middle of the room, a passage being left between the ends of the forms and the wall, five or six feet broad, where the children form semicircles for reading.
Boys attended school in the winter, while girls attended in the summer after Father Meacham and Mother Wright’s direction for gender segregation. In 1817, the Shaker school at New Lebanon was declared a public school by the state of New York. Despite the cutting edge vision of the Darrow School’s educational system and the Shakers' reluctance to work with the state, Shakers still would have spurned education for pay. The fact that they agreed to cooperate with New York State in making the New Lebanon school a public school indicates that Shakers of the past might have questioned the operation of a private prep school on their domain.
Shakers were known for their herbal home remedies and selling seeds to grow medicinal herbs
My wife and I were both thoroughly impressed by the Shaker architecture. Many of the buildings have additions that appear as though a hole was cut in the wall and an appendage grafted onto the opening. It is as though the Shaker council met and determined they needed more space, engineered the best way to create more indoor space out of what they had and then collectively worked together to make it happen.
The stone barn at New Lebanon is one of the most awe inspiring achievements of Shaker engineering and collective construction on display. It is thoroughly impressive to stand inside. It is also inspiring to know that people worked in this barn for the collective good of the whole group.
Engels hailed the Shakers as founders of modern communism, writing, “The first people to set up a society on the basis of community of goods in America, indeed in the whole world, were the so-called Shakers. These people are a distinct sect who have the strangest religious beliefs, do not marry and allow no intercourse between the sexes, and these are not their only peculiarities of this kind.” He explained the defiant history of the Shakers and their triumph in the United States:
The sect of the Shakers originated some seventy years ago. Its founders were poor people who united in order to live together in brotherly love and community of goods and to worship their God in their own way. Although their religious views and particularly the prohibition on marriage deterred many, they nevertheless attracted support and now have ten large communities, each of which is between three and eight hundred members strong. Each of these communities is a fine, well laid-out town, with dwelling houses, factories, ÷4 workshops, assembly buildings and barns; they have flower and vegetable gardens, fruit trees, woods, vineyards, meadows and arable land in abundance; then, livestock of all kinds, horses and beef-cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry, in excess of their needs, and of the very best breeds. Their granaries are always full of corn, their store-rooms full of clothing materials, so that an English traveller who visited them said he could not understand why these people still worked, when after all they possessed an abundance of everything; unless it was that they worked simply as a pastime, having nothing else to do. Amongst these people no one is obliged to work against his will, and no one seeks work in vain. They have no poor-houses and infirmaries, having not a single person poor and destitute, nor any abandoned widows and orphans; all their needs are met and they need fear no want…. They enjoy, as we said, the most absolute community of goods and have no trade and no money among themselves.
The Shakers were celibate separatists with peculiar religious views, according to Engels, but they had somehow achieved something remarkable. They were able to establish successful communism in living, something that no other sect before them had done.
The Shakers built their first meetinghouse on Mount Lebanon, also known as New Lebanon, in the town of Canaan, NY in 1785. The biblical land of Canaan was the promised land to the Israelites after they escaped from slavery in Egypt. Today, the idea that God promised the land of Canaan at Mount Zion to the Israelites is the basis for Zionism, a religious ideology that justifies oppression of Palestinian Arabs. However, for Shakers, it represented their escape from slavery to orthodox religion. For them, Canaan, NY was the promised land. Ironically, there is an obvious analogy in relation to settler colonialism between the Palestinian situation today and the situation of the people of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in the late 18th century.
Shaker gift drawing by Sister Sarah Bates of Mount Lebanon, NY, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Spiritual visions or "gifts" inspired Shaker art.
Even before communitarian immigrants like the Shakers and the Amana Society came from Europe, the native peoples of upstate New York were living in a form of primary communism. Pioneer anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan, based in Rochester, NY, was the first to identify the way of life of the indigenous Haudenosaunee people of Western New York as “primitive communism.” Later, Socialists such as Sam Marcy, Buffalo, NY based founder of the Communist Workers’ World Party would use the less pejorative term “primary communism.” Marcy wrote in 1992, “Lewis Henry Morgan's writings on the communal life of the Iroquois in North America confirmed what the socialist movement in Europe had deduced about early societies elsewhere before written history: that there was a universal period when property was communal, there was no state, and the products of human labor were shared equitably.” The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of what is now Western New York were some of the first communists in North America. Although their way of life was crushed by European settlement, they inspired settler communities that would come later.
"Siege on the Iroquois Village" by Samuel de Champlain from his book Les voyages du Sieur de Champlain Xaintongeois, capitain ordinaire pour le Roy en la marine… circa 1615-1618 and The city of passageways and housing units of Charles Fourier’s ‘garantiste’ city by André.
The indigenous Haudenosaunee or Iroquois nation organized their society on a kinship-based form of socialism. According to Morgan, the Iroquois practiced “communism in living” for centuries. Iroquois society planned for and met the needs of each individual. Extended families lived communally in large longhouses and shared everything. They organized inter-communal trade networks based on reciprocity. In 1881, Morgan wrote, “Among the Iroquois hospitality was an established usage. If a man entered an Indian house in any of their villages, whether a villager, a tribesman, or a stranger, it was the duty of the women therein to set food before him. An omission to do this would have been a discourtesy amounting to an affront. If hungry, he ate; if not hungry, courtesy required that he should taste the food and thank the giver. This would be repeated at every house he entered, and at whatever hour in the day.” Hospitality and harmony were key values in Iroquois society. By the 18th century, their primary communist system inspired settlers from Europe who came to the New World seeking refuge from religious persecution.
Groups like the Shakers saw the Haudenosaunee as fellow travelers. Throughout the early 19th century, Shakers had visions of native spirits. While their possession rituals often amounted to what some today might consider racist stereotypes and melodramatic pageantry, they were remarkable as reflections of the Shaker’s aspirations. They admired and wanted to live like native people. Historian Erik Seeman argues, “[N]ative spirits offered Shakers a sense of group identity through ‘collective responsibility’ for past injustices and the ‘possibility of redemption’ by acknowledging such historical misdeeds.” They attempted to atone for the original American sin of settler colonialism by building a social order they hoped was in harmony with that of the Iroquois. The Shakers were among the first white Americans to aspire to live up to the communitarian call of the Haudenosaunee region.
This fir tree and carriage house in New Lebanon have looked much the same for hundreds of years
The biblical Canaan was located in the fertile valley below Mount Lebanon. Lebanon means white in Hebrew and, according to the bible, the mountain was named that because it was covered in snow. In the bible, Lebanon was known for its cedar and cypress trees. Cedar wood from Mount Lebanon was used in the building of the second temple in Jerusalem. The beauty of the region reminded the Shakers of the biblical promised land of Canaan and their own exodus from persecution in Europe, so they decided to settle there.
Shakers were not the only religious people that found inspiration in the hills and valleys surrounding New Lebanon, NY. According to a sign posted in the inspirational grotto next to the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception in New Lebanon:
In 1858, in the grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes in southern France, Our Lady appeared eighteen times to Bernadette Soubirous, a young peasant girl. She revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception, asked that a chapel be built on the site of the vision, and told the girl to drink from a fountain in the grotto. No fountain was to be seen, but when Bernadette dug at a spot designated by the apparition, a spring began to flow. The water from this still flowing spring has shown remarkable healing power, though it contains no curative property that science can identify. Lourdes has become the most famous modern shrine of Our Lady.
The church also runs a food pantry, known as Charlie’s Pantry, for the poor and needy on the grounds. According to the church’s website:
We are a community of believers who are grateful for our diversity and mindful of our unity in Christ. Our lives are based on faith, hope and charity through the outpouring of the Spirit, nourished by the Eucharist.
Catholics, as the religion of Italian, Irish, Spanish and Latino immigrants, have long been the victims of discrimination. It is good to know that in this place where historically so much material good has been done in the name of Jesus Christ, even the Catholics are inspired to communitarian call.
The Mount Lebanon Shaker Society was home to Shaker pioneers Father Joseph Meacham and Mother Lucy Wright. Mother Ann Lee died in 1784, leaving Fr. Meacham in charge. He called Sister Wright to Lebanon from a community in Pittsfield, MA. Shaker historian Sister Flo Morse describes the arrangement, “Father Joseph chose a woman, Sister Lucy Wright of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to be the ‘leading character in the female line’ and set the pattern for a dual order of government with equality of the sexes far in advance of the times.” New Lebanon became a center of leadership for the Shaker religion. Morse continues, “Father Joseph and Mother Lucy made their headquarters at New Lebanon, and the New York community became the mother church. It was the first to collect its members into the way of life the Shakers called ‘society-order.’” From there the Shakers put out the call to build communal dwellings and prepare for converts to arrive. Mount Lebanon was the model for communism in living not only for other Shakers, but for religious sects and radicals throughout the antebellum era. For a time the Shakers’ increased their membership dramatically, riding on the crest of the Second Great Awakening revival movement in mid-19 century Upstate New York. However, ultimately their prohibition on sex discouraged new members and prevented current members from having children of their own. The communal way of life became less attractive to pious Americans as the economy shifted post-industrial revolution.
Early 1900s postcard from New Lebanon, NY
Engels concluded his review of the religious communists in America by remarking on their influence on the socialist movement that was developing at the time:
The success enjoyed by the Shakers, Harmonists and Separatists, and also the general urge for a new order in human society and the efforts of the Socialists and Communists that this has given rise to, have caused many other people in America to undertake similar experiments in recent years. Thus Herr Ginal, a German minister in Philadelphia, has founded a society which has bought 37,000 acres of forest in the State of Philadelphia, built more than 80 houses there and already settled some five hundred people, mostly Germans, there. They have a large tannery and pottery, many workshops and storehouses, and they are really thriving. It goes without saying that they live in community of goods, as is the case with all the following examples. A Mr. Hizby, an ironmaster of Pittsburg (Ohio) has set up in his native town a similar society which last year bought some 4,000 acres of land in the vicinity of the town and is planning to establish a settlement there based on community of goods —In addition there is a similar settlement in the State of New York at Skaneateles which was founded by J. A. Collins, an English Socialist, in the spring of 1843* with thirty members; then at Minden in the State of Massachusetts, where about a hundred people have been settled since 1842; then two in Pike County in the State of Pennsylvania, which were also recently set up; then one at Brook Farm, Massachusetts, where fifty members and thirty pupils live on about two hundred acres and have set up an excellent school under the leadership of the Unitarian minister G. Ripley ; and then one at Northampton in the same State, which has been in existence since 1842 and provides work for one hundred and twenty members on five hundred acres of land, in arable and livestock farming as well as in sawmills, silk-mills and dyeing, and finally a colony of emigrant English Socialists at Equality near Milwaukee in the State of Wisconsin, which was started last year by Thomas Hunt and is making rapid progress. Apart from these, several other communities are said to have been founded recently, but there is as yet no news of them .-This much is however certain: the Americans, and particularly the poor workers in the large towns of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, etc., have taken the matter to their hearts and founded a large number of societies for the establishment of such colonies, and all the time new communities are being set up. The Americans are tired of continuing as the slaves of the few rich men who feed on the labour of the people; and it is obvious that with the great energy and endurance of this nation, community of goods will soon be introduced over a significant part of their country.
As I stood in awe of the triumph of collective architectural, engineering and constructive endeavors that is the stone barn at New Lebanon, I could not help but say a silent prayer of thanks to the Shakers for their example of communism in living and gender equality that was so ahead of its time. Many Americans today erroneously believe that socialism and communism are ideas wholly foreign to Americanism. They believe that the basis of communism was formed by European philosophers who were out of touch with the American creed. The truth, however, is that socialism in America is not only as old, but older than the American nation itself. In no other region is this more clearly demonstrated than in Upstate New York.
 Flo Morse, The Story of the Shakers, (Woodstock, VT: The Countryman Press, 1986), 17.
 Friedrich Engels and Nelly Rumyantseva, Marx and Engels on the United States, (Moscow: Progress, 1979), 33.
 Engels, Marx and Engels on the United States, 36.
 Engels, Marx and Engels on the United States, 34.
 Isaac N. Youngs, “Concise View of the Church of God,” Winterthur Museum Library, Andrews Shaker Collection ms. 861, 355, 366–74.
 Engels, Marx and Engels on the United States, 34.
 Engels, Marx and Engels on the United States, 34.
 Picture source: “From a Spirit Communication, an Iconic Logo Emerges: How a Shaker Gift Drawing Inspired CBS,” Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon, May 9, 2018, https://shakerml.org/from-a-spirit-communication-an-iconic-logo-emerges-how-a-shaker-gift-drawing-inspired-cbs/.
 Sam Marcy, “Utopian Socialist Experiments.” Soviet Socialism: Utopian or Scientific - Utopian socialist experiments, Accessed October 30, 2019, https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/marcy/sovietsocialism/sovsoc1.html.
 Samuel de Champlain, “Siege of the Iroquois Village. - Cornell University Library Digital Collections,” Cornell University Library Digital Collections: Images from the Rare Book and Manuscript Collections, Accessed November 19, 2019, https://digital.library.cornell.edu/catalog/ss:574092.
 Hubert-Jan Henley and Hilde Heynen, Back from Utopia: the Challenge of the Modern Movement, (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2002), 281.
 Morgan, Houses and House-Life of the American Aborigines, 44.
 Lewis Henry Morgan, Houses and House-Life of the American Aborigines, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1881), 45.
 Erik R. Seeman, “Native Spirits, Shaker Visions,” Journal of the Early Republic 35 no. 3 (2015): 347.
 Seeman, “Native Spirits, Shaker Visions,” 350.
 Jer 18:14
 Judg 9:15
 1 Ki 5:6; 7:2
 “Immaculate Conception Church; Saint Joseph's Church,” Immaculate Conception; Saint Joseph's: New Lebanon, Accessed May 23, 2021, https://parishes.rcda.org/ImmaculateConception&StJosephs/shrine.php.
 “Immaculate Conception Church; Saint Joseph's Church.” Immaculate Conception; Saint Joseph's: New Lebanon, Accessed May 23, 2021, https://parishes.rcda.org/ImmaculateConception&StJosephs/
 Morse, Story of the Shakers, 17.
 Morse, Story of the Shakers, 18.
 Engels, Marx and Engels on the United States, 41
Mitchell K. Jones is a historian and activist from Rochester, NY. He has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master’s degree in history from the College at Brockport, State University of New York. He has written on utopian socialism in the antebellum United States. His research interests include early America, communal societies, antebellum reform movements, religious sects, working class institutions, labor history, abolitionism and the American Civil War. His master’s thesis, entitled “Hunting for Harmony: The Skaneateles Community and Communitism in Upstate New York: 1825-1853” examines the radical abolitionist John Anderson Collins and his utopian project in Upstate New York. Jones is a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
The Palestine Liberation Organization Chooses its Path: The P.L.O. Between the October War and Camp David, 1973-1978. By: Alex ZambitoRead Now
Following the 1973 October War between Egypt/Syria and Israel, political conditions around the Palestinian national struggle changed dramatically. The decision by both Egypt and Syria to pursue a political instead of military solution and encourage the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to do the same, exacerbated already simmering tensions within the PLO between “Moderates” who wished to pursue a political settlement and “Rejectionists” who insisted on the primacy of armed struggle. This internal conflict would be decided in the favor of the “moderates” as the PLO began its long trek to a political settlement inaugurated by the 1993 Oslo Accords.
On October 6, 1973- the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur- Egypt and Syria launched offensives against Israel with Egyptian forces crossing the Suez Canal into the Sinai Peninsula and Syrian troops entering the Golan Heights- lands occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967. These offensives initially met with great success as Egyptian troops and tanks shattered the costly fortifications of the Bar-Lev Line along the Suez Canal and Syrian forces made significant advances into the Golan Heights. However, an Israeli counter offensive and U.S. airlift allowed the Israeli army to push Syrian forces out of the Golan Heights and break through Egyptian lines to cross the Suez Canal. The War ended on October 25 when an American-Soviet brokered ceasefire resolution (Resolution 340) was passed by the United Nations Security Council.
Despite the war only lasting nineteen days its political fallout was significant. The myth of Israeli military invincibility was shattered by the early military successes of the Egyptian and Syrian armies. With these successes the Arab armies also regained some of the prestige they had lost after their humiliating defeat in 1967. Most importantly, the war broke Arab-Israeli negotiations out of the state of limbo (“No War, No Peace”) in which their respective Soviet and American patrons had placed them since the end of the Egyptian/Israeli War of Attrition in 1970. As historian Craig Daigle has demonstrated, Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, sought to pursue a “limited war” which would force the renewal of negotiations for a final settlement on the Palestine issue and increase Arab leverage in those negotiations. Following the war, both the Egyptian and Syrian governments pursued a political settlement for Palestinian national aspirations and began to pressure the PLO to do the same.
For the PLO, the war changed political conditions drastically. Having regained the political initiative, the Arab states now pushed for a political settlement, which, prior to the war, the PLO had always officially rejected insisting on the sanctity of armed struggle. This change in the regional political situation exacerbated disagreements which had been simmering in the PLO prior to the war. On one side were “moderates” who were willing to pursue a political settlement to their national aspirations and accept a Palestinian state on part of Palestine. On the other were “rejectionists” who refused participation in any political settlement and insisted on the creation of a single, secular state on all Palestinian territory. However, even prior to the war the PLO had begun making overtures indicating its willingness to participate in a political settlement. In 1969, PLO President Yasser Arafat approved the opening of a “back channel” to Washington between his security chief, Ali Hassan Salameh, and CIA field agent, Robert Ames. Through this channel, which operated until Ames’s death in 1983, Arafat’s party, Fatah, provided security for U.S. diplomats in Lebanon and shared intelligence on threats to American interests. Further, in July 1973 Arafat sought to open a direct political channel with Washington which was rebuffed.
Following the war, the Arab states sought to encourage this trajectory and marginalize “rejectionist” groups. In November 1973, all countries at the Algiers Summit of the Arab League, except for Jordan, voted to recognize the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinian people. This was reaffirmed by a unanimous vote at the Rabat Summit the following year. However, conservative Arab governments such as Saudi Arabia predicated this recognition on the suppression of radical elements within the PLO. Additionally, the declaration from the Algiers summit removed any reference to the sanctity of “armed struggle” or the “Indivisibility of Palestine” which had previously been mandatory. This strategy was summed up in a written statement by the Egyptians delivered to the Israeli government via the United States explaining their decision to recognize the PLO at the Rabat summit, claiming, “The Egyptian Government was forced to pursue this tactic to win over the PLO so that no change would take place in the stands of the moderate sides in favor of the extremists within the PLO.”
This path was further encouraged in November 1974 when the U.N. General Assembly recognized the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinian people and granted the organization observer status. These recognitions were significant, not only for raising the PLO’s status, but, also, for raising its status relative to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Since Jordan had a majority Palestinian population and had occupied the West Bank up until 1967, King Hussein insisted his kingdom was the legitimate representative of Palestinians. This position was encouraged by Israel and the United States who wished to isolate the PLO and come to a permanent settlement with the pro-west kingdom. The Arab States’ decision to back the PLO in this dispute was inspired by the PLO’s agreement to join military operations during the October War, while Jordan refused any major participation fearing consequences from its U.S. ally.
The PLO took a further step towards accepting a settlement at the twelfth Palestinian National Council. This was the council to release the ten-point-program which would call for the creation of a “people's national, independent, and fighting authority on every part of Palestinian land to be liberated.” The PLO characterized this as a “transitionary” state from which the PLO would carry out its struggle for the final liberation of all of Palestine. As Fuad Faris stated in an article arguing in favor of this position, “from a revolutionary point of view, a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza can only be proposed as a transitional destabilizing factor, planned as an anti-Zionist and anti-Hashemite entity by necessity.” Despite these protestations of continued revolutionary zeal, this resolution was the first time the PLO had publicly endorsed the possibility of accepting a Palestinian state on part of Palestinian territory. “Rejectionist” groups correctly claimed this was a step towards accepting a political settlement and a “mini-state”. Protesting this trajectory, the PFLP withdrew from the PLO executive committee in September of 1974. However, this did not change the PLO’s trajectory as the fifteen-point program released by the thirteenth PNC in 1977 explicitly called for the creation of a Palestinian state and removed any mention of “total liberation”.
This pivot to “moderation” was stimulated by diplomatic gains but also political and military setbacks, particularly the growing division between Egypt and Syria. These troubles began with the ending of the war, as Syrian President, Hafez al-Asad, was caught off guard by Egypt’s acceptance of a cease-fire on October 22. Asad’s intentions in the war were to capture the Golan Heights militarily and inflict as much damage on Israel as possible. Sadat’s intentions of a limited war to catalyze a political settlement left Syrian forces to face the superior Israeli military on its own and led Asad to accept the cease-fire. These divisions were intensified by subsequent disagreements over how to best pursue a political settlement. Cracks in unity began to appear at the December 1973 Geneva Conference, which Egypt attended but Syria rejected. A significant factor in these disagreements were the attitudes of the respective governments to the United States; Whereas Asad doubted the value of a U.S. role, Sadat believed Washington was an essential partner.
Following the October War, U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, pursued a “step-by-step” strategy towards a political settlement. This meant that Israel- and its U.S. benefactor- would negotiate agreements with each of the Arab governments individually, with Palestinian participation determined at the end. Ultimately, Kissinger aimed to isolate and weaken the PLO before bringing them into negotiations. Sadat was amenable to this strategy and demonstrated it by signing the Sinai I and II disengagement agreements with Israel in 1974 and 1975, respectively. The latter of these agreements called for the withdrawal of troops in the Sinai, created a U.N buffer zone, and stated that future conflicts between the two countries “shall not be resolved by military force but by peaceful means.” While the Syrians signed their own disengagement agreement with Israel in 1974, it was much more modest and inadequate as a formal peace agreement. The Syrian positions accepted the idea of a political settlement but insisted on maintaining a united Arab position in collective negotiations using recognition of Israel and the threat of war as bargaining chips. Additionally, the Syrians insisted on a role for their own benefactor- the USSR- in a political settlement, something Sadat, who had just removed Egypt from Soviet camp, was willing to do without.
While the Sinai agreements did not fully remove Egypt from the military situation, the easing of tensions between Egypt and Israel removed military pressure from Israel allowing it to focus on other enemies. As PLO Executive Committee Member, Zuhayr Mohsen, predicted, "Israel is going to use all its weight in order to threaten the Syrians.” Facing the specter of an almost certain military defeat, Syria found itself facing a situation of “half war, half peace”, where the Syrians sought to undermine any final peace agreement, while simultaneously avoid provoking Israel into a war. Thus, Syria sought to curb Palestinian guerilla activity. So, while the Sinai agreements pushed the PLO closer to Syria, it also ratcheted up tensions between the two as Syria attempted to exert control over the PLO’s activity.
This dynamic played an important role in the Lebanese Civil War which roped in both the PLO and Syria. Following the expulsion of the Palestinian resistance from Jordan after “Black September” in 1970, the main base of operations for Palestinian guerillas was in Lebanon, which generated hostility from groups who feared the PLO’s radicalizing influence and confrontation with Israel. In 1975 recurring clashes between Lebanese militia groups led to the eruption of an all-out civil war pitting Palestinian and Lebanese “leftists”- primarily composed of Muslim groups calling for a secular state and the restructuring of its wealth and power- against “rightists”- consisting mainly of Lebanese Maronite groups seeking to maintain Maronite dominance. Similar to its relationship with the PLO, Syria hoped to command Lebanese politics, particularly its foreign policy. Not only did the Syrians hope to keep Lebanon within its united Arab bloc for future negotiations with Israel, but due to its shared borders with both Syria and Israel, Syria had a vested interest Lebanon’s domestic situation. With Lebanon’s already weak state, the Syrians feared a further deterioration in the country could provoke an Israeli military intervention from where Israel could outflank Syria’s defenses in the Golan Heights.
In the initial months of the conflict, the Syrians provided weapons and diplomatic assistance to the leftists while also trying to restrain them and curb the fighting. But, as the situation continued to deteriorate towards the end of 1975, Syria began to threaten a direct military intervention. When rightist groups ignored this warning and began an offensive aimed at partitioning the country and creating a Maronite state, the Syrians sent in forces from both the Palestinian Liberation Army and Al-Saiqa (a Syrian dominated Palestinian political party) to impose a cease-fire. Additionally, the Syrians put forth a peace plan which would concede some of the reforms the leftists called for and strengthen the central authority. As for the Palestinians, they would no longer interfere in internal Lebanese politics and the Maronites would allow them to remain in the country. However, the leftists rejected these proposals causing Asad to cut off military support in March 1976. Subsequently, the leftists went on the offensive foiling any Syrian peace plan and by April, Maronite forces were in danger of being destroyed.
This was something Damascus wished to avoid. Not only did the Syrians fear that a leftist victory would only come at great cost, they also were not too excited at the prospect of a radical, “rejectionist” Lebanon which may seek to sabotage Syria’s settlement strategy and drag Syria into another war with Israel. Syria’s attempts to restrain its allies began with modest military incursions across the border, building to a larger offensive in June 1976 meant to intimidate the leftists. When Syrian forces met strong resistance from its allies, Damascus resolved to reprimand them, supporting a Maronite war of attrition followed by an offensive against the leftists deep into Lebanon in the Fall of 1976. Having thoroughly chastised his former allies, Asad accepted Arab mediation bringing the conflict to a temporary close.
While all of this was occurring, matters continued to deteriorate within the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank. In the years following the Six-Day War Israel expanded its settlements on Arab territory, building approximately one-hundred settlements beyond the green line by 1977. By this time Israel had expended over $400 million on settlements and had populated them with over 8,000 settlers. This erosion of Arab territory was significant because it changed the facts on the ground and increased Israel’s leverage in any future negotiations. As Israeli Minister, Yisrael Galili, put it, “I am convinced that what we have accomplished from the Six Day War until now constitutes an extremely significant reality from a political, security and national point of view. The settlements constitute a deployment of extreme value that expands the infrastructure of the State of Israel and offers a dimension of entrenchment and firmness. We have seen this even within the framework of disengagement of forces agreements: as happened in the Golan Heights, the existence of the settlements was very valuable. This is especially true when the question involves a framework of negotiations for permanent peace. No settlement was established on the assumption that we would abandon it.” This official program of settlement was accompanied by campaigns from right-wing expansionist groups, such as Gush Emunim for accelerated settlement, particularly in Samaria- the northern section of the west bank. This activity was often condoned or sometimes supported by the Israeli government. For instance, in 1976 Israeli Defense Minister, Shimon Peres, conveyed “hope that a majority will be found in the government which would support the right of the settlers to remain where they are.”
These expansionist policies engendered significant resistance within the occupied territories. In August 1973, the Palestinian National Front (PNF) emerged to coordinate national and democratic activities within the West Bank and immediately recognized the PLO. The PNF was a union of various underground national and progressive groups, with some allied to existing guerilla groups. An increase in political and guerilla activity led the Israeli occupation forces and Jordan to institute draconian security measures. All Palestinian Arabs were subject to administrative arrest for “security reasons” and could be held indefinitely. In one instance, 12 Palestinian youths were arrested for allegedly being involved with the PNF. In the early months of 1976, mass demonstrations broke out in major towns and villages of the west bank, triggered by continued expansion of Israeli settlements. To maintain order military authorities dispatched paratroopers, killing at least three people. Additionally, protests erupted when a group of Israelis held Jewish services at the Haram- site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and one of the holiest places in Islam- leading to brutal police suppression.
These events not only indicated a growing level of resistance within the occupied territories but also their growing political significance. The PNF attended the Palestine National Council in 1974 marking the first time an organized voice from the West Bank had been represented at the conference. This was significant because of the political priorities of the occupied territories. Dealing directly with the effects of occupation, Palestinians in the occupied territories were the most insistent on curbing Israeli settlements and the establishment of an autonomous Palestinian authority. Further, Palestinians in the West Bank were adamantly opposed to the Hashemite Kingdom and the possibility of a re-occupation by Jordan. With this, they feared that the U.S. and Israel may attempt a final settlement with Jordan, circumventing any participation by the PLO. As one member of the PNF put it, “There is something brewing, but the war in Lebanon and the uprisings in the West Bank are happening because we don't want to be part of the Jordanian kingdom again. We want self- determination, to have our own state. We don't want to be occupied.”
Even with all this, the possibility of a collective peace agreement including the PLO was not off the table. After Jimmy Carter entered the White House in 1977, he indicated his willingness to include the PLO at a second Geneva conference, even calling for a “Palestinian homeland”. Carter sent overtures that Washington would open direct talks with the PLO if they would unequivocally recognize Israel with the acceptance of UN Resolution 242, which the PLO had historically opposed due to its ignoring Palestinian national rights. However, with Israeli and American refusal to recognize the PLO and no promise they would actually have a state at the end of the process, the PLO Central Council voted down the proposal. As for Israel, not only did the new Likud government not want them at a peace conference, they viewed recognition of the PLO as a threat to the future of Israel, particularly in the West Bank. As Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin stated, “Agreement to negotiate with the terrorists means accepting in advance that we are discussing an Arab country... We must remember that they are claiming ownership over Judea and Samaria. When we talk about negotiations with Jordan, we have a clear position that Jordan has no legitimate position in Judea and Samaria... If we agree to discuss with the PLO this is tantamount to recognition. Recognition of the PLO means forfeiting negotiations in advance, not to mention the distastefulness of the very contact with the PLO, which is nothing more than a gang of murderers.” As an alternative to negotiations with the PLO, the Israeli government developed a plan whereby administrative autonomy would be given to Palestinians, but the land would remain under Israeli sovereignty with Israel in charge of security.
Facing Israeli intransigence and domestic outrage over his call for a Palestinian homeland, Carter abandoned efforts to bring Palestinians into a peace conference and endorsed the Israeli plan. With Sadat’s surprise visit to Jerusalem, the U.S. renewed a modified version of its step-by-step plan beginning with a separate peace with Egypt, followed by separate Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian peace agreements. This initiative launched by Sadat’s visit would culminate in the Camp David Accords, which would bring the Palestinian resistance to a crossroads: whether to continue down their path to a political settlement or try to reinvigorate the military option.
The Camp David Accords which were signed on September 17, 1978 by the United States, Israel, and Egypt. The accords were a pair of agreements. One established a separate peace between Israel and Egypt and the other created a formula for a final resolution to the Palestinian national question. The latter framework called for the establishment of a “self-governing” Palestinian authority, the powers of which were to be determined Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. This authority would operate for a transitional period of five years, with negotiations between Israel, Egypt, and Jordan to decide the final status of the occupied territories convening about halfway through this period. The framework included that Palestinians may be allowed representation in the Egyptian and Jordanian delegations. However, this representation was not mandatory, and any Palestinian appointments would be subject to a decision by their respective governments.
Political fallout from the accords was swift, with most Arab governments condemning the Sadat’s initiative. Facing political isolation, Sadat claimed the accords were not actually a separate peace. As the newspaper, the Jewish Week, sarcastically explained it, the agreement “looks like a separate Israeli-Egyptian peace, feels like a separate Israeli-Egyptian peace, and smells like a separate Israeli-Egyptian peace, but is not a separate Israeli-Egyptian peace.” In November 1978 at the Arab summit in Baghdad, Arab heads of state condemned the accords and placed sanctions on Egypt. This division had profound political and military effects on the PLO. Politically, the accords removed a possible partner for the PLO making them increasingly dependent on Syria. Previously, the PLO had been able to play on the rivalry between Syria and Egypt for leadership in the Arab world to their own advantage, but this was no longer an option after the accords. This also led to the further deterioration of the military situation for the PLO. With the Egyptians fully out of the conflict, conventional war with Israel was off the table. Additionally, while the accords made the PLO more dependent on Syria, the relationship between the two continued to be strained due to the latter’s intervention in Lebanon and its continued attempts to control the Palestinian resistance. This meant all the states sharing a border with Israel- Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria- had a vested interest in restraining Palestinian guerilla activity. And, with the Palestinian resistance facing further pressure in Lebanon, the military options for the PLO were becoming increasingly narrow. Finally, with the Egyptian military threat removed, Israel was free to expand and fortify settlements in occupied territories, further eroding Palestine’s potential land.
Another urgent development for the PLO was the inclusion of Jordan as a representative for Palestinians in the future negotiations over the occupied territory. The PLO feared a future settlement where they were excluded from participation in the autonomous authority promised under the accords. Hani Al-Hassan, political advisor to Yasser Arafat, described the accords as an attempt “to liquidate the Palestinians politically” proclaiming, “they have separated Egypt from the Arab world, and they are trying to separate the PLO from the Palestinian people.” Further, the growing political importance of the occupied territories and their distaste for a settlement with Jordan pressured the PLO to halt any progress towards implementing the Camp David framework.
These conditions arising from the Camp David Accords led to the solidification of the moderate turn the PLO had taken since the end of the October War. Despite the return of rejectionist groups such as the PFLP, the PLO did not backtrack on any of its previous decisions and would go even further in the following years. The narrowing of its military options along with pressure from Arab governments pushed the PLO down the road to a political settlement. Further, with the increasing harassment it was receiving in Lebanon, the Palestinian resistance feared the possibility of losing its main base of operations, hastening its pursuit of an independent land base. This was made even more urgent by the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and the possibility of Jordan being reintroduced as a representative of the Palestinian people. Combine this with the rising political importance of occupied territories and their demands for some form of autonomy, and the stage was set for the PLO’s path Oslo.
While much of Camp David framework never came to fruition, many of the PLO’s fears were realized in the coming years. Theories that the withdrawal of Egypt would free up Israel to focus on the PLO came true when Israel intervened in Lebanon leading to the PLO’s expulsion in 1982 and their move to Tunisia. With little military alternative, the PLO continued concessions towards a political settlement culminating in its acceptance of U.N. Resolution 242 and its recognition of Israel in December of 1988. Given the pressures facing the PLO it is difficult to tell if an alternative strategy would have ended in better results. However, it does appear that many “rejectionist” criticisms of a political settlement have proven accurate. Almost thirty years on from Oslo the situation has deteriorated for Palestinians in many ways, with violence continuing and being increasingly concentrated on them. Thus, for better or worse, the Camp David Accords have had a profound impact on the history of the Palestinian liberation movement by increasing the pressure on the PLO to pursue this policy of “moderation”. After almost fifty years, this decision is still controversial with many considering it “capitulation” rather than “pragmatism”. With Palestinians continuing to face oppression, violence, and occupation the history of these decisions become even more important for informing the path forward to a just solution.
 Galia Golan, Yom Kippur and After: The Soviet Union and the Middle East Crisis, (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 74.
 Craig Daigle, The Limits of Détente: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1969-1973, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 295.
 Ibid, 306-310
 Galia Golan, Yom Kippur and After: The Soviet Union and the Middle East Crisis, (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 125
 Khaled Elgindi, Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians from Balfour to Trump, (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press), ch. 3.
 Craig Daigle, The Limits of Détente: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1969-1973, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 328.
 Sameer Abraham, “The PLO at the Crossroads: Moderation, Encirclement, Future Prospects,“ MERIP Reports, no. 80 (September 1979): 5, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011621
 Craig Daigle, The Limits of Détente: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1969-1973, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012).
 “Arab States Intensify Squeeze on PLO,” MERIP Reports, no. 55 (March 1977): 24, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010833
 Yassin El-Ayouty, “The Palestinians and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War,” Current History 66, no. 390 (February 1974): 74-75, https://www.jstor.org/stable/45313005
 Muhammad Y. Muslih, “Moderates and Rejectionists Within the Palestine Liberation Organization,” Middle East Journal 30, no. 2 (Spring 1976): 127-140, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4325481.
Khaled Elgindi, Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians from Balfour to Trump, (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press), ch. 3.
 Shaul Bartal, “Yom Kippur War Influence at the PLO Recognition and the Palestinian Problem,” History Research 5, no. 4 (October-December 2015): 255, doi: 10.17265/2159-550X/2015.04.005
 Ibid, 262
 MERIP Staff, “Open Door in the Middle East,” MERIP Reports no. 31 (October 1974): 9, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010893.
 Khaled Elgindi, Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians from Balfour to Trump, (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press), ch. 3.
 “Egypt and the Palestinians: Behind the Recognition of the P.L.O.,” MERIP Reports, no. 30 (November, 1974): 4, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011739
 “The United Nations and the Palestinian Struggle,” MERIP Reports, no. 43 (December 1975): 19-20, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011088
 Shaul Bartal, “Yom Kippur War Influence at the PLO Recognition and the Palestinian Problem,” History Research 5, no. 4 (October-December 2015): 262- 265, doi: 10.17265/2159-550X/2015.04.005.
 Khaled Elgindi, Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians from Balfour to Trump, (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press), ch. 3.
 Shaul Bartal, “Yom Kippur War Influence at the PLO Recognition and the Palestinian Problem,” History Research 5, no. 4 (October-December 2015): 262- 265, doi: 10.17265/2159-550X/2015.04.005.
 Muhamma Muslih, “Towards Coexistence: An Analysis of the Resolutions of the Palestine National Council”, Journal of Palestine Studies 19, no. 4 (Summer 1990): 17-18, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2537386
 Qais Salim, “Resistance and National Self-Determination in Palestine,” MERIP Reports, no. 28 (May 1974): 8-9, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011292
 Fuad Faris, “A Palestinian State? (Notes on the Palestinian Situation After the October War,” MERIP Reports, no. 33 (December 1974): 4, http://www.jstor.org/stable/30114333
 Qais Salim, “Resistance and National Self-Determination in Palestine,” MERIP Reports, no. 28 (May 1974): 10, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011292.
 MERIP Staff, “Open Door in the Middle East,” MERIP Reports no. 31 (October 1974): 9, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010893
 Ibrahim Abu Lughod, “PNC Maps out Palestinian Strategy,” MERIP Reports, no. 57 (May 1977): 10-13, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011556
 Craig Daigle, The Limits of Détente: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1969-1973, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 336.
 Galia Golan, Yom Kippur and After: The Soviet Union and the Middle East Crisis, (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 154
 Khaled Elgindi, Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians from Balfour to Trump, (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press), ch. 3.
 Craig Daigle, The Limits of Détente: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1969-1973, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 335-336
 “The Sinai Agreement, 1975,” Current History 70, Iss. 000412 (January 1976): 32,
 Craig Daigle, The Limits of Détente: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1969-1973, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 338
 A. I. Dawisha, “Syria and the Sadat Initiative,” The World Today 34, no. 5 (May 1978): 196, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40395050
 Ibid, 197-198
 “Reactions to the Sinai Agreement,” MERIP Reports, no. 41 (October 1975): 21, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3693719
 Sameer Abraham, “The PLO at the Crossroads: Moderation, Encirclement, Future Prospects,“ MERIP Reports, no. 80 (September 1979): 12, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011621
 MERIP Staff, “Why Syria Invaded Lebanon,” MERIP Reports, no. 51 (October 1976): 12, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010905.
 Raymond A. Hinnebusch, “Syrian Policy in Lebanon and the Palestinians,” Arab Studies Quarterly 8, no. 1 (Winter 1986): 4, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41857807
 Ibid, 3-4.
 Ibid, 4-5
 Ibid, 5
 MERIP Staff, “Why Syria Invaded Lebanon,” MERIP Reports, no. 51 (October 1976): 3, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010905
 Raymond A. Hinnebusch, “Syrian Policy in Lebanon and the Palestinians,” Arab Studies Quarterly 8, no. 1 (Winter 1986): 5, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41857807.
 MERIP Staff, “Why Syria Invaded Lebanon,” MERIP Reports, no. 51 (October 1976): 3, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010905
 Raymond A. Hinnebusch, “Syrian Policy in Lebanon and the Palestinians,” Arab Studies Quarterly 8, no. 1 (Winter 1986): 5-6, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41857807.
 Ibid, 6-7
 “Israeli Settlement Policy,” MERIP Reports, no. 59 (August 1977): 22, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011700
 MERIP Staff, “Open Door in the Middle East,” MERIP Reports no. 31 (October 1974): 14, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010893.
 “Palestinian Resistance Threatens Israeli Occupation,” MERIP Reports no. 46 (April 1976): 18, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010899
 MERIP Staff, “Open Door in the Middle East,” MERIP Reports no. 31 (October 1974): 7, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010893.
 Ibid, 10
 “Palestinian Resistance Threatens Israeli Occupation,” MERIP Reports no. 46 (April 1976): 18, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010899.
 Ibid, 18-19
 MERIP Staff, “Open Door in the Middle East,” MERIP Reports no. 31 (October 1974): 9, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010893.
 Ibid, 10-11
 Abdul Aziz Hajj Ahmad, “Interview with the Palestine National Front,” MERIP Reports, no. 50 (August 1976): 21, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010885
 Khaled Elgindi, Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians from Balfour to Trump, (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press), ch. 3.re
 “PLO Rejects U.S. Attempt to Finesse Question of Participation in Peace Talks,” MERIP Reports, no. 60 (September 1977): 23, 26, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011550.
 Daigle, Craig, “The Loser of the Camp David Accords,” Washington Post, September 19, 2018,https://www-proquest-com.ez-proxy.brooklyn.cuny.edu/docview/2109949209/9379DA7FCA5D4596PQ/17?accountid=7286
 Khaled Elgindi, Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians from Balfour to Trump, (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press), ch. 3.
 Joel Benin, “The Cold Peace,” MERIP Reports, no. 129 (January 1985): 3-4, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011855
 Fayaz A. Sayegh, “The Camp David Agreement and the Palestinian Problem,” Journal of Palestine Studies 8, no. 2 (Winter 1979): 4, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2536507.
 “Baghdad Summit: ‘The Palestinian Question is the Essence of the Conflict,’" MERIP Reports, no. 73 (December 1978): 22-23, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3012266
 Fayaz A. Sayegh, “The Camp David Agreement and the Palestinian Problem,” Journal of Palestine Studies 8, no. 2 (Winter 1979): 4, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2536507.cro
 Sameer Abraham, “The PLO at the Crossroads: Moderation, Encirclement, Future Prospects,“ MERIP Reports, no. 80 (September 1979): 12, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011621
 MERIP Staff, “Why Syria Invaded Lebanon,” MERIP Reports, no. 51 (October 1976): 4, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3010905.
 Sameer Abraham, “The PLO at the Crossroads: Moderation, Encirclement, Future Prospects,“ MERIP Reports, no. 80 (September 1979): 9, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011621.
 Ibid, 12-13
 Hani al-Hassan, “PLO on Camp David: ‘The Plan is to Liquidate the Palestinians Politically,’" MERIP Reports, no. 72 (November 1978): 12-13, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011096.
 “Declaration of the Mayors and Leaders of the West Bank and Gaza,” MERIP Reports, no. 72 (November 1978): 15, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011098.mu
 Muhammad Muslih, “Towards Coexistence: An Analysis of the Resolutions of the Palestine National Council”, Journal of Palestine Studies 19, no. 4 (Summer 1990): 19-20, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2537386
 Joel Benin, “The Cold Peace,” MERIP Reports, no. 129 (January 1985): 3, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3011855
 Muhammad Muslih, “Towards Coexistence: An Analysis of the Resolutions of the Palestine National Council”, Journal of Palestine Studies 19, no. 4 (Summer 1990): 3, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2537386
I'm Alex Zambito. I'm born and raised in Savannah, GA. I graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2017 with a degree in History and Sociology. I am currently seeking a Masters in History at Brooklyn College. My Interest include the history of Socialist experiments and proletarian struggles across the world.