Category Archives: Genocide

North Korea or the United States: Who is a Threat to Global Security?

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North Korea lost thirty percent of its population as a result of US led bombings in the 1950s.

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Most people in America consider North Korea as an inherently aggressive nation and a threat to global security.

Media disinformation sustains North Korea as a “rogue state”.

The history of the Korean war and its devastating consequences are rarely mentioned. America is portrayed as the victim rather than the aggressor.

North Korea lost thirty percent of its population as a result of US led bombings in the 1950s. 

US military sources confirm that 20 percent of North Korea’s  population was killed off over a three year period of intensive bombings:

“After destroying North Korea’s 78 cities and thousands of her villages, and killing countless numbers of her civilians, [General] LeMay remarked, “Over a period of three years or so we killed off – what – twenty percent of the population.”

It is now believed that the population north of the imposed 38th Parallel lost nearly a third its population of 8 – 9 million people during the 37-month long “hot” war, 1950 – 1953, perhaps an unprecedented percentage of mortality suffered by one nation due to the belligerence of another.” (See War Veteran Brian Willson. Korea and the Axis of Evil, Global Research, April, 2002)

Official South Korean government sources estimate North Korean civilian deaths at 1,550,000

Long lines of refugees fleeing from Yongdong on 26 July 1950. The day before, hundreds of refugees were massacred by U.S. soldiers and warplanes at bridge at No Gun Ri, eight miles away.

Long lines of refugees fleeing from Yongdong on 26 July 1950. The day before, hundreds of refugees were massacred by U.S. soldiers and warplanes at bridge at No Gun Ri, eight miles away.

During The Second World War the United Kingdom lost 0.94% of its population, France lost 1.35%, China lost 1.89% and the US lost 0.32%.

During the Korean war, North Korea lost 30 % of its population. In the words of General Curtis Lemay:

There are no innocent civilians. It is their government and you are fighting a people, you are not trying to fight an armed force anymore. So it doesn’t bother me so much to be killing the so-called innocent bystanders. (emphasis added)

Reflect for a few minutes on these figures:  If a foreign power had bombed the US and America had lost thirty percent of its population as result of foreign aggression, Americans across the land would certainly be aware of the threat to their national security emanating from this unnamed foreign power.

Now put yourself in the shoes of the North Koreans, who lost 30 percent of their population as a result of 37 months of relentless US bombings.

From their standpoint, the US is the threat to Global Security.

Their country was destroyed. Town and villages were bombed. General Curtis Lemay acknowledges that “[we] eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, someway or another, and some in South Korea too.”

There is not a single family in North Korea which has not lost a loved one.

Everyone I talked with, dozens and dozens of folks, lost one if not many more family members during the war, especially from the continuous bombing, much of it incendiary and napalm, deliberately dropped on virtually every space in the country. “Every means of communication, every installation, factory, city, and village” was ordered bombed by General MacArthur in the fall of 1950. It never stopped until the day of the armistice on July 27, 1953. (See War Veteran Brian Willson. Korea and the Axis of Evil, Global Research, April, 2002)

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For the people of North Korea, in their inner consciousness as human beings, the aggressor, which inflicted more than two million deaths on a country of  8-9 million (1950s) is the United States of America.

These facts continue to be concealed by the Western media to sustain the “Axis of Evil” legend, which portrays North Korea as a threat and “rogue state”, to be condemned by the “international community”.

Genocide is defined under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) as the

“the deliberate and systematic destruction of, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group”. Article 2 of this convention defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

What is at stake is an act of genocide committed by the US. During the Korean War an entire civilian population was the target of deliberate and relentless bombings, with a view to destroying and killing a national group, which constitutes an act of genocide under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

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Forever in Chains: The Tragic History of Congo

Nsala, of the district of Wala, looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year old daughter, Boali, who was killed and allegedly cannibalized by the members of Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company (A.B.I.R.) militia. Source: E. D Morel, King Leopold's rule in Africa, between pages 144 and 145

Nsala, of the district of Wala, looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year old daughter, Boali, who was killed and allegedly cannibalized by the members of Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company (A.B.I.R.) militia. Source: E. D Morel, King Leopold’s rule in Africa, between pages 144 and 145

FRIDAY 28 JULY 2006

The most blighted nation on earth goes to the polls this weekend – more in hope than expectation that stability and peace might result. In Congo, mass suffering has been a way of life ever since the Belgian King Leopold enslaved millions in the 19th century. Paul Vallely traces the story of a people for whom the horror never let up

One picture sums it up. It shows a man named Nsala sitting on the porch of a missionary’s house in the Congo. His face is a portrait of impenetrable sorrow.

Before him lie a small hand and foot. It is all that remains of his five-year-old daughter who has – together with his wife and son – been killed, dismembered, cooked and eaten by soldiers.

The photograph was taken during the biggest atrocity in recorded African history. And it was perpetrated not by Africans, but by Europeans.

No one knows how many people died, but it was at least three million men, women and children. Some historians say it was five million, or 10 million. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has said that as many as 30 million people may have perished.

It is but a single chapter in the long and bloody history of the Congo. This weekend, voters go to the polls in Democratic Republic of Congo for the first elections in 40 years, during which havoc has been wreaked by despotism and war. But will Sunday’s poll do anything to change lives there for the better?

The first that was written of the hot and humid river basin that straddles the Equator on the west of the great African continent came from Portuguese travellers in the 15th century. They had encountered a place called the Kingdom of Kongo and, with its capital city of Mbanza Kongo, it had a population close to half a million people. It was a highly developed state at the centre of an extensive trading network.

Merchants traded all manner of raw materials, the most precious of which was ivory, but which also included a wealth of manufactured goods such as copper and ironware, raffia cloth and pottery. It was also a centre for the buying and selling of individuals captured in war. Long before the arrival of the Europeans, the slave trade existed. The ruler was a king who rejoiced in the title of “Mother of the King of Kongo”.

Not much more was heard of the place in Europe until the great Victorian missionary explorer David Livingstone discovered that quinine was the key to unlocking the African interior. He became a hero and a household name in the second half of the 19th century, but then disappeared into the bush. The New York Herald sent another intrepid Briton to find him, and the young man, Henry Morton Stanley, walked into the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations with his greeting: “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

Across the other side of the globe, King Leopold II of the Belgians read about it over breakfast in the The Times, which was thrown from the continental mail train into the grounds of his palace each morning. (His butler ironed it before the monarch read it.)

Leopold had been of the opinion for some time that “il faut à la Belgique une colonie”. He didn’t want to miss the chance of getting a good slice of what he called the “magnifique gâteau africain”. But he was having a hard time persuading the Belgian government to agree. So he decided to acquire a colony by himself. In doing so, he ignited what came to be called “the scramble of Africa”.

Stanley’s encounter with the Congo was being hailed as the most important geographical “discovery” ever made in Africa. The king summoned the Welshman and in 1878 commissioned him to go back – under the guise of an international scientific and philanthropic association, which he called the International African Society – to negotiate with the local chiefs.

Over the five years that followed, Stanley concluded some 400 “cloth and trinket” treaties with the Congo chiefs. The Africans thought they were signing friendship pacts, but they were in fact selling their land.

Leopold, who was devious as well as greedy, persuaded the world that he was acting from humanitarian motives. In 1884, the The Daily Telegraph, perspicacious as ever, opined: “Leopold II has knit adventurers, traders and missionaries of many races into one band of men under the most illustrious of modern travellers [Stanley] to carry to the interior of Africa new ideas of law, order, humanity and protection of the natives.”

That year, at the Berlin Conference called by Bismarck to carve up Africa – which no African attended, even as an observer – Leopold displayed some nifty footwork. He persuaded the Iron Chancellor that, in order to exclude Germany’s rivals, Britain and France, from the important new region, it would be best to declare it a free trade area and give it to him. Not to Belgium, not even to the Belgian crown, but to him personally.

Without ever setting foot there, Leopold II had become the owner of nearly a million square miles of unmapped jungle, 75 times the size of Belgium itself. Ivory was what the king had his eye on. And, though plenty of it was yielded, Leopold struggled to make a profit. In 1895, he tried to give the colony to the Belgian government because it was costing him too much.

But then a Scot called Dunlop invented the pneumatic tyre for his bicycle, and the worldwide boom in rubber began. In the Congo, wild jungle vines that yielded the stuff grew everywhere. The natives would slash them and lather their bodies with the rubber. All that Leopold needed to do was to persuade the natives to scrape it off into huge baskets for him.

He did this by setting quotas of both rubber and ivory for each village, for which they were paid a pitifully low fixed price set by his officials on the ground. Each community was told to provide 10 per cent of their number as full-time forced labourers, and another 25 per cent part-time. It was a form of slavery.

Stanley, who supervised all this, became known in Kikongo as Bula Matari (the Breaker of Rocks), a tag the people later transferred to the Congolese state itself. The scheme was a huge success; by 1902, the price of rubber had risen 15 times in eight years, and it constituted 80 per cent of the exports of “The Congo Free State”, as Leopold had dubbed it.

Free is what the people were not. The symbol of Leopold’s rule was the schicotte – a whip of raw sun-dried hippopotamus hide cut into long sharp-edged strips which could quickly remove the skin from a man’s back. The king established a Force Publique to enforce the rubber quotas. Its soldiers were black – many of them cannibals from the fiercest tribes of upper Congo – but they were led by white officers who routinely supervised the burning of non-compliant villages and the torture and rape of those who were struggling to fill quotas.

One local man spelt out what this meant. “Wild beasts – leopards – killed some of us while we were working away in the forest, and others got lost or died from exposure or starvation and we begged the white men to leave us alone, saying we could get no more rubber, but the white men and the soldiers said, ‘Go. You are only beasts yourselves. You are only snyama [meat].’ Many were shot, some had their ears cut off.”

But the routine penalty for failing to bring in enough rubber was the severing of a hand. Soldiers collected them by the basketload, from the living and the dead. A Baptist missionary wrote a letter to The Times about it: “The hands – the hands of men, women and children – were placed in rows before the commissary who counted them to see that the soldiers had not wasted cartridges.” Officers were worried that the men might waste their ammunition on hunting animals for sport, so they required soldiers to submit one hand for every bullet spent. Hands became a grim currency, traded to make up for shortfalls in rubber quotas. “This rubber traffic is steeped in blood,” the letter-writer said.

Other testimony disclosed how Belgian officers ordered their men “to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades, also their sexual members, and to hang the women and the children on the palisade in the form of a cross”. This blood-curdling business carried on for more than 12 years before word leaked out. One of the first to blow the whistle was the captain of one of the riverboats that transported the ivory and rubber downstream to port. His name was Joseph Conrad, and eight years later he wrote a book that has shaped the emotional language in which white people discuss Africa.

It was called Heart of Darkness. The atmosphere it conjures is of fetid fever-ridden ports in an Equatorial river basin surrounded by dense tropical rainforest. It is a climate of persistent high temperatures and humidity, as enervating to the soul as to the body. It is a world of madness, greed and violence, centred on a charismatic ivory trader called Kurtz who turns himself into a demigod to the local tribes and gathers vast quantities of ivory. Eventually, he dies – “The horror, the horror,” his last words.

When the book was published in magazine serial form in 1899, it did not just expose what Conrad was to call “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience”. It also gave backing to the writings of a man whose campaigns on the Congo the public had been reluctant to believe.

ED Morel was a clerk in a Liverpool shipping office who began to wonder why the ships that brought vast loads of rubber from the Congo returned carrying no commercial goods, but only guns and ammunition. He began to investigate the Force Publique and concluded that Leopold’s well-publicised philanthropy was in fact “legalised robbery enforced by violence”. He wrote: “I had stumbled upon a secret society of murderers with a king for a croniman.”

In 1903, the House of Commons debated the Congo atrocities. The British consul in Congo, Roger Casement, was sent to investigate. The year after, he returned with a vivid and detailed eyewitness report, which was made public. His 1904 report, which confirmed Morel’s accusations and suggested that at least three million people had died, had a considerable impact on public opinion.

Even then, Leopold countered with a wicked publicity campaign to discredit the reports. He even created a bogus Commission for the Protection of the Natives to root out the “few isolated instances” of abuse. But he reckoned without another recent invention – the camera. Before long, horrifying photographs such as the one of the man with his daughter’s little hand and foot, were in circulation.

International opinion was outraged. In America, Mark Twain penned a savage piece of sarcasm called King Leopold’s Soliloquy. In Britain, Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to write the book The Crime of the Congo, which he completed in eight days. Before long, the American President and the British prime minister were pressing the Belgian government to act.

Leopold offered to reform his regime, but few took him seriously. After two years of agonised deliberation, a further report (which confirmed Casement’s) and a general election, the Parliament of Belgium annexed the Congo Free State and took over its administration. It paid Leopold £2m to compensate him for his sacrifices.

Renamed the Belgian Congo (to contrast with the much smaller French Congo, now the Republic of Congo, to the west), the region became a “model colony”. In the decades that followed the transfer of responsibility to the government of Belgium, large amounts of the wealth produced in the Congo were spent there by the alliance of church, commerce and state.

The missionaries built hospitals and clinics to which large numbers of Congolese had access. Doctors and medics achieved great victories against disease, managing to eradicate sleeping sickness. Many villages had medical posts, and bigger cities had well-equipped hospitals. The church ran schools to which 10 per cent of the people were admitted, comparing favourably with the 6 per cent of the population in school in India and the much lower percentages elsewhere in Africa. The colonial authorities built railways, ports and roads. The mining companies built houses for their staff, provided welfare and technical training.

By the Second World War, production and profits had risen to the point where the Congo was Africa’s richest colony. In the 1950s, life expectancy was 55 years (today, it is 51). By 1959, the year before independence, the Belgian Congo was producing 10 per cent of world’s copper, 50 per cent of its cobalt and 70 per cent of industrial diamonds.

What was missing was the development of a Congolese elite to take over the running of the place. The Congolese had no rights to own land, to vote or to travel freely. There were curfews in towns and forced labour in the countryside. There was no higher education, except for those who wanted to become priests. The Congolese were encouraged to become clerks, medical assistants and mechanics, but not doctors, lawyers or engineers.

At independence, out of a population of 60 million, there were just 16 university graduates. Educated Congolese were given the status of Sévolués, but this won them few privileges when what they wanted, wrote Patrice Lumumba, who was to become the first prime minister of what became Democratic Republic of Congo, “was to be Belgians and have the same freedoms and rights as whites”.

It would come eventually, their colonial masters thought, in perhaps another 100 years. When a Belgian academic suggested a 30-year transition plan was needed, he was greeted with derision. But when the change came, on the back of the sudden tide of African nationalism that swept the continent, accompanied by riots, it happened in just 18 months. The Congo was perhaps the least well-prepared of any colony for independence.

It didn’t help that on Independence Day in 1960, King Baudouin arrived to make a speech praising the “genius” of Leopold II, listing the sacrifices that Belgium had made for the Congo and doling out patronising advice. Prime Minister Lumumba responded with an off-the-cuff speech about the “terrible suffering and exploitation” that had been experienced by “we niggers” and promising: “We shall make of the Congo a shining example for the whole of Africa.” It was not to be.

Lumumba was charismatic, with extraordinary powers of oratory, but he was volatile. Within days of the independence ceremonies, rebellions and violence broke out. The province of Katanga declared independence. Belgium moved troops in. So did the United Nations. Feeling betrayed, Lumumba requested Soviet military aid.

The local CIA chief telegrammed back to Washington that the Congo was “a Cuba in the making” and that Lumumba was a “Castro or worse”. President Eisenhower allegedly authorised that Lumumba be assassinated and a CIA hit man came from Paris with poison to be, bizarrely, injected into the prime minister’s toothpaste. (The local CIA man refused to do it.)

The plot thickened with Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General, dying in a plane crash in uncertain circumstances while trying to negotiate a ceasefire in Katanga. Letters recently uncovered by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission suggested that South African agents planted a bomb in the aircraft’s wheel-bay. And, not long afterwards, the Marxist guerrilla leader Che Guevara appeared in the Congo with 100 men in a plot to bring about a Cuban-style revolution.

Amid all that, Patrice Lumumba had fallen out with the Congo’s first president, Joseph Kasavubu. As the pair engaged in a power struggle in September 1960, a military coup overthrew Lumumba in favour of the president. The putsch was staged by the 29-year-old army chief of staff, Colonel Joseph-Désiré Mobutu. Five years later, he staged another one, ousting Kasavubu and beginning his own bizarre 32-year rule.

Lumumba was shot in the bush at the command of a Belgian officer. His body was hacked to pieces and dissolved in sulphuric acid, his skull ground to dust and his bones and teeth scattered – some say by a witch doctor from an aircraft along the country’s borders, to make sure he could not come back from the dead.

Things did not get better. Mobutu sent the Russians packing, which greatly pleased the Americans. So did almost everything else he did, for he staunchly followed US foreign policy in all key matters. It was the height of the Cold War and Africa had become a proxy battlefield. Keeping the Soviets out was more important than anything else. As long as Mobutu did that, and supported anti-Communist rebels in neighbouring countries, Washington would turn a blind eye to anything else.

Mobutu made the most of that. He set up a one-party state that tolerated no dissent. In the early years, he consolidated power by publicly executing political rivals. One rebel leader had his eyes gouged out, his genitals ripped off and his limbs amputated one by one before he died.

Later, Mobutu switched to a new tactic – that of buying off political rivals rather than killing them. He did so by elevating theft to a form of government. A new word was coined to describe it – kleptocracy. At first, he had tried simply printing more money to pay the bills for his schemes. He issued new stamps, coins and currency notes with his portrait on.

There were posters and billboards everywhere. His personality cult reached its peak every night when the television news began with an image of him descending through clouds from the heavens. He put the story about that even his walking stick had magic powers.

In the early years, he launched an African Authenticity campaign. He renamed the country Zaire in 1971. He ordered everyone to drop their Christian names for African ones, rebranding himself Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (“The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake”). He outlawed hair-straightening, skin bleaching, the wearing of ties and listening to foreign music. He nationalised foreign-owned firms and handed them to relatives and associates.

When the economy slumped, he printed more money. Hyperinflation followed, and even the central bank bought its hard currency on the black market. But he was a Cold War warrior, so the West bailed him out. The more they gave him, the more he stole. Of the $73m education budget one year, schools got only $8m; he pocketed the rest. So it went with every area of government.

Mobutu’s extravagance was legendary. He had villas, ranches, palaces and yachts throughout Europe. Concorde was constantly hired. He didn’t just have Swiss bank accounts; he bought a Swiss bank. He didn’t just get his wife a Mercedes; he bought a Mercedes assembly plant for her. He stashed away nearly $5bn – almost the equivalent of the country’s foreign debt at the time.

Still, the West smiled and paid up to the man Ronald Reagan called “a voice of good sense and good will”. The US gave him a total of $2bn over 30 years. The CIA trained and armed his bodyguards. When rebels attacked him, France airlifted in 1,500 elite Moroccan paratroopers. When that wasn’t enough, a year later Belgium and France deployed troops (with American logistical support).

All the while, the Congo became Africa’s haven for mercenaries, money launderers and diamond smugglers – while its public infrastructure rotted and child mortality rose. Mobutu became the longest-surviving despot of the Cold War era. It was either “Mobutu or chaos”, the US said. But the hapless people of the Congo got both.

Then it was over. The Berlin Wall fell. The Cold War ended. The IMF experts who had been brought in to reform his finances – and left after a year in despair – pulled the plug on his loans. The US would lend no more. Mobutu declared an end to one-party rule, but it was too late.

What finished him off was the decision to back the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. After the Hutu genocidaires were chased from Rwanda in 1994, Mobutu gave them shelter in Zaire. More than that; he issued an order forcing Tutsis to leave Zaire on penalty of death. They erupted in rebellion. Rwanda and Uganda joined in, invading eastern Congo in pursuit of the genocidaires. When they met no resistance – the Congolese army being more used to suppressing civilians than fighting – they marched on the capital Kinshasa.

Mobutu – the “all-powerful warrior”, the fifth-richest man in the world, who bled the Congo even more efficiently than King Leopold, and who looted the state into paralysis – escaped on a cargo plane with bullets ripping into the fuselage as it took off. After 20 years of Mobutist dictatorship, in the words of the African historian Basil Davidson: “Zaire remained a state without a nation, a geographical concept without a people.” And Kinshasa la belle had become Kinshasa la poubell – the dustbin.

The new man was Laurent-Désiré Kabila. He presented himself as the heir to the murdered Lumumba. Outsiders hailed him as one of the “new breed” of African leaders. Nelson Mandela paid tribute. The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, stood next to Kabila early on and said that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (or Democratic Republic of Congo as it was re-re-named) would now emerge as “an engine of regional growth”. Those who knew Kabila thought differently.

His critics sneered that all he had ever run was a brothel in Tanzania. Others recalled the judgement of Che Guevara who had concluded three decades earlier that Kabila was “not the man of the hour”. He was too interested in drinking, bedding women and showing up days late. The lack of co-operation between Kabila and Guevara was what had led to the Cuban-style revolution foundering in the Sixties.

He had not, it seemed, improved with age. Kabila turned out to be another petty tyrant. Secretive and paranoid, he had no political programme and just doled out jobs to family and friends. He made his cousin chief of the armed forces, gave his son a top army job and made his brother-in-law the police chief. Worse, he was as cruel as Mobutu, jailing and torturing opponents, but lacking his skill in playing the ethnic card. He promised elections but never held them.

And he did not learn from Mobutu’s mistakes. Put in power by the Rwandans and Ugandans, he decided to distance himself from them by again supporting the Hutus and allowing them to regroup on Congolese soil. Rwanda had learnt the lessons of the past; it immediately flew 2,000 troops to within striking distance of the capital. Uganda joined in. Kabila was only saved because Angola and Zimbabwe came to his rescue, the former fearing that a power vacuum in the DRC would allow Angolan rebels to flourish, the later trying to play the statesman and grab some mining contracts.

The fighting soon stalemated. But no one was bothered; all involved just used the bases they had established inside the DRC to plunder. The war became self-financing as all sides scrabbled for diamonds, gold and timber.

Suddenly, 70 per cent of the Congo’s coltan – an essential component in making mobile phones – was being exported through Rwanda. And Congo gold turned into a major Ugandan export. Rwanda and Uganda even began to fight each other at one point over control of Kisangani and its diamond fields.

What broke the stalemate was a coup in 2001. The plot failed, but Kabila was assassinated. His son, Joseph Kabila Kabange, became President. The Congo’s warlords were happy, assuming that junior would be a pushover.

But Kabila II had done his military training in China and turned out to be an operator. Within a year, he had successfully negotiated an international peace deal that saw Rwanda withdraw and all the remaining warring parties agree to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity.

Peace has returned to two-thirds of the country – there are factions fighting in the east – and Kabila has delivered the referendum he promised and now, on Sunday, the elections. He is, of course, standing and is, of course, the favourite of the 33 candidates.

The country is still in a dire state. Aid organisations say about 1,200 people die daily due to the effects of the conflict, hunger and disease. The DRC has Aids, low life expectancy and a high rate of child deaths. More than two million Congolese are internal refugees. National output and government revenue slumped – and external debt increased – during the five years of fighting, in which perhaps four million people died.

Even so, this weekend’s elections – the first multiparty elections in 40 years – are the biggest and most costly the UN has organised. Another eastern warlord yesterday agreed to lay down arms. Last month, the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, said it would open an office in Kinshasa once the election is over. Other big mining groups may follow.

The prospects look a little brighter. It may be too soon – in the two-steps-forward, one-step-back world of contemporary Africa – to be optimistic. But, in their terrible story, the people of the Congo hope that, at last, it may be that a corner is being turned.

The horror: from Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’

Paths, paths, everywhere; a stamped-in network of paths spreading over the empty land, through the long grass, through burnt grass, through thickets, down and up chilly ravines, up and down stony hills ablaze with heat; and a solitude, a solitude, nobody, not a hut. The population had cleared out a long time ago. Well, if a lot of mysterious niggers armed with all kinds of fearful weapons suddenly took to travelling on the road between Deal and Gravesend, catching the yokels right and left to carry heavy loads for them, I fancy every farm and cottage thereabouts would get empty very soon. Only here the dwellings were gone, too. Still I passed through several abandoned villages. There’s something pathetically childish in the ruins of grass walls. Day after day, with the stamp and shuffle of 60 pair of bare feet behind me, each pair under a 60lb load. Camp, cook, sleep, strike camp, march. Now and then a carrier dead in harness, at rest in the long grass near the path, with an empty water gourd and his long staff lying by his side. A great silence around and above. Perhaps on some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive and wild – and perhaps with as profound a meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country. Once a white man in an unbuttoned uniform, camping on the path with an armed escort of lank Zanzibaris, very hospitable and festive – not to say drunk. Was looking after the upkeep of the road, he declared. Can’t say I saw any road or any upkeep, unless the body of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet-hole in the forehead, upon which I absolutely stumbled three miles farther on, may be considered a permanent improvement.

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We Remember Wounded Knee

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In February of 1973 the American Indian Movement and the Lakota Nation made a final stand for Native rights with siege at wounded knee.

In the summer of 1968, two hundred members of the Native American community came together for a meeting to discuss various issues that Indian people of the time were dealing with on an everyday basis. Among these issues were, police brutality, high unemployment rates, and the Federal Government’s policies concerning American Indians.

From this meeting came the birth of the American Indian Movement, commonly known as AIM. With this came the emergence of AIM leaders, such as Dennis Banks and Clyde Bellecourt to name a few.

Little did anyone know that AIM would become instrumental in shaping not only the path of Native Americans across the country, but the eyes of the world would follow AIM protests through the occupation at Alcatraz through the Trail of Broken Treaties, to the final conflict of the 1868 Sioux treaty of the Black Hills. This conflict would begin on February 27, 1973 and last seventy-one days. The occupation became known in history, as the Siege at Wounded Knee.

It began as the American Indian’s stood against government atrocities, and ended in an armed battle with US Armed Forces. Corruption within the BIA and Tribal Council at an all time high, tension on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation was on the increase and quickly getting out of control. With a feeling close to despair, and knowing there was nothing else for them to do, elders of the Lakota Nation asked the American Indian Movement for assistance. This bringing to a head, more than a hundred years of racial tension and a government corruption.

On that winter day in 1973, a large group of armed Native Americans reclaimed Wounded Knee in the name of the Lakota Nation. For the first time in many decades, those Oglala Sioux ruled themselves, free from government intervention, as is their ancient custom. This would become the basis for a TV movie, “Lakota Woman” the true story of Mary Moore Crowdog, and her experiences at the Wounded Knee occupation.

During the preceding months of the Wounded Knee occupation, civil war brewed among the Oglala people. There became a clear-cut between the traditional Lakota people and the more progressive minded government supporters. The traditional people wanted more independence from the Federal Government, as well as honoring of the 1868 Sioux treaty, which was still valid. According to the 1868 treaty, the Black Hills of South Dakota still belonged to the Sioux people, and the traditional people wanted the Federal Government to honor their treaty by returning the sacred Black Hills to the Sioux people.

Another severe problem on the Pine Ridge reservation was the strip mining of the land. The chemicals used by the mining operations were poisoning the land and the water. People were getting sick, and children were being born with birth defects. The tribal government and its supporters encouraged the strip mining and the sale of the Black Hills to the Federal Government. It is said that at that point in time, the tribal government was not much more than puppets of the BIA. The sacred Black Hills, along with many other problems, had become a wedge that would tear apart the Lakota Nation. Violent confrontations between the traditional people and the GOONS (Guardians of Our Oglala Nation) became an everyday occurrence.

The young AIM warriors, idealistic and defiant, were like a breath of fresh air to the Indian people, and their ideas quickly caught on. When AIM took control of Wounded Knee, over seventy-five different Indian Nations were represented, with more supporters arriving daily from all over the country. Soon United States Armed Forces in the form of Federal Marshals, and the National Guard surrounded the large group. All roads to Wounded Knee were cut off, but still, people slipped through the lines, pouring into the occupied area.

The forces inside Wounded Knee demanded an investigation into misuse of tribal funds; the goon squad’s violent aggression against people who dared speak out against the tribal government. In addition they wanted the Senate Committee to launch an investigation into the BIA and the Department of the Interior regarding their handling of the affairs of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The warriors also demanded an investigation into the 371 treaties between the Native Nations and the Federal Government, all of which had been broken by the United States.

The warriors that occupied Wounded Knee held fast to these demands and refused to lay down arms until they were met. The government cut off the electricity to Wounded Knee and attempted to keep all food supplies from entering the area.

For the rest of that winter, the men and women inside Wounded Knee lived on minimal resources, while they fought the armed aggression of Federal Forces. Daily, heavy gunfire was issued back and forth between the two sides, but true to their word, they refused to give up.

During the Wounded Knee occupation, they would live in their traditional manner, celebrating a birth, a marriage and they would mourn the death of two of their fellow warriors inside Wounded Knee. AIM member, Buddy Lamont was hit by M16 fire and bled to death inside Wounded Knee.

AIM member, Frank Clearwater was killed by heavy machine gun fire, inside Wounded Knee.

Twelve other individuals were intercepted by the goon squad while back packing supplies into Wounded Knee; they disappeared and were never heard from again. Though the government investigated, by looking for a mass grave in the area, when none was found the investigation was soon dismissed.

Wounded Knee was a great victory for the Oglala Sioux as well as all other Indian Nations. For a short period of time in 1973, they were a free people once more.

After 71 days, the Siege at Wounded Knee had come to an end; with the government making nearly 1200 arrests. But this would only mark the beginning of what was known as the “Reign of Terror” instigated by the FBI and the BIA. During the three years following Wounded Knee, 64 tribal members were unsolved murder victims, 300 harassed and beaten, and 562 arrests were made, and of these arrests only 15 people were convicted of any crime. A large price to pay for 71 days as a free people on the land of one’s ancestors.

Source

Enver Hoxha on the Comintern and Stalin

PartisanHoxhacolor

“By means of the Comintern, Lenin, and later Stalin, consolidated the communist and workers’ parties and strengthened the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and the rising fascist dictatorship. The activity of the Comintern was positive and revolutionary. The possibility that some mistakes may have been made is not ruled out, but it is necessary to bear in mind the difficult circumstances of illegality in which the parties and the leadership of the Comintern itself were obliged to work, as well as the fierce struggle waged against the communist parties by imperialism, the bourgeoisie and reaction. The true revolutionaries never forget that it was the Comintern which assisted to set up and strengthen the communist parties after the betrayal by the Second International, just as they never forget that the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin was the country in which hundreds of revolutionaries found refuge to escape the reprisals of the bourgeoisie and fascism and carry on their activity.

In his assessment of the work of the Comintern and Stalin, Khrushchev also had the support of the Chinese, who continue to make criticisms, although not publicly, in this direction. When we have had the opportunity, we have expressed our opinion about these incorrect assessments of the overall work of the Comintern and Stalin to the Chinese leaders. When I had the opportunity to talk with Mao Zedong, during my only visit to China, in 1956, or in the meetings with Zhou Enlai and others in Tirana, I have expressed the well known viewpoint of our Party about the figure of Stalin and the Comintern. I do not want to extend on these matters because I have written about them at length in my political diary and elsewhere.

The decisions of the Comintern and Dimitrov’s direction-giving speech in July 1935 have gone down in the history of the international communist movement as major documents which mobilized the peoples, and first of all the communists, to create the anti-fascist front and to organize themselves for armed struggle against Italian fascism, German Nazism and Japanese militarism. In this struggle, the communists and their parties were in the forefront everywhere.

Therefore, it is a crime to attack the great work of the Comintern and the Marxist-Leninist authority of Stalin[.]”

Enver Hoxha, “The Khrushchevites”

When Gaza Burns

Smoke and fire from an Israeli bomb rises into the air ove Gaza City

When Gaza Burns

by Charlie Mann

Gaza burns tonight.
It burns alone by the sea,
And it burns in the minds
of the masses,
Tears in their eyes with news of
dead children,
Explosions that reverberate
In the ears of those
Across the globe.
Mothers, daughters, fathers, sons,
Brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts
Feel the loss and pain
of dead relatives.

And tonight,
When Gaza burns,
It burns around the world.

Source

8 Atrocities Committed Against Puerto Rico by the US

by Jose L Vega Santiago

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the Caribbean Sea. It is a small island with a population of almost four million citizens. On July 25, 1898, during the Spanish American War, United States invaded Puerto Rico and commenced a long relationship between the two. With this list, I’ll try to underline eight atrocities committed by the United States in Puerto Rico.

8) La Operacion

La Operacion is a documentary that highlights the female sterilization policy. This policy was implanted by the United States as part of FDR’s “Operation Bootstrap” in a move toward industrialization. By 1974 35% of the Puerto Rican women were sterile and this number reached 39% by 1981. The problem with this sterilization policy is that most of the Puerto Rican women were misinformed about the sterilization process and most of the women didn’t know what the consequences would be.

7) Vieques

Vieques is an island municipality of Puerto Rico located in the northeastern Caribbean, it is also known as “La isla nena.” Vieques has a total area of 134.4sq miles and is inhabited by more than 9,000 viequenses. From 1941 to May 1, 2003 the United States Navy used Vieques for naval training and testing. From 1941 to 1942 the U.S. Navy expropriated 22,000 of Vieques 33,000 acres, by 1963 the Navy owned 22,600 acres of Vieques, almost 70% of the island.

In 1948 they commenced bombing exercise which continued for 55 years. Over the course of their stay, more than 22 million pounds of military and industrial waste was deposited on the island. The island was bombarded an average 180 days per year and in 1998 the Navy dropped 23,000 bombs on the island. Professor Jose Seguinot Barbosa, Director of the Geography Department in the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, states in his study “Vieques, the Ecology of an island under siege” that the eastern tip of the island constitutes an area with more craters per kilometer than the moon.

As a result of all this, the cancer rate in Vieques is 27% higher than in the mainland. Most of the elements and toxic compounds dumped in the island were arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, depleted uranium and napalm. Studies show that the ground water in Vieques is contaminated by nitrates and explosives. Testing done in the Lcacos Bay showed concentrations of cadmium in crabs 1,000 times greater than the World Health Organizations tolerable ingestion maximum dosage. Heavy metals have been found in other species of fish.

6) Radiation Experiments

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was a prominent leader in the independence movement of Puerto Rico. Albizu was imprisoned numerous times for seditious conspiracy against the United States. While in prison, Albizu said he was a subject of human experimentation without consent or warning. The U.S. Government’s response was that Albizu was insane. The president of the Cuban Cancer Association, Dr. Orlando Damuy, traveled to Puerto Rico to examine Albizu. Dr.Damuy reported burns on Albizu’s body caused by intense radiation. It is said that they placed a metal clip and film on Albizu’s skin and the clip radiated into the film.

Albizu died in 1965 and more than 75,000 Puerto Ricans carried his remains to the Old San Juan Cemetery. In 1994, under the administration of ex-president Bill Clinton, the United States Department of Energy disclosed that human radiation experiments had been conducted without consent on prisoners in Puerto Rico during the 1950s and 1970s.

5) Dr. Cornelius Rhoads

Dr. Cornelius Rhoads was an American doctor and pathologist that became infamous for performing several objectionable experiments with human beings. In 1931, sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute, Rhoads deliberately infected several Puerto Rican citizens with cancer cells. Supposedly, thirteen of the patients died. Dr. Rhoads once said in a written document: “The Porto Ricans [sic] are the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever to inhabit this sphere… I have done my best to further the process of extermination by killing off eight and transplanting cancer into several more… All physicians take delight in the abuse and torture of the unfortunate subjects.” An investigation done in 2003 by bioethicist Dr. Jay Katz found that the accusations were well founded and documented.

4) Ponce Massacre

The Ponce Massacre, which took place on March 21, 1937, was one of the most violent episodes in the history of the twentieth century in Puerto Rico. The activity was announced in El Mundo newspaper on March 19, indicating that the meeting of the Nationalists in Ponce and adjacent areas would be at 2pm in front of the Nationalist Party Headquarters in Ponce. That morning, Colonel Orbeta, the chief of police, traveled to Ponce with the intention of prohibiting the Nationalist activity. A week before, the Nationalists had requested authorization for the march from Mayor José Tormos Diego, who was away from Puerto Rico on vacation and had left Dr. William Gelpí as acting mayor. Gelpí authorized Casimiro Berenguer, the military instructor of the “Cadetes de la Republica” to disseminate information to the effect that permission had to be granted by Mayor Tormos Diego. The Nationalists had filed the request despite the fact that the laws of Puerto Rico allowed parades or public acts to be held without the need to ask permission.

The police under the command of Guillermo Soldevila, the head of the force in Juana Díaz, and Felipe Blanco cordoned off the demonstrators, using expert marksmen mobilized from all the police stations in Puerto Rico. The police covered the corner where the Nationalist Council was located on Marina Street, between Aurora and Jobos Streets. Meanwhile, the Cadets of the Republic and the Nurses Corps organized in three columns. The cadets wore a uniform of white trousers, black shirts, black caps, and on the left sleeve, a Calatravian cross. Leading the column was cadet captain Tomás López de Victoria. The young women formed up as the nurses corps, wearing white uniforms and marching behind the young men. Bringing up the rear was the band, made up of five or six musicians. Nearby, on Aurora and Marina Streets, almost in front of where the Council was located, the families of the cadets came together with other Nationalists who had come to see the parade. The band played “La Borinqueña,” and the captain of the Cadet Corps, Tomás López de Victoria, immediately gave the order to step off. At the precise moment when they were about to do so, Soldevila raised a whip, put it to the chest of López de Victoria, and told him that they could not march. Police officer Armando Martínez ran from the corner in front of the Nationalist Council toward Marina Street, firing once into the air, which unleashed volleys of shots from arms of different calibers. Eight people died instantly and others died later, for a total of nineteen. Police officers Ceferino Loyola and Eusebio Sánchez died victims of the crossfire of their fellows. Georgina Maldonado, a 13 year old-girl, an employee of a nearby gas station, José Antonio Delgado, a member of the National Guard who was passing by, and fourteen Nationalists also died.

A number of citizens of Ponce requested that the American Civil Liberties Union investigate what happened on March 21. An Investigating Commission on the causes of the Ponce Massacre was established, presided over by Atty. Arthur Garfield Hays, a US citizen delegated by the ACLU, with Emilio S. Belaval, the president of the Puerto Rico Atheneum, Mariano Acosta Velarde, the president of the Puerto Rico Bar Association, Francisco M. Zeno, the editor of La Correspondencia newspaper, Antonio Ayuso Valdivieso, the director of El Imparcial newspaper, and Manuel Díaz García, a former president of the Medical Association. The commission carried out an exhaustive investigation of the facts and in its report placed the blame on Governor Winship. It referred to the happenings as the Ponce Massacre. [Source]

3) The Pill

In the early 1950s the Puerto Rican women were used for experimentation in the making of the first birth control pill. The Pill was invented by Dr. Gregory Goodwin Pincus but strict laws in the U.S. didn’t permit full scale experimentation. In 1955 Dr. Pincus and his colleague, Harvard obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. John Rock visited Puerto Rico and then decided it was a perfect place to test out their pill due to the lack of anti-birth control laws.

The trials began in Rio Piedras but quickly moved throughout the poor sectors in the island. The experiments was based on poor and working class women; these women were not told the pill was experimental and were not told the negative effects the pill could have on them. Three young women died during these experiments and no investigations were conducted to determine cause of death.

2) Colonization

The effect of the colonization is very evident on the Puerto Rican people. “La ley de mordaza” was implanted by Governor Jesus T. Piñero on May 21, 1948 which did not permit any Puerto Rican to show any patriotism or even display the Puerto Rican Flag. Puerto Ricans were given citizenship in 1917 with the Jones Act, Puerto Ricans were considered alien in United States but once the Jones Act took effect more than 20,000 Puerto Ricans were drafted by the army. With the United States came huge changes in the educational system making American values and principles the main teachings in schools and even forcing teachers to teach English. It wasn’t until 1998 that Puerto Ricans changed back to Spanish as their main language in schools.

The United States implanted an economy that depended on them; this destroyed the agriculture in Puerto Rico. In less than 20 years, 90 cents of each dollar that a Puerto Rican spent went to the United States. This made Puerto Rico one of the poorest countries in America. The Puerto Ricans still do not have a defined status; Puerto Rico has one of the worst economies in America and an unemployment rate of more than 16%. Puerto Ricans don’t have the same rights for their social security or even veterans’ benefits, even though they meet the same requirements than the people that live in the states.

1) Puerto Rico’s Status

Puerto Rico has been a US territory for more than 100 years and has been defined as a commonwealth since 1952. Puerto Ricans cannot vote for the US President or Congress but they have to obey federal laws. A Resident Commissioner represents Puerto Ricans in Congress but he cannot vote on legislation. This affects Puerto Ricans every day. An example of this is the Cabotage laws implanted in 1920 by the Jones Act. This law says that Puerto Ricans must use the U.S. Merchant Marine for the oceanic transportation of any goods bought by Puerto Rico. This is a problem because Puerto Rico, being an island, does not produce everything it consumes and is obliged in the use of the U.S. Merchant Marine. The U.S. Merchant Marine is one of the most expensive merchant marines in the world. It is estimated that if Puerto Ricans were not forced to use the U.S. Merchant Marine prices in all imported products would drop 40% and it would save Puerto Ricans $150 million in product export, this would lower the prices of the exported products and make Puerto Rico a more competitive country in the world market.

You could think that Puerto Rico has the Cabotage laws applied because it hasn’t defined their political status but this in not true because other US territories like the US Virgin Islands don’t have to comply with these laws. Another fact is that the Puerto Rican trade produces 25% of The U.S. Merchant Marine’s income.

Source

Marxism & Bourgeois Nationalism

As always, a re-posting of articles does not necessarily imply an absolute endorsement of the entirety of its content. However, this well-written article does make a good point about the duality of the bourgeois class, particularly in the Third World and oppressed countries.

– Espresso Stalinist.

Tripoli is burning. Thousands of black Libyans and African immigrants are rounded up by the NATO-backed rebels and thrown into prisons. Supporters of the ousted nationalist government wait with baited breath for the inevitable and bloody purge by the new rebel government. Libyan oil gushes out of Benghazi into the pipelines of Western energy companies. And militia groups, deputized by Interpol and the now-victorious National Transitional Council (NTC) government, hunt for Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and his family across the Libyan desert.

Now that NATO has won this asymmetrical imperialist war, at least in the short term, no one can reasonably say that the Libyan people are better off with the rebel government in power. For all of the flaws of Qaddafi’s government – and other nationalist governments like his – the Libyan people enjoyed the highest standard of living on the African continent, rising from the lowest standard of living in the world as of 1951. (1) The national and tribal governments had an amicable working relationship that allowed for decentralized planning and local decision-making. Moreover, Libya’s natural resources were controlled by a national government at-odds with Western energy corporations, and the wealth they generated was publicly owned and shared. (1) In other words, the Libyan nation exercised its inherent right to self-determination.

Qaddafi’s government wasn’t socialist; it was nationalist. The relations of production in Libya were capitalist in nature, but to deny that Qaddafi’s government was more progressive and objectively anti-imperialist ignores the brutal material reality that millions of Libyans are facing because of the NTC government.

As the West begins to re-calibrate its war machine and set its crosshairs on President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, Marxist-Leninists need to understand their relationship with nationalist bourgeois states, like Qaddafi’s Libya. History has objectively proven those “leftists” who were cheerleaders for the fall of Qaddafi’s government in Libya or Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq wrong.

At the same time, every bourgeois state operates fundamentally in the interest of some sector of the capitalist ruling class, whether national or international, and in time the proletariat will replace that old machinery with socialism through revolution.

I posit these theses:

Because of their relation to imperialism after the fall of the socialist bloc, the objective historical position of nationalist states in the Third World is progressive.

Marxist-Leninists must uphold the right of nations to self-determination, which in the present is principally characterized by freedom from imperialist subjugation.

Where it arises, Marxist-Leninists must support genuine revolutionary proletarian struggles for socialism against bourgeois nationalist governments.

Josef Stalin, author of Marxism & the National Question

What is nationalism?

To understand when and why Marxist-Leninists should support nationalism, it’s important to examine the material conditions from which nationalism arises.

As a starting point, it’s important to distinguish a nation from other units of social or geographical organization, like a tribe or country. Historically speaking, national identity is a relatively recent development in class society. In his seminal 1913 work, Marxism and the National Question, Josef Stalin outlines the characteristics of a nation as “a historically evolved, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” (2)

Two important characteristics to note about Stalin’s definition. First, while territory and geography is a defining feature of a nation, it is not its sole determining characteristic, meaning that within the existential boundaries of a country–itself a recent social development–many nations may exist. Second, while a common economic life is also a defining characteristic, nations are not formed on the basis of class unity. In other words, there is no proletarian nation or bourgeois nation, but rather these two classes are both part and parcel of their respective nations.

In its inception, nationalism arises as an ideology of the bourgeoisie. From Marxism and the National Question:

The chief problem for the young bourgeoisie is the problem of the market. Its aim is to sell its goods and to emerge victorious from competition with the bourgeoisie of another nationality. Hence its desire to secure its “own,” its “home” market. The market is the first school in which the bourgeoisie learns its nationalism. (2)

Though all classes in a given nation are capable of embracing nationalism, Stalin argues that its historical basis lies in the bourgeoisie and its need for capital accumulation as a class. While other classes can appropriate and have transformed this concept, the demand for national self-determination begins as a bourgeois demand for exclusive access and control of its own national markets and resources.

European and American nationalism, for instance, arose from the break-up of feudal empires and the fledgling bourgeoisie’s struggle to establish itself as a class via primitive accumulation. American merchants, traders, shopkeepers, and speculators, denied full access to the readily available land and resources in North America by British mercantilism, led revolution of 1776 on the basis of American national unity. Though the American revolution of 1776 was waged in the interests of the fledgling bourgeoisie, the working masses rallied to the banner of American nationalism and led a successful struggle against British colonialism. Stalin notes that the “strength of the national movement is determined by the degree to which the wide strata of the nation, the proletariat and peasantry, participate in it.” (2)

Though the role of American nationalism in 1776 was historically progressive, the triumph of the American national movement was fueled by and resulted in the further subjugation of the African masses kidnapped and violently lashed into slave labor, along with the indigenous tribes ruthlessly slaughtered in the expansion of the American empire. Dialectically, American nationalism’s progressive features became the basis for the rise of the most oppressive imperialist power in the history of the world.

Without the subjugation of the African masses as a slave labor force, the Western bourgeoisie could never have established itself as an independent ruling class. Indeed, the same American nationalism that united the colonists against British mercantilism would unite the country in waging genocidal wars for land against indigenous people and Mexicans. After the series of successful European bourgeois revolutions, all ideologically fueled through nationalism, colonialism in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Pacific Islands became central to acquiring the cheap labor and resources necessary to generating extreme national wealth.

Because of the cheap labor and resources acquired through ruthless expansion, American capitalism transformed into imperialism, in which developed countries use force and comparative advantages in trade to violently extract resources and exploit the labor force of other colonies. Central to maintaining the colonial apparatus was the denial of equal rights and the cultivation of racist myths about colonized people, which materially manifested itself in slave labor, apartheid, and denial of access to the liberal democratic institutions established by the colonial bourgeoisie in imperialist countries.

Inevitably, the placement of capital in colonial countries allowed some small fraction of the colonized population to gain access to limited amounts of their own capital, albeit usually dependent on the colonial power. In other words, this small class of propertied yet colonized people constituted a bourgeoisie. Of this bourgeoisie, Stalin writes:

The bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation, repressed on every hand, is naturally stirred into movement. It appeals to its “native folk” and begins to shout about the “fatherland,” claiming that its own cause is the cause of the nation as a whole. It recruits itself an army from among its “countrymen” in the interests of… the “fatherland.” Nor do the “folk” always remain unresponsive to its appeals, they rally around its banner: the repression from above affects them too and provokes their discontent. (2)

The bourgeoisie of oppressed nations has the same basic features as the American and European bourgeoisie, in that both classes sought greater access to their own markets, resources, and labor. However, the conditions around the oppressed national bourgeoisie are qualitatively different than those around the Western bourgeoisie; they cannot seize control of their own national resources because of the fetters of colonialism.

Unquestionably the type of colonial oppression faced by the oppressed national bourgeoisie was different than that felt by the colonized proletariat and peasantry, who faced more brutal repression from the state and worse terms of labor. However, these colonized classes all had something to gain by overthrowing colonial and imperialist rule and achieving self-determination for their nation.

Nationalism becomes vital to the colonized bourgeoisie because it unites themselves and the colonized laboring masses in the struggle for national liberation. At the point where the laboring masses embrace nationalism, “the national movement begins.” (2)

National liberation struggles are not exclusively led by the nationalist bourgeoisie, and historically the bourgeoisie in colonial or semi-colonial nations is often too weak or too connected to the colonizing nation to exert itself independently as a class. Numerous examples of successful revolutionary proletarian national liberation movements exist, including the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). These successful communist movements, like the MPLA, also made use of nationalism to unite the country around the central task of expelling the colonizers. In essence, although nationalism is originally a bourgeois ideology, other revolutionary classes can appropriate it during the national liberation struggle phase.

Saddam Hussein, with an AK-47

Bourgeois nationalist states in the Third World

Because the nationalist bourgeoisie finds itself opposed to imperialism in the Third World, they can function as a tactical ally for the proletariat and peasantry in these same oppressed nations. Marxist-Leninists should never accept this alliance as permanent, however, and must carefully evaluate the place of the national bourgeoisie in relation to imperialism and the vast laboring masses.

Iraq provides one of the most potent examples of the fickle and unreliable nature of the nationalist bourgeoisie. The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, for instance, was primarily bourgeois in its orientation and leadership, but it also attracted a mass following in the wake of the Iraq’s independence from British colonialism in 1958. (3)

Ba’ath was not committed to socialist revolution in Iraq, but they did preside over an aggressive nationalization program in 1972, which seized oil refineries from British and American companies and allowed them to diversify Iraq’s economy. Though these nationalizations were motivated by the access considerations of the national bourgeoisie, they also allowed the Ba’ath state to redirect revenues into public works projects that lifted nearly half the country out of poverty. In a 2006 profile piece on Saddam, PBS News writes of Ba’ath’s accomplishments:

As vice chairman, he oversaw the nationalization of the oil industry and advocated a national infrastructure campaign that built roads, schools and hospitals. The once illiterate Saddam, ordered a mandatory literacy program. Those who did not participate risked three years in jail, but hundreds of thousands learned to read. Iraq, at this time, created one of the best public-health systems in the Middle East — a feat that earned Saddam an award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (4)

True to form, Saddam and Ba’ath rose to power in direct response to British colonialism. Acting in the interests of the Iraqi national bourgeoisie, they ‘took back’ the resources monopolized by the West’s colonial subjugation and used the revenues to rapidly construct a modern Iraq, which required an educated populace, secular government, a functional road system, and social infrastructure like hospitals. One can question the sincerity of Ba’ath’s actions towards the masses, but one cannot dispute the profoundly positive effect these nationalist policies had on the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

However, the social accomplishments of bourgeois nationalist regimes should never obscure their reactionary character. With both Ba’ath and the Communist Party of Iraq (ICP) vying for supremacy after the 1958 revolution, hostile confrontations between the parties continued until 1963, when Ba’ath launched a coup d’etat against Prime Minister Abdul Karim Qasim. (5) During the coup, communists organized massive militant resistance to Ba’ath, and over the course of the three days in Baghdad, “5,000 Iraqi citizens were apparently killed, including 80 Ba’th Party activists and 340 Iraqi communist activists.” (6)

Following the consolidation of Ba’ath rule in Iraq, the ICP experienced two separate waves of repression: one in 1963 following the coup and the subsequent unrest, and the other in 1977, led by Saddam. (5) Historian Bob Feldman writes in a February 2006 piece on Iraq that “By March 1963, an estimated 10,000 Communist Party of Iraq members had been arrested by the Ba’th regime and many imprisoned Iraqi leftist activists were not treated gently.” (6) Quoting Said Aburish’s book, “A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite”, Feldman continues:

The number of people eliminated remains confused and estimates range from 700 to 30,000. Putting various statements by Iraqi exiles together, in all likelihood the figure was nearer five thousand…. There were many ordinary people who were eliminated because they continued to resist after the coup became an accomplished fact, but there were also senior army officers, lawyers, professors, teachers, doctors and others. (6)

The CPI was correct to resist the 1963 Ba’ath coup and oppose the consolidation of a bourgeois nationalist regime. Iraq’s independence in 1958 had shifted their primary adversary from British colonialism to the Iraqi bourgeoisie, seeing as no colonial entity to struggle against still existed. Saddam’s case reminds Marxist-Leninists that it’s strategic to enter into a popular front with bourgeois nationalists against imperialism, but after the national liberation struggle is complete, they constitute a vicious and dangerous foe.

Palestinian women wave PFLP flags

Nationalist governments support revolutionary people’s struggles in the Third World.

Failure to conform to imperialist foreign policy is the most common wedge issue between bourgeois nationalists and the West. Often driven by pan-national ideological unity, bourgeois nationalist countries objectively support revolutionary people’s struggles and national liberation movements abroad, placing them at odds with imperialism.

Finding common ground with the Shi’a-led Iraqi resistance to US occupation, Iran has provided weapons to Iraqi insurgents, as well as training for assembling their own weapons. (7) While many allegations about Iranian aid to the Iraqi resistance are exaggerated by Western capitalist media to ratchet up tensions, journalist Michael Perry describes Iran’s rationale in a February 2007 article:

But let’s go even further and say, for the sake of argument, that the Iraqi insurgents are receiving officially authorized aid from the Iranian state. It is true that having a neighboring nation in chaos does not generally benefit any country, but the Iranians have been under the gun from the U.S. for a very long time –decades in fact. The recent threats and provocations from the Bush administration make it clear that Iran is an imminent target. I’m quite sure the Iranians realize that the quagmire in Iraq is the primary impediment to an American invasion of Iran. Troubles for U.S. forces in Iraq may buy the Iranians more time. Could the Iranians be so blind to their own self-interests? (8)

At odds with Saddam’s secular Sunni government for decades, the Iranian bourgeoisie would relish the opportunity to have an oil-rich Shi’a-dominated Iraq to its west. More pressing, however, is the collective national fear of having another US-client state in the region. There’s a reason that Tehran, and not Qatar, the UAE, or Saudi Arabia, is actively subverting US occupation by materially supporting the Iraqi resistance. That reason, of course, is because the Iran’s ruling nationalist bourgeoisie has a material class interest in anti-imperialism.

The best evidence for the progressive quality of the Iranian nationalist bourgeoisie, embodied in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is the attempted color revolution in 2009 by the US-backed Mir-Hossein Mousavi. This so-called ‘Green revolution’ was financially supported by both the West and the wealthy neo-liberal bourgeoisie, represented by multi-millionaire former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. (9) In the 2005 Presidential elections, Ahmadinejad defeated Rafsanjani largely on the basis of the latter’s gaudy neo-liberal orientation. A 2005 article in GreenLeft by Doug Lorimer highlights the divergent class interests represented by Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani. While both accept the fundamental tenents of the Iranian capitalist state:

In the same TV interview [Ahmadinejad] claimed the country’s vast oil wealth was controlled by one powerful family — a reference to Rafsanjani, who is alleged to have enriched himself through his son’s management of the country’s nationalised oil industry. The Rafsanjanis also have investments worth US1 billion in pistachio farming, real estate, automobile manufacture and a private airline.

“The whole Iranian economy is set up to benefit the privileged few”, Ray Takeyh, a professor and director of studies at the US National Defense University’s Near East and South Asia Center in Washington, told the Bloomberg news agency last December. “Rafsanjani is the most adept, the most notorious and the most privileged.” (10)

Rafsanjani, and his running dog Mousavi, hoped to rise to power via a US-supported color revolution and open Iran to Western markets; in other words, they represent the comprador Iranian bourgeoisie. Despite the best efforts of the imperialist powers to oust Ahmadinejad–who by every objective measure legitimately won the 2009 election–the Iranian people resisted these attacks on their national sovereignty. (11) Even as he nears the end of his two terms as President, Ahmadinejad remains popular with the Iranian masses because of his consistent anti-imperialism on the world stage, along with the social programs he has championed at home despite Western sanctions.

Pivoting to another nationalist state, Syria has consistently functioned as the most progressive of the multitude of Middle Eastern countries by substantially supporting the major national liberation movements in the region. Trinity University professor of history David Lesch writes in his fantastic book, The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria that:

Syria does not deny claims of support for Hizbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, viewing that such operations constitute legitimate resistance and not terrorism; indeed, Damascus often views Israeli activities vis-a-vis the Palestinians and its actions in Lebanon as terrorism. (12)

Since the Syrian Ba’ath party took power in 1963, the state has always supported the Palestinian and Lebanese liberation struggles and sought to keep Israeli imperialism in-check. (13) Sharing the common trait of secularism, Syria allows the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the largest Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movement in Palestine, to operate comfortably out of Damascus and materially supports their struggle with supplies and resources. (14) Because of the Syrian bourgeoisie’s desire for regional secular pan-Arab unity–rooted in the Alawi faith of President Bashar al-Assad and others–and the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, Assad’s government is objectively anti-imperialist.

Similarly, Saddam’s Ba’ath state in Iraq financially supported and championed the cause of Palestinian national liberation, which was played up by the West in the months leading up to the 2003 invasion. On March 13, 2003–just six days before the invasion–the BBC reported, “Saddam Hussein has paid out thousands of dollars to families of Palestinians killed in fighting with Israel. Relatives of at least one suicide attacker as well as other militants and civilians gathered in a hall in Gaza City to receive cheques.” (15) Later, the same article estimates that the Iraqi government had paid out nearly $35 million to Palestinian families since 2000.

In hindsight, the timing and purpose of this BBC article is obvious, but that Saddam’s support for ‘terrorist groups’ was one of the reasons for the 2003 invasion demonstrates the extreme degree to which his support for the Palestinians offended and scared the West. Startlingly few people remember that Israel invaded Syrian airspace and bombed a peaceful nuclear power plant in September 2007 for many of the same reasons. When a bourgeois state in the Third World becomes nationalist in its orientation, as opposed to comprador bourgeois states, it demands a response from the West.

Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia

Never confuse your primary and secondary contradictions!

Although a multitude of contradictions exist in class societies, at any given time, one of these contradictions is principal in comparison to the others. If a person goes for a walk, decides s/he wants a cigarette, and then gets bitten by a rattlesnake, the order of the day is to call a doctor and receive medical attention immediately for the venom. As much as that person might have wanted–or even needed–a cigarette, only a great fool would tell this person that s/he should prioritize smoking over seeking medical attention.

Primary and secondary contradictions seem like common sense, but a multitude of so-called ‘leftists’ and revolutionaries confuse them when analyzing imperialism. Ultimately, the approach that Marxist-Leninists ought to take to bourgeois nationalist governments is tied up in correctly identifying and acting on primary and secondary contradictions.

Though largely ignored in Marxist-Leninist writings, the experience of the Ethiopian revolution offers valuable insight as to how communists ought to struggle against bourgeois nationalist governments. Having played an instrumental role in repelling the Italian fascist occupation of Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie I began as an archetype bourgeois nationalist. He encouraged pan-African unity, promoted decolonization, and began an aggressive process of modernizing Ethiopia.

That said, Selassie’s government became firmly aligned with the West after World War II and opened the country up to an influx of foreign capital. Presiding over and encouraging severely unequal land distribution, Selassie’s government was also responsible for a series of famines and foot shortages, the worst of which claimed an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 victims. (16) Ahmed Khan of the Communist Workers and Peasants Party in Pakistan writes this of Selassie’s government:

During the monarchical period, life expectancy was a mere 38 years and 90% of the people were illiterate. Only a tiny handful of feudal landowners and royal sycophants controlled the entire wealth of the country.

Severe drought and famine engulfed Ethiopia which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of peasants, and led to widespread hunger and food crises in the urban areas. (16)

Even bourgeois sources regard these famines as the product of Selassie’s destructive policies. A 1997 report by Human Rights Watch called “Rebellion and Famine in the North under Haile Selassie” indicted the nationalist government for its culpability in this famine, saying:

The Wollo famine was popularly blamed on drought, a backward and impoverishedsocial system, and the cover-up attempted by the imperial government. These factors were all-important — though it must be remembered that specific actions by the government, especiallyafter the Ras Gugsa and Weyane revolts, were instrumental in creating the absence of development. (17)

By 1974, Selassie’s bourgeois government lost all legitimacy in the eyes of the masses. Because of the widespread crises brought on by Selassie’s selective industrial development and close trade relations with the West, Ethiopian workers and peasants began to mobilize against the government. Khan writes, “The inability of the monarchy to deal with the crisis and the propensity of the feudalists to bleed the peasantry dry led to increasing hatred for the monarchy on part of the oppressed peasants, workers and a section of the emergent urban middle class.” (16)

Although no Marxist-Leninist vanguard party existed in Ethiopia at this time, a communist council of military officers known as the Derg organized alongside labor leaders in the urban centers and peasant communities in the countryside to produce the Ethiopian revolution of 1974. (18)

The revolutionary experience of the Ethiopian people in overthrowing Selassie’s government and establishing the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia–firmly committed to socialist construction–has tremendous lessons for Marxist-Leninists about their relation to bourgeois nationalists. Objectively, Selassie’s government was essential to the anti-imperialist and anti-fascist struggle waged against fascist Italy in 1935. The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) went so far as to launch a “Hands off Ethiopia” campaign in the same year, which included substantial demonstrations supporting Ethiopia’s right to self-determination (19).

However, classes do not exist in a vacuum. While one class may play a historically progressive role at one time, a change in the material conditions–like increased trade relations with the West following World War II–may render that same class reactionary. For as important as nationalism was to Ethiopia repelling fascist Italy in 1941, the same nationalist government’s reactionary policies reached a boiling point in 1974, resulting in a popular socialist revolution.

The lesson from Ethiopia is clear: Marxist-Leninists in nationalist states must organize with a keen awareness of primary and secondary contradictions. For a moment, let’s assume that an organization like the Derg existed in Ethiopia circa-1935. Said organization would commit a grave error in throwing in with the fascists in hopes of toppling an admittedly reactionary monarchy. First, the organization would undeniably alienate the Ethiopian masses, who despite their poverty and poor military training, flocked to defend their homeland, the only African state never colonized by the West, from fascist occupation. (20) Second, although Selassie’s bourgeois government was at-odds with the interests of Ethiopian workers and peasants, that contradiction receded into the background the moment that fascist Italy began poison gassing entire villages of Ethiopians.

When Mussolini’s forces invaded Ethiopia in 1935, there was only one organized military force capable of mounting a resistance: Selassie’s nationalist government. Unsuccessful at first, Ethiopian patriots of all classes, albeit predominantly workers and peasants, struggled onward to victory and liberation in 1941. That this liberation struggle took place across class lines on a nationalist basis is no small detail. It’s paramount that Marxist-Leninists, in light of Iraq, Libya, and increasing aggression towards Syria, comfortably identify anti-imperialism as the primary contradiction facing the international proletarian revolution today.

Proletarian internationalism is superior in every way to bourgeois nationalism, but so long as neo-colonialism and imperialism exist, communists must unite all who can be united in the anti-imperialist struggle. Simultaneously, though, communists must remember the other side of the dialectic: When bourgeois nationalists become complicit partners in Western imperialism and alienate themselves from the masses, communists must never hesitate to overthrow that state with extreme prejudice and on its ruins erect revolutionary socialism.

The irrelevance and obscurity of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) following the toppling of Saddam’s Ba’ath regime demonstrates the devastating effects of incorrectly identifying primary and secondary contradictions.

Saddam was by no means a consistent anti-imperialist throughout his reign. Though Ba’athist Iraq established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and China, it still retained casual relations with the West; relations that were strengthened following Saddam’s condemnation of Soviet intervention in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, as well as the Iranian Revolution in 1979. (21) Between the overthrow of the US-backed Shah, the establishment of a militant Islamic republic, and the Iranian hostage crisis, Iraq began to work closely with the West to curb Tehran’s influence in the Middle East. Though the Reagan Administration would notoriously fund the Iranians also, the US comfortably placed their initial bets behind Saddam in the devastating Iran-Iraq war of 1983-1988.

Even though the imperialists used Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war to sow chaos in the Middle East, the Ba’ath state remained largely at odds with Western interests because of its nationalist orientation. Refusing to privatize its oil industry and allow Western capital to fully penetrate its national markets, the West increasingly saw Saddam as a danger to imperialist interests in the Middle East. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait over territorial disputes, the subsequent Gulf War, and Saddam’s unabashed support for the Palestinian liberation struggle cemented Iraq’s status as a pariah state in the eyes of the West by the early 1990s.

In an effort to eliminate an unfriendly pro-Palestinian government perched atop massive oil reserves, the US and UK fabricated the now-infamous falsehood that Saddam’s government had weapons of mass destruction. While communists around the world uniformly condemned the imperialist invasion of Iraq, “the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) welcomed Saddam Hussein’s removal and is happy that the ousted president is to be put on trial.” (22) Exhausted and furious from decades of repression by Ba’ath, the ICP’s position is understandable on a purely visceral and emotional level. However, Marxist-Leninists must remain level-headed during periods of crisis and correctly identify primary and secondary contradictions; a task at which the ICP uniformally failed.

In the coming years, the ICP would come to participate in the puppet state erected by the West–most recently in the liberalizing ‘Political Reconciliation’ movement–and integrate themselves into this comprador government imposed from without. (23) Despite comprising the strongest opposition to the Ba’ath government during the 1960s, the ICP has descended into relative obscurity, having lost any credibility with the masses for their blunder. Instead, Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and other religious sects comprised the mass base of resistance after Saddam was captured, though their bourgeois and petty-bourgeois class character has led them to also participate in Maliki’s bogus government.

One would think that the international ‘left’ would have learned about correctly handling primary and secondary contradictions after witnessing the failure of the ICP to lead a mass revolutionary resistance to imperialist occupation. Instead, the same ‘leftists’ who witnessed the invasion of Iraq cheerled a racist, imperialist-backed ‘rebel movement’ in Libya, and many made the full leap into supporting NATO’s invasion to oust Qaddafi.

When a nation achieves self-determination, the secondary contradiction between the proletariat and the national bourgeoisie will ascend to the forefront as the new primary contradiction. Before that time, however, the primary contradiction facing the masses in oppressed nations is between imperialism and national liberation. In bourgeois nationalist states, this contradiction can and must draw in all who can be united to strike a blow against imperialism.

Countries want independence.

Nations want liberation.

People want revolution.

—-

(1) Gerald A. Perreira, “Libya Getting it Right: A Revolutionary Pan-African Perspective,” March 4, 2011, Dissent Voice, http://bit.ly/mQT4iz

(2) Josef Stalin, Marxism & the National Question, March-May 1913, http://bit.ly/cwOCSQ

(3) Said K. Aburish, “How Saddam Hussein Came to Power,” 2002, From Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, Published in The Saddam Hussein Reader, pg. 41-42

(4) Jessica Moore, “Saddam Hussein’s Rise to Power,” 2003, PBS News, http://to.pbs.org/65tro

(5) Turi Munthe (Editor), The Saddam Hussein Reader, 2002, pg. xv-xviii

(6) Bob Feldman, “A People’s History of Iraq: 1950 to November 1963,” February 2, 2006, Toward Freedom, http://bit.ly/qwCar2

(7) CNN, “Iraqi insurgents being trained in Iran, US says,” April 11, 2007, http://bit.ly/nHra0S

(8) Michael Perry, “So what if Iran is Interfering in Iraq?,” February 21, 2007, AntiWar.com, http://bit.ly/ogwqxd

(9) Paul Craig Roberts, “Are the Iranian Protests Another US Orchestrated ‘Color Revolution’?,” June 20-21, 2009, CounterPunch, http://bit.ly/pmXj7w

(10) Doug Lorimer, “IRAN: A vote against neoliberalism,” July 6, 2005, Green Left, http://bit.ly/nYcOll

(11) Terror Free America, New America Foundation, “Ahmadinejad Front Runner in Upcoming Elections,” June 12, 2009, http://bit.ly/k8x0w

(12) David W. Lesch, The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria, 2005, pg. 102

(13) Reuters, “Syrian President Vows to Keep Supporting Hezbollah, Hamas,” August 2, 2007, http://bit.ly/qex219

(14) Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, “PFLP condemns attack on Syria,” November 3, 2008, Fight Back! News, http://bit.ly/qWDlmo

(15) BBC News, “Palestinians get Saddam funds,” March 13, 2008, http://bbc.in/9BWsXr

(16) Ahmed Khan, “Defend Comrade Mengistu! On the struggle of our Ethiopian brothers,” November 19, 2008, Red Diary, http://bit.ly/jbYhks

(17) Human Rights Watch, “3. Rebellion and Famine in the North Under Haile Selassie,” 1997, http://bit.ly/pzy53w

(18) Christopher Clapham, Transformation and Continuity in Revolutionary Ethiopia, 1988, Cambridge University Press.

(19) Robin D.G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression, 1990, pg. 123.

(20) A.J. Barker, The Rape of Ethiopia, 1936, 1971.

(21) Said K. Aburish, “How Saddam Hussein Came to Power,” 2002, From Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, Published in The Saddam Hussein Reader, pg. 44

(22) Shaheen Chughtai, “Iraqi communists celebrate change,” June 1, 2004, http://aje.me/qp5rVW

(23) Talal Alrubaie, “The Iraqi Communist Party and Hegel’s Owl of Minerva,” February 2, 2010, http://bit.ly/rqF6fr

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Video: “What Hitler Wants”

30 Years since Sabra and Shatila

The Sabra and Shatila massacre was carried out on September 16, 1982, in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and lasted for three days at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the Lebanese Phalange Party and the South Lebanon Army (SLA). The death toll in the massacres is not clearly defined. Estimates range between 3,500 and 5,000 dead, men and children, women and elderly unarmed civilians, the majority of whom were Palestinians, but also including Lebanese.

In that time, the camp was surrounded entirely by the South Lebanon Army and the Israel Defense Forces, which was under the command of Ariel Sharon and Rafael Eitan. The leadership of the occupying forces were under the command of the influential Falangist administrator named Elie Hobeika. The forces entered the camp and began the cold-blooded implementation of the massacre that shook the world without mercy, and away from the media, which later reported they had used knives and other methods in the liquidation of the camp’s residents.

The Massacre at Sabra and Shatila, Thirty Years Later

A Never-Ending Horror Story

by SONJA KARKAR

It happened thirty years ago – 16 September 1982. A massacre so awful that people who know about it cannot forget it. The photos are gruesome reminders – charred, decapitated, indecently violated corpses, the smell of rotting flesh, still as foul to those who remember it as when they were recoiling from it all those years ago. For the victims and the handful of survivors, it was a 36-hour holocaust without mercy. It was deliberate, it was planned and it was overseen. But to this day, the killers have gone unpunished.

Sabra and Shatila – two Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon – were the theatres for this staged slaughter. The former is no longer there and the other is a ghostly and ghastly reminder of man’s inhumanity to men, women and children – more specifically, Israel’s inhumanity, the inhumanity of the people who did Israel’s bidding and the world’s inhumanity for pretending it was of no consequence. There were international witnesses – doctors, nurses, journalists – who saw the macabre scenes and have tried to tell the world in vain ever since.

Each act was barbarous enough on its own to warrant fear and loathing. It was human savagery at its worst and Dr Ang Swee Chai was an eye witness as she worked with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society on the dying and the wounded amongst the dead. What she saw was so unimaginable that the atrocities committed need to be separated from each other to even begin comprehending the viciousness of the crimes. [1]

People Tortured. Blackened bodies smelling of roasted flesh from the power shocks that had convulsed their bodies before their hearts gave out – the electric wires still tied around their lifeless limbs

People with gouged out eye sockets. Faces unrecognisable with the gaping holes that had plunged them into darkness before their lives were thankfully ended.

Women raped. Not once – but two, three, four times – horribly violated, their legs shamelessly ripped apart with not even the cover of clothing to preserve their dignity at the moment of death.

Children dynamited alive. So many body parts ripped from their tiny torsos, so hard to know to whom they belonged – just mounds of bloodied limbs amongst the tousled heads of children in pools of blood.

Families executed. Blood, blood and more blood sprayed on the walls of homes where whole families had been axed to death in a frenzy or lined up for a more orderly execution.

There were also journalists who were there in the aftermath and who had equally gruesome stories to tell, none of which made the sort of screaming front page headlines that should have caused lawmakers to demand immediate answers. What they saw led them to write shell-shocked accounts that have vanished now into the archives, but are no less disturbing now. These accounts too need to be individually absorbed, lest they be lumped together as just the collective dead rather than the systematic torture and killing of individual, innocent human beings.

Women gunned down while cooking in their kitchens. [2] The headless body of a baby in diapers lying next to two dead women. [3] An infant, its tiny legs streaked with blood, shot in the back by a single bullet. [4] Slaughtered babies, their bodies blackened as they decomposed, tossed into rubbish heaps together with Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey. [5] An old man castrated, with flies thick upon his torn intestines. [6] Children with their throats slashed. [7] Mounds of rotting corpses bloated in the heat – young boys all shot at point-blank range. [8]

And most numbing of all are the recollections of the survivors whose experiences were so shockingly traumatic that to recall them must have been painful beyond all imaginings. One survivor, Nohad Srour, 35 said:

“I was carrying my one year-old baby sister and she was yelling “Mama! Mama!” then suddenly nothing. I looked at her and her brain had fallen out of her head and down my arm. I looked at the man who shot us. I’ll never forget his face. Then I felt two bullets pierce my shoulder and finger. I fell. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I pretended to be dead.”[9]

The statistics of those killed vary, but even according to the Israeli military, the official count was 700 people killed while Israeli journalist, Amnon Kapeliouk put the figure at 3,500. [10] The Palestinian Red Crescent Society put the number killed at over 2,000.[11] Regardless of the numbers, they would not and could not mitigate what are clear crimes against humanity.

Fifteen years later, Robert Fisk, the journalist who had been one of the first on the scene, said:

“Had Palestinians massacred 2,000 Israelis 15 years ago, would anyone doubt that the world’s press and television would be remembering so terrible a deed this morning? Yet this week, not a single newspaper in the United States – or Britain for that matter – has even mentioned the anniversary of Sabra and Shatila.”[12]

Thirty years later it is no different.

The political developments

What happened must be set against the background of a Lebanon that had been invaded by the Israeli army only months earlier, supposedly in ‘retaliation’ for the attempted assassination of the Israeli Ambassador in London on 4 June 1982. Israel attributed the attempt to Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) then resident in Beirut. In reality, it was a rival militant group headed by Abu Nidal. Israel wanted to oust the PLO from Lebanon altogether and on 6 June 1982, Israel began its devastating assault on the Lebanese and Palestinian civilian population in the southern part of Lebanon. Lebanese government casualty figures numbered the dead at around 19,000 with some 30,000 wounded, but these numbers are hardly accurate because of the mass graves and other bodies lost in the rubble. [13]

By 1 September, a cease-fire had been mediated by United States envoy Philip Habib, and Arafat and his men surrendered their weapons and were evacuated from Beirut with guarantees by the US that the civilians left behind in the camps would be protected by a multinational peacekeeping force. That guarantee was not kept and the vacuum then created, paved the way for the atrocities that followed.

As soon as the peacekeeping force was withdrawn, the then Israeli Defence Minister Ariel Sharon moved to root out some “2,000 terrorists” he claimed were still hiding in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. After totally surrounding the refugee camps with tanks and soldiers, Sharon ordered the shelling of the camps and the bombardment continued throughout the afternoon and into the evening of 15 September leaving the “mopping-up” of the camps to the Lebanese right-wing Christian militia, known as the Phalangists. The next day, the Phalangists – armed and trained by the Israeli army – entered the camps and proceeded to massacre the unarmed civilians while Israel’s General Yaron and his men watched the entire operations. More grotesquely, the Israeli army ensured there was no lull in the 36 hours of killings and illuminated the area with flares at night and tightened their cordon around the camps to make sure that no civilian could escape the terror that had been unleashed.

Inquiries, charges and off scot-free

Although Israel’s Kahan Commission of Inquiry did not find any Israeli directly responsible, it did find that Sharon bore “personal responsibility” for “not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the danger of massacre” before sending the Phalangists into the camps. It, therefore, lamely recommended that the Israeli prime minister consider removing him from office. [14] Sharon resigned but remained as Minister without portfolio and joined two parliamentary commissions on defence and Lebanese affairs. There is no doubt, as Chomsky points out “that the inquiry was not intended for people who have a prejudice in favour of truth and honesty”, but it certainly gained support for Israel in the US Congress and among the public. [15] It took an International Commission of Inquiry headed by Sean MacBride to find that Israel was “directly responsible” because the camps were under its jurisdiction as an occupying power. [16] Yet, despite the UN describing the heinous operation as a “criminal massacre” and declaring it an act of genocide [17], no one was prosecuted.

It was not until 2001 that a law suit was filed in Belgium by the survivors of the massacre and relatives of the victims against Sharon alleging his personal responsibility. However, the court did not allow for “universal jurisdiction” – a principle which was intended to remove safe havens for war criminals and allow their prosecution across states. The case was won on appeal and the trial allowed to proceed, but without Sharon who by then was prime minister of Israel and had immunity. US interference led to the Belgian Parliament gutting the universal jurisdiction law and by the time the International Criminal Court was established in The Hague the following year, the perpetrators of the Sabra and Shatila massacre could no longer be tried because its terms of reference did not allow it to hear cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide pre-dating 1 July 2002. Neither Sharon nor those who carried out the massacres have ever been punished for their horrendous crimes.

The bigger picture

The length of time since these acts were carried out should be no impediment to exposing the truth. More than 60 years after the Nazi atrocities against the Jews in Europe, the world still mourns and remembers and erects monuments and museums to that violent holocaust. How they are done, to whom they are done and to how many does not make the crimes any more or less heinous. They can never be justified even on the strength of one state’s rationale that another people ought to be punished, or worse still, are simply inferior or worthless beings. It should lead all of us to question on whose judgment are such decisions made and how can we possibly justify such crimes at all?

The atrocities committed in the camps of Sabra and Shatila should be put in the context of an ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people. The MacBride report found that these atrocities “were not inconsistent with wider Israeli intentions to destroy Palestinian political will and cultural identity.” [17] Since Deir Yassin and the other massacres of 1948, those who survived have joined hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing a litany of massacres committed in 1953, 1967, and the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and the killing continues today. The most recent being the 2008-2009 Gaza massacre – that 3 week merciless onslaught, a festering sore without relief as the people are further punished by an impossible siege that denies them their most basic rights.

Thus were the victims and survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre gathered up in the perpetual nakba of the slaughtered, the dispossessed, the displaced and the discarded – a pattern of ethnic cleansing perpetrated under the Zionist plan to finally and forever extinguish Palestinian society and its people.

This is why we must remember Sabra and Shatila, thirty years on.

Sonja Karkar is the founder of Women for Palestine (WFP), a Melbourne-based human rights group and co-founder of Australians for Palestine (AFP), an advocacy group that provides a voice for Palestine at all levels of Australian society. She is the editor of the website http://www.australiansforpalestine.com. Her email address is sonjakarkar@womenforpalestine.org

Footnotes:

[1] Dr Ang Swee Chai, “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, Grafton Books, London, 1989

[2] James MacManus, Guardian, 20 September 1982

[3] Loren Jenkins, Washington Post, 20 September 1982

[4] Elaine Carey, Daily Mail, 20 September 1982

[5] Robert Fisk, “Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War”, London: Oxford University Press, 1990 [6] Robert Fisk, ibid.

[7] Robert Fisk, ibid.

[8] Robert Fisk, ibid.

[9] Lebanese Daily Star, 16 September 1998

[10] Amnon Kapeliouk, “Sabra & Chatila – Inquiry into a Massacre”, November 1982

[11] Schiff and Ya’ari,, Israel’s Lebanon War, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1984,

[12] Robert Fisk, Fifteen Years After the Bloodbath, The World turns its Back, shaml.org, 1997 [13] Noam Chomsky, “The Fatal Triangle” South End Press, Cambridge MA, p.221

[14] The Complete Kahan Commission Report, Princeton, Karz Cohl, 1983, p. 125 (Hereafter, the Kahan Commission Report). [15] Chomsky, ibid. p.406

[16] The Report of the International Commission to Enquire into Reported Violations of International Law by Israel during Its Invasion of the Lebanon, Sean MacBride, 1983 (referred to as the International Commission of Inquiry or MacBride report)

[17] United Nations General Assembly Resolution, 16 December 1982

[18] MacBride report, ibid. p.179

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Political Cartoon: 39 years later, Chile remembers 9/11 terror attacks

Further Reading

Remembering Chile’s 9/11

Cold War Killer File: Augusto Pinochet

Augusto Pinochet & the Realities of the Free Market in Chile

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Bloodbath mars anti-Maoist ‘success’

By Sudha Ramachandran

BANGALORE – India’s anti-Maoist operations are under fire again.
It appears that 19 “hardcore Maoists” who the government claimed were killed in an encounter with the Chhattisgarh police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on the night of June 27-28 were in fact unarmed civilians. About a dozen of those killed were below 16 years of age, and at least one of them just 12.

What officials jubilantly declared at first to be one of the biggest successes of India’s war against Maoists was described by a social activist, Swami Agnivesh, who has acted as a government-appointed interlocutor with the Maoists, as “cold-blooded murder”, the worst massacre of civilians in the nation’s post-independence history.

The incident happened at Sarkeguda, 400 kilometers from Raipur, the state capital, in Bijapur district in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh, which is the epicenter of the ongoing military operations against the Maoists. Chhattisgarh is rich in minerals but the tribals who live there are among India’s poorest. They have borne the brunt of the war between the security forces and the Maoists.

There are different versions of what happened that night.

In the early hours of June 28, the CRPF said, “19 hardcore Maoists” were killed in an encounter in Bijapur’s dense jungles. But soon after, accounts – quite at odds with the police narrative – began trickling out of those dense jungles. These accounts drew attention to the horrific killing of villagers by the police that night.

Realizing that their “encounter” was snowballing into a major controversy, the CRPF quickly revised its version, claiming that “Maoists and their sympathizers” had been killed in the “encounter”.

Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpeta are three small tribal settlements consisting of fewer than a hundred huts altogether. These were among the villages that suffered terrible violence in 2006 when government-created local militias called Salwa Judum killed people and looted and burned down their homes. More than 600 villages were emptied out as terrified tribals fled into neighboring states. It is only after the Supreme Court ordered the disbanding of Salwa Judum – it continues to exist in other forms and different names – that the villagers slowly returned. They were rebuilding their lives – constructing their homes, cultivating their land and sending children to school – when terror returned in the form of the CRPF to Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpeta.

The three villages are separated from one another by a small clearing. It was in this clearing that the villagers had assembled at around 8pm that night for a meeting. The meeting began late. At around 11pm, the villagers say, they were surrounded by police who began firing at them. The firing went on for hours.

CRPF sources say they had come to know of a Maoist meeting that was to be held on the night of June 27 at Silgerh near Sarkeguda. An operation was planned to strike at the Maoists. According to the plan, about 800 troops stationed at Basaguda, Chintalnar and Jagarmunda would converge from three directions at Silgerh.

Troops from the CRPF camp at Basaguda are reported to have set off that night at around 9pm. As they advanced toward Silgerh, they came upon a congregation of people at Sarkeguda.

According to the CRPF, Maoists at the meeting opened fire and the police retaliated. An encounter ensued in which “Maoists and their sympathizers” were killed. Six CRPF personnel were wounded, four of them suffering gunshot injuries.

CRPF director general Vijay Kumar told the media that the police had been ambushed by the Maoists and that they had retaliated as per the standard operating procedures.

“We had to protect ourselves after so many [police] were injured in open fire,” he said. Expressing concern that the Maoists had used the villagers as human shields, he claimed that twice his troops “retreated on seeing women and children in the front”.

Villagers insist there were no Maoists at the gathering; neither had the Maoists called the meeting. They say they had gathered to discuss an upcoming festival related to the sowing of crops.

However, 12-year-old Chhotu Hakka of Sarkeguda, who was shot in the knees, told news channel NDTV correspondent Sreenivasan Jain that there were three or four Maoists present at the meeting that night. In hospital and isolated from others in his village, Chhotu appears in the news clip to be unaware of the line his village has taken – or was made to take by the Maoists – that there were no Maoists around that night.

CRPF officials have pointed to bullet injuries sustained by their personnel as evidence of an encounter. While The Hindu has reported one villager as surmising that the police might have accidentally shot one another when they surrounded the village, the latter have countered that by pointing out that the bullets that caused injury were of the kind the Maoists use.

Piecing together the various accounts, it seems that the CRPF operation was based on faulty intelligence. When troops from Jagarmunda reached Silgerh that night, they found no Maoists there.

It does seem that Maoists called a meeting of villagers at Sarkeguda and lay in ambush there. When troops from the Basaguda camp passed Sarkeguda, the rebels fired at them, knowing well that the trigger-happy CRPF would retaliate and end up shooting into a crowd of innocent villagers. The CRPF walked into a Maoist trap that night.

What followed was a massacre.

It is hard to understand why the CRPF fired as it did. Surely it was aware that village meetings here are often of “indeterminate nature”, writes Shoma Chaudhury in the Tehelka newsmagazine. “They know villagers are often summoned by Maoists for public hearings: These are orders that cannot be refused. If they didn’t know whom they were firing at that night, why did they not retreat rather than shoot to kill at random?”

Had the government simply admitted the terrible mistake the next morning, it might have limited the damage. Instead, a cover-up operation followed, adding salt to wounds.

The manner in which serious charges appear to have been fabricated and slapped on some of the dead to prove that “Maoists” were indeed killed that night has fueled outrage.

Home Affairs Minister P Chidambaram, under whose charge the CRPF falls, has defended the operation, as has the chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh. Interestingly, the two belong to rival political parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) respectively.

Chidambaram has come under criticism not just from activists and civil society but also from his own colleagues in the Congress party. Federal Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo has described the operation as a “fake encounter”, and Congress politicians in Chhattisgarh have described it as a “botch-up”. A report by the Congress’ Chhattisgarh unit has listed and named seven children among those killed. No Maoists figure in this report. This is in sharp contrast to the statement issued by the home minister last week wherein he claimed that three Maoists were killed and, barring one 15-year-old boy, the dead were all adults.

Neither the state nor the Maoists have come out looking good from the incident at Sarkeguda. Clearly, both have little regard for the tribals they claim to be liberating or for the young lives they have snuffed out.

Two of the “top Maoists” who were killed that night were Kaka Nagesh, 15, and Madkam Ramvilas. They lived in a government hostel for schoolchildren and had come home for the summer vacation. Being among the villages’ few educated boys, they were tasked with the responsibility of figuring out how much each villager had to contribute for the seed festival. Nagesh and Ramvilas were present at the meeting to share those figures.

Earlier this year the two were among three students of Kottaguda village selected to visit the port city of Visakhapatnam for an educational tour. Their experiences at Visakhapatnam left a deep impression on the boys. It fired in Nagesh a dream to become mariner. As for Ramvilas, “He wanted to be a lawyer when he grew up,” his sister says.

Given their excellent performance in the government school they attended – the two were said to be the brightest in the school – they might have indeed achieved their dreams.

On the night of June 27-28, the CRPF and Maoists ensured that those dreams died young.

Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore.

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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French Government Exposed in Rwanda’s Genocide

The Imperialist government of France played a heinous role in the Genocide. The painting on wall says France = Killer

By Maryam

Newly evidence documents the role of the French regime in the 1994 Rwanda genocide — and has, once again, put the spotlight on this tragic event and the role of foreign imperialists in it.

In early August 2008, the Rwandan government released a report based on eyewitness accounts that the direct cooperation between the French state and the government of Rwandan Hutus that was in power during the 1994 genocide. This report is consistent with the results of investigations performed by various other organizations, including human rights groups.

According to the Rwandan government, 33 politicians and French army officers are implicated in the infamous genocide in Rwanda, either by giving orders or by their direct actions. The late president Francois Mitterrand, his son Jean Christophe, Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, Alain Juppe and his foreign minister at the time were among the indicated responsible parties.

The background for these events (which annihilated a generation) was the country’s severe economic crisis caused by actions of the International Money Fund and the World’s Bank. For example, in the name of economic reform, the value of the Rwandan currency was sharply devalued. This, in turn, caused changes in the world trade market that triggered a severe drop in Rwanda’s export of key crops like coffee.

On April 4,1994, the Tutsis forces of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), operating with direct US support, shot a missile at a plane, causing the death of the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana. In the wake of this, the Rwandan regime, urged on by Hutu extremists, unleaded a campaign of vendetta.

The Interahamwe paramilitary force was mobilized to slaughter innocent Tutsi tribespeople and Hutus caught protecting Tutsis. Meanwhile, the French regime sent 2,550 air and ground forces to support the Rwandan state against the RPF. The Rwandan report cites numerous instances of the French forces involved in the killing or giving orders to those who did the killing.

Tutsis and the Hutus, who allegedly were suspected of hiding Tutsis, were executed and their wives raped. From the time of Rwandan occupation, raping women prisoners has been done routinely and systemically by the French soldiers.

Based on direct testimony, some of the atrocious crimes that occurred during the Rwandan genocide had French help. French forces made their bases in the Niaroshishi area. Those foreign bases were protected by Rwandan military forces and the local pro-government paramilitaries.

In one incident three unarmed youth were chased out of a local tea farm and ran toward a French camp. The police and paramilitaries followed the three youth into camp and arrested them with the help of French soldiers and they were never heard from again.

A former member of the Hutu pro-government paramilitaries testifies:

“We rounded up the Tutsis who had exited their camps to gather some wood (including Charles, the teenager who was son of Sambaba,) and killed them. We then buried them in mass graves near guard postings. The French companies came over to check out what we were doing and praised us, gave us meals to express their appreciation and sometimes went out with us during nightly patrolling.”

This genocide went on until over 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates were slaughtered. Finally. Returning Tutsi forces caused over two million of the Hutu population to flee for their lives into adjacent countries.

After the publication of this Rwandan report, the French state has deceitfully denied its role and tries to ignore the report. Those French politicians named in it have counter-charged that the report authors falsified evidence. For example, Harry Maurine, (who was French Minister of Defence during the1994 genocide) declared that this report is unacceptable and that the soldiers of France have done nothing to be ashamed of.

Even after gathering the evidence and producing this report, the Rwandan state has been complacent in holding the French army accountable for their actions. Instead of making the main perpetrators liable for those crimes, the Rwandan state has busied itself arresting Tutsi villagers. Instead of highlighting the roles of imperialists in the mass killing, the country instead arrested over 50,000 people of the Tutsi tribe.

But, due to prison overcrowding, the state had to release about 40 thousand from their jails. The first group to be freed included the sick and the elderly in 2003. Though the government said that their freedom was temporary and conditional and that their final fate would be announced in their local courthouses (called GAKAKA.) Since March 2005, about 12,000 local courthouses were established in villages all over Rwanda to try the released. Most of them were declared innocent.

Historical discords among Tutsi and Hutu Tribes

Before imperialism’s encroachment, the Tutsi and Hutu were living alongside each other in villages and houses of Rwanda country. Tutsi pastoralists and Hutu agriculturalists were organized into small Bantu-speaking states. At the end of World War 1 the Belgium colonizers secured their domination over Rwanda’s people by dividing the two tribes from each other through the use of the eugenics movement in Europe and the United States. They declared the Hutus and Tutsis were two different “races” and issued them a racial identification card which defined each person legally as either Hutu or Tutsi.

By the end of the 1950s, growing political instability ensued rebellions that caused the deaths of between 20,000 and 100,000 Tutsis. By 1959, the royal regime of Tutsi tribe was overthrown and many of this tribe’s people escaped to neighboring states or were expelled to Uganda and the first Tutsi Refugee camps were established.

In 1962 Belgium let go of Rwanda, and that country supposedly became independent. But the civil wars between various imperialist-dependent groups and tribes continued for many years. These wars naturally caused citizens to flee and take refuge in neighboring countries. Uganda applied some of the most inhumane laws and regulations on those refugees. Refugees in Ugandan camps were confined in conditions with less than the basic means of survival. The status of “refugee” was bequeathed on the children that were born in Ugandan refugee camps and they were not recognized as any country’s citizens. Eventually the number of refugees in Ugandan camps had risen so much that the state was forced to let children out of the camps. And in some cases they were able to use opportunities under the United Nations refugee organization to leave Uganda and settle in other countries.

During the political crisis of the late 1960s, the Ugandan administration of Milton Obote passed a bill called the Control of Alien Refugees Act, which declared Rwandese to be a special class subject to arbitrary detention. In 1969 Obote deported all foreigners (this included the descendants of Hutus who had come as migrant laborers in the mid-1920s, and the more recent Tutsi refugees) from Uganda.

This article was originally published in Payam Fedaee #115. We Thank comrade Behrooz Navaii, for translating and telling us about this.

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Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist): Paramilitaries threaten members of the Patriotic March

Several organizations of the Patriotic March were threatened by the paramilitary self-styled “Black Eagles” through a letter addressed to President Fensuagro agricultural union, Alirio Garcia.

The message, full of insults and dated in the month of May in England, declared “military targets” addresses twelve organizations accused of being “funded by the guerrillas to work with the population and the construction of a new movement” .

In addition, these organizations branded as members of the Patriotic Union (UP), a leftist party born in the eighties of last century and disappeared behind the systematic murder of thousands of its members by state security forces and paramilitaries.

The organizations are the union threatened Fensuagro, the Peasant Association of Displaced Persons (Asocamde), the National Coordination of Displaced Persons (CND), the National Association of Displaced Persons of Colombia (Andescol), the National Coordination of Agrarian and Popular Organizations (CONAP) or Restart dedicated to defending human rights. Also the National Student Broad Mesa (Mane), Funhascol, the National Association for Development Aid (You go), the National Victims Bureau, the House of Friendship with Venezuela and the National Federation New Leadership Campesino.

The “Black Eagles”, warn threatened that “we are only a few days to leave the city” and accuses them of being “the art of guerrilla warfare in the cities.”

The letter, which had access Efe, is signed by the “DC Capital Bloc” and the authors attribute their victims to be “revolting communities to claim their supposed rights, lands and other supposed benefits to be displaced and victims of State. ” He also says that “they are abusing the enormous willingness” of President Juan Manuel Santos.

The Patriotic March was released in Bogota in April with a peaceful demonstration through the streets of the capital and brought together thousands of people from all over the country. This is a movement that would seek to occupy the political space left by the Patriotic Union and that together with the Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA), constitutes the only opposition to the government of National Unity by President Santos.

The “Black Eagles” ends the letter with the desire to “get it over with this scourge that is for the UP Colombia.”

These threats are in addition to two cases of forced disappearance and murder of two other members of the Patriotic March since its official launch in April, as denounced its members.

Lies concerning the history of the Soviet Union

From Hitler to Hearst, from Conquest to Solzhenitsyn: the history of the millions of people who allegedly were incarcerated and died in the labour camps of the Soviet Union and as a result of starvation during Stalin’s time.

Speech by Mario Sousa, KPML (r) Sweden

Translated and presented to the Stalin Society by Ella Rule March 1999.

The Ukraine as a German territory

William Hearst – Friend of Hitler
The myth concerning the famine in the Ukraine
The Hearst mass media empire in 1998
52 years before the truth emerges
Robert Conquest at the heart of the myths
Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Support for Franco’s fascism
Nazis, the police and the fascists
The archives demonstrate the propaganda lies
Fraudulent methods give rise to millions of dead
Gorbachev opens the archives
What the Russian research shows
Labour camps in the penal system
How many political prisoners there were, and how many common criminals
The internal and external threat
More prisoners in the US
How many people died in the labour camps?
How many people were sentenced to death prior to 1953, especially during the purges of 1937-38?
How long was the average prison sentence?
A brief discussion as to the research reports
The kulaks and the counter-revolution
The purges of 1937
Industrial sabotage
Theft and corruption
Plans for a coup
More numerous liars
Let us learn from history
Table of data

In this world we live in, who can avoid hearing the terrible stories of suspected death and murders in the gulag labour camps of the Soviet Union? Who can avoid the stories of the millions who starved to death and the millions of oppositionists executed in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s time? In the capitalist world these stories are repeated over and over again in books, newspapers, on the radio and television, and in films, and the mythical numbers of millions of victims of socialism have increased by leaps and bounds in the last 50 years.

But where in fact do these stories, and these figures, come from? Who is behind all this?

And another question: what truth is there in these stories? And what information is lying in the archives of the Soviet Union, formerly secret but opened up to historical research by Gorbachev in 1989? The authors of the myths always said that all their tales of millions having died in Stalin’s Soviet Union would be confirmed the day the archives were opened up. Is that what happened? Were they confirmed in fact?

The following article shows us where these stories of millions of deaths through hunger and in labour camps in Stalin’s Soviet Union originated and who is behind them.

The present author, after studying the reports of the research which has been done in the archives of the Soviet Union, is able to provide information in the form of concrete data about the real number of prisoners, the years they spent in prison and the real number of those who died and of those who were condemned to death in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The truth is quite different from the myth.

There is a direct historical link running from: Hitler to Hearst, to Conquest, to Solzhenitsyn. In 1933 political changes took place in Germany that were to leave their mark on world history for decades to come. On 30 January Hitler became prime minister and a new form of government, involving violence and disregard of the law, began to take shape. In order to consolidate their grip on power the Nazis called fresh elections for the 5th of March, using all propaganda means within their grasp to secure victory. A week before the elections, on 27 February, the Nazis set fire to parliament and accused the communists of being responsible. In the elections that followed, the Nazis secured 17.3 million votes and 288 deputies, about 48% of the electorate (in November they had secured 11.7 million votes and 196 deputies). Once the Communist Party was banned, the Nazis began to persecute the Social Democrats and the trade-union movement, and the first concentration camps began to fill up with all those left-wing men and women. In the meantime, Hitler’s power in parliament continued to grow, with the help of the right wing. On 24 March, Hitler caused a law to be passed by parliament which conferred on him absolute power to rule the country for 4 years without consulting parliament. From then on began the open persecution of the Jews, the first of whom began to enter the concentration camps where communists and left social-democrats were already being held. Hitler pressed ahead with his bid for absolute power, renouncing the 1918 international accords that had imposed restrictions on the arming and militarisation of Germany. Germany’s re-armament took place at great speed. This was the situation in the international political arena when the myths concerning those dying in the Soviet Union began to be put together.

The Ukraine as a German territory

At Hitler’s side in the German leadership was Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, the man in charge of inculcating the Nazi dream into the German people. This was a dream of a racially pure people living in a Greater Germany, a country with broad lebensraum, a wide space in which to live. One part of this lebensraum, an area to the east of Germany which was, indeed, far larger than Germany itself, had yet to be conquered and incorporated into the German nation. In 1925, in Mein Kampf, Hitler had already pointed to the Ukraine as an essential part of this German living space. The Ukraine and other regions of Eastern Europe needed to belong to the German nation so that they could be utilised in a `proper’ manner. According to Nazi propaganda, the Nazi sword would liberate this territory in order to make space for the German race. With German technology and German enterprise, the Ukraine would be transformed into an area producing cereals for Germany. But first the Germans had to liberate the Ukraine of its population of `inferior beings’ who, according to Nazi propaganda, would be put to work as a slave labour force in German homes, factories and fields – anywhere they were needed by the German economy.

The conquest of the Ukraine and other areas of the Soviet Union would necessitate war against the Soviet Union, and this war had to be prepared well in advance. To this end the Nazi propaganda ministry, headed by Goebbels, began a campaign around a supposed genocide committed by the Bolsheviks in the Ukraine, a dreadful period of catastrophic famine it claimed was deliberately provoked by Stalin in order to force the peasantry to accept socialist policy. The purpose of the Nazi campaign was to prepare world public opinion for the `liberation’ of the Ukraine by German troops. Despite huge efforts and in spite of the fact that some of the German propaganda texts were published in the English press, the Nazi campaign around the supposed `genocide’ in the Ukraine was not very successful at the world level. It was clear that Hitler and Goebbels needed help in spreading their libellous rumours about the Soviet Union. That help they found in the USA.

William Hearst – Friend of Hitler

William Randolph Hearst is the name of a multi-millionaire who sought to help the Nazis in their psychological warfare against the Soviet Union. Hearst was a well-known US newspaper proprietor known as the `father’ of the so-called `yellow press’, i.e., the sensationalist press. William Hearst began his career as a newspaper editor in 1885 when his father, George Hearst, a millionaire mining industrialist, Senator and newspaper proprietor himself, put him in charge of the San Francisco Daily Examiner.

This was also the start of the Hearst newspaper empire, an empire which strongly influenced the lives and thinking of North Americans. After his father died, William Hearst sold all the mining industry shares he inherited and began to invest capital in the world of journalism. His first purchase was the New York Morning Journal, a traditional newspaper which Hearst completely transformed into a sensationalist rag. He bought his stories at any price, and when there were no atrocities or crimes to report, it behoved his journalists and photographers to `arrange’ matters. It is this which in fact characterises the `yellow press’: lies and `arranged’ atrocities served up as truth.

These lies of Hearst’s made him a millionaire and a very important personage in the newspaper world. In 1935 he was one of the richest men in the world, with a fortune estimated at $200 million. After his purchase of the Morning Journal, Hearst went on to buy and establish daily and weekly newspapers throughout the US. In the 1940s, William Hearst owned 25 daily newspapers, 24 weekly newspapers, 12 radio stations, 2 world news services, one business providing news items for films, the Cosmopolitan film company, and a lot of others. In 1948 he bought one of the US’s first TV stations, BWAL – TV in Baltimore. Hearst’s newspapers sold 13 million copies a day and had close to 40 million readers. Almost a third of the adult population of the US were reading Hearst newspapers every day. Furthermore, many millions of people throughout the world received information from the Hearst press via his news services, films and a series of newspapers that were translated and published in large quantities all over the world. The figures quoted above demonstrate how the Hearst empire was able to influence American politics, and indeed world politics, over very many years – on issues which included opposition to the US entering the Second World War on the side of the Soviet Union and support for the McCarthyite anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s.

William Hearst’s outlook was ultra-conservative, nationalist and anti-communist. His politics were the politics of the extreme right. In 1934 he travelled to Germany, where he was received by Hitler as a guest and friend. After this trip, Hearst’s newspapers became even more reactionary, always carrying articles against socialism, against the Soviet Union and especially against Stalin. Hearst also tried to use his newspapers for overt Nazi propaganda purposes, publishing a series of articles by Goering, Hitler’s right-hand man. The protests of many readers, however, forced him to stop publishing such items and to withdraw them from circulation.

After his visit to Hitler, Hearst’s sensationalist newspapers were filled with `revelations’ about the terrible happenings in the Soviet Union – murders, genocide, slavery, luxury for the rulers and starvation for the people, all these were the big news items almost every day. The material was provided to Hearst by the Gestapo, Nazi Germany’s political police. On the front pages of the newspapers there often appeared caricatures and falsified pictures of the Soviet Union, with Stalin portrayed as a murderer holding a dagger in his hand. We should not forget that these articles were read each day by 40 million people in the US and millions of others worldwide!

The myth concerning the famine in the Ukraine

One of the first campaigns of the Hearst press against the Soviet Union revolved round the question of the millions alleged to have died as a result of the Ukraine famine. This campaign began on 18 February 1935 with a front-page headline in the Chicago American `6 million people die of hunger in the Soviet Union’. Using material supplied by Nazi Germany, William Hearst, the press baron and Nazi sympathiser, began to publish fabricated stories about a genocide which was supposed to have been deliberately perpetrated by the Bolsheviks and had caused several million to die of starvation in the Ukraine. The truth of the matter was altogether different. In fact what took place in the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1930s was a major class struggle in which poor landless peasants had risen up against the rich landowners, the kulaks, and had begun a struggle for collectivisation, a struggle to form kolkhozes.

This great class struggle, involving directly or indirectly some 120 million peasants, certainly gave rise to instability in agricultural production and food shortages in some regions. Lack of food did weaken people, which in turn led to an increase in the number falling victim to epidemic diseases. These diseases were at that time regrettably common throughout the world. Between 1918 and 1920 an epidemic of Spanish flu caused the death of 20 million people in the US and Europe, but nobody accused the governments of these countries of killing their own citizens. The fact is that there was nothing these government could do in the face of epidemics of this kind. It was only with the development of penicillin during the second world war, that it became possible for such epidemics to be effectively contained. This did not become generally available until towards the end of the 1940s.

The Hearst press articles, asserting that millions were dying of famine in the Ukraine – a famine supposedly deliberately provoked by the communists, went into graphic and lurid detail. The Hearst press used every means possible to make their lies seem like the truth, and succeeded in causing public opinion in the capitalist countries to turn sharply against the Soviet Union. This was the origin of the first giant myth manufactured alleging millions were dying in the Soviet Union. In the wave of protests against the supposedly communist-provoked famine which the Western press unleashed, nobody was interested in listening to the Soviet Union’s denials and complete exposure of the Hearst press lies, a situation which prevailed from 1934 until 1987! For more than 50 years several generations of people the world over were brought up on a diet of these slanders to harbour a negative view of socialism in the Soviet Union.

The Hearst mass media empire in 1998

William Hearst died in 1951 at his house in Beverley Hills, California. Hearst left behind him a mass-media empire which to this day continues to spread his reactionary message throughout the world. The Hearst Corporation is one of the largest enterprises in the world, incorporating more than 100 companies and employing 15,000 people. The Hearst empire today comprises newspapers, magazines, books, radio, TV, cable TV, news agencies and multimedia.

52 years before the truth emerges

The Nazi disinformation campaign about the Ukraine did not die with the defeat of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. The Nazi lies were taken over by the CIA and MI5, and were always guaranteed a prominent place in the propaganda war against the Soviet Union. The McCarthyite anti-communist witch hunts after the Second World War also thrived on the tales of the millions who died of starvation in the Ukraine. In 1953 a book on this subject was published in the US. This book was entitled `Black Deeds of the Kremlin’. Its publication was financed by Ukrainian refugees in the US, people who had collaborated with the Nazis in the Second World War and to whom the American government gave political asylum, presenting them to the world as `democrats’.

When Reagan was elected to the US Presidency and began his 1980s anti-communist crusade, propaganda about the millions who died in the Ukraine was again revived. In 1984 a Harvard professor published a book called ‘Human Life in Russia’ which repeated all the false information produced by the Hearst press in 1934. In 1984, then, we found Nazi lies and falsifications dating from the 1930s being revived, but this time under the `respectable’ cloak of an American university. But this was not the end of it. In 1986 yet another book appeared on the subject, entitled `Harvest of Sorrow’, written by a former member of the British secret service, Robert Conquest, now a professor at Stamford University in California. For his `work’ on the book, Conquest received $80,000 from the Ukraine National Organisation. This same organisation also paid for a film made in 1986 called `Harvest of Despair’, in which, inter alia, material from Conquest’s book was used. By this time the number of people it was being alleged in the US had lost their lives in the Ukraine through starvation had been upped to 15 million!

Nevertheless the millions said to have died of starvation in the Ukraine according to the Hearst press in America, parroted in books and films, was completely false information. The Canadian journalist, Douglas Tottle, meticulously exposed the falsifications in his book `Fraud, famine and fascism – the Ukrainian genocide myth from Hitler to Harvard’, published in Toronto in 1987. Among other things, Tottle proved that the photographic material used, horrifying photographs of starving children, had been taken from 1922 publications at a time when millions of people did die from hunger and war conditions because eight foreign armies had invaded the Soviet Union during the Civil War of 1918-1921. Douglas Tottle gives the facts surrounding the reporting of the famine of 1934 and exposes the assorted lies published in the Hearst press. One journalist who had over a long period of time sent reports and photographs from supposed famine areas was Thomas Walter, a man who never set foot in the Ukraine and even in Moscow had spent but a bare five days. This fact was revealed by the journalist Louis Fisher, Moscow Correspondent of The Nation, an American newspaper. Fisher also revealed that the journalist M Parrott, the real Hearst press correspondent in Moscow, had sent Hearst reports that were never published concerning the excellent harvest achieved by the Soviet Union in 1933 and on the Ukraine’s advancement. Tottle proves as well that the journalist who wrote the reports on the alleged Ukrainian famine, `Thomas Walker’, was really called Robert Green and was a convict who had escaped from a state prison in Colorado! This Walker, or Green, was arrested when he returned to the US and when he appeared in court, he admitted that he had never been to the Ukraine. All the lies concerning the millions of dead due to starvation in the Ukraine in the 1930s, in a famine supposedly engineered by Stalin only came to be unmasked in 1987! Hearst, the Nazi, the police agent Conquest and others had conned millions of people with their lies and fake reports. Even today the Nazi Hearst’s stories are still being repeated in newly-published books written by authors in the pay of right-wing interests.

The Hearst press, having a monopolist position in many States of the US, and having news agencies all over the world, was the great megaphone of the Gestapo. In a world dominated by monopoly capital, it was possible for the Hearst press to transform Gestapo lies into `truths’ emitted from dozens of newspapers, radio stations and, later on, TV channels, the world over. When the Gestapo disappeared, this dirty propaganda war against socialism in the Soviet Union carried on regardless, albeit with the CIA as its new patron. The anti-communist campaigns of the American press were not scaled down in the slightest. Business continued as usual, first at the bidding of the Gestapo and then at the bidding of the CIA.

Robert Conquest at the heart of the myths

This man, who is so widely quoted in the bourgeois press, this veritable oracle of the bourgeoisie, deserves some specific attention at this point. Robert Conquest is one of the two authors who has most written on the millions dying in the Soviet Union. He is in truth the creator of all the myths and lies concerning the Soviet Union that have been spread since the Second World War. Conquest is primarily known for his books The Great Terror (1969) and Harvest of Sorrow (1986). Conquest writes of millions dying of starvation in the Ukraine, in the gulag labour camps and during the Trials of 1936-38, using as his sources of information exiled Ukrainians living in the US and belonging to rightist parties, people who had collaborated with the Nazis in the Second World War. Many of Conquest’s heroes were known to have been war criminals who led and participated in the genocide of the Ukraine’s Jewish population in 1942. One of these people was Mykola Lebed, convicted as a war criminal after the Second World War. Lebed had been security chief in Lvov during the Nazi occupation and presided over the terrible persecutions of the Jews which took place in 1942. In 1949 the CIA took Lebed off to the United States where he worked as a source of disinformation.

The style of Conquest’s books is one of violent and fanatical anti-communism. In his 1969 book, Conquest tells us that those who died of starvation in the Soviet Union between 1932-1933 amounted to between 5 million and 6 million people, half of them in the Ukraine. But in 1983, during Reagan’s anti-communist crusade, Conquest had extended the famine into 1937 and increased the number of victims to 14 million! Such assertions turned out to be well rewarded: in 1986 he was signed up by Reagan to write material for his presidential campaign aimed at preparing the American people for a Soviet invasion, The text in question was called `What to do when the Russians come – a survivalists’ handbook’! Strange words coming from a Professor of History!

The fact is that there is nothing strange in it at all, coming as it does from a man who has spent his entire life living off lies and fabrications about the Soviet Union and Stalin – first as a secret service agent and then as a writer and professor at Stamford University in California. Conquest’s past was exposed by the Guardian of 27 January 1978 in an article which identified him as a former agent in the disinformation department of the British Secret Service, i.e., the Information Research Department (IRD). The IRD was a section set up in 1947 (originally called the Communist Information Bureau) whose main task was to combat communist influence throughout the world by planting stories among politicians, journalists and others in a position to influence public opinion. The activities of the IRD were very wide-ranging, as much in Britain as abroad. When the IRD had to be formally disbanded in 1977, as a result of the exposure of its involvement with the far right, it was discovered that in Britain alone more than 100 of the best-known journalists had an IRD contact who regularly supplied them with material for articles. This was routine in several major British newspapers, such as the Financial Times, The Times, Economist, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Express, The Guardian and others. The facts exposed by the Guardian therefore give us an indication as to how the secret services were able to manipulate the news reaching the public at large.

Robert Conquest worked for the IRD from when it was set up until 1956. Conquest’s `work’ there was to contribute to the so-called `black history’ of the Soviet Union – fake stories put out as fact and distributed among journalists and others able to influence public opinion. After he had formally left the IRD, Conquest continued to write books suggested by the IRD, with secret service support. His book `The Great Terror’, a basic right-wing text on the subject of the power struggle that took place in the Soviet Union in 1937, was in fact a recompilation of text he had written when working for the secret services. The book was finished and published with the help of the IRD. A third of the publication run was bought by the Praeger press, normally associated with the publication of literature originating from CIA sources. Conquest’s book was intended for presentation to `useful fools’, such as university professors and people working in the press, radio and TV, to ensure that the lies of Conquest and the extreme right continued to be spread throughout large swathes of the population. Conquest to this day remains, for right-wing historians, one of the most important sources of material on the Soviet Union.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Another person who is always associated with books and articles on the supposed millions who lost their lives or liberty in the Soviet Union is the Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn became famous throughout the capitalist world towards the end of 1960 with his book, The Gulag Archipelago. He himself had been sentenced in 1946 to 8 years in a labour camp for counter-revolutionary activity in the form of distribution of anti-Soviet propaganda. According to Solzhenitsyn, the fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War could have been avoided if the Soviet government had reached a compromise with Hitler. Solzhenitsyn also accused the Soviet government and Stalin of being even worse than Hitler from the point of view, according to him, of the dreadful effects of the war on the people of the Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn did not hide his Nazi sympathies. He was condemned as a traitor.

Solzhenitsyn began in 1962 to publish books in the Soviet Union with the consent and help of Nikita Khrushchev. The first book he published was A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, concerning the life of a prisoner. Khrushchev used Solzhenitsyn’s texts to combat Stalin’s socialist heritage. In 1970 Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for literature with his book The Gulag Archipelago. His books then began to be published in large quantities in capitalist countries, their author having become one of the most valuable instruments of imperialism in combating the socialism of the Soviet Union. His texts on the labour camps were added to the propaganda on the millions who were supposed to have died in the Soviet Union and were presented by the capitalist mass media as though they were true. In 1974, Solzhenitsyn renounced his Soviet citizenship and emigrated to Switzerland and then the US. At that time he was considered by the capitalist press to be the greatest fighter for freedom and democracy. His Nazi sympathies were buried so as not to interfere with the propaganda war against socialism.

In the US, Solzhenitsyn was frequently invited to speak at important meetings. He was, for example, the main speaker at the AFL-CIO union congress in 1975, and on 15 July 1975 he was invited to give a lecture on the world situation to the US Senate! His lectures amount to violent and provocative agitation, arguing and propagandising for the most reactionary positions. Among other things he agitated for Vietnam to be attacked again after its victory over the US. And more: after 40 years of fascism in Portugal, when left-wing army officers took power in the people’s revolution of 1974, Solzhenitsyn began to propagandise in favour of US military intervention in Portugal which, according to him, would join the Warsaw Pact if the US did not intervene! In his lectures, Solzhenitsyn always bemoaned the liberation of Portugal’s African colonies.

But it is clear that the main thrust of Solzhenitsyn’s speeches was always the dirty war against socialism – from the alleged execution of several million people in the Soviet Union to the tens of thousands of Americans supposedly imprisoned and enslaved, according to Solzhenitsyn, in North Vietnam! This idea of Solzhenitsyn’s of Americans being used as slave labour in North Vietnam gave rise to the Rambo films on the Vietnam war. American journalists who dared write in favour of peace between the US and the Soviet Union were accused by Solzhenitsyn in his speeches of being potential traitors. Solzhenitsyn also propagandised in favour of increasing US military capacity against the Soviet Union, which he claimed was more powerful in `tanks and aeroplanes, by five to seven times, than the US’ as well as in atomic weapons which `in short’ he alleged were `two, three or even five times’ more powerful in the Soviet Union than those held by the US. Solzhenitsyn’s lectures on the Soviet Union represented the voice of the extreme right. But he himself went even further to the right in his public support of fascism.

Support for Franco’s fascism

After Franco died in 1975, the Spanish fascist regime began to lose control of the political situation and at the beginning of 1976, events in Spain captured world public opinion. There were strikes and demonstrations to demand democracy and freedom, and Franco’s heir, King Juan Carlos, was obliged very cautiously to introduce some liberalisation in order to calm down the social agitation.

At this most important moment in Spanish political history, Alexander Solzhenitsyn appeared in Madrid and gave an interview to the programme Directísimo one Saturday night, the 20th of March, at peak viewing time (see the Spanish newspapers, ABC and Ya of 21 March 1976). Solzhenitsyn, who had been provided with the questions in advance, used the occasion to make all kinds of reactionary statements. His intention was not to support the King’s so-called liberalisation measures. On the contrary, Solzhenitsyn warned against democratic reform. In his television interview he declared that 110 million Russians had died the victims of socialism, and he compared `the slavery to which Soviet people were subjected to the freedom enjoyed in Spain’. Solzhenitsyn also accused `progressive circles’ of `Utopians’ of considering Spain to be a dictatorship. By `progressive’, he meant anyone in the democratic opposition – were they liberals, social-democrats or communists. ‘Last autumn,’ said Solzhenitsyn, `world public opinion was worried about the fate of Spanish terrorists [i.e., Spanish anti-fascists sentenced to death by the Franco regime]. All the time progressive public opinion demands democratic political reform while supporting acts of terrorism’. `Those who seek rapid democratic reform, do they realise what will happen tomorrow or the day after? In Spain there may be democracy tomorrow, but after tomorrow will it be able to avoid falling from democracy into totalitarianism?’ To cautious inquiries by the journalists as to whether such statements could not be seen as support for regimes in countries where there was no liberty, Solzhenitsyn replied: `I only know one place where there is no liberty and that is Russia.’ Solzhenitsyn’s statements on Spanish television were a direct support to Spanish fascism, an ideology he supports to this day.

This is one of the reasons why Solzhenitsyn began to disappear from public view in his 18 years of exile in the US, and one of the reasons he began to get less than total support from capitalist governments. For the capitalists it was a gift from Heaven to be able to use a man like Solzhenitsyn in their dirty war against socialism, but everything has its limits. In the new capitalist Russia, what determines the support of the west for political groups is purely and simply the ability of doing good business with high profits under the wing of such groups. Fascism as an alternative political regime for Russia is not considered to be good for business. For this reason Solzhenitsyn’s political plans for Russia are a dead letter as far as Western support is concerned. What Solzhenitsyn wants for Russia’s political future is a return to the authoritarian regime of the Tsars, hand-in-hand with the traditional Russian Orthodox Church! Even the most arrogant imperialists are not interested in supporting political stupidity of this magnitude. To find anyone who supports Solzhenitsyn in the West one has to search among the dumbheads of the extreme right.

Nazis, the police and the fascists

So these are the most worthy purveyors of the bourgeois myths concerning the millions who are supposed to have died and been imprisoned in the Soviet Union: the Nazi William Hearst, the secret agent Robert Conquest and the fascist Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Conquest played the leading role, since it was his information that was used by the capitalist mass media the world over, and was even the basis for setting up whole schools in certain universities. Conquest’s work is without a doubt a first-class piece of police disinformation. In the 1970s, Conquest received a great deal of help from Solzhenitsyn and a series of secondary characters like Andrei Sakharov and Roy Medvedev. In addition there appeared here and there all over the world a number of people who dedicated themselves to speculating about the number of dead and incarcerated and were always paid in gold by the bourgeois press. But the truth was finally exposed and revealed the true face of these falsifiers of history. Gorbachev’s orders to open the party’s secret archives to historical investigation had consequences nobody could have foreseen.

The archives demonstrate the propaganda lies

The speculation about the millions who died in the Soviet Union is part of the dirty propaganda war against the Soviet Union and for this very reason the denials and explanations given by the Society were never taken seriously and never found any space in the capitalist press. They were, on the contrary, ignored, while the `specialists’ bought by capital were given as much space as they wanted in order to spread their fictions. And what fictions they were! What the millions of dead and imprisoned claimed by Conquest and other `critics’ had in common was that they were the result of false statistical approximations and evaluation methods lacking any scientific basis.

Fraudulent methods give rise to millions of dead

Conquest, Solzhenitsyn, Medvedev and others used statistics published by the Soviet Union, for instance, national population censuses, to which they added a supposed population increase without taking account of the situation in the country. In this way they reached their conclusions as to how many people there ought to have been in the country at the end of given years. The people who were missing were claimed to have died or been incarcerated because of socialism. The method is simple but also completely fraudulent. This type of `revelation’ of such important political events would never have been accepted if the `revelation’ in question concerned the western world. In such a case it is certain that professors and historians would have protested against such fabrications. But since it was the Soviet Union that was the object of the fabrications, they were acceptable. One of the reasons is certainly that professors and historians place their professional advancement well ahead of their professional integrity.

In numbers, what were the final conclusions of the `critics’? According to Robert Conquest (in an estimate he made in 1961) 6 million people died of starvation in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. This number Conquest increased to 14 million in 1986. As regards what he says about the gulag labour camps, there were detained there, according to Conquest, 5 million prisoners in 1937 before the purges of the party, the army and the state apparatus began. After the start of the purges then, according to Conquest, during 1937-38, there would have been an additional 7 million prisoners, making the total 12 million prisoners in the labour camps in 1939! And these 12 million of Conquest’s would only have been the political prisoners! In the labour camps there were also common criminals, who, according to Conquest, would have far outnumbered the political prisoners. This means, according to Conquest, that there would have been 25-30 million prisoners in the labour camps of the Soviet Union.

Again according to Conquest, a million political prisoners were executed between 1937 and 1939, and another 2 million died of hunger. The final tally resulting from the purges of 1937-39, then, according to Conquest, was 9 million, of whom 3 million would have died in prison. These figures were immediately subjected to `statistical adjustment’ by Conquest to enable him to reach the conclusion that the Bolsheviks had killed no fewer than 12 million political prisoners between 1930 and 1953. Adding these figures to the numbers said to have died in the famine of the 1930s, Conquest arrived at the conclusion that the Bolsheviks killed 26 million people. In one of his last statistical manipulations, Conquest claimed that in 1950 there had been 12 million political prisoners in the Soviet Union.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn used more or less the same statistical methods as Conquest. But by using these pseudo-scientific methods on the basis of different premises, he arrived at even more extreme conclusions. Solzhenitsyn accepted Conquest’s estimate of 6 million deaths arising from the famine of 1932-33. Nevertheless, as far as the purges of 1936-39 were concerned, he believed that at least 1 million people died each year. Solzhenitsyn sums up by telling us that from the collectivisation of agriculture to the death of Stalin in 1953, the communists killed 66 million people in the Soviet Union. On top of that he holds the Soviet government responsible for the death of the 44 million Russians he claims were killed in the Second World War. Solzhenitsyn’s conclusion is that `110 million Russians fell, victims of socialism’. As far as prisoners were concerned, Solzhenitsyn tells us that the number of people in labour camps in 1953 was 25 million.

Gorbachev opens the archives

The collection of fantasy figures set out above, the product of extremely well paid fabrication, appeared in the bourgeois press in the 1960s, always presented as true facts ascertained through the application of scientific method.

Behind these fabrications lurked the western secret services, mainly the CIA and MI5. The impact of the mass media on public opinion is so great that the figures are even today believed to be true by large sections of the population of Western countries.

This shameful situation has worsened. In the Soviet Union itself, where Solzhenitsyn and other well-known `critics’ such as Andrei Sakharov and Roy Medvedev could find nobody to support their many fantasies, a significant change took place in 1990. In the new `free press’ opened up under Gorbachev, everything opposed to socialism was hailed as positive, with disastrous results. Unprecedented speculative inflation began to take place in the numbers of those who were alleged to have died or been imprisoned under socialism, now all mixed up into a single group of tens of millions of `victims’ of the communists.

The hysteria of Gorbachev’s new free press brought to the fore the lies of Conquest and Solzhenitsyn. At the same time Gorbachev opened up the archives of the Central Committee to historical research, a demand of the free press. The opening up of the archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party is really the central issue in this tangled tale, this for two reasons: partly because in the archives can be found the facts that can shed light on the truth. But even more important is the fact that those speculating wildly on the number of people killed and imprisoned in the Soviet Union had all been claiming for years that the day the archives were opened up the figures they were citing would be confirmed. Every one of these speculators on the dead and incarcerated claimed that this would be the case: Conquest, Sakharov, Medvedev, and all the rest. But when the archives were opened up and research reports based on the actual documents began to be published a very strange thing happened. Suddenly both Gorbachev’s free press and the speculators on the dead and incarcerated completely lost interest in the archives.

The results of the research carried out on the archives of the Central Committee by Russian historians Zemskov, Dougin and Xlevnjuk, which began to appear in scientific journals as from 1990, went entirely unremarked. The reports containing the results of this historical research went completely against the inflationary current as regards the numbers who were being claimed by the `free press’ to have died or been incarcerated. Therefore their contents remained unpublicised. The reports were published in low-circulation scientific journals practically unknown to the public at large. Reports of the results of scientific research could hardly compete with the press hysteria, so the lies of Conquest and Solzhenitsyn continued to gain the support of many sectors of the former Soviet Union’s population. In the West also, the reports of the Russian researchers on the penal system under Stalin were totally ignored on the front pages of newspapers, and by TV news broadcasts. Why?

What the Russian research shows

The research on the Soviet penal system is set out in a report nearly 9,000 pages long. The authors of this report are many, but the best-known of them are the Russian historians V N Zemskov, A N Dougin and O V Xlevjnik. Their work began to be published in 1990 and by 1993 had nearly been finished and published almost in its entirety. The reports came to the knowledge of the West as a result of collaboration between researchers of different Western countries. The two works with which the present author is familiar are: the one which appeared in the French journal l’Histoire in September 1993, written by Nicholas Werth, the chief researcher of the French scientific research centre, CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), and the work published in the US journal American Historical Review by J Arch Getty, a professor of history at the University of California, Riverside, in collaboration with G T Rettersporn, a CRNS researcher, and the Russian researcher, V AN Zemskov, from the Institute of Russian History (part of the Russian Academy of Science). Today books have appeared on the matter written by the above-named researchers or by others from the same research team. Before going any further, I want to make clear, so that no confusion arises in the future, that none of the scientists involved in this research has a socialist world outlook. On the contrary their outlook is bourgeois and anti-socialist. Indeed many of them are quite reactionary. This is said so that the reader should not imagine that what is to be set out below is the product of some `communist conspiracy’. What has happened is that the above-named researchers have thoroughly exposed the lies of Conquest, Solzhenitsyn, Medvedev and others, which they have done purely by reason of the fact that they place their professional integrity in first place and will not allow themselves to be bought for propaganda purposes.

The results of the Russian research answer a very large number of questions about the Soviet penal system. For us it is the Stalin era that is of greatest interest, and it is there we find cause for debate. We will pose a number of very specific questions and we will seek out our replies in the journals l’Histoire and the American Historical Review. This will be the best way of bringing into the debate some of the most important aspects of the Soviet penal system. The questions are the following:

1.What did the Soviet penal system consist of?

2.How many prisoners were there – both political and non-political?

3.How many people died in the labour camps?

4.How many people were condemned to death in the years before 1953, especially in the purges of 1937-38?

5.How long, on average, were the prison sentences?

After answering these five questions, we will discuss the punishments imposed on the two groups which are most frequently mentioned in connection with prisoners and deaths in the Soviet Union, namely the kulaks convicted in 1930 and the counter-revolutionaries convicted in 1936-38.

1. Labour camps in the penal system

Let us start with the question of the nature of the Soviet penal system.

After 1930 the Soviet penal system included prisons, labour camps, the labour colonies of the gulag, special open zones and obligation to pay fines. Whoever was remanded into custody was generally sent to a normal prison while investigations took place to establish whether he might be innocent, and could thus be set free, or whether he should go on trial. An accused person on trial could either be found innocent (and set free) or guilty. If found guilty he could be sentenced to pay a fine, to a term of imprisonment or, more unusually, to face execution. A fine could be a given percentage of his wages for a given period of time. Those sentenced to prison terms could be put in different kinds of prison depending on the type of offence involved.

To the gulag labour camps were sent those who had committed serious offences (homicide, robbery, rape, economic crimes, etc.) as well as a large proportion of those convicted of counter-revolutionary activities. Other criminals sentenced to terms longer than 3 years could also be sent to labour camps. After spending some time in a labour camp, a prisoner might be moved to a labour colony or to a special open zone.

The labour camps were very large areas where the prisoners lived and worked under close supervision. For them to work and not to be a burden on society was obviously necessary. No healthy person got by without working. It is possible that these days people may think this was a terrible thing, but this is the way it was. The number of labour camps in existence in 1940 was 53.

There were 425 gulag labour colonies. These were much smaller units than the labour camps, with a freer regime and less supervision. To these were sent prisoners with shorter prison terms – people who had committed less serious criminal or political offences. They worked in freedom in factories or on the land and formed part of civil society. In most cases the whole of the wages earned from his labour belonged to the prisoner, who in this respect was treated the same as any other worker.

The special open zones were generally agricultural areas for those who had been exiled, such as the kulaks who had been expropriated during collectivisation. Other people found guilty of minor criminal or political offences might also serve their terms in these areas.

454,000 is not 9 million

2. The second question concerned how many political prisoners there were, and how many common criminals.

This question includes those imprisoned in labour camps, gulag colonies and the prisons (though it should be remembered that in the labour colonies there was, in the majority of cases, only partial loss of liberty). The Table in the Appendix shows the data which appeared in the American Historical Review, data which encompasses a period of 20 years beginning in 1934, when the penal system was unified under a central administration, until 1953, the year Stalin died.

From the Table, there are a series of conclusions which need to be drawn. To start with we can compare its data to those given by Robert Conquest. The latter claims that in 1939 there were 9 million political prisoners in the labour camps and that 3 million others had died in the period 1937-1939. Let the reader not forget that Conquest is here talking only about political prisoners! Apart from these, says Conquest, there were also common criminals who, according to him, were much greater in number than the political prisoners! In 1950 there were, according to Conquest, 12 million political prisoners! Armed with the true facts, we can readily see what a fraudster Conquest really is. Not one of his figures corresponds even remotely to the truth. In 1939 there was a total in all the camps, colonies and prisons of close to 2 million prisoners. Of these 454,000 had committed political crimes, not 9 million as Conquest asserts. Those who died in labour camps between 1937 and 1939 numbered about 160,000, not 3 million as Conquest asserts. In 1950 there were 578,000 political prisoners in labour camps, not 12 million. Let the reader not forget that Robert Conquest to this day remains one of the major sources for right-wing propaganda against communism. Among right-wing pseudo-intellectuals, Robert Conquest is a godlike figure. As for the figures cited by Alexander Solzhenitsyn – 60 million alleged to have died in labour camps – there is no need for comment. The absurdity of such an allegation is manifest. Only a sick mind could promote such delusions.

Let us now leave these fraudsters in order that we may ourselves concretely analyse the statistics relating to the gulag. The first question to be asked is what view we should take about the sheer quantity of people caught up in the penal system? What is the meaning of the figure of 2.5 million? Every person that is put in prison is living proof that society was still insufficiently developed to give every citizen everything he needed for a full life. From this point of view, the 2.5 million do represent a criticism of the society.

The internal and external threat

The number of people caught up in the penal system requires to be properly explained. The Soviet Union was a country which had only recently overthrown feudalism, and its social heritage in matters of human rights was often a burden on society. In an antiquated system like tsardom, workers were condemned to live in deep poverty, and human life had little value. Robbery and violent crime was punished by unrestrained violence. Revolts against the monarchy usually ended in massacres, death sentences and extremely long prison sentences. These social relations, and the habits of mind associated with them, take a long time to change, a fact which influenced the development of society in the Soviet Union as well as attitudes towards criminals.

Another factor to be taken into account is that the Soviet Union, a country which in the 1930s had close to 160-170 million inhabitants, was seriously threatened by foreign powers. As a result of the great political changes which took place in Europe in the 1930s, there was a major threat of war from the direction of Nazi German, a threat to the survival of the Slav people, and the western bloc also harbouring interventionist ambitions. This situation was summed up by Stalin in 1931 in the following words:“We are 50-100 years behind the advanced countries. We have to close that gap in 10 years. Either we do it or we will be wiped out.” Ten years later, on 22 June 1941, the Soviet Union was invaded by Nazi Germany and its allies. Soviet society was forced to make great efforts in the decade from 1930-1940, when the major part of its resources was dedicated to its defence preparations for the forthcoming war against the Nazis. Because of this, people worked hard while producing little by way of personal benefits. The introduction of the 7-hour day was withdrawn in 1937, and in 1939 practically every Sunday was a work day. In a difficult period such as this, with a great war hanging over the development of society for two decades (the 1930s and 1940s), a war which was to cost the Soviet Union 25 million deaths with half the country burnt to a cinder, crime did tend to increase as people tried to help themselves to what life could not otherwise offer them.

During this very difficult time, the Soviet Union held a maximum number of 2.5 million people in its prison system, i.e., 2.4% of the adult population. How can we evaluate this figure? Is it a lot or a little? Let us compare.

More prisoners in the US

In the United States of America, for example, a country of 252 million inhabitants (in 1996), the richest country in the world, which consumes 60% of the world resources, how many people are in prison? What is the situation in the US, a country not threatened by any war and where there are no deep social changes affecting economic stability?

In a rather small news item appearing in the newspapers of August 1997, the FLT-AP news agency reported that in the US there had never previously been so many people in the prison system as the 5.5 million held in 1996. This represents an increase of 200,0000 people since 1995 and means that the number of criminals in the US equals 2.8% of the adult population. These data are available to all those who are part of the North American department of justice. The number of convicts in the US today is 3 million higher than the maximum number ever held in the Soviet Union! In the Soviet Union there was a maximum of 2.4% of the adult population in prison for their crimes – in the US the figure is 2.8%, and rising! According to a press release put out by the US department of justice on 18 January 1998, the number of convicts in the US in 1997 rose by 96,100.

As far as the Soviet labour camps were concerned, it is true that the regime was harsh and difficult for the prisoners, but what is the situation today in the prisons of the US, which are rife with violence, drugs, prostitution, sexual slavery (290,000 rapes a year in US prisons). Nobody feels safe in US prisons! And this today, and in a society richer than ever before!

An important factor – the lack of medicines

3. Let us now respond to the third question posed. How many people died in the labour camps?

The number varied from year to year, from 5.2% in 1934 to 0.3% in 1953. Deaths in the labour camps were caused by the general shortage of resources in society as a whole, in particular the medicines necessary to fight epidemics. This problem was not confined to labour camps but was present throughout society, as well as in the great majority of countries of the world. Once antibiotics had been discovered and put into general use after the Second World War, the situation changed radically. In fact, the worst years were the war years when the Nazi barbarians imposed very harsh living conditions on all Soviet citizens. During those 4 years, more than half a million people died in the labour camps – half the total number dying throughout the 20-year period in question. Let us not forget that in the same period, the war years, 25 million people died among those who were free. In 1950, when conditions in the Soviet Union had improved and antibiotics had been introduced, the number of people dying while in prison fell to 0.3%.

4. Let us turn now to the fourth question posed. How many people were sentenced to death prior to 1953, especially during the purges of 1937-38?

We have already noted Robert Conquest’s claim that the Bolsheviks killed 12 million political prisoners in the labour camps between 1930 and 1953. Of these 1 million are supposed to have been killed between 1937 and 1938. Solzhenitsyn’s figures run to tens of millions who are supposed to have died in the labour camps – 3 million in 1937-38 alone. Even higher figures have been quoted in the course of the dirty propaganda war against the Soviet Union. The Russian, Olga Shatunovskaya, for example, cites a figure of 7 million dead in the purges of 1937-38.

The documents now emerging from the Soviet archives, however, tell a different story. It is necessary to mention here at the start that the number of those sentenced to death has to be gleaned from different archives and that the researchers, in order to arrive at an approximate figure, have had to gather data from these various archives in a way which gives rise to a risk of double counting and thus of producing estimates higher than the reality. According to Dimitri Volkogonov, the person appointed by Yeltsin to take charge of the old Soviet archives, there were 30,514 persons condemned to death by military tribunals between 1 October 1936 and 30 September 1938. Another piece of information comes from the KGB: according to information released to the press in February 1990, there were 786,098 people condemned to death for crimes against the revolution during the 23 years from 1930-1953. Of those condemned, according to the KGB, 681,692 were condemned between 1937 and 1938. It is not possible to double check the KGB’s figures but this last piece of information is open to doubt. It would be very odd for so many people to have been sentenced to death in only two years. Is it possible that the present-day pro-capitalist KGB would give us correct information from the pro-socialist KGB? Be that as it may, it remains to be verified whether the statistics which underlie the KGB information include among those said to have been condemned to death during the 23 years in question common criminals as well as counter-revolutionaries, rather than counter-revolutionaries alone as the pro-capitalist KGB has alleged in a press release of February 1990. The archives also tend to the conclusion that the number of common criminals and the number of counter revolutionaries condemned to death was approximately equal.

The conclusion we can draw from this is that the number of those condemned to death in 1937-38 was close to 100,000, and not several million as has been claimed by Western propaganda.

It is also necessary to bear in mind that not all those sentenced to death in the Soviet Union were actually executed. A large proportion of death penalties were commuted to terms in labour camps. It is also important to distinguish between common criminals and counter revolutionaries. Many of those sentenced to death had committed violent crimes such as murder or rape. 60 years ago this type of crime was punishable by death in a large number of countries.

Question 5: How long was the average prison sentence?

The length of prison sentences has been the subject of the most scurrilous rumour-mongering in Western propaganda. The usual insinuation is that to be a convict in the Soviet Union involved endless years in prison – whoever went in never came out. This is completely untrue. The vast majority of those who went to prison in Stalin’s time were in fact convicted for a term of 5 years at most.

The statistics reproduced in the American Historical Review show the actual facts. Common criminals in the Russian Federation in 1936 received the following sentences: up to 5 years: 82.4%; between 5-10 years: 17.6%. 10 years was the maximum possible prison term before 1937. Political prisoners convicted in the Soviet Union’s civilian courts in 1936 received sentences as follows: up to 5 years: 44.2%; between 5-10 years 50.7%. As for those sentenced to terms in the gulag labour camps, where the longer sentences were served, the 1940 statistics show that those serving up to 5 years were 56.8% and those between 5-10 years 42.2%. Only 1% were sentenced to over 10 years.

For 1939 we have the statistics produced by Soviet courts. The distribution of prison terms is as follows: up to 5 years: 95.9%; from 5-10 years: 4%; over 10 years: 0.1%.

As we can see, the supposed eternity of prison sentences in the Soviet Union is another myth spread in the West to combat socialism.

The lies about the Soviet Union: A brief discussion as to the research reports.

The research conducted by the Russian historians shows a reality totally different to that taught in the schools and universities of the capitalist world over the last 50 years. During these 50 years of the cold war, several generations have learnt only lies about the Soviet Union, which have left a deep impression on many people. This fact is also substantiated in the reports made of the French and American research. In these reports are reproduced data, figures and tables enumerating those convicted and those who died, these figures being the subject of intense discussion. But the most important thing to note is that the crimes committed by the people who had been convicted is never a matter of any interest. Capitalist political propaganda has always presented Soviet prisoners as innocent victims and the researchers have taken up this assumption without questioning it. When the researchers go over from their columns of statistics to their commentaries on the events, their bourgeois ideology comes to fore – with sometimes macabre results. Those who were convicted under the Soviet penal system are treated as innocent victims, but the fact of the matter is that most of them were thieves, murderers, rapists, etc. Criminals of this kind would never be considered to be innocent victims by the press if their crimes were committed in Europe or the US. But since the crimes were committed in the Soviet Union, it is different. To call a murderer, or a person who has raped more than once, an innocent victim is a very dirty game. Some common sense at least needs to be shown when commenting on Soviet justice, at least in relation to criminals convicted of violent crimes, even if it cannot be managed in relation to the nature of the punishment, then at least as regards the propriety of convicting people who have committed crimes of this kind.

The kulaks and the counter-revolution

In the case of the counter-revolutionaries, it is also necessary to consider the crimes of which they were accused. Let us give two examples to show the importance of this question: the first is the kulaks sentenced at the beginning of the 1930s, and the second is the conspirators and counter-revolutionaries convicted in 1936-38.

According to the research reports insofar as they deal with the kulaks, the rich peasants, there were 381,000 families, i.e., about 1.8 million people sent into exile. A small number of these people were sentenced to serve terms in labour camps or colonies. But what gave rise to these punishments?

The rich Russian peasant, the kulak, had subjected poor peasants for hundreds of years to boundless oppression and unbridled exploitation. Of the 120 million peasants in 1927, the 10 million kulaks lived in luxury while the remaining 110 million lived in poverty. Before the revolution they had lived in the most abject poverty. The wealth of the kulaks was based on the badly-paid labour of the poor peasants. When the poor peasants began to join together in collective farms, the main source of kulak wealth disappeared. But the kulaks did not give up. They tried to restore exploitation by use of famine. Groups of armed kulaks attacked collective farms, killed poor peasants and party workers, set fire to the fields and killed working animals. By provoking starvation among poor peasants, the kulaks were trying to secure the perpetuation of poverty and their own positions of power. The events which ensued were not those expected by these murderers. This time the poor peasants had the support of the revolution and proved to be stronger than the kulaks, who were defeated, imprisoned and sent into exile or sentenced to terms in labour camps.

Of the 10 million kulaks, 1.8 million were exiled or convicted. There may have been injustices perpetrated in the course of this massive class struggle in the Soviet countryside, a struggle involving 120 million people. But can we blame the poor and the oppressed, in their struggle for a life worth living, in their struggle to ensure their children would not be starving illiterates, for not being sufficiently `civilised’ or showing enough `mercy’ in their courts? Can one point the finger at people who for hundreds of years had no access to the advances made by civilisation for not being civilised? And tell us, when was the kulak exploiter civilised or merciful in his dealings with poor peasants during the years and years of endless exploitation.

The purges of 1937

Our second example, that of the counter-revolutionaries convicted in the 1936-38 Trials which followed the purges of party, army and state apparatus, has its roots in the history of the revolutionary movement in Russia. Millions of people participated in the victorious struggle against the Tsar and the Russian bourgeoisie, and many of these joined the Russian Communist Party. Among all these people there were, unfortunately, some who entered the party for reasons other than fighting for the proletariat and for socialism. But the class struggle was such that often there was neither the time nor the opportunity to put new party militants to the test. Even militants from other parties who called themselves socialists and who had fought the Bolshevik party were admitted to the Communist Party. A number of these new activists were given important positions in the Bolshevik Party, the state and the armed forces, depending on their individual ability to conduct class struggle. These were very difficult times for the young Soviet state, and the great shortage of cadres – or even of people who could read – forced the party to make few demands as regards the quality of new activists and cadres. Because of these problems, there arose in time a contradiction which split the party into two camps – on the one hand those who wanted to press forward in the struggle to build a socialist society, and on the other hand those who thought that the conditions were not yet ripe for building socialism and who promoted social-democracy. The origin of these ideas lay in Trotsky, who had joined the party in July 1917. Trotsky was able over time to secure the support of some of the best known Bolsheviks. This opposition, united against the original Bolshevik plan, provided one of the policy options which were the subject of a vote on 27 December 1927. Before this vote was taken, there had been a great party debate going on over many years and the result left nobody in any doubt. Of the 725,000 votes cast, the opposition secured 6,000 – i.e., less than 1% of party activists supported the united opposition.

As a consequence of the vote, and once the opposition started working for a policy opposed to that of the party, the Central Committee of the Communist Party decided to expel from the party the principal leaders of the united opposition. The central opposition figure, Trotsky, was expelled from the Soviet Union. But the story of this opposition did not end there. Zinoviev, Kamenev and Zvdokine afterwards made self-criticisms, as did several leading Trotskyists, such as Pyatakov, Radek, Preobrazhinsky and Smirnov. All of them were once again accepted into the party as activists and took up once more their party and state posts. In time it became clear that the self-criticisms made by the opposition had not been genuine, since the oppositionist leaders were united on the side of the counter revolution every time that class struggle sharpened in the Soviet Union. The majority of the oppositionists were expelled and re-admitted another couple of times before the situation clarified itself completely in 1937-38.

Industrial sabotage

The murder in December 1934 of Kirov, the chairman of the Leningrad party and one of the most important people in the Central Committee, sparked off the investigation that was to lead to the discovery of a secret organisation engaged in preparing a conspiracy to take over the leadership of the party and the government of the country by means of violence. The opposition, having lost the political struggle in 1927, now hoped to win by means of organised violence against the state. Their main weapons were industrial sabotage, terrorism and corruption. Trotsky, the main inspiration for the opposition, directed their activities from abroad. Industrial sabotage caused terrible losses to the Soviet state, at enormous cost, for example, important machines were damaged beyond possibility of repair, and there was an enormous fall in production in mines and factories.

One of the people who in 1934 described the problem was the American engineer John Littlepage, one of the foreign specialists contracted to work in the Soviet Union. Littlepage spent 10 years working in the Soviet mining industry – from 1927-37, mainly in the gold mines. In his book, In search of Soviet gold, he writes: “I never took any interest in the subtleties of political manoeuvring in Russia so long as I could avoid them; but I had to study what was happening in Soviet industry in order to do my work. And I am firmly convinced that Stalin and his collaborators took a long time to discover that discontented revolutionary communists were his worst enemies.”

Littlepage also wrote that his personal experience confirmed the official statement to the effect that a great conspiracy directed from abroad was using major industrial sabotage as part of its plans to force the government to fall. In 1931 Littlepage had already felt obliged to take note of this, while working in the copper and bronze mines of the Urals and Kazakhstan. The mines were part of a large copper/bronze complex under the overall direction of Pyatakov, the people’s Vice Commissar for heavy industry. The mines were in a catastrophic state as far as production and the well-being of their workers was concerned. Littlepage reached the conclusion that there was organised sabotage going on which came from the top management of the copper/bronze complex.

Littlepage’s book also tells us from where the Trotskyite opposition obtained the money that was necessary to pay for this counter-revolutionary activity. Many members of the secret opposition used their positions to approve the purchase of machines from certain factories abroad. The products approved were of much lower quality than those the Soviet government actually paid for. The foreign producers gave Trotsky’s organisation the surplus from such transactions, as a result of which Trotsky and his co-conspirators in the Soviet Union continued to order from these manufacturers.

Theft and corruption

This procedure was observed by Littlepage in Berlin in the spring of 1931 when buying industrial lifts for mines. The Soviet delegation was headed by Pyatakov, with Littlepage as the specialist in charge of verifying the quality of the lifts and of approving the purchase. Littlepage discovered a fraud involving low quality lifts, useless for Soviet purposes, but when he informed Pyatakov and the other members of the Soviet delegation of this fact, he met with a cold reception, as if they wanted to overlook these facts and insist he should approve the purchase of the lifts. Littlepage would not do so. At the time he thought that what was happening involved personal corruption and that the members of the delegation had been bribed by the lift manufacturers. But after Pyatakov, in the 1937 Trial, confessed his links with the Trotskyist opposition, Littlepage was driven to the conclusion that what he had witnessed in Berlin was much more than corruption at a personal level. The money involved was intended to pay for the activities of the secret opposition in the Soviet Union, activities which included sabotage, terrorism, bribery and propaganda.

Zinoviev, Kamenev, Pyatakov, Radek, Tomsky, Bukharin and others much loved by the Western bourgeois press used the positions entrusted to them by the Soviet people and party to steal money from the state, in order to enable enemies of socialism to use that money for the purposes of sabotage and in their fight against socialist society in the Soviet Union.

Plans for a coup

Theft, sabotage and corruption are serious crimes in themselves, but the opposition’s activities went much further. A counter-revolutionary conspiracy was being prepared with the aim of taking over state power by means of a coup in which the whole Soviet leadership would be eliminated, starting with the assassination of the most important members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The military side of the coup would be carried out by a group of generals headed by Marshal Tukhachevsky.

According to Isaac Deutscher, himself a Trotskyite, who wrote several books against Stalin and the Soviet Union, the coup was to have been initiated by a military operation against the Kremlin and the most important troops in the big cities, such as Moscow and Leningrad. The conspiracy was, according to Deutscher, headed by Tukhachevsky together with Gamarnik, the head of the army political commissariat, General Yakir, the Commander of Leningrad, General Uborevich, the commander of the Moscow military academy, and General Primakov, a cavalry commander.

Marshal Tukhachevsky had been an officer in the former Tsarist army who, after the revolution, went over to the Red Army. In 1930 nearly 10% of officers (close to 4,500) were former Tsarist officers. Many of them never abandoned their bourgeois outlook and were just waiting for an opportunity to fight for it. This opportunity arose when the opposition was preparing its coup.

The Bolsheviks were strong, but the civilian and military conspirators endeavoured to muster strong friends. According to Bukharin’s confession in his public trial in 1938, an agreement was reached between the Trotskyite opposition and Nazi Germany, in which large territories, including the Ukraine, would be ceded to Nazi Germany following the counter-revolutionary coup in the Soviet Union. This was the price demanded by Nazi Germany for its promise of support for the counter-revolutionaries. Bukharin had been informed about this agreement by Radek, who had received an order from Trotsky about the matter. All these conspirators who had been chosen for high positions to lead, administer and defend socialist society were in reality working to destroy socialism. Above all it is necessary to remember that all this was happening in the 1930s, when the Nazi danger was growing all the time and the Nazi armies were setting Europe alight and preparing to invade the Soviet Union.

The conspirators were sentenced to death as traitors after a public trial. Those found guilty of sabotage, terrorism, corruption, attempted murder and who had wanted to hand over part of the country to the Nazis, could expect nothing else. To call them innocent victims is completely mistaken.

More numerous liars

It is interesting to see how Western propaganda, via Robert Conquest, has lied about the purges of the Red Army. Conquest says in his book The Great Terror that in 1937 there were 70,000 officers and political commissars in the Red Army and that 50% of them (i.e., 15,000 officers and 20,000 commissars) were arrested by the political police and were either executed or imprisoned for life in labour camps. In this allegation of Conquest’s, as in his whole book, there is not one word of truth. The historian Roger Reese, in his work The Red Army and the Great Purges, gives the facts which show the real significance of the 1937-38 purges for the army. The number of people in the leadership of the Red Army and air force, i.e., officers and political commissars, was 144,300 in 1937, increasing to 282,300 by 1939. During the 1937-38 purges, 34,300 officers and political commissars were expelled for political reasons. By May 1940, however, 11,596 had already been rehabilitated and restored to their posts. This meant that during the 1937-38 purges, 22,705 officers and political commissars were dismissed (close to 13,000 army officers, 4,700 air force officers and 5,000 political commissars), which amounts to 7.7% of all officers and commissars – not 50% as Conquest alleges. Of this 7.7%, some were convicted as traitors, but the great majority of them, it would appear from historical material available, simply returned to civilian life.

One last question. Were the 1937-38 Trials fair to the accused? Let us examine, for example, the trial of Bukharin, the highest party functionary to work for the secret opposition. According to the American ambassador in Moscow at the time, a well-known lawyer called Joseph Davies, who attended the whole trial, Bukharin was permitted to speak freely throughout the trial and put forward his case without impediment of any kind. Joseph Davies wrote to Washington that during the Trial it was proved that the accused were guilty of the crimes of which they were charged and that the general opinion among diplomats attending the trial was that the existence of a very serious conspiracy had been proved.

Let us learn from history

The discussion of the Soviet penal system during Stalin’s time, on which thousands of lying articles and books have been written, and hundreds of films have been made conveying false impressions, leads to important lessons. The facts prove yet again that the stories published about socialism in the bourgeois press are mostly false. The right wing can, through the press, radio and TV that it dominates, cause confusion, distort the truth and cause very many people to believe lies to be the truth. This is especially true when it comes to historical questions. Any new stories from the right should be assumed to be false unless the contrary can be proved. This cautious approach is justified. The fact is that even knowing about the Russian research reports, the right is continuing to reproduce the lies taught for the last 50 years, even though they have now been completely exposed. The right continues its historical heritage: a lie repeated over and over again ends up being accepted as true. After the Russian research reports were published in the west, a number of books began to appear in different countries aimed solely at calling into question the Russian research and enabling the old lies to be brought to public attention as new truths. These are well-presented books, stuffed from cover to cover with lies about communism and socialism.

The right-wing lies are repeated in order to fight today’s communists. They are repeated so that workers will find no alternative to capitalism and neo-liberalism. They are part of the dirty war against communists who alone have an alternative to offer for the future, i.e., socialist society. This is the reason for the appearance of all these new books containing old lies.

All this places an obligation on everybody with a socialist world outlook on history. We must take on the responsibility of working to turn communist newspapers into authentic newspapers of the working class to combat bourgeois lies! This is without doubt an important mission in today’s class struggle, which in the near future will arise again with renewed force.

APPENDIX:

From The American Historical Review

Year Prisoners in gulag labour camps Of whom the number of counter-revolutionaries Number dying each year Number released each year Number escaped each year Prisoners held in gulag labour colonies Prisoners held in prisons Total number on January 1st each year
Number % Number %
1934 510,307 135,190 26.5 26,295 5.2 147,272 83,490 510,307
1935 725,438 118,256 16.3 28,328 3.9 211.035 67,493 240,259 965,697
1936 839,406 105,849 12.6 20,595 2.5 369,544 58,313 457,088 1,298,494
1937 820,881 104,826 12.8 25,378 3.1 364,437 58,264 375,488 1,196,369
1938 996,367 185,324 18.6 90,546 9.1 279.966 32,033 885,203 1,881,570
1939 1,317,195 454,432 34.5 50,502 3.8 223,622 12,333 355,243 350,538 2,022,976
1940 1,344,408 444,999 33.1 46,665 3.5 316,825 11,813 315,584 190,266 1,850,258
1941 1,500,524 420,293 28.7 100,997 6.7 624,275 10,592 429,205 487,739 2,417.468
1942 1,415,596 407,988 29.8 248,877 17.6 509,538 11,822 360,447 277,992 2,054,035
1943 983,974 345,397 35.6 166,967 17.0 336,135 6,242 500,208 235,313 1,719,495
1944 663,594 268,861 40.7 60,948 9.2 152,113 3,586 516,225 155,213 1,335,032
1945 715,506 283,351 41.2 43,848 8.1 336,750 2,196 745,171 279,969 1,740,646
1946 600,897 333,833 59.2 18,154 3.0 115,700 2,642 956,224 261,500 1,818,621
1947 808,839 427,653 54.3 35,668 4.4 194,886 3,779 912,794 306,163 2,027,796
1948 1,108,057 416,156 38.0 27,605 2.5 261,148 4,261 1,091,478 275,850 2,475,385
1949 1,216,361 420,696 34.9 15,739 1.3 178,449 2,583 1,140,324 2,356,685
1950 1,416,300 578,912 22.7 14,703 1.0 216,210 2,577 1,145,051 2,561,351
1951 1,533,767 475,976 31.0 15,587 1.0 254,269 2,318 994,379 2,528,146
1952 1,711,202 480,766 28.1 10,604 0.6 329,446 1,253 793,312 2,504,514
1953 1,727,970 465,256 26.9 5,825 0.3 937,352 785 740,554 2,468,524