McCarthyism and the Constitution:How the Second Red Scare Led to the Violation of the Constitution and its Amendments By: Nolan LongRead Now
“McCarthyism,” as a term, generally refers to the illegal political persecution of communists by government officials. As such, the present essay deals with not just the figure Joseph McCarthy, but with the entirety of the anti-communist repressions led by the United States government during the period of the “Second Red Scare,” which lasted from the 1940s through the 1950s. Although there is an argument to be made that the “Red Scare,” as it were, is a policy and sociological idea that continued until 1991, the period of the 1940s-50s in particular is representative of mass governmental repression and persecution of American communists. The anti-communist impulse led to trials of communists and non-communists alike. The unconstitutional nature of congressional hearings, House committees, trials, and public persecution of communists can be seen in the cases of the Hollywood Ten, the Communist Party USA, and other parties, individuals, and organizations. The Constitution, its amendments, and other founding documents of the United States were violated in the governmental persecution of communists in this chapter of American history.
The idea of McCarthyism finds its roots in the clearer practice of anti-communism. The political conditions of the postwar period shifted social focus onto the “red menace” that was the socialist world, which was growing in numbers. The American fear of communism is what led to their unconstitutional persecution of said ideology. Senator McCarthy “argued against freedom of speech because much of his rhetoric assumed that any discussion of the ideas underlying communism was dangerous and un-American” (Pufong). That is, the belief that so-called un-American activities were a threat to national security is what led the anti-communists to repress civil liberties.
The most important piece of anti-communist legislation passed during this era was the Smith Act of 1940. It “criminalized speech allegedly meant to cause the overthrow of the government” (Bruce, 25). Passed before the end of the Second World War, the Smith Act was originally used for the persecution and deportation of foreign-born residents with ties to left-wing politics, presently or in the past (Schrecker, 393-394). But following the end of the War, and with American-Soviet relations on the decline, the Smith Act began to be used to persecute American communists.
Himself just one component of the larger Second Red Scare, senator Joseph McCarthy made a name for himself through the persecution of communists within the US Congress. While congressional hearings intended to obtain information or conduct investigations are legal, those of McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) were conducted like trials, not hearings. “Joseph McCarthy spearheaded investigations with little evidence” (Pufong). Those who opposed the Senator’s methods called these hearings “witch hunts,” implying there was no real evidence for his claims; McCarthy used such tactics as public accusations, disregard for evidence, and “unfair investigatory methods” (Pufong). McCarthy, despite being a congressperson, was acting as though he were a judge, thus violating Article I of the US Constitution, which outlines the responsibilities and limits of the Congress. Jurisprudence is not included in the powers of Congress. Section 8 of Article I states that Congress has the power to “constitute Tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court.” But McCarthy’s trials were not constitutionally grounded, as they were not based on proper judicial procedures, as they were operating based on a law which Congress itself had passed, and because they were ignoring Article III, Section 2, whereby all judicial power is granted to the courts. The general unlawful nature of the McCarthy and HUAC proceedings excluded normal court and appeal processes. It can therefore be concluded that both McCarthy and the HUAC violated Articles I and III of the Constitution.
The courts were indeed subverted during the Second Red Scare, giving unconstitutional judicial power to the US Congress. “[Historian Robert] Harris found the courts proved largely powerless when faced with a rabid executive and legislature, supported by a militant public, all determined to bend civil liberties ostensibly to provide for national security” (Bruce, 33).
The McCarthyism of the Second Red Scare began to be associated with denying legal rights and due process of the law; professor of politics Marc Pufong claims that the McCarthy trials violated the Fourteenth Amendment, as the insufficient evidence and lack of due process in the trials deprived the defendants of their right to equal protection of the law. Some lawyers representing the Hollywood Ten said the HUAC trials of their clients violated the Fifth Amendment (Horne, 211). Others argued that “what HUAC did amounted to a bill of attainder, an unconstitutional targeting of one recognizable group – Communists” (199). Bills of attainder are forbidden under Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, meaning this is yet another violation. The consequences of such anti-communist trials were incredible: they led to the defendants’ public scrutiny, professional termination, deportation, and fleeing from the United States. This certainly violates the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness/property which is spoken of in both the Fourteen Amendment and the Declaration of Independence.
Because McCarthy and HUAC were, in effect, acting as courts in these trials, they were subverting American democracy by raising Congress above the level of checks and balances, so that it was operating on its own in legislation, execution, and jurisprudence.
Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution outlines the nature of Treason as “levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies.” But it was the Smith Act, not this section of the Constitution that was not the basis for the persecution of hundreds of communists during the Second Red Scare. The Smith Act was, in effect, redefining treason as any “subversive” leftist activity or association. This legislation was, then, in violation of Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution. Anti-communist public officials began using this act to justify ever more outlandish accusations of crime among American communists and their organizations. In 1948, “the government argued that the Communist Party was part of a conspiracy to advance a political ideology whose eventual goal was the destruction of the U.S. government” (Thomson). This claim was made without substantial evidence. When the law was brought to the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 1951, they ruled that the First Amendment was not violated by the Smith Act because of the Clear and Present Danger standard. Morone and Kersh define this standard as “court doctrine that permits restrictions of free speech if officials believe that the speech will lead to prohibited action such as violence or terrorism” (Morone, 124). Political scientist Claudius Johnson noted how the Clear and Present Danger standard was modified to become the “Clear and Probable Danger” standard (Bruce, 34). This change in standards came about to give the government more leeway for the repression of communists’ civil liberties, without worry of constitutional challenge. So, the very standard for the First Amendment had to be changed by the highest court in the country, just so that the prosecutions of the Second Red Scare could continue.
But the Smith Act did not go unchallenged: many more communists, lawyers, and regular citizens referred to the act as a violation of the First Amendment. The HUAC violated the First Amendment in numerous ways. Not the least among them was the case of the Hollywood Ten, where the Committee blacklisted certain writers, actors, and directors from filmmaking; they persecuted leftist filmmakers for the creation of “communist” films, a clear violation of the First Amendment (Horne, 197). In cases unrelated to the Hollywood Ten, the prosecution used another tactic to attain conviction verdicts against communists: multi-defendant trials. Where leading communists were found to violate the Smith Act (which itself was later found to be unconstitutional, leading to numerous amendments to the law), innocent communists who themselves could not be convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government were found guilty by association in multi-defendant trials (Bruce, 34). Membership in the CPUSA itself was determined a felony by multiple court decisions, an unconstitutional act which would not be overturned until 1961 (Thomson).
The United States government was obviously aware that the actions carried out under the pretense of the Smith Act were unconstitutional. The FBI, a key organization in the anti-communist movement, allied with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for the purpose of subverting the Constitution; “the FBI apparently made use of the INS’ immunity from constitutional restraints” (Schrecker, 399).
Awareness of the unconstitutionality of the anti-communist measures taken by the American government began to surface in court decisions in the late 1950s through the 1960s. In the 1951 Dennis v. United States case that upheld the convictions of eleven CPUSA leaders, Supreme Court Justice William Douglas dissented from the other Justices, saying, “any real danger presented by the communists would likely come from an alliance with the Soviet Union,” of which there was no real evidence (Bruce, 34-35). 1957 was a landmark year, as it repealed several convictions that had been won under the Smith Act by declaring its methods, wording, and prosecutions unconstitutional; the Supreme Court ruled in Yates v. United States that political rhetoric and advocacy was protected by the First Amendment (36). In 1961, criminalization of CPUSA membership was finally reversed (Thomson).
The unconstitutionality of the anti-communist measures adopted by the United States government during the period of the Second Red Scare can be seen both in the methods it undertook (illegal trials, subversion of checks and balances, limitation of freedom of speech, etc.) and in the court reversals of such standards that took place in the years after. Court recognition that these methods were unconstitutional vindicates the belief that the entirety of the McCarthyite persecutions were illegal and in violation of the Constitution all along.
Bruce, Erik. “Dangerous World, Dangerous Liberties: Aspects of the Smith Act Prosecutions.” American Communist History 13, no. 1 (2014): 25-38, web-s-ebscohost-com.cyber.usask.ca/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&sid=fdfef7b4-e35c-4350-b7a3-50ff36bf4ee9%40redis
Horne, Gerald. The Final Victim of the Blacklist: John Howard Lawson, Dean of the Hollywood Ten. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006.
Morone, James A., and Rogan Kersh. By the People: Debating American Government. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021.
Pufong, Marc G. “McCarthyism.” The First Amendment Encyclopedia, 2009. mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1061/mccarthyism
Schrecker, Ellen. “Immigration and Internal Security: Political Deportations During the McCarthy Era.” Science & Society 60, no. 4 (1996): 393-426. proquest.com/docview/216131205/fulltextPDF/DAC4F04720CA410APQ/1?accountid=14739
Thomson, Alec. “Smith Act of 1940.” The First Amendment Encyclopedia, 2009. mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1048/smith-act-of-1940
United States of America Constitution, art. 1 and 3.
Nolan Long is a Canadian undergraduate student in political studies, with a specific interest in Marxist political theory and history.
“They won’t arrest my thoughts. They won’t arrest my dreams. If they don’t let me walk, I’ll walk with your legs. If they don’t let me talk, I’ll speak through your mouth. If my heart stops beating, it will beat in your heart.” – Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva.
Overcoming poverty isn't a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. This is the best sentence to explain the works of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio da Silva, better known as Lula, the most popular president of Brazilian history, the only president that completed two terms, and the first president from the left, honored with Honoris Causa from Sciences Po, one who served the working class instead of Brazilian elites, first illiterate president who constructed most universities in Brazil. This is how people remember him.
On January 24th, 2018, Federal judge Sergio Moro passed the judgment based on the Lava Jato scandal against Lula and sentenced him to 10 years in prison without any evidence (which became 12 years in prison when he appealed). The whole process was so rigged that the media reported the judgment a few minutes before the Brazilian Supreme Court gave its verdict.
The book is comprised of the interview conducted with Lula in February 2018, just 2 months before his arrest where he exemplified his side, how convinced he was about his works, his views, Lulism (a national movement that United the middle class with the working class in Brazil), Lava Jato scandal, also known as car wash scandal which landed him in prison. The book primarily focused on his trial and politics in Brazil and the coup and failure of his successor Dilma Rousseff. He explains how the capitalist bluffed the Brazilians, how it ruined the society and basic rights of the poor, and how they controlled everything.
It is pertinent to comprehend who Lula is, whom Obama called the most popular leader in the world. Lula was born in 1945 in Caetés located 250 km from Recife, capital of Pernambuco, a state in the Northeast of Brazil, which is one of the most impoverished regions of Brazil. He was born into a poor family and had to quit school after the second grade to work and assist his family. At the age of 12, he worked as a shoe shiner and street vendor. He began to work in a warehouse when he was 14. When 16-year-old Pele became the youngest to score a goal in the world cup final and lifted the Jules Rimet trophy, Lula was a child working in a factory. At the age of 19, he had an accident in an automobile parts factory in which he lost his left hand’s pinky. He had to run to several hospitals before he received the treatment. This juncture shaped his ideas and developed his inquisitiveness in participating in the Worker’s Union.
The days of the American-backed military dictatorship were the darkest period of Brazil’s history, a period which the current Brazilian president Jair Bolosnaro glorifies. This era was characterized by a high level of unemployment, crippling recession, and most importantly the exploitation of the Brazilian proletariat. Lula started as a metalworker in 1966 at Villares Metals S.A, where inspired by his brother Frei Chico he joined the labour movement. His brother was a militant of the Communist Party himself who introduced Lula to labour militancy. He became the president of the Union in 1975.
Lula co-founded the Worker’s Party (PT) in 1980. He faced many hardships, organized labour strikes, and went to jail. He became the most voted lawmaker in 1986. He then ran for 3 unsuccessful presidential elections before becoming President in 2002. His presidency was marked by 76% reduction in chronic poverty, more than 20 million people were lifted from acute poverty, extreme poverty was dropped from 12% to 4.8%, unemployment from 10.5% to 5.7%, tripled the education budget, opened 14 new universities and illiteracy rate dropped from 17% to 9.6%. He later assumed the role of Chief of Staff under President Dilma Rousseff in 2012.
The Brazilian right wing started an impeachment process based on the Lava Jato scandal. This was the time when Jair Bolsonaro (who was very much unknown) broke into headlines when he honoured the notorious and most sadistic Brazilian general, Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, who tortured Rousseff when she was imprisoned. It was a Parliamentary coup and Brazilian democracy faced the biggest threat since the days of the military junta.
Before the 2018 elections, Lula enjoyed 39% of the votes and Bolsonaro 19%, but then Lula was incarcerated which was a ruse planned by Brazilian elites and right-wing groups. Bolsonaro's rating reached the peak when he was stabbed in a rally in September 2017, which proved vital for him as his campaign was based on chaos (most far-right election campaigns are based on threats and securities which are non-existent most of the time, but they use this fear which they manufacture to win elections and dismantle democracy). The judge who sentenced Lula, Sergio Moro, became the Minister of Justice in the Bolsonaro administration. This proves the statement that A. G. Noorani wrote in his book The Trial of Bhagat Singh, “court-rooms serve as the most convenient and effective weapon for the ruling powers whenever they took up arms against freedom and right. For a repressive and tyrannical government, no other weapon is better suited for vengeance and injustice.”
Lula was released in 2019 on the orders of Supreme Federal Court judge Edson Fachin who nullified charges against him because he was tried by a court that did not have proper jurisdiction over his case.
What Lula did for the poor and weak people in his country was something that no other president was able to achieve. He stood against racism and for the rights of blacks in his country; he was (and is) a man whose raison d'être was that every Brazilian would wake up in the morning knowing that they would have breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. This is a good read to get an idea of Brazilian politics and the impact that Lula left on Brazilian society.
This book is important for not just Brazilians who are going out to vote on 2nd October but for all of us progressives and leftist who want to send fascism back to the sewers of history. It motivates us to work tirelessly for the betterment of the working class, to develop class consciousness, to get an idea of the state weaponry and tricks that the right wing employs in the same manner everywhere by spreading hatred. Read this book comrades.
"Where there is hunger there is no hope. There is only desolation and pain. Hunger nurtures violence and fanaticism. A world where people starve will never be safe."- Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva.
Harsh Yadav is from India and has just recently graduated from Banaras Hindu University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. Harsh is a Marxist Leninist who is intrigued by different Marxist Schools of Thought, Political Philosophies, Feminism, Foreign Policy and International Relations, and History. He also maintains a bookstagram account (https://www.instagram.com/epigrammatic_bibliophile/?hl=en) where he posts book reviews, writes about historical impact, socialism, and social and political issues.
Rape Myths, White Supremacy, and the Carceral State as Tools of American Neoliberalism. By: Emely MendezRead Now
Ask any woman you meet, old or young, and she’ll tell you the reigning piece of advice that she’s been given time and time again; don’t get raped. Of course, rarely are we told such a thing so bluntly. The message is hidden in frequent warnings to not accept drinks from strangers, not drink too much at parties, not walk home alone, and not wear too-short skirts; all things meant to deter a scary man from jumping out of the bushes and attacking you. While many women follow this advice religiously, it still hasn’t done much to stop them from being victimized by rape or sexual assault due to the often unacknowledged fact that many perpetrators are people the victims knew personally. These conversations about deterring rape through individual action are often ineffective because the narrative doesn’t fit the reality. Although it seems like society is oh-so concerned over violence against women, victims are often left unseen and unheard when they seek justice against their perpetrator due to the frequent mishandling of rape cases by the criminal justice system. The reality is that the United States government does not and has never cared for protecting women, only for protecting its own interests. The threat of violence against women is but a convenient tool manipulated against the public to justify the police state, mass incarceration, and the racist criminalization of African American men and non-white immigrants – actions that ultimately enforce the hegemony of White Supremacy and the bourgeois capitalist class.
Rape myths have been used as political tools in the United States for much of modern history, predominantly as a form to uphold White Supremacist and Patriarchal ideals. Deniers of the prevalence of rape culture argue that American society has always been morally appalled by rape, however the reality is rape is only taken seriously when it can be manipulated to support the power of oppressive groups. If rape truly were to be taken seriously in the United States, then it wouldn’t be the case that less than 1% rape investigations end in incarceration for the perpetrator (Van Dam 2018). Further, the mainstream conversation surrounding sexual violence is often centered on the very specific situation of a woman being attacked by a predatory stranger on the street when the reality differs drastically. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, “8 out of 10 rapes are comitted by someone known to the victim.” (RAINN 2022). Victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence often have to tell their stories to a public that has been led to view rape as a randomized attack. When victims who were familiar with their aggressor come forward, they often have to deal with a line of questioning that perpetuates the idea that the victim was somehow inviting the assault. This nationwide misconception of sexual violence is often an influencing factor in cases like that of Brittany Smith, an Alabama woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing her agressor (Fruen et al 2020). The presiding judge over the case argued that Ms. Smith couldn’t definitively prove rape as she was the one who had invited her assailant into her home in the first place and hadn’t explicitly asked him to leave (Gill et al 2020).
The data on the reality of rape and sexual violence in the United States has not stopped American politicians from parroting rape myths in order to push certain forms of legislation, however. Conservative Republican officials and gun rights lobbyists over the past decade have been strong supporters of “Stand Your Ground” legislation, which allows for the use of deadly force as an act of self-defense in certain cases in which a person has no “duty to retreat” prior to the use of force (NCSL 2022). “Stand Your Ground” legislation has been controversial for much of its presence in American mainstream politics due to its use in the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager shot by Zimmerman on his way home from the convenience store. Zimmerman’s lawyers did not use the “Stand Your Ground” defense in particular, but his defense was dependent on the precedent set by that legislation (Coates 2013). Right wing proponents of “Stand Your Ground” legislation came to rely on rape myths and misconceptions of sexual violence in order to defend these laws against the onslaught of opposition. In support of “Stand Your Ground” legislation, Florida politicians Don and Matt Gaetz and NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer argued that the legislations’ opposition were “‘anti-woman,’” as these laws would ultimately aid women who defend themselves against a would-be rapist (Franks 2014). As seen in the case of Brittany Smith, however, “Stand Your Ground” has not been very effective in this sense.
Rape myths and the threat of sexual violence against women has also been heavily influential in upholding White Supremacy for much of American history. The myth of the Black male rapist dates back to the abolition of slavery and the Reconstruction Era South, in which White Supremacists sought a justification for lynchings and mass incarceration. Black men were painted as brutal and “savage” caricatures by White men, “the claim that black brutes were, in epidemic numbers, raping white women became the public rationalization for the lynching of blacks.” (Pilgrim 2000). Arguably the most well-known instance of lynching in the United States is that of young Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy brutally murdered by a White mob for whistling at an older White woman whom admitted decades later she’d fabricated the interaction (Perez-Peña 2017). Over the course of modern history following the abolition of slavery, the myth of the “black brute” has led to black men experiencing higher rates of incarceration than any other racial demographic. According to the NAACP, African Americans experience 5x the rate of incarceration of White Americans and made up 34% of the correctional population in 2014 (NAACP 2022). The myth of the Black male rapist was influential in the convictions of the infamous Central Park Five case, in which five Black teenage boys were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for the gang rape of a White woman in NYC’s Central Park (Duru 2004).
Generation after generation of Black men have been chewed up and spit out by the American carceral system with the threat of sexual violence as a convenient justification for it all. In what has arguably become known as a second Civil Rights Movement, Black activists in the past decade have pointed to mass incarceration as a continuation of slavery, with Ava DuVernay’s Oscar winning 13th documentary being a major part of the conversation surrounding mass incarceration. Although the 13th Amendment does, in fact, legalize slave labor as a condition of incarceration, less than 1% of incarcerated individuals are employed by private companies (Sawyer et al 2022). While labor exploitation is part of the suffering inflicted by mass incarceration, the forced idleness of incarcerated individuals has a much broader impact. The masses of Black men sitting in prisons not only serves to keep the Black population subjugated, but also to maintain a certain level of poverty and unemployment in the U.S. that weakens the bargaining power of the working class.
Neoliberal economic policy in the United States over the past 40 years has been centered on limiting labor power as much as possible, as seen in the steady decrease of union membership across the nation which coincides with the rise of American companies engaging in offshore manufacturing (Vachon 2013). The United States’ particular brand of transnational capitalism is reliant on maintaining a certain level of unemployment within the country. The cost of labor in the U.S. deters American companies from making a return to domestic manufacturing, and in order to avoid a rise in wages and a subsequent profit squeeze for companies that do hire American laborers, the state must avoid a too-low unemployment rate. Forced idleness is a major issue in American prisons, with the Brennan Center for Justice arguing that it is one of the main sources of prison violence (Hopwood 2021). Further, the forced idleness perpetuated in prisons reinforces a high rate of unemployment and recidivism for formerly incarcerated individuals. According to Phillipe Bourgois’s “Lumpen Abuse: The Human Rights Costs of Neoliberalism,” the criminal records of formerly incarcerated individuals, “exacerbated by a low skill level imposed by years of forced idleness in a purposefully hostile carceral environment condemns them to chronic unemployment upon their release from prison.” (Bourgois 2011). The criminalization of Black men through the threat of sexual violence against women and the Black male rapist myth has been used to sustain mass incarceration, which ultimately reinforces the exploitation of the working class.
Black Americans have not been the only demographic who’s marginalization has been justified by myths of sexual violence. The massive waves of immigrants, predominantly non-white Latin Americans, who have presented themselves at the Southern border have become an incredibly politically contentious group. Throughout the span of the 2016 Presidential election, anti-immigrant rhetoric became foundational to the right wing populism that brought Republican nominee Donald Trump to victory. During a particularly infamous campaign speech, Trump referred to migrants traveling across South America and crossing over into the U.S. as “‘rapists’” and that women migrants were being raped at “‘levels nobody’s ever seen before,’” claims that he ultimately could not back with empirical data (Mark 2018). Throughout the 2016-2020 Trump administration, his “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy prosecuted migrants at the border for illegal entry and forcibly separated migrant children from their parents, with some parents even being deported while their children were still detained in the states (Diaz 2021). According to Pew Research Center, ICE arrests rose by over 30% in 2017 after an executive order from then-President Trump expanded their authority to allow for arrests of migrants without criminal records (Gramlich 2020). Thousands of migrants who presented themselves at the border – which is considered a legal way to request asylum by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS 2022) – were held in detention centers and treated as criminals while the President justified it all by calling them “rapists.”
Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric was one of the main aspects of his right wing populist campaign which ultimately brought him to victory. In the 2016 election, Trump won 67% of white voters without a college degree, one of the largest margins seen by a presidential candidate since 1980 (Maniam 2016). Coincidentally, the 1980s was around the time that neoliberalism became a dominant economic ideology in the United States due to the Reagan administration. Between 1980 and 2000, the U.S. experienced the loss of around 2 million manufacturing jobs (Charles 2019). As individuals without a college degree are more likely to work blue collar jobs and Trump’s campaign was centered around the classic image of immigrants “stealing” jobs from naturalized Americans, it is only logical that non college educated white voters would be so overwhelmingly supportive of his presidential bid. Donald Trump’s decision to paint Latin American migrants as “rapists” conveniently took away from the image of migrants as predominantly people in search of work. His criminalization of migrants and the increase in ICE arrests and detentions ultimately enforced the hegemony of Whiteness and maintained the racial divisions amongst the working masses.
Rape myths and public misconceptions of the reality of sexual violence have been the driving force behind the criminalization of Black men and non-white immigrants in the U.S. Mass incarceration and anti-immigrant domestic policy has kept the working class powerless and divided with “protecting” women being used as one of many convenient excuses. The dominance of White, cisgender, heterosexual, wealthy men in the United States is maintained while politicians try to convince the public that freedom of “vulnerable” members of society such as women is their main concern. The reality is that the criminal justice system in the United States does not and has never been concerned with sexual violence against women; the states’ primary concern is and always has been maintaining White Supremacist and capitalist hegemony.
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Butler, P., Strode, B., & Johnson, A. (2021, August 23). How atrocious prisons conditions make us all less safe.
Brennan Center for Justice. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/how-atrocious-prisons-conditions-make-us-all-less-safe
Charles, Hurst, E., & Schwartz, M. (2019). The Transformation of Manufacturing and the Decline in US Employment. NBER Macroeconomics Annual, 33(1), 307–372. https://doi.org/10.1086/700896
Coates, T.-N. (2013, July 16). How stand your ground relates to George Zimmerman. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/07/how-stand-your-ground-relates-to-george-zimmerman/277829/
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Diaz, J. (2021, January 27). Justice Department rescinds Trump's 'Zero tolerance' immigration policy. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2021/01/27/961048895/justice-department-rescinds-trumps-zero-tolerance-immigration-policy
Duru. (2004). The Central Park five, the Scottsboro boys and the myth of the bestial black man. Cardozo Law Review, 25(4), 1315–.
Franks. (2014). Real men advance, real women retreat: Stand Your Ground, battered women’s syndrome, and violence as male privilege. University of Miami Law Review, 68(4), 1099–.
Gill, L., Mellins, S., French, P., & Vaughn, J. (2020, February 4). Judge Denies 'Stand Your Ground' Defense For Alabama Woman Who Killed Her Alleged Rapist. The Appeal. https://theappeal.org/judge-denies-stand-your-ground-defense-for-alabama-woman-who-killed-her-alleged-rapist/.
Gramlich, J. (2020, September 8). How border apprehensions, ice arrests and deportations have changed under trump. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/03/02/how-border-apprehensions-ice-arrests-and-deportations-have-changed-under-trump/
Griffith, K., & Fruen, L. (2020, November 1). Alabama woman pleads guilty to murdering her rapist. Daily Mail Online. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8825697/Alabama-woman-pleads-GUILTY-murdering-rapist.html
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Van Dam, A. (2021, September 28). Analysis | Less than 1% of rapes lead to felony convictions. At least 89% of victims face emotional and physical consequences. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/10/06/less-than-percent-rapes-lead-felony-convictions-least-percent-victims-face-emotional-physical-consequences/
My name is Emely Mendez. I'm a Dominican American student at CUNY John Jay College and I'm soon to graduate with a BA in Law and Society. My interests primarily consist of radicalism in Black, Indigenous, and immigrant communities, gender as an oppressive force, and the neocolonial relationship between the United States and Latin America.
Countries in Latin America have often faced the possibility of U.S. intervention, whether it be economic or military. From 1968 to 1989, the governments of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador were overthrown, and they were usually leftist/Marxist governments. After the threat of Fascism was defeated at the end of WWII, two main ideologies competed to be the dominant force in the world. Capitalism and Communism. Latin America proved to be the perfect place for Proxy Wars between the United States and the Soviet Union to square off. At Operation Condor's height, the main perpetrators and advocates were Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. Kissinger and Nixon were both big believers in the "domino theory," which was a theory during the Cold War that if one country fell to Communism, the rest in the region would fall next. So, to stop the spread, the U.S. and its allies would often work together to overthrow leftist governments and install opposition leaders in Latin America and all over the world.
These opposition governments would be pretty brutal and murder thousands of innocent civilians in some cases. However, even today, in the 21st century, long after the Cold War ended, the United States still keeps trying to overthrow governments in Latin America. Two of the most recent cases have been in Venezuela and Bolivia. In 2019, the United States successfully ousted Evo Morales as president. Moreover, in 2020, there was a half-assed attempt to overthrow Maduro in Venezuela by American Mercenaries and exiled Venezuelan nationals. This paper will explore how the United States continues to overthrow these governments and the legality behind such actions. It will also examine how these coups look from the leftist leader's perspective using two documentary films.
Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela in 1999 and was often regarded as a modern-day Simon Bolivar, but his critics in the U.S. and elsewhere referred to him as "just another thug." Some of Chávez's most notable moments are his frequent criticisms of the state of Israel and calling President George W. Bush "the devil" during his 2006 U.N. speech. Chávez was born in Sabaneta as the youngest of six children. He was born on July 28, 1954, in Sabaneta, Barinas. His mom and dad both had jobs as school teachers and did not have adequate money, so he was sent to live with his Grandma in Barinas, a Venezuelan city. While serving in the Venezuelan army, Hugo became fascinated with leftist philosophers and revolutionaries such as Mao Zedong, Vladamir Lenin, and Karl Marx. However, Hugo took most of his influence from Ezequiel Zamora, a Venezuelan soldier and revolutionary, and he specifically referenced the work "The Times of Ezequiel Zamora." After Hugo was forcibly retired from the military, he began his work in revolutionary politics, eventually leading to a jailed coup attempt in 1992. After his release, he ran for president and was elected in 1999. Chávez's time in office was marked by improving five key institutions:
Chávez was widely admired in Venezuela even after his death from cancer in 2013. Some citizens even have his eyes tattooed on their heads above their eyes. Hugo's rise to power is genuinely fascinating, but Evo's is even better.
Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia in 2006 at the heart of the water privatization crisis. Evo's election was remarkable because he was the country's first Indigenous president after having all the previous presidents be a part of the white minority. After Evo graduated from high school, he, like Chávez, joined the military and eventually moved with his family to eastern Bolivia. He became active in the Bolivian worker unions and eventually became the general secretary of the coca-growers union in 1985. Evo eventually took an interest in politics, founded the leftist nationalist party, and named it “Movement Toward Socialism" (Movimiento al Socialismo M.A.S.). Evo eventually ran for president but lost in 2002. He ran again in 2005 and quickly won with fifty-four percent of the vote. Some of the pledges he made were:
Evo's presidency was also filled with many anti-American sentiments, not just through legislation but through speeches he gave. "Death to the Yankees!" His disdain did not just stop for America but Israel and NATO as well calling them "butchers" and "assassins." While he did have friendly relationships with notable U.S. politicians such as Jimmy Carter and Bernie Sanders, he remained staunchly anti-America. Even recently, he refused to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and instead blamed America and NATO for starting the conflict. "A country which has "caused the death of millions with the atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Condor Plan in Latin America and NATO interventionism in so many countries of the world now threatens to make Russia' pay a high price' for defending its continuity as a sovereign state.” Despite both Chávez and Morales being leftist leaders from Latin America, they were also both overthrown in U.S.-backed coups in ordinary as well. Chávez was successfully ousted in 2002 by the Bush administration and Morales in 2019 by the Trump administration. Two documentary films help explain how these leaders reached that point:
"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" begins with Hugo Chávez walking around Venezuela, giving speeches railing against neoliberalism, and showing how the rest of the International community views him. It then explains how Chávez rose to power and what a typical day for him was like, as well as him doing his infamous TV Show, Alo Presidente, which allows citizens to call in and talk to Chávez. Viewers get to see differing perspectives on how the rich and poor view Chávez. Wealthy Venezuelans hate him and view Chávez as a communist who will destroy the Venezuelan economy because he wants to nationalize the oil industry. Poor Venezuelans, however, love Hugo and always wear these unique red shirts when they go to see him in public. They are referred to as "Chavismos." Western hostility toward Chávez increased significantly after he finally decided to nationalize the oil industry "Petróleos de Venezuela, PDVSA." This decision dramatically angers business leader Pedro Carmona and union boss Carlos Ortega, and they start scheming to overthrow Chávez. They travel to Washington D.C. to meet with C.I.A. and State Department officials. On April 11, 2001, opposition protesters marched on the headquarters of Petróleos while Chávez supporters headed toward the presidential palace.
Chaos breaks out, resulting in the death of civilians, and both sides blame each other for the violence. Military generals head to Chávez and demand his resignation as President of Venezuela. Opposition leaders appear on the country's private tv network and tell the people of Venezuela that a new government will be established. Chávez's support by the people axes the new government's story that Chávez resigned from the presidency, and on April 13, figures of the new government were arrested. Chávez returns to the country after regaining military control and tells his people that they can protest against him, but they cannot defy the Constitution. Varying opposition leaders and participants in the coup either fled to the United States or stayed in the country because Hugo said no one would be held accountable. Events leading to Evo Morales's removal from the presidency follow a very similar path, and it is well documented in the movie "It was a Coup."
Evo Morales had been accusing the United States of trying to destabilize his government ever since being elected president. He even made a trip to the United States in 2013 to visit Jimmy Carter to help improve relations. Evo always had a rocky relationship with the U.S. Presidents, including Obama, because he thought Obama was pandering and imperialistic. His relationship with Donald Trump was way more tumultuous because of Trump's arrogance and embrace of "American Exceptionalism." When Trump threatened North Korea with "fire and fury," Evo Morales condemned him and said his threats were an insult to humanity. At the 2018 U.N. security council meeting, Morales tore into Trump and American foreign policy. Evo raged that the United States could not care less about human rights or democracy and listed the "failings" of the country. When the 2019 presidential crisis occurred in the country and Morales was ousted as the President, Trump and Elon Musk openly celebrated the news on Twitter. It became apparent immediately that the U.S. Government was involved in the coup.
"It was a Coup" opens with the beginning of the 2019 Bolivia election and how the U.S.-backed group "Organization of American States" influenced it. Organization of American States is an international organization created in the late 1940s to help cooperation between America and its Latin American counterparts. "In Nov. 2019, the O.A.S. issued a preliminary report questioning the transparency of the presidential elections when the vote count was still ongoing. Using this report as a pretext, opposition right-wing politicians Carlos Mesa and Fernando Camacho urged for demonstrations, which paramilitary groups and the Police supported." Riots ensued across Bolivia for twenty-one days before the European Union, O.A.S., United States, Bolivian Police, and Bolivian military urged Morales to resign. Opposition to morales is a right-wing racist Christian fascist government called National Unity Front. While a large chunk of the Bolivian population is Indigenous with their religion, forty-one percent, there is a small minority of "racist elite" that is very white and Christian. After the coup was successful, the Interim President, Jeanine Áñez, went to the Balcony of the Presidential Palace and held up a bible, and declared that "God has returned to Bolivia!" Áñez was not the only politician who viewed the coup as having the approval of Jesus himself, the coup leader and billionaire Luis Fernando had a very similar reaction.
"With a Bible in one hand and a national flag in the other, Camacho bowed his head in prayer above the presidential seal, fulfilling his vow to purge his country's Native heritage from government and "return God to the burned palace.” The coup mongers in Bolivia felt justified in overthrowing the government because they had Jesus on their side. They were destroying the reign of the evil Indigenous people with their false religion. There were similar tones with the efforts of regime change attempts in Venezuela, not just in 2002 but in 2017 and 2020. Then vice-president Mike Pence said that the United States could not “just stand by and watch the evil Maduro regime destroy one of the most successful countries in our hemisphere.” When Jordan Goudreau's mercenary firm "Silvercorp" organized an attempted coup in 2020, he declared in a social media video that "a brave and noble operation is underway" as they invaded a sovereign nation. American mainstream media constantly portrays the ouster of a leftist leader as an evil dictator being thrown off the power by the American liberators. They never acknowledge the possibility that the replacement government could be even worse or that they will have the possibility to commit human rights violations.
Bolivia's interim government at the time did exactly that by Jeanine Áñez committing genocide against the Indigenous protestsers by ordering the military to execute protestors. Evo Morales was crying at the sight of what was happening to his country. "I want to tell you, brothers and sisters, that the fight does not end here; we will continue this fight for equality, for peace,” Morales declared. Venezuelan opposition members were also accused of having fascist and racist tendencies and corruption. Jeanine Áñez's Venezuelan counterpart Juan Guaidó was recently caught up in a corruption scandal that many think undermined him as a legitimate presidential candidate. Specifically, Guaidó, along with other members of his team and various opposition members, were caught in an influence-peddling operation. "The interim government has become a group that has propitiated unacceptable actions of corruption that seriously hurt the democratic struggle and move us away from our goal of freedom.” Essentially, the type of candidates that represent the opposition to the country's current government have many skeletons in their closets. However, it is never taken into account because of the economic and alternative interests of the U.S. government. For Americans to access this information, they usually have to go to alternative sources such as "TheGrayZone," "Redfish media," or leftist media from the country to find this type of information. While it is essential always to remain skeptical because such sources could produce propaganda, it still does not mean that the U.S. or western media, in general, cannot have propaganda of their own. It does not stop with western media producing propaganda either; the government and leaders also play an integral role in such propaganda.
When Donald Trump was still president of the United States, he invited Juan Guaidó to the 2020 SOTU, State of the Union. He called Guaidó "the true President of Venezuela," with no actual evidence to back up that claim except unproven allegations of voter fraud in the 2018 Venezuelan election. Guaidó was then given a standing ovation by Republicans and Democrats alike. In the same year, when Bernie Sanders was running for president for the second time, he decided to support Morales during the presidential crisis of 2019 and agreed he was the victim of a coup. He specifically cited the Bolivian opposition's use of the military to secure their power as proof. "Now we can argue about his going for a fourth term, whether that was a wise thing to do... But at the end of the day, the military intervened in that process and asked him to leave. When the military intervenes, Jorge, in my view, that's called a 'coup, said Bernie Sanders.” He was the only politician running in 2020 to call the events in Bolivia a coup, while all the other candidates said that Morales was on his way to becoming a dictator and needed to be forcibly removed. Scholars have researched this topic to see how political unrest in other nations is viewed by the citizens and leaders on the receiving end. Before taking a deeper look, let’s get the perspectives from the mouths of the leaders themselves.
During an interview with Vice News in 2020, Morales was asked how he had been doing since the crisis. Moreover, why does he perceives what happened as a coup. First, Evo begins talking about how his term was supposed to end on January 22, 2020, and he was forced to resign on November 11, 2019. Next, Evo talks about how the Police joined with the opposition, and then eventually, the armed forces asked for his resignation. The main reason why Evo decided to resign was to avoid mass murder on a large scale because of how the citizens were in mutiny. The interim government's massacre incredibly saddened Morales; 35 protesters were murdered, but he knew deep down that democracy would return to Bolivia, and his legacy could never be erased. However, Morales also saw a bright spot in the situation by claiming that his party would win over the younger generations after the coup. "For the younger generations, it is important to know what it is like to live under a right-wing government, under a dictatorship.” Chávez had a very similar reaction to the coup attempt against him.
Before the coup attempt against Chávez, there was zero possibility of U.S. involvement because he thought the era of Cold War power politics had ended. However, after the coup was over and Chávez had successfully returned to power, he changed his tune and accused the U.S. of orchestrating it themselves. He even alleged that U.S. military personnel met with top Venezuelan coup leaders. While there was still no way to prove that the U.S. was involved with the coup at the time, evidence eventually emerged that the U.S. had prior knowledge of the coup. While giving no direct support to the opposition, they would have no problem seeing Chávez ousted. While these coups took place in separate countries, they both have a similar story about how they happened. Allegations of corruption or voter fraud appear, and the current government is portrayed as a budding dictatorship, so a coup is needed to save democracy. While it is essential to keep in mind that leftist authoritarian leaders have existed in the past and currently as well who are more than capable of human rights violations, it still does not excuse the actions of imperialist governments. So how does one know how to tell if a tyrant is trying to steal an election or if it is simply more lies from the U.S. State Department? Doctor Greogry Wilpert has an interesting analysis about how the U.S. did want Chávez ousted from power and got away with lying about their involvement.
Gregory Wilpert is a doctor in sociology who is a staunch supporter of the Bolivarian Revolution. However, he did move to Caracas with his family to help outsiders get a better understanding of the current events in Venezuela. After Chávez died, he appeared on the independent American T.V. show "Democracy Now!" before moving to Ecuador to work for another T.V. channel. Before all that happened, though, he wrote a fascinating article regarding the 2002 coup attempt. "The first, most widely accepted version has it that Chávez was arrested by opposition-allied military officers on the pretense that he ordered the attack on the demonstrators; the coup plotters then proceeded to dismantle all state institutions in order to establish a dictatorship. The second version, told by the hardcore opposition, holds that there was no coup. In this telling, Chávez did order the Venezuelan military, as well as Chavista paramilitary thugs, to shoot the demonstrators.” Wilpert later discusses how given that the two sides of the story are so vastly different, it is vital not to take any side too seriously. He later comments on how crucial it is to be incredibly skeptical of the U.S. because of Venezuela's large abundance of natural resources and the U.S. Government's long history of intervening in foreign relations for ulterior motives. Wilpert then mentions a book called "The Silence and the Scorpion" written by scholar and teacher Brian Nelson, who tries to give an accurate account of the coup. Wilpert criticizes the book as being an apologist for the opposition because the people he chose to interview for the book were four opposition marchers, three pro-Chávez demonstrators, three journalists, four politicians, and five military generals. However, most of the book is taken up from the perspective of three people Efraín Vásquez Velasco and Manuel Rosendo, Francisco Usón.
All three of these men are against Chávez and his regime, which Wilpert points out delegitimizes the book as a non-bias source. "Moreover, he leaves it unclear as to whether the book is meant as an objective description or merely a narrative version of his informants' interviews. One is tempted to think the latter since he never corrects their outright falsehoods, such as Vásquez Velasco's claim that Chávez "had always dreamed of a socialist Venezuela.” Chávez did not even begin talking about socialism in Venezuela until 2005. While the research and analysis that Wilpert makes are thought-provoking, a criticism that could be lodged at him is the same he lodged at Nelson. Which is that Nelson was pro-Chávez and that he could not give an accurate account of the events that occurred in 2002. Another fascinating article further indicated the U.S.’s involvement and was regarded as one of the most censored documents between 2002-2003.
The article was written by an American journalist named Karen Talbot titled "Coup-Making in Venezuela: Bush and the Oil Factors," written in July 2002. Talbot is not only a journalist but the director of the "International Council for Peace and Justice." Talbot begins talking about how Hugo Chávez saw himself as a Robinhood-like figure who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. It made him incredibly unpopular with wealthy elitists in his country and the United States. Next, she discusses how while the details of the coup against Chávez still need to be found, the evidence of the Bush administration's involvement has already come to light. Talbot uses two pieces of information about how prominent Washington and Bush's administration officials constantly criticized Chávez, and the administration failed to condemn the coup against Chávez. For example, Condoleezza Rice famously said, "I believe there is an assault on democracy in Venezuela, and I believe that there are significant human rights issues in Venezuela," Rice told lawmakers at a congressional hearing. "I believe there is an assault on democracy in Venezuela, and I believe that there are significant human rights issues in Venezuela.” Other examples include:
Nevertheless, probably the most important was since the Bush administration had the support of a large swath of right-wing Cubans. Who not only demanded that Bush do everything in his power to end the regime of Fidel Castro, but due to Chávez's close relationship with Fidel, they demanded he goes as well. Serious opposition to Chávez started when he wanted to nationalize the oil industry, and the opposition had opposite plans to privatize the oil industry. The New York Times reported that one of the top oil executives met with coup leaders at the military coup leader’s headquarters. Bush's Latin American Secretary of State Otto Reich was a right-wing Cuban who was also a lobbyist for Mobil Oil and hosted the Venezuelan coup leaders at the White House. They discussed details about the coup, including when it would happen and its chances of succeeding. The London newspaper "The Guardian" also confirmed that U.S. military personnel decided to meet with the Venezuelan coup leaders in June 2001. U.S. navy personnel even decided to get directly involved in the coup by providing signals intelligence and communications jamming support to Venezuelan military personnel involved. "Seeing the disturbing similarities to the 1973 U.S. instigated Chilean coup-which occurred after one failed coup attempt- the majority of Venezuelan people are remaining vigilant about further moves to oust Chávez. The people of the United States have the responsibility and the possibility to put an end to the Bush administration's anti-democratic overt operations and military interventions in Venezuela.” While the unrest that swept the nation of Venezuela is remarkable, it was not as stunning as the events in Bolivia due to the Brazen nature of the actors involved.
"In July 2020, following the Bolivian coup d'etat, Elon Musk tweeted to his more than 40 million followers, "We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it." He made this threat in response to a Twitter user's accusation that the tech billionaire collaborated with the U.S. government to orchestrate a coup against then-Bolivian president Evo Morales as a means to gain greater access to the country's lithium supply after he canceled a contract to privatize Bolivia's lithium mines.” Elon openly bragged about his company's involvement in the coup and that he feels entitled to overthrow governments to get natural resources. After Evo Morales returned from exile in Argentina, he read Elon's tweet out loud to a crowd of his supporters. "He was arrogant so as to carry out coups all for natural resources, all for lithium.”
Gabriel Hetland wrote a very in-depth analysis about what he felt led to Morales's ouster in his academic journal of NACLA, North American Congress on Latin America. Gabriel begins talking about how to understand why the country's first indigenous president, who was able to achieve so much with social programs, infrastructure, and indigenous rights, had his career ended so abruptly. In order to help explain how these events unfolded, Hetland went back to all of them in 2016. In 2016, Morales decided to amend the constitution to have indefinite presidential elections, but it failed. Morales and his supporters wanted these indefinite elections because they felt that there would be a "dirty war" campaign against him. Their fears turned out to be legitimate because before Morales tried to amend the constitution, Bolivian conservative media ran a story about Evo having a love child. The evidence that conservative media used to explain their story was that the baby either died or never existed. Nonetheless, it had an impact because Evo lost the vote. He was successful in 2017 with the referendum and was able to run for president again, but it made him unpopular with the middle class.
Hetland then further explains that after the Organization of American States (OAS) published the election fraud report after the election fraud report, it caused many people to take to the streets and demand that Morales resign and for a new election. However, it was not until the "Economic and Policy Research" published a report of their own that alleged the OAS was not being truthful. "A report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research makes a convincing case that the OAS acted in a biased manner and failed to present evidence of actual fraud.” While Hetland acknowledges that the OAS acted in bad faith, he also makes some concessions that Morales had not been as popular as he was when he first came to power. Specifically, Hetland mentions an event that occurred in 2011 which pitted Morales against the very indigenous communities he was supposed to be representing as a presiden. Morales wanted to build a road through Bolivia's TIPNIS national park. This event was significant for two main reasons, the first being it showed his counterparts on the left were criticizing Morales. With not only the Indigenous people criticizing him but even one of his former UN Ambassadors, Pablo Solón. Secondly, the TIPNIS conflict caused a split among and even within popular-sector organizations that had previously been allied with Morales. "This led to a weakening of popular-class organizational and mobilizational capacity, a factor some analysts suggest explains the relative slowness with which some social movements came to Morales' defense after the November 10 coup.” Hetland then reassures the readers that this leftist opposition to Morales does not mean the events that unfolded were a coup because the military were still the ones to demand the resignation of Morales. Hetland then describes how the interim government is a quasi- dictatorship.
Hetland begins by talking about the various human rights violations that the Áñez government has committed:
Hetland also mentions how due to the Áñez's government's religious bigotry, there has been a rise in anti-Indigenous racism. There are instances of anti-Indigenous groups burning the wiphala flag, representing the indigenous community. What troubles Hetland most about the events in Bolivia was how Áñez came to power. In order for Áñez to become the president, it did not just require the resignation of Morales but his Vice president and the presidents of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Hetland claims that these were not voluntary because "they happened in the context of the kidnapping of MAS officials' relatives and burning of their houses. With those above her gone, Áñez staked her claim to the president's office, even though she had no constitutional authority to take on this role as vice president of the Senate, she had no constitutional authority to take on this role.” So it is evident that human rights are being violated publicly and humanitarian efforts directed at helping the people of Bolivia need to happen immediately. Jeanine Áñez has been in prison since early 2021 and has attempted suicide. She is still awaiting trial for said human rights abuses. At the same time, it is clear that some scholars indicate that Morales was not the most transparent leader. There has also been a consensus that indicates a large percentage of the people of Bolivia support the left-wing movement. Furthermore, they prefer there not to be any coups or outside involvement.
The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project put out a report in 2021, which clearly stated that since it only took a little over a year for Morale's party to return to power, the population intensely disliked him, Morales, or his movement. "Following Arce's victory, it is evident that the left-wing project is backed by more than half of the country's population. However, many on the left call for more transparency and legitimacy for political processes in a departure from the way that Morales has led the country in the past.” Barry Cannon had a very similar conclusion in his academic journal, where he came to realize that economic inequality in Venezuela was so prevalent that Chávez's popularity was sincere. Despite all of his critics and flaws. "The Venezuelan opposition should accept the reality of this class division and therefore the Chávez government as a legitimate representative of the popular classes.” Learning about how these coups occur and the amount of propaganda put out to keep one narrative alive and labeling anything contradicting as "misinformation" or "propaganda" is astonishing.
These two documentary films follow Chávez and Morales around and try to get the most accurate dipication about not just who these men were. But also how their presidencies and their subsequent removal was viewed by their countrymen. There is an obvious bias because they do try to poraty Chávez and Morales in the most favorable light possible., but in a way, it is understandable. After learning how dishonest the U.S. government and business officials are about their true ambitions and involvement in these coups through scholarly works, it is hard to portray them as heroes or liberators. I think these documentaries are meant to show the other side of these events from the receiving end perspective and that just because someone you do not like is in charge of a country. It does not give anyone the right to take it upon themselves to intervene in elections or overthrow governments. Even in 2022, media outlets such as Redfish are being refused access to the Ukraine war because they are labeled as "Russian State Media." Even though they are based in the United States and are entirely independent, and have won multiple awards, it is essential to remember that there are two sides to every story, and then there is the truth. Moreover, to figure out the truth, every side needs to be treated as equal.
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Al Jazeera. “Evo Morales Steps down: Reaction from Latin America and Beyond.” Evo Morales News | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, November 11, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/11/evo-morales-steps-down-reaction-from-latin-america-and-beyond.
Blumenthal , Max, and Ben Norton. “Bolivia Coup Led by Christian Fascist Paramilitary Leader and Millionaire – with Foreign Support.” The Grayzone, January 6, 2021. https://thegrayzone.com/2019/11/11/bolivia-coup-fascist-foreign-support-fernando-camacho/.
“Bolivia's Evo Morales Has Not given up on ... - Youtube.” Accessed April 27, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcL9aztJlWk.
“Bolivian Gov't and Evo Do Not See Ukraine Crisis the Same Way.” MercoPress. Accessed April 20, 2022.
Cannon, Barry. “Venezuela, April 2002: Coup or Popular Rebellion? the Myth of a United Venezuela.” Bulletin of Latin American Research 23, no. 3 (2004): 285–302. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0261-3050.2004.00109.x.
“Chavez Is 'Destroying' Venezuela, Rice Says.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, February 7, 2007. https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna17027314.
Clark, Ziare. “JPIA: The Failed 2019 Bolivian Coup.” The Journal of Politics & International Affairs. The Journal of Politics & International Affairs, September 22, 2021. https://www.jpianyu.org/archive/2021/10/20/the-failed-2019-bolivian-coup.
“Evo Morales Reads Elon Musk's Tweet - Youtube.” Accessed May 5, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4W4NU_spTCM.
Hetland, Gabriel. “Understanding Bolivia's Nightmare.” NACLA, November 20, 2019. https://nacla.org/news/2019/11/19/bolivia-morales-coup.
Malaea, Marika. “Bernie Sanders Is the Only Presidential Candidate to Call Bolivia President's Ouster a ‘Coup.’” Newsweek. Newsweek, November 20, 2019. https://www.newsweek.com/bernie-sanders-only-presidential-candidate-call-bolivia-presidents-ouster-coup-1472847.
Mannion, Sean, and Carmen Soliz. “Main Navigation Main Menumenu Home about Current Issue Submissions Style Sheets Hahr Editorial Policy Open Forum Multimedia Interviews Thematic Collections News/Events GIS Maps for Jeffrey A. Erbig Jr.. Site Content Index Contact.” HAHR, December 18, 2019. https://hahr-online.com/forum-contemporary-bolivia-and-history-soliz/.
teleSUR/les-MS. “Venezuelan Opposition Admits Guaidó's Team Committed Corruption.” News | teleSUR English. teleSUR, December 6, 2021.
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Wilpert, Gregory. “The Venezuelan Coup Revisited: Silencing the Evidence.” NACLA, June 26, 2009. https://nacla.org/article/venezuelan-coup-revisited-silencing-evidence.
Dan Sullivan is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte studying World War 2 History and minoring in Communications and Journalism. When it comes to writing about Marxism and Socialism he takes a concentrated look into the U.S. and E.U. Imperialism especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He is very passionate about creating and putting into place a brand new system of eco-socialism to address the ongoing food and climate crisis. He also takes an interest in how the American church perpetuates the ongoing cycle of violence of American Capitalism by keeping workers content with deplorable conditions. He plans on working for a non-corporate media outlet to report on the U.S. Empire and NATO war crimes and imperialism.
The Status of Women in Pre-Revolutionary Cuba
Under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which lasted from 1952-1959, women lived under the yoke of a patriarchal society (Lamrani). They made up only 17% of the workforce, often being restricted to the role of mother and domestic caretaker; where they did work, they received much lower compensation than did men (Lamrani). From 1934 (pre-Batista) to 1958, only 26 women held governmental positions in all of Cuba (Lamrani).
Women’s Involvement in the Insurrection
In 1952, democratically elected president of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista seized total power of the island nation in a coup, suspending the 1940 Constitution, and establishing his rule as a fascist dictator, receiving recognition of legitimacy from the United States government (“Cuba: Timeline of a Revolution). In response to Batista’s dictatorship, many groups with varying ideologies engaged in revolutionary struggle against Batista before Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement succeeded in deposing him in 1959 (“Cuba: Timeline of a Revolution”). Among the multitude of anti-Batista groups were two all-women activist groups, the FCMM and the MOU, which were ideologically aligned with the centre-left party and Communist Party of Cuba respectively (Chase). These groups participated in civil protests and press denunciations against the Batista dictatorship, as well as organized support for a hunger strike carried out by political prisoners (Chase).
The most significant revolutionary group, though, was Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s 26th of July Movement, which succeeded in removing Batista from power and establishing Castro as the new leader of Cuba in 1959, after they seized control of Havana (“Cuba: Timeline of a Revolution”). The role of women within the 26th of July Movement was mostly (but not entirely) involved in underground support, which included strategizing, transmitting messages, providing safe houses, and transporting materials (Seidman). This was not their only role, though: Fidel Castro describes the revolutionary involvement of comrade Haydée Santamaría, who was directly involved in the insurrection, the same as were her male comrades: when being interrogated and tortured by Batista’s officers, Santamaría was told that they had killed her brother, to which she replied, “he is not dead; to die for one’s homeland is to live forever” (Castro, 47). Castro remarks on her revolutionary character: “never had the heroism and the dignity of Cuban womanhood reached such heights” (47).
Certainly, there was a presence of women in the 26th of July Movement, even if they were outnumbered by their male counterparts (Herman). This can also be seen in the existence of an all-woman squadron within the Movement, called the Mariana Grajales (Lamrani). Women’s active involvement within the revolution, both in their own groups and within the victorious sect, set the stage for their increased role in post-insurrectionary Cuban society.
The Feminist Elements and Victories of Revolutionary Cuba
In the year following the end of the insurrectionary period of the Cuban Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) was founded by Vilma Espin, who was a revolutionary in the 26th of July Movement and wife of Raúl Castro (Lamrani). The Federation received support from Castro himself, as it sought to end discrimination in Cuba, and defend equality for all (Lamrani). Espin was devoted to the struggle for the emancipation of women and defending the revolution; the FMC’s webpage states: “from the start of the Cuban Revolution, the Cuban leadership has made concerted efforts to advance the status of women and increase their social and political participation, particularly through increased access to educational opportunities and employment” (The Federation of Cuban Women).
One of the first objectives of the new Cuban government under Fidel Castro was the Cuban Literacy Campaign, a decidedly feminist policy which sought to eradicate illiteracy from the country (Herman). Castro announced his intention to make the population fully literate in 1960, less than one year into his leadership; illiteracy in Cuba at the time was at about 23.6% (Herman). The Literacy Campaign was carried out by volunteers, 55% of which were women, who taught children, adults, and the elderly students, who were 52% women, how to read and write (Herman). In 1961, just after the end of the year-long campaign, UNESCO declared Cuba to be the first territory free of illiteracy (Lamrani).
Greater political actions for the protection of women were solidified by the new Cuban Constitution and the penal code, which created and protected equality rights for women, as well as gave them access to all public offices and joining the armed forces (Lamrani). Article 44 of the updated Cuban Constitution (1976) states: “the state guarantees women the same opportunities and possibilities as men in order to achieve women’s full participation in the development of the country” (The Federation of Cuban Women). In 1975, Cuba passed the Family Code, which was inspired by similar legislation from East Germany, which officially mandated the equal division of housework and childcare between spouses (Seidman). In a speech, Castro affirmed the Cuban state’s commitment to the goals of feminism: “the National General Assembly of the People of Cuba…condemns the inequality and exploitation of women” (Castro, 83).
In 1965, Cuba became the first nation in Latin America to legalize abortion on request, making it the second nation ever to do so after the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1955 (Lamrani). Abortion was fully legalized in Cuba on four conditions which sought to protect women in the event; abortions had to be the women’s own choice, take place in a hospital, be carried out by trained professionals, and be completely free (Gonzalez).
In 1989, Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) was founded and led by the daughter of Raúl Castro and Vilma Espin, Mariela Castro (Hutchison). Cuba’s improvement regarding its treatment of queer people (as seen in the founding of CENESEX) is distinctly feminist because it contributes to a dissolving of gender-enforced boundaries in society. This feminist progression can also be seen in the fact that gender affirming surgery for trans people is completely free under the nation’s universal healthcare system (Hutchison).
When feminist thinker Margaret Randall was forced to flee Mexico due to her involvement in the Mexican student movement, she found refuge in Cuba (Hutchison). Randall noted across her extensive writings that Cuban women used art such as theatre, poetry, music, and literature to challenge continuing sexist notions within the country’s society (Hutchison).
Cuba was heavily involved in the movement to free Marxist feminist thinker and political activist Angela Y. Davis while she was being tried for a murder she did not commit in the 1970s, with Cuban officials and the FMC speaking out for her emancipation (Seidman). Both before and after her trial and subsequent acquittal, Davis visited Cuba many times, each time being celebrated for her ideology and identity as a Black Communist Woman (Seidman). She frequently had meetings with Cuban officials on her visits, during which she gave them advice and feedback on the status of women in their country; she once remarked: “the example of Cuba has confirmed that there cannot be a true emancipation for women without a socialist revolution” (Seidman).
A similar sentiment to Davis’s idea that women’s emancipation and socialism must be founded together can be found in many speeches and writings by Castro himself:
When discussions are held about the rights of women, of their aspirations, we see that there cannot be rights of women in our America or rights of children, mothers, or wives if there is no revolution. The fact is that in the world in which the American woman lives, the woman must necessarily be revolutionary. Why must she be revolutionary? Because woman, who constitutes an essential part of every people is, in the first place, exploited as a worker and discriminated against as a woman. (“Fidel Castro’s Speech at the Closing of the Congress of Women of the Americas”)
Castro speaks to the idea that women can only begin to escape the twofold exploitation they face from capitalism and society through revolutionary socialism.
The goal of the Cuban Revolution was not only to oust Fulgencio Batista as dictator of Cuba, but also to establish a socialist society built upon the ideals of Marxism, feminism, anti-imperialism, and equality. Castro remarked in a 1963 speech that the socialist elements of the new Cuba were visible in the changing identity of womanhood: “the bourgeois concept of womanhood is disappearing in our country. The concepts of stigma, concepts of discrimination, have really been disappearing in our country, and the masses of women have realized this” (“Fidel Castro’s Speech…”).
That which was and is Lacking in Revolutionary Cuba
Among the many victories for women and the ideology of feminism accomplished in the early years of the revolution and into the later years of its development, there were also areas which were lacking within the nation. Perhaps at the forefront, and an element which hindered further development for feminism was the assertion by Fidel Castro that Cuba had become a land totally free of gendered discrimination: “in our country, the woman, like the Negro, is no longer discriminated against” (Fidel Castro’s Speech…). Such a reductionist and provably false statement by the country’s leader was harmful in that it spread the untrue notion that sexism was an issue of the past in Cuba, which no longer needed to be dealt with, thus stalling further feminist progression.
Similarly, the Federation of Cuban Women was centrally focused on fighting the discrimination against women which is inherent to the capitalist system, and generally did not acknowledge the distinct discrimination against women which existed in Cuban society, apart from the socioeconomic system of the nation (Seidman). Both within the FMC and in the broader scope of the Cuban government and people, defending the revolution and combatting US aggression were prioritized over issues regarding women for decades in Cuba (Hutchison).
In terms of more concrete issues regarding the status of women in revolutionary Cuba: in the early years of the revolution, the government released a list of jobs which were considered unfit for women, likely because they constituted a threat to the health and safety of the female reproductive system (Hutchison). This list was reductionist in that it took the view that women should be precluded from working in certain areas of the labour force due to their reproductive abilities, essentializing them to their sex organs.
Following the death of Fidel Castro in 2016, the list produced for his potential replacements contained only men, a fact which points to the still existing masculine dominance in the revolution in Cuba (Hutchison).
Before an action plan can be provided for improving the future status of women in Cuba, a more modern look at the nation of Cuba must be offered so as to better understand the contemporary needs and wants of the Cuban women generally.
Cuba’s Labour Code provides women the right to full salaries while taking a month and a half off before delivery of a child, and three months off after childbirth; this leave may be extended to a full year with compensation equivalent to 60% of regular earnings (Lamrani). Cuban women make up the majority of union leaders, and are required by law to be compensated equally to men (Lamrani). Also in the field of labour, Cuban women make up only 44% of the national workforce, a figure which illustrates the need for further institutional equality and job programs (Lamrani).
In the areas of health and education, Cuban women make up 60% of the country’s students and 65% of its graduates (Lamrani). In 1960, just after Castro came to power, the life expectancy for Cuban women was 65.62 years; by 2019, it had risen to 80.78 (The World Bank). Comparatively, the life expectancy for women in the US in 1960 was 73.1 years, more than 7 years greater than Cuba. However, for women in the US in 2019, life expectancy is less than one year greater than that of Cuban women, at 81.4 years (The World Bank). Women still are entitled to free abortion on request (Gonzalez), and to free gender affirming surgery (Hutchison).
In the political arena, Cuba ranks second out of every nation worldwide for most women elected to their national parliament, only after Rwanda (Archive of Statistical Data). Cuba has a single house national assembly, in which 322 of the 605 seats were represented by women in February 2019, making up 53.2% of the house (Archive of Statistical Data). As of October 1, 2021, female representation in the Cuban National Assembly of the People’s Power was increased to 53.4% (IPU Parline). It also should be mentioned again that, though women make up majority of the elected Cuban assembly, no women’s names were present on the shortlist to replace Fidel Castro as First Secretary after his death in 2016 (Hutchison).
Policies for the Betterment of Cuban Women
Women’s involvement in the labour force in Cuba remains an issue, with one 2020 study estimating that just 38.44% of Cuban women work; although this is a much greater number than was the case in as recent as the 1990s, there remains work to be done (Trading Economics). This is an issue which could potentially be solved by the introduction of a guaranteed jobs program in Cuba, something which existed in the earlier years of the revolution, but which was abandoned later on; by guaranteeing work for all Cuban citizens, women would more easily find representation in the national workforce (New York Times News Service).
Other issues which may arise against the progression of Cuban women should be combatted by the FMC, an organization and community of revolutionary women. This, however, would be difficult unless the FMC begins to acknowledge sexism as present in Cuban society, rather than just within the context of global capitalism (Seidman). The Federation of Cuban Women should reform itself to recognize discrimination against women as present in all areas of life.
Politically, women in Cuba have found full involvement in the National Assembly and in other government organizations such as the FMC, but, as previously mentioned, no women were considered for replacing Fidel Castro as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba following his death in 2016 (Hutchison). This fact points out the need for women’s continued involvement in the revolutionary process, which can be accomplished by celebrating the feminist victories and acknowledging the failures of the ongoing revolution. It can also be directly achieved by adding politically exceptional women to the potential replacements for the position of First Secretary once Raúl Castro dies.
Long Live the Revolution
The most critical component for continuing feminism on the island nation of Cuba is the continuation of the revolution. Socialism in Cuba ousted a great deal of the capitalistic oppressions which existed there. Just the same, the revolution eliminated much of the discrimination faced by women thereto. The socialist ideology of the Cuban government and people is a necessary force for both maintaining the currently existing feminism in Cuba, and for improving the status of women in Cuba in the future. In order for women’s lives in Cuba to better, the revolution must be defended.
Michael Parenti describes the manner in which rights for women were near abolished after the fall of socialism in the Soviet Bloc:
The overthrow of communism has brought a sharp increase in gender inequality. The new constitution adopted in Russia eliminates provisions that guaranteed women the right to paid maternity leave, job security during pregnancy, prenatal care, and affordable day-care centres. Without the former communist stipulation that women get at least one third of the seats in any legislature, female political representation has dropped to as low as 5 percent in some countries. In all communist countries about 90 percent of women had jobs in what was a full-employment economy. Today, women compose over two-thirds of the unemployed. (114-5)
Parenti’s analysis of the fall of the status of women in tandem with the fall of Soviet socialism is a warning to Cuba; socialism exists in parallel with women’s rights, and the elimination of one implies the death of the other.
There should also be a point made here as to the alternative option to socialism, which is only capitalism: there is either capitalism or socialism/communism. No third ideology can be created, and thus, no liberation for women can be accomplished elsewhere than socialism. “Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology being developed by the masses of the workers in the process of their movement the choice is: either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course” (Lenin, 82).
The Cuban Revolution was a force which brought about massive social, economic, and political progression for the status of women, and only by consolidating that revolution in future generations can those victories be maintained and progressed.
Archive of Statistical Data. "Women in National Parliaments." 1 February 2019. archive.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm
Castro, Fidel. The Declarations of Havana. 2008. Verso Books, 2018.
Chase, Michelle. "Women's Organisations and the Politics of Gender in Cuba's Urban Insurrection (1952-1958)." Journal of the Society for Latin American Studies, vol. 29, no. 4, 2010: 440-458.
“Cuba: Timeline of a Revolution.” Aljazeera News, 2009. aljazeera.com/news/2009/7/26/cuba-timeline-of-a-revolution
The Federation of Cuban Women. “Women and the Cuban Revolution: The Federation of Cuban Women.” cubaplatform.org/federation-cuban-women
“Fidel Castro’s Speech at the Closing of the Congress of Women of the Americas (1963).” marxists.org/history/cuba/archive/castro/1963/01/16.htm
Gonzalez, Ivet. "Abortion Rights in Cuba Face New Challenges." Havana Times, 2017. havanatimes.org/features/abortion-rights-in-cuba-face-new-challenges/
Herman, Rebecca. "An Army of Educators: Gender, Revolution, and the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961." Gender and History, vol. 24, no. 1, 2012, 93-111.
Hutchison, Elizabeth Quay. "Women, Gender, and Sexuality in the Cuban Revolution." Radical History Review, 2020, 185-197.
IPU Parline. "Monthly Ranking of Women in National Parliaments." November 2021. data.ipu.org/women-ranking?month=10&year=2021
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New York Times News Service. "In Radical Move, Cuba Ends Guaranteed Jobs." Chicago Tribune, 1995. chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1995-05-14-9505140359-story.html
Parenti, Michael. Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism, City Lights Books, 1997.
Seidman, Sarah J. "Angela Davis in Cuba as Symbol and Subject." Radical History Review, 2020, 11-35.
Trading Economics. "Cuba - Labour Force, Female." Trading Economics, 2020. tradingeconomics.com/cuba/labor-force-female-percent-of-total-labor-force-wb-data.html
The World Bank. "Life Expectancy at Birth, Female (Years)" The World Bank, 2019. data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.FE.IN?locations=CU
Nolan Long is a Canadian undergraduate student in political studies, with a specific interest in Marxist political theory and history.
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About the Midwestern Marx Youth League
The Midwestern Marx Youth League (MMYL) was created to allow comrades in undergraduate or below to publish their work as they continue to develop both writing skills and knowledge of socialist and communist studies. Due to our unexpected popularity on Tik Tok, many young authors have approached us hoping to publish their work. We believe the most productive way to use this platform in a youth inclusive manner would be to form the youth league. This will give our young writers a platform to develop their writing and to discuss theory, history, and campus organizational affairs. The youth league will also be working with the editorial board to ensure theoretical development. If you are interested in joining the youth league please visit the submissions section for more information on how to contact us!