Category Archives: Guatemala

Guevaraism: the Theory of the Guerrilla Elite

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An analysis of the theories of Regis Debray as propounded in “Revolution in the Revolution?”, and their relevance to the revolutionary struggle in Latin America.

By Cmde MS on behalf of MLOB.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN Red Vanguard Volume 1, 1968

THE THEORY OF THE GUERRILLA ELITE
Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION
BOURGEOIS OUTLOOK AND SPONTANEITY
CLASS ANALYSIS IN SOUTH AMERICA: THE “THIRD” WAY
THE ROLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL – THE MAXIMUM LEADER -FIDELISM
THE “FOCO” AS SUBSTITUTE FOR THE PROLETARIAN PARTY
PEOPLE’S WAR WITHOUT THE PEOPLE
“LEFT” AND RIGHT IN LATIN AMERICA
ASSESSMENT OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION

Introduction

Regis Debray, a “private student of revolutionary theory and practice,” has written a book which purports to offer a “third way” to revolution. It is a “third way” which all Marxist-Leninists have hitherto failed to perceive, a “scientific truth” awaiting its release at the hands of this roving French philosophy student fresh from the cloisters of the “Ecole Normale Superieure.”

In their introduction to this book, Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy, the American sponsors of Debray, claim that the revolution in Latin America:

“will not and cannot follow one or another of the patterns, traced out by the two great revolutionary upheavals of the first half of the twentieth century. The Latin American revolution is taking a third way, the first stages of which already been revealed in the Cuban experience.”

(“Revolution in the Revolution?” Penguin Books, 1968)

On the basis of this claim for a “third way,” these American liberals with a touch of rouge on their cheeks rush to proclaim the ultimate outcome of this breach in the wall of proletarian hegemony, the anti-Marxist-Leninist content of the loquacious petty-bourgeoisie of our time: that “still other revolutionary patterns may be possible” – ranging from the Yugoslav to the Chinese variants of the new syndicalism.

Debray’s book seeks to lay the basis for such radical revisions by spurning Marxist-Leninist theory in every one of its essential tenets: replacing proletarian hegemony and discipline by petty-bourgeois hegemony and anarchical relations, replacing class by individuals, proletarian parties by “focos” of undisciplined petty bourgeois insurectionists, historical materialism by naïve mechanical materialism, scientific analysis by sweeping presumptiousness.

Like countless other renegade products which attack Marxism-Leninism, this book has been received favourably by the bourgeoisie. In that it offers a way to “make revolution” from scratch, learning by the simple empirical process of trial and error and rejecting the Marxist-Leninist scientific method of the universality of contradiction and the unity of theory and practice, it serves them well. For if the “third way” of Debray were to remain unchallenged and be applied in practice, it would result in the most tragic setbacks and useless losses to the revolutionary cause in Latin America.

Indeed, the Bolivian adventure which cost Debray his liberty and Guevara his life was merely the latest in a long series of defeats and annihilations for which the addicts of spontaneity who exist in the national liberation fronts of many Latin American countries are responsible. It is for this reason that it is essential to deal with Debray’s claims in some detail. On the first page we read:

“One began by identifying the guerrilla struggle (in Cuba – Ed.) with insurrection because the archetype – 1917 – had taken this form, and because Lenin and later Stalin had developed several theoretical formulas (sic) based on it – formulas which have nothing to do with the present situation and which are periodically debated in vain, such as those which refer to conditions for the outbreak of an insurrection, meaning an immediate assault on the central power.”

(Ibid.-p.19)

NOTE: Because Debray’s “theories” have been endorsed by the Cuban leadership and because he uses the term “we” throughout his text, references to Debary and the Cuban leadership are interchangeable, except where otherwise specified.

No doubt we are supposed to be eternally grateful for Mr. Debray’s clarification of Lenin on the “formulas” for an insurrection, i.e, “an immediate assault on the central power.” This statement is to set the tone for disclaiming Leninism by alluding to Lenin as someone who, from 1900 to 1917, contributed nothing to the struggle in Russia but the cry “insurrection” without any of the detailed handiwork which Debray claims as his own discovery.

Unfortunately, of course, Mr Debray has not understood Lenin, or Marxism, on this elementary point. The involved and rich experience, of the tactics and strategy of “making revolution” the Marxist-Leninist way are a closed book to Debray (as a student of bourgeois philosophy still in his early twenties, this is not surprising) who assumes throughout that such wild and unqualified statements, can serve as the starting point for his even wilder flights of innovation around them.

Lenin and Stalin remain (despite the distortions of petty-bourgeois innovators such as Debray who wish not to see that which deflates the balloon of their pretentiousness) the most notable of those few proletarian leaders who have successfully led the working people through to the seizure of state power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is distinct from that seizure of power by the national bourgeoisie in alliance with the peasantry, usurping the leading role of the proletariat, which masquerades as “the dictatorship of the proletariat” in some corners of the globe – and to the building of socialism. Given this historically unique position, we can assume that the definitions and experiences of Lenin and Stalin, hold important lessons for us in establishing further theoretical and practical bases of proletarian dictatorship without which there can be no socialism – in our respective countries.

In every fundamental essential, Debray betrays not only his divergence from these principles, but his total ignorance of them.

BOURGEOIS OUTLOOK AND SPONTANEITY

When he deals in detail with the specific conditions in the countries of the Latin American continent, he refers to the divisions existing between the revisionists and trotskyites in the liberation fronts of these countries. These divisions, which have been responsible for many defeats – notably the failure of the Cuban general strike in 1958 – Debray seeks to solve, by going over to the purely military front and brushing ideological and political questions aside. He ignores the fact that leadership involves the clarification of a line in theory and the consolidation of the forces around that theory in action. Lenin subjected anti-Marxist-Leninist theory and practice to a ruthless critique on every front, this struggle bearing fruit in the undisputed leading role of the Bolsheviks at the crucial turning points in the Russian revolution. Debray seeks to cancel out the role of theory and to advocate some kind of idealised and subjectivised “action” as the unfailing panacea guaranteeing victory. He quotes petty detail after petty detail, generalises them to the level of the universal in order to justify his “revolutionary” theories revising a whole arsenal of genuine revolutionary theory painstakingly accumulated throughout a century or so of arduous struggle by valiant proletarian fighters the world over.

Not once does he justify his claims against Marxist-Leninist theory – we are presented merely with surface details and Debray’s own brand of arrogant ignorance of the harsh facts of the struggle against imperialism. Thus, in justification of the “spontaneous inevitable progress of history”:

“The reverses suffered by the Latin American revolutionary movement are truly minor if one measures them in terms of the short period of time which is the prologue to the great struggles of tomorrow, if we take into account the fact that the few years which have passed correspond to that period of ‘takeoff’ and re-adjustment through which all revolutions must go in their early stages. Indeed, what seems surprising is that guerrilla movements have been able to survive so many false starts and so many errors, some inevitable and others not. According to Fidel, that is the astonishing thing, and it proves the extent to which the movement is impelled by history. In fact, we must speak not, so much of defeat as of a certain explicable stagnation and lack of rapid development, the consequences of, among other things the inevitable blunders and errors at this stage of exploration, of revolutionary conceptions and methods which are new, (our emphasis – Ed.) in spite of their deceptive kinship with other international experiences. . . .Of all these false starts, the Latin American is the most, “innocuous.”

(p.23)

This “innocuous” record has involved the annihilation of “half a hundred revolutionary organisations” on the Latin American continent, since the Fidelista upsurge!

On an even more alarming scale, on page 2 the cry of the petty bourgeois intellectual reveals itself in full swing in its justification of spontaneity, taken to the lengths of advocating the pleasures and benefits of a blissful ignorance of theory. In this assertion, Debray is typical of the worst philistine intellectual who steeps himself in book learning but condescends to the “masses” in their ignorance – in such a way he seeks to preserve the prestige of learning which can only stand up when contrasted with the “low level” of the masses. Anathema to Debray are the forces of the organised proletariat with their developed theory:

“One may well consider it a stroke of good luck that Fidel had not read the military writings of Mao Tse-tung before disembarking on the coast of Oriente; he could thus invent, on the spot and out of his own experience, principles of a military doctrine in conformity with the terrain. … all the theoretical works on people’s war do as much harm as good. (This includes General Giap, Lenin! –Ed). They have been called the grammar books of the war. But a foreign language is learned faster in a country where it must be spoken than at home studying a language manual.”

(p.20-21).

And, when dealing with the dangers of “imitation from past experiences”:

“All the more reason to remain aware of the inversion of which we are victims when we read theoretical works.”

(p.59).

So, we have here the claim that theoretical knowledge is a hindrance and that spontaneous “trial and error” is the only guide to revolutionary action. Likewise, political struggles through programmes, fronts, alliances – the essential and inevitable shifts and deployments of forces in the complex struggle to win the working people for revolution are not necessary. Those who claim they are,

“… believe that revolutionary awareness and organisation must and can in every case precede revolutionary action.”

(p.82)

This is carried to the lengths of noting (we presume with favour – otherwise why point it out?):

“A significant detail: during two years of warfare, Fidel did not hold a single political rally in his zone of operations.”

(p.53).

Thus we are dealing with a defence of spontaneity, (a spontaneity which yet Debray makes a show of criticising in others) where spontaneity takes as its fundamental precept:

“.. the armed struggle of the masses against imperialism is capable of creating by itself, in the long run, a vanguard capable of leading the peoples to socialism.”

(p.126).

CLASS ANALYSIS IN SOUTH AMERICA: THE “THIRD” WAY

In order to justify his anti-Marxist-Leninist theories, Debray has to claim a “unique” class situation in Latin America:

“… the irony of history has willed, by virtue of the social situation of many Latin American countries, the assignment of precisely this vanguard role to students and revolutionary intellectuals, who have had to unleash, or rather to initiate, the highest forms of class struggle.”

(p.21)

No doubt his studies at the Ecole did not include a syllabus on Marxism-Leninism. Debray, is about to proceed upon the unfolding of his “new” theories of revolution, applicable only to Latin America:

Firstly, that the leading instigating role of the intellectuals and students is unique. From this assumption he intends to demonstrate, that a new concept of the vanguard, a “foco” (a small band of guerrillas with allegiance to one “leader”) follows logically, and from this that the normal political channels should be ignored and give place to armed struggle as an end in itself.

However, his claim for uniqueness of situation in Latin America is a red herring raised in order to conceal his anti-proletarian, thoroughly bourgeois thinking. For in Russia the revolutionary students and intellectuals also initiated the struggle against imperialism and capitalism: it was they who formulated the theory of the vanguard party and the strategy of the world’s first proletarian revolution. And it is here that we come to the crux of the difference between those petty-bourgeois forces which, when declassed and pushed into the ranks of the working class, overcome their bourgeois thinking and thoroughly embrace the proletarian world view and its revolutionary struggle; and those who fail to identify themselves with the aims and aspirations of the majority class. These latter merely use their new class position to air their own minority grievances against capitalism, objectively striving to climb back to their former class position, sowing confusion and propagating theories in the process which act against the tide of revolutionary struggle.

There are of course, vast differences between the aims of those intellectuals who led the way in Russia and the aims of those in Latin America who advance Debray to be their spokesman. The intellectuals in Russia worked for the hegemony of the proletariat in the socialist revolution and, as its necessary preliminary, in the bourgeois democratic revolution.

Debray and those he represents, are that section of the petty bourgeoisie which stand for the hegemony of bourgeois ideology and the petty bourgeois forces, not for a socialist revolution and not even for the final victory and, consolidation of the national democratic revolution. For in the epoch of imperialism, this can only be led by the proletariat in alliance with the poor and middle peasantry if it is to be consolidated and is to prepare the around for the transition to the socialist revolution. The petty bourgeois and bourgeois view is for the holding of the revolutionary process at the stage of the national democratic revolution, in order that the groundwork for capitalism may be sown and the path towards the re-incorporation of the nation into the imperialist sphere once again be laid. They seek to prevent that national democratic revolution from being turned into the stream which feeds the proletarian revolution by crying “against dictatorship,” “against bureaucracy,” thus serving the interests of the national bourgeoisie.

And so, Debray’s claims that his “third way” is the new form of worker-peasant revolutionary alliance:

“What gives the guerrilla movement the right to claim this political responsibility as its own and for itself alone? The answer is: that class alliance which it alone can achieve, the alliance that will take and administer power, the alliance whose interests are those of socialism – the alliance between workers and peasants. The guerrilla army is a confirmation in action of this alliance; it is the personification of it alone can guarantee that the people’s power will not be perverted after victory.”

And

“… This progressive petty bourgeoisie must… commit suicide as a class in order to be restored to life as revolutionary workers, totally identified with the deepest aspirations of their people.”

(p.111).

Yet despite these claims, we find that the real picture is very different.

In order to make his thesis workable Debray has to provide the vanguard leadership without which this class alliance cannot be consolidated. He performs this conjuring trick by taking the current “left” revisionist emphasis on the countryside in opposition to the cities, to its most illogical conclusion to date: all who live in cities are bourgeois, all who live in the mountains are proletarian, and hegemony in the struggle belongs to the petty bourgeois rural guerrillas who become the vanguard “proletariat” of Debray’s imagination.

This is one of his more remarkable “additions” to Marxist-Leninist theory:

“….As we know, the mountain proletarianises the bourgeois and peasant elements, and the city can bourgeoisify the proletarians, The tactical conflicts that are bound to arise, the differences in the evaluation and line, conceal a class conflict, in which the interests of the proletariat are not, paradoxically enough, on the side which one would expect. It was possible to resolve these conflicts rapidly in Cuba, and the advance towards socialism was undertaken as quickly as it was after taking power because Fidel, from the first day, demanded, won, and defended hegemony for the rural guerrillas” (our emphasis – Ed; p.75).

He quotes approvingly Guevara’s muddled thesis in the same vein:

“These differences (ie, between the plain (the town) and the sierra (the countryside) – Ed.) go deeper than tactical divergences. The Rebel Army is already ideologically proletarian and, thinks like a dispossessed class; the city remains petty bourgeois, contains future traitors among its leaders, and is very influenced by the milieu in which it develops.”

(Guevara , quoted by Debray on p.77).

In this strange system of Marxism, the city, wherein labour and toil, the wage slaves of capitalism, has thus been conveniently disposed of to make way for leadership by that more revolutionary the petty bourgeoisie!

In further imaginative vein, the “back to nature” aspirations of the dilettante petty-bourgeois fleeing from the terrors of the era of machinofacture and proletarian organisation are eulogised:

“Such are the mental reactions of a bourgeois, and any man, even a comrade, who spends his life in a city is unwittingly bourgeois in comparison with a guerrillero…. Not to have any means of subsistence except what you yourself can produce, with your own hands (? – We read elsewhere in his treatise that equipment and supplies were pilfered in raids on villages – MS-Ed) starting from nature in the raw. … The city dweller lives as a consumer. As, long as he has some cash in his pocket, it suffices for his daily needs.”

(p.68)

“Nothing like getting out to realise to what extent these lukewarm incubators (the cities – Ed.) make one infantile and bourgeois. In the first stages of life in the mountains, in the seclusion of the so-called virgin forest life is simply a daily battle in its smallest detail: especially is it a battle within the guerrillero himself to overcome his old habits, to erase the marks left on his body by the incubator – his weakness.”

(p.69)

Really, Mr Debray – speak for yourself! No doubt it is a delightful element of “free choice” for the coddled petty bourgeois to remove himself temporarily to the more ascetic hardship of the mountains! But even capitalist economists have had to acknowledge that the daily lot of the proletarian is one which requires him to sell his birthright, his freedom, his expectancy of life precisely in order to obtain that little “cash in his pocket” without which he would be too dead to have any “daily needs!”

Also, in magical vein, we are told that:

“Under these conditions (guerrilla experience Ed) class egoism does not long endure.. Petty bourgeois psychology melts like under a summer sun ..”

(p.110).

Would that this were so!

From a reference he makes to Castro on the subject of the inherent qualities of “the people” we can draw only the conclusion that the term refers to the peasantry alone (p.112). And of course this is as it must be, for despite the loud claims, these theories bear absolutely no relation to the proletariat whatsoever.

The fig-leaf cover required to normalise this petty bourgeois leadership and masquerade it under the false cloak of a “worker-peasant alliance” leading to socialism was the verbal trick of claiming that a handful of petty bourgeois guerrillas, through their relationship to their “means of production” in the rural environment – the “dispossessed class” – were the proletariat leading the peasantry.

This makes the formula complete. But no amount of verbal juggling can make these theories any other than what they really are –

Namely, the laying of the foundations of the dictatorship of the national bourgeoisie in Latin America with all the jargon that goes with it:

  • the abstract and classless theory of “armed revolution”;
  • the purely military “foco”;
  • the primacy of spontaneity and,
  • the overall aim of “the happiness of the people” divorced from any concrete class analysis.

A typical petty bourgeois phenomenon is the spurning of class analysis and political theory. The bourgeoisie has its class theory, just as the proletariat has. But the petty bourgeoisie has no independent ideology because it is a transitional class, a virtual hybrid ideologically – part bourgeois and part proletarian in its advocacy of ideology according to the fortunes of which major class appears likely to benefit it most. That is the reason for the sweeping idealist phrases which are utterly classless. It therefore vacillates opportunistically, avoiding the statement of a political position because it does not know at any one stage in the movement of class struggle which side it will need to be on.

Thus the claims of the Debrayists are not new. Always and everywhere they have been part of the arsenal of the petty bourgeoisie in attempting to further their social and class aims – and they are theories which are inimical to the hopes and aspirations of the only truly revolutionary class, the proletariat; theories which at root and beneath the libertarian cover are nothing but a vicious attack on the proletariat and its class mission.

THE ROLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL – THE MAXIMUM LEADER – FIDELISM

If the character of the theories we have outlined are correct, it will follow that, in place of proletarian discipline and democratic centralism, petty bourgeois individuality will be enthroned. And this is so. We read:

“The city, Fidel says, ‘is a cemetery of revolutionaries and resources’… A leader cannot go down to the city to attend a political meeting: he has the politicos come up to discuss and make decisions in a safe place up above: otherwise he sends an emissary. Which presupposes, in the first place, recognition of his role as responsible leader, the willingness to give him the resources with which to exercise his leadership – if not, he takes them himself. It implies, above all, the adoption of an open and explicit strategy.”

(p.67).

“This reconstitution (of the “party” Ed.) requires the temporary suspension of ‘internal’ party democracy and the temporary abolition of the principles of democratic centralism which guarantee it.”

(p.101).

Furthermore, the conventional party only brings with it “the plethora of commissions, secretariats, congresses, plenary sessions, meetings etc”. These are the cause of “the vice of excessive deliberation” which “hampers executive, centralised and vertical methods, combined with the large measure of tactical independence of subordinate groups which is demanded in the conduct of military operations (p.101).

In other words, discipline and organisation, which are the main manifestations of proletarian organisation, ‘hamper’ the freedoms of the petty bourgeois leaders, who wish to answer to no strata or section of the population – and indeed, by their very hybrid class position, do not directly represent any. To these military adventurists, the primacy of political struggle which is supplemented by military struggle, is the source of all evils. It brings with it the necessity for disciplined leadership, political discussion of strategy, the difficult work of actually involving the working people in struggle. All these tasks are anathema to the Debrayists and their foolhardy bands of “trial and error” revolutionaries.

But we have only proceeded a little way in our analysis.

We have now to deal with the real reason why Debray has thought it necessary to throw all previous historical experience overboard, to decry and reject any lessons from the revolutions of Russia, China and Vietnam, the theories of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin; to throw the leading role of the proletarian party overboard. It is because:

“In Cuba, military (operational) and political leadership have been combined in one man: Fidel Castro.”

(p.96)

It is because of:

“the line of action of which Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution, is the incarnation.”

(p.119)

Throughout the text is peppered with glowing references to “Fidel says,” rather like the childrens’ nursery rhyme. Thus, speaking again of “the leader” and his qualities:

“In brief, no detail is too small for a politico-military chief: everything rests on details – on a single detail – and he himself must supervise them all.”

(p.89)

What a staggering piece of nonsense! In contradistinction to even the Blanquists, who claimed that a small elite could liberate the people, we have the ridiculous adolescent hero-worship that one man – one “maximum-leader,” the “incarnation,” is our hope for socialism. Mr. Debray claims with pride that this leader, combining all qualities,” is the startling innovation that has been introduced” into the theory of Marxism-Leninism. We must indeed confess ourselves startled at such a turn of events – when the personal feelings of a twenty-year old whose transference to maturity had been stunted inside the portals of a bourgeois temple of philosophy – are put forward as the basis for a world-view involving the fate of millions!

But it would appear that in the sierras under the sway of “Fidelism,” in place of the proletarian party and its healthy collective discipline, that body representing the best qualities of a class, such inverted and ingrown petty bourgeois acts of hero worship are commonplace. For Guevara himself, on the basis of his experiences with Fidel, stated that “the aim is for all qualities to be united if possible, in one person.” This maximum leader,” as the world knows, has not been slow to bask in the limelight of glory and rise to the heights of demagogy which this mystical cult has presented to him.

Thus we are dealing with an idealisation of the petty bourgeoisie, an idealisation which can only finish up in extremely deep water.

And it does, for such baseless hero-worship and unquestioned allegiance to one “leader” is the very essence of bourgeois class thinking, when confronted with the problem of misleading and subjugating vast social forces for its own ends. It represents a crisis in the leadership of a historically obsolescent class when the normal, logical, although unequal, system of maintaining its power is threatened from below. This initial demagogy of the “maximum leader” often appears too ridiculous to take seriously. But beneath it, lies the sabre of a force which is responsible to no constitution, to no labour laws, no checks by the working people, no power other than to itself. All too often it has finally resulted in bloodbaths not only involving the working class but any other strata which have got in the way of a totally destructive and anarchic force.

The seeds of such theories of an independent armed force, are present in the thinking of the Debrayist petty bourgeoisie:

“It has been proved that for the training of revolutionary cadres the people’s war is more decisive than political activity without guerrilla experience. Leaders of vision in Latin America today are young, lacking in long political experience prior to joining up with the guerrillas. It is ridiculous to continue to oppose ‘political cadres’ to ‘military cadres’, ‘political leadership’ to ‘military leadership’. Pure ‘politicians’ who want to remain pure – cannot lead the armed struggle of the people; pure ‘military men’ can do so, and by the experience acquired in leading a guerrilla group, they become ‘politicians’ as well. The experience of Cuba and, more recently, of Venezuela, Guatemala, and other countries demonstrate that people – even petty bourgeois or peasants – are more quickly and more completely moulded by experience of guerrilla warfare than by an equal amount of time spent in a training school for cadres – a consequence, as far as men are concerned, of the essentially and totally political character of guerrilla warfare.”

(p. 88-89).

This dominant military force will be naturally, young – since the old are, well – they are “alas… old” and worn out:

“In Latin America, wherever armed struggle is the order of the day, there is a close tie between biology and ideology. However absurd or shocking this relationship may seem, it is none the less a decisive one. An elderly man, accustomed to city living, (do workers retire at the age of 40? – MS-Ed) moulded by other circumstances and goals, will not easily adjust himself to the mountain nor – though this is less so – to underground activities. In addition to the moral factor – conviction – physical fitness is the most basic of all skills needed for waging guerrilla war; the two factors go hand in hand. A perfect Marxist education is not, at the outset, an imperative condition. That an elderly man should be proven militant – and possess a revolutionary training – is not, alas, sufficient for coping with guerrilla existence, especially in the early stages. Physical aptitude is the prerequisite for all other aptitudes (?? – MS-Ed); a minor point of limited theoretical appeal, but the armed struggle appears to have a rationale of which theory knows nothing”.

(p. 101)

Thus it is brawn, not the creative brain; political ignorance, not understanding; youth and fitness, not experience which constitutes Debray’s “master race” of revolution.

Such is the demagogy which wears the mask of “Marxism.” It is this monstrous deformation which results from the failure to build a vanguard party based firmly on the alliance between the working class and peasantry in the conditions of a national democratic struggle. For with this party denigrated, with the proletarian role usurped and the peasantry dragged in as fodder to back up and strengthen the inherently vacillating national bourgeoisie, the net result can only be, once foreign imperialist domination is overthrown, the imposition of the dictatorship of this national bourgeoisie fully confirmed in its class role – a national bourgeoisie forced to adopt the fascist-type “maximum leader” principle in order to maintain its hold over the vast masses of the people and obtain its surplus value from an underdeveloped economic system by screwing up the rate of exploitation – free from the bugbear of any organised opposition and defence by the working people of their own interests.

This is precisely the same demagogy which we see today stretching from China to Indonesia and Cuba: with the party of the proletariat destroyed, the national bourgeoisie walks into its repressive role, and the proletariat is denigrated viciously as “a bourgeois force” in order to cover up the real bourgeois nature of these leaders. There is an exact parallel with the Chinese national bourgeoisie and its assumed “leftism”: the “‘cultural revolution,” which aims to destroy the proletarian vanguard party.

THE “FOCO” AS SUBSTITUTE FOR THE PROLETARIAN PARTY

We have already had a pretty rounded introduction to the theories of Debray.

It comes as no surprise therefore, that for Debray the Marxist-Leninist theory of the vanguard party of the proletariat, must give place to yet another unique contribution to “Marxism-Leninism”; that is, the theory of the immaculate conception, or the spontaneous begetting, of the vanguard nucleus.

Thus:

“The vanguard party can exist in the form of the guerrilla foco itself. The guerrilla force is this party in embryo. This is the staggering novelty introduced by the Cuban Revolution.”

(p.105)

“The people’s army will be the nucleus of the party, not vice-versa. The guerrilla force is the political vanguard in nuce, and from its development a real party can arise …. That is why at the present juncture, the principal stress must be laid on the development of guerrilla warfare and not on the strengthening of existing parties or the creation of new parties.”

(p.115).

“Eventually the future People’s Army will beget the party of which it is to be, theoretically the instrument: essentially the party is the army.”

(p.105).

Just as a vanguard party is not necessary in the struggle, one can also dispense with political education of the mass of the-working people:

“(the system of political commissars)… does not appear to correspond to Latin American reality. … The people’s army is its own political authority. The guerrilleros play both roles indivisibly. Its commanders are political instructors for the fighters, its political instructors are its’ commanders.”

(p.114).

For in place of the scientific truths of Marxism-Leninism, we are offered a set of maxims mouthed parrot-like by “revolutionaries” whose proudest claim is their rejection of the historical experience of the revolutionary peoples in struggle and their philistine ability to “invent,” on the spot, ‘the great truths, which are hereinafter valid for all time:

“In many countries of America the guerrilla force has frequently been called the ‘armed fist’ of a liberation front, in order to indicate its dependence on a patriotic front or on a party. This expression, copied from models elaborated elsewhere – principally in Asia – is at bottom, contrary to the maxim of Camilo Cienfuegos: ‘The rebel army is the people in uniform’.”

(p.65)

What duplicity. A handful of petty bourgeois adventurers, who are a law unto themselves, constituting a “foco” which preserves its independence from the people because the mass of the people “contain many potential betrayers of the revolution,” are put up as the true representatives of the workers’ and peasants’ best interests, as the substitute for a party of the working masses. Such are the lengths to which these arrogant petty bourgeois will go in their task of attacking the fundamental and only guide to action of the masses, in whatsoever corner of the globe: the scientific principles of Marxism-Leninism.

And, of course, Debray, in addition to his ignorance of Marxism or Leninism, is completely at sea on the facts of the Cuban revolution and its outcome, as we shall see in more detail later. Suffice it here to say that he is under the totally erroneous impression that the “theories” he claims to have unearthed, were actually borne out in practice:

“Around this nucleus, and only because it already had its own politico-military leadership, other political forces have been able to assemble and unite, forming what is today the Communist party of Cuba, of which both the base and the head continue to be made up of comrades from the guerrilla army. The Latin American revolution and its vanguard, the Cuban Revolution, have thus made a decisive contribution to international revolutionary experience and to Marxism-Leninism.”

(p.105)

Obviously no one has told him that so weak, so undisciplined and so politically inept was this guerrilla force when faced with the directly political tasks of managing a “state of the working people” that its first action was to call in the aid of the revisionist Popular Socialist Party, a party which had played a completely traitorous role in the struggle against Batista, to help them man the heights of political power.

Debray devotes a good percentage of his book to attacks on those revisionists (such as of the Popular Socialist Party) – attacks which are justified to a certain extent – but what cannot be justified is his attempt to make of the sell-out which the Cuban revolution was to become a model of “Marxism-Leninism”, every unprincipled turn of which must be copied throughout the Latin American continent.

When the Cuban leadership granted Mr. Debray full facilities to study the Cuban revolution and its history that is, employed him to embroider a myth and bury the facts they chose wisely. They chose a representative of that privileged section of the petty bourgeoisie which devotes all its time and energies to the renegade task of attempting to destroy the only theory and practice which can liberate all the oppressed social classes by a revolution which will end for ever the unequal privilege whereby those who create wealth and culture are robbed by those who make of it a reactionary metaphysical mystique.

PEOPLE’S WAR WITHOUT THE PEOPLE

We begin, as usual, with a claim of uniqueness for the Latin American situation.

The discovery of this “new” path has led to many errors, but these are inevitable “at this stage of exploration, of revolutionary conceptions and methods which are new in spite of their deceptive kinship with other international experiences” (p.23). The aim of the armed foco is to build up “through guerrilla warfare carried out in suitably chosen rural zones a more mobile strategic force, nucleus of a people’s army and future socialist state” (p.25).

Of course this armed spontaneity diverges radically from all other successful experiences to date – and, naturally, has met with innumerable failures. Therefore, we have to have a scapegoat. Upon this scapegoat are blamed residual “imported” errors, that explain the “inevitable” errors on the “new” path. He makes this scapegoat, the dangerous “imported political conceptions” of Vietnam and elsewhere, with such out-of-context claims as the “subjection of the guerrilla force to the party” (p.25) contentions, which are not applicable to the “historical and social conditions peculiar to Latin America.” (p.56)

He notes that:

“… in Vietnam, the Communist Party was the organisational nucleus from which and around which the people’s army developed.”

(p.47).

But:

“Differences between Vietnam and Latin America lead to the following contrast: whereas in Vietnam the military pyramid of the liberation forces is built from the base up, in Latin America on the other hand, it tends to be built from the apex down; the permanent forces first (the foco), then the semi-regular forces in the vicinity of the foco, and lastly or after victory (Cuba) the militia.”

(p.50)

Of course, such a radical turning on its head is not clarified in any way. It is simply taken for granted.

Another “irrelevant” theory to Debray, employed as it has been in all the successful national liberation struggles of our time, is that the guerrilla forces should aim to be so integrally a part of the people that they remain unnoticed “like a fish in water”;

“The occupation and control of rural areas by reaction or directly by imperialism, their vigilance today greatly increase should rid a given group of armed propagandists of all hope remaining unnoticed like a fish in water’.”

(p.51)

And another “unique” point:

“Let us not forget, that the class enemy carries out selective assassination on a large scale in Latin America – kill the leaders and leave the rest alive.”

(p.66)

Really, Mr Debray, one would think from such a statement that imperialist oppression itself is completely unique to Latin America. Yes this elitist militarist theory is nonsense.

It has been put forward in order to cover up the essential heresy which lies beneath the claims to a “people’s army”; by inventing a uniqueness which prevents the application of the theory of people war, as it is understood by all genuine representatives of the working people, it is hoped to cover up the fact that this was the work of a handful of insurgents who bear no relationship whatsoever to the real aspirations and political requirements of the forces in struggle against imperialism.

In a vulgarisation of the role of the guerrilla we read:

“It must have the support of the masses or disappear; before enlisting them directly, it must convince them that there are valid reasons for its existence so that the ‘rebellion’ will truly be – by the manner of its recruitment and the origins, its fighters a ‘war of the people.”‘

(p.46)

and:

“….. the only conceivable line for a guerrilla group to adopt is the mass line; it can live only with their support, in daily contact with them.”

(p.110)

But behind this thin “mass line” lies the real reason why Debray has found it necessary to reject the experience of people’s war in Vietnam, Laos, etc. It is a reason which completely removes the class basis and pins his theory down as a justification of the individualism, instability and shallowness of the petty bourgeoisie. For Debray rejects the concept of a fixed base of support, i.e. a mass-base amongst the people, for individualistic nomadism, without any social base.

“the guerrilla base is, according to an expression of Fidel, the territory within which the guerrilla happens to be moving; it goes where he goes. In the initial stage the base of support is in the guerrilla fighter’s knapsack.”

(p.64)

“During the first stage (of the guerrilla war Ed.), clearly the hardest to surmount and the most exposed to all sorts of accidents, the initial group experiences at the outset a period of absolute nomadism.”

(p.31)

A fine “people’s war,” one of the main aims of its elitist liberating mission being to achieve independence from the people (as opposed to the Marxist-Leninist thesis of the necessity to build the revolutionary independence of the working people from their exploiters):

“The revolutionary guerrilla force is clandestine. It is born and develops secretly. The fighters themselves use pseudonyms. At the beginning they keep out of sight, and when they allow themselves to be seen it is at a time and place chosen by their chief (sic). The guerrilla force is independent of the civilian population in action as well as in military organisation; consequently it need not assume the direct defence of the peasant population.”

(p.41).

With a further display of arrogant elitism and incredible lack of faith in the forces they claim to represent, we read:

“Constant vigiliance, constant mistrust, constant mobility – the three golden rules. All three are concerned with security. Various considerations of common sense necessitate wariness towards the civilian population and the maintenance of a certain aloofness. By their very situation (? MS-Ed) civilians are exposed to repression and the constant presence and pressure of the enemy, who will attempt to buy them, corrupt them, or to extort from them by violence what cannot be bought… . ‘We hid our intentions from the peasants’, Che relates, and if once of them passed near the scene of an ambush, we held him until the operation was completed. This vigilance does not necessarily imply mistrust: a peasant may easily commit an indiscretion and even more easily, be subjected to torture.”

(p.43)

Thus the claim that these theories are a more highly developed form of “people’s war” begins to look slightly ludicrouswhen the guerilla foco is fighting not only the imperialist enemy but completely isolated from and antagonistic to the mass of the working people, and peasants, the only possible base in a people’s war against imperialism.

In this scheme of things the working people and peasantry serve merely as fodder for the adventurist, personally gratifying, military gambles of the unstable, dissatisfied petty bourgeoisie. We begin to see why the solidarity of the Vietnamese people in their genuine people’s war is anathema to the Debrayists, and why they constantly warn of the dangers of “imitating the Vietnamese experience.”

So Debray has disposed of the class base of a genuine revolutionary movement, of its wholehearted dedication to and identification with the exploited and oppressed classes;

Debray has disposed completely of the alliance of the two major oppressed classes, proletariat and peasantry, which when welded together into an invincible alliance, constitute the only force which can resolutely oppose and defeat imperialism by classing the proletarian forces of the cities as “bourgeoisie”;

Debray has cancelled out the role of political struggle by scorning the tasks of building a revolutionary movement around a programme, forging alliances, educating the people for struggle, organising, agitating propagating in the course of building this powerful force of the working masses, and revealed his thoroughly bourgeois content by ignoring the vital and indispensable role of the general staff of a revolution, its vanguard party;

And at the tail end of this rejection of all that constitutes a genuine revolutionary force, his guerrilla focos resemble nothing more than bandit groups, cut off from the oppressed people to such an extent, that at a certain stage of their reckless ill-conceived adventures they are forced to break the cardinal principle of genuine people’s war – never to steal the property of the workers and peasants by advocating raids – on villages for supplies:

“It is less risky and safer for a guerrilla group to make raids on neighbouring villages from its own base in order to obtain foodstuffs and field equipment.”

(p.70).

It is now quite clear why so many Fidelista focos have floundered and been wiped out. For by elevating guerrilla struggle (or their completely militarist inversion of it) to an end in itself, as opposed to a stage in the struggle which it really is, and by advocating that a handful of “dedicated determined men,” maintaining their aloofness from the vast mass of the working people, ignoring political questions” with the same blindness as mediaeval mystics, can overthrow the considerable might of imperialism, they cut the very ground from under their feet and lead those who follow them to almost certain defeat and massacre.

Debray claims that the great misconceptions which exist concerning the Cuban revolution are the reasons for so many failures in recent years on the Latin American continent. He claims his book is the vehicle which distils the true essence of that revolution and lays down its theory for the edification of all like-minded insurgents. It has been pointed out that the essence he has distilled, besides its dangerous implications, bears very little resemblance to the actual course of the Cuban revolution add the lessons which are to be learned from it.

We must therefore now look at that Cuban experience and distil from it our own essence – one which has been processed according to the scientific principles of Marxism-Leninism.

“LEFT” AND RIGHT IN LATIN AMERICA

What is the fundamental malaise which is responsible for such anti-Marxist-Leninist rubbish as the Debray theories being purveyed with some seriousness in Latin America? It lies, surely, in the classic division between right and “left” which has – we now borrow Mr. Debray’s phrase – revealed itself in a very obvious form due to certain more heightened conditions in Latin America.

Debray takes as his point of departure the right revisionist betrayal over many decades in Latin America, and seeks to counter-pose his leftist theories as the way forward.

But whereas the right deviation seeks to tie the class forces of the proletariat and its allies to bourgeois ideology and practice in such a way as to transform the party into an instrument of foreign imperialism, the comprador bourgeoisie and the feudal reactionary classes;

Its leftist counterpart, the “left” revisionist deviation, also reflects, the influence of bourgeois ideology and practice within the class forces of the proletariat, but in this case adapted to the class needs of the national bourgeoisie.

The national bourgeoisie has an objective interest, at least for a time, in the victory of the national democratic revolution, but wishes to achieve that victory under its class leadership and not under that of the proletariat and its allies.

It therefore needs to make use of revolutionary phraseology, the best form of which is provided by the petty bourgeois left distortions of Marxism of which Debray’s teachings are typical.

These deviations are able to take an extreme and clear form within the contradictory framework of political institutions in Latin America. The apparently organic and established character of the state frameworks in most Latin American countries has resulted from the early formal independence won against Spanish colonial rule which resulted in an earlier development of semi-colonial forms of domination by USA imperialism. This has seduced the majority of the revisionist parties in those countries into believing that the doctrine of “peaceful transition” could be applied there without the disguise of leftist phraseology and lip service to guerrilla and other violent forms of struggle. As a consequence, right revisionist policies in Latin America have met with the most abject failure of any in the world, driving those parties, in a number of instances – the best known being that of Batista’s Cuba – to degenerate into direct, tools of foreign imperialism and indigenous comprador reaction.

This history of open right-revisionist betrayal and errors is the main factor determining the current swing to the “left” in a diametrically opposed direction. This history counterposes “peaceful legal advance without violence” and the militarist spontaneity of “military struggle without politics.”

It represents a classic manifestation of the spontaneous division between “left” and right. We say spontaneous, because these extremes occur in the vacuum-left, when genuine scientific analysis and the revolutionary leadership which results from it are lacking. A right deviation delivers the working people and peasantry helpless to the massacre of imperialist guns and without any means of defence. Whilst leftism provokes isolated violence and brings down the full force of imperialist violence on an inadequately steeled and prepared nucleus, divorced from the mass of the people but involving these forces in the bloodshed which accompanies their defeat.

These complementary deviations have wreaked havoc within the national liberation fronts of the Latin American continent and make more essential the return to a class analysis as the basis for a scientific theory of revolution.

Certain countries of the Latin American continent have been viewed by right revisionism as possessing sufficient formal trappings of democracy to justify a full programme based on electoral advance to socialism by peaceful means, such as Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica and Brazil.The remaining long-standing open dictatorships have necessitated right revisionist programmes of a more militant type, albeit singularly lacking in any guide to action to overthrow the repressive regimes, but relying on the hope that “democratic rights” would be established under restrained “mass pressure.” It is therefore to the statements of the Communist Parties of the former category that we should turn for the clearest expression of “parliamentarism” on the Latin American continent.

A reference to the Costa Rican Communist Party’s “competition” some years ago makes the right revisionist position very clear.

Here instead of the vanguard party thriving in a situation of heightened class struggle, we are presented with the novelty of a “vanguard party” which finds itself losing ground; when objective class struggle is seen as a nuisance factor which has interfered with the prime task of the ingrown little organism’s race to achieve a per capita paper representation in some imaginary “democratic institution” – whilst all comprehension of the realities of class remains blissfully outside its scope.

It does not require a very detailed knowledge of the situation Costa Rica to understand that the way to salvation of the Costa Rican working People does not lie through such “struggle” as advocated by the “Costa Rican People’s Vanguard”:

“A competition in the sphere of organisation, education, propaganda and finances has been conducted by the Party in five of the seven Provinces of Costa Rica. … Judging by the results it looked as if the target advanced by the Ninth Congress (doubling the membership) would be realised without much difficulty. However, unforeseen circumstances arose which hampered the work of building Party.

The first was the Caribbean Crisis last October and the wave of repressions that came in its wake. Our newspaper was banned and the activity of the Party was restricted in one way or another . . . .

Owing to the repressions in the Pacifico Sur party membership has shown no increase. However, despite these negative factors and the intensified repressions in connection with the talks between the presidents of the Central American countries and President Kennedy in March 1963, the competition conducted by the five provinces was, on the whole, satisfactory.. . . . .

It is clear to us that when international tension increases and the war danger grows, repressions are intensified and democratic liberties curtailed, and the growth of the Party slows down….Hence we are waging a constant struggle for peace, against the restriction of democratic freedoms.

This, of course, does not lead us to the opportunistic conclusion that we can fight and win only in conditions of legality and extensive utilisation of democratic rights. However, the fact remains that in the present conditions the most favourable climate for Party growth is international detente, since this makes it easier to defend the democratic gains of the working people.”

(Oscar Vargas: World Marxist Review: Oct 196,3; p.61-2).

The trite rejection of opportunism offered by Vargas does not invalidate the charge which any honest militant must make against such a grossly renegade strategy as is offered by the Costa Rican “vanguard.” For of course, such a logic is clear. Imperialism, class struggle, brings the threat of repression which hampers the work of building an electoral party in conditions of class peace. Therefore a status quo of peace between labour and capital is vital if this work of conservation, the buffer preventing class confrontation can go on.

The theme was repeated in Chile, the same reformist dreams of “The British Road to Socialism” being applied to a situation where striking workers were murdered, where any substantiation to the claim to a “democratic facade” had been ripped away a decade ago by the brutal dictatorship of Gonzalez Videla which outlawed the Communist Party and subjected it to persecutions all too familiar under the heel of open reaction, and where any democratic facade exists merely as a perfected weapon for ensuring the continuation of bourgeois dictatorship by drawing to its assistance in this conspiracy the renegade “leaders” of the working people.

Thus the Chilean Communist Party leadership hotly denied any revolutionary intentions ascribed to it:

“What is needed … is to secure a turn to the left in national policy. . . .

Through the medium of parliament, municipal councils and public meetings, the Party constantly advances and supports all projects and measures designed to benefit the people. Reactionaries in the ranks of the Christian Democrats accuse the Communists of seeking bring down the government in order to take its place. But the resolute stand taken by the Communists has demonstrated the baselessness of this and has shown that the Communists are prompted by neither opportunist nor narrow tactical considerations.”

(World Marxist Review: November 1965; p.47)

The whimpering denial of opportunism appears like a Judas mark in the programmes of these guilty men who commit every anti-proletarian crime it is possible to imagine given that they propose and preach class peace in a continent whose peoples subsist in indescribable conditions of brutalising poverty and misery. Yet with every increase in reactionary terror, the subservience of these handmaidens of the bourgeoisie increases in proportion. Each decisive parliamentary defeat, such as occurred in Chile in 1964, is followed by an ever more eager act of grovelling to an ever more contemptuous, corrupt, and confident bourgeoisie.

The Brazilian Communist Party, the leading mouthpiece of right revisionism in Latin America had a carefully mapped out plan for “utilising democratic rights and liberties.” In 1964 it was striving by means of a system of “structural reforms” to win power by:

“. . . establishing a national and democratic government and laying the groundwork for far-reaching changes that would ensure complete political and economic liberation and pave the way for socialism,”

believing that:

“the basic task of the vanguard forces in the struggle for structural reforms now is to build up the national and democratic movements. It is along these lines that we envisage the possibility of a peaceful revolution.”

(World Marxist Review: Jan 1964; p.22)

However, these hopes were not to be realised. The coup which overthrew Goulart in 1964 and installed the rule of the generals smashed the “democratic” illusions of these men of peace, and the naive veneer given to the theoretical estimation of the Party’s errors, attempts to draw attention from the fact that the leaders of the Brazilian Party, especially Prestes, are well versed enough in political manoeuvring not to suffer the lack of experience they claim. Thus, analysing the errors of the Communist Party:

“We ourselves had not been prepared politically and ideologically and had not prepared the masses to repulse the violence of reaction. As a result of a not altogether correct formulation of the Fifth Congress which took as its guidelines the thesis of the 20th Congress of the CPSU, we inaccurately assessed the possibilities of the ‘peaceful path’, seeing revolution as an idyllic process, free of clashes and conflicts.

Due to this incorrect assessment the leadership failed to see the danger signals. Instead of calling on the masses to fight the danger of a rightist coup, it continued to demand the holding of plebiscite.”

(C Prestes: World Marxist Review; June 1968; p-17).

“Although we sensed a certain tension (! Ed) we failed to act accordingly”.

(World Marxist Review, February 1965; p.28)

Despite the “self-criticism” of the above – conducted purely in the realm of the senses though it is – the conclusion of the right revisionists is a remarkable piece of un-dialectical nonsense. For the failure to prepare for violent struggle, to see through the bluff, of parliamentary ‘legality’, were mistakes of a “leftist” character!

“The Sixth Congress rejected the view that the main mistakes made by the Party were the consequence of a right deviation and noted that they were, on the contrary, mistakes of a leftist, putschist and petty bourgeois character.”

(C Prestes: World Marxist Review; June 1968; p.17)

This massacre of the truth is necessary because, despite their “self-criticism,” despite the objective failure of their line, despite the setbacks to which their opportunism has led, they still intend to pursue their “peaceful” cause. The coup which installed a “semi-fascist political regime” will be destroyed through:

“Active opposition and vigorous mass actions (which) will reduce the regime’s socio-political basis and could lead to its defeat by non-violent means. Democratic action can compel the reactionary and defeatist minority to retreat and restore democratic rights.”

(Ibid.; p.18)

Of course, “it may turn out too, that the Party and the people will be compelled to resort to other, more elementary and particular forms of armed struggle.” But we can rest assured that the right revisionist leadership of the Brazilian Communist Party will do everything in its power to be true to the spirit and the letter of the passive “may” and place it far behind in its list of priorities.

Such is the face of right revisionism in Latin America.

It has been against this background of betrayal that the working people and peasant masses have been compelled to resort to spontaneous armed struggle – struggle which was, and largely remains, outside the framework of control of the revisionist parties of the right. In those countries where such armed struggle has already taken root and the masses of the working people are beginning to be drawn into the struggle against semi-colonial dictatorship and foreign imperialist oppression, the further result of this has been that those, communist parties subservient to Soviet right revisionism have been forced to pay lip service to armed struggle and modify their more blatant parliamentary transition formulas in a bid to regain the influence within the armed liberation fronts which previously they were threatened with losing completely.

In its wider context, this pragmatic and opportunist response to the spontaneous growth of armed struggle reflects the shift in policy on the part of the Soviet revisionist leadership which has taken place since Khrushchev’s overthrow – a shift away from “all-round cooperation with US imperialism” to one of striving for the establishment of independent spheres of influence in areas hitherto comprising sectors of the US sphere. Within the overall task of developing this policy, a certain independent sphere of operations in relation to the national liberation movements of the underdeveloped colonial and semi-colonial sectors of the world has been allotted to the so-called “centrist” bloc of revisionist communist parties and “socialist” states, of which Cuba is one, and has given rise to the need for lip-service to armed national liberation struggle to be admitted to the platforms of some, though by no means all, of the Latin American communist parties under the influence of Soviet revisionism.

An example of this is offered by the criticism of the 20th Congress formulations on peaceful transition and peaceful coexistence made by the Brazilian right revisionist leader, Prestes. The alternative to the long discredited right revisionist formulations put forward is the flexibly leftist slogan of “armed struggle as a tactic, democratic constitutional advance as a strategy”. With its perceptible overtones of Kautsky and Bernstein, this formulation neatly solves the dilemma of how to maintain the long-cherished peaceful transitional shibboleths of right revisionism, now becoming so tarnished, simply by reversing Marxist-Leninist theoretical principles and relegating to armed struggle a subordinate tactical role serving the main strategy of seeking to secure minor palliatives to the increasingly oppressive life of the working people through reforms and the ballot box.

The outcome of these opportunist policy manoeuvres has been that, utilising the dominant hold which they exercise over the apostle of “violent struggle” in Latin America, Fidel Castro and the Soviet revisionist leadership has been able to control the transition to support for “centrist” revisionist policies on the part of certain Latin American Communist Parties without loosening in any way their traditional control over the leaderships of those parties – and even in some cases to increase it through the prestige added by the accession of Castroite “centrist” revisionism to the overall force available to Soviet policy needs.

As for “left” revisionism and Trotskyism, these take many forms in Latin America. The case of Guevara and Debray, who take an “ultra-leftist” position themselves, while condemning the trotskyites as revisionists, has already been analysed. The lessons of their position, i.e. of an armed struggle divorced from any political and class organisation of the working people, have been borne home most clearly following the collapse of Guevara’s mission in Bolivia. So much so, that Arguedas, a firm sympathiser of the guerrillas, wrote as his epitaph to Guevara:

“… he failed because he did not have the support of the peasants and because the Bolivian people did not know the action programme of the guerillas.”

A lesson so elementary that it should hardly have required the sacrifice of so many aspiring national liberation fighters to make it known. And indeed, the lessons of this, collapse of “ultra-leftist” method and morale accompanying Guevara’s experiment were not lost on those forces which represent the national bourgeoisie with more perception than Guevara. They can have acted as yet one more forceful argument for Castro strengthening his “centrist”‘ position.

Trotskyism in Latin America – as represented particularly in Guatemala and Peru is “left” opportunism which claims a “theory” of socialist revolution. This “theory” completely denies the national democratic stage of the revolution in a colonial-type country and insists that “socialist revolution”‘ is at any given moment on the order of the day.

Its effect is to isolate the genuine revolutionary forces from class allies who stand objectively for the national democratic revolution, and without whose added weight imperialism cannot be defeated and the national democratic tasks achieved. In practice, however, they resort to all manner of semi-anarchist, syndicalist and outright irridentist ideologies in order to win bases amongst the peasantry and urban poor, purveying such illusions as the direct growth of the village peasant-commune into socialism, the romanticism of the primitive subsistence economy and so on.

In strategy and tactics, their aim is to sow the usual kind of confusion associated with their name, advocating peaceful legal advance in the manner of the right revisionists whenever and wherever an actual revolutionary situation is close at hand, and pressing for ultra-revolutionary forms of struggle whenever and wherever the revolutionary tide is temporarily on the ebb turn. Thus they contribute directly to rendering the more militant vanguard forces an easy and isolated target for imperialist guns. Within these overall perspectives of betrayal, however, the “socialist revolution” for which they aim is, as with the right revisionist communist parties, in essence a peaceful one.

Thus all of these trends, “left” or right, spell defeat and betrayal for the revolutionary aspirations of the working people of Latin America and the decimation of their actual or potential organisations, of struggle.

At the helm of all this confusion and betrayal, seeking to unite the political manifestations of bourgeois and petty bourgeois thinking within the forces of the developing national democratic and socialist revolutions of Latin America under the one “super revolutionary” centre, has stood the Cuban revisionist leadership. They have encouraged every kind of anti-proletarian and anti-Marxist-Leninist theory and practice, inspiring the most infantile forms of petty bourgeois leftism, and nationalist euphoria; and finally, they have resolved the failure of both “left” and right revisionism into the doctrine of a “centrist” revisionism, a position which has emerged as a specific heritage of the Cuban-revolution.

It is to an analysis of the Cuban development itself, therefore, that we must now turn.

ASSESSMENT OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION

The Cuban Revolution represented a phenomenon with two contradictory sides.

One was the fundamentally positive fact that US imperialist domination over Latin America had been breached for the first time, and a nation free of US imperialist oppression and ranged in struggle against it now stood as a symbol of anti-imperialist liberation struggle for the peoples of the continent.

The second and negative side was that, from its inception, the Cuban Revolution was carried through not under the leadership of the working class in alliance with the poor peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie but under that of forces representing the national bourgeoisie. This epoch is characterised by the onset of a world pre-revolutionary situation and the beginning of the disintegration of the imperialist world system. Therefore, this class basis can only serve its fundamental class interest and achieve, the construction of a form of capitalist society in the newly emerged nations, in as much as it succeeds in manoeuvring with the offer of its neo-colonial and comprador services between the various competing imperialist groups. This is a strategy which leads sooner or later to the incorporation of the newly-independent nation, willy-nilly, into the sphere of influence of another imperialist group, most likely one which is hostile to the imperialist power from which independence had originally been won.

The economic in-viability of Cuba – a fundamental feature inherited from the one-sided development imposed by US imperialist domination in the past – together with its geographically isolated position and economically unbalanced character, placed Cuba in a precarious position which rendered its newly-won independence highly vulnerable.

Debray seeks in his book to paint a glowing and utopian picture of the Castro leadership which completely ignores the historical facts and sets out to enshrine every trite phrase and thought of this leadership as valid “scientific truths.” It remains a quite obvious fact however, that Castro and those who fought with him to overthrow Batista were not Marxist-Leninists. Castro claims that the “Marxism-Leninism” of the Cuban leadership was learned during the course of the struggle. The absence of scientific revolutionary principle guiding a clear strategic perspective – fundamental necessities in any revolutionary process, whether national democratic or socialist in character, in which the working class fulfils the leading role and which is guided by a genuine Marxist-Leninist vanguard party – and the opportunist manoeuvring to which that absence inevitably leads.

These are all explained away by Debray, with the claim that the revolutionary process was undergoing a justifiable period of “trial and error” – not, be it understood, trial and error in the application of Marxist-Leninist science to the revolution but quite abstractly in the search for a “Cuban form of Marxism.”

Castro and the inceptive forces of the guerrilla movement which he led were urban petty bourgeois revolutionists acting objectively as the leading representatives of the Cuban national bourgeoisie. The rebellion based on the Sierra Maestra drew to the ranks of the rebel army recruits from the peasantry, the mass base of the petty bourgeoisie and, in the absence of a leading role fulfilled by the working class, formed the social arsenal of the national bourgeoisie.

The movement claimed to be a liberal alternative to the tyranny of Batista, the stench of whose corruption was believed by Castro to be a constant source of embarrassment to the United States – the diaries of Guevara in his Bolivian campaign imply that, in begging aid from US monopoly interests under the threat that US holdings would be confiscated in the event of victory in Bolivia if support for the insurgents were not forthcoming. In this he was merely repeating methods prominent in the early stage of the Cuban revolution itself. The “left” revisionists of the Castro/Guevara stamp, attempt to explain these away as “tactical” covers for their real “Marxist” aims.

Throughout the course of the struggle Castro increasingly won the support of the urban petty bourgeoisie and middle classes – the involvement of the working class taking place considerably later. The tone of the Castro leadership on the role of the working class, was that the working class should be thankful for its liberation at the hands of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia and peasantry. However, support for the rebels against the tyranny of Batista was sufficiently overwhelming in its scope to cause the United States, refrain from any serious attempt to maintain Batista in power by overt force, and to give only that amount of aid to Batista which would preserve US face with lesser tyrants of the Batista stamp throughout Latin America. Although a covert attempt using Cuban exiles to restore a US colonial-type puppet regime was launched later, with the abortive Bay of Pigs landing. These were the factors which assisted the seizure of power by the Castro leadership in 1959.

The victory of 1959 brought Castro his first lessons in the attempt to carry through reforms of a national and democratic character in the epoch of imperialism.

Whilst at the comparatively early stage of establishing his bases in the Sierras, Castro had approached the lawyer, Urrutia, with an offer that he should form a government when victory was won – an offer which was accepted and implemented in 1959. Urrutia was a representative of the nascent Cuban national bourgeoisie, but nevertheless one of the first acts of his government was to approach US imperialism with assurances that his government intended to continue the semi-colonial status of Cuba, and to maintain the traditional agrarian structure of the economy and economic dependence on the US. It was only the rejection of these assurances by the US and the latter’s refusal to recognise the Castro regime which compelled the subsequent alignment with the Soviet Union.

As for Castro himself, it was a typical and in view of the later developments, an ironic expression of the spirit of the expediently opportunist freebooter that he was ready and willing to place his services at the disposal of the highest bidder, that he did not conceive of taking any initiative in the political and state affairs, of the new government.

All the evidence shows that Castro did not wish to govern on behalf of any defined class. He saw his role as that of a latter-day Garibaldi effecting a purely military liberation on behalf of abstract “liberty, equality and fraternity” and then handing over power to a vague and undefined “liberal intelligentsia”, i.e., to elements of the national bourgeoisie which, at that stage, had no conception of the revolution winning for them full national independence from US imperialism, and who merely wished to extend somewhat the scope of their economic holdings and the degree of their participation in and control over the state and administration.

According to the terms of the Urrutia government’s approach to the US, agrarian landlordism, the security of US holdings in both agriculture and such service industries as existed and the corresponding structure of feudal and comprador relations, were to remain essentially untouched and only subjected to a degree of mild reform. Only the short-sighted rejection by the US of these proposals for the reform of the semi-colonial structure of Cuba as it had existed under the corrupt and brutal reign of Batista finally compelled Castro and his followers both to take up themselves the reigns of state and to implement measures designed to secure independence from the USan independence the only available economic foundation for which was, ultimately alignment with the Soviet neo-imperialist bloc.

Amongst the first measures enacted was the land reform – a step which was essential if the base of peasant support was to be maintained. The confiscation of large holdings, particularly those owned by foreign capital, brought down the wrath of US imperialism.

For Castro the second dilemma and the second lesson had begun.

Despite numerous manoeuvres to outwit the Imperialists and to prevent their hostility and inevitable embargos on trade, the US in traditionally short-sighted fashion, declared its hostility and began to threaten Cuba with economic reprisals. Castro, countering this blackmail as best he could, entered into trade agreements with the Soviet Union, intending to walk the tightrope of a balance between the two blocs which would ensure Cuba’s economic future without drastic political shifts.

However, the breach was forced by US imperialism with the cutting of the quota for the import of Cuban sugar, forcing Castro to look elsewhere for cheaper supplies consequent upon the loss of US dollars. There followed a train of reprisals and counter-reprisals culminating in the Soviet offer to buy Cuban sugar (at an unspecified price) and to meet the Cuban demand for oil. The refusal of the US to refine Soviet oil, was met by Castro’s nationalisation of the key US interests in Cuba as a final and irrevocable reprisal. The course of Castro’s future was now set – a future which had originally never been intended or planned; but which had developed piecemeal out of the course of events. By 1963, according to Castro, the trade balance with the Soviet Union had risen to over one hundred million dollars.

This nationalisation, as we are now informed by the Cuban “Marxist- Leninists”, represented the “socialist revolution.”

However, in reality it represented an inevitable move which Castro, representing the national bourgeoisie, was forced to make given that he was fighting for his economic life and needed to trade with whomsoever would offer these services. But dependence on trade with the Union and being totally at the mercy of the defence protection, of the “nuclear umbrella” brought with it the expected penalty. Castro, the man who had hitherto publicly denounced Marxism-Leninism and denied any affinity with “communists” now began to air his brains in public and to take the first carefully rehearsed steps towards embracing Marxism-Leninism as avidly as he was later to embrace Khruchshev.

The previous emphasis on the role of the intellectuals as the leading force in the revolution, and as the “liberators of the working class” was now dressed up in a more conventional “Marxist-Leninist” disguise to accord with the announcement of the “socialist revolution” albeit a multifarious class definition typical of national bourgeois “socialism”:

“the labouring masses, the farmers, the student masses, the masses of the poor, the underprivileged mass of our nation, significant portions of the middle class, sections of the petty bourgeoisie, intellectual workers, made Marxism-Leninism their own, made the struggle for the Socialist Revolution their own.”

(F Castro: “Castro Denounces Sectarianism”, March 1962, p.13)

One of the penalties for the alignment with the Soviet Union was the loss of middle class support – a section which had supported Castro whole-heartedly during the struggle for power. These now filed in large numbers to Miami, plotting counterrevolution, and thereby weakening considerably the already overstrained technical and administrative cadre force and heightening social tensions. It was, at this point that the other long arm of revisionism, that from within Cuba itself, came into its own.

The history of the Cuban Communist Party offers an appalling record: of opportunism and class betrayal.

Based mainly on the urban working-class and aimed at building a mass social-democratic party, engaged in negotiations for economic improvements to the exclusion of almost all other forms of struggle and bound up with unprincipled agreements and alliances with whatsoever dictator happened to be in power, it was only to be expected that it could play no role in the struggle to overthrow Batista. Denouncing Castro as a mere adventurer, in the early days of the guerrilla struggle, and effectively assisting the sabotage of all attempts by the guerrillas to mobilise urban strikes,it only changed its tactics in the later stages, when the victory of Castro was already clearly inevitable. At this stage, certain leading revisionists were sent to join the guerrillas, with the aim of establishing the first bridgehead within the revolutionary forces in preparation for the later penetration of the right-revisionist party into the anti-imperialist front and the newly-founded national democratic state.

In the period immediately following the seizure of power, the clear anti-communist content of the half-hearted national democratic revolution which was “spontaneously developing,” effectively blocked the entrance of careerist-minded revisionist party members into positions of influence in the state. But this situation changed radically when apathy began to strike the middle class and comprador-orientated bourgeoisie after the confiscation of their property and the establishment of the open alliance with the Soviet Union, and especially after significant numbers of these strata had begun to desert to the Florida mainland. In the chaos of Castro’s “spontaneously developing” revolution the tried and tested organisation men of the revisionist party were drafted in large numbers in an effort to stem the growing confusion and pull together the basis of a workable economic and political system – matters which Castro had formerly considered could be left to merge spontaneously with the passage of time.

Thus arose the third of Castro’s dilemmas.

He had given up the political initiative almost completely. The revisionists, “always intent on mere political questions,” as Debray spurningly pointed, out, had after all played one better than the child of spontaneity, Castro. The price Castro had to pay for a viable political and, administrative apparatus was the achievement by the right-revisionists of an increasingly dominant role in party and state, despite their history of betrayal during the struggles leading to the overthrow of Batista.

Through a combination of external pressure from the Soviet Union, including economic blackmail, and internal penetration by the agents of Soviet revisionism, the indigenous revisionist leaders, Castro and his old guard of insurrectionists were gradually out-manoeuvred and sewn up in a web of inexorable dependence and commitment. No doubt, this was to the horror of the existentialist coterie of sun-seekers of the Sartre ilk who had seen in the Cuban development, the embodiment of their ideas about a liberal spontaneous revolution giving birth to an anarchistic utopia around which they could spin the subject matter for countless bestsellers.

The merciless straitjacket of unequal colonial-type economic relations, together with the necessity for a heavy defence programme in the face of the increasingly aggressive posture of US imperialism in the period prior to the 1962 crisis, represented further pressures inexorably pushing Cuba into dependence on the Soviet Union. The ominous features of the limited crop economy, had once again begun to dominate economic development.

The political counterpart of this situation of dependence, expressed the reciprocal need of the Soviet revisionist world centre to “explain” the obvious contradiction of a successful armed revolution taking place in an epoch the main feature of which was allegedly “the peaceful co-existence of states with differing social systems.” This was reflected in the corresponding determination of the Cuban right-revisionist party leadership to build and maintain the myth of Cuba as an example of “peaceful transition” in line with the precepts of the Khrushchevite international programme as laid down by the infamous 20th Congress Report:

“It was precisely in conditions of peaceful coexistence between states with different social systems that the socialist revolution triumphed in Cuba.”

(Letter of CC of CPSU to CC of CCP, March 30th, 1963. Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1965. p. 507).

From the crisis of 1962, the starting duplicity of Castro in adopting his new subservient position was revealed.

Castro, who was later to announce demagogically:

“We will never make ideological concessions, and we will maintain an unyielding Marxist-Leninist position.”

(F. Castro: “This is our Line Havana 1963; p.79)

Then begins Castro’s remarkable history –

of bear hugs with the chief spokesmen of modern revisionism followed by denunciations of those same spokesmen;

of his statements supporting “peaceful struggle” followed by statements supporting armed struggle;

and his steadily increasing subservient role assisting the propaganda line of the Soviet revisionists in the Great Debate, with the deceptively “principled”, contention that “Division in the face of the enemy was never a revolutionary or intelligent strategy”;

all culminating in the carefully timed attacks on the Chinese government over alleged “cut-backs” in the promised rice quota.

This latter ‘news’ on the rice quotas, was leaked on the eve of the Three Continents Conference in Havana in order to cause the maximum damage to the prestige of the Chinese party and state throughout the national liberation movements. It was intended to act as an ameliorative gesture,  to off-set the criticisms of those aspects of Soviet policy which reflected the residual influence of Khrushchevite doctrine, now inimical to Castro’s new role. It was intended to demonstrate to the Soviet neo-capitalist class in unequivocal terms just where the support and sympathy of the Cuban national bourgeoisie and its “centrist” revisionist representatives lay in regard to the growing struggle between the Soviet and Chinese leadership.

Castro, however, in his attempts to reconcile service to the interests of his indigenous class, the Cuban national bourgeoisie, with the fulfillment of a comprador role on behalf of Soviet neo-imperialism, has often proved a difficult and demanding pawn.

Castro has sought to retain as an essential ingredient of his “centrist” revisionist position, the right to criticism of Soviet policies wherever these tended to conflict with the long-term aims of the Cuban national bourgeoisie.

The Guevara adventure in Bolivia thus represented an attempt to raise the bargaining counter of the Cuban national bourgeoisie with Soviet right revisionism, and its failure merely confirming the inadequacy of “leftist” methods of struggle and the superiority of the “centrist” revisionist disguise. In almost all cases, the crux of these Castroite and Gueverist criticisms has been those aspects of Soviet policy reflecting the continuation of a Khrushchevite stance towards US imperialism or its comprador puppets in Latin America. However the necessity which the Castro leadership feels for the military and economic protection which the Soviet Union alone can provide against US threats of aggression compels them to lend their support to every fundamental policy statement and action of the Soviet leadership, and to place Cuba at its disposal as the base of operations for right revisionism on the Latin American continent.

It was under Castro’s auspices that the OLAS and Tricontinental Conferences were able to serve the policy aims of Soviet neo-imperialism, which envisage not only the building of “anti-imperialist” and, where necessary, armed national liberation movements under “centrist” revisionist leadership, but also the incorporation of existing national bourgeois or even comprador-bourgeois states and governments into its sphere of influence. This has already been effected, for example, with a certain measure of success in Peru. Thereby effecting the reciprocal utilisation of both rightist and “centrist” revisionist policy methods. In this way, the former implements the classical techniques of international diplomacy and “power politics” through the direct agency of the Soviet Union on behalf of its neo-imperialist aims;whilst the latter seeks to mobilise the working people and their movements of struggle in the same neo-imperialist cause by presenting the necessary “left” demagogic appeal.

Thus it is that, under the overall condition of a former semi-colony newly emerged from imperialist domination, with an urban and rural proletariat, labouring peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie amongst which revolutionary feeling is at a high level, any national capitalist class attempting to build a viable system of state capitalism can only hold out for itself any prospect of success provided that it can utilise to some degree the ideological strength and power for conviction and mobilisation of proletarian ideology and organisation of Marxism-Leninism.

This type of social development may be characterised in general terms as the demagogic abuse of the international working class and communist movement, of its world view, Marxism-Leninism, and of its organised strength and influence in order to bend them to the service of the enemies of the working class and socialism, amongst which the national capitalist classes of colonial-type countries emerging from imperialist domination must ultimately be placed, whatever class alliances may appertain in the period of the national democratic revolution.

In this light, the case of Cuba illustrates with convincing clarity an example of the harnessing of the potential or actual forces of the socialist revolution, the exploited and oppressed proletariat, poor peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie, to the task of establishing not the socialist system under the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat, but a system of centralised state capitalism of a bureaucratic and comprador type under the dictatorship, albeit concealed by demagogic “left” phraseology, of the national bourgeoisie, and under the conditions of intensified class struggle and heightened inter-imperialist competition typical of the contemporary advanced stage the disintegration of the imperialist world system.

CONCLUSION

The collaboration between “centrist” and right revisionism which forms the predominant basis of policy amongst a majority of Communist Parties of Latin America, with the “Communist Party” of Cuba acting as a comprador-type overseer on behalf of the Soviet Union, reflects the unsuitability of  a purer “left” revisionism as an ideological mask enabling the national bourgeoisie to gain control of the national democratic revolutions and to determine their development and the class composition of their forces in their own class interest, in at least the majority of states concerned and under the objective conditions as they have shaped themselves up till the present time.

Left revisionism tends to find the appropriate objective conditions for its application and a fertile subjective ground for its dissemination and growth primarily in national and political terrains in which not only the objective conditions for the onset of the national democratic revolution are present – this in itself is also a feature of the situation in many American states – but also where a militant and politically conscious working class and a more or less powerful Marxist-Leninist vanguard are, or at the least have been in the past, to some degree in control of the revolutionary process of at least participants in it.

In view of the progressive undermining and final liquidation of the world communist movement through modern revisionism since approximately 1943-45, the presence of such features in a national democratic revolutionary movement in a colonial or semi-colonial country since World War Two, in spite of a majority of the leadership having long since fallen into the hands of “left” revisionists, must be attributed to the persisting influence of the Communist International and the continuing presence in the leadership of the leading cadres trained by it during the period prior to World War Two.

These features are, of course, typical of the development of the Chinese revolution and of the Communist Party of China. They are almost totally absent from the histories of the national liberation and working class movements of the Latin American states and their communist parties.

Where, however, such a Marxist-Leninist leadership, or at least a Marxist-Leninist contingent within a “left” revisionist led party and movement, is present, its defeat and dismemberment is clearly an absolutely prime necessity if the national bourgeoisie is to succeed in its aim of wresting the leadership out of the hands of the Marxist-Leninists and of consolidating it in the sole hands of their revisionist representatives.

The fact that, in Cuba itself, no Marxist-Leninist party, or even a Marxist-Leninist contingent within the leadership of the party, was present requiring ideological penetration, dismemberment and capture, in order to transform that party as a whole into a tool of national bourgeois aims and aspirations, rendered it easier for the petty bourgeois representatives of the national bourgeoisie to control the direction.

It rendered it possible for the petty bourgeois representatives of the national bourgeoisie to win victory in the national democratic revolution by purely military means, without’ the fusion of political and military forms of struggle and without a political party and an organisational centre for the mobilization of the masses, through the sole agency of a small elitist guerrilla force of predominantly petty bourgeois composition, is also symptomatic of the objective conditions and subjective characteristics of the movements of the oppressed in at least the smaller and weaker states of the Latin American continental mainland.

In spite of the many features specific and peculiar to it, the Cuban revolution, however, was not an isolated, once for all time phenomenon. Still less does it represent an example of “specific national roads to socialism” beloved of Khrushchevian revisionist “theory.” It took place and won victory, on the contrary, precisely within the general context of:

“a world pre-revolutionary situation. As in all pre-revolutionary situations, the primary aim of the class struggles, including national liberation struggles, now beginning to unfold on a world-wide front between the world proletarian forces and the imperialist bourgeoisie is a struggle to determine which of these two fundamentally opposed world class forces shall win the allegiance of the intermediate exploited and oppressed classes and strata, of which the most significant are the peasant masses of the colonial periphery of imperialism and the petty bourgeois and professional middle strata in the developed imperialist countries which are undergoing a process of intensified proletarianisation, and so to achieve on behalf of its class interest the decisive strategic advantage in the coming final stages of the world proletarian socialist revolution.”

(Programmatic Manifesto of the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain; p.22)

The upsurge of national liberation struggles and national democratic revolutions in the colonial and semi-colonial lands, including those of Latin America, forms one of the most prominent features in the process of disintegration of the world imperialist system at the present stage in the development of the general crisis of capitalism.

It is they which are contributing directly to the process of disintegration of the established imperialist power groups and to the break-up of the existing inter-imperialist balance of power, and which are effectively assisting in the formation of new imperialist-type power groups and a new inter-imperialist balance of power centred around the entry of the new neo-imperialist or state capitalist nations – primarily the Soviet Union, but including, at a lower stage of capitalist development, China and India, the total population resources of which alone amount to some 1,400 millions – into the already saturated capitalist world market.

As far as the future development of the world proletarian socialist revolution is concerned, the crucial issue confronting the national liberation movements at the present time is, however, the issue of which class shall lead the revolution, the national bourgeoisie or the working class.

On the outcome of this issue depends the solution to the question, of absolutely fundamental significance, as to:

“Whether or not the working people of the developing nations at present fighting for their liberation from imperialist colonial enslavement, for national independence and democratic rights and liberties, will succeed in bypassing the perspective of a more or less protracted period of capitalist development and will succeed in establishing new socialist states under the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat?”

Such a victory for the world proletarian socialist revolution  would so weaken the already intolerably unstable and crisis-ridden world capitalist system as to render its continued operation virtually impossible.

Alternatively, on the other hand, the victory of the national democratic revolution in the colonial-type lands would merely  lead to the establishment of new independent capitalist states which will thus provide a sorely needed extension to the total area and resources of the world capitalist system and so give it a new lease of life. This latter has already taken place in a whole number of formerly colonial or semi-colonial lands since the end of world war two, including People’s China, India, Egypt and, of course, Cuba.

The entire evidence provided by the experience of the new features in the development of the world proletarian socialist revolution since World War Two indicates strongly that

Only when the working class movements in the developed countries join with the working peoples of the colonial-type lands to form a common world-wide anti-imperialist front,

Only when powerful and influential Marxist-Leninist parties, capable of securing leadership over the entire revolutionary process in both types of countries have been built and are able to wield that decisive ideological and political initiative and influence which can ensure the leading role being fulfilled by the working class in both strategic world sectors, and so laying the basis for the uninterrupted transition of the national democratic to the socialist revolution in the colonial-type lands and for the victory of the latter in both; and, finally,

Only when the world Marxist-Leninist leadership of the world proletarian socialist revolution has developed to a point where a mighty Marxist-Leninist international is forged capable of uniting, integrating and directing the revolutionary struggles in both world sectors against the common imperialist class enemy, of elaborating a world strategic and tactical programme of general offensive on all fronts and in all sectors based on advanced scientific theory –

Then, and only then, will it be possible for the working people of any one sector, in the developed or the under-developed lands, to advance to the victory of the socialist revolution and so to bring the epoch of capitalism to its close and to commence anew, and on an infinitely higher level than previously, the epoch of world-wide socialist construction.

For the present; therefore, and until such time as the revolutionary proletariat in both the developed and the colonial-type lands, realise the primary and indispensable tasks of revolutionary leadership and organisation, particularly as regards the building of the Marxist-Leninist vanguard, the predominant influence in the national democratic movements in the underdeveloped colonial world sector is likely to remain in the hands of the national bourgeoisie and its petty bourgeois revisionist representatives.

But each and every such instance of a national arena of capitalist development being opened up, under the conditions of a congested and saturated capitalist world market, merely serves, in the longer or perhaps the shorter run, to add new components of mounting contradiction to the already unstable situation in the world capitalist system. The monopoly capitalists of the developed imperialist countries, faced with the shrinking of the relative size and resources of the colonial sector relative to the developed sector, are attempting to obtain a significant intensification of the rate of exploitation in both the colonial areas that remain and, in an effort to offset the inevitable decline in super-profits, in the developed countries themselves.

Only provided that Marxist-Leninist vanguard parties are built in both the developed and the colonially subjugated sectors of the world will this intensification of exploitation and oppression result in a qualitative raising of the level of class militancy and capacity for struggle of the working masses, to their revolutionisation.

In other circumstances, including those at present appertaining in which the leading influence is fulfilled by social democratic and right revisionist representatives of monopoly capital in the developed countries and by a combination of right, “centrist” and “left” revisionist representatives of the national or the comprador bourgeoisie in the colonial-type countries, the outcome of the world reactionary offensive now in preparation could equally well be a series of bloody defeats for the working people and their organisations of struggle and the descent of the blackest night of fascist repression that the world has yet seen.

The law of uneven development will undergo and is undergoing an equally profound and far reaching intensification of its mode of operation, thus accelerating the process of break-up of the existing imperialist and capitalist power groups and the formation of new ones anxious to secure a re-division of the total area and resources of maximum exploitation available to the capitalist world system, which are continually shrinking relative to the rapidly increasing rate at which capital tends to be amassed, and which are indispensable for securing that maximum rate of profit so essential if the inherent tendency under state monopoly capitalism for the rate of profit to fall is to be offset. These fundamental contradictions in their turn prepare the conditions for the outbreak of yet another imperialist world war more devastating both in its scope and its revolutionary effect than any previously known, and so also preparing for the transformation of that war, in area after area, country after country, into, socialist revolutions.

These are the profound and climactic contradictions which are even now accumulating under the surface of the world capitalist system, and it is against this background that the teachings of Guevara and Debray relative to the struggle in Latin America must be critically evaluated.

Marxism-Leninism teaches, and all experience of the world’s working class, and oppressed peoples in struggle confirms that only through the unity of the working class of all lands, forged through the exercise of leadership and an overall guiding function on the part of powerful Marxist-Leninist parties, and through the unity of all non-proletarian classes and, strata behind that Marxist-Leninist proletarian vanguard in a mighty world anti-imperialist united front, can victory in the national-democratic revolution in the colonial-type lands be secured in such a way as to ensure that that victory leads:

Not to the development and consolidation, on however temporary or unstable a basis, of new, independent neo-capitalist states (which will merely substitute exploitation by the established imperialist oppressor nations for exploitation by the indigenous national bourgeoisie and so assist in increasing, again on however temporary or unstable a basis, the total arena and resources of the world capitalist system and to lengthen by a span of a few years or decades its bloodthirsty, profit hungry life);

But that that victory will lead instead to the weakening and restricting of its arena, resources and span of life, to the choking of the arteries feeding it with the super profits which are its very life blood, to the formation of a mighty and growing chain of national democratic and socialist revolutions encircling it with a steel ring of proletarian power which steadily suffocates and finally annihilates it.

In the developed countries, it is bureaucratic social democracy, reformism, revisionism of the right and trotskyism which constitute the chief weapons of the monopoly capitalist class in frustrating and diverting the potential or actual revolutionary energies of the working class and working people.

In the colonial-type lands, it is “left” and, where appropriate, “centrist” revisionism, likewise assisted by trotskyite disruption, which fulfill this function. Within this international apparatus of counter-revolutionary disruption, a certain clearly definable division of labour can be discerned.

It is the function of social democracy and reformism in the developed countries, and of liberal-anarchist ideas of spontaneous revolution in the colonial type areas of maximum exploitation, to act respectively as the instruments for undermining the unity of the class forces themselves, of the mass base, potential or actual, of the developing class struggle and/or revolutionary movements.

On the other hand, it is the function of revisionist teaching – in developed countries mainly of the right, and in colonial-type lands mainly of either “left” or “centrist” varieties – to weaken the struggle waged by the most advanced and class conscious proletarian elements to forge powerful, steeled and united Marxist-Leninist vanguard parties without which the socialist revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat remain mere empty dreams, vistas of mechanical scheming or the subjective projection of idle wishes.

In the relationship between mass base and vanguard, it is the vanguard which must first be establish even if only in embryo, if the whole revolutionary process in a given country is to develop into the structure of proletarian power capable of incepting and carrying through the socialist revolution directly in the case of the developed countries, through the intermediate stage of the national democratic revolution in the case of the colonial-type lands.

In both these types of revolution, a clear kinship exists between the older variants of bourgeois ideology typical of a capitalist class in the period of its youth, represented by liberal spontaneity and anarchistic insurrectionism of the Garibaldist or Blanquist type, and the more sophisticated right, “left” and “centrist”‘ variants of revisionism which form typical anti-proletarian ideological weapons of an aspiring capitalist class in an underdeveloped country which is struggling for ascendancy and independence within a world environment and under the conditions of an epoch in which capitalism is lying mortally sick upon its deathbed.

Both deny the revolutionary historical mission of the proletariat;

Both deny the need for the violent, forcible overthrow of the rule of the capitalist class – “left” revisionism advocating the use of armed force solely against the comprador, imperialist-orientated section of the capitalist class in a colonial-type country;

Both deny the need for the independent revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat armed with scientific Marxist-Leninist theory.

The petty bourgeois insurrectionist theories of Guevara and Debray form the logical inheritance and continuation of the classical ideas of spontaneous revolt first developed by the European bourgeoisie in the 19th century. The characterisation of the bourgeois ideological basis and antecedents of “left” revisionism contained in the Report of the CC of the MLOB, “Proletarian Internationalism: The Key to Victory in Anti-Imperialist Struggle and Socialist Revolution”, is as applicable to the unsuccessful, misapplied and naive variant of “left” revisionism concocted Guevara and Debray out of the historically superceded lees of liberal anarchist theories of spontaneous “uprisings of the freedom loving people” as ever it was to the more astute variant of “left” revisionism devised by Mao Tse-tung:

“When we consider the development of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Europe, we find that the petty bourgeoisie , played a generally analogous role to the one it later came to play in the colonial national democratic revolutions of the epoch of imperialism. . .the prime need (of the capitalist class – Ed.) was to hold in check the independent revolutionary class aspirations of the proletariat, and to harness its energies to the task of the bourgeois democratic revolution whilst simultaneously preventing them from leading to the fulfillment of the revolutionary aim of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. In all the developing capitalist nations of Europe to which the bourgeois democratic revolution spread in 1848-9, therefore, the leading role was played by bourgeois or petty bourgeois leaders..

‘Leftist’ phraseology and the rabble-rousing slogans of anarchism are always and everywhere the essential disguise of rightism, of policies designed to assist and strengthen the class position and forces of the capitalist class in the face of the growing or potential offensive of the proletariat. . . . Just as the counterpart in practice of the utopian theories of Proudhon were the state sweatshops for the unemployed workers of Paris established by Louis Blanc, similarly Mao Tse-tung’s leftist battle-cries directed at the emerging and developing, but as yet immature, proletarian classes and their potential petty bourgeois allies in the colonial lands have their essential counterpart in the so-called- “Three-way Revolutionary Committees”, in which the long-discredited.utopia of the “union of capital and labour”, is dragged from the oblivion to which Marx condemned it…”

(Proletarian Internationalism: Report of the CC of the MLOB in “Red Front”, March/April 1968; p.vii)

With the defeat of this peculiarly Latin American revisionist hybrid, the same demagogic mantle of revisionist deception has fallen upon the shoulders of the “centrist” revisionists headed by the Castro clique, acting as a semi-independent “left”-wing of the Soviet neo-imperialism. If this new and perhaps even more, insidious ideological and political weapon of the national bourgeoisies of the Latin American states is to be exposed and defeated and the hegemony of the working class and of scientific Marxist-Leninist theory in the Latin American revolutionary movement secured, a persistent-and wide-ranging struggle must be waged by the Marxist-Leninists of all lands against it.

There are no short cuts to the socialist revolution. The struggle to develop and change man’s social practice, and the thought processes which consciously guide that practice, is a protracted and arduous one. In the course of this struggle, the development of conscious revolutionary thought and practice on the part of the most advanced and consistently revolutionary class produced by history, the proletariat, is characterised at all stages by the close interaction of theory and practice, culminating in the scientific principles of Marxism-Leninism and of its fundamental theoretical guide to action, dialectical-materialism, and their embodiment in the vanguard class party of the new type.

This final embodiment of the science of socialist revolution and of socialist revolution as a science, when theory and practice become so united as to be indivisibly fused together, is precisely what the “social scientists” of the bourgeoisie are most concerned to frustrate and disrupt by whatever means they find to hand inherited from the theories and practice of pre-scientific utopian or reformist schools – and amongst these modern “mystical schoolmen” of piecemeal reform or spontaneous revolt must be included not only such representatives of the right as Khruschev, Togliatti or Gollan, but also such leftist figures as Debray, Guevara and Castro.

The struggle to build the vanguard Leninist party of the proletariat involves such tasks as the inner-movement struggle within the revisionist and reformist parties and organisations, work amongst all sectors of the working population to win them for a common front of struggle, actions at the most basic level to build militant, class-orientated organisations where previously none existed, the achievement of a correct balance between legal and illegal, armed and political, forms of struggle, and so on. At every level, the process is an extremely complex and many-sided one. It is a test which only those who genuinely uphold, the cause of the working class and working people are prepared to stand.

That is why Guevara, Debray and others present such a disillusioned picture to the world once they enter from the realm of their subjective fantasies into the world of class reality. In their “theory” the peasantry existed as an idealised force which could do no wrong; the grim reality of the Bolivian adventure revealed besides Debray’s dilettantism, the fundamental scorn for the peasantry into which Guevara’s earlier idealism was transformed as a consequence of his inability to change that reality. The diaries, with their self-pitying descriptions of ignorant and suspicious peasants threatening to betray the self-styled advance guard of the revolution constitute an elitist petty bourgeois testament which marks a disgaceful end for those who had claimed to aspire so high. And it is perhaps from this last fact that the final lesson of the Guevara-Debray affair can be most clearly drawn: that the subjective desires of any aspiring revolutionary are less than nothing in value to the revolutionary cause and will be cast aside as such if they are not based on Marxist-Leninist scientific theory.

By Cmde M.S. For the MLOB;

Dated 1968

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J.J. Lawrence: Che Guevara

CheLaCoubreMarch

I have been asked to write an article on Che, which I am pleased to do. Before I write this article, I must insist that if you have not read anything on Che (apart from this article) you must read a biography on him. Che was the first time I had read on something involving communism, which had a huge influence on me. There are a great deal of articles on Che. I do not want to just write another short summary of his life. I have tried in this article to show key points which had significant impact on him, and why he became the man he was.

‘Because of the circumstances in which I travelled, first as a student and later as a doctor, I came into close contact with poverty, hunger, and disease; with the inability to treat a child because of lack of money; with the stupefaction provoked by continual hunger and punishment, to the point that a father can accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident… and I began to realize that there were things which were almost as important to me as becoming a famous scientist or making a significant contribution to medical science; I wanted to help those people.’ (Che Guevara, 1960, speaking on revolutionary medicine).

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was a communist revolutionary, a social philosopher, a medical doctor and became an international figurehead for the communist cause. His dream was to change Latin America into a socialist utopia and end US imperialism there as well as helping the rest of the developing world free themselves of oppression. When I first read about Che, I was blown away, his life, his ideals, a tear came to my eye when I read about his final hour and his murder in Bolivia. From the moment he agreed to join Castro’s revolution, he dedicated his life to the communist cause , his determination was unbelievable. In my opinion there was a number of key points on how Che became the man he was and why he is such an icon to so many today.

(1)

The first “key point” in my view was his asthma. I know some people would not see this as hugely significant but to me it was. From such a young age it affected him terribly, he did not start school until the age of seven because of it. But his mother gave him a good basic grounding in education. The asthma was something to him that would not hold him back, it gave him so much resolve. It was the fact that he had asthma that gave him this determination to succeed and throughout his battles in Cuba, the Congo and Bolivia it affected him terribly. Surely it was physically demanding enough to be a guerrilla fighter and on top of that he had to cope with asthma, he became a severe and a ruthless disciplinarian to his troops who complained and showed physical weakness. He concluded that if he could manage with severe asthma that they should find it much less demanding than him. Overall it installed huge determination in him, his will to take part in physical activity, it would not stop him from being part of the team. One of his decisions to study medicine was his determination to find a cure for his side effects of his drugs he used for asthma. He eventually qualified as a doctor. He knew his asthma was a weakness, but it installed in him, a self determination that would last for the rest of his life.

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His travels of Latin America, without doubt, had a profound impact on Che. He visited numerous countries throughout his travels, as the quote from Che says ‘Because of the circumstances in which I travelled, first as a student and later as a doctor’, he witnessed at first hand the social injustice, US imperialism, the devastating poverty of the downtrodden classes and the ethnic minorities. Just to think what may have become of Che, if he did not travel around Latin America? He visited nearly all of the Latin American countries. He saw what kind of life that some people had to endure, while people suffered in poverty, starving and treated like filth, somewhere down the road a US owned business rakes in the PROFITS while subjecting the workers to wage slavery. Che, in his travels, for example, came into contact with an old woman, who was asthmatic, with a heart condition. This woman couldn’t pay her way.

‘It is then, at the end, that we see the profound tragedy which circumscribes the life of the proletariat the world over. In these dying eyes there is a humble appeal for forgiveness and also, often, a desperate plea for solace which is lost in the void’

As each encounter with social injustice, poverty, US imperialism and disease, occurred, Che began to realize that the whole of Latin America was in desperate need of change. The whole system was corrupt. Che had throughout his travels, already read a great deal on Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin etc., then when he witnessed the devastating effect of capitalism and privately owned businesses (usually US) in Latin America, he knew his beliefs were right. To destroy the current system and once and for all bring social justice, an end to capitalism. To finish that quote with which Che showed his anger at the system:

‘How long this present order, based on absurd idea of caste, will last I can’t say, but it’s time governments spent less time publicizing their own virtues and more money – much more money – funding socially useful projects.’

He found himself in Guatemala, under a new government of Jacobo Arbenz, which nationalized land owned by United Fruit, plus various US multinationals who severely exploited the workers, while they accumulated the profits. Obviously the US were not going to allow their interest to be affected, just because Jacobo Arbenz wanted to give his people a better standard of living. It became clear that the CIA were planning to overthrow the new government, then install a puppet. Eventually the coup won, Che was outraged that the government failed to arm the people. He once again had witnessed US intervention. Che gained valuable experience from his Guatemalan experience, that there must be unity, and to arm the people, he also realized that Uncle Sam would have to be kept in the dark until the revolution was secure. He also met the woman that would become his wife, Hilda Gadea Acosta, she would introduce him to some members of the JULY 26 MOVEMENT. He arrived in Mexico knowing that he was prepared to join any type of revolution that was fighting to overthrow a dictator. This is where Che Guevara met a man who would change his life and the course of history.

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In Mexico, he had heard a lot about the leader of the July 26 movement, now he would meet him. FIDEL CASTRO, this is without doubt, without question, Fidel Castro had the biggest impact on the life of Che Guevara. All of Che’s experiences, his childhood and his travels, he realized that social change was needed. Seeing the US imperialism around Latin America, the devastating poverty of the downtrodden classes, he realized that a revolution was the only way. He needed to find a cause? He needed to find a strong leader?

It had reached the climax for Che, he had found his leader for a revolution, in Che’s own words after meeting Fidel:

‘an extraordinary man. He confronted and solved the most impossible problems. He had an unshakeable faith that once he left exile in Mexico and arrived in Cuba he would fight, and would win that fighting. I shared his optimism. It was imperative to do something, to struggle, to achieve. It was imperative to stop crying and fight!’

For Che, to say something like that, so soon after meeting him, shows what impact Castro had on Che. He talked with Fidel in their first encounter on every conceivable subject, they were like long lost soul brothers.

In the various “key points” I have shown, I feel these were the fundamental factors in the making of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. These various incidents in Che’s life had a huge impact on him, from him suffering asthma, his travels of Latin America and meeting Fidel Castro. They all helped create a man whose life was dedicated to people who suffered at the hands of injustice.

THE REVOLUTION AND BEYOND.

Throughout Cuban revolution, Che was to become a severe and ruthless disciplinarian. He once shot a man for falling asleep on guard duty and ordered executions of deserters etc. Some people have argued that he was too harsh and too severe. But in my opinion he was justified, he became so dedicated to the revolution that nothing on earth could jeopardize it. During the Cuban revolution, Che showed his bravery, his tactical skill, his determination and all this was noted by Castro who eventually promoted Che to commander. He showed that anything he applied himself to he could do, Che Guevara was quite simply, a rare bird. He was without question the best guerrilla fighter in the Cuban revolution, he showed, at times, a complete disregard for his own personal safety. Even when Castro had told him not to take part in some of the battles. He was always determined to lead by example. During the revolution he would meet the woman who would become his second wife, Aleida March. What was an important factor to me about Che Guevara, was educating the new rebels, he set up an education program during the revolution. He was determined to introduce them to Marxism Leninism, Castro didn’t want the communist element to be heard, of course if the Americans got wind of it the revolution might have been doomed. Castro, I believe was always going down the communist road, he just needed to keep it quiet from uncle Sam.

When the rebels had won, and marched into the cities of Havana etc. Che set about leading by example, he was determined to show the people that everyone must make sacrifices in the ‘new Cuba’. Like in all revolutions, traitors and former henchmen of General Batista were still in the air. Some highly publicized trials were held. Over 500 men were convicted for crimes against the people, Che was in charge of the trials and had the last say on the fate of the men. Some people were outraged, friends who knew Che before he joined the revolution were shocked. In my view it was absolutely justified, some of the men executed were guilty of horrendous crimes. Others were a threat to the revolution and deserved to die. It shows an interesting aspect in Che’s character, a man who always wanted to help the people and to bring social justice to the world, but he showed no mercy to the enemies and handed out death sentences to them unemotionally. What is so profound of Che was his dedication, just as he was as a fighter in the revolution. He was determined to see the ‘new Cuba’ have economical stability and make sure it survived. Che was entrusted with the crucial job of forging relations to bankroll the revolution by visiting the rest of the socialist states, such as the Soviet Union, China and various other countries. When he returned to Cuba, he had the great news of securing financial and political support of the two communist super-powers China and the Soviet Union. He worked immensely hard for the revolution, be it going round the world forging alliances with various nations or going to do volunteer labour work on a construction site in Cuba. Seldom do you see a politician doing that at present in England or anywhere. At times he worked 36 hours straight meeting various people to help the revolution. To me these examples of self sacrifice had a huge impact on me, to see a man work so hard, so honestly and all he wanted in return was not a big pay packet but for the rest of Cuba to follow suit. During the Cuban missile crisis, when without consulting Castro the Soviet leader Khrushchev had already done a deal with President Kennedy. Castro was furious, but kept a smile for Khrushchev. Che was furious, he never trusted nor did he ever like the Soviet leader.

It was Che who first denounced the new Soviet imperialism for not giving unconditional support to third world liberation movements etc. It was a part of Che’s character, he would always voice his opinion, whether it be attacking his nemesis, or criticizing the Soviet Union for its faults. History has proven Che correct about the former Soviet Union, with revisionists such as Khrushchev and the eventual collapse of it. Che saw this happening.

CONCLUSION.

Che Guevara had served as a vital cog in the Cuban revolution he felt it was time to leave for another adventure. He decided it was to be the Congo, to assist the rebels there. I believe, and I may be wrong about this, but Che knew he would not grow old peacefully, his heart lay on the battlefield. He left a letter for his children, to be opened if he was killed:

Dear Hildita, Aleidita, Camilo, Celia and Ernesto,

If you read this letter one day, it will mean that I

am no longer alive. You will hardly remember me,

and the smallest among you will have entirely

forgotten me.

 

Your father was a man who acted as he thought

best and who has been absolutely faithful to his

convictions.

 

Grow up into good revolutionaries. Study hard to

master technique, which gives you mastery over

nature. Remember that it is the Revolution which

is important and that each of us, taken in

isolation, is worth nothing.

 

Above all be sensitive, in the deepest areas of

yourselves, to any injustice committed against

whoever it may be anywhere in the world.

 

Yours always, my children. I hope to see

you again.

 

A big strong kiss from

Daddy.

His Congo and Bolivian missions were both disastrous, Bolivia proving fatal. But Che Guevara is an important historical figure, he is a prime example of what can be achieved, by only having huge determination and a dream. He was a dedicated Marxist-Leninist, the amount of effort, blood, sweat and tears he put in to further the cause of his idols was profound. When we look at politicians today who consistently misrepresent the people, it is sickening. Che dedicated his life to help the people, to demonstrate why communism was the only way forward. He was the second most powerful man in Cuba, he was loved by the people, a hero of the revolution. He was married with five children and could have grown old peacefully in Cuba, he gave everything up in Cuba to further the communist cause. He had an epic dream to bring the whole of Latin America into a socialist utopia, through armed revolution. When you realize how dedicated a human being must be to give up everything in Cuba, to help bring socialism to the whole of Latin America is astonishing. I believe the importance of Che Guevara is huge for the communist cause, he shows how communists should dedicate themselves to their beliefs. The NCMLU (Communist Party Alliance) follows the political principles of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, which is correct. But we should take from Che the honesty, dedication and self sacrifice to help the working class. With so much anti-communist feeling around the world, who accuse us of being ‘evil’, we can show them what a communist is and what we stand for. Tell them to read on Che, who only ever wanted to help the downtrodden classes of the world. For me, Che will always hold a special place in my heart, reading about him was the first time I had come into contact with communism.

Reading on him sparked off something inside me to help the communist cause. Upon reading on Che, it has led me to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. In my opinion we will never see another human being of his kind.

We must all strive to be like Che, to show self sacrifice, dedication to the cause, to fight against injustice, racism and imperialism, to help bring about social equality and change the world. To quote Marx, ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point is to change it’.

I will finish with a part of a speech from Fidel Castro, speaking to the Cuban people after the death of his comrade.

 

‘a man of profound ideals, a man in

whose mind stirred the dream of

struggle…’

 

CHE GUEVARA

1928-1967

Source

On the 100th anniversary of World War I

YourCountryNeedsYou

The following entry is from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.

 – E.S.

World War I (1914–18) 

an imperialist war between two coalitions of capitalist powers for a redivision of the already divided world (a repartition of colonies, spheres of influence, and spheres for the investment of capital) and for the enslavement of other peoples. At first, the war involved eight European states: Germany and Austria-Hungary against Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro. Later, most of the countries in the world entered the war (see Table 1). A total of four states fought on the side of the Austro-German bloc; 34 states, including four British dominions and the colony of India, all of which signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, took part on the side of the Entente. On both sides, the war was aggressive and unjust. Only in Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro did it include elements of a war of national liberation.

Although imperialists from all the principal belligerent powers were involved in unleashing the war, the party chiefly to blame was the German bourgeoisie, who began World War I at the “moment it thought most favorable for war, making useof its latest improvements in military matériel and forestalling the rearmament already planned and decided upon by Russia and France” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 16).

The immediate cause of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by Serbian nationalists on June 15 (28), 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. German imperialists decided to take advantage of this favorable moment to unleash the war. Under German pressure, Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to Serbia on July 10 (23). Although the Serbian government agreed to meet almost all of the demands in the ultimatum, Austria-Hungary broke diplomatic relations with Serbia on July 12 (25) and declared war on Serbia on July 15 (28). Belgrade, the Serbian capital, was shelled. On July 16 (29), Russia began mobilization in the military districts bordering on Austria-Hungary and on July 17 (30) proclaimed a general mobilization. On July 18 (31), Germany demanded that Russia halt its mobilization and, receiving no reply, declared war on Russia on July 19 (Aug. 1). Germany declared war on France and Belgium on July 21 (Aug. 3). On July 22 (Aug. 4), Great Britain declared war on Germany. The British dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa) and Britain’s largest colony, India, entered the war on the same day. On Aug. 10 (23), Japan declared war on Germany. Italy formally remained a member of the Triple Alliance but declared its neutrality on July 20 (Aug. 2), 1914.

Causes of the war. At the turn of the 20th century capitalism was transformed into imperialism. The world had been almost completely divided up among the largest powers. The uneven-ness of the economic and political development of various countries became more marked. The states that had been late in embarking on the path of capitalist development (the USA, Germany, and Japan) advanced rapidly, competing successfully on the world market with the older capitalist countries (Great Britain and France) and persistently pressing for a repartition of the colonies. The most acute conflicts arose between Germany and Great Britain, whose interests clashed in many parts of the globe, especially in Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East, focal points of German imperialism’s trade and colonial expansion. The construction of the Baghdad Railroad aroused grave alarm in British ruling circles. The railroad would provide Germany with direct route through the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor to the Persian Gulf and guarantee Germany an important position in the Middle East, thus threatening British land and sea communications with India.

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France, rooted in the desire of German capitalists to secure permanent possession of Alsace and Lorraine, which had been taken from France as a result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, and in the determination of the French to regain these provinces. French and German interests also clashed on the colonial issue. French attempts to seize Morocco met with determined resistance from Germany, which also claimed this territory.

Contradictions between Russia and Germany began to increase in the late 19th century. The expansion of German imperialism in the Middle East and its attempts to establish control over Turkey infringed on Russian economic, political, and strategic interests. Germany used its customs policy to limit the importation of grain from Russia, imposing high duties while simultaneously making sure that German industrial goods could freely penetrate the Russian market.

In the Balkans, there were profound contradictions between Russia and Austria-Hungary, caused primarily by the expansion of the Hapsburg monarchy, with Germany’s support, into the neighboring South Slav lands (Bosnia, Hercegovina, and Serbia). Austria-Hungary intended to establish its superiority in the Balkans. Russia, which supported the struggle of the Balkan peoples for freedom and national independence, considered the Balkans its own sphere of influence. The tsarist regime and the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie wanted to take over the Bosporus and Dardanelles to strengthen their position in the Balkans.

There were many disputed issues between Great Britain and France, Great Britain and Russia, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and Turkey and Italy, but they were secondary to the principal contradictions, which existed between Germany and its rivals— Great Britain, France, and Russia. The aggravation and deepening of these contradictions impelled the imperialists toward a repartition of the world, but “under capitalism, the repartitioning of ‘world domination’ could only take place at the price of a world war” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 34, p. 370).

The class struggle and the national liberation movement grew stronger during the second decade of the 20th century. The Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia had an enormous influence on the upsurge in the struggle of the toiling people for their social and national liberation. There was considerable growth in the working-class movement in Germany, France, and Great Britain. The class struggle reached its highest level in Russia, where a new revolutionary upsurge began in 1910 and an acute political crisis ripened. National liberation movements grew broader in Ireland and Alsace (the Zabern affair, 1913), and the struggle of the enslaved peoples of Austria-Hungary became more extensive. The imperialists sought to use war to suppress the developing liberation movement of the working class and oppressed peoples in their own countries and to arrest the world revolutionary process.

For many years the imperialists prepared for a world war as a means of resolving foreign and domestic contradictions. The initial step was the formation of a system of military-political blocs, beginning with the Austro-German Agreement of 1879, under which the signatories promised to render assistance to each other in case of war with Russia. Seeking support in its struggle with France for possession of Tunisia, Italy joined Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1882. Thus, the Triple Alliance of 1882, or the alliance of the Central Powers, took shape in central Europe. Initially directed against Russia and France, it later included Great Britain among its main rivals.

To counterbalance the Triple Alliance, another coalition of European powers began to develop. The Franco-Russian Alliance of 1891–93 provided for joint actions by the two countries in case of aggression by Germany or by Italy and Austria-Hungary supported by Germany. The growth of German economic power in the early 20th century forced Great Britain to gradually renounce its traditional policy of splendid isolation and seek rapprochement with France and Russia. The Anglo-French agreement of 1904 settled various colonial disputes between Great Britain and France, and the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907 reinforced the understanding between Russia and Great Britain regarding their policies in Tibet,Afghanistan, and Iran. These documents created the Triple Entente (or agreement), a bloc opposed to the Triple Alliance and made up of Great Britain, France, and Russia. In 1912, Anglo-French and Franco-Russian naval conventions were signed, and in 1913 negotiations were opened for an Anglo-Russian naval convention.

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The formation of military-political groupings in Europe, as well as the arms race, further aggravated imperialist contradictions and increased international tensions. A relatively tranquil period of world history was followed by an epoch that was“much more violent, spasmodic, disastrous, and conflicting” (ibid., vol. 27, p. 94). The worsening of imperialist contradictions was evident in the Moroccan crises of 1905–06 and 1911, the Bosnian crisis of 1908–09, the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–12, and the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. In December 1913, Germany provoked a major international conflict by sending a military mission under the command of General O. Liman von Sanders to Turkey to reorganize and train the Turkish Army.

In preparation for a world war the ruling circles of the imperialist states established powerful war industries, based on large state plants: armaments, explosives, and ammunition plants, as well as shipyards. Private enterprises were drawn into the production of military goods: Krupp in Germany, Skoda in Austria-Hungary, Schneider-Creusot and St. Chamond in France, Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth in Great Britain, and the Putilov Works and other plants in Russia.

The imperialists of the two hostile coalitions put a great deal of effort into building up their armed forces. The achievements of science and technology were placed in the service of war. More sophisticated armaments were developed, including rapid-fire magazine rifles and machine guns, which greatly increased the firepower of the infantry. In the artillery the number of rifled guns of the latest design increased sharply. Of great strategic importance was the development of the railroads, which made it possible to significantly speed up the concentration and deployment of large masses of troops in the theaters of operations and to provide an uninterrupted supply of personnel replacements and matériel to the armies in the field. Motor vehicle transport began to play an increasingly important role, and military aviation began to develop. The use of new means of communication in military affairs, including the telegraph, the telephone, and the radio,facilitated the organization of troop control. The size of armies and trained reserves grew rapidly. (See Table 2 for the composition of the ground forces of the principal warring powers.)

Germany and Great Britain were engaged in a stiff competition in naval armaments. The dreadnought, a new type of ship, was first built in 1905. By 1914 the German Navy was firmly established as the world’s second most powerful navy(after the British). Other countries endeavored to strengthen their navies, but it was not financially and economically possible for them to carry out the shipbuilding programs they had adopted. (See Table 3 for the composition of the naval forces of the principal warring powers.) The costly arms race demanded enormous financial means and placed a heavy burden on the toiling people.

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There was extensive ideological preparation for war. The imperialists attempted to instill in the people the idea that armed conflicts are inevitable, and they tried their hardest to inculcate militarism in the people and incite chauvinism among them. To achieve these aims, all means of propaganda were used—the press, literature, the arts, and the church. Taking advantage of the patriotic feelings of the people, the bourgeoisie in every country justified the arms race and camouflaged aggressive objectives with false arguments on the need to defend the native land against foreign enemies.

The international working class (more than 150 million persons) was a real force capable of significantly restraining the imperialist governments. At the international level, the working-class movement was headed by the Second International,which united 41 Social Democratic parties from 27 countries, with 3.4 million members. However, the opportunist leaders of the European Social Democratic parties did nothing to implement the antiwar decisions of the prewar congresses of the Second International. When the war began, the leaders of the Social Democratic parties of the Western countries came to the support of their governments and voted for military credits in parliament. The socialist leaders of Great Britain (A. Henderson), France (J. Guesde, M. Sembat, and A. Thomas), and Belgium (E. Vandervelde) joined the bourgeois military governments. Ideologically and politically, the Second International collapsed and ceased to exist, breaking up into social chauvinist parties.

Only the left wing of the Second International, with the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin in the vanguard, continued to fight consistently against militarism, chauvinism, and war. The basic principles defining the attitude of revolutionary Marxists toward war were set forth by Lenin in the Manifesto of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, “War and Russian Social Democracy.” Firmly opposed to the war, the Bolsheviks explained its imperialist character to the popular masses. The Bolshevik faction of the Fourth State Duma refused to support the tsarist government and vote for war credits. The Bolshevik Party called on the toiling people of all countries to work for the defeat of their governments in the war, the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war, and the revolutionary overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords. A revolutionary, antiwar stance was adopted by the Bulgarian Workers’ Social Democratic Party (Narrow Socialists), headed by D. Blagoev, G. Dimitrov, and V. Kolarov, and by the Serbian and Rumanian Social Democratic parties. Active opposition to the imperialist war was also shown by a small group of left-wing Social Democrats in Germany, led by K. Liebknecht, R. Luxemburg, C. Zetkin, and F. Mehring; by a few socialists in France, led by J. Jaurès; and by some socialists in other countries.

War plans and strategic deployment. Long before the war began, the general staffs had worked out war plans. All strategic calculations were oriented toward a short, fast-moving war. The German strategic plan provided for rapid, decisive actions against France and Russia. It assumed that France would be crushed in six to eight weeks, after which all German forces would descend on Russia and bring the war to a victorious conclusion. The bulk of German troops (four-fifths) were deployed on the western border of Germany and were designated for the invasion of France. It was their mission to deliver the main attack with the right wing through Belgium and Luxembourg, turning the left flank of the French Army west of Paris and, throwing it back toward the German border, forcing it to surrender. A covering force (one army) was stationed in East Prussia to oppose Russia. The German military command figured that it would be able to crush France and transfer troops to the east before the Russian Army went over to the offensive. The main forces of the German Navy (the High Seas Fleet) were to be stationed at bases in the North Sea. Their mission was to weaken the British Navy with actions using light forces and submarines and then destroy the main British naval forces in a decisive battle. A few cruisers were detailed for operations in the British sea-lanes. In the Baltic Sea the German Navy’s mission was to prevent vigorous actions by the Russian Navy.

The Austro-Hungarian command planned military operations on two fronts: against Russia in Galicia and against Serbia and Montenegro in the Balkans. They did not exclude the possibility of forming a front against Italy, an unreliable member of the Triple Alliance that might go over to the Entente. Consequently, the Austro-Hungarian command drew up three variations of a war plan and divided their ground forces into three operational echelons (groups): group A (nine corps), which was designated for actions against Russia; the “minimum Balkan” group (three corps), which was directed against Serbia and Montenegro; and group B (four corps), the reserve of the supreme command, which could be used either to reinforce the other groups or to form a new front if Italy became an enemy.

The general staffs of Austria-Hungary and Germany maintained close contact with each other and coordinated their strategic plans. The Austro-Hungarian plan for the war against Russia provided for delivering the main attack from Galicia between the Vistula and Bug rivers and moving northeast to meet German forces, which were supposed to develop an offensive at the same time moving southeast from East Prussia toward Siedlce, with the objectives of surrounding and destroying the grouping of Russian troops in Poland. The mission of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, which was stationed in the Adriatic Sea, was to defend the coast.

The Russian General Staff worked out two variations of the war plan, both of which were offensive. Under Variation A, the main forces of the Russian Army would be deployed against Austria-Hungary. Variation G was directed against Germany, should it deliver the main attack on the Eastern Front. Variation A, which was actually carried out, planned converging attacks in Galicia and East Prussia, with the aim of destroying the enemy groupings. This phase of the plan would be followed by a general offensive into Germany and Austria-Hungary. Two detached armies were assigned to cover Petrograd and southern Russia. In addition, the Army of the Caucasus was formed in case Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers. It was the mission of the Baltic Fleet to defend the sea approaches to Petrograd and prevent the German fleet from breaking through into the Gulf of Finland. The Black Sea Fleet did not have a ratified plan ofaction.

The French plan for the war against Germany (Plan XVII) envisioned going over to the offensive with the forces of the right wing of the armies in Lorraine and with the forces of the left wing against Metz. At first, the possibility of an invasion byGerman forces through Belgium was not taken into account, because Belgian neutrality had been guaranteed by the great powers, including Germany. However, a variation of Plan XVII ratified on Aug. 2, 1914, specified that in case of an offensive by German troops through Belgium, combat operations were to be developed on the left wing up to the line of the Meuse (Maas) River from Namur to Givet. The French plan reflected the lack of confidence of the French command,confronted with a struggle against a more powerful Germany. In fact, the plan made the actions of the French Army dependent on the actions of the German forces. The mission of the French fleet in the Mediterranean Sea was to ensure themovement of colonial troops from North Africa to France by blockading the Austro-Hungarian fleet in the Adriatic Sea. Part of the French fleet was assigned to defend the approaches to the English Channel.

Expecting that military operations on land would be waged by the armies of its allies, Russia and France, Great Britain did not draw up plans for operations by ground forces. It promised only to send an expeditionary corps to the continentto help the French. The navy was assigned active missions: to set up a long-range blockade of Germany on the North Sea, to ensure the security of sea-lanes, and to destroy the German fleet in a decisive battle.

The great powers carried out the strategic deployment of their armed forces in conformity with these plans. Germany moved seven armies (the First through Seventh, consisting of 86 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.6million men and about 5,000 guns) to the border with Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, along a 380-km front from Krefeld to Mulhouse. The main grouping of these forces (five armies) was located north of Metz on a 160-km front. The defense of the northern coast of Germany was assigned to the Northern Army (one reserve corps and four Landwehr brigades). The commander in chief was Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the chief of staff was General H. von Moltke the younger(from Sept. 14, 1914, E. Falkenhayn, and from Aug. 29, 1916, until the end of the war, Field Marshal General P. von Hindenburg).

The French armies (the First through Fifth, consisting of 76 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.73 million men and more than 4,000 guns), which were under the command of General J. J. C. Joffre, were deployed on front of approximately 345 km from Belfort to Hirson. (From December 1916, General R. Nivelle was commander in chief of the French armies, and from May 17, 1917, until the end of the war, General H. Pétain. On May 14, 1918, Marshal F. Foch became supreme commander of Allied forces.) The Belgian Army under the command of King Albert I (six infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 117,000 men and 312 guns) occupied a line east of Brussels. The British Expeditionary Force under the command of Field Marshal J. French (four infantry divisions and 1.5 cavalry divisions, with a total of 87,000 men and 328 guns) was concentrated in the Maubeuge region next to the left flank of the grouping of French armies. (From December 1915 until the end of the war, the British Expeditionary Force was under the command of General D. Haig.) The main grouping of Allied forces was northwest of Verdun.

Against Russia, Germany placed the Eighth Army (14.5 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of more than 200,000 men and 1,044 guns), under the command of General M. von Prittwitz und Gaffron, in East Prussia andGeneral R. von Woyrsch’s Landwehr corps in Silesia (two Landwehr divisions and 72 guns). Austria-Hungary had three armies (the First, Third, and Fourth) on a front from Czernowitz (now Chernovtsy) to Sandomierz. H. Kövess vonKövessháza’s army group (from August 23, the Second Army) was on the right flank, and Kummer’s army group was in the Kraków region (35.5 infantry divisions and 11 cavalry divisions, with about 850,000 men and 1,848 guns). Thesupreme commander in chief was Archduke Frederick. (Emperor Charles I became supreme commander in chief in November 1916.) The Austro-Hungarian chief of staff was Field Marshal General F. Conrad von Hötzendorf (from Feb. 28,1917, General Arz von Straussenburg).

Russia had six armies on its Western border (52 infantry divisions and 21 cavalry divisions, with a total of more than 1 million men and 3,203 guns). Two fronts were formed: the Northwestern Front (First and Second armies) and theSouthwestern Front (Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth armies). The Sixth Army was to defend the Baltic coast and cover Petrograd; the Seventh Army was to defend the northwest coast of the Black Sea and the boundary with Rumania. The divisions of the second strategic echelon and the Siberian divisions arrived at the front later, at the end of August and during September. On July 20 (August 2), Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich was appointed supreme commander in chief.(For a list of his successors, see SUPREME COMMANDER IN CHIEF.) The chiefs of staff of the supreme commander in chief were General N. N. Ianushkevich (July 19 [Aug. 1], 1914, to Aug. 18 [31], 1915) and General M. V. Alekseev (Aug. 18 [31],1915, to Nov. 10 [23], 1916; Feb. 17 [Mar. 2] to Mar. 11 [24], 1917; and Aug. 30 [Sept. 12] to Sept. 9 [22], 1917). At the end of 1916 and during 1917 the duties of chief of staff were temporarily carried out by Generals V. I. Romeiko-Gurko,V. N. Klembovskii, A. I. Denikin, A. S. Lukomskii, and N. N. Dukhonin. From Nov. 20 (Dec. 3), 1917, to Feb. 21, 1918, the chief of staff was M. D. Bonch-Bruevich, whose successors were S I. Kuleshin and M. M. Zagiu.

In the Balkans, Austria-Hungary set two armies against Serbia: the Fifth and Sixth armies, under the command of General O. Potiorek (13 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 140,000 men and 546 guns). Serbiadeployed four armies under the command of Voevoda R. Putnik (the First, Second, Third, and Fourth armies, consisting of 11 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 250,000 men and 550 guns). Montenegro had six infantrydivisions (35,000 men and 60 guns).

The strategic deployment of the armed forces of both sides was basically completed by August 4–6 (17–19). Military operations took place in Europe, Asia, and Africa, on all the oceans, and on many seas. The principal operations tookplace in five theaters of ground operations: Western Europe (from 1914), Eastern Europe (from 1914), Italy (from 1915), the Balkans (from 1914), and the Middle East (from 1914). In addition, military operations were carried out in East Asia (Tsingtao, 1914), on the Pacific islands (Oceania), and in the German colonies in Africa, including German East Africa (until the end of the war), German Southwest Africa (until 1915), Togo (1914), and the Cameroons (until 1916).Throughout the war the chief theaters of ground operations were the Western European (French) and the Eastern European (Russian). Particularly important theaters of naval operations were the North, Mediterranean, Baltic, and Black seas and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.

Campaign of 1914. In the Western European theater, military operations began with the invasion by German troops of Luxembourg (August 2) and Belgium (August 4), the latter having rejected a German ultimatum regarding the passage of German troops through its territory. Relying on the fortified areas of Liège and Namur, the Belgian Army offered the enemy stubborn resistance on the Meuse River line. Abandoning Liège after bitter fighting (August 16), the Belgian Army retreated toward Antwerp. Dispatching about two corps (80,000 men and 300 guns) against the Belgian Army, the German command directed the main grouping of its armies to the southwest, toward the Franco-Belgian border. The French armies of the left flank (the Third, Fourth, and Fifth armies) and the British Army were moved forward to meet the German forces. The Battle of the Frontiers took place on Aug. 21–25, 1914.

In view of the danger of the enemy turning the left flank of the Allied forces, the French command withdrew its armies deeper into the country to gain time to regroup its forces and prepare a counteroffensive. From August 7 to 14 the Frencharmies of the right flank (the First and Second armies) conducted an offensive in Alsace and Lorraine. But with the invasion by German forces of France through Belgium, the French offensive was brought to a halt, and both armies were drawn back to their initial positions. The main grouping of German armies continued its offensive along a southwest axis of advance toward Paris and, winning a series of local victories over the Entente armies at Le Cateau (August 26),Nesle and Proyart (August 28–29), and St. Quentin and Guise (August 29–30), reached the Marne River between Paris and Verdun by September 5. The French command completed the regrouping of its forces and, having formed two newarmies (the Sixth and the Ninth) from reserves, created a superiority of forces in this axis. In the battle of the Marne (Sept. 5–12, 1914), the German troops were defeated and forced to withdraw to the Aisne and Oise rivers, where they dug in and stopped the allied counteroffensive by September 16.

From September 16 to October 15, three operations by maneuver known as the Race to the Sea developed out of the attempts of each side to seize the “free space” west of the Oise and extending to the Pas-de-Calais, by enveloping the enemy’s open flanks on the north. The forces of both sides reached the coast west of Ostend. The Belgian Army, which had been forced to withdraw from Antwerp on October 8, occupied a sector on the left flank of the Allied armies. The battle in Flanders on the Yser and Ypres river (October 15 to November 20) did not change the overall situation. Attempts by the Germans to break through the Allied defense and take the ports on the Pas-de-Calais were unsuccessful.Having suffered considerable losses, both sides stopped active combat actions and dug in on the established lines. A static front was established from the Swiss border to the North Sea. In December 1914 it was 720 km long, with 650 km assigned to the French Army, 50 km to the British, and 20 km to the Belgians.

Military operations in the Eastern European theater began on August 4–7 (17–20), with the invasion of East Prussia by the inadequately prepared troops of the Russian Northwestern Front (commanded by General la. G. Zhilinskii; chief ofstaff, General V. A. Oranovskii). During the East Prussian Operation of 1914 the First Russian Army (General P. K. Rennenkampf, commander), advancing from the east, smashed units of the German I Corps near Stallüponen on August 4(17) and inflicted a defeat on the main forces of the German Eighth Army on August 7 (20) in the battle of Gumbinnen-Goldap. On August 7 (20) the Russian Second Army (commanded by General A. V. Samsonov) invaded East Prussia, delivering an attack on the flank and rear of the German Eighth Army. The commander of the Eighth Army decided to begin a withdrawal of forces from East Prussia beyond the Vistula, but the German supreme command, dissatisfied with this decision, ordered a change in command on August 10 (23), appointing General P. von Hindenburg commander and General E. Ludendorff chief of staff.

The offensive by Russian troops in East Prussia forced the German command to take two corps and one cavalry division from the Western Front and send them to the Eastern Front on August 13 (26). This was one of the causes of the defeat of German forces in the battle of the Marne. Taking advantage of the lack of cooperation between the First and Second armies and the mistakes of the Russian command, the enemy was able to inflict a heavy defeat on the Russian Second Army and then on the First Army and drive them out of East Prussia.

In the battle of Galicia (1914), which took place at the same time as the East Prussian Operation, the troops of the Russian Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General N. I. Ivanov; chief of staff, General M. V. Alekseev) inflicted amajor defeat on the Austro-Hungarian forces. They took L’vov on August 21 (September 3), laid seige to the Przemyśl fortress on September 8 (21), and, pursuing the enemy, reached the Wisłoka River and the foothills of the Carpathians by September 13 (26). A danger arose that Russian forces would invade the German province of Silesia. The German supreme command hurriedly transferred major forces from East Prussia to the region of Częstochowa and Kraków and formed a new army (the Ninth). The objective was to deliver a counter strike against Ivangorod (Dęblin) in the flank and rear of the troops of the Southwestern Front and thus to thwart the attack on Silesia that the Russian forces were preparing. Owing to a timely regrouping of forces carried out by Russian General Headquarters, in the Warsaw-Ivangorod Operation of 1914 the Russian armies stopped the advance of the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army on Ivangorod by September 26 (October 9) and then repulsed the German attack on Warsaw. On October 5 (18), Russian forces went over to the counteroffensive and threw the enemy back to the initial line.

The Russian armies resumed preparations for an invasion of Germany. The German command moved the Ninth Army from the Częstochowa region to the north, having decided to deliver a blow at the right flank and rear of the Russian offensive grouping. In the Łódź Operation of 1914, which began on October 29 (November 11), the enemy succeeded in thwarting the Russian plan, but an attempt to surround the Russian Second and Fifth armies in the Łódź region failed, and German troops were forced to withdraw, suffering heavy losses. At the same time, Russian troops of the Southwestern Front inflicted a defeat on Austro-Hungarian forces in the Częstochowa-Kraków Operation and reached the approaches to Kraków and Częstochowa. Having exhausted their capabilities, both sides went over to the defensive. The Russian armies, which had experienced a critical shortage of ammunition, dug in on the line of the Bzura, Rawka, and Nida rivers.

In the Balkan theater of operations, Austro-Hungarian forces invaded Serbia on August 12. Defeated in a meeting engagement that began on August 16 in the region of Cer Mountain, by August 24 the Austro-Hungarian forces had been thrown back to their initial position beyond the Drina and Sava rivers. On September 7 they renewed the offensive. A shortage of artillery and ammunition forced the Serbs to withdraw on November 7 to the east of the Kolubara River, but after receiving supplies from Russia and France, they went over to the counteroffensive on December 3. By mid-December they had liberated their country from enemy forces. The two sides took up defensive positions on the river boundary lines.

At the end of 1914 hostilities began in the Middle Eastern theater of operations. On July 21 (August 3), Turkey declared its neutrality, waiting and preparing for a convenient moment to come out on the side of the Central Powers. Encouraging Turkey’s aggressive aspirations in the Caucasus, Germany sent the battle cruiser Göben and the light cruiser Breslau to the Black Sea at the war’s beginning (August 10), to support the Turkish Navy. On October 16 (29),Turkish and German ships unexpectedly shelled Odessa, Sevastopol’, Feodosia, and Novorossiisk. On October 20 (November 2), Russia declared war on Turkey, followed by Great Britain (November 5) and France (November 6). Turkey declared a “holy war” against the Entente powers on November 12.

Turkish ground forces consisted of about 800,000 men. The Turkish First, Second, and Fifth armies were deployed in the Straits region; the Third Army, in Turkish Armenia; the Fourth Army, in Syria and Palestine; and the Sixth Army, in Mesopotamia. Sultan Mehmed V was nominally the supreme commander in chief, but in fact the duties of this position were carried out by Enver Pasha, the minister of war. The chief of staff was a German general, W. Bronsart von Schellendorf. Russia moved its Army of the Caucasus to the Turkish border (commander in chief, General I. I. Vorontsov-Dashkov; deputy commander in chief, General A. Z. Myshlaevskii; 170,000 men and 350 guns). In the second half of October (early November) clashes took place in the Erzurum axis. On October 25 (November 7) the Russians seized fortified positions near Köprüköy (50 km north of Erzurum). However, under pressure from the superior forces of the enemy, the Russians withdrew to their initial positions by November 26 (December 9). The Turkish Third Army went over to the offensive on December 9 (22), but during the Sankamuş Operation of 1914–15 it was routed. On November 10 British expeditionary corps landed at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, forming the Mesopotamian Front. On November 22 the British took Basra, which had been abandoned by the Turks. The British captured al-Qurnah on December 9 and established a firm position in southern Mesopotamia.

Germany was unsuccessful in combat operations in Africa, the Far East, and the Pacific Ocean, losing most of its colonies during a single military campaign. In 1914, Japan seized the Caroline, Mariana, and Marshall islands in the Pacific Ocean as well as Tsingtao, a German naval base in China. The Australians seized the German part of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and New Zealand captured the Samoan Islands. Anglo-French forces occupied the German colonies in Africa: Togo in August 1914, the Cameroons in January 1916, Southwest Africa by July 1915, and East Africa by late 1917. (Until the end of the war, German forces continued to conduct partisan actions in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique and the British colony of Southern Rhodesia.)

Naval operations were of a limited character in 1914. On August 28 there was a battle between light forces of the British and German fleets in the North Sea near the island of Helgoland. On November 5 (18) a Russian squadron waged battle against the German ships Göben and Breslau near Cape Sarych in the Black Sea (50 km southeast of Sevastopol’). Damaged, the German ships retreated. The German command attempted to step up the actions of its fleet in British sea-lanes in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. In the battle of Coronel (Nov. 1, 1914), Admiral M. von Spee’s German squadron (five cruisers) defeated Rear Admiral C. Cradock’s British squadron, but on December 8, Admiral von Spee’s squadron was destroyed by Admiral F. Sturdee’s British squadron near the Falkland Islands. By the beginning of November, three additional German cruisers operating in the Atlantic and Pacific had been sunk.

The campaign of 1914 did not produce decisive results for either side. In France both sides went over to a static defense. Elements of trench warfare also emerged in the Eastern European theater of operations. Military operations demonstrated that the general staffs had been mistaken in their prewar predictions that the war would be short. Stockpiles of armaments and ammunition were used up during the very first operations. At the same time, it became clear that the war would be long and that emergency measures must be taken to mobilize industry and to develop the production of arms and ammunition.

Campaign of 1915. The Anglo-French command decided to go over to a strategic defensive in the Western European theater of operations, in order to gain time to stockpile matériel and train reserves. In the campaign of 1915 the main burden of armed struggle was shifted onto Russia. At the demand of the Allies the Russian command planned simultaneous offensives against Germany (in East Prussia) and Austria-Hungary (in the Carpathians). The prospect of protracted war did not please the German high command, which knew that Germany and its allies could not withstand a lengthy struggle with the Entente powers, who possessed superiority in manpower reserves and material resources.Therefore, the German plan for the campaign of 1915 was an offensive plan that counted on rapidly achieving victory. Lacking sufficient forces to conduct offensives simultaneously in the East and the West, the German command decided to concentrate its main efforts on the Eastern Front, with the objectives of crushing Russia and forcing it to leave the war. A defensive posture was planned for the Western Front.

Russia had 104 divisions against the 74 divisions of the Central Powers (36 German and 38 Austro-Hungarian divisions). Attempting to forestall the offensive prepared by the Russians, between January 25 (February 7) and February 13 (26) the German command undertook the Augustów Operation of 1915 in East Prussia. However, they did not attain their objective of surrounding the Tenth Army of the Russian Northwestern Front. In February and March Russian command used the forces of the Tenth, Twelfth, and First armies to carry out the Przasnysz Operation, during which the enemy was thrown back to the borders of East Prussia. On the southern wing of the Eastern Front, the command of the Russian Southwestern Front carried out the Carpathian Operation of 1915. Beseiged by Russian troops, the 120,000-strong Przemyśl garrison surrendered on March 9 (22). Heavy but indecisive fighting continued in the Carpathians until April 20.Experiencing a critical shortage of weapons and ammunition, the Russian forces brought a halt to their active operations in April 1915.

By the summer of 1915 the German command had formed the Eleventh Army with troops transferred from the Western Front to Galicia. The German Eleventh Army and the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army, under the overall command of the German general A. von Mackensen, went over to the offensive on April 19 (May 2). With an enormous superiority in forces and means (especially in artillery), the enemy broke through the defense of the Russian Third Army near Görlitz. The Görlitz breakthrough of 1915 led to a deep withdrawal of the forces of the Southwestern Front, which left Galicia in May and June.

At the same time, German troops were advancing in the Baltic region. On April 24 (May 7) they took Libau (Liepāja) and reached Shavli (Ŝiauliai) and Kovno (Kaunas). In July the German command attempted to break through the defense of the Russian First Army with an attack of the newly formed Twelfth Army in the Przasnysz region. The Twelfth Army, in cooperation with the Austro-Hungarian Fourth and German Eleventh armies, which were advancing from Galicia toward the northeast, was to surround the main groupings of the Russian forces, which were in Poland. The German plan was unsuccessful, but the Russian troops were forced to withdraw from Poland.

In the Vil’na Operation of August 1915 the Germans attempted to surround the Russian Tenth Army in the Vil’na (Vilnius) region. On August 27 (September 9) the enemy managed to break through the Russian defense and gain the rear of the Tenth Army. However, the Russian command stopped the enemy breakthrough. In October 1915 the front stabilized on the line of Riga, the Zapadnaia Dvina River, Dvinsk, Smorgon’, Baranovichi, Dubno, and the Strypa River. The German command had failed in its plan to force Russia to leave the war in 1915.

At the beginning of 1915 there were 75 French, 11 British, and six Belgian divisions opposing 82 German divisions in the Western European theater of operations. The number of British divisions increased to 31 in September and 37 in December. Planning no major operations, both sides conducted only local battles in this theater of military operations during the campaign of 1915. On April 22 at Ypres the German command became the first to use chemical weapons(chlorine gas) on the Western Front: 15,000 persons were poisoned. The German troops advanced 6 km. In May and June the Allies launched an offensive in Artois. Carried out with insufficient forces, it did not influence the course of combat operations on the Russian Front.

On July 7 the Interallied War Council was formed in Chantilly, to coordinate the strategic efforts of the Entente powers. To assist Russia, the council decided to undertake an offensive on the Western Front, with the objective of drawing considerable German forces away from the Eastern Front. However, offensive operations were carried out only from September 25 to October 6 in Champagne and Artois. At this time active military operations had in fact ceased on the Russian Front. Moreover, the Allied forces were unable to break through the strong enemy defense.

In the Middle Eastern theater of operations Russian forces conducted the most active military operations. In the Alashgerd Operation they cleared the enemy from the area around Lakes Van and Urmia. The increasing activity of German and Turkish agents in Iran forced the Russian command to send troops into the northern part of that country. General N. N. Baratov’s Caucasus Expeditionary Corps (about 8,000 men and 20 guns) was transferred from Tiflis to Baku and transported over the Caspian Sea to the Iranian port of Enzeli (Bandar-e Pahlavi), where it landed on October 17 (30). In November the corps occupied the city of Qazvin, and on December 3 (16) it took the city of Hamadan. Attempts by Germany and Turkey to strengthen their influence in Iran and draw it into the war against Russia were thwarted. The Caucasian Front (commander in chief, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich), which united all the Russian forces operating in the Middle Eastern theater, was formed in October 1915.

On the Mesopotamian Front, British troops under the command of General C. Townshend moved slowly toward Baghdad in September 1915, but on November 22 they were attacked and routed by the Turks, 35 km from the city, and on December 7 they were beseiged in Kut al-Amarah. The Russian command offered to organize coordinated actions between the British forces and the forces of the Caucasian Front, but the British command refused the offer, because it did not want Russian forces to enter the oil-rich Mosul region. At the end of 1915 the British corps in Mesopotamia was replenished and converted into an expeditionary army. On the Syrian Front the Turkish Fourth Army attempted to take the Suez Canal, by attacking Egypt from Palestine, but the Turks were driven back by two Anglo-Indian divisions. The Turks took up a defensive position in the al-Arish region.

In 1915 the Entente succeeded in drawing Italy into the war on its side. The vacillation of the Italian government was ended by the promises of the Entente powers to give greater satisfaction to Italy’s territorial claims than had been offered by Germany. On Apr. 26, 1915, the Treaty of London was signed. On May 23, 1915, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, but it did not declare war against Germany until Aug. 28, 1916. The Italian Army (commander in chief, King Victor Emmanuel III; chief of staff, General L. Cadorna) had 35 divisions, with a total of about 870,000 men and 1,700 guns. On May 24, Italian forces began military operations on two axes: against Trent and simultaneously toward the Isonzo River with the mission of reaching Trieste. The Italians failed on both axes. By June 1915 military operations in the Italian theater had already assumed a static character. Four attacks by Italian forces on the Isonzo River ended in collapse.

In the Balkan theater of operations the position of the Allies became more complicated in October 1915, when Bulgaria entered the war on the side of the Central Powers (the Bulgarian-German Treaty of 1915 and the Bulgarian-Turkish Treaty of 1915). On September 8 (21), Bulgaria proclaimed a mobilization of its army (12 divisions, about 500,000 men). In late September (early October), 14 German and Austro-Hungarian divisions and six Bulgarian divisions under the overall command of Field Marshal General von Mackensen were deployed against Serbia. The Serbs had 12 divisions. To assist Serbia, Great Britain and France, under an agreement with Greece, began on September 22 (October 5) to land an expeditionary corps at Salonika (Thessaloniki) and move it toward the border between Greece and Serbia. On September 24 (October 7) the Austro-German and Bulgarian forces launched a converging offensive against Serbia from the north, west, and east. For two months the Serbian Army courageously repulsed the onslaught of the superior forces of the enemy, but it was compelled to withdraw through the mountains to Albania. Approximately 140,000 men were transported by the Entente fleet from Durrës (Durazzo) to the Greek island of Corfu (Kerkira). The Anglo-French expeditionary corps retreated to the Salonika region, where the Salonika Front was formed in late 1915. The occupation of Serbia secured for the Central Powers the opportunity to establish direct rail communication with Turkey, making it possible to provide Turkey with military assistance.

During 1915 the German Navy continued its attempts to weaken the fleets of its enemies and to undermine the supply of Great Britain by sea. On January 24 a battle took place between British and German squadrons at Dogger Bank (North Sea). Neither side attained success. On Feb. 18, 1915, Germany declared that it was initiating “unrestricted submarine warfare.” The sinking of the passenger steamers Lusitania (May 7) and Arabic (August 19) evoked protests from the USA and other neutral countries, forcing the German government to limit its submarine warfare to actions against warships.

In February 1915 the Anglo-French command began to carry out a naval operation, the Gallipoli Expedition (the Dardanelles Operation of 1915), attempting to use naval forces to cross the Dardanelles, break through to Constantinople, and put Turkey out of the war. The breakthrough failed. In April 1915 a major landing party was set down on the Gallipoli Peninsula, but Turkish forces offered stiff resistance. In December 1915 and January 1916 the Allied command was forced to evacuate the landing forces, which were transferred to the Salonika Front. During the preparation for and execution of the Gallipoli Expedition, there was a bitter diplomatic struggle among the Allies. The expedition was undertaken under the pretext of assisting Russia. In March-April 1915, Great Britain and France had reached an agreement with Russia, under which Constantinople and the Straits would be handed over to Russia after the war, on the condition that the latter did not interfere in the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey. In reality, the Allies intended to capture the Straits and deny Russia access to them. Anglo-French talks on the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey concluded with the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. In August the German Navy undertook the Moonsund Operation of 1915, which was a failure. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued to operate in Turkish sea-lanes. On April 21 (May 2), during the Gallipoli Expedition, it shelled the fortifications on the Bosporus.

The campaign of 1915 did not fulfill the hopes of either of the hostile coalitions, but its outcome was more favorable for the Entente. The German command, again failing to solve the problem of crushing its enemies one by one, faced the necessity of continuing a long war on two fronts. The chief burden of the struggle in 1915 was borne by Russia, giving France and Great Britain time to mobilize their economies to meet war needs. Russia also began to mobilize its industry. In 1915 the Russian Front grew more important: in the summer, 107 Austro-German divisions, or 54 percent of all the forces of the Central Powers, were stationed there, as compared to 52 divisions (33 percent) at the beginning of the war.

The war placed a heavy burden on the toiling people. Gradually freeing themselves of the chauvinistic attitudes that had been widespread at the beginning of the war, the popular masses became more and more resolutely opposed to the imperialist slaughter. Antiwar demonstrations took place in 1915, and the strike movement in the warring countries began to grow. This process developed with particular speed and violence in Russia, where conditions were greatly exacerbated by military defeats, and a revolutionary situation developed in the autumn of 1915. At the fronts, there were cases of fraternization among soldiers from hostile armies. The propaganda of the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, and the left groups of European socialists and Social Democratic parties helped arouse the masses to revolutionary activity. In Germany the International Group was formed in the spring of 1915 under the leadership of K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg. (From 1916 the group was known as the Spartacus League.) The Zimmerwald Conference (Sept. 5–8, 1915), an international socialist conference of great importance for the consolidation of revolutionary antiwar forces, adopted a manifesto that signified “a step toward an ideological and practical break with opportunism and social chauvinism” (Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27, p. 38).

Campaign of 1916. By the beginning of 1916 the Central Powers, having expended enormous efforts in the first two campaigns, had considerably depleted their resources but had been unable to force France or Russia to leave the war. The Entente raised the number of its divisions to 365, as against the 286 divisions of the German bloc.

The 1916 operations by the armies of the Central Powers were based on General von Falkenhayn’s plan, according to which the main efforts were again to be directed against France. The main attack was to be delivered in the Verdun region, which was of great operational importance. A breakthrough on this axis would threaten the entire northern wing of the Allied armies. The German plan called for active operations at the same time in the Italian theater, using the forces of the Austro-Hungarian armies. In the Eastern European theater of operations, the Germans decided to limit operations to a strategic defensive. The fundamentals of the Entente’s plan for the 1916 campaign were adopted at a conference in Chantilly (France) on Dec. 6–9, 1915. Offensives were planned for the Eastern European, Western European, and Italian theaters of operations. The Russian Army was to be the first to launch offensive operations, followed by the Anglo-French and Italian forces. The Allies’ strategic plan was the first attempt to coordinate troop operations on different fronts.

The Entente plan did not provide for going over to a general offensive until the summer of 1916. This ensured that the German command would keep the strategic initiative, a factor which it decided to use to its advantage. The Germans had 105 divisions on a front 680 km long in the Western European theater of operations. They were opposed by 139 Allied divisions (95 French, 38 British, and six Belgian divisions). On February 21 the German command began the Verdun Operation of 1916, without an overall superiority in forces. Bitter combat, during which both sides suffered heavy losses, continued until December. The Germans expended enormous efforts but were unable to break through the defense.

In the Italian theater of operations the command of the Italian Army launched its fifth unsuccessful offensive on the Isonzo River in March 1916. On May 15, Austro-Hungarian forces (18 divisions and 2,000 guns) delivered a counter blow in the Trentino region. The Italian First Army (16 divisions and 623 guns), unable to hold back the enemy onslaught, began to withdraw to the south. Italy requested emergency assistance from its allies.

Operations in the Eastern European theater, where 128 Russian divisions were deployed against 87 Austro-German divisions along a front 1,200 km long, were particularly important in the campaign of 1916. The Naroch (Narocz) Operation,which was carried out on March 5–17 (18–30), forced the Germans temporarily to weaken their attacks on Verdun. The Russian offensive on the Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General A. A. Brusilov), which began on May 22 (June 4), was of great importance. The Russians broke through the defense of the Austro-German forces to a depth of 80–120 km. The enemy suffered heavy losses (more than 1 million killed and wounded and more than 400,000 taken prisoner). The command of the Central Powers were forced to move 11 German divisions from France and six Austro-Hungarian divisions from Italy to the Russian Front.

The Russian offensive saved the Italian Army from destruction, eased the situation of the French at Verdun, and hastened Rumania’s entry into the war on the side of the Entente. Rumania declared war on Austria-Hungary on August 14(27), on Germany on August 15 (28), on Turkey on August 17 (30), and on Bulgaria on August 19 (September 1). The Rumanian armed forces consisted of four armies (23 infantry and two cavalry divisions; 250,000 men). The Russian 47th Army Corps was moved across the Danube to the Dobruja region to assist the Rumanian forces. With Russian support, Rumanian forces launched an offensive in Transylvania on August 20 (September 2) and later in the Dobruja region, but they did not attain success. The Austro-German command concentrated General von Falkenhayn’s army group in Transylvania (the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army, with a total of 26 infantry and seven cavalry divisions) and Field Marshal General von Mackensen’s German Danube Army in Bulgaria (nine infantry and two cavalry divisions). On September 13 (26) both groups, under the overall command of General von Falkenhayn, went over to the offensive at the same time. The Rumanian Army was routed.

On November 22 (December 6), German forces entered Bucharest, which the Rumanians abandoned without a fight. The Russian command moved in 35 infantry and 13 cavalry divisions to assist Rumania. Russia had to form a new Rumanian front. By the end of 1916, its forces had stopped the advance of the Austro-German armies on the line between Focşani and the mouth of the Danube. The formation of the Rumanian Front increased the total length of the front line by 500 km and diverted about a fourth of Russia’s armed forces, thereby worsening the strategic position of the Russian Army.

After lengthy preparation, Anglo-French forces opened a major offensive on the Somme River on July 1, but it developed very slowly. Tanks were used for the first time on September 15 by the British. The Allies continued the offensive until mid-November, but despite enormous losses, they advanced only 5–15 km and failed to break through the German static front.

In the Middle Eastern theater of operations the forces of the Russian Caucasian Front successfully carried out the Erzurum Operation of 1916, the Trabzon Operation of 1916, and the Erzincan and Oğnut operations, taking the cities ofErzurum, Trabzon, and Erzincan. General N. N. Baratov’s I Caucasus Cavalry Corps launched an offensive on the Mosul and Baghdad axes, with the objective of assisting the British, who were beseiged at Kut al-Amarah. In February the corps took Kermanshah, and in May it reached the Turkish-Iranian border. With the surrender of the garrison at Kut al-Amarah on Apr. 28, 1916, the Russian corps brought a halt to its advance and took up a defensive position east of Kermanshah.

In naval operations, the British fleet continued its long-range blockade of Germany. German submarines were active on the sea-lanes. The system of minefields was improved. The battle of Jutland (1916) was the war’s only major naval battle between the main forces of the British Navy (Admiral J. Jellicoe) and the German Navy (Admiral R. Scheer). The battle involved 250 surface ships, including 58 capital ships (battleships and battle cruisers). As a result of its superiority in forces, the British fleet was victorious, even though it suffered greater losses than the German fleet. The defeat shattered the German command’s belief that it was possible to break through the British blockade. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued its actions on enemy sea-lanes, blockading the Bosporus from August 1916.

The campaign of 1916 did not result in the achievement of the objectives set at the beginning by either coalition, but the superiority of the Entente over the Central Powers became evident. The strategic initiative passed fully to the Entente, and Germany was forced to go over to the defensive on all fronts.

The bloody battles of 1916, which involved enormous human sacrifices and great expenditures of matériel, were depleting the resources of the belligerent powers. The situation of the working people continued to worsen, but the revolutionary movement also continued to grow stronger in 1916. The Kienthal Conference of internationalists (Apr. 24–30, 1916) played an important role in increasing solidarity among revolutionary forces. The revolutionary movement developed with particular speed and turbulence in Russia, where the war had finally revealed to the popular masses the complete decadence of tsarism. A powerful wave of strikes swept over the country, led by the Bolsheviks under the slogans of struggle against the war and the autocracy. The Middle Asian Uprising, a national liberation movement, took place from July to October 1916. In the autumn a revolutionary situation took shape in Russia. The inability of tsarism to win the war aroused discontent among the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie, who began to prepare a palace revolution. The revolutionary movement grew stronger in other countries. The Irish Rebellion, or Easter Rising (Apr. 24–30, 1916), was harshly suppressed by British troops. On May 1, K. Liebknecht led a massive antiwar demonstration in Berlin. The growing revolutionary crisis forced the imperialists to direct their efforts toward quickly ending the war. In 1916, Germany and tsarist Russia attempted to open separate peace negotiations.

Campaign of 1917. As the campaign of 1917 was prepared and carried out, the revolutionary movement grew considerably stronger in every country. Protest against the war with its enormous losses, against the sharp decline in the standard of living, and against the increasing exploitation of the working people became stronger among the popular masses at the front and in the rear. The revolutionary events in Russia had a tremendous effect on the subsequent course of the war.

By the beginning of the campaign of 1917, the Entente had 425 divisions (21 million men), and the Central Powers, 331 divisions (10 million men). In April 1917 the USA entered the war on the side of the Entente. The fundamental principles of the plan for the campaign of 1917 were adopted by the Allies at the third conference in Chantilly on Nov. 15–16, 1916, and were made more specific in February 1917 at a conference in Petrograd. The plan provided for limited operations on all fronts early in the year, to hold the strategic initiative. In the summer the Allies were to go over to a general offensive in the Western European and Eastern European theaters of operations, with the objective of finally crushing Germany and Austria-Hungary. The German command rejected offensive operations on land and decided to focus its attention on waging “unrestricted submarine warfare,” believing that it could disrupt the British economy in six months and force Great Britain out of the war. On Feb. 1, 1917, Germany declared “unrestricted submarine warfare” on Great Britain for the second time. Between February and April 1917, German submarines destroyed more than 1,000 merchant ships of the Allied and neutral countries (a total of 1,752,000 tons). By mid-1917, Great Britain, which had lost merchant ships amounting to approximately 3 million tons, found itself in a difficult situation. It could only make up for 15 percent of the losses, and this was not enough to sustain the export and import traffic essential to the country. By the end of 1917, however, after the organization of a reinforced defense of the sea-lanes and the development of various means of antisubmarine defense, the Entente managed to reduce its merchant ship losses. “Unrestricted submarine warfare” did not fulfill the hopes of the German command. Meanwhile, the continuing British blockade was starving Germany.

In executing the general plan for the campaign, the Russian command carried out the Mitau Operation on Dec. 23–29, 1916 (Jan. 5–11, 1917), with the objective of diverting part of the enemy forces from the Western European theater of operations. On February 27 (March 12) a bourgeois democratic revolution took place in Russia (the February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution of 1917). Under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, the proletariat, demanding peace, bread, and freedom, led the majority of the army, which was made up of workers and peasants, in the overthrow of the autocracy. However, the bourgeois Provisional Government came to power. Expressing the interests of Russian imperialism, it continued the war. Deceiving the masses of soldiers with false promises of peace, it opened an offensive operation with the troops of the Southwestern Front. The operation ended in failure (the June Operation of 1917).

By the summer of 1917 the combat capability of the Rumanian Army had been restored with Russian assistance, and in the battle of Mărăşeşti (July-August) Russian and Rumanian forces repulsed the German forces, which were attempting to break through to the Ukraine. On August 19–24 (September 1–6), during the Riga defensive operation, Russian troops surrendered Riga. The revolutionary sailors of the Baltic Fleet heroically defended the Moonsund Archipelago in the Moonsund Operation of Sept. 29 (Oct. 12)-Oct. 6 (19), 1917. These were the last operations on the Russian Front.

The Great October Socialist Revolution took place on Oct. 25 (Nov. 7), 1917. The proletariat, in alliance with the poorest peasants and under the leadership of the Communist Party, overthrew the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords and opened the era of socialism. Carrying out the will of the people, the Soviet government addressed a proposal to all the warring powers, calling for the conclusion of a just democratic peace without annexations and reparations (the decree on peace). When the Entente powers and the USA refused to accept the proposal, the Soviet government was forced to conclude an armistice with the German coalition on December 2(15) and begin peace negotiations without the participation of Russia’s former allies. On November 26 (December 9), Rumania concluded the Focşani armistice with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

In the Italian theater of operations there were 57 Italian divisions opposing 27 Austro-Hungarian divisions in April 1917. Despite the numerical superiority of the Italian forces, the Italian command was unable to attain success. Three more offensives against the Isonzo River failed. On October 24, Austro-Hungarian troops went over to the offensive in the Caporetto region, broke through the Italians’ defense, and inflicted a major defeat on them. Without the assistance of 11 British and French divisions transferred to the Italian theater of operations, it would not have been possible to stop the advance of the Austro-Hungarian forces at the Piave River in late November. In the Middle Eastern theater of operations British troops advanced successfully in Mesopotamia and Syria. They took Baghdad on March 11 and Be’er Sheva’ (Beersheba), Gaza, Jaffa, and Jerusalem in late 1917.

The Entente plan of operations in France, which was developed by General Nivelle, called for delivering the main attack on the Aisne River between Reims and Soissons, in order to break through the enemy defense and surround the German forces in the Noyon salient. Learning of the French plan, by March 17 the German command withdrew its forces 30 km to a previously prepared line known as the Siegfried Line. Subsequently, the French command decided to begin the offensive on a broad front, committing to action major forces and means: six French and three British armies (90 infantry and ten cavalry divisions), more than 11,000 guns and mortars, 200 tanks, and about 1,000 airplanes.

The Allied offensive began on April 9 in the Arras region, on April 12 near St. Quentin, and on April 16 in the Reims region and continued until April 20–28 and May 5 on some axes. The April offensive (the “Nivelle slaughter”) ended incomplete failure. Although about 200,000 men had been lost, the Allied forces had not been able to break through the front. Mutinies broke out in the French Army, but they were cruelly suppressed. A Russian brigade that had been in France since 1916 took part in the offensive on the Aisne River. In the second half of 1917, Anglo-French forces carried out a number of local operations: Messines (June 7-August 30), Ypres (July 31-November 6), Verdun (August 20–27),and Malmaison (October 23–26). At Cambrai (November 20-December 6) massed tanks were used for the first time.

The campaign of 1917 did not produce the results anticipated by either side. The revolution in Russia and the lack of coordinated action by the Allies thwarted the Entente’s strategic plan, which had been intended to crush the Austro-Hungarian bloc. Germany succeeded in repulsing the enemy attacks, but its hope of attaining victory by means of “unrestricted submarine warfare” proved vain, and the troops of the coalition of Central Powers were forced to go over to the defensive.

Campaign of 1918. By early 1918 the military and political situation had changed fundamentally. After the October Revolution Soviet Russia quit the war. Under the influence of the Russian Revolution, a revolutionary crisis was ripening in the other warring powers. The Entente countries (excluding Russia) had 274 divisions at the beginning of 1918—that is, forces approximately equal to those of the German bloc, which had 275 divisions (not counting 86 divisions in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region and nine divisions in the Caucasus). The military and economic situation of the Entente was stronger than that of the German bloc. However, the Allied command believed that even more powerful human and material resources would have to be prepared, with the assistance of the USA, in order to finally crush Germany.

Strategic defensives were planned for all theaters of military operations in the campaign of 1918. The decisive offensive against Germany was postponed until 1919. Their resources running out, the Central Powers were eager to end the war as quickly as possible. Having concluded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Soviet Russia on Mar. 3, 1918, the German command decided in March to go over to the offensive on the Western Front to crush the Entente armies. At the same time, German and Austro-Hungarian forces, in violation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, began occupying the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region. Rumania was drawn into the anti-Soviet intervention after May 7, when it signed the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1918, the terms of which were dictated by the Central Powers.

On March 21 the German command began a major offensive operation on the Western Front (the March Offensive in Picardy). Their intention was to cut off the British forces from the French forces by means of an attack on Amiens, then crush them and reach the sea. The Germans made sure that they would have superiority in forces and means (62 divisions, 6,824 guns, and about 1,000 airplanes against 32 divisions, about 3,000 guns, and about 500 airplanes for the British). The German forces broke through the Allied defense to a depth of 60 km. The Allied command eliminated the breakthrough by bringing reserves into the battle. The German forces suffered heavy losses (about 230,000 men) but did not achieve their assigned objective. Going over to the offensive again on April 9 in Flanders on the Lys River, the German forces advanced 18 km, but by April 14 the Allies stopped them.

On May 27 the German armies delivered an attack north of Reims (the battle of the Chemin des Dames). They managed to cross the Aisne River and penetrate the Allied defense to a depth of about 60 km, reaching the Marne in the Château-Thierry region by May 30. Having arrived within 70 km of Paris, the German forces were unable to overcome French resistance, and on June 4 they went over to the defensive. The attempt of German troops from June 9 to 13 to advance between Montdidier and Noyon was equally unsuccessful.

On July 15 the German command made a final attempt to defeat the Allied armies by opening a major offensive on the Marne. The battle of the Marne of 1918 (the second battle of the Marne) did not fulfill the Germans’ hopes. After crossing the Marne, they were unable to advance more than 6 km. On July 18, Allied forces delivered a counterattack; by August 4 they had driven the enemy back to the Aisne and the Vesle. In four months of offensive operations the German command had completely exhausted its reserves but had been unable to crush the Entente armies.

The Allies took firm control of the strategic initiative. On August 8–13 the Anglo-French armies inflicted a major defeat on the German forces in the Amiens Operation of 1918, making them withdraw to the line from which their March offensive had begun. Ludendorff referred to August 8 as “the black day of the German Army.” On September 12–15 the American First Army, commanded by General J. Pershing, won a victory over German forces at St. Mihiel (the St. Mihiel Operation). On September 26, Allied forces (202 divisions against 187 weakened German divisions) began a general offensive along the entire 420-km front from Verdun to the sea and broke through the German defense.

In the other theaters of military operations the campaign of 1918 ended with the defeat of Germany’s allies. The Entente had 56 divisions, including 50 Italian divisions, in the Italian theater of operations, as well as more than 7,040 guns and more than 670 airplanes. Austria-Hungary had 60 divisions, 7,500 guns, and 580 airplanes. On June 15 the Austro-Hungarian forces, going over to the offensive south of Trent, broke through the enemy defense and advanced 3–4 km, but on June 20–26 they were thrown back to the starting line by counterattack by Allied forces. On October 24 the Italian Army went over to the offensive against the Piave River, but it made only an insignificant advance. On October 28 units of the Austro-Hungarian Fifth and Sixth armies, refusing to fight, began to abandon their positions. They were soon joined by troops of other armies, and a disorderly retreat of all the Austro-Hungarian forces began on November 2. On November 3,Austria-Hungary signed an armistice with the Entente at Villa Giusti (near Padua).

In the Balkan theater of operations, the Allied forces consisted of 29 infantry divisions (eight French, four British, six Serbian, one Italian, and ten Greek divisions and one French cavalry group, a total of about 670,000 men; and 2,070 guns).Facing them along a 350-km front from the Aegean to the Adriatic were the forces of the Central Powers—the German Eleventh Army; the Bulgarian First, Second, and Fourth armies; an Austro-Hungarian corps (a total of about 400,000 men); and 1,138 guns. On September 15 the Allies began an offensive; by September 29 they had advanced to a depth of 150 km along a front of 250 km. Surrounded, the German Eleventh Army surrendered on September 30. The Bulgarian armies were smashed. On September 29, Bulgaria signed an armistice with the Entente in Salonika.

The British army of General E. H. Allenby and the Arab army commanded by Emir Faisal and the British intelligence officer Colonel T. E. Lawrence (a total of 105,000 men and 546 guns) were operating on the Syrian Front, where Turkey had three armies—the Fourth, the Seventh, and the Eighth (a total of 34,000 men and about 330 guns). The Allied offensive began on September 19. Breaking through the enemy defense and pushing forward cavalry units to the enemy rear, Allied troops forced the Turkish Eighth and Seventh armies to surrender; the Turkish Fourth Army retreated. Between September 28 and October 27 the Allies captured Akko (Acre), Damascus, Tripoli, and Aleppo. A French landing party went ashore at Beirut on October 7.

On the Mesopotamian Front the British expeditionary army of General W. Marshall (five divisions) went on the offensive against the Turkish Sixth Army (four divisions). The British captured Kirkuk on October 24 and Mosul on October 31.The Entente powers and Turkey signed the Moudhros Armistice on Oct. 30, 1918, aboard the British battleship Agamemnon in Moudhros Bay (the island of Limnos).

In early October, Germany’s position became hopeless. On October 5 the German government asked the US government for an armistice. The Allies demanded the withdrawal of German forces from all occupied territory in the west. The military defeats and economic exhaustion of Germany had accelerated the development of a revolutionary crisis. The victory and progress of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia strongly influenced the growth of the revolutionary movement of the German people. On Oct. 30, 1918, an uprising broke out among the sailors in Wilhelmshaven. The Kiel Mutiny of sailors in the German fleet took place on Nov. 3, 1918; on November 6 the uprising spread to Hamburg, Lübeck, and other cities. On November 9 the revolutionary German workers and soldiers overthrew the monarchy. Fearing further development of the revolution in Germany, the Entente hurried to conclude the Armistice of Compiègne with Germany on Nov. 11, 1918. Germany, admitting that it had been defeated, obligated itself to remove its forces immediately from all occupied territories and turn over to the Allies a large quantity of armaments and military equipment.

Results of the war. World War I ended in the defeat of Germany and its allies. After the conclusion of the Armistice of Compiègne the victorious powers began developing plans for a postwar “settlement.” Treaties with the defeated countries were prepared at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919–20. A number of separate treaties were signed: the Peace Treaty of Versailles with Germany (June 28, 1919), the Treaty of St.-Germain with Austria (Sept. 10, 1919), the Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria (Nov. 27, 1919), the Treaty of Trianon with Hungary (June 4, 1920), and the Treaty of Sèvres with Turkey (Aug. 10, 1920). The Paris Peace Conference also adopted a resolution regarding the establishment of the League of Nations and approved its Covenant, which became part of the peace treaties. Germany and its former allies were deprived of considerable territories and compelled to pay heavy reparations and greatly reduce their armed forces.

The postwar peace “settlement” in the interests of the victorious imperialist powers was completed by the Washington Conference on Naval Limitations (1921–22). The treaties with Germany and its former allies and the agreements signed at the Washington Conference constituted the Versailles-Washington system of peace. The result of compromises and deals, it failed to eliminate the contradictions among the imperialist powers and in fact considerably exacerbated them. Lenin wrote: “Today, after this ‘peaceful’ period, we see a monstrous intensification of oppression, the reversion to a colonial and military oppression that is far worse than before” (ibid., 5th ed., vol. 41, p. 217). The imperialist powers began to struggle for a repartition of the world, preparing for another world war.

In its scope and consequences World War I was unprecedented in the history of the human race. It lasted four years, three months, and ten days (from Aug. 1, 1914, to Nov. 11, 1918), engulfing 38 countries with a combined population of more than 1.5 billion. The Entente countries mobilized about 45 million men, and the coalition of the Central Powers, 25 million —a total of 70 million men. The most able-bodied men on both sides were removed from material production and sent to exterminate each other, fighting for the interests of the imperialists. By the end of the war, the ground forces exceeded their peacetime counterparts by a factor of 8.5 in Russia, five in France, nine in Germany, and eight in Austria-Hungary. As much as 50 and even 59.4 percent (in France) of the able-bodied male population was mobilized. The Central Powers mobilized almost twice the percentage of the total population as the Entente (19.1 percent, as compared to 10.3 percent). About 16 million men—more than one-third of all those mobilized by the Entente and its allies— were mobilized for the Russian armed forces. In June 1917, 288 (55.3 percent) of the Entente’s 521 divisions were Russian. In Germany, 13.25 million men were mobilized, or more than half of all the soldiers mobilized by the Central Powers. In June 1918, 236 (63.4 percent) of the Central Powers’ 361 divisions were German. The large size of the armies resulted in the formation of vast fronts up to 3,000–4,000 km long.

WWIGraph5

The war demanded the mobilization of all material resources, demonstrating the decisive role of the economy in an armed struggle. World War I was characterized by the massive use of many types of matériel. “It is the first time in history that the most powerful achievements of technology have been applied on such a scale, so destructively and with such energy, for the annihilation of millions of human lives” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 36, p. 396). Industry in the warring countries supplied the fronts with millions of rifles, more than 1 million light and heavy machine guns, more than 150,000 artillery pieces, 47.7 billion cartridges, more than 1 billion shells, 9,200 tanks, and about 182,000 airplanes (see Table 4). During the war the number of heavy artillery pieces increased by a factor of eight, the number of machine guns by a factor of 20, and the number of airplanes by a factor of 24. The war created a demand for large quantities of various materials, such as lumber and cement. About 4 million tons of barbed wire were used. Armies of millions of men demanded an uninterrupted supply of food, clothing, and forage. For example, from 1914 to 1917 the Russian Army consumed (in round figures) 9.64 million tons of flour, 1.4 million tons of cereal, 8.74 million tons of meat, 510,000 tons of fats, 11.27 million tons of forage oats and barley, and 19.6 million tons of hay, with a total value of 2,473,700,000 rubles (at 1913 prices). The front was supplied with 5 million sheepskin coats and pea jackets, 38.4 million sweaters and padded vests, more than 75 million pairs of underwear, 86.1 million pairs of high boots and shoes, 6.6 million pairs of felt boots, and other clothing.

Military enterprises alone could not produce such enormous quantities of armaments and other supplies. Industry was mobilized by means of a large-scale conversion of consumer-goods plants and factories to the production of war goods. In Russia in 1917, 76 percent of the workers were engaged in meeting war needs; in France, 57 percent; in Great Britain, 46 percent; in Italy, 64 percent; in the USA, 31.6 percent; and in Germany, 58 percent. In most of the warring countries, however, industry was unable to supply the needs of the armies for armaments and equipment. Russia, for example, was forced to order armaments, ammunition, clothing, industrial equipment, steam locomotives, coal, and certain other types of strategic raw materials from the USA, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Japan, and other countries. During the war, however, these countries provided the Russian Army with only a small proportion of its total requirements for armaments and ammunition: 30 percent of the rifles, less than 1 percent of the rifle cartridges, 23 percent of the guns of different calibers, and 20 percent of the shells for these guns.

In all the major countries special state bodies were established to manage the war economies: in Germany the Department of War Raw Materials, in Great Britain the Ministry of Munitions, and in Russia the Special Conferences (for state defense, fuel, shipping, and food). These state bodies planned war production; distributed orders, equipment, and raw and processed materials; rationed food and consumer goods; and exercised control over foreign trade. The capitalists formed their own representative organizations to assist the state bodies: in Germany the Central War Industries Council and war industries committees for each sector, in Great Britain the supervisory committees, and in Russia the war industries committees and the Zemstvo and Municipal unions. As a result, an interlocking relationship developed between the state administrative apparatus and the monopolies. “The imperialist war has immensely accelerated and intensified the process of transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 33, p. 3). Although the state bodies managing the war economy had strong assistance from the representative organizations of the capitalists, the very nature of the capitalist economy prevented them from achieving complete success.

The war made intensive demands on all types of transportation. Up to half of all railroad rolling stock was loaded with military shipments. Most motor vehicles were used for military needs. A large number of the merchant vessels of the warring and neutral countries were engaged in shipping cargoes for war industries and armies. During the war 6,700 vessels (excluding sailing ships) were sunk (total displacement, about 15 million tons, or 28 percent of the prewar world tonnage).

The increase in military production, which was achieved primarily at the expense of nonmilitary sectors, placed excessive strains on the national economies, resulting in the disruption of the proportion between different sectors of production and, ultimately, in economic disorder. In Russia, for example, two-thirds of all industrial output went for war needs and only one-third for consumer needs, giving rise to a scarcity of goods, as well as to high prices and speculation. As early as 1915 there were shortages of many types of industrial raw materials and fuel, and by 1916 there was a severe raw materials and fuel crisis in Russia. As a result of the war, the production of many types of industrial output declined in other countries. There was a significant decline in the smelting of pig iron, steel, and nonferrous metals; the extraction of coal and petroleum; and output from all branches of light industry. The war damaged society’s productive forces and undermined the economic life of the people of the world.

In agriculture the effects of the war were especially grave. Mobilization deprived the countryside of its most productive workers and draft animals. Sown areas were cut back, yields dropped, and the number of livestock decreased and their productivity declined. Severe shortages of food developed in the cities of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, which later experienced famine. The shortages spread to the army, resulting in cuts in food rations.

World War I demanded colossal financial expenditures, many times greater than the expenditures in all previous wars. There is no scientifically substantiated estimate of the total cost of World War I, but the one most commonly cited in the literature was calculated by the American economist E. Bogart, who set the total cost of the war at $359.9 billion in gold (699.4 billion rubles), including $208.3 billion (405 billion rubles) of direct (budgeted) expenditures and $151.6 billion (294.4 billion rubles) of indirect expenditures. Direct war expenditures included the cost of maintaining the army (40 percent) and the cost of the material and technological means for waging war (60 percent). The national income provided the economic base for covering war expenditures. Additional sources of financing the war were increases in existing (direct and indirect) taxes and the institution of new taxes, the sale of domestic and foreign bonds, and the issuing of paper money. The full weight of the financial burden of the war fell on the toiling classes of the population.

World War I was an important stage in the history of the art of war and in the building of armed forces. There were major changes in the organization and relationships of the various combat arms. The great length of the fronts and the deployment on them of vast armies of millions of soldiers led to the creation of new organizational units: fronts and army groups. The firepower of the infantry increased, but its proportionate role decreased somewhat as the result of the development of other combat arms: engineers, signal troops, and especially, the artillery. The number of artillery pieces rose sharply, technology improved, and new types of artillery were developed (antiaircraft, infantry support, and antitank artillery). The range of fire, destructive force of fire, and mobility of the artillery increased. The density of artillery reached 100 or more guns per kilometer of front. Infantry attacks were accompanied by rolling barrages.

Tanks, a powerful striking and mobile force, were used for the first time. Tank forces developed rapidly. By the war’s end there were 8,000 tanks in the Entente armies. In aviation, which also developed rapidly, several different branches emerged: fighter, reconnaissance, bombardment, and ground attack aviation. By the end of the war the belligerent powers had more than 10,000 combat aircraft. Antiaircraft defense developed in the air war. Chemical warfare troops appeared. The significance of the cavalry among the combat arms declined, and by the war’s end the number of cavalry troops had dropped sharply.

The war revealed the growing dependence of the art of war on economics and politics. The scale of operations, the extent of the front of attack, and the depth and rate of advance increased. With the establishment of continuous fronts,combat operations became static. The frontal blow, the success of which determined the outcome of an operation, became very important. During World War I the problem of the tactical breakthrough of a front was solved, but the problem of developing a breakthrough into an operational success remained unsolved. New means of fighting complicated the tactics of the combat arms. At the beginning of the war the infantry conducted offensives in skirmish lines and later, in waves of lines and combat teams (squads). Combined arms combat was based on cooperation between old and new combat arms—the infantry, the artillery, tanks, and aviation. Control of troops became more complex. The role of logistics and supplies increased significantly. Rail and motor-vehicle transport became very important.

The types and classes of naval ships were refined, and there was an increase in the proportion of light forces (cruisers, destroyers, patrol vessels and patrol boats, and submarines). Shipboard artillery, mines, torpedoes, and naval aviation were used extensively. The chief forms of military operations at sea were the blockade; cruiser, submarine, and mine warfare; landings and raids; and engagements and battles between line forces and light forces. The experience of World War I greatly influenced the development of military thinking and the organization and combat training of all combat arms (forces) until World War II (1939–45).

The war brought unprecedented deprivation and human suffering and widespread hunger and devastation. It brought mankind “to the brink of a precipice, to the brink of the destruction of civilization, of brutalization” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 31, p.182). Valuables worth 58 billion rubles were destroyed during the war. Entire regions, especially in northern France, were turned into wastelands.

Casualties amounted to 9.5 million killed and dead of wounds and 20 million wounded, of whom 3.5 million were permanently crippled. The heaviest losses (66.6 percent of the total) were suffered by Germany, Russia, France, and Austria-Hungary. The USA sustained only 1.2 percent of the total losses. Many civilians were killed by the various means of combat. (There are no overall figures for combat-related civilian casualties.) Hunger and other privations caused by the war led to a rise in the mortality rate and a drop in the birthrate. The population loss from these factors was more than 20 million in the 12 belligerent states alone, including 5 million in Russia, 4.4 million in Austria-Hungary, and 4.2 million in Germany. Unemployment, inflation, tax increases, and rising prices worsened the poverty and extreme deprivation of the large majority of the population of the capitalist countries.

Only the capitalists gained any advantages from the war. By the beginning of 1918, the war profits of the German monopolies totaled at least 10 billion gold marks. The capital of the German finance magnate Stinnes increased by a factor of ten, and the net profits of the “cannon king” Krupp, by a factor of almost six. Monopolies in France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan made large profits, but the American monopolies made the most on the war—between 1914 and 1918, $3 billion in profits. “The American multimillionaires profited more than all the rest. They have converted all, even the richest, countries into their tributaries. And every dollar is stained with blood—from that ocean of blood that has been shed by the 10 million killed and 20 million maimed” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 37, p. 50). The profits of the monopolies continued to grow after the war.

The ruling classes placed the entire burden of the economic consequences of the war on the toiling people. World War I led to an aggravation of the class struggle and accelerated the ripening of the objective prerequisites for the Great October Socialist Revolution, which opened a new epoch in world history—the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism. The example of Russia’s toiling people, who threw off the oppression of the capitalists and landlords, showed other peoples the way to liberation. A wave of revolutionary actions swept over many countries, shaking the foundations of the world capitalist system. The national liberation movement became active in the colonial and dependent countries. “World War I and the October Revolution marked the beginning of the general crisis of capitalism” (Programma KPSS, 1974, p. 25). Politically, this was the chief result of the war.

SOURCES

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Lloyd George, D. Voennye memuary, vols. 1–6. Moscow, 1934–38. (Translated from English.)
Ludendorff, E. Moi vospominaniia o voine 1914–1918 gg, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1923–24. (Translated from German.)
Tirpitz, A. von. Vospominaniia. Moscow, 1957. (Translated from German.)
Foch, F. Vospominaniia (Voina 1914–1918 gg). Moscow, 1939. (Translated from French.)
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British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898–1914, vols. 1–11. London, 1926–28.
Documents diplomatiques français [1871–1914], series 1–3, vols. 1–41. Paris, 1929–59.
Der erste Weltkrieg in Bildern und Dokumenten, 2nd ed., vols. 1–3. Munich, 1969.
Conrad von Hôtzendorf, F. Aus meiner Dientzeit, 1906–1918, vols. 1–5. Vienna, 1921–25.
Churchill, W. L. S. The World Crisis, vols. 1–6. London, 1923–31.
Joffre, J. Mémoires (1910–1917,) vols. 1–2. Paris, 1932.

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Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See Reference Volume, part 1, pp. 177–87.)
Vsemirnaia istoriia, vols. 7–8. Moscow, 1960–61.
Istoriia SSSR s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei, vols. 6–7. Moscow, 1967–68.
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Istoriia KPSS, vols. 2–3 (book 1). Moscow, 1966–67.
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Strokov, A. A. Istoriia voennogo iskusstvo, vol. 3. Moscow, 1967.
Talenskii, N. A. Pervaia mirovaia voina (1914–1918): (Boevye deistviia na sushe i na more). Moscow, 1944.
Verzhkhovskii, D., and V. Liakhov. Pervaia mirovaia voina, 1914–1918. Moscow, 1964.
Zaionchkovskii, A. M. Mirovaia voina 1914–1918 gg., 3rd ed., vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1938–39.
Zaionchkovskii, A. M. Podgotovka Rossii k imperialisticheskoi voine: Ocherki voennoi podgotovki i pervonachal’nykh planov. Moscow, 1926.
Bovykin, V. I. Iz istorii vozniknoveniia pervoi mirovoi voiny: Otnosheniia Rossii i Frantsii ν 1912–1914. Moscow, 1961.
Ignat’ev, A. V. Russko-angliiskie otnosheniia nakanune pervoi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1962.
Ignat’ev, A. V. Russko-angliiskie otnosheniia nakanune Okliabr’skoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1966.
Asta’ev, I. I. Russko-germanskie diplomaticheskie otnosheniia 1905–1911. Moscow, 1972.
Ganelin, R. Sh. Rossiia i SShA, 1914–1917. Leningrad, 1969.
Poletika, N. P. Vozniknovenie pervoi mirovoi voiny (iiul’skii krizis 1914). Moscow, 1964.
Fay, S. Proiskhozhdenie mirovoi voiny, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1934. (Translated from English.)
Falkenhayn, E. von. Verkhovnoe komandovanie 1914–1916 gg. ν ego vazhneishikh resheniiakh. Moscow, 1923. (Translated from German.)
Kolenkovskii, A. K. Manevrennyi period pervoi mirovoi imperialisticheskoi voiny 1914 g. Moscow, 1940.
Arutiunian, A. O. Kavkazskii front 1914–1917 gg. Yerevan, 1971.
Korsun, N. G. Balkanskii front mirovoi voiny 1914–1918 gg. Moscow, 1939.
Korsun, N. G. Pervaia mirovaia voina na Kavkazskom fronte. Moscow, 1946.
Bazarevskii, A. Mirovaia voina 1914–1918 gg.: Kampaniia 1918 g. vo Frantsii i Bel’gii, vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1927.
Novitskii, V. Mirovaia voina 1914–1918 gg.: Kampaniia 1914 g. ν Bel’gii i Frantsii, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1938.
Villari, L. Voina na ital’ianskom fronte 1915–1918 gg. Moscow, 1936. (Translated from English.)
Flot ν pervoi mirovoi voine, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1964.
Petrov, M. Podgotovka Rossii k mirovoi voine na more. Moscow-Leningrad, 1926.
Corbett, J. S., and H. Newbolt. Operatsii angliiskogo flota ν mirovuiu voinu, 3rd ed., vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1941. (Translated from English.)
Aleksandrov, A. P., I. S. Isakov, and V. A. Belli. Operatsii podvodnykh
lodok. Leningrad, 1933.
Scheer, R. Germanskii flot ν mirovuiu voinu. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940. (Translated from German.)
Sidorov, A. L. Ekonomicheskoe polozhenie Rossii ν gody pervoi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1973.
Pisarev, Iu. A. Serbiia i Chernogoriia ν pervoi mirovoi voine. Moscow, 1968.
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Vinogradov, K. B. Burzhuaznaia istoriografiia pervoi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1962.
Khmelevskii, G. Mirovaia imperialisticheskaia voina 1914–1918: Sistematicheskii ukazatel’ knizhnoi i stateinoi voenno-istoricheskoi literatury za 1914–1935. Moscow, 1936.
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I. I. ROSTUNOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador (PCMLE): The Progressive Governments of Latin America

 

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From Unity & Struggle No. 25, Spring/Summer 2013

Ecuador

Progress is the evolution from the lower to the higher, from the simple to the complex, it is the upward march of the material and spiritual. It is the modernization of the country. Marxism-Leninism, the revolution and the left are genuine expressions of progressivism. Not everything progressive is leftist and revolutionary and much less Marxist Leninist.

“The existence in Latin America of several progressive governments is the result of the development and growth of the struggle of workers, the peoples and youth who overcame the ebb caused by the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism.’ It is a consequence of the recovery by the left-wing and revolutionary political organizations and parties, of the incorporation into these mobilizations of a part of the middle classes and strata, of the intelligentsia. That is, it is an expression of the strength of the working class, of the other laboring classes of the city and the countryside, of the left and the communists, but it also expresses the shortcomings and weaknesses of the mass movement, of the revolutionary left and, in Ecuador in particular, of the limitations of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. This party made the decision to become directly involved in the process, to contend inch by inch for a prominent place in the struggles, but it has lacked sufficient strength to influence more significantly the imagination, organization and action of the popular sectors that have fought and continue to fight. These limitations have allowed the result of these expressions to be channeled towards elections, to the formation of governments headed by personalities of the petty-bourgeoisie who proclaimed the change.”1

1 Pablo Miranda, “The Struggle of the Workers and the Peoples against Imperialism,” Unity and Struggle No. 23, October, 2011.

Since 1998, when Hugo Chavez won the presidency of Venezuela, Latin America has seen the election of several progressive governments, among them: Lula in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia, the Broad Front in Uruguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Correa in Ecuador, Funes in El Salvador, Lugo in Paraguay, Cristina Fernandez in Argentina.

To explain these new circumstances we must consider some historical and political events from the immediate past:

The revolutionary wave that shook the world and Latin America in the 1960s and ‘70s was followed by a furious onslaught of imperialism and reaction that used all their resources to put out the flames of the popular and national insurgency.

Neoliberalism – the policy of finance capital to overcome the economic crisis – devised the return to the classical principles of liberalism, “laissez faire,” full freedom of trade for the monopolies and the imperialist countries, with that aim it demanded the dismantling of the state sectors of the economy, the privatization of health care, education and social security, labor flexibility and further measures that would allow for the increase of the accumulation and concentration of wealth while disarming the movement and struggle of the workers and peoples.

The imposition of neoliberalism beyond the economies of the imperialist countries themselves took place violently in the great majority of the dependent countries; in Latin America, with the establishment of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, with sponsorship and support by the reactionary governments who docilely accepted its programs, with the subordination of the social-democratic governments that succumbed to these policies, some of them even modified their programs to put them in line with the imperialist proposals.

Since the 1980s, faced with the deepening economic crisis in most countries of Latin America and the world, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) imposed a series of measures that tried to ward off the crisis, but actually they sharpened it. These were the famous “structural adjustment programs” that ordered the elimination of subsidies for fuel prices and fares, the privatization of education, health care and social security, labor flexibility, the freedom to hire and fire workers, the limitation of union rights and restriction of the right to organize, etc.. They put into play the infamous “letters of intent,” under which the governments sought financial assistance and subordinated themselves to the IMF conditions.

The workers and popular movement, the left-wing and revolutionary political organizations, the Marxist-Leninist forces are facing this onslaught of capital with important social movements, general strikes, national work stoppages and struggles in the street. Each “adjustment program” was rejected head-on by the workers and people. In the cities and the countryside heroic battles took place, which were beaten by the “forces of order,” the police and armed forces. In the popular camp blows were received, the dead were buried, the wounded were healed, the persecuted were defended and there were fights for the freedom of the captured social activists.

New social actors who were actively involved in the struggle for general motives, for their rights and aspirations, reappeared and developed: ecologists and environmentalists, activists who defend nature from the depredations of capital, which was seen in almost all countries in a militant manner; to a large degree, these actions were added to the objectives and struggles of the workers. Various forms of the organization and fight of the women in defense of their rights gained strength and displayed initiatives, in opposition to gender discrimination. In various places their persistence in their protests and fights placed the most advanced sectors of the women as part of the forces of social emancipation.

The movement of the indigenous peoples, the struggle for their national rights and their participation in the political struggle broke out in various countries and assumed an important role in the struggle for social and national liberation. In Latin America the movement of the indigenous peoples and nationalities broke out across the board with the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by the Spanish. This is particularly important in Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Guatemala; it exists and is expressed in almost all countries; it continues to be an active part of the process of social and national liberation.

Towards the end of the 1980s the class struggle developed intermittently in every country in Latin America: the workers of the city and the countryside, the youth and the indigenous peoples were protagonists in the great battles against neoliberalism and the reactionary governments. In Venezuela the Caracazo took place that shook the government. In the Dominican Republic there were harsh battles against the bloodthirsty Balaguer government. In Argentina powerful workers’ strikes took place. In Colombia the armed struggle won important victories. In Ecuador combative strikes and nationwide work stoppages took place in opposition to the attempts to impose neoliberalism.

Signs of an ebb

The imposition of labor flexibility, the closures of enterprises due to the crisis, the anti-communist offensive of reaction and imperialism, the promotion of the economic and political theses of neoliberalism, the conciliatory and sell-out activities of revisionism and opportunism weakened and dispersed the workers and popular movement in all countries (obviously in an uneven manner).

The anti-communist offensive, the whole barrage of reactionary ideas that proclaimed the end of socialism and the defeat of the revolution, the end of history and ideologies, the invincibility of capitalism; the betrayal by the revisionists and the fall of the Berlin Wall had a negative effect on the movement of the workers and peoples; it impacted on the left-wing and revolutionary organizations; some of them dissolved and in general all were weakened, some guerrilla formations were defeated and others laid down their arms and renounced the revolutionary struggle.

This seemed to pave the road for triumphant imperialism.

But despite the adverse conditions, the blows received and the defeats suffered, the workers and popular movements never gave up, they continued to fight: at first they went over to resistance and gradually recovered.

The 1990s were characterized as an ebb in the social and revolutionary struggle; indeed there were major setbacks for the movement of the workers and peoples, for the revolutionary parties and organizations: the defeat of socialism in Albania, the peace accords signed by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador, the collapse of the USSR, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dirty war in Colombia; in general the movement of workers and peoples suffered a serious reversal.

The harshest impact was the result of the intense anti-communist ideological offensive: the preaching that socialism had shown itself to be a failure, that capitalism had shown itself to be a superior system, the futility of the revolution since the sacrifices that it cost only served to return to the same, the incompetence of the political parties and particularly of the communist party to fulfill the role of organizer and leader of the revolution, etc., etc.

Neoliberalism was imposed in almost the whole world, and Latin America was no exception. However, the attempt to use neoliberal policies to overcome the crisis in the international financial system were not fulfilled; rather, they suffered important blows as a result of the irresolvable contradictions of the capitalist system: the increasing socialization of production and the appropriation and concentration of the wealth created; free competition; the development of new monopolies and other imperialist countries, and of course, as a consequence of the resistance of the workers and peoples.

The victory songs of reaction and imperialism regarding the end of communism and of the revolutionary struggle clashed with reality, with the resistance of the workers and with the popular fights. In some countries the 1990s were the scene of the emergence of great social and political movements: the indigenous uprising in Ecuador in 1990, the removal of Collor de Melo as President of Brazil in 1992, major general strikes in France, Germany and Italy, the emergence of the Zapatista National Liberation Army in Mexico in 1994, the overthrow of Abdala Bucaram in Ecuador in 1996, the resistance to the despotism of Sanchez de Lozada in Bolivia, the electoral victory of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

The coming of the 21st century dawned with the popular uprising that overthrew President Mahuad in January 2000, which gave impetus to a new stage in the struggles of the masses in Ecuador.

The social and political situation in Latin America at the beginning of the new millennium

In all Latin American countries one can find two very important variables:

On the one side the exhaustion of neoliberalism, the failure of neoliberal monetarist measures to ward off the crisis. The adjustments demanded by the IMF were linked to more and more new measures and the economies of the countries deteriorated rapidly, public finances had greater deficits, the foreign debt grew and social spending was cut drastically.

At the same time, the ruling classes, institutions, governments, parliaments, the armed forces, the judiciary, the political parties, the personalities of politics and power rapidly used up their resources, they were quickly discredited before the working masses, the youth and democratic public opinion; they were trapped in the web of corruption and drug trafficking; they lost credibility; in some countries subjective conditions were created to replace them. The slogans of “get out,” “let them all go,” “put an end to the cliques,” “enough of the rings,” “away with the old parties,” “refound the country,” “new people,” “change already,” etc. were chanted everywhere.

On the other hand, the discontent and dissatisfaction of the working masses, the peoples and the youth were expressed in the increase in popular struggles, in a sustained increase in the struggle of the masses, which were shown unevenly in different countries of Latin America. To a large degree the consciousness of the masses about their own role in solving their problems is growing, the distrust of a significant sector of them in the institutions, in the bourgeois political parties, in the spokespersons and leaders of those on top. The search for alternatives to the situation went beyond the channel and content of the union struggle; the idea of fighting to take over the government advanced.

The political crisis is deepening to various degrees in all Latin American countries. The ruling classes and the reactionary and social-democratic political parties have shown themselves impotent to propose and pursue solutions that will enable them to resolve their problems and fully preserve their interests.

The working masses and the youth are seeking alternatives

Decades of confrontation in defense of their interests have failed to stem the onslaught of neoliberalism; strikes, marches, struggles in the street and work stoppages are expressions of courage and valor, but they have limits, they cannot stop the implementation of the “adjustment programs.” On the other hand, in several countries, the guerrilla struggle has been defeated, some of the revolutionary military formations have renounced the armed struggle, some have rejected that road; in any case, the revolutionary armed struggle is not seen as an immediate alternative by the peoples.

The great demonstrations of the social struggle that have taken place in almost all countries of Latin America are, to some extent, in advance of the decisions and abilities of the organizations and political parties of the revolutionary left. Every day the masses show a great potential for the creation and implementation of various forms of struggle, they are creative in the defensive and offensive in the various forms of strike struggle and street struggle.

The revisionist parties and other opportunist groups are active in the ideological disarming of the working class, the peoples and youth; they eagerly chant that the union organization has been overtaken by history, that “the unions do not work, the social movements are the new actors,” that the masses, their mobilization and action do not need political parties and organizations, that they are enough in themselves for the struggle for their liberation, they rail against “authoritarianism” and “lack of democracy,” against the great experiences of the proletariat in power, of socialism, of the communist party.

The Marxist-Leninist parties and other revolutionary organizations that have shown themselves to be consistent in their struggle against imperialism and capitalism suffer from weaknesses and limitations: they are small, weak, without sufficient links with the working masses and youth and, sometimes and in some places they lose the ability to show appropriate alternatives. Although they are involved in the new scenarios, they do not have the strength and skill to enable them to lead the discontent of the workers and peoples.

The working masses have struggled tirelessly for their immediate demands, for wages, stability, land, housing, etc. They have won partial victories and are continuing the social struggle. In the field of political confrontation, in the electoral disputes most working people were the object of ideological manipulation of the various forms of the ruling classes, their political parties, their political bosses and leaders. The great resources of the media are used (and continue to be) to propose change, the solution of their problems. The masses are seeking change and they “found” it in the bourgeois personality or party that could claim to satisfy those expectations more directly. Many of the workers and peoples were active in the union struggle and in the elections they voted for the bosses.

Under these conditions there has been a qualitative leap in the social and political behavior of the working masses of the city and the countryside, of the youth and the indigenous peoples.

The search for change takes different paths:

1. Popular uprisings have taken place seeking to overthrow corrupt governments: in Venezuela against Carlos Andres Perez, who was forced to resign; in Ecuador against Bucaram, Mahuad and Gutierrez, who were overthrown by the masses in the street; in Argentina against De la Rua and the various governments that tried to succeed him; in Bolivia against Sanchez de Lozada. The popular uprising against Mahuad in Ecuador aimed to bring down the President, Congress and the Court of Justice and managed to nominate a Board of Government of short duration. These actions show the strength of the workers, people and youth, their ability to overthrow the tyrants; but they also show their weaknesses that could be summed up in what is said in the streets of Quito. “We were able to overthrow the government but we could not put one of our own in the Presidency; they same ones as always returned.”

2. The discrediting of the traditional bourgeois parties, their leaders and programs put limits on the ability of ideological manipulation by the rulers, they open the roads to other alternatives. In some countries such as Venezuela, the pendulum that swung between social democracy and the social Christians, the corruption and repression practically eliminated COPEI [Political Electoral Independent Organization Committee, a social-Christian party] and AD [Democratic Action, a social-democratic party – translator’s note]. In Ecuador, the traditional bourgeois parties are called the “partidocracy,” they have lost prestige and were defeated.

3. Popular political parties and organizations that have been fighting in the social and electoral arena for decades are beginning to gain ground in the elections at the presidential level; previously they had significant achievements and experience in local governments; they are winning the vote of the workers, peasants and youth for their positions.

4. New political parties and organizations are being formed that claim to be “left-wing and revolutionary, democratic and open, anti-dogmatic and creative”; by their rebellious, and alternative discourse they lash out at the oligarchy and dependence, but also at the communist and socialist parties that have been fighting since the early decades of the 20th century.

5. The ideological offensive of reaction and imperialism that had targeted socialism and communism is complemented by criticism and questioning of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the revolution and socialism, with the proposals of “20th century socialism” and under the various names of the Bolivarian, Andean and citizen’s revolution.

6. The desire for change by the working masses and the youth is being channeled by political forces that are rebellious, progressive, “left social-democrats”, by political bosses and leaders of the trade union and peasant struggles, by personalities from academia that appear as “new.”

7. We, the Marxist-Leninist parties in Latin America have always been involved in the struggle of the masses, we have done our share in the organization and the strike struggle, in the popular uprisings, but we did not have the strength to channel the desire for change and the search for alternatives of the workers and peoples. We are involved in the processes seeking to deepen them and provide them a revolutionary direction

The rise of the progressive governments

As we noted above, various political forces and personalities came to power through elections and changed the political map of Latin America. The forms and expressions by which the various alternative governments came to the leadership of the State differ from one another, but obviously there are some commonalities, some constant elements that show that the phenomenon is not an isolated incident, but corresponds to an ideological and political current running throughout Latin America.

i. important and massive mobilization of the working masses, the peoples and the youth who questioned neoliberal policies and in some cases made them collapse.

ii. all the electoral platforms presented programs that are democratic, anti-neoliberal, anti-U.S., left-wing and for social and economic achievements to benefit the poor.

iii. an important social and political rhetoric that called itself left-wing and revolutionary, that criticized the partidocracy, the oligarchy and imperialism.

iv. the support and militant participation of leftist political parties and organizations who provided their ability and experience in the process of their coming into office and, in the first stage of these governments, strongly supported them.

v. these processes had the participation of the parties and organizations of the revolutionary left, of our Marxist-Leninist formations that fought in Latin America that supported them, but we could not lead them along the revolutionary path due to the relationship of forces and our weaknesses and limitations.

We have outlined some general issues, but we must emphasize that each process has its own nature, its own ideological and political characteristics which, while they are each different they form parts of a whole and for a certain time.

The space available and the limitations of our information only allow us to draw very broad brush strokes of each of these processes.

Brazil

In Brazil, after decades of political struggle against the military dictatorship, of large mobilizations of the working class for their rights, of the youth for alternatives for their progress and development, after several elections in which various sectors of the ruling classes imposed themselves in office, Lula’s election victory as President took place in 2003. To achieve this purpose for which he had struggled for years, Lula and the Workers Party (PT) made an alliance with a party of the right wing that took the Vice Presidency. The same thing happened in the second election.

An alternative of the “left,” a president from the working class, a union leader, fighter against the military dictatorship won the elections. That victory aroused great expectations among tens of millions of Brazilians and Latin Americans.

Lula governed for two presidential terms (2003-2010) and was able to push the victory of his successor, Dilma Russef, the current president. Both of them won great acclaim among Brazilians and apparently have the ability to win again in the next presidential elections.

Brazil’s economic structure has not changed; it is still a capitalist country. During this period the country has rapidly modernized, its industry has grown significantly, its agricultural sector has expanded greatly, to the detriment of the Amazon rainforest; the exploitation of minerals, especially iron, has increased; it has become self-sufficient in the production and utilization of petroleum. As a great country by the size of its territory and population, by the magnitude of its natural resources and its geostrategic position, Brazil has become the seventh largest world economy, one of the engines of capitalism, one of the emerging powers.

The old dream of the Brazilian big bourgeoisie to become a great power, in alliance with international big capital, Great Brazil is taking shape under a progressive government under the leadership of a union leader. The military could not take this step during their long dictatorship and the application of the IMF measures, none of the previous governments, of the right or of traditional social democracy were able to do this. It was achieved by a government that calls itself left-wing.

At the base of Brazilian society, nearly two hundred million people who form the toiling masses remain under capitalist exploitation and oppression, creating the wealth for the international monopolies and the big Brazilian businesses. At the same time, the country is facing a process of growing deindustrialization and denationalization of its economy. With the policy of high interests Brazil has received big investments from foreign capital, which ultimately contributed to the concentration and monopolization of wealth. Trade union rights are restricted, retirement pensions have been cut and the retirement age increased, millions of peasants are landless. Brazil remains one of the most unequal countries.

The proposals for change, for the liberation of the workers, of social equality, of socialism remain just words; the PT government is one more government that represents the interests of the big Brazilian bourgeoisie, the international monopolies and the imperialist countries.

In Brazil, as in all countries, the revolution and socialism are a historical necessity, they are an objective of the workers, people and youth.

Uruguay

In Uruguay, an alliance of the left with Christian democracy and political formations that broke away from the traditional parties, the Broad Front, formed in 1971 with a long history of trade union and electoral struggle, won the presidential elections in 2004. It broke the age-old rule of the bourgeois parties and raised expectations within and outside the country. The Front had the strength and ability to hold onto the government in 2009, with Jose Mujica, a former Tupamaro guerrilla.

In reality the progressive government of Uruguay has created an administration that essentially abides by neoliberal guidelines. The country remains subordinate to the IMF and the World Bank; it has opened the doors to foreign investment. Now there is a popular left-wing opposition that denounces the capitalist character of the Broad Front government and the violation of civil liberties and trade union rights.

In Uruguay the evils of capitalism continue to exist, the revolution and socialism are on the agenda.

Nicaragua

In Nicaragua in 1979 the popular revolution led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the Somoza dictatorship. This event was identified as a new successful revolution in Latin America, twenty years after the Cuban Revolution.

The Sandinistas began to dismantle the dictatorial institutions and pushed through certain rather timid reforms. In reality the capitalist structure of the country remained. In presidential elections called under the pressure of U.S. imperialism and European social democracy, the Sandinistas were defeated. The expectations created by the victory of the armed uprising quickly went up in smoke.

The Sandinista Front decided to resort to the electoral path to regain the presidency of the republic and succeeded with a platform that proclaimed national reconciliation and peace, under Daniel Ortega in 2006. After one presidential term Ortega won reelection in 2011.

The progressive government of Nicaragua has carried out a major welfare policy that, compared with the administration of the openly right-wing governments of the immediate past has improved the living conditions of the Nicaraguans.

It is abundantly clear that capitalism, its structures and rules are still in force in Nicaragua.

El Salvador

The people of El Salvador have been waging a heroic struggle for social and material progress, freedom and democracy, and in their advanced sectors for the revolution and socialism.

In 1928 there was a large strike of banana workers against the United Fruit Company that was fiercely repressed, leaving more than a thousand dead among the strikers and the people who supported them. In 1932 a popular armed insurrection broke out led by the Communist Party and Comrade Farabundo Marti, who fought heroically but was defeated by the oligarchy and imperialism with a massacre of 30,000 martyrs.

In the 1970-80s the revolutionary armed struggle was begun again, leading to a major process of unity of the various fronts and alternatives, which proclaimed as its goal the establishment of socialism. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front developed high levels of people’s war, confronting a ferocious dirty war unleashed by the bourgeoisie and imperialism, and it won major political and geographical openings that portended a popular victory.

These important actions of the Salvadoran people were negotiated by the Leadership of the FMLN, which agreed to a “peace” and the surrender of arms in January of 1992.

Since then the FMLN has become a political party and participated in several elections for the Presidency of the Republic, which it finally achieved with Mauricio Funes, a personality from outside its ranks, presented as an outsider in politics in 2009.

The Funes government, another one of the progressive governments in Latin America, soon distanced itself from the politics of the left, limiting itself to a welfare policy, leaving itself out of ALBA.

Clearly, the long and bloody struggle of the revolutionaries and the people of El Salvador for freedom and socialism has not achieved victory, which is still on the agenda.

Paraguay

Since Paraguay is landlocked, the war of the Triple Alliance of Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia allied against Paraguay, have led the country to a kind of isolation from the other countries of South America.

For a long period Paraguay was led by a nationalist and patriotic policy, headed by Dr. Francia. For more than 30 years it suffered the brutal, reactionary and anti-communist dictatorship of Stroessner. After the fall of the dictator, the Colorado Party continued to rule.

Paraguay has up to now been a country ruled by the landowners and agricultural exporters, with little industrial development. Under these conditions, the peasant movement, together with the teachers and youth, have been the main actors in the political struggle for social change.

In the presidential elections of 2008 an alternative candidate won who did not belong to any of the traditional parties. He came from long community work, from his position as a Catholic priest. In order to win the elections former Bishop Fernando Lugo formalized an alliance with the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, an opposition to the Colorado Party from other positions of the ruling classes.

In the present Latin American context of the existence of several progressive governments, Lugo’s victory was hailed as another one that joined the current. Lugo himself was incorporated into that sector. In fact the demands of the peasants and other popular sectors were pushed aside. The promise of land reform was shelved. The trade union and political freedoms remained restricted.

In June of 2112 Lugo was removed from office in a summary trial whose decision was accepted to the benefit of democracy and he was replaced by the Vice President. The experience of another of the progressive governments was ended in this manner, without much resistance.

In Paraguay a good part of the peasant movement and of the revolutionary left did not support Lugo; during his government he pursued a policy of demands and now the fight for social and national liberation continues.

Argentina

In 2002 the Argentinazo took place, an explosion of the workers, people and youth who threw out the Radical Party government of De la Rua, proclaiming the slogan “they should all go,” experimenting with the formation of Popular Assemblies and throwing out four governments that were created institutionally to defend the established order.

This great uprising of the working masses and youth had the strength and ability to throw out successive representatives of the bourgeoisie but it was unable to gain power.

Bourgeois democracy, immersed in a deep economic and political crisis caused by the abandonment of the “convertibility” of the peso, corruption and the discrediting of the political parties, the exhaustion of the neoliberal policies, still had the power to redirect the desire for change and popular struggle into elections.

In 2003, the progressive wing of Peronism led by Kirchner won the plurality with 22% of the votes. The withdrawal of Menen from the runoff led to his winning.

Progressive Peronism returned to office after more than 20 years and applied a government program that restored the subsidies and bought back the companies privatized by the same Peronism led by Menen. However he continued the policy of deindustrialization and the return to primary goods of the economy. This was favored by the high price of soy and to a great degree he could fix the fiscal crisis and put forward an intense welfare policy based on patronage. On the international level Argentina was aligned with the other progressive governments and sealed an alliance with the big Brazilian bourgeoisie in the framework of Mercosur.

Kirchner’s program was able to secure its social base, achieving continuity with the election of his wife Cristina Fernandez in 2007. After Kirchner’s death, Cristina became his heir and successor as president, winning reelection in 2011

Cristina has stated outright that she is seeking to carry out a “rational capitalism” and has used repression against the peasants and workers.

The progressive government of Fernandez is, by its own admission, a capitalist government; thus in Argentina the need for the revolution and socialism continues to be on the agenda.

Bolivia

Bolivia is a multinational state. The Spanish conquest could not crush or eliminate the indigenous nationalities and peoples. The Quechua and Aymara defended and preserved the essence of their culture, they have always been the majority of the population, there is a similar situation with the more than two dozen smaller nationalities that still exist; the Bolivian mestizos are a growing and developing people. The ruling classes, the landlords, the mine owners, bankers and businessmen have always come from the mestizos and through their economic and political power, they became the dominant nation.

The Bolivian workers in the mines and the fledgling industries, the peasants mostly from the indigenous peoples and nationalities, and also, of course, from the mestizos were and are the creators of the wealth. They were always at the bottom of the social pyramid, they were oppressed and exploited.

For centuries they have been the protagonists of great exploits in pursuit of freedom and democracy, their blood watered the struggle for independence from Spain, they carried out great struggles for the possession of the land, for the nationalization of the mines, in opposition to national discrimination, for freedom and democracy. In 1952 they lead a great democratic revolution that was taken over by the bourgeoisie. In the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s they fought heroically against a series of fascistic military dictatorships.

At the beginning of the 21st century they led the so-called water war and later overthrew the Sanchez de Lozada government.

Demanding the rights of the indigenous peoples, a trade union fighter who led the coca-cultivating peasants, Evo Morales led the indigenous and popular struggle into elections and on the second attempt he won the Presidency of the Republic in 2005.

There emerged a progressive alternative, meaning access to the government by the indigenous peoples; proposing the refounding of the country, the establishment of a multinational State, the nationalization of the mines and petroleum, health care and education and opposed to neoliberalism. The government of Evo Morales quickly aligned itself with the other progressive governments, it awakened great expectations among the working masses and the peoples of Bolivia and even abroad, among the workers and peoples and among the left and the revolutionaries.

After enacting a new constitution and a period of economic and social achievements aimed at the indigenous peoples who had been impoverished for centuries, he was re-elected in 2009.

The government of Evo Morales has been subjected to pressure from imperialism and the bourgeoisie, from the right; and to the demands of the workers and indigenous peoples, who have been forced to recreate the old forms of struggle, marches, street demonstrations, general strikes and hunger strikes opposing the neoliberal measures such as the gasolinazo in 2011, the devastation of the environment by the construction of roads, the shortage and high price of food.

In Bolivia the class struggle continues with the workers, peoples and youth taking the lead. The peoples of Bolivia are still poor in a country extremely rich in natural resources.

The Constitution has changed, important efforts have been made to build multiculturalism, but the economic and social structures remain private capitalist property. The social revolution and socialism are, as yesterday, a need and task of the workers.

Venezuela

In opposition to the social democratic and Christian socialist governments who took turns in power since the overthrow of the Perez Jimenez dictatorship in 1958, Venezuela was the scene of many battles by the workers and people, the student youth in opposition to widespread corruption, the alienation by the international monopolies of wealth generated by oil operations, waste and fanfare of the ruling cliques.

These struggles shook the streets and plazas of the Venezuelan cities; they increased the determination of the masses to overthrow the institutional structures. Political analysts spoke of thousands of protests that took place every year.

In 1989, there was the so-called Caracazo, a genuine popular uprising that aroused Caracas demanding the departure of the government and great social and economic demands. This great action led to the resignation of Carlos Andres Perez from the Presidency but it could not avoid the constitutional succession that let everything stay the same.

Earlier, in the 1960s in Venezuela there was a valiant guerrilla movement involving thousands of fighters, which was defeated because of insufficient ties to the life and struggle of the working masses and the student youth, to small armed group deviations and of course of the military superiority of the armed forces aided by imperialism. Those struggles resulted in the formation of important revolutionary political cadres.

In February of 1992 there was a military uprising led by Colonel Hugo Chavez, which was defeated by the military high command, but which showed that the discontent and dissatisfaction had penetrated the barracks. The rebels were sentenced to prison and later pardoned.

In 1998 Hugo Chavez led an electoral alternative of the left, very powerful and militant against the domination of the traditional parties, the social democrats and social Christians; he brought together the sense of dissatisfaction of the majority of Venezuelans, which led him to victory in the first round.

Since then Chavez has been heading a democratic government that has used the vast oil resources for the benefit of the poorest sectors of society; with the people of the slums, he has in fact created a parallel State with so-called “missions” that are carrying through an aggressive welfare policy, that is providing education, health care and welfare for the masses. He is pushing forward major social reforms to benefit those on pensions, the workers and peasants. He pushed the State to take over the whole oil industry, although recently he has made concessions to the Chinese. He has nationalized a large number of industrial and trading companies, and major mass media.

Chavez has been promoting a forceful ideological offensive that is letting him form and preserve a significant social base that has given him successive electoral victories. He has been reelected three times and has a popular mandate until 2019, almost 20 years. This offensive promotes Chavez’s personal leadership; it proclaims 21st century socialism, the “Bolivarian revolution” and the role of the masses. It is the only progressive government that relies on the mobilization of the masses.

However basically, the banks and big capitalist enterprises remain intact, as do the U.S. foreign investments and those of other imperialist countries. The social revolution has not yet taken place in Venezuela.

Ecuador

The long struggle of the workers and peoples, the expectations and mobilization of the youth in opposition to neoliberalism and the oligarchic governments goes back a long way, since the last century; it goes hand in hand with workers strikes, peasant struggles for land, fights of the youth for education and freedom, the fight against the dictatorship and against the neoliberal governments, the uprisings of the indigenous peoples that have shown that they have strength at the national level since the indigenous uprising of 1990 (before then the indigenous mobilizations were partial and isolated). They continue with the popular uprisings that overthrew the governments of Bucaram in 1997, Mahuad in 2000 and Gutierrez in 2005; they are advancing by way of the electoral participation together with the left and the indigenous movement.

In 2006 they supported the candidacy of Correa and led it to victory. Before, they had supported Gutierrez and when he betrayed them they learned how to fight and overthrow him.

Correa’s victory was made possible by the growth of the masses’ desire for change, by the discrediting of the bourgeois parties, by the search for alternatives in the electoral arena, by the stance of a new candidate who promoted change, who developed a patriotic and left-wing discourse.

Since then the government developed a welfare policy in favor of the poorest sectors of the city and countryside, the Human Development Bonus was raised to $35 from the $12 set by the previous governments, he proclaimed free education and has carried this out to a large degree, similarly with health care. He aligned himself with the progressive governments in Latin America, joined ALBA and preaches a nationalist discourse with leadership qualities.

Under the government of Correa, who was re-elected after the adoption of the new Constitution in 2009 and who is now running for a third term in February of 2013, the big bankers and businessmen, though they have not directly run the government, have obtained the biggest profits in history; the rich have become richer and the poor remain poor (Correa began his government by distributing the poverty bonus to one million people, now he distributes it to nearly two million, since the poor have increased in number). Private ownership of the means of production continues unchanged and by the admission of the President himself this will continue to be respected.

The ideological offensive of the Correa government is massive and persistent, he monopolizes the whole media, based on the President’s media image, he spouts demagogic verbiage, diatribes and insults against his opponents. He proclaims the “citizens’ revolution,” “socialism of the 21st century” and that “the country now belongs to everyone.” In words he condemns the oligarchy and imperialism and he persecutes and condemns the social activists. The criminalization of the social struggle is developing to a greater degree than under all the previous governments, hundreds of rank-and-file leaders are prosecuted, accused of sabotage and terrorism, and more than two dozen militants of the left are in prison, convicted of terrorism.

Correa quickly changed course, his initial progressive and leftist proposals went “straight to the right.” He now rules for the bankers and businessmen, for the major exporters and importers.

Obviously the old partidocracy wants to return to office and is leading the bourgeois opposition, to replace him through elections.

In this scenario, the social organizations and movements, the left-wing political organizations and parties denounced in a timely manner the move to the right and they formed the popular opposition, defending the interests of the workers, indigenous peoples and youth. They are following the electoral path; they have come together in the Multinational Coordinator of the Left and are prepared for a tough battle in the next election.

Against all predictions that Correa is the favorite, the popular and left-wing alterative is advancing and following a path to victory.

The evolution of the progressive governments in Latin America

Earlier we pointed out that each of the progressive governments of Latin America has its own essence and characteristics, it follows its own course. We also said that there are common elements that distinguish them from the other bourgeois governments in Latin America and that have allowed them to play a role in the international arena.

They have agreed on proposals and approaches at the OAS (Organization of American States), the UN and other international forums.

Venezuela, because of the significant surpluses produced by high oil prices, has developed a trade and aid policy favorable to the other countries.

Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines have formed ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) that is seeking trade integration, but fundamentally a political orientation on the continent. ALBA has not been able to integrate all the progressive governments precisely because of political differences.

All the progressive governments emerged as alternative and left-wing proposals, they base themselves on the desire for change by the masses and in their early period they fulfilled some of their campaign promises and therefore they received successive support.

They emerged under favorable international conditions, when U.S. imperialism was bogged down in the Middle East. The economic crisis that shook the capitalist imperialist world did not affect them substantially; they have been favored by rising prices of petroleum, iron and other raw materials, by the high prices for agricultural products that have allowed them to have significant cash resources to promote public works and an aggressive welfare policy. However, the direction of the economy of the respective countries continues on the paths of neoliberalism. They all base their economy on extractive industries and agriculture, in all the countries the policies of deindustrialization continue.

On the one hand they were subjected to pressure from imperialism, mainly U.S. imperialism, from the native oligarchies and the political right-wing and, on the other hand to the demands of the working masses, the peoples, youth and left-wing political organizations and parties to fulfill their promises, to advances on the patriotic and democratic path.

At one point, they were all governments in dispute, they were in the center of the storm. That situation was circumstantial, in most of the countries these governments succumbed to the pressure of imperialism and the bourgeoisie, they renounced their patriotic and democratic projects, they adapted to the interests of the businessmen and bankers and the international monopolies and carried out their policies. They moved to the right. The exception is Hugo Chavez’s government that, in essence, continues on the path of social reforms.

This metamorphosis of the various alternative governments is expressed in different ways: some changed quickly, others later, some adopted repressive policies against social and left-wing activists. However, they all continue with a left-wing verbiage, preaching a double standard. They are essentially demagogic, populist governments, embodied in a charismatic political boss.

The question is whether the existence of these governments is a step forward or backward in the process of accumulation of forces in the task of organizing and making the revolution. The answer, which we will elaborate, is both yes and no.

In the context of the ebb at the end of the 20th century, the emergence of these governments is objectively an advance; viewed in their development they put forward new problems for the revolutionaries, they attract a social base among the working classes and youth, they are a diversionary factor.

Pablo Miranda

Bibliography:

1. Thirteenth Seminar “Problems of the Revolution in Latin America,” 2011 to 2012.

2. Revolutionary Communist Party (PCR) – Brazil.

3. Averdade newspaper, Organ of the PCR – Brazil.

4. Political Line of the PCMLV, Marxist-Leninist Party Communist Party of Venezuela.

5. Politics and Theory, Journal of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Argentina.

6. The Capitalist System and the Struggle of the Workers and Peoples, Unity and Struggle No. 23, October 2011.

7. Latin America and the Social Revolution of the Proletariat, Pablo Miranda, March 2007.

Source

Left Anticommunism: the Unkindest Cut

noamChomsky

BY MICHAEL PARENTI

Despite a lifetime of “shaming” the system, NOAM CHOMSKY, America’s foremost “engagé” intellectual, remains an unrepentant left anticommunist.

In the United States, for over a hundred years, the ruling interests tirelessly propagated anticommunism among the populace, until it became more like a religious orthodoxy than a political analysis. During the Cold War, the anticommunist ideological framework could transform any data about existing communist societies into hostile evidence. If the Soviets refused to negotiate a point, they were intransigent and belligerent; if they appeared willing to make concessions, this was but a skillful ploy to put us off our guard. By opposing arms limitations, they would have demonstrated their aggressive intent; but when in fact they supported most armament treaties, it was because they were mendacious and manipulative. If the churches in the USSR were empty, this demonstrated that religion was suppressed; but if the churches were full, this meant the people were rejecting the regime’s atheistic ideology. If the workers went on strike (as happened on infrequent occasions), this was evidence of their alienation from the collectivist system; if they didn’t go on strike, this was because they were intimidated and lacked freedom. A scarcity of consumer goods demonstrated the failure of the economic system; an improvement in consumer supplies meant only that the leaders were attempting to placate a restive population and so maintain a firmer hold over them. If communists in the United States played an important role struggling for the rights of workers, the poor, African-Americans, women, and others, this was only their guileful way of gathering support among disfranchised groups and gaining power for themselves. How one gained power by fighting for the rights of powerless groups was never explained. What we are dealing with is a nonfalsifiable orthodoxy, so assiduously marketed by the ruling interests that it affected people across the entire political spectrum.

Genuflection to Orthodoxy

Many on the U.S. Left have exhibited a Soviet bashing and Red baiting that matches anything on the Right in its enmity and crudity. Listen to Noam Chomsky holding forth about “left intellectuals” who try to “rise to power on the backs of mass popular movements” and “then beat the people into submission. . . . You start off as basically a Leninist who is going to be part of the Red bureaucracy. You see later that power doesn’t lie that way, and you very quickly become an ideologist of the right. . . . We’re seeing it right now in the [former] Soviet Union. The same guys who were communist thugs two years back, are now running banks and [are] enthusiastic free marketeers and praising Americans” (Z Magazine, 10/95).

Chomsky’s imagery is heavily indebted to the same U.S. corporate political culture he so frequently criticizes on other issues. In his mind, the revolution was betrayed by a coterie of “communist thugs” who merely hunger for power rather than wanting the power to end hunger. In fact, the communists did not “very quickly” switch to the Right but struggled in the face of a momentous onslaught to keep Soviet socialism alive for more than seventy years. To be sure, in the Soviet Union’s waning days some, like Boris Yeltsin, crossed over to capitalist ranks, but others continued to resist free-market incursions at great cost to themselves, many meeting their deaths during Yeltsin’s violent repression of the Russian parliament in 1993.

Some leftists and others fall back on the old stereotype of power-hungry Reds who pursue power for power’s sake without regard for actual social goals. If true, one wonders why, in country after country, these Reds side with the poor and powerless often at great risk and sacrifice to themselves, rather than reaping the rewards that come with serving the well-placed.

For decades, many left-leaning writers and speakers in the United States have felt obliged to establish their credibility by indulging in anticommunist and anti-Soviet genuflection, seemingly unable to give a talk or write an article or book review on whatever political subject without injecting some anti-Red sideswipe. The intent was, and still is, to distance themselves from the Marxist-Leninist Left.

Adam Hochschild: Keeping his distance from the “Stalinist Left” and recommending same posture to fellow progressives.

Adam Hochschild, a liberal writer and publisher, warned those on the Left who might be lackadaisical about condemning existing communist societies that they “weaken their credibility” (Guardian, 5/23/84). In other words, to be credible opponents of the cold war, we first had to join in the Cold-War condemnations of communist societies. Ronald Radosh urged that the peace movement purge itself of communists so that it not be accused of being communist (Guardian, 3/16/83). If I understand Radosh: To save ourselves from anticommunist witchhunts, we should ourselves become witchhunters. Purging the Left of communists became a longstanding practice, having injurious effects on various progressive causes. For instance, in 1949 some twelve unions were ousted from the CIO because they had Reds in their leadership. The purge reduced CIO membership by some 1.7 million and seriously weakened its recruitment drives and political clout. In the late 1940s, to avoid being “smeared” as Reds, Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), a supposedly progressive group, became one of the most vocally anticommunist organizations.

The strategy did not work. ADA and others on the Left were still attacked for being communist or soft on communism by those on the Right. Then and now, many on the Left have failed to realize that those who fight for social change on behalf of the less privileged elements of society will be Red-baited by conservative elites whether they are communists or not. For ruling interests, it makes little difference whether their wealth and power is challenged by “communist subversives” or “loyal American liberals.” All are lumped together as more or less equally abhorrent.

Even when attacking the Right, the left critics cannot pass up an opportunity to flash their anticommunist credentials. So Mark Green writes in a criticism of President Ronald Reagan that “when presented with a situation that challenges his conservative catechism, like an unyielding Marxist-Leninist, [Reagan] will change not his mind but the facts.” While professing a dedication to fighting dogmatism “both of the Right and Left,” individuals who perform such de rigueur genuflections reinforce the anticommunist dogma. Red-baiting leftists contributed their share to the climate of hostility that has given U.S. leaders such a free hand in waging hot and cold wars against communist countries and which even today makes a progressive or even liberal agenda difficult to promote.

A prototypic Red-basher who pretended to be on the Left was George Orwell. In the middle of World War II, as the Soviet Union was fighting for its life against the Nazi invaders at Stalingrad, Orwell announced that a “willingness to criticize Russia and Stalin is the test of intellectual honesty. It is the only thing that from a literary intellectual’s point of view is really dangerous” (Monthly Review, 5/83). Safely ensconced within a virulently anticommunist society, Orwell (with Orwellian doublethink) characterized the condemnation of communism as a lonely courageous act of defiance. Today, his ideological progeny are still at it, offering themselves as intrepid left critics of the Left, waging a valiant struggle against imaginary Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist hordes.
•••••

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Sorely lacking within the U.S. Left is any rational evaluation of the Soviet Union, a nation that endured a protracted civil war and a multinational foreign invasion in the very first years of its existence, and that two decades later threw back and destroyed the Nazi beast at enormous cost to itself. In the three decades after the Bolshevik revolution, the Soviets made industrial advances equal to what capitalism took a century to accomplish–while feeding and schooling their children rather than working them fourteen hours a day as capitalist industrialists did and still do in many parts of the world. And the Soviet Union, along with Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, and Cuba provided vital assistance to national liberation movements in countries around the world, including Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in South Africa.

Left anticommunists remained studiously unimpressed by the dramatic gains won by masses of previously impoverished people under communism. Some were even scornful of such accomplishments. I recall how in Burlington Vermont, in 1971, the noted anticommunist anarchist, Murray Bookchin, derisively referred to my concern for “the poor little children who got fed under communism” (his words).

Slinging Labels

Those of us who refused to join in the Soviet bashing were branded by left anticommunists as “Soviet apologists” and “Stalinists,” even if we disliked Stalin and his autocratic system of rule and believed there were things seriously wrong with existing Soviet society. Our real sin was that unlike many on the Left we refused to uncritically swallow U.S. media propaganda about communist societies. Instead, we maintained that, aside from the well-publicized deficiencies and injustices, there were positive features about existing communist systems that were worth preserving, that improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people in meaningful and humanizing ways. This claim had a decidedly unsettling effect on left anticommunists who themselves could not utter a positive word about any communist society (except possibly Cuba) and could not lend a tolerant or even courteous ear to anyone who did.

Saturated by anticommunist orthodoxy, most U.S. leftists have practiced a left McCarthyism against people who did have something positive to say about existing communism, excluding them from participation in conferences, advisory boards, political endorsements, and left publications. Like conservatives, left anticommunists tolerated nothing less than a blanket condemnation of the Soviet Union as a Stalinist monstrosity and a Leninist moral aberration.

That many U.S. leftists have scant familiarity with Lenin’s writings and political work does not prevent them from slinging the “Leninist” label. Noam Chomsky, who is an inexhaustible fount of anticommunist caricatures, offers this comment about Leninism: “Western and also Third World intellectuals were attracted to the Bolshevik counterrevolution [sic] because Leninism is, after all, a doctrine that says that the radical intelligentsia have a right to take state power and to run their countries by force, and that is an idea which is rather appealing to intellectuals.” Here Chomsky fashions an image of power-hungry intellectuals to go along with his cartoon image of power-hungry Leninists, villains seeking not the revolutionary means to fight injustice but power for power’s sake. When it comes to Red-bashing, some of the best and brightest on the Left sound not much better than the worst on the Right.

At the time of the 1996 terror bombing in Oklahoma City, I heard a radio commentator announce: “Lenin said that the purpose of terror is to terrorize.” U.S. media commentators have repeatedly quoted Lenin in that misleading manner. In fact, his statement was disapproving of terrorism. He polemicized against isolated terrorist acts which do nothing but create terror among the populace, invite repression, and isolate the revolutionary movement from the masses. Far from being the totalitarian, tight-circled conspirator, Lenin urged the building of broad coalitions and mass organizations, encompassing people who were at different levels of political development. He advocated whatever diverse means were needed to advance the class struggle, including participation in parliamentary elections and existing trade unions. To be sure, the working class, like any mass group, needed organization and leadership to wage a successful revolutionary struggle, which was the role of a vanguard party, but that did not mean the proletarian revolution could be fought and won by putschists or terrorists.

Lenin constantly dealt with the problem of avoiding the two extremes of liberal bourgeois opportunism and ultra-left adventurism. Yet he himself is repeatedly identified as an ultra-left putschist by mainstream journalists and some on the Left. Whether Lenin’s approach to revolution is desirable or even relevant today is a question that warrants critical examination. But a useful evaluation is not likely to come from people who misrepresent his theory and practice.

Left anticommunists find any association with communist organizations to be morally unacceptable because of the “crimes of communism.” Yet many of them are themselves associated with the Democratic Party in this country, either as voters or members, seemingly unconcerned about the morally unacceptable political crimes committed by leaders of that organization. Under one or another Democratic administration, 120,000 Japanese Americans were torn from their homes and livelihoods and thrown into detention camps; atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki with an enormous loss of innocent life; the FBI was given authority to infiltrate political groups; the Smith Act was used to imprison leaders of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and later on leaders of the Communist Party for their political beliefs; detention camps were established to round up political dissidents in the event of a “national emergency”; during the late 1940s and 1950s, eight thousand federal workers were purged from government because of their political associations and views, with thousands more in all walks of life witchhunted out of their careers; the Neutrality Act was used to impose an embargo on the Spanish Republic that worked in favor of Franco’s fascist legions; homicidal counterinsurgency programs were initiated in various Third World countries; and the Vietnam War was pursued and escalated. And for the better part of a century, the Congressional leadership of the Democratic Party protected racial segregation and stymied all anti-lynching and fair employment bills. Yet all these crimes, bringing ruination and death to many, have not moved the liberals, the social democrats, and the “democratic socialist” anticommunists to insist repeatedly that we issue blanket condemnations of either the Democratic Party or the political system that produced it, certainly not with the intolerant fervor that has been directed against existing communism.

Pure Socialism vs. Siege Socialism

The upheavals in Eastern Europe did not constitute a defeat for socialism because socialism never existed in those countries, according to some U.S. leftists. They say that the communist states offered nothing more than bureaucratic, one-party “state capitalism” or some such thing. Whether we call the former communist countries “socialist” is a matter of definition. Suffice it to say, they constituted something different from what existed in the profit-driven capitalist world–as the capitalists themselves were not slow to recognize.

First, in communist countries there was less economic inequality than under capitalism. The perks enjoyed by party and government elites were modest by corporate CEO standards in the West [even more so when compared with today’s grotesque compensation packages to the executive and financial elites.—Eds], as were their personal incomes and life styles. Soviet leaders like Yuri Andropov and Leonid Brezhnev lived not in lavishly appointed mansions like the White House, but in relatively large apartments in a housing project near the Kremlin set aside for government leaders. They had limousines at their disposal (like most other heads of state) and access to large dachas where they entertained visiting dignitaries. But they had none of the immense personal wealth that most U.S. leaders possess.

The “lavish life” enjoyed by East Germany’s party leaders, as widely publicized in the U.S. press, included a $725 yearly allowance in hard currency, and housing in an exclusive settlement on the outskirts of Berlin that sported a sauna, an indoor pool, and a fitness center shared by all the residents. They also could shop in stores that carried Western goods such as bananas, jeans, and Japanese electronics. The U.S. press never pointed out that ordinary East Germans had access to public pools and gyms and could buy jeans and electronics (though usually not of the imported variety). Nor was the “lavish” consumption enjoyed by East German leaders contrasted to the truly opulent life style enjoyed by the Western plutocracy.

Second, in communist countries, productive forces were not organized for capital gain and private enrichment; public ownership of the means of production supplanted private ownership. Individuals could not hire other people and accumulate great personal wealth from their labor. Again, compared to Western standards, differences in earnings and savings among the populace were generally modest. The income spread between highest and lowest earners in the Soviet Union was about five to one. In the United States, the spread in yearly income between the top multibillionaires and the working poor is more like 10,000 to 1.

Third, priority was placed on human services. Though life under communism left a lot to be desired and the services themselves were rarely the best, communist countries did guarantee their citizens some minimal standard of economic survival and security, including guaranteed education, employment, housing, and medical assistance.

Fourth, communist countries did not pursue the capital penetration of other countries. Lacking a profit motive as their motor force and therefore having no need to constantly find new investment opportunities, they did not expropriate the lands, labor, markets, and natural resources of weaker nations, that is, they did not practice economic imperialism. The Soviet Union conducted trade and aid relations on terms that generally were favorable to the Eastern European nations and Mongolia, Cuba, and India.

All of the above were organizing principles for every communist system to one degree or another. None of the above apply to free market countries like Honduras, Guatemala, Thailand, South Korea, Chile, Indonesia, Zaire, Germany, or the United States.

But a real socialism, it is argued, would be controlled by the workers themselves through direct participation instead of being run by Leninists, Stalinists, Castroites, or other ill-willed, power-hungry, bureaucratic, cabals of evil men who betray revolutions. Unfortunately, this “pure socialism” view is ahistorical and nonfalsifiable; it cannot be tested against the actualities of history. It compares an ideal against an imperfect reality, and the reality comes off a poor second. It imagines what socialism would be like in a world far better than this one, where no strong state structure or security force is required, where none of the value produced by workers needs to be expropriated to rebuild society and defend it from invasion and internal sabotage.

The pure socialists’ ideological anticipations remain untainted by existing practice. They do not explain how the manifold functions of a revolutionary society would be organized, how external attack and internal sabotage would be thwarted, how bureaucracy would be avoided, scarce resources allocated, policy differences settled, priorities set, and production and distribution conducted. Instead, they offer vague statements about how the workers themselves will directly own and control the means of production and will arrive at their own solutions through creative struggle. No surprise then that the pure socialists support every revolution except the ones that succeed.

The pure socialists had a vision of a new society that would create and be created by new people, a society so transformed in its fundamentals as to leave little room for wrongful acts, corruption, and criminal abuses of state power. There would be no bureaucracy or self-interested coteries, no ruthless conflicts or hurtful decisions. When the reality proves different and more difficult, some on the Left proceed to condemn the real thing and announce that they “feel betrayed” by this or that revolution.

The pure socialists see socialism as an ideal that was tarnished by communist venality, duplicity, and power cravings. The pure socialists oppose the Soviet model but offer little evidence to demonstrate that other paths could have been taken, that other models of socialism–not created from one’s imagination but developed through actual historical experience–could have taken hold and worked better. Was an open, pluralistic, democratic socialism actually possible at this historic juncture? The historical evidence would suggest it was not. As the political philosopher Carl Shames argued:

How do [the left critics] know that the fundamental problem was the “nature” of the ruling [revolutionary] parties rather than, say, the global concentration of capital that is destroying all independent economies and putting an end to national sovereignty everywhere? And to the extent that it was, where did this “nature” come from? Was this “nature” disembodied, disconnected from the fabric of the society itself, from the social relations impacting on it? . . . Thousands of examples could be found in which the centralization of power was a necessary choice in securing and protecting socialist relations. In my observation [of existing communist societies], the positive of “socialism” and the negative of “bureaucracy, authoritarianism and tyranny” interpenetrated in virtually every sphere of life. (Carl Shames, correspondence to me, 1/15/92.)

The pure socialists regularly blame the Left itself for every defeat it suffers. Their second-guessing is endless. So we hear that revolutionary struggles fail because their leaders wait too long or act too soon, are too timid or too impulsive, too stubborn or too easily swayed. We hear that revolutionary leaders are compromising or adventuristic, bureaucratic or opportunistic, rigidly organized or insufficiently organized, undemocratic or failing to provide strong leadership. But always the leaders fail because they do not put their trust in the “direct actions” of the workers, who apparently would withstand and overcome every adversity if only given the kind of leadership available from the left critic’s own groupuscule. Unfortunately, the critics seem unable to apply their own leadership genius to producing a successful revolutionary movement in their own country.

Tony Febbo questioned this blame-the-leadership syndrome of the pure socialists:

It occurs to me that when people as smart, different, dedicated and heroic as Lenin, Mao, Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Ho Chi Minh and Robert Mugabe–and the millions of heroic people who followed and fought with them–all end up more or less in the same place, then something bigger is at work than who made what decision at what meeting. Or even what size houses they went home to after the meeting. . . .

These leaders weren’t in a vacuum. They were in a whirlwind. And the suction, the force, the power that was twirling them around has spun and left this globe mangled for more than 900 years. And to blame this or that theory or this or that leader is a simple-minded substitute for the kind of analysis that Marxists [should make]. (Guardian, 11/13/91)

To be sure, the pure socialists are not entirely without specific agendas for building the revolution. After the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, an ultra-left group in that country called for direct worker ownership of the factories. The armed workers would take control of production without benefit of managers, state planners, bureaucrats, or a formal military. While undeniably appealing, this worker syndicalism denies the necessities of state power. Under such an arrangement, the Nicaraguan revolution would not have lasted two months against the U.S.-sponsored counterrevolution that savaged the country. It would have been unable to mobilize enough resources to field an army, take security measures, or build and coordinate economic programs and human services on a national scale.

Decentralization vs. Survival

For a people’s revolution to survive, it must seize state power and use it to (a) break the stranglehold exercised by the owning class over the society’s institutions and resources, and (b) withstand the reactionary counterattack that is sure to come. The internal and external dangers a revolution faces necessitate a centralized state power that is not particularly to anyone’s liking, not in Soviet Russia in 1917, nor in Sandinista Nicaragua in 1980.

Engels offers an apposite account of an uprising in Spain in 1872-73 in which anarchists seized power in municipalities across the country. At first, the situation looked promising. The king had abdicated and the bourgeois government could muster but a few thousand ill-trained troops. Yet this ragtag force prevailed because it faced a thoroughly parochialized rebellion. “Each town proclaimed itself as a sovereign canton and set up a revolutionary committee (junta),” Engels writes. “[E]ach town acted on its own, declaring that the important thing was not cooperation with other towns but separation from them, thus precluding any possibility of a combined attack [against bourgeois forces].” It was “the fragmentation and isolation of the revolutionary forces which enabled the government troops to smash one revolt after the other.”

Decentralized parochial autonomy is the graveyard of insurgency–which may be one reason why there has never been a successful anarcho-syndicalist revolution. Ideally, it would be a fine thing to have only local, self-directed, worker participation, with minimal bureaucracy, police, and military. This probably would be the development of socialism, were socialism ever allowed to develop unhindered by counterrevolutionary subversion and attack. One might recall how, in 1918-20, fourteen capitalist nations, including the United States, invaded Soviet Russia in a bloody but unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the revolutionary Bolshevik government. The years of foreign invasion and civil war did much to intensify the Bolsheviks’ siege psychology with its commitment to lockstep party unity and a repressive security apparatus. Thus, in May 1921, the same Lenin who had encouraged the practice of internal party democracy and struggled against Trotsky in order to give the trade unions a greater measure of autonomy, now called for an end to the Workers’ Opposition and other factional groups within the party. “The time has come,” he told an enthusiastically concurring Tenth Party Congress, “to put an end to opposition, to put a lid on it: we have had enough opposition.” Open disputes and conflicting tendencies within and without the party, the communists concluded, created an appearance of division and weakness that invited attack by formidable foes.

Only a month earlier, in April 1921, Lenin had called for more worker representation on the party’s Central Committee. In short, he had become not anti-worker but anti-opposition. Here was a social revolution–like every other–that was not allowed to develop its political and material life in an unhindered way.

By the late 1920s, the Soviets faced the choice of (a) moving in a still more centralized direction with a command economy and forced agrarian collectivization and full-speed industrialization under a commandist, autocratic party leadership, the road taken by Stalin, or (b) moving in a liberalized direction, allowing more political diversity, more autonomy for labor unions and other organizations, more open debate and criticism, greater autonomy among the various Soviet republics, a sector of privately owned small businesses, independent agricultural development by the peasantry, greater emphasis on consumer goods, and less effort given to the kind of capital accumulation needed to build a strong military-industrial base.

The latter course, I believe, would have produced a more comfortable, more humane and serviceable society. Siege socialism would have given way to worker-consumer socialism. The only problem is that the country would have risked being incapable of withstanding the Nazi onslaught. Instead, the Soviet Union embarked upon a rigorous, forced industrialization. This policy has often been mentioned as one of the wrongs perpetrated by Stalin upon his people. It consisted mostly of building, within a decade, an entirely new, huge industrial base east of the Urals in the middle of the barren steppes, the biggest steel complex in Europe, in anticipation of an invasion from the West. “Money was spent like water, men froze, hungered and suffered but the construction went on with a disregard for individuals and a mass heroism seldom paralleled in history.”

Stalin’s prophecy that the Soviet Union had only ten years to do what the British had done in a century proved correct. When the Nazis invaded in 1941, that same industrial base, safely ensconced thousands of miles from the front, produced the weapons of war that eventually turned the tide. The cost of this survival included 22 million Soviets who perished in the war and immeasurable devastation and suffering, the effects of which would distort Soviet society for decades afterward.

All this is not to say that everything Stalin did was of historical necessity. The exigencies of revolutionary survival did not “make inevitable” the heartless execution of hundreds of Old Bolshevik leaders, the personality cult of a supreme leader who claimed every revolutionary gain as his own achievement, the suppression of party political life through terror, the eventual silencing of debate regarding the pace of industrialization and collectivization, the ideological regulation of all intellectual and cultural life, and the mass deportations of “suspect” nationalities.

The transforming effects of counterrevolutionary attack have been felt in other countries. A Sandinista military officer I met in Vienna in 1986 noted that Nicaraguans were “not a warrior people” but they had to learn to fight because they faced a destructive, U.S.-sponsored mercenary war. She bemoaned the fact that war and embargo forced her country to postpone much of its socio-economic agenda. As with Nicaragua, so with Mozambique, Angola and numerous other countries in which U.S.-financed mercenary forces destroyed farmlands, villages, health centers, and power stations, while killing or starving hundreds of thousands–the revolutionary baby was strangled in its crib or mercilessly bled beyond recognition. This reality ought to earn at least as much recognition as the suppression of dissidents in this or that revolutionary society.

The overthrow of Eastern European and Soviet communist governments was cheered by many left intellectuals. Now democracy would have its day. The people would be free from the yoke of communism and the U.S. Left would be free from the albatross of existing communism, or as left theorist Richard Lichtman put it, “liberated from the incubus of the Soviet Union and the succubus of Communist China.”

In fact, the capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe seriously weakened the numerous Third World liberation struggles that had received aid from the Soviet Union and brought a whole new crop of right-wing governments into existence, ones that now worked hand-in-glove with U.S. global counterrevolutionaries around the globe.

In addition, the overthrow of communism gave the green light to the unbridled exploitative impulses of Western corporate interests. No longer needing to convince workers that they live better than their counterparts in Russia, no longer restrained by a competing system, the corporate class is rolling back the many gains that working people have won over the years. Now that the free market, in its meanest form, is emerging triumphant in the East, so will it prevail in the West. “Capitalism with a human face” is being replaced by “capitalism in your face.” As Richard Levins put it, “So in the new exuberant aggressiveness of world capitalism we see what communists and their allies had held at bay” (Monthly Review, 9/96).

Having never understood the role that existing communist powers played in tempering the worst impulses of Western capitalism, and having perceived communism as nothing but an unmitigated evil, the left anticommunists did not anticipate the losses that were to come. Some of them still don’t get it.

Che Guevara on United Fruit

CheMosaicInMatanzas

“The last Latin American revolutionary democracy – that of Jacobo Arbenz – failed as a result of the cold premeditated aggression carried out by the U.S.A. Its visible head was the Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, a man who, through a rare coincidence, was also a stockholder and attorney for the United Fruit Company.”

– Che Guevara, quoted in Douglas Kellner’s “Ernesto “Che” Guevara (World Leaders Past & Present),” Chelsea House Publishers. p. 32.

“Along the way, I had the opportunity to pass through the dominions of the United Fruit, convincing me once again of just how terrible these capitalist octopuses are. I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won’t rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated.

– Che Guevara, Letter to his aunt Beatriz describing what he had seen while traveling through Guatemala (1953); as quoted in “Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life” by Jon Lee Anderson.

“United Fruit Co.” by Pablo Naruda

kurtz-phelan-600

Neruda wrote this poem in 1950 to bring attention to injustices brought upon the native populations of Central and South America that were a result of American companies (and the U.S. government with the help of the CIA) and dictators throughout the region who exploited their labor and forcefully suppressed democratic movements.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

United Fruit Co.

When the trumpet sounded
everything was prepared on earth,
and Jehovah gave the world
to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other corporations.
The United Fruit Company
reserved for itself the most juicy
piece, the central coast of my world,
the delicate waist of America.

It rebaptized these countries
Banana Republics,
and over the sleeping dead,
over the unquiet heroes
who won greatness,
liberty, and banners,
it established an opera buffa:
it abolished free will,
gave out imperial crowns,
encouraged envy, attracted
the dictatorship of flies:
Trujillo flies, Tachos flies
Carias flies, Martinez flies,
Ubico flies, flies sticky with
submissive blood and marmalade,
drunken flies that buzz over
the tombs of the people,
circus flies, wise flies
expert at tyranny.

With the bloodthirsty flies
came the Fruit Company,
amassed coffee and fruit
in ships which put to sea like
overloaded trays with the treasures
from our sunken lands.

Meanwhile the Indians fall
into the sugared depths of the
harbors and are buried in the
morning mists;
a corpse rolls, a thing without
name, a discarded number,
a bunch of rotten fruit
thrown on the garbage heap.

AS WRITTEN IN SPANISH

La United Fruit Co.

Cuando sonó la trompeta, estuvo
todo preparado en la tierra,
y Jehova repartió el mundo
a Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, y otras entidades:
la Compañía Frutera Inc.
se reservó lo más jugoso,
la costa central de mi tierra,
la dulce cintura de América.

Bautizó de nuevo sus tierras
como “Repúblicas Bananas,”
y sobre los muertos dormidos,
sobre los héroes inquietos
que conquistaron la grandeza,
la libertad y las banderas,
estableció la ópera bufa:
enajenó los albedríos
regaló coronas de César,
desenvainó la envidia, atrajo
la dictadora de las moscas,
moscas Trujillos, moscas Tachos,
moscas Carías, moscas Martínez,
moscas Ubico, moscas húmedas
de sangre humilde y mermelada,
moscas borrachas que zumban
sobre las tumbas populares,
moscas de circo, sabias moscas
entendidas en tiranía.

Entre las moscas sanguinarias
la Frutera desembarca,
arrasando el café y las frutas,
en sus barcos que deslizaron
como bandejas el tesoro
de nuestras tierras sumergidas.

Mientras tanto, por los abismos
azucarados de los puertos,
caían indios sepultados
en el vapor de la mañana:
un cuerpo rueda, una cosa
sin nombre, un número caído,
un racimo de fruta muerta
derramada en el pudridero.

With the Workers and the Peoples in the Independent Struggle for the Revolution and Socialism

16th Seminar on the International Problems of the Revolution in Latin America

Final Statement

In Latin America the new millennium arrived with the struggle of the workers, youth, peasants, women and peoples against the structural adjustment policies implemented by governments at the service of powerful local oligarchic groups and imperialist finance capital. The increasing social discontent, manifested in street mobilisations, partial and general strikes and even popular uprisings that put an end to reactionary and pro-imperialist governments, split the bourgeois institutions and accelerated the wearing out of the current model of capitalist accumulation, monitored by the centres of imperialist domination.

The fear grew among the socio-economic elites that the yearning for change and the desire to be protagonists of deep transformations was taking shape among the people. The progressive and left-wing political programmes, once seen as being obsolete and inapplicable, were embraced by the working and popular classes.

While in various countries of Latin America there are still openly right-wing governments explicitly sold out to imperialism, in others countries so-called alternative and progressive governments have emerged; in some of these, on certain occasions there have been actions of resistance towards policies of imperialism, which deserve the support of the peoples.

Recurring to their own political experience, bourgeois factions of various countries have manoeuvred to take advantage of the discontent of the masses for their own interests. They appear to make their own the programmes and proposals raised for years by the popular movement and the left-wing organisations against neo-liberalism and to achieve a sovereign development, under conditions of social fairness.

Nevertheless, the expectations and enthusiasm of the masses with those governments that promised to leave behind the past of disgrace and backwardness clash with reality when these governments carry out their real political programme and give away the natural wealth, at present mainly mines, to the foreign companies; when the foreign debt persists, although the capital comes from other imperialist centres; when popular protest is criminalised; when free trade negotiations and agreements are going ahead under different names; or, when governmental propaganda says more of what in reality is being carried out in the social sphere.

Even though discontent is arising among the workers, youth, peasants, women and peoples, it is a fact that, so far, these governments have had, to a certain degree, the capacity to neutralise and contain the social mobilisation. Without a doubt, that is a fruit of the ability of ideological-political manipulation by the bourgeois factions that, with the support of imperialism, are in the government; it is due to the carrying out of social welfare and patronage policies, to the presence of authoritarian leaders as heads of government who make wide use of demagogy and populist policies; but it is also due to the existing limits in the consciousness of the masses and the weaknesses from which the revolutionary and left-wing organisations still suffer.

Under these new conditions, the struggle that the workers and revolutionary organisations are unfolding is becoming more complex, since it is relatively clearer for the masses that they must confront and fight a government that is openly right-wing and linked to foreign capital, than one that demagogically claims to promote change and to affect the interests of the rich, even though in reality it is doing nothing more than propping up the whole system of domination by capital and defending the interests of the local ruling classes and of imperialist finance capital.

For the advance of the revolutionary struggle of the peoples, it is essential to unmask and defeat these sell-out, demagogic and populist governments that are causing serious damage to the development of the popular organisation and struggle. It is necessary to combat these governments functioning on behalf of the ruling system, but by no means should we play into the interests of the other bourgeois factions of the ‘right’ The struggle of the workers and peoples, with a class independence, to win social and national liberation forces them to fight and defeat one and the other bourgeois faction.

In order to fulfill the strategic intentions that drive us, we the political organisations, movements and parties committed to leading the revolution and socialism to victory must redouble our efforts to develop the political consciousness of the masses. That is possible mainly by unleashing the struggle for their particular demands and political banners in order to unmask the true nature of those governments. It is vital to promote an intense and systematic ideological-political offensive of the revolutionary ideals among the workers, youth, peasants, women and peoples; it is urgent to take advantage of all the opportunities that the bourgeois institutions allow for the political task and even to surpass these; it is necessary to persevere in the unity of the popular movement and of the political organisations of the left in order to isolate from the social movement those who, at the present time, are manipulating the yearnings for change of the peoples from positions of power.

Although, circumstantially, the populist governments have managed to partially restrain the struggle of the masses, it is certain that their material conditions of life and the historical limitations of these governments are forcing the masses to protest. Still more, the world scenario is inevitably affecting them from all sides and the sharpening of the general crisis of the capitalist system is causing the fighting response of the peoples, as can be observed in our region and in particular in Europe, with whose working class and youth we express our solidarity.

We, the organizations taking part in this 16th Seminar on the International Problems of the Revolution in Latin America, united in Quito from July 16 to 20, reiterate our internationalist duty and commitment to continue fighting for unity and solidarity among the peoples, to form – by means of concrete actions – a great anti-imperialist front. We uphold the right of the peoples to self-determination; we condemn all forms of foreign intervention and all actions of the ruling classes to thwart the will of the peoples.

The views summarised in this Statement are the result of open and democratic debate in this seminar. We present them to the world so that the workers, youth and peoples may know them.

From Quito, Ecuador, we express our commitment to continue this event and, for that reason we are convening the 17th International Seminar for next year.

Quito, July 20, 2012
Revolutionary Communist Party of Argentina
Revolutionary Communist Party – Brazil
Movement for the Popular Constituent Assembly – Colombia
Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Labour of the Dominican Republic
Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist)
Revolutionary Popular Front – Mexico
Communist Party of Palestine
Communist Party of Peru – Red Fatherland
Peruvian Communist Party Marxist-Leninist
National Democratic Front – Philippines
Caribbean and Latin American Coordinator of Puerto Rico
All Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) – Russia
Communist Party of Spain Marxist-Leninist
Gayones Movement – Venezuela
Emancipator Pedagogic Movement of Venezuela MOPEZ
Movement of Education for the Emancipation of Venezuela MEPE
Marxist-Leninist Trade Union Current – Venezuela
Ana Soto Women’s Movement of Venezuela
Preparatory Committee of Venezuela for the 23rd International Camp of Anti-Fascist and Anti-Imperialist Youth
Socialist Revolutionary University Front – Venezuela
Socialist Movement for the Quality of Life and Health – Venezuela
Democratic Popular Movement – Ecuador
Revolutionary Youth of Ecuador
Revolutionary Front of the University Left
Teachers Vanguard Front
Revolutionary Trade Union Current
Confederation of Ecuadorian Women for Change
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador

Source

Video: Arbenz & the CIA, Guatemala 1950’s

1970-1987: The contra war in Nicaragua

Noam Chomsky’s account of the US-backed “contra” counter-insurgency in Nicaragua against the left-wing government.

It wasn’t just the events in El Salvador that were ignored by the mainstream US media during the 1970s. In the ten years prior to the overthrow of the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, US television – all networks – devoted exactly one hour to Nicaragua, and that was entirely on the Managua earthquake of 1972.

From 1960 through 1978, the New York Times had three editorials on Nicaragua. It’s not that nothing was happening there – it’s just that whatever was happening was unremarkable. Nicaragua was of no concern at all, as long as Somoza’s tyrannical rule wasn’t challenged.

When his rule was challenged, by the [popular, left-wing] Sandinistas in the late 1970s, the US first tried to institute what was called “Somocismo [Somoza-ism] without Somoza” – that is, the whole corrupt system intact, but with somebody else at the top. That didn’t work, so President Carter tried to maintain Somoza’s National Guard as a base for US power.

The National Guard had always been remarkably brutal and sadistic. By June 1979, it was carrying out massive atrocities in the war against the Sandinistas, bombing residential neighbourhoods in Managua, killing tens of thousands of people. At that point, the US ambassador sent a cable to the White House saying it would be “ill-advised” to tell the Guard to call off the bombing, because that might interfere with the policy of keeping them in power and the Sandinistas out.

Our ambassador to the Organisation of American States also spoke in favour of “Somocismo without Somoza,” but the OAS rejected the suggestion flat out. A few days later, Somoza flew off to Miami with what was left of the Nicaraguan national treasury, and the Guard collapsed.

The Carter administration flew Guard commanders out of the country in planes with Red Cross markings (a war crime), and began to reconstitute the Guard on Nicaragua’s borders. They also used Argentina as a proxy. (At that time, Argentina was under the rule of neo-Nazi generals, but they took a little time off from torturing and murdering their own population to help re-establish the Guard – soon to be renamed the contras, or “freedom fighters.”)

Ronald Reagan used them to launch a large-scale terrorist war against Nicaragua, combined with economic warfare that was even more lethal. We also intimidated other countries so they wouldn’t send aid either.

And yet, despite astronomical levels of military support, the United States failed to create a viable military force in Nicaragua. That’s quite remarkable, if you think about it. No real guerrillas anywhere in the world have ever had resources even remotely like what the United States gave the contras. You could probably start a guerrilla insurgency in mountain regions of the US with comparable funding.

Why did the US go to such lengths in Nicaragua? The international development organisation Oxfam explained the real reasons, stating that, from its experience of working in 76 developing countries, “Nicaragua was…exceptional in the strength of that government’s commitment…to improving the condition of the people and encouraging their active participation in the development process.”

Of the four Central American countries where Oxfam had a significant presence (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), only in Nicaragua was there a substantial effort to address inequities in land ownership and to extend health, educational and agricultural services to poor peasant families.

Other agencies told a similar story. In the early 1980s, the World Bank called its projects “extraordinarily successful in Nicaragua in some sectors, better than anywhere else in the world.” In 1983, The Inter-American Development Bank concluded that “Nicaragua has made noteworthy progress in the social sector, which is laying the basis for long-term socio-economic development.”

The success of the Sandinista reforms terrified US planners. They were aware that – as José Figueres, the father of Costa Rican democracy, put it – “for the first time, Nicaragua has a government that cares for its people.” (Although Figueres was the leading democratic figure in Central America for forty years, his unacceptable insights into the real world were completely censored from the US media.)

The hatred that was elicited by the Sandinistas for trying to direct resources to the poor (and even succeeding at it) was truly wondrous to behold. Just about all US policymakers shared it, and it reached virtual frenzy.

Back in 1981, a State Department insider boasted that we would “turn Nicaragua into the Albania of Central America” – that is, poor, isolated and politically radical – so that the Sandinista dream of creating a new, more exemplary political model for Latin America would be in ruins.

George Shultz called the Sandinistas a “cancer, right here on our land mass,” that has to be destroyed. At the other end of the political spectrum, leading Senate liberal Alan Cranston said that if it turned out not to be possible to destroy the Sandinistas, then we’d just have to let them “fester in [their] own juices.”

So the US launched a three-fold attack against Nicaragua. First, we exerted extreme pressure to compel the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank to terminate all projects and assistance.

Second, we launched the contra war along with an illegal economic war to terminate what Oxfam rightly called “the threat of a good example.” The contras’ vicious terrorist attacks against “soft targets” under US orders did help, along with the boycott, to end any hope of economic development and social reform. US terror ensured that Nicaragua couldn’t demobilise its army and divert its pitifully poor and limited resources to reconstructing the ruins that were left by the US-backed dictators and Reaganite crimes. The contras were even funded by the US selling arms to Iran, in what became known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

One of the most respected Central America correspondents, Julia Preston (who was then working for the Boston Globe), reported that “Administration officials said they are content to see the contras debilitate the Sandinistas by forcing them to divert scarce resources toward the war and away from social programs.” That’s crucial, since the social programs were at the heart of the good example that might have infected other countries in the region and eroded the American system of [much higher-grade] exploitation and robbery.

We even refused to send disaster relief. After the 1972 earthquake, the US sent an enormous amount of aid to Nicaragua, most of which was stolen by our buddy Somoza. In October 1988, an even worse natural disaster struck Nicaragua – Hurricane Joan. We didn’t send a penny for that, because if we had, it would probably have gotten to the people, not just into the pockets of some rich thug. We also pressured our allies to send very little aid.

This devastating hurricane, with its welcome prospects of mass starvation and long-term ecological damage, reinforced our efforts. We wanted Nicaraguans to starve so we could accuse the Sandinistas of economic mismanagement. Because they weren’t under our control, Nicaraguans had to suffer and die.

Third, we used diplomatic fakery to crush Nicaragua. As Tony Avirgan wrote in the Costa Rican journal Mesoamerica, “the Sandinistas fell for a scam perpetrated by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias and the other Central American Presidents, which cost them the February [1990] elections.”

For Nicaragua, the peace plan of August 1987 was a good deal, Avrigan wrote: they would move the scheduled national elections forward by a few months and allow international observation, as they had in 1984, “in exchange for having the contras demobilised and the war brought to an end….” The Nicaraguan government did what it was required to do under the peace plan, but no one else paid the slightest attention to it.

Arias, the White House and Congress never had the slightest intention of implementing any aspect of the plan. The US virtually tripled CIA supply flights to the contras. Within a couple of months the peace plan was totally dead.

As the election campaign opened, the US made it clear that the embargo that was strangling the country and the contra terror would continue if the Sandinistas won the election. You have to be some kind of Nazi or unreconstructed Stalinist to regard an election conducted under such conditions as free and fair – and south of the border, few succumbed to such delusions.

If anything like that were ever done by our enemies… I leave the media reaction to your imagination. The amazing part of it was that the Sandinistas still got 40% of the vote, while New York Times headlines proclaimed that Americans were “United in Joy” over this “Victory for US Fair Play.”

US achievements in Central America in the past fifteen years are a major tragedy, not just because of the appalling human cost, but because a decade ago there were prospects for real progress towards meaningful democracy and meeting human needs, with early successes in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

These efforts might have worked and might have taught useful lessons to others plagued with similar problems – which, of course, was exactly what US planners feared. The threat has been successfully aborted, perhaps forever.

From What Uncle Sam Really Wants, by Noam Chomsky.

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Reagan’s Hand in Guatemala’s Genocide

Ronald Reagan and Guatemalan General Efraín Ríos Montt

By Robert Parry

Guatemala is taking steps to hold an ex-dictator accountable for genocide committed against Maya-Ixil Indians in the 1980s, even as the United States continues to honor the American president — Ronald Reagan — who helped make that genocide possible.

A Guatemalan judge ordered Efraín Ríos Montt to appear in court on Thursday in what could be the start of a process for trying the former military dictator on genocide charges for authorizing scorched-earth campaigns against Maya-Ixil villages suspected of sympathizing with leftist guerrillas.

In the late 1990s, a United Nations truth commission investigated the slaughters, which involved the killing of men, women and children, and labeled the massacres carried out during Ríos Montt’s 17-month reign in 1982 and 1983 as “genocide.” Two of Ríos Montt’s generals were arrested on war crimes and genocide charges last year.

However, while Guatemala, though beset by many serious problems including widespread poverty, takes politically difficult steps to impose some accountability on these war criminals, the U.S. politician most associated with Ríos Montt and his genocide, remains the subject of endless adoration.

The mere mention of Ronald Reagan’s name at Republican presidential debates is a sure-fire applause line; the American people are reminded over and over how the former actor made them “feel good”; he’s credited with “winning” the Cold War though he actually may have prolonged it; his centennial birthday in 2011 was celebrated with lavish speeches and fawning documentaries; and a new Reagan statue was recently unveiled at Washington’s airport, which has been renamed in his honor.

If there is one consensus in the mainstream U.S. news media, it seems to be that not a discouraging word can be spoken about Ronald Reagan. On those rare occasions when major U.S. news outlets do make mention of the Guatemalan genocide of the 1980s, they circumspectly reframe the story to avoid mentioning Reagan’s role.

Yet, it was Reagan’s Cold War obsessions that emboldened right-wing “death squads” to slaughter tens of thousands of their own people across many parts of the Third World but no place more so than in the desperately poor countries of Central America.

Guatemala's former dictator Efrain Rios Montt is seen outside the court in Guatemala City.

An Ardent Defender

In the 1970s and 1980s, as Latin American security forces were sharpening themselves into finely honed killing machines, Reagan was there as an ardent defender, making excuses for the atrocities, and sending money and equipment to make the forces even more lethal.

For instance, in the late 1970s, when Argentina’s dictators were inventing a new state-terror program called “disappearances” – the unacknowledged murders of dissidents – Reagan was making himself useful as a columnist deflecting the human rights complaints coming from the Carter administration.

At the time, Argentina’s security forces were rounding up tens of thousands of political opponents who became subjects of ingenious torture techniques often followed by mass killings, including a favorite method that involved shackling naked prisoners together, loading them onto a plane, piloting the plane out to sea and shoving them through the plane’s door, like sausage links.

However, since Argentina’s rightists were devout Catholics, they had a special twist when the prisoners were pregnant women. The expectant mothers would be kept alive until they reached full term and then were subjected to either induced labor or Caesarian sections.

The babies were handed out to military families and the new mothers were loaded aboard the death planes to be dumped out over the sea to drown. The children were sometimes raised by their mothers’ murderers. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Argentina’s Dapper State Terrorist” or “Baby-Snatching: Argentina’s Dirty War Secret.”]

As ghastly as Argentina’s “dirty war” was, it had an ardent defender in Ronald Reagan, who used his newspaper column to chide President Jimmy Carter’s human rights coordinator, Patricia Derian, for berating the Argentine junta. Reagan joshed that Derian should “walk a mile in the moccasins” of the Argentine generals before criticizing them. [For details, see Martin Edwin Andersen’s Dossier Secreto.]

Efraín Ríos Montt headed a military regime in Guatemala from 1982–1983 that exterminated hundreds of thousands of Maya villagers.

Sympathizing with Torturers

So, there was good reason for the right-wing oligarchs and their security services to celebrate when Reagan was elected president in November 1980. They knew they would enjoy a new era of impunity as they tortured, raped and murdered their political opponents.

Even before Reagan took office, four American churchwomen in El Salvador were kidnapped by elements of the right-wing Salvadoran military. Because the women were suspected of harboring leftist sympathies, they were raped and executed with high-powered bullets to their brains, before their bodies were stuffed into shallow graves.

The incoming Reagan administration was soon making excuses for the Salvadoran killers, including comments from Reagan’s U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick and Secretary of State Alexander Haig. The brutal Argentine generals also got a royal welcome when they visited Washington. Kirkpatrick feted them at an elegant state dinner.

More substantively, Reagan authorized CIA collaboration with the Argentine intelligence service for training and arming the Nicaraguan Contras, a rebel force created to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. The Contras were soon implicated in human rights atrocities of their own.

Torture was also on the Reagan’s administration’s menu for political enemies. Years later, a 2004 CIA Inspector General’s report which examined the CIA’s “war on terror” interrogations noted the spy agency’s “resurgence in interest” in teaching harsh interrogation techniques in the early 1980s “to foster foreign liaison relationships.”

The report said, “because of political sensitivities,” the CIA’s top brass in the 1980s “forbade Agency officers from using the word ‘interrogation” and substituted the phrase “human resources exploitation” in training programs for allied intelligence agencies.

Euphemisms aside, the CIA Inspector General cited a 1984 investigation of alleged “misconduct on the part of two Agency officers who were involved in interrogations and the death of one individual.” In 1984, the CIA also was faced with a scandal over an “assassination manual” prepared by agency personnel for the Nicaraguan Contras.

While the IG report’s references to this earlier era were brief – and the abuses are little-remembered features of Ronald Reagan’s glorified presidency – there have been other glimpses into how Reagan unleashed this earlier “dark side” on the peasants, workers and students of Central America. Arguably, the worst of these “dirty wars” was inflicted on the people of Guatemala.

Indigenous Maya survivors of the Guatemalan civil war stand with photos of their loved ones, killed or disappeared during the conflict.

Genocide in Guatemala

After taking office in 1981, Reagan pushed to overturn an arms embargo that Carter had imposed on Guatemala for its wretched human rights record. Yet even as Reagan moved to loosen up the military aid ban, U.S. intelligence agencies were confirming new Guatemalan government massacres.

In April 1981, a secret CIA cable described a massacre at Cocob, near Nebaj in the Ixil Indian territory. On April 17, 1981, government troops attacked the area believed to support leftist guerrillas, the cable said.

According to a CIA source, “the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas” and “the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved.” The CIA cable added that “the Guatemalan authorities admitted that ‘many civilians’ were killed in Cocob, many of whom undoubtedly were non-combatants.”

Despite the CIA account and other similar reports, Reagan permitted Guatemala’s army to buy $3.2 million in military trucks and jeeps in June 1981. To permit the sale, Reagan removed the vehicles from a list of military equipment that was covered by the human rights embargo.

Confident of Reagan’s sympathies, the Guatemalan government continued its political repression without apology.According to a State Department cable on Oct. 5, 1981, Guatemalan leaders met with Reagan’s roving ambassador, retired Gen. Vernon Walters, and left no doubt about their plans. Guatemala’s military leader, Gen. Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia, “made clear that his government will continue as before – that the repression will continue.”

Human rights groups saw the same grisly picture. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission released a report on Oct. 15, 1981, blaming the Guatemalan government for “thousands of illegal executions.” [Washington Post, Oct. 16, 1981]

But the Reagan administration was set on whitewashing the ugly scene. A State Department “white paper,” released in December 1981, blamed the violence on leftist “extremist groups” and their “terrorist methods,” inspired and supported by Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

More Massacres

Yet, even as these rationalizations were pitched to the American people, U.S. intelligence agencies in Guatemala continued to learn of government-sponsored massacres. One CIA report in February 1982 described an army sweep through the so-called Ixil Triangle in central El Quiche province.

“The commanding officers of the units involved have been instructed to destroy all towns and villages which are cooperating with the Guerrilla Army of the Poor [known as the EGP] and eliminate all sources of resistance,” the report stated. “Since the operation began, several villages have been burned to the ground, and a large number of guerrillas and collaborators have been killed.”

The CIA report explained the army’s modus operandi: “When an army patrol meets resistance and takes fire from a town or village, it is assumed that the entire town is hostile and it is subsequently destroyed.” When the army encountered an empty village, it was “assumed to have been supporting the EGP, and it is destroyed. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of refugees in the hills with no homes to return to. …

“The well-documented belief by the army that the entire Ixil Indian population is pro-EGP has created a situation in which the army can be expected to give no quarter to combatants and non-combatants alike.”

In March 1982, Gen. Efrain Ríos Montt seized power in a coup d’etat. An avowed fundamentalist Christian, he immediately impressed Official Washington with his piety. Reagan hailed Ríos Montt as “a man of great personal integrity.”

By July 1982, however, Ríos Montt had begun a new scorched-earth campaign called “rifles and beans.” The slogan meant that pacified Indians would get “beans,” while all others could expect to be the target of army “rifles.” In October 1982, Ríos Montt secretly gave carte blanche to the feared “Archivos” intelligence unit to expand “death squad” operations, internal U.S. government cables revealed.

Defending Ríos Montt

Despite the widespread evidence of Guatemalan government atrocities cited in the internal U.S. government cables, political operatives for the Reagan administration sought to conceal the crimes. On Oct. 22, 1982, for instance, the U.S. Embassy claimed the Guatemalan government was the victim of a communist-inspired “disinformation campaign.”

Reagan personally took that position in December 1982 when he met with Ríos Montt and claimed that his regime was getting a “bum rap” on human rights.

On Jan. 7, 1983, Reagan lifted the ban on military aid to Guatemala, authorizing the sale of $6 million in military hardware, including spare parts for UH-1H helicopters and A-37 aircraft used in counterinsurgency operations. State Department spokesman John Hughes said the sales were justified because political violence in the cities had “declined dramatically” and that rural conditions had improved, too.

In February 1983, however, a secret CIA cable noted a rise in “suspect right-wing violence” with kidnappings of students and teachers. Bodies of victims were appearing in ditches and gullies. CIA sources traced these political murders to Ríos Montt’s order to the “Archivos” the previous October to “apprehend, hold, interrogate and dispose of suspected guerrillas as they saw fit.”

Despite these ugly facts on the ground, the annual State Department human rights survey sugarcoated the facts for the American public and praised the supposedly improved human rights situation in Guatemala. “The overall conduct of the armed forces had improved by late in the year” 1982, the report stated.

A different picture – far closer to the secret information held by the U.S. government – was coming from independent human rights investigators. On March 17, 1983, Americas Watch representatives condemned the Guatemalan army for human rights atrocities against the Indian population.

New York attorney Stephen L. Kass cited proof that the government carried out “virtually indiscriminate murder of men, women and children of any farm regarded by the army as possibly supportive of guerrilla insurgents.”

Rural women suspected of guerrilla sympathies were raped before execution, Kass said. Children were “thrown into burning homes. They are thrown in the air and speared with bayonets. We heard many, many stories of children being picked up by the ankles and swung against poles so their heads are destroyed.” [AP, March 17, 1983]

‘Positive Changes’

Publicly, however, senior Reagan officials continued to put on a happy face. On June 12, 1983, special envoy Richard B. Stone praised “positive changes” in Ríos Montt’s government. But Ríos Montt’s vengeful Christian fundamentalism was hurtling out of control, even by Guatemalan standards. In August 1983, Gen. Oscar Mejia Victores seized power in another coup.

Despite the power shift, Guatemalan security forces continued to kill anyone deemed a subversive or a terrorist. When three Guatemalans working for the U.S. Agency for International Development were slain in November 1983, U.S. Ambassador Frederic Chapin suspected that “Archivos” hit squads were sending a message to the United States to back off even the mild pressure for human rights.

In late November 1983, in a brief show of displeasure, the administration postponed the sale of $2 million in helicopter spare parts. The next month, however, Reagan sent the spare parts anyway. In 1984, Reagan succeeded, too, in pressuring Congress to approve $300,000 in military training for the Guatemalan army.

By mid-1984, Chapin, who had grown bitter about the army’s stubborn brutality, was gone, replaced by a far-right political appointee named Alberto Piedra, who was all for increased military assistance to Guatemala. In January 1985, Americas Watch issued a report observing that Reagan’s State Department “is apparently more concerned with improving Guatemala’s image than in improving its human rights.”

Other examples of Guatemala’s “death squad” strategy came to light later. For example, a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency cable in 1994 reported that the Guatemalan military had used an air base in Retalhuleu during the mid-1980s as a center for coordinating the counterinsurgency campaign in southwest Guatemala – and for torturing and disposing of prisoners.

At the base, pits were filled with water to hold captured suspects. “Reportedly there were cages over the pits and the water level was such that the individuals held within them were forced to hold on to the bars in order to keep their heads above water and avoid drowning,” the DIA report stated.

The Guatemalan military used the Pacific Ocean as another dumping spot for political victims, according to the DIA report. Bodies of insurgents tortured to death and live prisoners marked for “disappearance” were loaded onto planes that flew out over the ocean where the soldiers would shove the victims into the water to drown, a page taken from the Argentine military’s playbook.

‘Perception Management’

Guatemala, of course, was not the only Central American country where Reagan and his administration supported brutal counterinsurgency and paramilitary operations — and then sought to cover up the bloody facts.

Deception of the American public – a strategy that the administration called “perception management” – was as much a part of Reagan’s Central American activities as the Bush administration’s lies and distortions about weapons of mass destruction were to the lead-up to the war in Iraq in 2003.

Reagan’s falsification of the historical record became a hallmark of the conflicts in El Salvador and Nicaragua as well as Guatemala. In one case, Reagan personally lashed out at a human rights investigator named Reed Brody, a New York lawyer who had collected affidavits from more than 100 witnesses to atrocities carried out by the U.S.-supported Contras in Nicaragua.

Angered by the revelations about his beloved Contras, Reagan denounced Brody in a speech on April 15, 1985, calling him “one of dictator [Daniel] Ortega’s supporters, a sympathizer who has openly embraced Sandinismo.”

Privately, Reagan had a far more accurate understanding of the true nature of the Contras. At one point in the Contra war, Reagan turned to CIA official Duane Clarridge and demanded that the Contras be used to destroy some Soviet-supplied helicopters that had arrived in Nicaragua. Clarridge recalled that “President Reagan pulled me aside and asked, ‘Dewey, can’t you get those vandals of yours to do this job.’” [See Clarridge’s A Spy for All Seasons.]

On Feb. 25, 1999, a Guatemalan truth commission issued a report on the staggering human rights crimes that Reagan and his administration had aided, abetted and concealed. The Historical Clarification Commission, an independent human rights body, estimated that the Guatemalan conflict claimed the lives of some 200,000 people with the most savage bloodletting occurring in the 1980s.

Based on a review of about 20 percent of the dead, the panel blamed the army for 93 percent of the killings and leftist guerrillas for three percent. Four percent were listed as unresolved. The report documented that in the 1980s, the army committed 626 massacres against Mayan villages.

“The massacres that eliminated entire Mayan villages … are neither perfidious allegations nor figments of the imagination, but an authentic chapter in Guatemala’s history,” the commission concluded.The army “completely exterminated Mayan communities, destroyed their livestock and crops,” the report said. In the northern highlands, the report termed the slaughter “genocide.”

Torture and Rape

Besides carrying out murder and “disappearances,” the army routinely engaged in torture and rape. “The rape of women, during torture or before being murdered, was a common practice” by the military and paramilitary forces, the report found.

The report added that the “government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some [of these] state operations.” The report concluded that the U.S. government also gave money and training to a Guatemalan military that committed “acts of genocide” against the Mayans.

“Believing that the ends justified everything, the military and the state security forces blindly pursued the anticommunist struggle, without respect for any legal principles or the most elemental ethical and religious values, and in this way, completely lost any semblance of human morals,” said the commission chairman, Christian Tomuschat, a German jurist.

“Within the framework of the counterinsurgency operations carried out between 1981 and 1983, in certain regions of the country agents of the Guatemalan state committed acts of genocide against groups of the Mayan people,” Tomuschat said.

During a visit to Central America, on March 10, 1999, President Bill Clinton apologized for the past U.S. support of right-wing regimes in Guatemala. “For the United States, it is important that I state clearly that support for military forces and intelligence units which engaged in violence and widespread repression was wrong, and the United States must not repeat that mistake,” Clinton said.

Though Clinton admitted that U.S. policy in Guatemala was “wrong” — and the new evidence of a U.S.-backed “genocide” might have been considered startling — the U.S. news media mostly treated the story as a one-day event. U.S. complicity in genocide prompted no panel discussions on the cable news shows, which then were obsessed with Clinton’s personal life.

But there was another factor in the disinterest. By the late 1990s, Ronald Reagan had been transformed into a national icon, with the Republican-controlled Congress attaching his name to public buildings around the country and to National Airport in Washington.

Democrats mostly reacted to this deification of Reagan as if It were harmless, an easy concession to the Republicans in the name of bipartisanship. Many Democrats even have cited Reagan as supportive of some of their positions as a way to deflect attacks from the Right. To this day, when defending some policy, “even Ronald Reagan” is a favorite phrase of left-of-center pundits and Democrats, including President Barack Obama.

This Democratic appeasement, however, had many negative consequences. With Reagan and his brutal policies shielded from serious scrutiny, the path was left open for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to return to Reagan’s “dark side” after the 9/11 attacks, authorizing torture and extrajudicial killings of their own — and expecting to avoid accountability.

So, even as Guatemala struggles to address the grim chapters of its recent history, the United States continues to lavish love on the Gipper, the president who made Americans “feel good” about themselves even as he did evil in their name.

[Many of the declassified Guatemalan documents have been posted on the Internet by the National Security Archive.]

[For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

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The Crimes of Chiquita

1. In 1984 the United Fruit Company (UFCO) was renamed Chiquita Brands International. While I will not delve too deeply into the transgressions of the UFCO, I will say that the country I was born and spent 18 years of my life in, Guatemala, owes much of the political turmoil in it’s modern history to the United Fruit Company. In 1954, democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz was ousted by a CIA-orchestrated coup that was put into motion by the political influence of the United Fruit Company. All of this is documented very well in the book Bitter Fruit.

2. In 1998, Chiquita’s systemic abuses were documented by an expose in the Cincinatti Enquirer, entitled “Chiquita Secrets Revealed”. The Cincinatti Enquirer was forced to run a dramatic retraction because Michael Gallagher obtained a lot of the information illegally by hacking into the company’s voice mail system, but none of the factual claims in the 18 page series have been disputed or proven wrong. The expose covers a variety of abuses including mistreating Central American workers, polluting the environment, allowing cocaine to be brought into the United States on it’s ships, bribing foreign officials, evading the laws of foriegn countries, and forcibly preventing it’s workers from unionizing.

3. In 2001, Chiquita was forced to pay a $100,000 penalty after the Securities and Exchange Commission found it guilty of bribing a foreign official in Colombia.

4. In 2007, Chiquita plead guilty to paying $1.7 million to the Auto-Defensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) which I have written about many times.

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  • Chiquita secretly controls dozens of supposedly independent banana companies. It does so through elaborate business structures designed to avoid restrictions on land ownership and national security laws in Central American countries. The structures also are aimed at limiting unions on its farms.
  • Chiquita and its subsidiaries are engaged in pesticide practices that threaten the health of workers and nearby residents, despite an agreement with an environmental group to adhere to certain safety standards.
  • Despite that environmental agreement, Chiquita subsidiaries use pesticides in Central America that are not allowed for use in either the United States or Canada, or in one or more of the 15 countries in the European Union.
  • A worker on a Chiquita subsidiary farm died late last year after exposure to toxic chemicals in a banana field, according to a local coroner’s report.
  • Hundreds of people in a Costa Rican barrio have been exposed to a toxic chemical emitting from the factory of a Chiquita subsidiary.
    Employees of Chiquita and a subsidiary were involved in a bribery scheme in Colombia that has come to the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Two employees have been forced to resign.
  • Chiquita fruit-transport ships have been used to smuggle cocaine into Europe. Authorities seized more than a ton of cocaine (worth up to $33 million in its pure form) from seven Chiquita ships in 1997. Although the company was unaware and did not approve of the illegal shipments, problems were traced to lax security on its Colombian docks.
  • Security guards have used brute force to enforce their authority on plantations operated or controlled by Chiquita. In an internationally controversial case, Chiquita called in the Honduran military to enforce a court order to evict residents of a farm village; the village was bulldozed and villagers run out at gunpoint. On a palm plantation controlled by a Chiquita subsidiary in Honduras, a man was shot to death and another man injured by guards using an illegal automatic weapon. An agent of a competitor has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that armed men led by Chiquita officials tried to kidnap him in Honduras.
  • Chiquita Chairman and CEO Carl H. Lindner Jr., his family and associates made legal but controversial contributions to political figures at a time the company desperately sought U.S. backing in a trade dispute over banana tariffs in Europe.
  • In a statement issued through its attorneys, Chiquita said the company “has been an active and enthusiastic engine for a better way of life throughout the region (and) is a leader in preserving, enhancing and cleaning the environment through Central America.”

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Forty years of African Liberation Day! Time to build the Party to complete the struggle

Published Dec 2, 2011

When the first African Liberation Day (ALD) demonstration was held in 1972, the U.S. front of the African liberation movement was reeling from deathblows being delivered by the U.S. government in a counteroffensive that had littered the international landscape with the bodies of murdered black freedom fighters around the world.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others were rounded up at gunpoint and herded into concentration camp jails and prisons in the U.S.

This was the U.S. response to the changing world that was reducing the list of hosts that U.S. and European parasitic capitalism relied on for its existence.

Since the bloody carnage of the second imperialist world war between the U.S. and European powers to re-divide the world, the struggles of the peoples beaten down by imperial white power had escalated to an alarming degree.

The independence of India, which occurred in 1947, was followed by the success of the Chinese revolution in 1949.

Peoples of all countries were demanding freedom from white power.

And although the 1950s saw the temporary success of imperialism in overturning progressive governments in Iran and Guatemala, and defeating the revolutionary resistance movement of the Kenyan Land and Freedom Army, the Mau Mau resistance in Kenya and the successful 1959 Cuban revolution set off a chain of events in South America, Africa and elsewhere that presaged a bleak future for imperialism.

The struggle of African people in the U.S. had seen the ebbs and flows being experienced by freedom movements worldwide.

The second imperialist world war gave impetus to mass movements that were first characterized as democratic or civil rights struggles, eventually shedding their pacifist and reformist skins to raise the true anti-colonial demand for power, Black Power!

It was bloody.

Mobutu Sese Seko and other neo-colonial leaders were installed by the West to undermine proletarian revolution and African liberation

Patrice Lumumba was overthrown and murdered in the Congo in 1961, and Kwame Nkrumah was deposed in Ghana by U.S. imperialism in 1966. In the U.S. Malcolm X was murdered by U.S. agents in 1965.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Hampton both were assassinated in 1968, and in Bolivia, Che Guevara was murdered by CIA-led mercenaries in 1967.

Nevertheless, the 1960s held out the promise of a liberated future for African people worldwide.

Algeria won its independence in 1962 and in Ethiopia, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), a distorted, diversionary response to Kwame Nkrumah’s call for a united continental African state was created in 1963.

It was on May 25, at the founding of the OAU, that it was resolved to make that date African Liberation Day.

Despite that historic declaration, however, liberation struggles of African people remained unresolved in Africa and elsewhere.

At the time of the OAU founding, the struggle within the U.S. was shaking the ideological and political fabric of the country to its core.

Liberation movements were blazing in Rhodesia, southwest Africa, Guinea Bissau, South Africa, Mozambique and Angola. These struggles continued to illuminate our possibilities, even after we had suffered some of our most serious setbacks.

On May 27, 1972, the first ALD mobilizations took to the streets as a direct response to the call of the liberation struggles being waged on the continent of Africa.

It was while organizing for this momentous event that the African People’s Socialist Party was founded, through unification of three mainly Florida-based organizations that came together to participate in the May 27 ALD mobilization.

African People’s Socialist Party Chairman, Omali Yeshitela, was a founding and participating member of the ALD’s coordinating committee, which organized the initial ALD mobilization.

African Liberation Day 2012 occurs on the 40th anniversary of the first ALD mobilization.

It is also the 40th anniversary of the founding of the African People’s Socialist Party.
These are two of the reasons for its historic significance; however, there are other reasons.

Our movement for the liberation and unification of Africa and African people has suffered many setbacks since the heady days of the founding of the OAU and the presumed victories of the 1960s.

The first 1972 ALD mobilization obscured the defeat that had been dealt to the organized African resistance in the U.S. and some other places.

The imperialists succeeded in installing neocolonial puppets in power throughout the world to preside over the looting that keeps a parasitic imperialist world system alive at the expense of the resources, dignity and sovereignty of Africans and others.

Even today the U.S. and NATO, almost the entire organized white world, are wreaking bloody havoc to install a neocolonial government in Libya in North Africa.

But the tables have surely turned, and the future of our people looks brighter than ever, as a desperate imperialism fights for its very life.

White power is on the ropes and nothing it can do will save it.

Not even the ploy of attempting to hide its face behind the black mask of an African president in the U.S., headquarters of worldwide imperialist white power.

Today, a haggard, gun-wielding imperialism staggers through its shrinking domain, weakened by its loss of extorted colonial sustenance and increasingly isolated in a world being changed by the growth of free and rebellious peoples who are declaring that the days of colonial slavery are over.

Today, because of its growing losses, the imperialist world economy is severely broken.

Imperialist “economists,” blinded by characteristic arrogance and unable to admit imperial white reliance–that is to say, dependence–on the resources of the oppressed, cannot correctly diagnose the problem as the resistance of the people.

The imperialists are facing a crisis, the likes of which they have never experienced.

The assumption that this is a typical cyclical capitalist crisis that can be resolved by shifting the burden of the crisis onto the backs of the colonial peoples is a form of whistling in the graveyard.

Precisely, the struggles of the colonial peoples are responsible for the crisis and, hence, the inability of the imperialists to turn to this solution of the past.

And while it is possible the U.S. and its allies will succeed in replacing the current government of Libya with pliant, neocolonial quislings, the crisis of neocolonialism is a part of the overall crisis of imperialism.

Indeed, the existence of Barack Hussein Obama in the U.S. White House is the greatest evidence of the general unreliability of neocolonialism around the world that the U.S. would have to deploy an imperial neocolonialism.

Today, facing the 40th anniversary of the first African Liberation Day mobilization, we do so under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party, which has accumulated 40 years of experience and achieved the ideological clarity, political maturity and organizational breadth to lead us to victory, to the liberation and unification of Africa and African people worldwide.

Victory is Imminent!
Forward to ALD!
One Africa! One Nation!

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