The US and UK’s Submarine Deal Crosses Nuclear Red Lines with Australia By: Prabir PurkayasthaRead Now
The recent Australia, U.S., and UK $368 billion deal on buying nuclear submarines has been termed by Paul Keating, a former Australian prime minister, as the “worst deal in all history.” It commits Australia to buy conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines that will be delivered in the early 2040s. These will be based on new nuclear reactor designs yet to be developed by the UK. Meanwhile, starting from the 2030s, “pending approval from the U.S. Congress, the United States intends to sell Australia three Virginia class submarines, with the potential to sell up to two more if needed” (Trilateral Australia-UK-U.S. Partnership on Nuclear-Powered Submarines, March 13, 2023; emphasis mine). According to the details, it appears that this agreement commits Australia to buy from the U.S. eight new nuclear submarines, to be delivered from the 2040s through the end of the 2050s. If nuclear submarines were so crucial for Australia’s security, for which it broke its existing diesel-powered submarine deal with France, this agreement provides no credible answers.
For those who have been following the nuclear proliferation issues, the deal raises a different red flag. If submarine nuclear reactor technology and weapons-grade (highly enriched) uranium are shared with Australia, it is a breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which Australia is a signatory as a non-nuclear power. Even the supplying of such nuclear reactors by the U.S. and the UK would constitute a breach of the NPT. This is even if such submarines do not carry nuclear but conventional weapons as stated in this agreement.
So why did Australia renege on its contract with France, which was to buy 12 diesel submarines from France at a cost of $67 billion, a small fraction of its gargantuan $368 billion deal with the U.S.? What does it gain, and what does the U.S. gain by annoying France, one of its close NATO allies?
To understand, we have to see how the U.S. looks at the geostrategy, and how the Five Eyes—the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—fit into this larger picture. Clearly, the U.S. believes that the core of the NATO alliance is the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada for the Atlantic and the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia for the Indo-Pacific. The rest of its allies, NATO allies in Europe and Japan and South Korea in East and South Asia, are around this Five Eyes core. That is why the United States was willing to offend France to broker a deal with Australia.
What does the U.S. get out of this deal? On the promise of eight nuclear submarines that will be given to Australia two to four decades down the line, the U.S. gets access to Australia to be used as a base for supporting its naval fleet, air force, and even U.S. soldiers. The words used by the White House are, “As early as 2027, the United Kingdom and the United States plan to establish a rotational presence of one UK Astute class submarine and up to four U.S. Virginia class submarines at HMAS Stirling near Perth, Western Australia.” The use of the phrase “rotational presence” is to provide Australia the fig leaf that it is not offering the U.S. a naval base, as that would violate Australia’s long-standing position of no foreign bases on its soil. Clearly, all the support structures required for such rotations are what a foreign military base has, therefore they will function as U.S. bases.
Who is the target of the AUKUS alliance? This is explicit in all the writing on the subject and what all the leaders of AUKUS have said: it is China. In other words, this is a containment of China policy with the South China Sea and the Taiwanese Strait as the key contested oceanic regions. Positioning U.S. naval ships including its nuclear submarines armed with nuclear weapons makes Australia a front-line state in the current U.S. plans for the containment of China. Additionally, it creates pressure on most Southeast Asian countries who would like to stay out of such a U.S. versus China contest being carried out in the South China Sea.
While the U.S. motivation to draft Australia as a front-line state against China is understandable, what is difficult to understand is Australia’s gain from such an alignment. China is not only the biggest importer of Australian goods, but also its biggest supplier. In other words, if Australia is worried about the safety of its trade through the South China Sea from Chinese attacks, the bulk of this trade is with China. So why would China be mad enough to attack its own trade with Australia? For the U.S. it makes eminent sense to get a whole continent, Australia, to host its forces much closer to China than 8,000-9,000 miles away in the U.S. Though it already has bases in Hawaii and Guam in the Pacific Ocean, Australia and Japan provide two anchor points, one to the north and one to the south in the eastern Pacific Ocean region. The game is an old-fashioned game of containment, the one that the U.S. played with its NATO, Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), and Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) military alliances after World War II.
The problem that the U.S. has today is that even countries like India, who have their issues with China, are not signing up with the U.S. in a military alliance. Particularly, as the U.S. is now in an economic war with a number of countries, not just Russia and China, such as Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia. While India was willing to join the Quad—the U.S., Australia, Japan, and India—and participate in military exercises, it backed off from the Quad becoming a military alliance. This explains the pressure on Australia to partner with the U.S. militarily, particularly in Southeast Asia.
It still fails to explain what is in it for Australia. Even the five Virginia class nuclear submarines that Australia may get second hand are subject to U.S. congressional approval. Those who follow U.S. politics know that the U.S. is currently treaty incapable; it has not ratified a single treaty on issues from global warming to the law of the seas in recent years. The other eight are a good 20-40 years away; who knows what the world would look like that far down the line.
Why, if naval security was its objective, did Australia choose an iffy nuclear submarine agreement with the U.S. over a sure-shot supply of French submarines? This is a question that Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Keating, the Australian Labor Party’s former PMs, asked. It makes sense only if we understand that Australia now sees itself as a cog in the U.S. wheel for this region. And it is a vision of U.S. naval power projection in the region that today Australia shares. The vision is that settler colonial and ex-colonial powers—the G7-AUKUS—should be the ones making the rules of the current international order. And behind the talk of international order is the mailed fist of the U.S., NATO, and AUKUS. This is what Australia’s nuclear submarine deal really means.
Prabir Purkayastha is the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the free software movement.
This article was produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.
As the state of international relations continues to shift rapidly, and new contradictions are made apparent daily, it is of utmost importance to pay attention to the actions of one's government and to hold them accountable for their crimes. Analyzing and criticizing other countries is also necessary in contextualizing current events, but before judging others, make sure your house is in order. America routinely ignores international law, and as Americans, we should exercise our power to hold our government responsible for these misdeeds. America is now accused of sabotaging the Nord Stream Pipelines in September 2022. This unprecedented leak of natural gas has led to significant negative consequences for the economies of Russia and much of Europe, as well as the most released methane emissions for any event in history. The pipeline's destruction furthers much of Europe toward American liquefied natural gas for their energy needs. Once the context of economic and political international relations is analyzed, the United States appears to be the perpetrator.
Nord Stream 1 and 2 are each a pair of natural gas pipelines that run from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The project is designed to bypass traditional transit countries like Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland. Nord Stream 1 is owned by multiple companies, including Gazprom, Wintershall, E.ON, Gasunie, and GDF Suez. Nord Stream 2 is also owned by Gazprom, but it has different partners, including ENGIE, OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, Uniper, and Wintershall. Each pair of pipelines can transport 55 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas annually to Europe. The second most productive pipeline from Russia to Europe is the Yamal-Europe Pipeline, which runs through Belarus and Poland to Germany. It has a capacity of 33 bcm per year. The gas transported through Nord Stream is sold on the European spot market, making it available to buyers across the continent. The gas can be purchased by utilities, industrial companies, and other consumers that use natural gas as a fuel source. Nord Stream 2 could double the amount of natural gas transferred, which would be enormous for all countries involved.
With Nord Stream 1 being in service since 2011, we can infer what impact Nord Stream 2 would have on the Russian and European economies. It isn't easy to provide an exact percentage of Russia's yearly revenue generated by Nord Stream 1, as the revenue generated by the pipeline is not reported separately from other revenues generated by Gazprom. However, it is estimated to make up 40% of Russia's annual income. According to a 2018 study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), the construction and operation of Nord Stream 1 generated around €2.2 billion ($2.3 billion) in economic activity and supported around 12,000 jobs in Germany. The study also estimated that the pipeline generated around €200 million ($213 million) in tax revenue for the German government. In 2020, Nord Stream 1 supplied Germany with approximately 8.8 cm of natural gas, accounting for around 19% of Germany's total natural gas imports that year. While Germany is the endpoint of the Nord Stream pipelines, the gas transported through the pipelines is distributed to other European countries, including Denmark, the Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom. In 2021, Russia provided nearly 40% of the EU's natural gas supply through Nord Stream 1.
The United States has opposed the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, arguing that it would increase Europe's dependence on Russian energy and undermine Ukraine's energy security. The U.S. imposed sanctions on companies involved in the pipeline's construction, including some European companies. In December 2019, President Trump signed the Protecting Europe's Energy Security Act (PEESA), which imposed sanctions on companies involved in the construction, financing, or maintenance of Russian energy export pipelines, including Nord Stream 1. The law "requires the U.S. government to identify and sanction companies that make investments or provide goods, services, or support worth more than $1 million or $5 million over 12 months in the construction, modernization, or repair of certain Russian energy export pipelines."
On July 21, 2021, the United States and Germany agreed to allow the completion of the pipeline in exchange for German commitments to invest in Ukraine's energy sector and take action if Russia uses energy as a weapon against Ukraine. The agreement was the result of months of negotiations between the two countries. Under the agreement, Germany committed to taking several actions to mitigate the impact of the pipeline on Ukraine and to support Ukraine's energy security. These actions included investing at least $175 million in a new "Green Fund for Ukraine" to support renewable energy projects in Ukraine, providing $70 million to Ukraine for energy security and energy efficiency measures, engaging in diplomatic efforts to extend Ukraine's gas transit agreement with Russia beyond 2024, and using all available leverage to prevent Russia from using energy as a weapon against Ukraine. In return, the United States agreed to lift sanctions on the company responsible for laying the pipeline and its CEO, which had effectively halted construction of the channel for over a year.
Biden, at a white house press conference on February 7, 2022, said, "If Russia invades, that means tanks or troops crossing the ... border of Ukraine again, then there will be ... no longer a Nord Stream 2. We, we will bring an end to it," When asked how that would work, Biden responded, "I promise you, we'll be able to do it."
On September 26, 2022, a series of explosions occurred on the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea, causing significant damage. This happened in international waters, not within any country's territory. However, it did occur within both the Danish and Swedish economic zones. Both countries, along with Germany, have been investigating the area, although Russia has been excluded from having its experts analyze the scene. Overwhelming evidence confirms the use of explosions and rules out any natural causes, such as earthquakes. According to the Geological Survey of Denmark, the detected tremors were much more similar to those of explosions than underwater earthquakes. Björn Lund, Associate Professor in Seismology at The Swedish National Seismic Network, said, "there is no doubt that these were explosions" with an estimated equivalent of 100 kilograms (220 lbs) of TNT. According to a report by Wired in November 2022, satellite imagery revealed two large unidentified ships with their AIS trackers turned off around the site of the leaks days before the incident. Swedish authorities announced in November that remains of explosives were found at the site of the leaks, confirming sabotage as the cause.
Two weeks before the sabotage occurred, the German government received a warning from the CIA that the pipelines may be attacked. While the United States has denied any involvement, it has vehemently opposed the UN investigation into the act of criminal sabotage. And while the United States has accused Russia of being the perpetrator of the attack, Russia has been very eager to have the UN investigate. China, likewise, has called for the UN to investigate this "deliberate sabotage."
On February 8, 2023, an American veteran and investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, published an article in which he presented leaked information from an anonymous source within the American military. Hersh has a history of uncovering American military crimes and has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for exposing America's role in the My Lai Massacre.
From his article¹: "The Norwegians were key to solving other hurdles. The Russian Navy possesses surveillance technology capable of spotting and triggering underwater mines. The American explosive devices needed to be camouflaged to make them appear to the Russian system as part of the natural background—something that required adapting to the specific salinity of the water. The Norwegians had a fix.'
'The Norwegians also had a solution to the crucial question of when the operation should occur. Every June, for the past 21 years, the American Sixth Fleet, whose flagship is based in Gaeta, Italy, south of Rome, has sponsored a major NATO exercise in the Baltic Sea involving scores of allied ships throughout the region. The current exercise, held in June, would be known as Baltic Operations 22, or BALTOPS 22. The Norwegians proposed this would be the ideal cover to plant the mines.'
'The Americans provided one vital element: they convinced the Sixth Fleet planners to add a research and development exercise to the program. The exercise, as made public by the Navy, involved the Sixth Fleet in collaboration with the Navy's "research and warfare centers." The at-sea event would be held off the coast of Bornholm Island and involve NATO teams of divers planting mines, with competing teams using the latest underwater technology to find and destroy them.'
'It was both a useful exercise and ingenious cover. The Panama City boys would do their thing, and the C4 explosives would be in place by the end of BALTOPS22, with a 48-hour timer attached. All Americans and Norwegians would be long gone by the first explosion."
While these allegations are not proven, the fact that BALTOPS22 was in place at the time reported is public knowledge. While the EU has received the plurality of its gas from Russia for years, the United States is motivated to sabotage the Russian pipelines, especially as it strikes deals with the EU to increase its supply. In March 2022, the United States said it could supply 15 bcm of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the European Union this year, a process which is much more complicated and expensive due to transport costs, lack of proper infrastructure, and the significant mark-ups that provide European third party companies plenty of profits.
Additionally, this has been a leak with unprecedented environmental effects. "It dwarfs the previous known leaks," says Ioannis Binietoglou of the Clean Air Task Force. Upper estimates put the methane released at half a million tons, five times more than the previous most significant leak. It also released a massive amount of carbon dioxide, with estimates ranging up to a loss of 15 million tons. For reference, Denmark was responsible for 44 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2021. Animal life in the area has also been deeply affected. Small whales and porpoises native to the site are critically endangered, and even the loss of a single one could be disastrous for their populations. The explosion's shockwave killed all marine life within a radius of 2.5 miles and damaged the hearing of animals up to 31 miles.
At this point, investigations are ongoing. Even without examining all the facts presented here, a basic understanding of contemporary politics along with the age-old question, "Who benefits?" indeed points towards America as the leading party responsible. As Americans, we must hold our government accountable for its actions. The most patriotic American should demand a thorough investigation to prove America's innocence and reaffirm strict dedication to international law and justice.
Hans Sanderson, Michał Czub, Sven Koschinski et al. Environmental impact of sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, 10 February 2023, PREPRINT (Version 1) available at Research Square [https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-2564820/v1]
Hernandez, America. "Why Cheap US Gas Costs a Fortune in Europe." Politico, 15 Nov. 2022, www.google.com/amp/s/www.politico.eu/article/cheap-us-gas-cost-fortune-europe-russia-ukraine-energy/amp/.
"Text - S.1441 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019." Congress.gov, Library of Congress, 31 July 2019, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/1441/text.
Renshaw, Jarrett, and Nina Chestney. "U.S., EU Strike LNG Deal As Europe Seeks to Cut Russian Gas." Reuters, 25 Feb. 2022, seymourhersh.substack.com/p/how-america-took-out-the-nord-stream.
Shalal, Andrea , et al. "Biden Pledges End to Nord Stream 2 If Russia Invades Ukraine." Reuters, 8 Feb. 2022, www.reuters.com/world/biden-germanys-scholz-stress-unified-front-against-any-russian-aggression-toward-2022-02-07/.
Ganz, Jared. "Swedish Say They Found Evidence of Explosives in Nord Stream Pipelines." The Hill, 18 Nov. 2022, thehill.com/policy/international/3742163-swedish-say-they-found-evidence-of-explosives-in-nord-stream-pipelines/amp/.
Duffy, Kate. "The CIA Warned Germany Weeks Ago about a Possible Attack on the Nord Stream Natural-gas Pipelines, Report Says." Business Insider, 28 Sept. 2022, www.google.com/amp/s/www.businessinsider.com/cia-warned-germany-attacks-nord-stream-pipelines-leak-sabotage-report-2022-9%3famp.
Alkousaa, Riham. "CIA Warned Berlin about Possible Attacks on Gas Pipelines in Summer - Spiegel." Reuters, 27 Sept. 2022, www.reuters.com/world/cia-warned-berlin-about-possible-attacks-gas-pipelines-summer-spiegel-2022-09-27/.
Xiaoming, Zhou . "If the US Is Not behind Nord Stream Explosions, It Should Have No Reason to Block a UN Investigation." South China Morning Post, 3 Mar. 2023, www.google.com/amp/s/amp.scmp.com/comment/opinion/world/article/3211959/if-us-not-behind-nord-stream-explosions-it-should-have-no-reason-block-un-investigation.
Kasprak, Alex. "Alex Kasprak." Snopes, 10 Feb. 2023, www.snopes.com/news/2023/02/10/hersh-nord-stream-sabotage/.
Renshaw, Jarrett, and Nina Chestney. "U.S., EU Strike LNG Deal As Europe Seeks to Cut Russian Gas." Reuters, 25 Feb. 2022, seymourhersh.substack.com/p/how-america-took-out-the-nord-stream.
Hernandez, America. "Why Cheap US Gas Costs a Fortune in Europe." Politico, 15 Nov. 2022, www.google.com/amp/s/www.politico.eu/article/cheap-us-gas-cost-fortune-europe-russia-ukraine-energy/amp/.
Benshoff, Laura. "The Nord Stream Pipelines Have Stopped Leaking. But the Methane Emitted Broke Records." NPR, 4 Oct. 2022, www.npr.org/2022/10/04/1126562195/the-nord-stream-pipelines-have-stopped-leaking-but-the-methane-emitted-broke-rec.
MATHIESEN, KARL, and ZIA WEISE. "8 Things to Know about the Environmental Impact of ‘Unprecedented’ Nord Stream Leaks." Politico, 28 Sept. 2022, www.google.com/amp/s/www.politico.eu/article/8-thing-know-environmental-impact-unprecedented-nord-stream-leak/amp/.
Svantesson, Sara. "EMISSIONS OF GREENHOUSE GASES." Danmarks Statistik, 4 Oct. 2022, www.dst.dk/da/Statistik/temaer/klima#:~:text=I%202021%20udledte%20vi%2044,indbygger%20i%20Danmark.
Hans Sanderson, Michał Czub, Sven Koschinski et al. Environmental impact of sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, 10 February 2023, PREPRINT (Version 1) available at Research Square [https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-2564820/v1]
Christian Jacobson is one of the founding members of the People's Glorious Reading Group of Sublime Understanding, along with James Hammond and Matthew Stooksbury. The Marxist-Leninist group is a constantly expanding, Orlando based book club, dedicated to reading, analyzing, and discussing texts they democratically determine will be helpful to the particular members' understanding of history, marxist theory, and current events. Christian is also a current student at Full Sail University, and is pursuing a career in writing and directing, and is currently working on several projects.
Why Student Debt Cancellation Is Reasonable, Not Radical By: Sonali KolhatkarRead Now
The right has narrowed the parameters of discussion on student debt forgiveness, and President Biden is not fighting back aggressively enough. We should, in fact, center the idea of fairness in this debate.
“Nobody’s telling the person who is trying to set up the lawn service business that he doesn’t have to pay his loan,” said U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during oral arguments about President Joe Biden’s student debt forgiveness plan. Roberts continued his logic on behalf of this hypothetical lawn service operator, saying, “he still does, even though his tax dollars are going to support the forgiveness of the loan for… the college graduate, who’s now going to make a lot more than him over the course of his lifetime.”
It’s remarkable how concerned Roberts and other conservatives have been about the exploitation of the average American when it comes to loan forgiveness. The Supreme Court’s chief imagines that college graduates will go on to make enough money to pay back their loans and they are choosing not to—apparently in order to take advantage of business owners like lawn care operators.
Does Roberts not think the lawn business operator may be college educated and have student debt? Or that perhaps a college graduate might like to open a business but is financially stuck paying off huge loans?
Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newest member of the court and the first Black woman in the nation’s history to be appointed, had a very different take. She rightly asked, “I’m wondering whether or not the same fairness issue would arise with respect to any federal benefit program.”
Indeed, why is it fair for only people over the age of 65 (and a few other categories of people such as veterans and very low-income people) to qualify for government-funded health care? Those who don’t qualify for such government programs pay for others’ benefits via our taxes because that’s the point of taxes—to pool together a cut of everyone’s personal income and help pay for the things that make society better, fairer, more livable.
But it’s this very point that conservatives see as anathema to their grim worldview, the one that Ayn Rand brought to life in her (unintentionally) dystopian novels.
Justice Jackson continued her thought process, saying, “I just don’t know how far we can go with this notion of, to the extent that the government is providing much-needed assistance to people in an emergency, it’s going to be unfair to those who don’t get the same benefit.”
Indeed, student debtors are in trouble precisely because they didn’t get the same government benefits compared to their predecessors. According to Business Insider, “From fall 1973 to spring 1977, boomers paid around $39,780 in today’s dollars for four years of public college. That’s a little more than half the cost for millennials attending public college from fall 2006 to spring 2010: $70,000. And what Gen Z is paying today is more than double that: $90,875.” This is directly the result of the federal and state governments paying less toward the cost of higher education and shifting more of the cost of college to individuals.
If Roberts’s hypothetical lawn care business owner hails from the baby boomer generation, then the question of fairness is turned on its head: Why should older generations have benefitted from tax-subsidized college education (thereby helping them avoid debt), when younger generations have not had the same advantage?
If the Rand-ians could travel back decades in time to rectify this, they certainly would roll back all government benefits aimed at middle- and working-class boomers.
If Biden could go back a few months in time, he would have done better to be more aggressive in his approach to debt relief. In August 2022, after dragging his feet for years to make good on his campaign promise, the president invoked emergency powers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic—a weak basis—for justifying debt cancellation.
Debt experts like Harvard Law School’s Eileen Connor make a persuasive case that Congress has given the secretary of education the authority to make—or waive—college loans. In other words, with the stroke of a pen, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona could forgive all student debt. According to Connor, he would have the legal right to do this under the 1965 Higher Education Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Instead of using the 1965 law as the legal basis for his actions, Biden chose the 2003 HEROES Act, saying that he had the authority to pause student loan repayment because of the emergency conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dalié Jiménez, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, called this an “unsurprising compromise,” and added that “[t]ime will tell if it was the right thing” to do.
Time will indeed tell. Emergencies are, by definition, temporary. In August 2022, Biden used the pandemic to make his case for debt cancellation. Then, in September, he declared the pandemic over. He ran out his own clock.
Nebraska’s Republican attorney general, Mike Hilgers, pointed out in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that, “The president can’t have it both ways. He can’t tell the country the pandemic is over while claiming that it justifies this unilateral action.”
As I explained in an analysis last year when the president first announced his plan, it was a paltry gesture that could have gone so much further. Given that Biden would face the same stiff opposition whether he forgave $10,000 or $100,000, he should have aimed higher and been more aggressive.
Instead, his actions indicate that he too may be unswayed by the unfairness of student loan burdens.
Conservatives are also predictably touting the high cost of debt relief—“We’re talking about half a trillion dollars and 43 million Americans,” reminded Justice Roberts during the February 28 oral arguments. Lawmakers, including most of the liberal ones, rarely balk at the much, much higher annual cost of funding the Defense Department.
Unlike the cost of maintaining a perpetual war machine, Biden’s (far too modest) debt relief can impact the lives of 43 million living, breathing human beings. One debtor, 26-year-old Ella Azoulay, told Associated Press that her 2018 degree from New York University has left her with $40,000 of debt. Her father is even worse off, having taken out more than $400,000 in loans to educate his three children. For many borrowers, Biden’s plan would eliminate just a fraction of their debt.
What does $10,000 to $20,000 in debt forgiveness mean for an individual? For those people whose repayment plans were paused during the pandemic, a CNBC survey found that resuming payments would impact their ability to pay off other loans, as well as save for retirement or buy a home. A small minority said it would impact their decisions to get married or have a child. So, we’re talking about serious life decisions.
Ayn Rand, near the end of her life, benefitted from the same welfare system she railed against. Government benefits are easy to dismiss and denounce—until you need them.
Meanwhile, what does $10,000 to $20,000 mean for the wealthiest Americans? So little that it would not even cover the price tag of this $32,500 Hermes handbag. According to the Financial Times, the market for luxury goods is booming. Further, “wealthy people have more time in which to spend their money, since they now live roughly a decade longer than their low-income counterparts, thanks to better health care, diet, nutrition and rest.”
There you have it. If fairness is the basis for deciding whether or not to forgive student loans, conservatives would do well to examine such disparities.
Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Xi Calls for Accelerated Technological and Military Growth in Response to US Threats By: Misión VerdadRead Now
Chinese Head of State Xi Jinping. Photo: AFP.
The president of China, Xi Jinping, called for accelerating the development of science and technology to ensure greater self-sufficiency and strengthen the country’s army in the face of the unprecedented siege that the United States has been applying, circumstances that require adapting to new challenges.
In the context of the 14th National People’s Congress, from where the destiny of the country is decided and in which Xi was re-elected for his third presidential term, he said that Beijing must apply the new philosophy of strengthening all fronts, and intensify efforts to create a new pattern of growth.
“China must ultimately rely on scientific and technological innovation,” Xi said.
He also spoke about the need to shield China from a military and technological point of view. He spoke of turning the armed forces into a “great iron wall” that effectively safeguards national sovereignty, security, and development interests.
Regarding this last item, we must mention the strategic importance of Taiwan and the support of the United States for its false autonomy. Regarding gringo interference, he warned that China remains determined to prevent outside agents from getting involved in separatist activities on the island.
In relation to the economic dimension, he asked officials to promote the construction of a new growth framework that prioritizes domestic demand, innovation, and self-sufficiency in science and technology, in addition to improving the industrial sector and promoting innovation to reduce carbon emissions.
After being re-elected for his third term as president of the National Popular Assembly, this body elected him as president of the Central Military Commission (CMC), and made him the commander of the two million-member People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Misión Verdad is a Venezuelan investigative journalism website with a socialist perspective in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution
This article was republished from Orinoco Tribune.
The American Lenin - The Falsification and Reclaiming of Du Bois’s Revolutionary Science in Modern America. By: Noah KhrachvikRead Now
This is a transcript from Noah’s presentation at the Saturday Free School for Philosophy and Black Liberation’s Symposium on W. E. B. Du Bois. You can see Noah’s presentation HERE.
Hi. I’m Noah. Before I begin, I just want to say it’s an honor to be here with all of you today, to represent the Midwestern Marx Institute, and to be able to share our views and learn from all of you. The subject of reclaiming WEB Dubois, and his most important works, Black Reconstruction in America and The Souls of Black Folk is of primary importance in our era. I’m genuinely honored and humbled to be a small part of that project.
You know, one of the things I admire most about Dubois, and I’m sure you’ll hear this a hundred times today, was that his knowledge, his study, the social science he basically founded in our country, it wasn’t for its own sake. It wasn’t Dubois simply wanting to understand how things work from a privileged position of comfort. Instead, for Dubois, all of it, and I mean all of it, was in the effort of direct necessity, the struggle for freedom and liberty from the most brutal forms of oppression, exploitation, and domination in human history. A shining example of Marx’s iconic call in his 11th thesis on Feuerbach. Marxism views this as a concrete, particular form that the universal process of class struggle arises in, due to the material history that creates it, the things that condition what it looks like and how it moves and changes over time. It is a struggle of a nascent class that carries with it the future of society against a decaying class that no longer serves a purpose. Or, to put the concept of universal and particular in Dubois’s own words, “There can be no perfect democracy curtailed by color, race, or poverty. But with all we accomplish all.”
Our entire society is, of course, based on class struggle, whether we call it the struggle for democracy, the struggle against imperialism, or the class struggle. All forward motion in American history has been because of this struggle, and WEB Dubois, whom our Institute refers to as the Father of American Marxism, is THE central and pivotal figure for understanding this struggle in our context. Understanding the theory of Dubois as a class project - for the poor, working class, and oppressed peoples of America in our necessity, and for the imperialist ruling class of distortion, ideological limitations, and subterfuge, is, for us at Midwestern Marx, anyway, the first step towards a new society.
So, with that in mind, I’d like to begin with a quote from VI Lenin, who said: there can be no “impartial” social science in a society based on class struggle… To expect science to be impartial in a wage-slave society is as foolishly naïve as to expect impartiality from manufacturers on the question of whether workers’ wages ought not to be increased by decreasing the profits of capital.
We can’t very well reclaim Dubois if we don’t understand how he has been taken from us, and this poor excuse for a duct-taped-together, papier mache mannequin that the institutions of the capitalist class have called Dubois given back to us in his place, and so this is what I’ll briefly try to explain here.
The first thing we must examine here is the class nature of “the left”. We don’t have time to get into how and why now, of course, but over the last period of American history, any real forces in our society we could call a “left” have been replaced by what CIA whistleblower Thomas Braden has called “the compatible left”, or a synthetic creation coming from the institutions and knowledge production apparatus of the capitalist class that is forced to retain a radical-looking exterior by the demands and necessities of the working class, but the substance of which is fully of, by, and for the upper classes. The forces most commonly referred to as “the left” in American society today are the children of CIA operations like the Congress for Cultural Freedom and the think tanks and foundations owned by the Ford and Rockefeller cartels (among others).
The primary methods of the distribution of knowledge in modern America are through these think tanks, foundations, and more and more importantly in the internet age, the bourgeois academy. And it is how they treat the life’s work of Dubois that is the problem here. Coming from the class institutions of the bourgeoisie, it is rife with mistakes typical of bourgeois ideology.
What seems to happen is that they take bits and pieces of Dubois’s thought and re-ify it, especially in his early work, divorcing it from its context and what gave rise to it and how it changes over time. We often call this sort of mistake one of “metaphysics” in Marxism, but I’ve always kind of secretly hated that term because it’s so easily misunderstood, so we’re going to use one of our own: the purity fetish. So, in their discussions of Dubois on the subject of race, they remove the early concepts from their movement and change, and re-ify them at that point, isolating this section and freezing it in time. For them, this becomes essential, becomes Dubois, as it justifies their preconceptions and ideological dogmas, so they can safely toss out the fact that Dubois refines and concretizes his views on race throughout his entire life, and even explicitly says as much in his biographies. This is a fundamentally anti-dialectical reading, of course, as it fails to take into account the entirety of the concept. It’s archetypical of the purity fetish. For them, this is Dubois before his purity was taken, tainted by his growth into socialism, Pan-Africanism, and Marxism. (Of course, they do the same thing to his Pan-Africanism, but that’s a whole nother bag of bananas.)
Which leads me to my second point. This ideological, re-ified, purity fetishized papier muh-shay version of Dubois is in direct contradiction to the real life’s work of Dubois. A comprehensive, dialectical, and materialist study of Dubois shows us that he was ALWAYS moving forwards, ALWAYS refining, ALWAYS overcoming internal contradictions in his theory and creating something better. This is how he worked, because this was the necessity of the work he was doing. Real liberation REQUIRES such constant refinement and motion, REQUIRES overcoming our mistakes. Necessity understands that even if a thing was correct then and there, it may not necessarily still be correct here and now.
And let’s be real. There is no necessity in the comfortable, 200k a year salary academics of the bourgeois academy that falsify and parade around the pure, papier mache Dubois through their institutions like they just won the Stanley Cup. The necessity of change in post-Civil Rights Revolution, 2000’s USA, however, the necessity of the era of re-proletarianization, THIS creates for us the possibility of a deeper understanding. One that is hyper-aware of the crimes of these so-called progressives: that they deepen and proliferate the very divisions in American society that Dubois sought to overcome! In their purity fetishization, they essentialize and ontologize what Dubois, instead, explains the creation and inner mechanics of: things like imperialism, racism. His concept of the psychological wage of poor whites was not calling it an inherent and essential aspect of their skin color or ethnicities, as many of these “academics” treat it, reducing their thought to what Henry Winston would call a ‘skin strategy’. Precisely the opposite! Dubois’s theorizing of these schisms in American society was done in order to understand what gave rise to them, how they function, and HOW THEY CAN BE OVERCOME! Far from a binary good/evil moral condemnation of poor whites and there being some essential content inherent within a race (such as the many, many things people just took as fact that he talks about in Black Reconstruction that sound crazy to us modern Americans), Dubois had extreme sympathy for this forgotten class of people while still recognizing the capacity for harm and reaction, and he put his hopes in its ability to form an alliance with the black working class in the north AND south (and also the immigrant petty bourgeoisie of the west). This, for Dubois, would be a force the capitalist class could not stop, and the only one capable of fulfilling the democratic ideals set down in the Declaration of Independence.
And this brings us to today, where we believe that alliance is more possible than ever before. We have gone through three revolutions in this land. The first, bourgeois revolution to overcome British imperial rule. The second, the civil war, which became the revolution of the freedmen and the destruction of the moribund planter class. And the third, the political revolution we refer to as the Civil Rights Movement. The effects of this political revolution cannot be understated, even though they seem to be downplayed in the service of reinforcing the old divisions of American society by these same faux progressives. All of these represent leaps in the form of American social relations (and I wouldn’t be a Marxist if I didn’t irritatingly note that all three followed great leaps in technology and production–sorry). Anyway, this history, our history, of two and a half hundred years (give or take - I’m bad at math, sorry) is the American people becoming, well… the American people. Taking back Dubois, taking back Black Reconstruction, from the institutions of the class standing in the way of completing that process, who falsify and distort his theory, is taking back the ability to understand our own history and how we have gotten to where we are, which is, of course, essential if we want to figure out how to move forward.
So where are we? In Black Reconstruction in America, Dubois describes a white working class that was taught that we weren’t even the same species, and a black working class that was kept from being taught altogether. Our society, based on class struggles, has won tremendous victories in those struggles since then. Now, in 2023, kids aren’t taught that we’re a separate species, or even that one race is superior to another (as it was even when my father arrived here as a child). Now, kids are taught that we are the same. Of course, we cannot speak of American history without at least briefly touching on the middle classes, based as they were in what amounted to American apartheid, and Jim Crow, but these are all whole discussions of their own. What I want to focus on is the same necessity that drove Dubois, and that is the necessity of now, the era of the destruction of the middle classes; the era of re-proletarianization.
It is this process, of imperialism reaching a moribund stage, of full financialization, de-industrialization, and the impossibility of continuing on in the old way that leads us to this necessity, that has over over 60% of the country struggling paycheck to paycheck, a complete loss of faith in the system, and a rapidly decreasing standard of living. This is necessity. It opens up a possibility that the middle classes never had.
The last point I want to make is on the recovery of Du Bois’s internationalism. Today, Du Boisian scholarship, grounded in the academy, comfy PMC positions, and the purity fetish world outlook, is tied up inherently in American imperialism. This couldn’t be any farther from Du Bois, who was an anti-imperialist thinker through and through - who connected the struggle of the working class in America to the struggles of colonized peoples abroad. Today, what passes for Du Boisian scholarship is not only limited to the halls of academia, far away from the dirtiness and vulgarity of real working class life and politics, but when it does comment on real life and politics, it simply paints a radical-looking veneer over the narratives of the American empire. And for me, it doesn’t really matter how cool and hip and radical your words sound, if the content and practical implications align fully with imperialism, as theirs do in the cases of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and, really, any country which dares to exist outside of the spheres of influence of US/NATO imperialism, then it is imperialist. (Ideologically speaking, this is a new, modern, “woke” liberal form of the reaction to Reconstruction from the ruling class.) Du Bois, on the other hand, was an ardent supporter of those undergoing the difficult task of constructing an alternative order outside of the sphere of influence of empire, and constantly under attack from hybrid warfare arising from imperialism. Du Bois was unapologetically supportive of the revolutionary movements in Africa, of the Chinese revolution, of the Soviet revolution, and of all projects for liberation which ran counter to the claws of empire - a support which well predates his turn towards a more explicit Marxism in the mid-1930s. This attitude required not only an exclusion of purity as the standard through which we judge projects abroad - but also an incredible amount of courage, something which many Du Bois scholars lack. Du Bois was excommunicated from the country for being a revolutionary, asking for peace, and supporting actual socialist experiments. Not to mention that they kept kicking him out of their institutions for refusing to compromise his radicalism, a very big difference to the academics being funded by those institutions who use his name now. Today, Du Bois scholars live comfortable middle class lives in the heart of the empire, and are used as what Carlos Garrido calls the controlled counter-hegemonic agents of empire, who present themselves as radical, but always side with the exploiters, the colonizers, the imperialists.
Du Bois has been taken from us, but only in form. The Du Bois they hold onto is not actually Du Bois, but a caricature of his they have created in order to domesticate his radical ethos, a papier mache facsimile, a phantom. The project, then, for me, is maybe less taking back Du Bois, and more, sort of… re-discovering Du Bois. Today the task is to go back to the real Du Bois, and to use this real Du Bois in the project of smashing the phantom, and gaining ideological clarity in our confusing and contradictory times. Du Bois, today more than ever, is the most important weapon the American people have if they want to fight for a world of genuine, positive peace, where democracy is expanded, and regular working class people, not capital, is in control. This Du Bois, for us at the Midwestern Marx Institute, is the father of American Marxism. The American Lenin. If we are to win the class struggle, abolish empire, and achieve a higher form of democratic life - one in line with the ideals of the founding of the country, then this is our first step.
Noah Khrachvik is a proud working class member of the Communist Party USA. He is 40 years old, married to the most understanding and patient woman on planet Earth (who puts up with all his deep-theory rants when he wakes up at two in the morning and can't get back to sleep) and has a twelve-year-old son who is far too smart for his own good. When he isn't busy writing, organizing the working class, or fixing rich people's houses all day, he enjoys doing absolutely nothing on the couch, surrounded by his family and books by Gus Hall.
26 arrested, 4000 searched on 7th day of protests in France By: Al MayadeenRead Now
Videos circulated all over the internet of the brutality that occured between demonstrators and riot police.
About 26 arrests were made and over 4,000 others were stopped and searched in today's protests that engulfed France over President Emmanuel Macron's controversial pension reform.
France's Ministry of the Interior reported that over 368,000 protesters rallied across France today to demonstrate against a reform intended to raise the retirement age to 64.
Demonstrations began at 10 am (0900 GMT) in major cities such as Toulouse and Nice. The march in Paris kicked off at 2 pm. Videos circulated all over the internet of the brutality that occurred between demonstrators and riot police.
The police said that about 48,000 rallied in Paris alone when the CGT estimated that 300,000 have taken the street.
On Tuesday, the CGT said that 700,000 took the streets in Paris, when about 1.28 million people demonstrated nationwide, the greatest attendance since the protest movement's inception.
According to government data, 1.28 million people demonstrated on Tuesday, the greatest attendance since the protest movement's inception. Unions put the figure at 3.5 million individuals.
The majority of voters oppose Macron's plan, while a narrow majority favors the strike measures, as per opinion polls.
Concurrently, TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) confirmed that strikes continue across the oil major's French refineries and depots, while SNCF said national and regional services would be severely impacted throughout the weekend, as per Reuters.
Garbage continues to pile up on the streets of Paris, with locals reporting an increase in the number of rats, as per local media.
If the committee agrees on a text, a final vote in both houses is probable, but the fate of such a vote in the lower house of Parliament, where Macron's party has a relative majority, remains questionable.
On March 15, there will be another day of nationwide strikes and protests.
Al Mayadeen English
This article was republished from Almayadeen.
Shot and tortured by police, Communist Party of Swaziland’s Mvuselelo Mkhabela escapes, calls for continued anti-monarchist resistance By: Pavan KulkarniRead Now
Speaking to Peoples Dispatch from his hideout, the 21-year-old narrated how he escaped from the police and made it to safety with the help of his comrades, following hours of torture, after being shot by the King’s police while leading a pro-democracy protest
"I am well and safe," Mvuselelo Mkhabela says in a recorded statement. Photo: CPS Swaziland (via Facebook)
Mvuselelo Mkhabela, 21-year-old activist of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS), confirmed that he was safe in a video message on March 9, over a week since his escape from the hospital where he was brought by the police after being shot and tortured by them.
Security forces of King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, shot Mvuselelo on February 28 while he was leading a local protest to disrupt a government campaign aimed at convincing people to vote in the upcoming parliamentary election, expected to be held in the second half of 2023.
Only those individuals approved by the King’s local chiefs—who also control the community land and resources—can contest the elections to the parliament of the southern African kingdom, where all political parties have been banned since 1973.
Describing the parliament as the King’s “puppet,” with no power to hold to account the executive directly appointed by the monarch, CPS International Secretary Pius Vilakati told Peoples Dispatch that these elections “have nothing to do with the interests of the people of Swaziland.” Held every five years, they only serve to legitimize the monarchy, he said, justifying the CPS’ campaign to disrupt the election.
‘Neither free nor fair’
Pius argued that the election can “neither be free nor fair,” when the chiefs who decide who can and cannot contest the elections also control community members’ access to land, which in Swaziland is all owned by the King.
Nevertheless, determined to get people to vote and counter the campaign for boycott, the government has launched its own propaganda campaign to convince communities about the virtues of this election.
Agents of what is called the “Elections and Boundaries Committee” arrived on the morning of February 28 to campaign in Mvuselo’s small town of Hluti, in the Hosea constituency in Shiselweni region, about 180 kilometers south of Swaziland’s capital Mbabane.
Along with 25-year-old Bongi Mamba, another CPS activist, Mvuselelo had been organizing this rural community and campaigning to raise awareness about the need to boycott and disrupt the elections.
No stranger to police torture
On February 7, heavily armed policemen barged into Mvuselelo’s home at 4 am and arrested the duo, two days after they had led a local anti-monarchist protest calling to lift the ban on political parties and release political prisoners.
They were tortured and interrogated in custody before being released the next day, after Hosea community members protested outside the station. Bongi was released without any charge, but Mvuselelo was released on bail and charged with burning property and possessing cannabis seeds.
On their release, they were briefly hospitalized. Unfazed, the duo went right back to Hosea, and continued organizing the community and campaigning against participation in this election.
When the agents of the election committee arrived with police on February 28, youngsters in the area led by Mvuselelo quickly mobilized to stop them from entering the community. Carrying banners proclaiming ‘No to Mswati Election,’ ‘Democracy Now!,’ ‘Mswati Must Fall!,’‘Unban political parties,’ and ‘Free all political prisoners’, they blocked the small mud-road, stomping their feet in a rhythmic dance and chanting in chorus a protest song against Mswati.
“Without any warning, the police who were accompanying the election agents shot me in the right thigh from a close range. The bullet missed my bone and exited from the other side,” Mvuselelo told Peoples Dispatch while speaking from a hideout where he is being treated by a doctor who is also a CPS member.
“Other community members tried to fight back. Some even tried to grab their guns to stop them from shooting more people. But they fired several rounds. When people ran for cover, the police picked me up and threw me in one of the vans they had brought.” The seats and floor of the van had already been covered by plastic sheets to prevent blood stains, he said, concluding that the police had come with the intention to shoot and arrest protesters.
‘They fingered my bullet wound to cause more pain and bleeding’
“They drove past the nearby community clinic, but did not stop to get me first aid. They did not even call an ambulance. Instead they intentionally took a long gravel road and drove for almost 40 kilometers to cause me more injuries,” Mvuselelo said.
“All the way they beat me, and fingered my bullet wound to cause more pain and bleeding. They threatened me, saying this is only the start, there are worse things they were going to do to me.”
When the van stopped, it was not at a hospital but at the Hlathikhulu police station, where he was profiled, interrogated, and further tortured. “They were trying to pin some false cases on me to justify what they had done,” he recollected. “It must have been two or three hours after I was shot that they finally took me to a hospital,” sometime between 3 and 4 pm.
But hospitals in Swaziland have been under-equipped, under-staffed, and running short of even basic medicines from well before the COVID pandemic. Healthcare, like education, is chronically underfunded by the monarch, who controls much of Swaziland’s economy and splurges the national wealth on his palaces, extravagant parties, a fleet of Rolls Royce cars, private jets, and other luxuries, while 70% of his subjects live in poverty.
“I had to wait for more than 40 minutes after reaching the hospital to be attended by a doctor and nurse,” Mvuselelo said, adding that he could not, however, blame them. Severely understaffed, the overburdened medics were doing their best, struggling to treat patients with the few resources at their disposal, he explained.
“But they did not have the medicines needed for my treatment. So they only gave a painkiller injection, bandaged my wound, and admitted me for the night,” he said. “Even while the nurse was cleaning my wound, the police continued to question me. I realized they were going to frame me with some serious false charges.”
That evening, as Mvuselelo was lying on the hospital bed in a daze after having lost blood for hours, thinking of all his comrades killed by police, the police had briefly dropped their guard, apparently confident that he couldn’t escape with the hole in his thigh.
Taking advantage, he said, “a party comrade snuck into my hospital ward with clean clothes around 7:30 in the evening.” Changing out of his blood-stained clothes and concealing his bullet wound under the clean pair of trousers, Mvuselelo set out of the ward, limping with his comrade’s support, counting on his change of clothes as a disguise.
“We made it out of the hospital quickly, but I had to sit down on the road every now and then, because my leg was extremely painful. But I could not sit for long. Police vehicles were patrolling the main road,” he said.
After making a dash across the road to the bush, he says he slowly limped through the forest in the dark, leaning on his comrade’s shoulder for support as the duo made it to a homestead a kilometer away, from where another member of the party picked him up after dinner and drove him out of the area.
“There are many doctors and other unionized professionals in our party,” he explained, while saying that the very next morning a doctor came with the needed medicines to treat him secretly in his hideout.
Uncertain future underground
Mvuselelo is recovering fast, but still needs support to walk. The police remain on the lookout for him. On March 3, they visited his home and questioned his father about his whereabouts. Mvuselelo says he must soon flee the country. Most political dissidents pursued by the monarchy end up in exile, mostly in South Africa, after going underground. Others have been assassinated or imprisoned on charges of terrorism.
“We are facing trying times in our country. But we need to be strong and fight against this inhumane system,” an unfazed Mvuselelo said in the video message shot from his hideout and published on the CPS social media page on Thursday, March 9.
Wearing a red t-shirt with the hammer and sickle insignia, and speaking with a banner of the banned party in his backdrop, he insisted, “As youth, it is our task to ensure we throw ourselves into the struggle… We must not spare ourselves… Let us organize ourselves in schools, colleges, universities, workplaces, the trade union movement, etc.”
But inside this defiant communist, risking his life, limbs, and liberty for the cause of a democratic Swaziland, there is also a 21-year-old student, deeply worried about the uncertain future of his education. “I had just completed my school. My results were out only last week. I was preparing to apply for universities and scholarships, but how can I do it now with the police after me?” he asked.
“I wanted to study civil engineering so that I could help build houses for my community members who don’t have houses to live in. But now I might have to forget about this dream,” he said, giving out a chuckle that was perceptibly hollow with sadness.
“But then again,” he countered himself after his voice had momentarily faded away into silent thought, “I might not not have been able to study anyway, even without all this police trouble. Because the regime is taking away the scholarships. So for those of us without money, it is very difficult to get into a university. Even if we do, they have stopped paying allowances, so you need to have money to pay for food and stay. Most students don’t have enough money. They never make it through their course for four years.”
“So you see,” he reasoned, “I have no choice but to struggle against the monarchy. Because my dream as a student can only be fulfilled hand-in-hand with the dream of a better Swaziland where people hold the power and wealth, not the King.”
This article was republished from Peoples Dispatch.
Ten years since his passing, the legacy of Commander Hugo Chávez lives on in the people of Venezuela and the world
On March 5, thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas to pay homage to Commander Hugo Chávez on the tenth anniversary of his death. Photo: Zoe Alexandra
March 5 marked ten years since the passing of Commander Hugo Chávez, former president of Venezuela and the father of the Bolivarian Revolution. Chávez was Venezuela’s president from February 2, 1999, until his death on March 5, 2013.
Chávez inaugurated a new period in Venezuela’s history. Through his comprehensive and inclusive social and economic policies, he brought back dignity and pride to the Venezuelan people and transformed the social reality of the country. He forged important projects for Latin American unity and integration such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP), and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). He died at the age of 58, following a two-year battle with cancer.
On the tenth anniversary of his death, thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of the capital Caracas to pay homage to Chávez and ratify their commitment to defend his anti-imperialist and socialist legacy. Workers, students, members of political organizations, social movements and trade unions gathered at different points in Caracas and marched together to the Cuartel de la Montaña, where the mausoleum with Chávez’s remains is located. They chanted slogans such as “Chávez didn’t die, he multiplied!”, “I am Chávez,” and “Chávez is alive.”
“I am Chávez” t-shirt. Photo: Zoe Alexandra
María Elena Blanco, member of the political team of the Urban Planning Organization of Macarao parish, told Peoples Dispatch, “Urban Planning Organizations of Caracas feel proud of the legacy of our President Hugo Chávez, continued by Nicolás Maduro. We are thankful to the Bolivarian Revolution. As a result of a natural disaster, our Commander Chávez ordered us to build our own house wherever there was a vacant lot and we did so. Today is the tenth anniversary of the regrettable loss of our Commander, but for us he will always be alive. For us Chávez was a father and a mother. We will always remember him.”
Likewise, Yaritza Mota, a teacher in 23 de Enero parish, told Peoples Dispatch, “A day like today, for us Venezuelans, for us teachers, is an unforgettable day because for us Chávez is still alive, he is still present.” She continued, “We cannot forget that Venezuela was declared free of illiteracy thanks to the wonderful management of our unforgettable and eternal Commander Hugo Chávez Frías. We cannot forget that we increased the enrollment in elementary school, middle school, high school, even at the university level thanks to Chávez and his policies, which are now continued by President Nicolás Maduro. In Venezuela, everyone studies. In Venezuela, education is free and of good quality.”
“I am a young Chavista”. Photo: Zoe Alexandra
Leaders from across Latin America such as former Cuban President Raúl Castro, Bolivian President Luis Arce, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves, former Bolivian President Evo Morales, and Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa traveled to Caracas to join the events organized in Chávez’s honor.
At the Cuartel de la Montaña, along with Venezuelan political leaders, high-level government officials and military authorities, international leaders also placed flowers on Chávez’s tomb.
International Meeting on the Importance of Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution
As part of the activities to honor the revolutionary leader, hundreds of leaders of trade unions and people’s movements as well as intellectuals from across the world gathered in Caracas to take part in the International Meeting on the Importance of Bolivarian Thought of Commander Hugo Chávez in the 21st Century. The event took place between March 3 and 5. During the seminar, activists and intellectuals reflected on the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist legacy of Chávez and ratified its validity in the 21st century.
Cuba solidarity activist and co-executive director of the Peoples Forum, Manolo de los Santos, stated, “If we want to celebrate Chavez’s legacy and say that we are Chavistas, we must raise a permanent campaign against imperialism. The planet faces its greatest dilemma. Either the planet survives or imperialism survives.”
Meanwhile, Evo Morales highlighted, “Fidel and Chávez broke that fear of speaking against imperialism, capitalism. For me, the empire is defeated, it has been defeated by the peoples of Latin America in the Cold War.”
“Chavista thought is the trench in the fight against capitalism that tries to subdue us to plunder our natural resources,” Morales said.
At the closing ceremony of the tributes dedicated to Chávez, held at the Teresa Carreño theater in Caracas, Commander Raúl Castro applauded the revolutionary spirit of the Venezuelan people, who have been resisting the US attacks, staying loyal to Chávez’s legacy. “We have witnessed the aggressions and the economic war to overthrow the Bolivarian process, but we have proudly witnessed that the Venezuelan people know how to defend their conquests and have not deceived Chávez.”
Likewise, President Maduro also stressed, “We have applied the Hugo Chávez formula on everything in these ten years, it has been the formula of connecting, mobilizing, activating the strength of the people at all junctures.”
“Always with the people, never without the people, go with the joy, hope, criticism,” said Maduro.
The Bolivarian Revolution
Chávez, when he was first sworn in as the President of Venezuela, pledged to democratically reform the 1961 Constitution and lay the foundations for a new inclusive and social constitution. On the day he was inaugurated, he began the revolutionary process and called for a referendum for the creation of a National Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution, based on the principles of the Liberator Simón Bolívar: socialism, nationalization and a state-led economy.
The plebiscite for the drafting of a new Constitution was approved by 87% of the vote. On December 15, 1999, the constitutional draft that established a new social and people-centric model of the state was approved with 71% of the votes. It also renamed the country as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Musicians participate in the march to the 4F Mausoleum where Chávez’s remains were laid to rest. The development of national arts and culture has been put front and center in the Bolivarian Revolution. Photo: Zoe Alexandra
Chávez’s rule marked the end of the Fourth Republic, a time marked by social inequality, neoliberal economic policies and abuse of power, and the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution, a process of political, economic, social and cultural transformation of Venezuela based on the pillars of democracy, independence, peace, social justice and sovereignty.
Chávez introduced several policies based on the population’s access to food and housing, free health and education, promotion of employment opportunities and the extension of social security. During his administration, the rate of hunger, poverty and extreme poverty reduced by more than 50% in Venezuela. Higher education and university education became the right of all Venezuelans. Through his social housing program called the Great Housing Mission of Venezuela (GMVV), so far over 4 million homes have been delivered to low-income people at a low cost or free of charge, depending on their income.
These social programs have been sustained by the current government of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), led by President Maduro, despite the brutal economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies against the country.
The Venezuelan people have been defending Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution, braving the impacts of cruel commercial, economic and financial sanctions imposed by the US.
his article was republished from Peoples Dispatch.
The criminal investigation undertaken by the federal government against hundreds of participants in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol is polarizing the country and shredding civil liberties.
Executing the Law — by Mr. Fish
There is little that unites me with those who occupied the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Their vision for America, Christian nationalism, white supremacy, blind support for Trump and embrace of reactionary fact-free conspiracy theories leaves a very wide chasm between their beliefs and mine. But that does not mean I support the judicial lynching against many of those who participated in the Jan. 6 events, a lynching that is mandating years in pretrial detention and prison for misdemeanors. Once rights become privileges, none of us are safe.
The U.S. legal system has a very sordid history. It was used to enforce segregation and legitimize the reign of terror against Black people. It was the hammer that broke the back of militant union movements. It persecuted radicals and reformers in the name of anti-communism. After 9/11, it relentlessly went after Muslim leaders and activists with Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). SAMs, established by the Clinton administration, originally only applied to people who ordered murders from prison or were convicted of mass murder, but are now used to isolate all manner of detainees before and during trial. They severely restrict a prisoner’s communication with the outside world; prohibiting calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. The solitary confinement like conditions associated with SAMs undermine any meaningful right to a fair trial according to analysis by groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights and can amount to tortureaccording to the United Nations. Julian Assange faces SAMs or similar conditions should he be extradited to the U.S. The Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, also allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from defendants. The courts, throughout American history, have abjectly served the interests of big business and the billionaire class. The current Supreme Court is one of the most retrograde in decades, rolling back legal protections for vulnerable groups and denying workers protection from predatory corporate abuse.
At least 1,003 people have been arrested and charged so far for participation in events on Jan. 6, with 476 pleading guilty, in what has been the largest single criminal investigation in U.S. history, according to analysis by Business Insider. The charges and sentences vary, with many receiving misdemeanor sentences such as fines, probation, a few months in prison or a combination of the three. Of the 394 federal defendants who have had their cases adjudicated and sentenced as of Feb. 6, approximately 220 “have been sentenced to periods of incarceration” with a further 100 defendants “sentenced to a period of home detention, including approximately 15 who also were sentenced to a period of incarceration,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. There are six convictions and four guilty pleas on charges of “seditious conspiracy.” This offense is so widely defined that it includes conspiring to levy war against the government on the one hand and delaying the execution of any law on the other. Those charged and convicted of “seditious conspiracy” were accused of collaborating to oppose “the lawful transfer of presidential power by force” by preventing or delaying the Certification of the Electoral College vote. While a few of the organizers of the Jan. 6 protest such as Stewart Rhodes, who founded Oath Keepers, may conceivably be guilty of sedition, and even this is in doubt, the vast majority of those caught up in the incursion of the Capitol did not commit serious crimes, engage in violence or know what they would do in Washington other than protest the election results.
Joseph D. McBride went to law school because his brother was serving a 15-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. He provided free legal advice as a law school student to those encamped in Zuccotti Park in New York City during the Occupy movement. Following law school, he worked as a public defender and in the Legal Aid Society. He represents several of those charged in the Jan. 6 incursion, includingRichard Barnett. Barnett was photographed in Nancy Pelosi’s office with his leg propped up on her desk. Barnett was convicted by a federal jury, which deliberated for two hours, on eight counts, including disorderly conduct in the Capitol building. He faces up to 47 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 3.
“The post 9/11 model is being applied to American citizens,” McBride told me when I reached him by phone. “That model is the 19 hijackers. Everyone who is a religious Muslim is a suspect for the next 20 years. They should be waterboarded. They should be put in fucking jail and left in Guantanamo Bay. Lock them up. Throw away the key. Because they are psychopath extremists who believe in Allah and we don’t have time for that. They’re a threat based on who they are, what they look like, what they believe in. When the truth is, the vast majority of these guys don’t do drugs, don’t drink alcohol, they have five kids and they live pretty good lives. But because of the label of ‘terrorism’ and ‘Osama Bin Laden’ and ‘al-Qaeda’, everybody who is a Muslim is now a target. If we get on a plane next to one of these people, we get nervous about it because that’s how much it’s ingrained in us. The same thing is happening, except it’s being applied to a new group of people, primarily white Christians, Trump supporters, for now.”
“Power is going to change hands,” he warned. “The Democrats are not going to be in power forever. When power changes hands, that precedent is going to travel with it. If somebody else from the other side gets in and starts to target the people who are in power now, their families, their businesses, their lives, their freedom, then it’s over. America goes from being a free democracy to a tribalist partisan state. Maybe there’s not ethnic-cleansing in the streets, but people are cleansing each other from the workplace, from social media, from the banking system and they’re putting people in jail. That’s where we’re headed. I don’t know why people can’t see what’s on the horizon.”
The Jan. 6 protestors were not the first to occupy Congressional offices, including Nancy Pelosi’s office. Young environmental activists from the Sunrise Movement, anti-war activists from Code Pink and even congressional staffers have engaged in numerous occupations of congressional offices and interrupted congressionalhearings. What will happen to groups such as Code Pink if they occupy congressional offices with Republicans in control of the White House, the Congress and the courts? Will they be held for years in pretrial detention? Will they be given lengthy prison terms based on dubious interpretations of the law? Will they be considered domestic terrorists? Will protests and civil disobedience become impossible?
McBride said those who walked to the Capitol were not aware that the Department of Justice had created arbitrary markers, what McBride called an “imaginary red line that they draw around the Capitol grounds.” Anyone who crossed that invisible line was charged with violating Capitol grounds.
He railed against the negative portrayal of the protestors in the media, the White House and Democratic Party leadership, as well as a tainted jury pool in Washington composed of people who have close links to the federal government. He said Change of Venue motions filed by the defense lawyers have been denied.
“The D.C. jury pool is poisoned beyond repair,” McBride said. “When you just look at what the January 6 Committee did alone, never mind President Biden’s speeches about ‘insurrectionists,’ ‘MAGA Republican extremists’ and all this stuff, and if you just consider the fact that D.C. is very small, that people who work in the Federal Government are all by definition, kind of victims of January 6 and what happened that day, their institutions and colleagues were ‘under attack.’ How can anybody from that town serve on a jury pool? They can’t. The bias is astounding.”
Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon shaman” who was adorned on Jan. 6 in red, white and blue face paint, carried an American flag on a spear-tipped pole and wore a coyote-fur and horned headdress, pleaded guilty to obstruction. He was sentenced to more than three years in prison. Chansley, who says he is a practitioner of ahimsa, an ancient Indian principle of non-violence toward all living beings, was not accused of assaulting anyone. He was diagnosed in prison with transient schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety.
Guy Wesley Reffitt, who did not enter the Capitol building, nevertheless was sentenced after three hours of deliberations to seven years and three months in prison on five charges, including “two counts of civil disorder, and one count each of obstruction of an official proceeding, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a firearm, and obstruction of justice.” His obstruction of justice charge came from “threatening” his two teenage children to prevent them from reporting him to law enforcement.
Daniel Ray Caldwell, a Marine Corps veteran, who sprayed a chemical irritant at a group of police officers outside the Capitol and entered through the Senate Wing doors where he remained inside for approximately two minutes, was sentenced to more than five years in prison. He spent, like many who have been charged, nearly two years in pretrial detention.
Even the charges against Rhodes, who faces 20 years in prison, and other militia leaders of groups such as the Proud Boys are problematic. The New York Times reported that, “despite the vast amount of evidence the government collected in the case — including more than 500,000 encrypted text messages — investigators never found a smoking gun that conclusively showed the Proud Boys plotted to help President Donald J. Trump remain in office.” The government has relied on the testimony of a former Proud Boy, Jeremy Bertino, who is cooperating with prosecutors to build an “inferential case” against Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola, the five defendants in the current Proud Boy case. Bertino, on cross-examination, admitted that in previous interviews with the government, he repeatedly told investigators that the Proud Boys did not have an explicit plan to halt the election certification and that he did not anticipate acts of violence on Jan. 6. The FBI had as many as eight informants in the Proud Boys that included its leader, Enrique Tarrio, during the storming of the Capitol, raising the very real possibility of entrapment.
“They’re changing the laws,” McBride said. “Look at the 1512 charge, the obstruction charge. That was used for document shredding in Enron. It has no applicability to Jan. 6 whatsoever. They took it. They repurposed it. They weaponised it against these people and made it impossible for them to defend themselves. When you look at the civil disorder charge, they are saying that if January 6 was one big civil disorder, and if you had any type of interaction with a police officer that day that may or may not have caused the police officer to step away from his duties for a moment, you can go down with civil disorder and get five years in jail.”
Ryan Nichols, a Marine Corps veteran, is living under house arrest in Texas after nearly two years in pretrial detention, much of it in solitary confinement, in Washington, D.C and Virginia jails. He faces five felony and three misdemeanor charges. Prosecutors say Nichols assaulted officers and obstructed an official proceeding. He has been ordered to “stay away from Washington, D.C.” except for business related to his case, according to court documents. He has had to submit to “location monitoring technology” and is denied access to the internet and his phone except to perform functions related to his case. He cannot have contact with anyone involved in the Jan. 6 events, including co-defendants. Nichols must remain in his home 24 hours a day except for medical and court appointments. He is permitted to attend Sunday church services at Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview, Texas. He is facing 20 years in prison. He is scheduled to go to trial on March 27.
I spoke with Bonnie Nichols, Ryan’s wife, by phone from their home in Longview, Texas.
Ryan was arrested on Jan. 18, 2020. The FBI surrounded their house at 5:30 am in armored vehicles. They unscrewed the bulbs from flood lights and cut the wires to the couple’s security cameras before kicking in the front door. The couple and their two children, then aged 4 and 6, were at Bonnie’s parents house during the raid. The FBI confiscated their weapons, electronics and documents, including Social Security cards.
“We wanted to cooperate,” she said. “We didn’t know anything was wrong. They asked Ryan to come in for questioning. Ryan went and turned himself in. They arrested him and I didn’t see him again for over a year and a half.”
Ryan, who had no criminal record, ran a nonprofit called Rescue the Universe where he carried out search-and-rescue operations after natural disasters. He was denied bail. He was sent to a holding facility in Grady County Oklahoma for two months before being flown to Washington, D.C. where he was met by some two dozen U.S. Marshals. His feet were shackled. His arms were shackled to a chain around his waist. He was placed in long term solitary confinement and denied video calls or visitation from his family, including his children. He was denied access to his trial documents for nearly a year and prohibited from attending religious services in the jail.
Ryan, whose most serious offense appears to be incendiary rhetoric calling for a “second American revolution,” spent nearly 22 months in solitary confinement. Depressed, struggling to cope with the physical and psychological strain of prolonged isolation, he was eventually placed on suicide watch. He was strapped to a bench in a room where a light was never turned off. Guards would periodically shout through a window “Do you feel like killing yourself?” Those on suicide watch who said “yes” remained strapped to the bench. Those who said “no” were sent back to their cells. Ryan was often prohibited from having nail clippers — the guards told him he could chew his toenails down — or getting a haircut unless he agreed to be vaccinated for COVID-19. When Ryan appeared before Judge Thomas Hogan, who finally releasedhim on Nov. 23, 2022, he told Ryan, with his long unkempt hair and fingernails, that he looked like Tom Hanks in the film Cast Away.
Every night, for the two years Ryan was held in solitary confinement, Bonnie and her two small boys would say prayers that Ryan would one day come home. She said she and her family have received numerous death threats.
“Ryan deals with insomnia,” Bonnie said of her husband. “He deals with extreme anxiety, depression and paranoia. He will not even go outside of his backyard because he’s scared that if he goes outside, that they’re going to take him back to jail. He has liver issues from the food that he ate because they fed him baloney sandwiches and trash while he was in D.C. He’s having a lot of medical issues. He also has lower testosterone than a 60-year-old man because he wasn’t able to have any sunlight. His vitamin D levels are low. The list goes on and on. This man does not sleep at night. He has nightmares. He whimpers at night in his sleep because he has dreams that he’s back in D.C. I mean, he’s a mess. This is the result of what has happened to him. He has vision loss. He doesn’t see as good as he used to.”
Ryan’s family, like many families of those charged, are struggling financially. Bonnie said their savings are gone. She and Ryan are heavily in debt. She has set up a fundraising page here.
“We are God-loving patriots,” she said. “Who’s going to be next? It’s not about Republican or Democrat or white or Black, Christian, or Muslim. We are all children of God. We are all U.S. American citizens. We are all entitled to our constitutional rights and freedom of speech. We can all come together and agree on that, right?”
The cheerleading, or at best indifference, by Democratic Party supporters and much of the left to these show trials will come back to haunt them. We are exacerbating the growing tribalism and political antagonisms that will increasingly express themselves through violence. We are complicit, once again, of using the courts to carry out vendettas. We are corroding democratic institutions. We are hardening the ideology and rage of the far-right. We are turning those being hounded to prison into political prisoners and martyrs. We are moving ever closer towards tyranny.
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Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.
This article was republished from Scheerpost.
Rural health care in Cuba (Photo by Carol Foil, 2009).
The Cuban socialist healthcare system is internationally recognized as one of the best in the world.1 It is innovative, preventative, people-oriented, comprehensive, community-centered, internationalist, and, of course, de-commodified—treating healthcare as a human right, not a profitable commodity. However, in spite of its extraordinary successes, the United States’ sixty-year long blockade has tremendously detrimental effects on Cuban life in general, and their healthcare system in particular. As Amnesty International reported, the US blockade “limits Cuba’s capacity to import medicines, medical equipment, and the latest technologies, some of which are essential for treating life-threatening diseases.”2
The intentions behind the US blockade on Cuba have always been clear. As Lester Mallory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, wrote in 1960:
Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba. If such a policy [blockade] is adopted, it should be the result of a positive decision which would call forth a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government . . . the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.3
The blockade is thus aimed at making the material conditions of Cubans as difficult as possible, creating fertile soil for discontent in the Cuban revolutionary process to arise. However, the United States doesn’t leave the arrival of discontent to chance. As Tracy Eaton from the Cuba Money Project has shown, the United States, through regime change fronts like the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the U.S. State Department, has spent more than one billion dollars funding Cuban opposition groups and media within and outside of the country.4 This combination of blockade and opposition funding is a central component of the hybrid warfare against Cuba (as well as other victims of US imperialism).
Notwithstanding the formidable aggression bearing down on Cuba, the island has been able to achieve remarkable success in the fields of medicine, education, sustainable development, sports, etc. In this article, I will briefly highlight how the Cuban healthcare system functions, some of its successes, and how the blockade has affected Cuban medicine and stifled medical development both within Cuba and in the United States.
Cuba’s Socialist Healthcare System
Speaking to Cuban militias a few months after the revolution, Che, himself a physician by training, would say that
Medicine will have to convert itself into a science that serves to prevent disease and orients the public toward carrying out its medical duties. Medicine should only intervene in cases of extreme urgency, to perform surgery or something else which lies outside the skills of the people of the new society we are creating.5
“Such a profound social change demands,” he would argue, “equally profound changes in the mental structure of the people.”6 Socialist society could not limit itself to creating changes in institutions and the material foundations of society, it is equally vital, as he famously says in Socialism and Man in Cuba, “to build the new man and woman.”7 In the field of medicine, this required the formation of a new type of doctor, “a revolutionary doctor, that is to say a [person] who utilizes the technical knowledge of [their] profession in the service of the revolution and the people.”8
In the same year, Fidel Castro would remark that “the future of Cuba will be a future of [people] of science.”9 This visionary statement was uttered on the heels of a massive exodus of professionals, where half of the doctors, as well as many of the teachers, had left the country. For instance, “only 12 of the 250 Cuban teachers at the University of Havana’s Medical School remained.”10 For all the factors pointing otherwise, Fidel’s 1960 proclamation would become true, as today Cuba is the country with the most doctors per capita. This was not a coincidental development. Since 1959, the revolution reorganized the 1909-founded Ministry of Health and Welfare into the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), which created “a single, national, state-run health system that sets short, medium, and long-term policies.”11 With its goal of training generations of humanistic medical professionals dedicated to the revolutionary process, Cuba eliminated university tuition, made textbooks free, developed various scholarship plans, and constructed networks of universities which created dozens of schools capable of educating professionals in every province of the country.12 Universal education and universal healthcare went hand in hand – the development of one was the condition for the development of the other.
Cuba’s emphasis on universal education and healthcare within the socialist model allowed the country which lost half of its medical (and other) professionals to develop a surplus which participates in various internationalist missions, almost half of which are done for free (for the poorest countries of the global south), and the other half at a sliding scale.13 Thanks to these internationalist missions (which have been ongoing since the first years of the revolution), millions of human beings from the poorest corners of the planet can say that “they owe their health, if not their lives, to Cuban professionals and the government which trained and sent them.”14
By the middle of the 1970s, after several generations of doctors had been developed within the revolution, Cuba would institutionalize the polyclinic model, a staple of their innovative, community based, socialist healthcare. As Helen Yaffe writes,
A new model of community-based polyclinics was established in 1974 to deliver comprehensive care to residents in their neighbourhoods. Polyclinics gave Cuban communities local access to primary care specialists such as obstetricians, gynaecologists, paediatricians, internists and dental services. Training and policy emphasised the impact of biological, social, cultural, economic and environmental factors on patients.15
Far from the reductive and deterministic frameworks often found in Western capitalist medicine, Cuban healthcare emphasizes the dialectical relationship of the individual and their community and of the biological and the social. Such an integrative and relational framework allows for a more comprehensive approach to treatment. With the polyclinics and the 1984 “family doctor” programs, the integration of doctors within the individual’s “everyday environment” allowed, as Che hoped, for the preventative and communal dimension of healthcare to thrive.16
The most interesting dimension of Cuban healthcare, in my view, is its emphasis on prevention. The emphasis on prevention stands as a pinnacle of medical practice, one which would seem like lunacy in the US. When profits are in command, why would anyone do something which might prevent more profits from being realized in the future? When people are what matters, like in Cuba, the goal of medical practice is almost self-destructive, in the sense that the aim is to destroy the conditions, i.e., the sicknesses, which make medical treatment necessary in the first place. The opposite is true when health care is subjected to the same logic as everything else under capitalism. Instead of its natural tendency for self-abolition, the tendency here is towards proliferation, i.e., towards developing more conditions for which treatment is required. The more treatment needed, the more profit there is to be made.
Cuban people know that medicine′s first and only goal is to serve the people.
This puts the for-profit health care system found in the United States—the only developed country in the world without socialized medicine—in an irreconcilable antagonism with what the essence of medical care entails. It also creates fertile ground, as we saw with regards to the COVID vaccines, for a large portion of the population to develop medical and scientific skepticism. After all, if it is the same pharmaceutical industrial complex that, in collaboration with the US government, proliferated the criminal but profitable opioid crisis which kills seventy thousand Americans yearly, it does not seem irrational for a portion of the population to lack trust in the same pharmaceutical industry’s handling of the pandemic.17 This absence of trust in medical institutions does not exist in Cuba, where people know that medicine′s first and only goal is to serve the people. As Hippocrates (from whom we get the Hippocratic oath that is ingrained in every medical trainee in the United States) argued, “a physician’s aim in dealing with any illness . . . should be to halt the conditions that promote its flourishing.” It shouldn’t be that, as for-profit health care promotes, those conditions are sustained or metamorphized into others so that profitable treatment may continue.18
Cuba’s innovative, preventative, community-centered, and holistic approach to healthcare is the reason why, in spite of the tremendous material difficulties the blockade creates, Cuba is considered to have one of – if not the – most efficient healthcare system in the world. After sixty years of socialism, Cubans are amongst the healthiest and longest-living people in the world, living on average three years longer than Americans.19 Besides the sixteen year increase in life expectancy the revolution has achieved since 1959, it has also had the largest reduction in infant mortality, from 6 to 0.41 percent, the lowest in the whole Western hemisphere.20 “Infectious and contagious diseases like polio, malaria, neonatal tetanus, diphtheria, measles, rubella, mumps, whooping cough and dengue,” which are frequently found in the poorest parts of the world, “have been eradicated.”21
Cuban medical sciences, thanks to the importance and investment the state affords it, has made prodigious inroads in cancer, diabetes, HIV, and other areas of medical study.22 With regards to lung cancer, perhaps the “best-known innovation is the CimaVax vaccine, created by researchers at the Havana’s Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM), which acts on the growth factor of cancer cells to prevent the disease from spreading.”23 The most common cancer death is lung cancer, which killed around 1.8 million people worldwide in 2020.24 With the US blockade in place, thousands of Americans are deprived of the prolongation and enhancement of their lives which the CimaVax vaccine would provide.25 While clinical trials and collaboration had begun during the Cuban thaw, when Obama partially lifted the blockade, the full reinstatement of the blockade with Trump, and its continuation and proliferation with Biden, has once again removed the hope the Cuban vaccine could bring to the hundreds of thousands of Americans with lung cancer.26
Along with CimaVAx, Racotumomab and VSSP are “promising cancer drugs invented by CIM.”27 As Cuba Debate reported,
Racotumomab targets a molecule that scientists believe is found in all cancer cells, meaning the drug could one day be effective against leukemia and the tumors that accompany lung, breast, colon and prostate cancers. VSSP, originally designed as a compound to activate the immune response to vaccines, also appears to stimulate the immune response against cancer.28
Recent research into VSSP has shown that it “significantly reduce[s] myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) among people with advanced kidney cancer,” paving “the way for a new treatment” for the disease.29
In addition to its successes in cancer research, “in 2015, the World Health Organization recognized Cuba as the first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV from mother to child.”30 This is a feat that Dr. Margaret Chan, at the time the Director-General of the WHO, said was “an important step towards having a generation free of AIDS.”31
Cuban medical sciences have also succeeded in developing what has been called the diabetes miracle treatment, Heberprot-P. As Cuba Debate reports,
When uncontrolled diabetes damages the nerves and blood vessels in a person’s foot, it can cause one of the disease’s most debilitating complications: diabetic foot ulcers, capable of penetrating the bone. These ulcers can even become gangrenous and, in the worst case, cause the amputation of a finger, foot or even a leg. Since 2006, Cuba has had a medicine for ulcers called Heberprot-P, which avoids the need to amputate. Its inventors, scientists from the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana, describe this treatment as “an epidermal growth factor” that is injected next to the affected area and can accelerate the skin’s healing process, closing the wound in about three months.32
Heberprot-P has shown nearly an 80 percent success rate in preventing amputation, an incredible fact considering that up to 60 percent of amputations lead to death within five years, and up to 80 percent within ten years.33 In the United States, diabetes is the seventh most common cause of death, affecting more than one in ten adults, and prediabetes affecting one in three. Each year 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, and more than one hundred thousand die from the disease.34 Nonetheless, Heberprot-P, a treatment which, according to Manuel Raíces, the Communications Executive at the Cuban Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), could reduce the risk of US amputations in half, saving tens of thousands of lives a year, is prevented from being used in the US because of the blockade.35
Hardships of the Blockade
For thirty consecutive years the United Nations General Assembly has voted in favor of lifting the US blockade on Cuba.36 In the recent vote in November 2022, 185 countries voted in favor of lifting the blockade, and only two countries, the United States and Israel, voted in favor of sustaining the blockade.37 It is estimated that the last sixty years of the US blockade has cost Cuba 1.3 trillion dollars.38 It is impossible to overestimate how difficult this has made the construction of socialism in Cuba, and the development of their healthcare system and medical sciences in particular.
As Cuba’s Ministry for Public Health reports,
[Cuba] is denied the right to acquire technologies, raw materials, reagents, diagnostic means, medicines, devices, equipment and spare parts necessary for the best functioning of its National Health System, which must be obtained in geographically distant markets or through a third country, with an increase in costs.
Technologies from the United States or with more than 10 percent of components from that country cannot be acquired by the Island, which has a negative impact on healthcare.
In some cases, it is necessary to send patients abroad at a much higher cost than doing the procedure in national territory, if the technology were available.39
There are a plethora of examples to point to where the blockade prohibits Cuba from accessing medicine, technologies, equipment, etc. that it would need to save or improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Cubans. American companies and manufactures with more than 10 percent of American capital backing it frequently ignore, and sometimes explicitly reject, Cuba’s requests for purchasing their products. For instance, as Cuba reported to the United Nations:
From January to July 2021, the Medical Products Import and Export Company (MEDICUBA S.A.) contacted 65 US companies to inquire about the possibilities of importing medicines, equipment, devices and other supplies necessary for the care of the Cuban people through the national health system. Of these, 56 did not respond to the requests of the Cuban entity, and three responded negatively (OWENS & MINOR, INC., MERCURY MEDICAL and ELI LILLY).
The OHMEDA, GENERAL ELECTRIC and HEWLETT PACKARD Companies were asked for multipurpose mechanical ventilators for newborns and infants, as well as multipurpose cardiomonitors (which include blood pressure monitoring, among other parameters). Its acquisition has yet to be made possible.
In the same way, the ONE-LAMBDA Company was asked for kits for HLA typing, essential to determine the compatibility of a kidney transplant candidate with possible donors; they could not be acquired either.40
“Some 158,800 Cuban patients,” the report argues, “are harmed by the impossibility of accessing technology for the implantation of percutaneous aortic valves (TAVI)” which would, through a “small surgical procedure,” greatly improve people’s quality of lives and prevent more complex surgeries and longer hospitalizations.41 American companies such as EDWARD LIFESCIENCE (Edwards-SAPIEN valve) and MEDTRONIC (CoreValve valve) have control over the TAVI valves and, because of the blockade, prohibit Cuba from access.
Likewise, “if Cuba could access the drug Nusinersen, produced only by the US multinational company BIOGEN,” more than half of its children who struggle with infantile spinal atrophy could survive much longer and attain a better quality of life.42
The IQ 577 Laser System model, produced by the US company IRIDEX CORPORATION, could treat “retinal disorders and glaucoma” for dozens of Cuban babies born with retinopathy from prematurity who are at risk of going blind; because of the blockade, those Cuban babies will not be able to receive that treatment.43
While Cuba was helping the world fight COVID-19, the United States was busy preventing the world from helping Cuba.
In many instances, additional licenses are required to sell to Cuba, even when the companies are not American and have less than 10 percent of American capital. As the Cuban Ministry for Public Health reports, shortages were caused in blood bags because the usual supplier, UNFAMED, “reported that the company Terumo BCT of Japan had its bank account blocked, since they must have an Additional License that allows them to sell to Cuba products that are not produced in the United States.”44
The “US’s exploitation of the pandemic to increase pressure for regime change” also affords a variety of examples for how the blockade affects Cuban healthcare.45 For instance, at the height of the pandemic, while WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked for countries to put their sanctions “in quarantine” because “thousands of lives are at stake,” the US company Vyaire Medical bought ventilator manufacturers IMTMedical and Acutronic, immediately banning all sale of ventilators to Cuba.46 Around the same time, Jack Ma’s foundation tried to send Cuba one hundred thousand facemasks, ten Covid diagnostic kits, ventilators, and gloves, all of which was stopped by Avianca, a Colombian Airline whose “major shareholder is a U.S.-based company subject to the trade embargo on Cuba.”47 Similarly, the donations from Swiss solidarity organizations MediCuba-Suiza and Asociación Suiza-Cuba to help Cuba fight COVID where refused to be transferred by the Swiss banks UBS, Cler, and Cantonal Bank of Basilea.48
While Cuba was helping the world fight COVID-19 through the Henry Reeve Brigade (for which it was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize), the United States was busy preventing the world from helping Cuba, banking on the pandemic-blockade dual force to fulfill the conditions Lestor Mallory proposed for regime change.49 Despite the difficulties, Cuba was able to develop five viable vaccines, vaccinating over 90 percent of its population, and delivering hundreds of millions of doses to the global south free of charge.50 However, because of the US blockade, the early days of the pandemic saw Cuba lacking access to the syringes needed to effectively vaccinate its population with the vaccines it developed.51
The internationally denounced blockade on Cuba by the United States is a gross violation of human rights, one which affects both Cubans and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who would have better quality of lives, and even their lives saved, had the United States not prevented their people from having access to novel treatments in cancer, diabetes, and advances in other fields of research developed by Cuban scientists. The spirit of science and scientific inquiry is nourished with openness and collaboration. The US blockade prevents this from occurring, stifling scientific progress.
However, if there is something the last sixty years have demonstrated, it is that the Cuban people are committed to their revolutionary process and unwilling to compromise their socialism and sovereignty. Lestor Mallory’s hope for the blockade would not bear fruit. Even in the periods where the US warfare on Cuba has produced the most formidable of challenges in attaining the necessary materials to ensure the subsistence of the Cuban people, the mass of Cubans have brazenly defended the revolutionary process, with the slogan of their Bronze Titan Antonio Maceo engraved on their chest: “Whoever tries to take over Cuba will only collect the dust of their blood-soaked soil, if they do not perish in the fight.”52 With the initial goal of the blockade unable to concretize, the only reason for its proliferation is to perpetuate senseless suffering, both of Cuban and American people. As those who recognize the emancipatory potential of science and believe that science should serve the people, we have a duty to stand in solidarity with the Cuban people and mobilize to #EndtheBlockade on Cuba.
Carlos L. Garrido is a Cuban American PhD student and instructor in philosophy at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (with an MA in philosophy from the same institution). His research focuses include Marxism, Hegel, early nineteenth century American socialism, and socialism with Chinese characteristics. He is an editor of the Marxist educational project Midwestern Marx and the Journal of American Socialist Studies.
This article was republished from Science for the People.
“The leaders of the present-day, so-called, “Social-Democratic” Party of Germany are justly called “social-imperialists,” that is, socialists in words and imperialists in deeds [My Italics].” (Lenin, 1916) This are the words written by Lenin in his famous work “Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism” written more than a century ago, but still containing within its words fundamental truths that impacts the contemporary neoliberal world, in particular the term mentioned by Lenin “Social Imperialism”.
So called “Socialists” today, specially from the first world, still defend the imperial machine using leftist words and catchphrases, to the detriment of the global socialist movement, this has been happening for decades now. During the First World War, the “Social Democratic Party of Germany” defended Germany entering the Great War, using the justification of “Defense of the Fatherland” and “Defending the country against Russian Despotism” (sound familiar?) in their own words:
Now we face the inexorable fact of war. We are threatened by the terrors of enemy invasion. It is not for or against war we are deciding today; rather we must decide on the means necessary for the defense of our country. Now we must think of the millions of our fellow countrymen who are drawn into this disaster through no fault of their own. It is they who will suffer the most from the horrors of war. Our most heart-felt wishes go out to all those, irrespective of party, who have been called to arms. We also remember the mothers who must give up their sons, the women and children robbed of their providers. For them, fear for their loved ones is combined with the threat of hunger. They will soon be joined by tens of thousands of wounded and crippled soldiers. To help all of them, to improve their fate, to ease their inestimable suffering – this we consider our imperative. (Haase, 1914)
They even further add:
A victory of Russian despotism, stained with the blood of the best among its own people, would put much – indeed, everything – at stake for our nation and its future development toward liberty. We must ward off this danger; we must protect the culture and independence of our own country. (Haase, 1914)
Lenin, being a true Marxist revolutionary, was obviously angered by this chauvinistic attitude towards the imperialist war happening during his time. Lenin developed a doctrine of “War on War” in response on the chauvinistic pro-war stance, Lenin argued that the Proletariat should convert the Great War into a Civil War against the bourgeoise of their own country. Quoting Lenin:
What are the tasks of the working class with regard to this war? The answer to this question is provided in a resolution unanimously adopted by the socialists of the whole world, at the Basic International Socialist Congress of 1912. This resolution was adopted in anticipation of a war of the very kind as started in 1914. This resolution says that the war is reactionary, that it is being prepared in the interests of “capitalist profits”, that the workers consider it “a crime to shoot each other down”, that the war will lead to “a proletarian revolution”, that an example for the workers’ tactics was set by the Paris Commune of 1871, and by October-December 1905, in Russia, i.e., by a revolution. (Lenin, 1915)
When the Bolsheviks took state power and establish the first Socialist government in history, ¿what did they do in regards of the war? ¿Did they appeal to chauvinistic Russian patriotism and continue the war in the detriment of the proletariat? Obviously not. The Bolsheviks took the path of peace without annexations, they negotiated with Germany to stop the suffering of the working class of both countries.
So, it should be worrying to see that even today, so called “Socialist” are defending the NATO proxy imperialist war in Ukraine. As, Marx said, history repeats itself: “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” (Marx, 1852). The tragedy of the “Social Democratic Party of Germany” is now repeated as farce with the modern “Democratic Socialist” in America. One of the biggest spokespersons of modern “Social Imperialism” is Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a so called “Democratic Socialist” that voted and actively supports the war in Ukraine. Some people were not happy about this:
In October, Ocasio-Cortez was also heckled at a town hall meeting over the conflict in Ukraine, including by one man who accused her of “voting to start a nuclear war.” Ocasio-Cortez voted in favor of sending $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine last year. (Jaramillo & Calder, 2023)
Another one of the modern “Social imperialist” greatest hits its Bernie Sanders, which as his friend Cortez supports the imperialist war waged in Ukraine and voted in favor of the billions and billions of dollars being pumped in the cannibal war machine, in his own words:
The Russian invasion of Ukraine that the world is witnessing today is a blatant violation of international law and of basic human decency. It may well kill thousands and displace millions. It could plunge Europe into long-term economic and political instability. The United States and our allies must impose severe sanctions on Vladimir Putin and his fellow oligarchs. At a time when thousands may die as a result of his war, Putin, one of the richest people in the world, should not be allowed to enjoy the billions he stole from the Russian people. The United States must also work closely with international partners to provide humanitarian relief for the Ukrainian people. (Sanders, 2022)
¿It’s the Ukrainian War a proxy NATO war whose main objective is to push American hegemonic domination, establishing and protecting its powerful economic partners, growing its influence on Eastern Europe, and pushing the war machine’s growing private profits to the limit at the expanse of thousands of innocent lives? Don’t be silly dear! The wholesome Ukrainian superheroes are defending their fatherland against the “evils” of Russian despotism and savagery. It’s all for a good cause! As we can see the “excuses” being pushed now by the imperialist war machine have the same substance and even the same content as the ones pushed by the “Social Democratic Party of Germany” more than a century ago.
¿So, what is to be done? First of all, we need to form an antiwar movement against the imperialists, but this movement should be of a Proletariat character not a chauvinist one. Second, we need to teach the masses to not trust the modern day “Social Imperialists”, we need them to understand that the so called “Democratic Socialist” are manipulators working against the proletariat, they are just “Socialist” in words, but in deeds they are the most bloodthirsty “Imperialists”. Third, we need to learn from Lenin, we need to push for PEACE in this conflict, we already saw how easily this conflict can escalate with the Poland bombs circus show. Negotiations should be pushed between the two parties in order to avert an even bigger disaster. As socialist we need to push for the unity of the working class and defeat their reactionary enemies, even the ones dressed in red stripes.
Fidel Herrera is a marxist panamanian writer, studying political theory and the worldwide working class movement for emancipation.
Those Who Die for Life – like Hugo Chávez – Cannot Be Called Dead: The Ninth Newsletter (2023) By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
Greetings from the desk of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
On 28 October 2005, a special event was held in Caracas at the National Assembly of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. At this gathering, held on the birthday of Simón Rodríguez (Simón Bolívar’s teacher), the Venezuelan government announced that nearly 1.5 million adults had learned to read through Mission Robinson, a mass literacy programme that it initiated two years earlier. The mission was named after Rodríguez (who was also known by the pseudonym Samuel Robinson).
One of those adults, María Eugenia Túa (age 70), stood beside President Hugo Chávez Frías and said, ‘We are no longer poor. We are rich in knowledge’. The Venezuelan government built Mission Robinson based on a Cuban teaching method for adult literacy called Yo sí puedo (‘Yes I can’) developed by Dr. Leonela Relys Díaz of the Latin American and the Caribbean Pedagogical Institute (IPLAC) in Cuba. On that day, Venezuela declared to the United Nations that its people had transcended illiteracy.
The previous year, in December 2004, Chávez spoke at the graduation ceremony of 433 students from the Yo sí puedo programme held at the Teresa Carreño Theatre in Caracas. Mission Robinson, Chávez said, is going to ‘organise the army of light’ that will take literacy to the people, wherever they live, taking ‘Mohammed to the mountain’. Commenting on the educational journey of one of the graduates, Chávez described the opportunities that stem from literacy: ‘She has not wasted any time and is already learning mathematics and geography, Spanish language and literature. And she is studying Bolivarian ideas because she can read. She can read the Constitution. She can read Bolívar’s writings. She can read the letters that Bolívar wrote’.
The Bolivarian process organised the distribution of world literature and non-fiction books to libraries created in working class neighbourhoods in order to ‘arm ourselves with knowledge’, Chávez said. Quoting the Cuban national hero José Martí, Chávez reflected on the relationship between education, emancipation, and the history being made by the Venezuelan people: ‘To be cultured in order to be free. To know who we are, to know our history in depth, that history from which we come’.
For Rosa Hernández, one of the graduates, the mission provided ‘clarity because before there was darkness. Now that I know how to read and write… I see everything clearly’. María Gutiérrez, Rosa’s classmate, said that her entry into the ‘army of light’ took place ‘thanks to God, to my president, and to the teachers who taught me’.
Ten years ago, on 5 March 2013, Hugo Chávez died in Caracas after a prolonged fight against cancer. His death rattled Venezuela, where large sections of impoverished workers mourned not just a president, but the man they felt was their comandante. As Chávez’s cortege passed through Bolívar Square, Alí Primera’s 1976 song, Los que mueren por la vida (‘Those Who Die for Life’), rang out from the crowd:
Those who die for life
Can’t be called dead.
And from this moment
It is forbidden to cry for them.
It is forbidden to cry, they sang, not because they did not want to grieve, but because it was clear that the legacy of Chávez was not in his own life but in the difficult work of building socialism.
Six years after Chávez’s death, I walked with Mariela Machado through the Kaikachi housing complex where she lived, in the La Vega neighbourhood of Caracas. During Chávez’s first presidential term, Mariela, her family, and 91 other families occupied a plot of land that had been given to corporate developers by a previous administration but left empty. These working-class families – many of them Afro-Venezuelan – went directly to Chávez and asked to build houses on the plot. ‘Can you do it?’, Chávez asked them. ‘Yes’, said Mariela. ‘We built this city. We can build our own homes. All we want are machines and materials’. And so, with resources from the city, Mariela and her comrades built their modest apartment buildings.
A bust of Chávez sits outside of the community centre, where there is a bakery that provides affordable, high-quality bread to the residents; a kitchen that feeds 400 people; a community hall; and a small room where women sew clothes for a business that they run. ‘We are Chavistas’, another woman told me, her eyes shining, a child at her hip. The word ‘Chavista’ has a special resonance in places such as this. It is not uncommon to see t-shirts with Chávez on them, his image and the iconic ‘Chávez eyes’ everywhere. When I asked Mariela what will happen to Kaikachi if the Bolivarian process falls, she pointed to the neighbouring apartment buildings of the well-heeled and said, ‘If the government falls, we will be evicted. We – Black, poor, working class – will lose what we have’.
Mariela, Rosa, María, and millions of other people like them – ‘Black, poor, working class’, as Mariela said, but also indigenous and marginalised – carry with them the new vital energy of the Bolivarian Revolution, which began with Chávez’s electoral victory in 1998 and continues to this day. This sentiment is encapsulated in the Chavista slogan, ‘We are the Invisible. We are the Invincible. We will overcome’.
Observers of the Bolivarian Revolution often point to this or that policy in order to understand or define the process. But what is rarely acknowledged is the theory that Chávez developed during his fifteen years as president. It is as if Chávez did things but did not think about them, as if he was not a theorist of the revolutionary process. Such attitudes towards leaders and intellectuals of the working class are insidious, reducing the strength of their intellect to a spate of thoughtless or spontaneous actions. But, as Chávez (and many others) showed, this bias is unfounded. Each time I saw Chávez, he wanted to talk about the books he had been reading – Marxist classics, certainly, but also the newest books in Latin America (and always the latest writings of Eduardo Galeano, whose book, Open Veins of Latin America, he gave to US President Barack Obama in 2009). He was concerned with big ideas and questions of the day, above all the challenges of building socialism in a poor country with a rich resource (oil, in the case of Venezuela). Chávez was constantly theorising, reflecting and elaborating upon the ideas shared with him by women such as Mariela, Rosa, and María, and testing these ideas through practical experiments in policy. Bourgeois narratives are quick to dismiss the country’s literacy campaign as nothing extraordinary, but this misses its significance entirely, both in terms of its underlying theory and its immense impact on Venezuelan society. The point of Mission Robinson was not merely to teach people how to read, but also that the Yo sí puedo curriculum would encourage political literacy. As Chávez said of the Yo sí puedo graduate in 2004, ‘she is studying Bolivarian ideas because she can read. She can read the Constitution. She can read Bolívar’s writings’.
This graduate would become one of many women leaders in her community. Another, Alessandra Trespalacios, participated in social programmes in a wretchedly poor area and became a leader in the Altos de Lidice Commune’s community council and health clinic. It is women such as Alessandra who began to weigh children and the elderly in their neighbourhood as a part of their poverty eradication policy, and who would give the underweight extra food from their stores. ‘We are motivated by love’, she said, but also by the revolutionary ideas that she and her fellow students learnt from Mission Robinson.
To commemorate the ten-year anniversary of Hugo Chávez’s death, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and Simón Bolívar Institute for Peace and Solidarity (Venezuela) are pleased to offer you our dossier no. 61, The Strategic Revolutionary Thought and Legacy of Hugo Chávez Ten Years After His Death (February 2023). This text is a preliminary account of Chávez’s revolutionary theory, which was built out of the necessity to improve the everyday lives of the Venezuelan people, out of the challenge to construct housing, health care, and literacy programmes, but then went further, delving into how to transform the country’s productive relations and defend the sovereignty of Venezuela and Latin America from US imperialism. It is, as we write, a theory that is ‘alive and entirely revolutionary’ and not ‘a recipe nor a set of dry academic reflections’.
The thinking of Chávez starts at the desk of an indigenous woman in the heart of the Venezuelan plains, a woman whose reading of the Constitution of 1999 – ratified with a 72% vote in favour – motivated her to become a leader in her town, perhaps of Sabaneta (in Barinas state), where Chávez was born on 28 July 1954. That’s always the start of his theory.
We hope you will read, share, and discuss our dossier to better understand the praxis of the Bolivarian Revolution. A few years ago, Anacaona Marin, who leads the El Panal commune in the 23 de Enero barrio in Caracas, told me, ‘A connection is often made between socialism and misery. In our work, through the Chávez method, this connection will be broken. It cannot be broken by words alone, but by deeds. That is chavismo’.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including "The Darker Nations" and "The Poorer Nations." His latest book is "Washington Bullets," with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.
This article was republished from TriContinental.
President Maduro: ‘The War in Ukraine Is Part of the Labor Pains of a World That Will Emerge,’ a Geopolitical and Historical Analysis By: Arnold AugustRead Now
Journalist Ignacio Ramonet (right) and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (left) during an interview last December. Photo: Últimas Noticias.
As many heads of state and prime ministers ponder the war in Ukraine, I call attention to one head of state, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. In a January 1, 2023 interview with Franco-Spanish journalist and author Ignacio Ramonet, President Maduro said, “The war in Ukraine is part of the labor pains of a world that will emerge.” Here is his full commentary on the international situation.
“The world is undoubtedly in a very difficult situation, we are experiencing the pains of giving birth to a different world. We have always advocated the construction of a pluripolar, multicentric world, with different poles of development, power, centers that accompany all regions of the world. The old world of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th centuries, of colonialism, then of the neo-colonialism of the 20th century, must be abandoned for good. No one can believe that from two or three metropolises, one can govern the world, one can subdue the peoples. There are already very strong regions, such as Asia, the Pacific, Africa itself, Latin America and the Caribbean, we are blocks of countries that are becoming poles of world power. Do we have to give up our rights to peace, to development, to scientific and technological progress, to our own cultural models, to our own political models? Do we have to give them up? No. Should we take for granted the unipolar domination of a metropolis that claims to dictate to the world? No. It is the time of a new world, of new geopolitics that redistributes power in the world. The war in Ukraine is part of the labor pains of a world that will emerge. “
Readers will have noticed above the following insight from Maduro: “We have always advocated the construction of a pluripolar, multicentric world, with different poles of development, power, centers that accompany all regions of the world.” He also rhetorically asked, “Should we take for granted the unipolar domination of a metropolis that claims to dictate to the world? No.”
Older brother President Xi Jinping and older brother President Vladimir Putin
Furthermore, on January 13, in the annual report for the year 2022 before the National Assembly, President Maduro commented on the international situation, saying in part that the situation “invites the world for the construction of new poles of power of that community of Common Destiny that our older brother President Xi Jinping speaks of Mankind as a community of common destiny. Or of that multipolar, multicentric world that our older brother President Vladimir Putin speaks of. For that world to arrive, a Latin American and Caribbean bloc is necessary that is cohesive, united, advanced.”
For the entire section on this theme, watch this 1 min. 46 sec. YouTube video with English subtitles. Credit: Nicolás Maduro YouTube @NicolasMaduroM
What can one make of Maduro’s assertion that “the War in Ukraine is part of the labor pains of a world that will emerge,” coupled with his very positive assessment of Chinese President President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin? Is it a call for “peace” in the abstract? No. Can it be interpreted as an unconditional encouragement of the Russian Special Military Operation without taking into account valid peace initiatives for a political resolution of the conflict? No. In my view, it is above all a call for reflection in these dangerous times for all peoples and governments, regardless of their current options on the Ukraine conflict.
No other head of state in the world, unless someone corrects me, has packed so much progressive depth on the crisis into just sixteen words. My own reflection, although I am not fully aware of Maduro’s intentions regarding “labor pains,” or in the same interview, “the pains of giving birth to a different world,” is this: what is happening in Ukraine is disastrous; however, the horrors of war were provoked by NATO and, in this second year, this provocative Western project has not yet receded. Thus, until there is a peaceful solution, or “the right to peace” that Maduro also calls for in the January 1 interview quoted above, that takes into account the legitimate security concerns of Russia and the Russian-speaking republics and Crimea, the labor pains cannot be stopped.
However, this outcome will lead to the realization of the “right to peace.” Moreover, in Maduro’s words, the new “pluripolar, multicentric world, with different poles of development [against] unipolar domination of a metropolis” will emerge.
Proof that Maduro and others are right
Do these two statements by Maduro still stand the test of time? Illustrating just three of the many examples allows readers to assess both Maduro’s apprehension of U.S. hegemony and to expect the inevitable excruciating, but desired, birth of a new pluripolar world of which Latin America is a part.
Against the backdrop of the January 2023 Maduro statement, in December 2022 statements, firstly former German leader Merkel admitted that the Minsk agreements were intended to buy time for the Ukrainians to prepare for conflict with Russia, and Putin. Then, former French President François Hollande confirmed Merkel’s remark, the “Minsk agreements let Kiev build up military muscle.” Even though these revelations should have changed the international game plan by naming NATO as the sole culprit of the war, they did not make NATO budge one iota toward peace. Thus, the painful reality of war has been further implanted in the NATO-Ukraine-Russia geopolitical landscape.
Since Maduro’s two statements of January 2023 cited above, the German Foreign Minister has admitted that Europe and thus NATO is at war with Russia.
In addition, General Laura J. Richardson, Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, is proving Venezuela and other countries in the region –indeed almost the entire Global South – right. Here are some excerpts from her January 21, 2023 statement, in which she does not hide U.S. imperial ambitions, but flaunts them as if it were as natural as American apple pie for the U.S. to claim Latin American and the Caribbean as its own.
“If I talk to my number two adversary in the region, Russia, I mean I’ve got, of course the countries, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua with Russia relationships… 60% of the world’s lithium is in the Lithium Triangle, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile…”
Then Seymour Hersh exposed “How America took out the Nord Stream pipeline.”
War and peace and the Bolivarian factor
When the Maduro government, like Hugo Chávez before him, claims Bolivarianism as their political guide, they are true to their word. For example, Simón Bolívar in a letter to one of his generals, Francisco de Paula Santander, during the break in the war against Spain, wrote:
“Peace will be my port, my glory, my reward, my hope, my joy and everything that is precious to me in this world… If we want peace, we must prepare for war.’
Also, at a time when there is so much talk in the last year about the prisoners of war in Ukraine with the false narrative always directly slanted against Russia, how many people know that “the first international treaty on the regularization of war and the treatment of prisoners and the civilian population” was signed by Simón Bolívar and the Spanish colonialist Pablo Morillo? Where is the “jungle” and where is the “garden”? After days of mounting international backlash, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, apologized for his controversial remarks in which he described Europe as an idyllic “garden” of prosperity and the rest of the world as mostly a “jungle.” He apologized, but it remains the vision steeped in the old, decaying European colonialism. They should instead look to the “jungle,” Venezuela, and its tradition, as opposed to the evil “garden” that is Europe.
After another provocation against Venezuela, Commander Hugo Chávez titled his November 16, 2009 article “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
Before concluding, let me anticipate a criticism of this article by some who might accuse me of not addressing the threat of nuclear weapons. First of all, it is not the main issue. Furthermore, and more importantly, the “threat of a nuclear war” is currently being used as a weapon by those who try to shame us into denouncing “Russian invasion” or accepting other narratives that are also unacceptable to progressive people.
In conclusion, Maduro’s Bolivarian thesis on war and peace shows, and will continue to show, which forces are on the right side of history and which are not. The main purpose of this article is to promote discussion from the Venezuelan perspective. This thesis, “The war in Ukraine is part of the labor pains of a world that will emerge,” is a cause for serious reflection, regardless of one’s views. The stakes are too high to refuse discussion and concerted action.
Arnold August is a Canadian journalist and lecturer, the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections, Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion and Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond. As a journalist, he collaborates with many websites in Latin America, Europe, North America and the Middle East. He is a contributor to Orinoco Tribune. His website: www.arnoldaugust.com
This article was republished from Orinoco Tribune.
Behind the Self-Defeating Approach Toward the National Protest Against US War on Russia in Ukraine By: Stansfield SmithRead Now
The Rage Against the War Machine, which stood up against the US war on Russia in Ukraine, was the first national anti-war demonstration in the capital in years. This was a groundbreaking event, showing that the anti-war movement has revived on a national scale after years of relative quiescence. Yet this success was not welcomed by some leftist anti-war activists. People may be acquainted with the issue of Libertarians as a key sponsor of the rally, and some of the views or alleged views of some of the speakers – views unrelated to the demands of the demonstration.
Underlying this are deeper causes for the conflict.
A lefty anti-war coalition?
Some consciously, some not, seek to build a “left” anti-war coalition, an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist one. This confuses an anti-war movement with a left organization. It isolates you from possible allies. It is a myth that anti-war movements are led by leftists, a myth that anti-war movements consist mostly of leftists. Most people protest war because they are sick of war, are against new wars – not because they are leftist, but because they have human feelings. This should not be some new revelation.
Movement building means we need to win over the people. And we need committed activists and experienced organizers. Whether they hold an anti-imperialist worldview is secondary. People become anti-imperialist – if they do at all – after becoming politically active, combined with some period of study. Often they become so only temporarily, as we see today with so many on the left supporting US regime change in Ukraine, Nicaragua, Syria, Iran, Hong Kong, or Russia.
The root of these leftists’ mixed-up thinking goes back to the purge of the working class leftwing from the trade union movement after World War II. US government operations drove this class struggle force out of its home base in the working class. The left has not rebuilt its natural home there, nor does it focus on reestablishing the working class as its base. Instead, they orient to the multi-class socially progressive milieu with its nebulous relation to the means of production.
A left that exists separate from a working class leftwing is homeless, cast adrift. In the socially progressive milieu, it rotates around Democratic Party voters, its liberal identity politics, and its disdain for the “deplorables.” Ironically, those who articulated that the Democratic Party is the more effective evil are living proof of the accuracy of this statement.
A left wing grounded working class would not make such foolish mistakes as not supporting the February 19 demonstration against imperialist war. Nor would a working class leftwing, in contrast to today’s left, have any greater hostility to Trump voters than to Obama, Clinton or Biden voters.
The February 19 anti-war demonstration was dubbed a “left-right” alliance, a term first used by left supporters of US regime change in Syria. These left apologists for the “Syrian Revolution” smeared opponents of that military operation as allied with “fascists” in a “red-brown” alliance. Now this has been picked up by some left opponents of the US war on Russia to attack a demonstration against the present imperial war.
A reality check is in order. People who attack demonstrations against US imperial wars are the ones who are reactionary, not the people who organize the demonstrations. That has always been the case.
Fortunately, many of these have called another anti-war rally on March 18, even if not for the best of reasons.
The demands of the Rage Against the War Machine rally were: Not One More Penny for War in Ukraine; Negotiate Peace; Stop the War Inflation; Disband NATO; Global Nuclear De-Escalation; Slash the Pentagon Budget; Abolish the CIA and Military Industrial Deep State; Abolish War and Empire; Restore Civil Liberties; and Free Julian Assange.
While it is not clear what is meant by “left” and “right,” the demands of the rally are directed against the national security state, the actual government of this country. If you confront it, then you are not supporting it, and we are on the same side.
Why did some lefty people set up a litmus test on other issues unrelated to the Rage Against the War Machine demands to determine who should be allowed to participate? If you want to weaken a movement, that is what you would do. Shun people who hold dissimilar beliefs on issues unrelated to the demands of the demonstration? That is a definition of sectarian.
A demonstration gives us the opportunity to explain our anti-imperialist message to other participants. If we don’t use that opportunity, then we don’t do our job.
School of Americas Watch protests at Fort Benning
SOA Watch organized annual rallies outside Fort Benning against US military intervention and murder in Latin America. The protests were staged and funded by different orders and groups of the Catholic Church. Most participants came from Catholic orders and schools. These are organizations opposed to women’s right to choose, opposed to LGBT rights. Were the SOA Watch rallies a “left-right” alliance we should attack instead of joining? Attack the protests for being a platform legitimizing anti-woman and anti-gay groups?
The “Left-Right” Alliance Fred Hampton Built
Fred Hampton and Bobby Lee of the Chicago Black Panthers showed how class-conscious activists work with seemingly hostile groups. In the late 1960s these Panthers helped create a Rainbow Coalition of poor blacks, Puerto Ricans, and southern whites to fight for fair housing, economic equality, and against police brutality. The whites, Young Patriot Organization (YPO) was based in Hillbilly Harlem, in uptown Chicago. They wore the Confederate flag as their emblem, and many were racist. But like blacks and latinos, the Young Patriots and their families experienced discrimination – being poor and from the South. Fred Hampton tolerated YPO members wearing their Confederate flag patches at meetings and rallies. It came to take on a new meaning within the Rainbow Coalition. The YPO began wearing the Confederate flag with black power symbols and slogans. Despite the racial divisions, the BPP and YPO found common cause in the fight against their oppression. Through their joint work, the Young Patriots cast off their white supremacy views, including the Confederate flag. They saw they had in much common with the Black Panthers and latino Young Lords. This is but one example of people, focused on taking on the imperialist power structure, overcame their “left-right” divisions and worked together to fight their common oppressor.
Medea Benjamin, a sensible and highly respected anti-war activist, no sectarian, had this to say about Rage Against the War Machine:
Many people have asked me why I am not speaking at the Rage Against the War Machine rally in DC on Feb. 19. Here’s why:
I supported the Rage Against the War Machine Rally from the time of its conception and I support it today, even though I will not be one of the speakers because the organization I have been associated with for 20 years, CODEPINK, urged me not to speak…
So why do I support the rally?
Because I am heartbroken by a war that is causing such death and destruction in Ukraine.
Because I have real fears that this war could lead us into World War III or a nuclear confrontation.
Because both political parties are complicit in giving over $100 billion to Ukraine to keep this war going.
Because the Biden administration is pushing this war to weaken Russia instead of promoting solutions.
Because we urgently need as many voices as possible, from a broad variety of perspectives, to speak out so we can be much more effective at pressuring Congress and the White House to move this conflict from the bloody battlefield to the negotiating table. The future of our world stands in the balance.”
Those are the key issues. To emphasize: on the anniversary of the Ukraine war, the two superpowers are in combat. The US government states it remains committed to driving Russia out of the Ukraine; Russia says defeat threatens its very existence. Recall Biden said a year ago that US and European sanctions would make Russia leave Ukraine. The war has only escalated since then. Where will it lead?
Tulsi Gabbard began her speech with the day in January 2018 when Hawaiians were warned on their cell phones “Ballistic missile inbound. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.” To think the leaders of the US and Russia will not blunder into a nuclear war, given all the previous incidents over the years, reveals a naïve faith in our leaders. To refuse to work with “the right” to avoid Ukraine becoming a nuclear war is mind-boggling in its stupidity. The Libertarians show their approach is not so sectarian. Those who brought us Rage Against the War Machine recognized that if we are to defeat the non-stop imperial war machine that rules over our lives, we must work with all people possible under its boot. Until we all do, we defeat ourselves.
Stansfield Smith is a Chicago based anti-imperialist activist. He was active for over a decade in the Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5. His work is now on ChicagoALBASolidarity.wordpress.com. He has written on Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and on North Korea for Counterpunch and others.
This article was republished from Orinoco Tribune.
Socialism With American Characteristics By: Luke Pickrell and Myra JanisRead Now
The Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding in 2019 and signs would appear to augur well for the organization in the coming years. Recently, the party discussed running candidates for office.1 Membership numbers are rising,2 and the party credits itself and its allies for the “broad front” that defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.3 Having abandoned the Democratic Socialists of America, an organization in a crisis of political direction, and gazed upon the desolate expanse that is revolutionary socialism in the United States, some comrades have turned away from the red rose toward the tried and true hammer, sickle, and gear. Unfortunately, these comrades will not have escaped the politics of class collaborationism by fleeing DSA and may find themselves in even hotter water.
The CPUSA marked its centenary with an updated version of the party platform: “The Road to Socialism USA.”5 Reading through the document is daunting. An astounding 61-pages long, it meanders across ten disorganized primary sections and dozens of subsections. Boundaries are porous: the introduction contains a conclusion, ideas repeat, and lists of occasionally intriguing demands are relegated to sidebars. Friedrich Engels’ critique of the German Social Democratic Party’s Erfurt Programme - “The fear that a short, pointed exposition would not be intelligible enough, has caused explanations to be added, which make it verbose and drawn out”6 - applies just as accurately to the CPUSA. These comrades, hoping to attract as large an audience as possible, have thrown everything but the kitchen sink toward the proverbial wall in a desperate attempt to make something stick. Asked to accept the program, one struggles for solid footing. How can one determine agreement with such an incomprehensible document?
But determination brings rewards. Cutting through girth and clearing away the tired abstractions (“injustice,”7 “a better world,”8 “the 1%,”9 “epic struggles,”10 “the greed of the few,”11 “fascism”12) reveals two fundamental flaws: a commitment to the decades-old People’s Front policy of alliances with anything left of the “extreme right”13 and dedication to the Constitution and the parameters of the capitalist state. In other words, socialism with American characteristics. What follows is an elaboration on these two flaws. While the comrades in the CPUSA may be motivated by a genuine desire to fight for the interests of the working class, their program provides no path forward and opens the door to opportunistic zigzags and the internal rule of bureaucrats.
Continuing the People’s Front
This is far from an exhaustive chronicle of the ups and downs of the Communist Party (a job that E. J. Hobsbawm described as presenting unique difficulties).14 Rather, reading the CPUSA program allows one to reflect on the rise and fall of American Communism and the world socialist movement more generally. At its height, the Party contributed several victories to the class struggle in the United States. It carried out exceptional work in organizing the unemployed during the Great Depression15 and defended the Scottsboro Boys when the NAACP refused.16 The Party’s victories in states such as Alabama17 and New York18 are well-documented.
The United Front strategy - how the party relates to the political institutions of the capitalist state to win members and strengthen the fighting power of the working class - began during a period of global defeat for communism.19 Having emerged victorious from the Russian Civil War, the newly formed Third International expected a quick succession of civil wars and Communist victories across Europe. But defeats in Germany, Poland, and Hungary augured ill. The working masses had not rallied behind the banner of the Communist Parties, and the Bolsheviks were left isolated in Russia. After fending off his ultra-left detractors, Lenin oversaw the entry of the Communist Parties into alliances with non-Communist working class political forces (including Social Democratic parties) under the explicit condition of retaining organizational independence and freedom to criticize the reformist leadership. In theory, the United Front was sound.
Principled alliances with reformist parties were scrapped when Stalin came to power. The Communists had zigged right, only to zag left during the Third Period of 1928 to 1933. The Peoples’ Front (America’s version of the Popular Front) began a final lurch back to the right in 1935 in the context of impending war and the rise of German Nazism. Ben Rose described the People’s Front as a “gradual shift towards a search for alliances and influence with the leadership of organizations believed to be instrumental in fighting domestic and international fascism, as well as those capable of pressuring the Roosevelt administration.”20 Tactical alliances with a section of the capitalist class subordinated working class independence to the goals of capitalists. The goal of socialism in America was abandoned, and in 1937 the Party dropped its slogan, “Toward a Soviet America.” The day-to-day practice of fighting for reforms submerged the goal of a classless society, and socialism with American characteristics - socialism, after all, being just as American as baseball and apple pie - became the norm. As Mike Macnair explains: “‘Official communist’ and Maoist parties committed themselves to rejection of the most elementary Marxist principle - the independent political organization and representation of the working class - in favor of ‘democratic’ coalitions which repeat the projects Marx and Engels fought against - or, worse, in favor of coalitions for ‘national independence’, which subordinate the working class to the party of order.”21
The call for a People’s Front continues today. In the name of fighting the extreme right - a nefarious entity that is “inadequate and incompetent”22 and “backward”23 one moment, and “fascist”24 the next - the program urges unity with all progressive forces in “defeating the extreme right’s implicit and explicit drive toward fascism.”25 Divisions within the capitalist class “contain opportunities for working-class and progressive forces. On some issues, the more moderate, more realistic sections of the capitalist class and their political operatives move parallel to the people’s movements, as important though partial and temporary allies. They can be pressured to adopt a more progressive stance by the strength of the people’s movements and mass sentiment.”26
The program encourages alliances with the Democratic Party because it is “not identical”27 with the Republican Party. The Democratic Party’s history - the “main vehicle used by African American and Latino communities to gain representation, as well as the main mechanism used to elect labor, progressive, and even Left activists to public office…”28 - supposedly demonstrates differences with its elephant brother. Furthermore, alleged rifts within the Party can be used to workers’ advantage. One reads: “[T]here exists an internal struggle within the Democratic Party among centrist forces who collaborate with the right wing, centrist forces opposed to the right wing, and more progressive, even socialist, trends.”29 Any desire to build a mass party must bow to the existing facts of the power of the capitalist class and the Constitutional regime.
With Friends Like These…
Calls for an alliance with the Democratic Party and the NGO complex against the far right are equivalent to asking the fox to guard the hen house: the fox eats its plump ward every time. Such proposals are the equivalent of trusting the bourgeoisie of the French Third Republic to eradicate the threat of a clerical-monarchical Thermidorian reaction. During the Third Republic, the proletariat was lured away from independent politics by liberals who incessantly hollered about a grave threat to the Republic as justification for uniting under one banner. With danger knocking at the door, this was no time to wage the class struggle. Karl Kautsky explained the reality behind the facade: “...the bourgeois liberal politicians have every interest in the struggle against the Church, but by no means in triumphing over it. They can only count on an alliance of the proletariat as long as this struggle continues.”30 Ultimately, a definitive victory is illusory. The imperative to unite against a bigger-bad never ends. How ironic that the Communist Party now advocates politics far to the right of those espoused by Second International Marxism’s famous pope-turned-renegade during his period as a revolutionary thinker.
The Democratic Party is more concerned with maintaining the rule of law than prosecuting an effective campaign against an increasingly right-wing and authoritarian Republican Party and its hangers-on. See, for example, their impotent attempt to understand and resolve the events of January 6th, 2022, compared to their focus on the chauvinistic conspiracy theory of Russiagate. The state’s repressive apparatus is far more concerned with countering perceived threats from the left than from the right. The bourgeois state fundamentally cannot grapple with the real social issues (poverty and economic precarity, first and foremost) upon which the seeds of far-right extremism germinate. Without class independence, the proletariat stays moored to the dock of bourgeois politics. Worse, if the working class does not create independent organizations of political power, it will be unable to stop a real fascist threat. One finds a terrifying historical specter in Chile during the Allende period when the Popular Unity government disarmed its supporters in the face of an impending coup. When the time came, the working class could not defend itself or the Allende government from Pinochet’s forces.
The CPUSA program describes the all-people's-front as an “essential strategy for this historical period, not just a temporary tactic.”31 Socialism is thus always something for the distant future, a goal to pursue once the present task is complete. Yet, like Sisyphus and his boulder, the task is never concluded. An all-people’s-front will not permanently defeat the far right. Only a socialist republic can eliminate the excrement produced by capitalism in decline, and only a socialist political party can make a new republic a reality.
Bill of Rights Socialism and Constitutional Cultism
The Constitution is an eminently undemocratic document that stands in the way of working-class political rule. It creates an entire “political playing field”32 that sucks in well-intentioned reformers and keeps them busy fiddling over minutia. The Constitution cannot be ignored or corralled through tricks or slights of hand. Yet, the CPUSA program ducks the issue by proposing a “Peoples’ Bill of Rights” and explaining that “Once the power of the corporations is broken, the vast majority of the country can use the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, a Socialist Bill of Rights, and local governments to build real democracy and equality.”33 The Party’s belief that a “fundamentally new economic system” can be built on the existing Constitution is explicit; it is a hallowed document equivalent to the sacred tablets of the Ten Commandments. This devotion is apparent when they describe a speculative people’s Bill of Rights as “guaranteed” upon being “enshrined” in the Constitution.34
The insistence on maintaining the existing state apparatus is an abdication of the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Once in power, the party must implement the minimum demands to upend and transform the existing state apparatus into a democratic republic - the state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. From this position, the working class can begin the transition to communism. The CPUSA comrades are correct that the fullest expression of democracy is in the interests of the working class. Democracy is the light and air needed by the proletariat to wage an effective struggle.
However, the extension of democracy does not cease at the doors of the White House, the shrine of the Constitution, the halls of the Supreme Court, or the pentagonal grounds of the Department of Defense. The indirectly elected president holds an ever-increasing amount of power and directs the military of the world’s foremost imperial power. The Constitution (designed to guard against change) enshrines the separation of powers to hedge against the boogeyman of popular will in the House of Representatives (the only body with a nominal claim to popular representation) and slows down the process of legislation by directly elected representatives. The Supreme Court is not elected by universal and direct suffrage and works primarily to defend the Constitution. The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade also led many people to question the Court’s ability to take up lower court rulings. Finally, the Department of Defense provides the physical force necessary to safeguard the sanctity of private property and bourgeois law and order.
The CPUSA’s loyalty to the Constitution leads them to abandon a revolutionary position. The demand for a Socialist Bill of Rights leaves the bourgeois state unscathed; in fact, it strengthens the state. So long as the existing constitutional order remains intact, demands for “liberty, and equality; free quality health care and education; living-wage jobs and decent housing; and a healthy environment”35 are just reforms. While the revolutionary party does include reforms as part of its demands, they exist as a means to create a democratic republic. A set of demands that leave the existing state intact serves only as a screen to hide bourgeois rule. The party plucks the fig leaf from absolutism only to become “oneself a screen for its nakedness.”36
In trying to adapt Marxist-Leninism to the United States, the comrades absorbed all the elements of the constitutional regime and dropped most of the Marxism they carried. What little remains lies mutilated beyond recognition. The program’s assurance that “socialism in the United States will have distinctive characteristics because it will emerge from our unique political culture”37 is just another superficial justification for reformism. Minimum demands must strengthen the working class while weakening the state. Such demands include a single legislative assembly elected by proportional representation; the abolition of the independent presidency and the Supreme Court's right of judicial review; the election of judges and other state officials; the expansion of jury trials and state-funded legal services; the unrestricted right of free speech; the abolition of copyright laws and monopolies of knowledge; and the abolition of police and standing army in favor of a people's militia characterized by universal training and service, with democratic rights for its members. The process could begin with organizing a nationwide election via direct, universal, and equal suffrage for an assembly tasked with writing a new Constitution for popular consideration rather than the radically minoritarian process enshrined in Article 5 of the existing Constitution.38 Enacted in full, these demands smash the existing order and create a democratic republic.
Monopolies and Stages
Like a Matryoshka doll that has gone west, the CPUSA program contains multiple programs corresponding to different stages on an imagined path to socialism. The first stage is the formation of a People’s Front to defeat the extreme right. After eliminating the first threat, the People’s Front will grow in strength, evolve into an anti-monopoly coalition, and turn its attention toward “the multinationals” (the nationalist assumption being that ‘genuinely American’ capitalists would join the fight). The defeat of the multinationals will signal the beginning of a new stage in which the anti-monopoly coalition will build proletarian consciousness and progress toward socialism. Multiple coalitions will merge with the Communist Party to create a force capable of pushing through the Socialist Bill of Rights. At some point, communism will emerge.
To the untrained eye, the discussion of monopolies is a bizarre aspect of an already strange program. Yet, references to the despotic power of monopolies - along with constant references to “the people” - have roots in older forms of American populism that pitted “the people'' versus “the elites.” The affinity towards populist rhetoric is explained by the reformist character of the CPUSA and its desire to create cross-class alliances in which, ultimately, workers’ interests play second fiddle. In addition, the program’s conception of revolution beginning only after defeating a series of foes follows the stagist theory of history often, though incorrectly, attributed to orthodox Marxism.38 In decades past, the stagist model was used to justify the fundamental impossibility of communism in one country. Today, it appears in the CPUSA’s program as a justification for continued reformism.
Road to Nowhere
The Communist Party’s program contains noble sentiments. We do not doubt these comrades' desire to realize a “system in which working-class people control their own lives and destinies.”39 Socialism is the fullest extension of democracy. The social republic overcomes the division between social and political existence. The final goal remains a society in which everyone contributes what they can and receives what they need to actualize their unique potential.
The CPUSA comrades are correct in declaring the need for a revolutionary party. They correctly state that victory is not abstract: it “relies not on slogans, gimmicks, or conspiracies but rather on developing the understanding of millions cultivated in hard struggles, an understanding that grows into full class and socialist consciousness.”40 Yet, their program is brimming with slogans. Take the assertion that the revolutionary party must be “dedicated to the interests of the whole class, dedicated to the long-term vision necessary for winning fundamental change.”41 An intrepid reader finishes the program without understanding the meaning of fundamental change. After so many pages, the phrase remains a floating signifier capable of the most opportunistic interpretations. This reversion to obscurity is a long way away from the concluding paragraph of the Socialist Party of America’s 1912 program: “Such measures of relief as we may be able to force from capitalism are but a preparation of the workers to seize the whole powers of government, in order that they may thereby lay hold of the whole system of socialized industry and thus come to their rightful inheritance.”42 As a party founded by the principled Left-Wing of the SPA and once animated by the fire of the Bolshevik Revolution, the CPUSA has fallen quite a long way.
The program is the loadstone of a socialist political party. A good program presents the demands necessary for taking power and creating a democratic republic (the minimum program) to initiate a transition to the ultimate goal of communism (the maximum program). Means and ends are united and never lose sight of each other. Demands are expansive though concrete, and resonate with the condition of all oppressed minority groups. Furthermore, a good program is clear, concise, and memorable. It leaves elaboration to party propagandists and trusts in the ability of the masses to decode an unfamiliar term and infer what is left unsaid. The latest CPUSA program is a mess. Quantity does not transform into quality; in this case, the former works against the latter. The working class will not find a road to power within its numerous pages. Its confusing proposals will lead only to the underwhelming and all-too-familiar dead end of class collaboration within the existing constitutional order.
Today, the Communist Party USA rests upon a mixed historical legacy marked by moments in which it acted as a vanguard of the working class in the highest sense of the phrase, as well as a long period in which it continues to be plagued by the lowest possible opportunism. In criticizing its present class collaborationist program, we hope to provide a resource to those in the Communist Party chafing under this orientation. As in the Democratic Socialists of America, the time has come for genuine communists to rebel against the dominant opportunism of the largest organizations of the working class political movement in the United States. We encourage Marxists in the Communist Party USA to begin openly discussing the course and future of their party and the entire socialist movement. The pages of Cosmonaut are open to them, and replies from defenders of the Communist Party’s current orientation are welcome as well - if only to train the arguments of their critics.
May the rebels prevail!
4. See Lenin’s comments on the relationship between anarchism and opportunism in chapter four of “Left Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder.” https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/ch04.htm
6. Friedrich Engels. A Critique of the Draft Social Democratic Program of 1891. https://marxists.architexturez.net/archive/marx/works/1891/06/29.htm
7. https://cpusa.org/party_info/party-program/ p.11
8. Ibid. p.2
9. Ibid. p.2
10. Ibid. p.60
11. Ibid. p.1
12. Ibid. p.33
13. Ibid. p.3
14. E. J. Hobsbawm, Revolutionaries, p.6: “The problem of those who write the history of communist parties is therefore unusually difficult. They must recapture the unique and, among secular movements, unprecedented temper of bolshevism, equally remote from the liberalism of most historians and the permissive and self-indulgent activism of most contemporary ultras. There is no understanding it without a grasp of that sense of total devotion which made the party in Auschwitz make its members pay their dues in cigarettes (inconceivably precious and almost impossible to obtain in an extermination camp), which made the cadres accept the order not merely to kill Germans in occupied Paris, but first to acquire, individually, the arms to do so, and which made it virtually unthinkable for them to refuse to return to Moscow even to certain imprisonment or death. There is no understanding either the achievements or the perversions of bolshevism without this, and both have been monumental; and certainly no understanding of the extraordinary success of communism as a system of education for political work.”
17. Kelley, Robin G.D. Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
18. Naison, Mark D. Communists in Harlem During the Depression. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983.
19. For a more in-depth discussion on the united front, see chapter six of Mike Macnairs’ “Revolutionary Strategy.” http://ouleft.org/wp-content/uploads/Macnair-Revolutionary-Strategy.pdf
22. https://cpusa.org/party_info/party-program/ p.21
23. Ibid. p.3
24. Ibid. p.4
25. Ibid. p.41
26. Ibid. p.41
27. Ibid. p.41
28. Ibid. p.41
29. Ibid. p.41
30. For Karl Kautsky’s description of the various tricks used against the working class in the French Third Republic, see his “The Republican and Social Democracy in France.”
31. https://cpusa.org/party_info/party-program/ p.35
33. https://cpusa.org/party_info/party-program/ p.54
35. https://cpusa.org/party_info/party-program/ p.52
36. Friedrich Engels. A Critique of the Draft Social Democratic Program of 1891. https://marxists.architexturez.net/archive/marx/works/1891/06/29.htm
37. https://cpusa.org/party_info/party-program/ p.53
38. For a detailed explanation of the logistics behind organizing a democratic vote for a new U.S. Constitution, see Johan Martell’s ‘Fight the Constitution! Demand a New Republic!’ https://cosmonautmag.com/2021/03/fight-the-constitution-demand-a-new-republic/
39. For Jack Conrad’s discussion of the sordid historiography of stagism, see https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1417/memory-wars/#fnref5
40. https://cpusa.org/party_info/party-program/ p.2
41. Ibid. p.56
42. Ibid. p.56
43. Socialist Platform 1912. http://sageamericanhistory.net/progressive/docs/SocialistPlat1912.htm
*The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Midwestern Marx Institute or its editors. Our Institute values having an open space for dialogue between Marxist forces seeking to advance the struggle of the working class.
Luke Pickrell and Myra Janis are members of the Marxist Unity Group (MUG), a faction within the Democratic Socialists of America dedicated to building class independence and programmatic unity. The authors hope to engage CPUSA comrades and wider sections of the left in a discussion about building party programs capable of charting a strategic path forward for socialists.